Inter Press ServiceBusani Bafana – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 17 Nov 2018 01:08:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Making Agriculture Coolhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/making-agriculture-cool/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-agriculture-cool http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/making-agriculture-cool/#respond Thu, 08 Nov 2018 17:43:24 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158598 At every conference she has attended on the youth, Nawsheen Hosenally has been frustrated to hear that agriculture is not ‘cool’. The 29-year-old graduate in agricultural extension and information systems knew she wanted to do something to redeem the image of agriculture among young people. So the Mauritian and her Burkanibe, journalist husband decided to co-founded […]

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Young farmers and brothers Prosper and Prince Chikwara are using precision farming techniques at their horticulture farm, outside Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/ IPS

By Busani Bafana
WAGENINGEN, The Netherlands, Nov 8 2018 (IPS)

At every conference she has attended on the youth, Nawsheen Hosenally has been frustrated to hear that agriculture is not ‘cool’. The 29-year-old graduate in agricultural extension and information systems knew she wanted to do something to redeem the image of agriculture among young people.

So the Mauritian and her Burkanibe, journalist husband decided to co-founded Agribusiness TV. Content for the channel is viewed through the website where short video stories about successful youth entrepreneurs who have careers in agriculture are uploaded.

“I had heard so much about how uncool agriculture was and realised no one changes this image but youth themselves,” Hosenally tells IPS.

“Our tagline at Agribusiness TV is ‘seeing is believing’. The visuals showing success stories in agriculture have greater impact than, for instance, reading a publication. Slowly, youth are seeing agriculture differently.”

With a little help from their mobile phones, apps, YouTube and Facebook, young entrepreneurs like Hosenally are changing the face of farming across Africa. Despite having 60 percent of the world’s arable and uncultivated land, the African continent is battling to eliminate hunger and poverty as the majority of its smallholder farmers are getting older, and realising lower crop yields than before.

The likelihood of the agriculture sector spurring Africa’s economic turnaround are huge, as are the challenges of attracting young farmers to an industry employing more than 60 percent of the continent’s population.

Population experts project that Africa’s population will double to 2.5 billion people in the next 40 years. This will place pressure on African governments to deliver more food, energy, jobs shelter, health and better standards of living for their citizens.

The digitalisation of agriculture offers young entrepreneurs the opportunity to create disruptive business models that accelerate modernisation of the sector, says Michael Hailu, Director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), based in The Netherlands.

“Young people can relate. When they see other young people doing something, they ask ‘why not me’?” said Hosenally. “By showing that farmers and entrepreneurs can be young and successful, they are changing the narrative about agriculture,” she adds. More young people are tuning into Agribusiness TV for inspiration and farming tips.

The TV channel, which also has a mobile application, attracted 500,000 views in the first year of its launch in 2012. Within six months, the videos had drawn 1 million views. Today, the viewership has increased to more than 8 million on the app, with over 180,000 followers on Facebook and almost 18,000 subscribers on YouTube.

“We conceived it for mobile phones because we were targeting youth,” Hosenally tells IPS. “The statistics are really great and show the audience is growing over time, but in terms of stories we see more impact in the feedback we get. The first impact is when someone is featured online. All of a sudden they are like a star as soon as their video is published. Some have 100,000 views in less than 24 hours. It is visibility that leads to networking and other opportunities.”

A pig farmer from Burkina Faso featured on Agribusiness TV mentioned that he was keen to expand his business into crop production, but did not have a tractor. A Burkinabe living in Spain saw the video and donated a tractor to the young farmer.

“This is the impact we want to see, and this will get more young people to see agriculture as a business,” says Hosenally. She has also created an Agribusiness Shop that sells natural value-added products from youth and women in Burkina Faso through a Facebook page.

More than 1.3 billion people are employed in agriculture across the world, making it one of the largest job providers and key source of income and livelihoods, according to figures from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

Farming role models

Youth in Ghana look down on agriculture because they can only see elderly and poor farmers struggling to make ends meet, says Michael Ocansey, a computer science specialist and founder of Agrocenta, an online platform linking small-scale farmers and large farmer organisations in Ghana.

“Many young people move out of the farming communities to the cities to seek delusional greener pastures,” Ocansey tells IPS. “At AgroCenta, we are changing this by improving the financial livelihood of smallholder farmers, and also making agriculture sexier for the younger generation.”

Ocansey admits that examples of struggling farmers still exist, making it hard to undo the perception youth have about farmers and farming. More success stories may help to change the mind-set so that young people are persuaded to make a career in agriculture.

Lilian Mabonga, Head of Programmes at Ustadi foundation, a capacity development organisation based in Kenya, agrees.

“Many youth do not view agriculture favourably, and it is usually seen as something you do when you retire,” says Mabonga.

“Youth are the majority of the population in my country, and agriculture employs more than 40 and agriculture contributes 26 per cent to GDP while providing livelihoods for more than 80 per cent of the population.”

Barriers to young entrepreneurs

Youth entrepreneurs can face rough ground when it comes to planning a future in agriculture. Many lack access to land and infrastructure, and have inadequate skills and knowledge, as well as limited access to agricultural information, markets and finance.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) forecasts that Africa can increase its agricultural output to 880 billion dollars per year by 2030 if it removes barriers to development, which include, among other factors, low investment, poor credit access for farmers, limited market access, and limited use of modern agro inputs and mechanisation.

Already, Africa’s agribusiness market is projected to be valued at 1 trillion dollars by 2030, according to the AfDB.

Show the money

The perception that you can make money on the farm needs to be supported with advise that hard work must be expected, cautions Lawrence Afere (35), founder of Springboard, an online network of producers and rural entrepreneurs in Ondo State of Nigeria.

“When we project farming as a viable economic opportunity for young people, we should tell them it is a process and you have to get your hands dirty,” says Afere whose programme is working with 3,000 members across six states in Nigeria, growing plantains, beans and rice. Springboard gives the farmers inputs and training, and buys back the produce for processing and value addition.

Access to finance tops the farming bucket list. Some initiatives are helping young entrepreneurs to go into agriculture without breaking the bank.

An FAO programme on Youth Employment is helping to beat poverty by developing the technical skills of young people in agriculture. In Guinea Bissau, FAO has promoted skills development for young farmers in aquaculture after realising that its target group of young entrepreneurs did not have the technical skill to run fish farming projects, even if they had all other resources.

Skills, effective policies and a conducive environment are key foundations on which to build successful agribusiness entrepreneurs, argues Tony Nsanganira, a youth employment specialist with FAO in Ghana.

Entrepreneurship needs education too

Despite the many success stories of agripreneurs, one of the evidence-based studies from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows that youth entrepreneurship cannot be the solution for the massive youth employment challenge.

Over the next two decades, 440 million young people in sub-Saharan Africa will enter the labour market looking for work, according to the World Bank and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD).

Most youth in sub-Saharan Africa are poorly educated and have low skills, and the majority live in rural areas, says Ji-Yeun Rim, project manager at the OECD’s Development Centre, based in Paris.

“Yet rural youth have high job expectations, and they do not want to farm,” Rim told IPS.

A recent OECD study on rural youth aspirations in developing countries shows that 76 per cent aspire to work in high-skilled occupations, but in reality, only 13 per cent are actually in such jobs.

In the past four years, Rim has coordinated a youth inclusion project supporting governments in nine developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to improve policies targeting youth.

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Students Go Green to End Global Energy Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/students-go-green-end-global-energy-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=students-go-green-end-global-energy-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/students-go-green-end-global-energy-poverty/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 08:47:25 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158155 In Africa, over 640 million people – almost double the population of United States – have no access to electricity, with many relying on dirty sources of energy sources for heating, cooking and lighting. While not offering a solution to the electricity gap in Africa, Brian Kakembo Galabuzi, a Ugandan economics student, can offer a […]

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A Congolese man transports charcoal on his bicycle outside Lubumbashi in the DRC. Credit: Miriam Mannak/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe , Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

In Africa, over 640 million people – almost double the population of United States – have no access to electricity, with many relying on dirty sources of energy sources for heating, cooking and lighting.

