Joan Baxter is a native of Nova Scotia who lived for more than two decades in Africa where she worked as a journalist reporting for the BBC World Service, CBC Radio, Associated Press and other major media while also raising her family. Dust From Our Eyes is her third non-fiction book about Africa and deserves the serious attention of anyone who cares about the people of Africa or seeks an answer to the reasonable question: After all the aid money that has been spent on Africa, why are so many of its people still so poor? Baxter lived for years in several of the west African nations considered to be among the poorest on earth including Mali, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. She got to know the people, their history and their culture, and came to appreciate their strength, their patience, their sense of humor. She also got to see first hand the stripping of valuable resources from these poorest nations - gold, diamonds, rutile, coltan, oil, uranium, timber - on terms that continue to enrich western-owned companies and co-operative African heads of state, while leaving the people impoverished and the land devastated, or even worse, contributing to the resource wars that plague so much of Africa today. I have read about these injustices before but Joan Baxter's close-up accounts show us the real people and the real land, leaving us with unforgettably vivid pictures of both. The author also helps us understand the failures of foreign aid as delivered through the IMF and World Bank - the major dams that dislocate poor villagers, moving them from their traditional homes to poorer land, carrying the hydropower produced electricity away to a distant city while the villagers get none; the aid that comes with the free trade string attached and requires these poor nations to allow their markets to be flooded with products like cheap American cotton, produced with generous subsidies, which then undermines the farming of cotton in west Africa, even though, ironically, the farmers there grow it much more efficiently than those in the US.
Dust From Our Eyes is a marvelous combination of hard-hitting, well-documented reporting and personal, emotional encounters with unforgettable African people. One leaves this remarkable book sharing Joan Baxter's feeling that Africa has much to teach us in the West and its people continue to share a kind of richness beyond the measureable, financial kind we in the West recognize. One also leaves it knowing Africa has a true friend in Joan Baxter.