Sia Kambou/Stringer

Come aiutare la “conca di polvere” dell’Africa

SEATTLE – Immaginate una piccola fattoria sotto un cielo infuocato, un’intensa siccità che s’accanisce sulla regione circostante, scarse prospettive di raccolto e un sistema finanziario che non è in grado di prestare agli agricoltori il denaro necessario per sopravvivere. Questo scenario descrive la situazione odierna dell’Africa meridionale, stretta nella morsa di una siccità di dimensioni epiche. Il caso vuole, però, che esso raffiguri anche quella del Nebraska orientale negli anni del “Dust Bowl” (lett. “conca di polvere”), la serie di tempeste di sabbia che si abbatté sugli Stati Uniti all’inizio degli anni trenta del secolo scorso, un’esperienza che la mia famiglia visse in prima persona.       

Mio padre, Ralph Raikes, fu il primo della famiglia ad andare al college. Dopo aver finito di lavorare per Standard Oil in California, mentre era in viaggio verso Cambridge, Massachusetts, dove voleva iscriversi al MIT, fece una sosta alla fattoria dei genitori, in Nebraska. Il suo viaggio si concluse lì perché decise di fermarsi per aiutare mio nonno a salvare la fattoria di famiglia dalle banche, che si erano già riappropriate di un terzo della terra.    

La cosa più importante che fece fu cambiare mentalità: cominciò a considerare la fattoria non più come un’attività di mera sussistenza, ma come un’azienda a conduzione familiare. Si rivolse all’Università del Nebraska, dove si era laureato, per procurarsi mais ibrido e altre sementi arricchite che l’istituto stava sviluppando, poi si dedicò ad analizzare fattori produttivi e condizioni atmosferiche, cosa che all’epoca si faceva poco.     

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