While not offering a solution to the electricity gap in Africa, Brian Kakembo Galabuzi, a Ugandan economics student, can offer a cleaner and cheaper solution.

Galabuzi is the founder of Waste to Energy Youth Enterprise (WEYE), which is registered as a limited company that makes carbonised fuel briquettes from agricultural waste materials and organic waste.

Galabuzi got the idea after networking with other students concerned about global energy poverty at the 2015 International Student Energy Summit in Bali, Indonesia. Energy poverty is defined as the lack of adequate modern energy for cooking, warmth, lighting, and essential energy services for manufacturing, services, schools, health centres and income generation.

WEYE was created with the basic idea of commercialising grass root bio-waste to energy solutions in order to create a youth-led clean cooking transition in Uganda.

The promise of a financial income or benefit have been effective hooks to get young people to embrace sustainable energy as a source of income. The  youth promote sustainable energy because they want to earn from it, says Galabuzi.

“We believe that the benefits of sustainable energy, such as time saving, clean air, environmental conservation and good health are not what the highly-unemployed youth what to hear,” Galabuzi tells IPS.

“The majority of the world’s population is youth – of which the biggest population is unemployed. This why we designed a solution based on financial benefit (income generating opportunity) for unemployed youth and women,” he says.

Resource rich but energy poor

Africa is energy rich but nearly two thirds of its population of more than 1,2 billion have no access to electricity.

The African continent has an estimated 10 terawatts of potential solar energy, 350 gigawatts (GW) of hydroelectric power and 110 GW of wind power. All these sources can be harnessed with the right investment, a 2015 study by influential consulting company, McKinsey & Company found.

However, poor investment in off-grid connections in Africa means that polluting fossil fuels and biomass are major energy sources. However, off grid connections can provide clean and affordable energy to millions of people while helping reduce carbon emissions and preventing indoor pollution.

Growing energy demand in Africa and other developing economies presents an urgent need for the promotion and provision of more affordable and cleaner energy. Wood, charcoal, grass and solid waste, such as animal and human waste, are forms of biomass that can be converted into fuel and used as energy sources.

In Africa, over 640 million people have no access to electricity, with many relying on dirty sources of energy sources for heating, cooking and lighting. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

A clean energy business

And students like Galabuzi are seeing opportunities here.

While acknowledging that his company is not the first to make briquettes, Galabuzi says what is unique is that the briquettes are made from organic waste materials and sold to institutions that use firewood – 80 percent of which harvested in Uganda. Recent studies indicate that Uganda is at risk of losing all its forest in 40 years unless it halts deforestation. This is largely due to population growth and increased demand for land and firewood energy.

“Our solution guarantees our clients a 35 percent reduction in cost of cooking fuel, 50 percent reduction in cooking time and, most importantly, a smoke free cooking environment for the cooking staff,” Galabuzi tells IPS.

Galabuzi says despite the presence of solar, hydro power and gas as alternative sources of cooking energy, fuel briquettes are affordable and efficient energy alternatives.

A pilot of the fuel briquettes at St. Kizito High School, a school based in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, and the first school to adopt WEYE’s technology, showed encouraging results. Galabuzi explains the school registered an annual financial saving of over USD 2,500, a 50 percent reduction in cooking time and increased job satisfaction among the cooking staff due to the healthy, clean and smokeless cooking conditions.

“Our project uses organic waste from farmers and food markets such as maize cobs, banana peels and many others, which were considered useless,” he says.

“We offer the farmers and waste collectors monetary value for this organic waste and give them a new avenue to generate income, boosting the agricultural and waste management sectors.”

Galabuzi says his business has the potential of employing over 40 individuals in waste collection, sorting, production, marketing, distribution and finance.  It also has a potential market of over 30,000 institutions in Uganda. Already WEYE is training youth and women how to make briquettes and to start up their own briquette companies, with support from the Uganda government youth fund.

The WEYE Clean Energy Company Limited is authorised to sell charcoal briquettes and clean cook stoves in Uganda. The business model was tested during an 8-week ‘Greenprenuers’ programme run by the Global Green Growth Initiative, Youth Climate Labs and Student Energy (SE).

Felistas Ngoma, 72, from Nkhamenya in the Kasungu District of Malawi, prepares food in her kitchen. Credit: Charity Chimungu Phiri/IPS

Students driving sustainable energy transition

SE is a global organisation, based in Alberta, Canada. It builds the potential of young people to accelerate subsistence energy transitionthrough training, coaching and mentorship.

The interest in energy by SE, which has a membership of 50,000 young people from 30 different countries around the world, led to a partnership with Seoul-based Global Green Growth Initiative (GGGI) to promote the young ‘greenpreneurs’ programme. This programme gives the youth opportunities to turn innovative ideas into green businesses in sustainable energy, water and sanitation, sustainable landscapes and green cities.

“We got interested in greenpreneurship because a lot of people in our network are interested in energy but are more at a systems level and how energy connects to gender, empowerment, access to clean sources of fuel, access to energy in remote areas and smart technology,” Helen Watts, director of Innovation and Partnerships at SE, tells IPS.

Global discussions on energy, while politicised, have previously been at commercial and academic levels. But SE has opened a platform to promote wider discussions on finding and implementing innovative solutions to solving the energy challenge and help meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watts says the partnership with GGGI is an opportunity to open up GGGI’s youth entrepreneurship model, which is country specific, into a global accelerator model with young people from emerging and developing economies. Another organisation, the Youth Climate Lab, an innovation lab space organisation that seeks to build the capacity of young people to participate in the climate policy, innovate and collaborate on climate adaptation and mitigation, has been brought in as a partner.

“Young people have this incredible capacity to break the kind of zero sum game of sustainability of profitability,” says Watts.

“They have an amazing ability to think outside boxes of what has been done and collaborate with different peers and community members to map out these incredible solutions to both grow their communities and local economies while providing cleaner, affordable solutions to different challenges community members are facing.”

SE was started in 2009 by a group of students who worked in the energy industry in Canada and every two years it organises an international summit on the future of sustainable energy as a platform to talk about energy transition.

The first International Student Energy Summit in 2009 brought together 350 students from 40 countries. The 6th International Students Energy Summit was hosted in Mexico in 2017 with 600 students from 100 countries. Next year the summit will be in London and is expected to attract 700 students.

SE has also developed energy chapters in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, North America, Oceania, South America and South Asia, which are like student clubs in post-secondary institutions. The chapters are supported to help members develop their green energy ideas into reality in their communities. The first chapters were established in United Kingdom, Nigeria and Canada.

“Energy has really captured me and inspired me to dedicate my entire career to energy transition projects because of how fundamental energy is to our everyday lives,” Sean Collins, a co-founder of SE, tells IPS, adding that the value of energy is embedded in the work of SE that there is consideration of both energy’s striking benefits and its impacts.

“I think the thing I am most proud of has been our work to set the expectation that youth deserve a seat at the table in all energy conversations as a peer with older generations, policy makers, legacy industry and other groups. It is our generation that will be primarily responsible for the practical transition to a lower carbon economy, so we need to be an active participant in these discussions from day one.”

Fostering discussions and implementation of energy innovations creates impact. Businesses like Galabuzi’s WEYE clean energy company can be potential models to provide energy to more 600 million people in Africa who go without electricity.

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Q&A: Why Young and Smart Greenpreneurs are the Future of Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-young-smart-greenpreneurs-future-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-young-smart-greenpreneurs-future-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-young-smart-greenpreneurs-future-sustainable-development/#comments Tue, 25 Sep 2018 15:16:04 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157757 IPS correspondent Busani Bafana speaks to Global Green Growth Institute's Greenpreneurs programme manager Juhern Kim.

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Members of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CEYN) clean debris from a river in Trinidad. GGGI has developed a new platform for young entrepreneurs with a flair for business development that is environmentally and socially sound, i.e. green growth business. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe , Sep 25 2018 (IPS)

Young people – a growing population segment in developing countries – are intrepid innovators and entrepreneurs who can help solve pressing climate and development challenges today.

Believing in the potential of the youth, the Seoul-based Global Green Growth Initiative (GGGI), in partnership with Student Energy and Youth Climate Lab, has developed a new platform for young entrepreneurs with a flair for business development that is environmentally and socially sound.

Greenpreneurs is designed to provide opportunities for young entrepreneurs to transform innovative ideas into green businesses in sustainable energy, water and sanitation, sustainable landscapes and green cities.

GGGI’s manager leading the Greenpreneurs Programme, Juhern Kim, says the institute has been working with developing countries for the last six years as an inter-governmental organisation and realised the need to work with young people in those countries as a new engine of green growth. Many young people have innovative ideas on green growth but do not have a proper ecosystem to convert them into business opportunities that create jobs.

“Based on my experience, I learned firsthand about the limitation of an aid-based development approach, and recognised the need of partnering with business as a solution provider of traditional development issues that we want to tackle through a green growth intervention,” Kim tells IPS. “There might be a role of us – solely dedicated to promoting green growth – as a facilitator or platform creator to serve the needs in developing countries, working with various stakeholders including investors.”

Excerpts of the interview follow:

GGGI’s manager leading the Greenpreneurs Programme, Juhern Kim, says the idea behind the programme was to ultimately develop locally-driven, locally-originated green businesses. Courtesy: Juhern Kim

Inter Press Service (IPS):What was the motivation behind the Greenpreneurs Programme?

Juhern Kim (JK):To promote young entrepreneurs developing green business and contributing to green growth. Young entrepreneurs in developing countries have a lack of access to the right technical training, network, mentorship, (strategy to access to) investment capital. They require coaching to convert their ideas into solid business plans.

But incubating young entrepreneurs is not a simple task, since the demand is varied depending on diverse stages of business development, e.g. idea stage–prototyping–testing–commercialisation. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy to help entrepreneurs, particularly for those who are committed to green growth. And we are not talking about Silicon Valley here, with abundant capital, intellectual and physical infrastructure, and advanced ecosystem. These types of platforms are not always installed in every country in the developing world. For young entrepreneurs in the developing world, [we have to] level the playing field.

IPS: Why the youth for greenpreneurship?

JK: I was working in Cambodia from 2011 to 2013 and realised that young people in rural areas were leaving their towns looking for new jobs. I wondered if rural areas are losing their young people who could look after the future of those villages, from economic, social, and environmental perspectives.

The idea behind promoting Greenpreneurs was to ultimately develop locally-driven, locally-originated green businesses. Ideas created by local people are authentic and ultimately sustainable if the business is taken care of with local ownership, since they know what they need, in terms of culture and practice. We thought, if that worked, that would provide green jobs for the youth.

IPS:Are green jobs possible in achieving the SDGs?

JK: Yes. Depending on the country situation and our intervention, we are focused mainly on goals #6, #7, #11, #13, #15 and #17 on climate change, energy, water and sanitation, land, agriculture, forestry and green cities. We want to grow the green economy sector and this can be associated with green finance and education and support social goals…the idea is to support and boost innovation in terms of green growth and provide some support. We believe ultimately these early stage investments will create jobs and, if successful, will ensure the hiring of local people and these kinds of businesses can be expanded.

IPS: Talk me through the business plan competition behind this initiative?

JK: Through our pilot programme this year, we have received 349 applications globally from youth startups. From these applicants we shortlisted 10 finalists and they have been working with us since early August through the 10-week web modules. We thought the online modules were ideal instead of developing a physical incubator, since we targeted youth entrepreneurs who do have enough support on the ground.

We started off with a webinar with GGGI’s director general Frank Rijsberman’s message to young entrepreneurs while providing content-based modules dealing with customer segmentation and problem-solving techniques to financial/impact modelling. We are now on Week 7 and up to Week 10 we will be help them organise their ideas to customise them for a final business pitch.

This will be a five-minute video pitch in which they will quantify social and environmental returns and show a robustness of the financial model to evaluate the proposal. We will then select three finalists who will come to Seoul in late October to be awarded the prize, during the side event of GGGI council.

IPS: Green growth is quite a fancy concept especially in the African context and in your experience do you see a lot of interest in this low carbon based development given that developing countries have technically argued they pollute less than developed countries but bear the brunt of the impact of climate change? 

JK: I would dare to say this is an old argument. The kind of radical confrontation is over. The situation is different now. The facts are there. Simply put, in 2016 solar power became cheaper in terms of clean energy – there is no reason to not pursue an economically beneficial and social sound renewable business. It is not just about limiting development for the sake of the environment, but more about thinking of ways of using the natural capital wisely in the growing economy.

One of the examples is bio-economy, which could be considered a subset of green growth based on biological resources. Agriculture and food production are part of the bio-economy as one of the easiest entry points for the development of innovative bio-economy opportunities – agriculture is the largest driver of global environmental change, and is most affected by these changes. Therefore, a transformation to a sustainable agriculture and food system is a must.

IPS: What next?

JK: We have tried to make this programme as flexible as possible, focusing on actual impacts on the ground nurturing promising entrepreneurs. We do not want to re-invent the wheel, as there are many players in entrepreneurship such as incubators and accelerators.

We will partner with them leveraging our comparative advantage of working directly with our partner governments. After this year’s competition – equipped with the seed capital for entrepreneurs hopefully from our new private sector partners – we hope to make a better global and national programme giving more opportunities to young people in developing countries dedicated to green growth with an aim of actual job creation.

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Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Busani Bafana speaks to Global Green Growth Institute's Greenpreneurs programme manager Juhern Kim.

The post Q&A: Why Young and Smart Greenpreneurs are the Future of Sustainable Development appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Recognising the Debilitating Nature Conflict Has on Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/157707/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=157707 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/157707/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 09:00:54 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157707 Nyalen Kuong and her daughters fled to safety after an attack on their village in South Sudan in which Kuong’s husband and two sons where killed and the family’s cattle lost. Kuong, her daughters and other families from their village fled to islands surrounded by swamp land. There, she had little to eat. And soon […]

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For many people affected by conflict, agriculture is their only means of survival, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Sep 21 2018 (IPS)

Nyalen Kuong and her daughters fled to safety after an attack on their village in South Sudan in which Kuong’s husband and two sons where killed and the family’s cattle lost. Kuong, her daughters and other families from their village fled to islands surrounded by swamp land. There, she had little to eat. And soon began suffering from diarrhoea, brought on by acute malnutrition.

Eventually she was taken to a hospital camp where she was treated and was placed on an intravenous feeding drip. This is Kuong’s story as told by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). When she recovered she was given fishing equipment by FAO, which she now uses to supply her own food.

South Sudan is Africa’s newest state, but it has been mired in civil conflict since December 2013. Some 2.8 million people, a majority of whom depend on livestock for their livelihoods, are now facing acute food and nutrition insecurity, according to FAO.

The debilitating nature of conflict

Kuong’s experiences continue to be replicated in conflict zones around the world. Conflicts cost livelihoods and drive hunger and malnutrition, some of the most pressing development challenges today.

In May 2018, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2417 (2018), explicitly acknowledging the link between conflict and hunger and calling on all partners to protect civilians as well as their means to produce and access food.

Hunger has been on the rise for three years in a row, the U.N. found in a new report published this September. The global body says 821 million people are now hungry and over 150 million children stunted, putting the goal of hunger eradication at risk.

FAO is using its mandate to end hunger and malnutrition and to cultivate peace. This will ultimately enable food and nutritional security, which are linked to the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Agenda 2030.

“Agenda 2030 clearly links sustainable development and peace and calls for improved collaboration on conflict prevention, mitigation, resolution and recovery,” Enrique Yeves, director of communications at FAO, told IPS. “Sustaining peace encompasses activities aimed at preventing outbreak and recurrence of conflict.”

Yeves emphasised that interventions in support of food security, nutrition and agricultural livelihoods for conflict prevention and sustaining peace, are fundamentally important as they address not only the symptoms but also the root causes of conflict.

As the world marks the International Day of Peace on Friday, Sept. 21, the impact of conflict on humanity is a call to build a peaceful world. Sustainable Development Goal #16 underscores promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

“It is time all nations and all people live up to the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognises the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human race,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, in a message ahead of the International Day of Peace. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Food after the fight

For many people affected by conflict, agriculture is their only means of survival, according to FAO.

The U.N. body says agriculture accounts for two-thirds of employment and one-third of GDP in countries in protracted crises. Since 2000, 48 percent of civil conflicts have been in Africa where access to rural land underpins the livelihoods of many. In 27 out of 30 interstate conflicts in Africa, land issues have played a significant role.

In 2018, FAO partnered with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to facilitate peaceful livestock movement between Kenyan and Ugandan cross-border areas.

In 2017, FAO signed a USD 8.7 million agreement with Colombia’s Rural Development Agency to help boost agricultural competitiveness and restore rural areas affected by armed conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the government of Colombia.
FAO believes promoting food security and livelihoods can help address some of the conflict drivers.

“In conflict and post-conflict situations the humanitarian agenda takes the place of states that have failed, including welfare issues such as food, but also to some extent security functions in refugee camps. For example, thus the driving forces for it become global rather than local, with all the problems that it will entail,” David Moore, a researcher and political economist at the University of Johannesburg, told IPS.

Moore noted that conflicts are complications that a simplistic “helping hand” cannot resolve — but where there are local actors influencing and acting with global agencies, like FAO, some issues can be addressed and perhaps alleviated.

Strengthening government and private sector engagement for food and peace

Recognising that food security can support peace building, the FAO-Nobel Peace Laureates Alliance for Food Security and Peace was established by the director general of FAO Jose Graziano da Silva and currently there are 10 Nobel Peace Laureates as members, said Yeves.

He added that the aim of the Alliance is not only to raise awareness and champion the links between food security and peace building, but also highlight the leadership of FAO in agricultural and food security policies and actions that promote peace, rural development and food security.

The Alliance members include Muhammad Yunus, Oscar Arias Sánchez, Tawakkol Karman, Betty Williams, Juan Manuel Santos, Frederik Willem de Klerk, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Jose Ramos-Horta and Mairead Maguire.

This year, on Sept. 24, the Alliance is inducting a new member from Africa during the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, a U.N. General Assembly high-level plenary on global peace

Graça Machel, humanitarian and widow of former South African president Mandela, will be named an honorary member of the Alliance this month in recognition of her late husband’s struggle for freedom and peace.

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Africa Needs Strong Political Will to Transform Agriculture and Spur Economic Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/africa-needs-strong-political-will-transform-agriculture-spur-economic-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-needs-strong-political-will-transform-agriculture-spur-economic-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/africa-needs-strong-political-will-transform-agriculture-spur-economic-growth/#respond Mon, 17 Sep 2018 15:11:05 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157640 Africa needs strong political commitment to accelerate the transformation of its agricultural sector. According to the 2018 Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR), Catalyzing State Capacity to Drive Agriculture Transformation, released this September by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), African states need political will to boost production and income on the millions […]

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Ndomi Magareth, sows bean seeds on her small piece of land in Njombe, Cameroon. Africa currently spends over USD 35 billion annually on food imports, money that could make a big difference if invested in agriculture development. Credit: Monde Kingsley Nfor/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Sep 17 2018 (IPS)

Africa needs strong political commitment to accelerate the transformation of its agricultural sector.

According to the 2018 Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR), Catalyzing State Capacity to Drive Agriculture Transformation, released this September by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), African states need political will to boost production and income on the millions of small, family farms that grow most of Africa’s food.

The continent currently spends over USD 35 billion annually on food imports, money that could make a big difference if invested in agricultural development. AGRA has said Africa could require up to USD 400 billion over the next 10 years in public and private sector investments in food production, processing, marketing and transport.

Government is ultimately responsible for transforming agriculture by creating a conducive environment and addressing inherent governance challenges, Daudi Sumba, one of the report’s authors and head of Monitoring and Evaluation at AGRA, told IPS in an interview. “This requires vision and leadership to create political will among high-level political leaders to implement effective policies for agricultural transformation.”

Citing the example of the late prime minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, Sumba said the former Ethiopian leader understood rural farmers as well as how important scientific knowledge was to progress and that contributed to his political will to implement effective policies.

As a result, Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that has achieved the highest agricultural growth rates over an extended period of time.

Most African countries struggle to realise economic growth for agriculture because of lack of political leadership, the report found.

However, the report notes some exceptions of countries whose agricultural development provides an example for others. In addition to Ethiopia, the report says Rwanda has marshalled political support for agriculture and integrated detailed action plans within its broader economic development strategies. Progress in the agricultural sector is credited with lifting over one million Rwandans out of extreme poverty in a relatively short period.


Furthermore, the report finds that  economic output in Ghana’s agricultural sector—driven in part by the government’s new “Planting for Food and Jobs” programme—grew 8.4 percent in 2017 after posting only three percent growth in 2016. Similarly, AGRA experts point to countries such as Kenya, Burkina Faso, Mali and Zambia as places where political momentum and government capabilities are growing.

Jundi Hajji, a wheat farmer from Ethiopia, shows his crop. In Ethiopia, 25 years of steady growth in the farm sector has cut rural poverty rates in half. Credit:Omer Redi/IPS

The increasing willingness of African governments to openly discuss where they are advancing in agriculture and where they are struggling is a reason for optimism, the report says. For example, 47 countries have signed on to the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), a master plan to achieve economic growth through growing agriculture by at least six percent annually.

Ethiopia, for the past 25 years, has consistently exceeded the CAADP target of six percent growth in the agricultural sector. The government consistently made CAADP the core of its agricultural plan.

Available evidence suggests that political will to support agricultural transformation has remained limited in most African countries. This implies that political will must be raised for agriculture to drive economic development, Sumba said.

“Existing data suggest that the political will to support agriculture transformation is likely lower in Africa than in other regions of the developing world,” the report states, adding that it “has not substantially increased during the past decade.”

The report, which was released at the annual African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda, notes that countries like China, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Morocco have seen the economic benefits of intensifying commercial production on small farms.

For example, China’s agricultural transformation is credited with kick starting a rapid decline in rural poverty, from 53 percent in 1981 to eight percent in 2001. In Ethiopia, 25 years of steady growth in the farm sector has cut rural poverty rates in half and in rural Rwanda, over the same period, poverty has reduced by 25 percent, the report notes.

AGRA president Dr. Agnes Kalibata says governments are central to driving an inclusive agriculture transformation agenda. The report highlights the value of strengthening country planning, coordination and implementation capacity while supporting the development of an effective private sector and an enabling regulatory environment to boost agricultural productivity.

“Our experience and lessons have shown that impact can be achieved faster by supporting countries to deliver on their own transformation; driving scale through a well-planned and coordinated approach to resources in the public domain to build systems and institutions,” said Kalibata.

“Governments are definitely central to driving an inclusive agriculture transformation agenda. This body of work recognises their role and aims to highlight the value of strengthening country planning, coordination and implementation capacity while supporting the development of an effective private sector and enabling regulatory environment,” she added.

While Africa needs urgent agricultural transformation, it should attend to the challenges of rapid urbanisation, climate, significant unemployment (one third of Africans aged 15 to 35 are jobless), and chronic malnutrition, which has left 58 million children stunted.

With over 800 million people worldwide suffering from hunger and more than two billion affected by malnutrition, food insecurity remains a real threat to global development and more so in Africa.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) estimates that an additional 38 million Africans will be hungry by 2050. This is despite the fact that the continent has sufficient land, water and manpower to produce more food than it imports. The AfDB projects that food imports will grow to USD 110 billion annually by 2025 if the current trend continues without the urgency to invest in agriculture production and value addition.

“Lack of democratisation looms large when it comes to explaining (and hence diagnosing implementation needs) lack of political will to pursue agricultural transformation, the report says. “Political competition increases the attention to agricultural growth and hence to the extent of discrimination against agriculture on such items as taxation,” the Africa Agriculture Status Report states.

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Q&A: Comoros Power Grab Rejected by Opposition, Amid Pleas for International Interventionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-comoros-power-grab-rejected-opposition-amid-pleas-international-intervention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-comoros-power-grab-rejected-opposition-amid-pleas-international-intervention http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-comoros-power-grab-rejected-opposition-amid-pleas-international-intervention/#respond Thu, 23 Aug 2018 12:16:36 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157326 President Azali Assoumani of the Comoros Islands is tightening his grip on power. First, he insisted on holding a referendum allowing him to extend his term of office and abolish the country’s constitutional court. Which he won. And now, the lawyer of former President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi has said that his client has been charged […]

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Former Comoros president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi has been charged with corruption and the misappropriation of public funds in a passport fraud. He has been under house arrest by current president Azali Assoumani for the last three months. Courtesy: Abubakar Aboud

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Aug 23 2018 (IPS)

President Azali Assoumani of the Comoros Islands is tightening his grip on power. First, he insisted on holding a referendum allowing him to extend his term of office and abolish the country’s constitutional court. Which he won. And now, the lawyer of former President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi has said that his client has been charged Tuesday with corruption and the misappropriation of public funds in a passport fraud.

This July, Assoumani held a referendum in the Indian Ocean archipelago, giving himself a mandate that widely extends his powers.

The constitutional draft allows for the President of the Union of the Comoros to now ratify international treaties and agreements without consulting parliament. The text also provides for the abolition of the three vice-presidencies, as well as the Constitutional Court. The Comoros was plunged into crisis in April when Assoumani suspended the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, sparking opposition protests.

Under the current constitution, power rotates every five years between the archipelago’s three main islands. But this has also been done away with through the referendum.

Sambi, who is a leading critic of Assoumani’s rule and president of the vocal opposition, the Juwa Party, was placed under house arrest three months ago. Since then has not been allowed any visitors, though his lawyer Mahamoud Ahamada saw him on the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 21.

The Juwa party has rejected the mandate extending Assoumani’s powers, and has called for immediate international intervention to restore democracy.

Comoros, situated in the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar, is one of the world’s poorest countries. It has been repeatedly shaken by separatist movements and instability prior to the passing of a new constitution in 2001, which provides for the rotation of power between the islands.

Advisor to Sambi, Abubakar Aboud, told IPS that they have reached out to the international community to intervene in the political crisis unfolding in the Comoros to avoid bloodshed. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): The referendum has given Assoumani carte blanche to grab power, as it were, with an extension to his rule. Do you accept this outcome?

Abubakar  Aboud (AA): We do not approve at all the electoral process that Colonel Azali [Assoumani] has started. This process is illegal to the extent that it has violated the fundamental texts of our country. Colonel Azali [Assoumani] put an end to the Constitutional Court without consulting the people. From that moment on, we cannot accept the results of this illegal process.

IPS: What about the charges against Sambi?

AA: The arrest as well as all the charges are purely political. In parallel, the lawyers will ask for a provisional release of president Sambi, who has now been a political prisoner of Colonel Azali [Assoumani] for over three months.

IPS: What does this mean for the fragile democracy in Comoros?

AA: I fear the worst for the fragile peace of our country. It is very disturbing to see a colonel put our country in danger for the sole purpose of holding on to power. Our country has not tasted the benefits of democracy for long, and now Colonel Azali [Assoumani] is demolishing everything that we have built for his own interests.

IPS: What action will you take, or can you take, now if you are to save the country from the autocratic rule?

AA: We do not want violence in the country. And yet, Colonel Azali [Assoumani] is doing everything to crush the discordant voices we are part of as members of the opposition. To avoid confrontations that could cause bloodshed, we regularly call on the international community for help. These calls are becoming more and more urgent as almost all the members of the opposition are either arrested or have suspended sentences.

 

IPS: What is the feeling on the other islands’ about this result?

AA: Everyone feels betrayed by the colonel and his men. The Comoran people are very peaceful. But Azali [Assoumani] is driving the people to revolt. I feel a lot of anger and frustration among the population. I don’t know how long the current patience will last, but we are dangerously close to reaching [the] limit.

IPS: Where do you see the future of Comoros now?

AA: I hope to see my country return to the democracy that we fought so hard to achieve. I hope for a brighter future, even though we are crossing the darkest path of our history… I see this future without Colonel Azali [Assoumani], because he will have to answer for the violations of human rights and the acts of high treason.

IPS: What of ex-president Sambi? Is he safe and how does he feel about this turn of events?

AA: His lawyer, Mahamoud Ahamada, saw him Tuesday [Aug. 21] and told us he seems a little bit weak but he is okay.  I did not have the ex-president’s opinion on this electoral masquerade. But knowing him, I’m sure he shares our opinion on it.

IPS: What are your next steps to challenge this result?

AA: We are waiting for the international community to react. If they don’t do it fast, we’ll be obliged to do it ourselves by any means necessary. Formal letters have been signed by president Sambi and his lawyers have sent them by mail today [Aug. 22] to the United Nations and the African Union.

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Which Way Now for Zimbabwe as Constitutional Court Receives Petition Against Election Results?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/way-now-zimbabwe-constitutional-court-receives-petition-election-results/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=way-now-zimbabwe-constitutional-court-receives-petition-election-results http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/way-now-zimbabwe-constitutional-court-receives-petition-election-results/#respond Mon, 13 Aug 2018 07:12:06 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157186 Many in Zimbabwe are questioning whether the country can break with its horrid past or embrace a new future after a watershed election that saw Emmerson Mnangagwa win the presidential race by a narrow margin and the opposition lodge a formal petition challenging the results in the Constitutional Court. Mnangagwa–a trusted and past enforcer of […]

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Voters queuing ahead of Zimbabwe's Jul. 30 general elections. The election saw Emmerson Mnangagwa win the presidential race but the opposition has lodge a formal petition challenging the results. Courtesy: The Commonwealth/CC By 2.0

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Aug 13 2018 (IPS)

Many in Zimbabwe are questioning whether the country can break with its horrid past or embrace a new future after a watershed election that saw Emmerson Mnangagwa win the presidential race by a narrow margin and the opposition lodge a formal petition challenging the results in the Constitutional Court.

Mnangagwa–a trusted and past enforcer of former president Robert Mugabe–won the vote by 50.8 percent against the 44.9 percent garnered by Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-Alliance).

Mnangagwa’s 2.46 million votes, against Chamisa’s 2.15 million, gave him the mandatory 50+1 percent required to be declared winner.

But the MDC-Alliance on Friday afternoon, Aug. 10, lodged a petition with the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe challenging the results, halting the inauguration of Mnangagwa that had been slated for Sunday, Aug. 12.

The Constitutional Court will consider the matter over 14 days but political watchers say that what the ruling will be, remains unclear. The court could reject the MDC-Alliance petition and confirm Mnangagwa’s win, or it could confirm Chamisa’s presented evidence and rule in the opposition’s favour. The court could also order another election, which could be held within the next 60 days.“The future of Zimbabwe lies in a negotiated settlement now because of what the country stands to lose [rather] than gain if a political resolution is not found soon.” -- Political analyst and human rights activist, Effie Ncube.

Political analyst and human rights activist, Effie Ncube, says that should the court rule in favour of Chamisa and order a rerun, this could stoke tensions. He says that a preferred solution would be inclusive discussions out of court between Mnangagwa and Chamisa.

“Keeping away from a re-run is the best solution for Zimbabwe because the tension on the ground now is not ideal for an election without triggering violence,” Ncube tells IPS. “The future of Zimbabwe lies in a negotiated settlement now because of what the country stands to lose [rather] than gain if a political resolution is not found soon.”

Mugabe may have been ousted, but his brutal legacy lingers over a country desperate for a fresh start. Zimbabwe’s Jul. 30 elections–the first since Mugabe was toppled last November–did not disappoint on the dearth of harmony. Violence, in all its forms, has been emblematic of Mugabe’s rule and is something that president-elect Mnangagwa sought a clean break from.

But violence, intimidation, killings and disputed results soiled the elections.

Two weeks ago police clashed with opposition supporters who staged a demonstration outside the offices of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) over the delayed announcement of the presidential election results. The army fired on protesting supporters, killing six people and injuring scores more. The tragedy stained the polls despite pleas from both the ruling Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) and the opposition MDC for a violence-free election.

“Mugabe’s legacy of brutality has returned to haunt us again but at least it was clear who was in charge,” Dumisani Nkomo, director of Habakkuk Trust, a civil rights advocacy organisation, notes. “Right now it is not clear who is charge and many centres of power seem to have emerged and even within the army there appears to be many centres of command as evidenced by the mystery of who deployed soldiers in Harare.”

Nkomo says the credibility of the electoral process has been severely eroded by issues around the voters roll, postal voting and election results.

“This is a really complex situation because contested election outcomes have been an issue since 1980 and more visibly in 2000, 2002 and 2013 and we seem to be moving in circles,” Nkomo tells IPS. “The election result cannot in all honesty be termed free and fair because of the uneven playing field and the clampdown on civil liberties after the announcement of the results.”

The elections had a semblance of being free on many fronts; the polls were relatively peaceful, there was a new biometric voters’ system, a well-organised and resourceful ZEC, and a plethora of candidates and parties vying for power.

While observers from the Southern African Development Community and African Union have endorsed the elections as free and fair, the European Union has pointed to irregularities.

Economist and lawmaker, Eddie Cross, says he expects the presidential ballot to stand up to the court challenge.

“Any legal challenge should therefore be short lived,” Cross said in post-election commentary on his website. “The big challenge facing Emmerson Mnangagwa is now to unite the country under his leadership and heal the wounds of past battles–the struggle for independence… the struggle against the MDC since 2000 with 5,000 abductees, tens of thousands beaten and tortured, hundreds of deaths and the near total destruction of the economy, all in the name of fighting the restoration of real democracy.”

Time to build bridges

Mnangagwa has scoffed at the idea of a government of national unity, an arrangement his predecessor, was forced to enter into in 2008 with the opposition MDC, which had been led at the time by the late Morgan Tsvangirai.

“I have two-thirds majority and you are talking about me abandoning my two-thirds majority to set a government of national unity?” Mnangagwa commented on Skye News television during an interview last week.

“Not that it’s a bad idea, but it doesn’t show that there is any need. I am saying politics should now take the back seat because the elections are behind us. We should now put our shoulders to the wheel for purposes of modernising our economy, growing our economy together. Those who have voted against me, those who voted for me, we say Zimbabwe is ours together.”

In spite of the violence that has marred the election outcomes, Zimbabwe was banking on a smooth assumption of power as a ticket into the fold of the international community.

However, in a move set to pile pressure on the new government to double its effort to reengage the international community and institute a raft of political and economic reforms, the United States last week renewed sanctions on Zimbabwe, which have been in place since 2001.

The economy remains a key challenge Mnangagwa has to address swiftly.

Mnangagwa has been on an international investment charm offensive, promoting Zimbabwe’s new open business approach.

The country needs an economic vision to ensure growth, unlock business opportunities, jobs, restore trust in the banking sector and hopefully bring back a local currency.

“Mnangagwa has the opportunity to turn the country round, he has made the right pronouncements on the economy that he needs to follow up with action. I think he wants to play a [Nelson] Mandela come in as a person who transforms the country and moves it to democracy and move away from the dictatorship,” says Ncube.

“Should the court confirm Mnangagwa as the winner, there could be less tension. But the credibility and legitimacy of the regime will be questioned and that will challenge its ability to organise international investment and undermine political stability.”

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Zimbabwe’s Election of Great Expectationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/zimbabwes-election-great-expectations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zimbabwes-election-great-expectations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/zimbabwes-election-great-expectations/#respond Tue, 31 Jul 2018 10:21:35 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156969 Counting is underway today across Zimbabwe as the country voted in an historic election on Jul. 30, which many expect will bring political and economic transformation. It is a long-awaited change for many after autocratic leader, Robert Mugabe, was ousted in a soft coup in November 2017 after 37 years in power. A post-Mugabe future […]

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The Commonwealth’s team of observers began their assessment of the electoral process in Zimbabwe, leading up to general elections on Jul. 30. Courtesy: The Commonwealth/CC By 2.0

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jul 31 2018 (IPS)

Counting is underway today across Zimbabwe as the country voted in an historic election on Jul. 30, which many expect will bring political and economic transformation. It is a long-awaited change for many after autocratic leader, Robert Mugabe, was ousted in a soft coup in November 2017 after 37 years in power.

A post-Mugabe future has provided a kindling of hope among citizens that a new Zimbabwe, which can offer a better life for all is still possible.

The country has survived a myriad of crises that have traumatised its citizens, scared investors and left this resource-rich country isolated internationally. It was an election pregnant with expectations for change and transformation. Economic restoration, jobs, unity, peace and prosperity have been key election expectations. “A non-violent election is a big step but of course at the end of the day the real crisis is still here, the economic crisis." -- David Moore, researcher and political economist.

On election morning in the Bulawayo suburb of Famona, the lines where short and it took most people less then 10 minutes to cast their votes. But people were trickling in. And soon most of the 10,000 polling stations across the country had long queues.

No reports of violence have been reported so far. Though the Zimbabwe Republic Police told a local radio station yesterday that a few voters had been nabbed for sloganeering outside voting stations in direct violation of election rules.

Political analysts told IPS that while Zimbabwe has all the potential to turn around its fortunes, it is a tall ask that this election needs to deliver on. The voter turnout yesterday was high as more than 75 percent of the five million Zimbabweans registered to vote went to the polls to choose a president, members of parliament and local government councillors. There were 23 presidential candidates and more than 100 political parties with registered candidates to contest the 210 seats in the House Assembly.

The presidential contest – the most important of all – appears a largely two horse race pitting current Zimbabwean president, Emmerson Mngangwa (75) of the ruling Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) against president of the Movement for Democratic Alliance (MDC), Nelson Chamisa (40).

Mnangagwa is a lawyer and was Mugabe’s point man for many years, having served in government since independence where he held the portfolios of minister of state security and minister of justice. He was the vice president until he was fired by Mugabe in 2017.

Chamisa, also a lawyer and firebrand activist, is a founding member of the MDC under the late Morgan Tsvangirai. He succeeded Tsvangirai in March 2018 in a controversial manner that split the party and which saw Thokozani Khupe lead a breakaway faction. Khupe is one of four female candidates vying for the presidency.

Calling the presidential race a “male” race, pitting men from the privileged classes against each other, Professor Rudo Gaidzanwa, a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe and social commentator, told IPS this contest excluded even elite men who are perceived to be competent but “alien” because they do not exhibit the earthy, violent and killer characteristics that can win a party the election and appeal to the grassroots.

“Men of violence and force are admired and accepted because they are perceived as being able to fight for their constituents and followers. This is a legacy of Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence that extolled the virtues and legitimacy of violence as a means of achieving political ends. That legacy continues to haunt us,” said Gaidzanwa.

He said that Zimbabwe needed to transcend the values and politics of the past that focused “on colonists as the enemy and accept that even the elites amongst the former oppressed people are not angels.”

“They have shown us what they are capable of doing to their own people! If you look at Zimbabwe’s political and nationalist elites that pillaged diamonds, agricultural and land you will realise that in Africa, we are yet to embark on a class war that attempts to restore to the working people the wealth of their countries.

“The nationalists continue to use nationalism to justify their pillaging of national resources and they use nationalism to dupe the peasants and workers to think that it is ok for their clansmen, tribesmen to loot “on their behalf” when in fact the clansmen and some women get crumbs.”

A vote for change

Zimbabwe has a harsh history of violence, dating back to before this southern Africa nation became independent in 1980. The price of that violent past has been dear—deep divisions and polarisation along ethnic, and political lines, economic ruin and palpable corruption. These are some of the legacies blamed on Mugabe who led Zimbabwe for 37 years before a coup forced him into permanent retirement.

“Zimbabweans have to break with the violent past, because that will be a real symbol of something that is new no matter who wins,” David Moore, researcher and political economist at the University of Johannesburg, told IPS. “A non-violent election is a big step but of course at the end of the day the real crisis is still here, the economic crisis. What took Zimbabwe out of the 2008 crisis was the Americanisation of the crisis you cannot do that now. How long does it take for a dream of floods of billions of dollars in investment that remains to be seen?”

In 2008 Zimbabwe’s economy had been on the brink of collapse, experiencing hyperinflation of unprecedented levels. The country was forced to abandon its currency, the Zimbabwean dollar, and replaced it with the United States dollar, to stabilise the economy.

Moore said the 2018 elections were different for many reasons. There was no Mugabe—at least on the ballot paper—and neither was there his erstwhile political foe, Tsvangirai.

Former president Mugabe, in an election eve press conference at his home in the capital Harare, on Jul. 29, said he would not be voting for the Zanu PF because it still harboured his tormentors and the reason he was out of power.

“Neighbours have been fooled into believing this was not a coup d’état. Nonsense, it was a coup d’état.. ….I cannot vote for a party and those in power who have caused me to be in this situation.”

Legitimacy and credibility are at stake for political contenders

Chamisa is seeking legitimacy. He is a young contender for the highest political office in the country and has made his own blunders along the way. But he is seeking to prove he can lead and change the future for Zimbabwe. For Mnangagwa, who has been at the helm for seven months, the key is to legitimise his rule and to cement international relations. ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’, has been his campaign mantra.

“Usually processes like an election after a coup are not that successful because a coup has its characteristics of using force and not wanting to give up but when you look at the effort of the coup makers to legitimise this coup by having free and fair elections you have a certain amount of pressure from the donors and the investors,” Moore told IPS.

“It is actually been a pretty peaceful election given Zimbabwe’s history, the Gukurahundi, the 1980s election has a lot of violence and the British were debating whether to let it go. In 2008, there is intimidation but its minor. I think there is a real appetite and hope for serious change. There could be a turning point whoever wins if the elections are seen as credible and the people accept them as credible. It could perhaps be the most important election since 1980.”

A compromise of sorts like a semi-government of national unity could be in the office, Moore believes.

“If Mnangagwa wins, he could bring in a few people inside, people who can interface with capital and people with money. But it’s a volatile situation too and Zanu PF will have to work very hard to make it acceptable to the main opposition,” said Moore. “The MDC has really fired up a lot of people especially young people, who are really hoping for something and if they feel this election has not been credible one could possible expect some pretty tense situations. If it is a victory for the MDC, there will have to be a lot of bridge building and lot of horse trading as well.”

The jury is out still about the choice Zimbabweans made at the ballot this week, and whether that choice will take the country out of its conundrum and raise it to a new level.

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African Youth Demand a Seat at the Tablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/african-youth-demand-seat-table/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-youth-demand-seat-table http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/african-youth-demand-seat-table/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 12:43:40 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155348 Busani Bafana is a writer at Africa Renewal*

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African youth participate at an international youth forum at the UN headquarters in New York. Credit: Africa Renewal/Shu Zhang

By Busani Bafana
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 19 2018 (IPS)

A new wave is sweeping across Africa. Elections on the continent are increasingly yielding younger leadership than ever before. From presidents to ministers and governors, senators to members of parliament, Africa’s young people are demanding a seat at the political table.

The youth are using their large numbers to vote in younger leaders or leaders they feel will be sympathetic to their plight.

In Uganda, Proscovia Oromait was only 19 in 2012 when she became the world’s youngest MP, representing Usuk County in the Katakwi District. “What I said when I was younger was that in years to come, I will become the president. It’s just been my dream to become a leader of Uganda. And here I am, the youngest MP. And I’m so proud of what I am,” Ms. Oromait told the UK’s Independent newspaper in an interview.

In South Africa, Lindiwe Mazibuko, 37, was elected leader of the opposition in parliament in 2011, representing the Democratic Alliance. She became the first black woman to hold that position.

“There is no prosperity for our continent without a vibrant, diverse and truly competitive politics, founded upon excellence, transparency and commitment to the public good,” Ms. Mazibuko said in a TEDxEuston talk in January 2016.

There are more young leaders coming up in parliaments in Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Cameroon, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda and others. And the August 2018 presidential election could give Zimbabwe’s political leadership a youthful makeover.

Forty-year-old Nelson Chamisa, the new leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, is angling to be Zimbabwe’s new leader. Were Mr. Chamisa to win, he would be one of Africa’s youngest democratically elected presidents.

Sixty percent of Zimbabwe’s 5.3 million registered voters in the watershed elections are under 40, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. It is a show of commitment by the youth to deciding a new course of governance after the leadership of Robert Mugabe.

Mr. Mugabe, 94, was Africa’s oldest leader until he resigned as president in November last year, having ruled for 37 years.

A young voice

In a recent interview with the German radio station Deutsche Welle, Mr. Chamisa said, “It is young people who are the movers and shakers. We want to also see that in politics. We want our continent to be painted young. We want our continent to have a young voice.”

In a 2015 article for CNN, David E. Kiwuwa, an associate professor of international studies at Princeton University in the US, notes that “the average age of the ten oldest leaders [in Africa] is 78.5 compared to 52 for the world’s ten most-developed economies.”

On average, according to Mr. Kiwuwa, “only between 15% and 21% of [these African countries’] citizens were born when these presidents took the reins.”

Some Africans argue that “with age and longevity in office come wisdom, foresight and experience,” Mr. Kiwuwa writes. He further posits that, given opportunities in politics and other sectors, Africa’s youth can transform the continent. He regrets that the long tenures of older politicians continue to stifle the emergence of credible youthful successors.

Innocent Batsani Ncube, a 39-year-old Zimbabwean political scholar, echoes Mr. Kiwuwa’s sentiments, stressing that youth rarely get the attention of Africa’s political leaders, who do not believe young people can lead.

Older political elites believe they have all the solutions to development challenges, Mr. Ncube told Africa Renewal. “An example is the approach that those in leadership use to solve young people’s job problems. Their solutions mostly suit the elites, rather than the young people. There is limited consultation in ideation between the youth and the older leaders.”

Youth need a seat on the transformation train because of their energy and passion, argues Kuseni Dlamini in a paper published in 2013 by Ernst & Young, a UK-based professional services firm.

Energy and passion

“The single most important factor for continental growth is the energy and passion of young Africans who have a palpable sense of positive energy and optimism,” adds Mr. Dlamini, who is the chair of Times Media Group of South Africa and head of Massmart, a retailer affiliated with Walmart in the US.

“They [youth] are young entrepreneurs, innovators, scientists, academics, engineers, professionals. They do not want aid or charity. They want to unleash their full potential,” said Mr. Dlamini, who was named “Young Global Leader” in 2008 by the World Economic Forum, a recognition accorded “higher-performing leaders” who mentor other youth.

Africa’s population will be 1.6 billion by 2030, according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the rapidly growing youth population will constitute 42% of that number. The youth will need opportunities to participate in politics, jobs and overall inclusion in development.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) says that one-third of Africa’s 420 million youths (those ages 15–35) are unemployed, another third are vulnerably employed and only one in six young people is gainfully employed.

“While 10 to 12 million youths enter the workforce each year [in Africa], only 3.1 million jobs are created, leaving vast numbers of youth unemployed. The consequences of youth unemployment in Africa are pervasive and severe: unemployment translates to poorer living conditions, fuels migration out of Africa, and contributes to conflict on the continent itself,” notes the AfDB.

The AfDB adds that “the desired long-term outcome is expanded economic opportunity for both male and female African youth, which leads to improvements in other aspects of their lives.”

The bank therefore aims to create 25 million jobs through its Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy (2016–2025) and spur economic growth by empowering the youth to realize their full potential.

Disrupting the status quo

African youth are demanding a seat at the political table, but the agribusiness sector, which could be worth $1 trillion by 2030, according to the World Bank, is the low-hanging fruit.

The African Agribusiness Incubator Network (AAIN), a business development company based in Accra, Ghana, wants youth to innovate and lead the continent’s economic transformation.

Ralph von Kaufmann, an agribusiness mentor and consultant with AAIN, says that “agribusiness presents opportunities for youths and women, but there is a need to create the right policies that facilitate their participation.”

Nthabiseng Kgobokoe, a young livestock and horticulture farmer in South Africa, told Africa Renewal that the first step must be to “include the youth in policy making. Education alone cannot address all our issues; there is a need to create conducive political and economic conditions for us to be successful young entrepreneurs.”

Ms. Kaobokoe said young entrepreneurs across Africa face similar challenges, including a lack of access to financing and other resources, red tape and inadequate policies to foster inclusive growth.

Policy makers forget that youth are the backbone of any socioeconomic and political development, stresses Ms. Kgobokoe.

Talented young people must step forward and be part of decision making, says Ms. Mazibuko. “We [in Africa] are emerging from that stereotype of a dark continent, the hopeless continent…. We must run for office, we must work in the civil service and we must disrupt the political status quo.”

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information (DPI).

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Excerpt:

Busani Bafana is a writer at Africa Renewal*

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Policy Support Gap for “Climate-Smart” Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/policy-support-gap-climate-smart-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=policy-support-gap-climate-smart-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/policy-support-gap-climate-smart-agriculture/#respond Tue, 09 Jan 2018 01:11:26 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153791 Conditioned that ploughing is the sure way to produce crops, Zimbabwean farmer Handrixious Zvomarima surprised himself by trying a different method. He planted cowpea seeds directly without tilling the land. It worked. The new method tripled Zvomarima’s cowpea yield when many farmers did not harvest a crop following the El Nino-induced drought which affected more […]

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Zimbabwean farmer Handrixious Zvomarima (centre) and family members admiring their cowpea crop in Shamva District, planted using conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Zimbabwean farmer Handrixious Zvomarima (centre) and family members admiring their cowpea crop in Shamva District, planted using conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 9 2018 (IPS)

Conditioned that ploughing is the sure way to produce crops, Zimbabwean farmer Handrixious Zvomarima surprised himself by trying a different method. He planted cowpea seeds directly without tilling the land. It worked.

The new method tripled Zvomarima’s cowpea yield when many farmers did not harvest a crop following the El Nino-induced drought which affected more than 40 million people in Southern Africa.Some of the technologies that more farmers need include access to resilient seeds and livestock breeds, timely weather information and weather index insurance.

Zvomarima from Shamva District, 120 km northwest of Harare, adopted the water-saving method known as ‘no till farming’. This is part of the Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices and approaches developed and promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This model of climate-smart agriculture seeks to sustainably increase productivity and incomes while helping farmers adapt to and become more resilient to the effects of climate change. CSA practices also aim to reduce and remove agriculture’s greenhouse gases emissions, where possible.

With policies, CSA practices pay

“Policymakers have a role to play in climate-smart agro-technological innovation; the researchers suggest traditional supply-side measures and equivalent demand-side measures (such as tax breaks) could reduce cost and increase return on investment for users,” said Dr. Federica Matteoli, project Manager at FAO Climate Change and Environment Division in Rome.

She shared a case study of Italy’s embrace of CSA at the 4th Global Science Conference on Climate Smart Agriculture in Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2017. Matteoli said policies need to be compatible with CSA objectives and their ability to boost the development and adoption of CSA technological innovation.

Italy was currently at the forefront of promoting research and developing scientifically supported policies related to climate change adaptation and mitigation measures, Matteoli said. At the same time the country was promoting the application of the principles of CSA to locally building resilience throughout the food system.

Matteoli said cooperation and knowledge sharing can promote an enabling policy environment at national and local level in promoting CSA. Italy has promoted conservation agriculture, no tillage practices, climate-smart production systems and knowledge transfer which have collectively been called the Italian Blue Agriculture.

For an enabling environment to promote CSA, potential users must be engaged with earlier in the innovation process, ensuring sharing of information and linkage with universities, technical bodies and national institutions. In addition, there is need for appropriate education programmes and awareness campaigns and the identification of knowledge needs for CSA and priority areas for intervention using consultative and participatory approaches, Matteoli said.

CSA adoption down, time to scale up

Researchers say CSA techniques are effective but there is urgency to quickly spread out the practices, innovations and technologies as climate change threaten agriculture productivity. Some of the technologies that more farmers need include access to resilient seeds and livestock breeds, timely weather information and weather index insurance.

Scaling up CSA needs bold and inclusive policies which are still lacking several decades after CSA approaches were introduced. Researchers and development actors argue that alternative farming methods have been proven to help farmers cope with weather variability and still harvest crops even in poor rainfall.

Another Zimbabwean farmer, Fungisai Masanga (44) saved 150 dollars in labour in the last season after adopting conservation agriculture, another approach of climate smart agriculture. She intercropped maize with nitrogen fixing cowpeas, pigeon pea and lablab.

“This system has allowed us to have more crops in the same field,” says Masanga, a mother of five children. “We have harvested some of the cowpeas which my family has enjoyed and we are soon to harvest maize too, all from the small field where we did not have to plough.”

Zimbabwe has a national investment framework which has recognized CA as a sustainable agriculture intervention and as a tool in climate change adaptation. Promoters of conservation agriculture laud it for saving soil moisture, enabling farmers to plant crops earlier and produce more yield and income in 2-5 cropping seasons.

However, mass adoption of these production changing innovations is not happening across Southern Africa, much to the chagrin of scientists. One reason being the promotion of manual CA systems to farmers, competition for crop residues with livestock, lack of access to appropriate machinery, and increased need for weed control in the first cropping seasons after conversion.

Many innovative climate-smart agriculture practices have been developed in Africa with the capacity to increase productivity and build resilience. These are largely unknown and therefore not adopted, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) found in a 2015 study.

Dr. Christian Thierfelder from CIMMYT explains the multiple benefits of ‘climate-smart agriculture’, in conservation agriculture plots with a maize-cowpea intercropping system outside Harare, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Dr. Christian Thierfelder from CIMMYT explains the multiple benefits of ‘climate-smart agriculture’, in conservation agriculture plots with a maize-cowpea intercropping system outside Harare, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Agriculture on the global agenda

Several countries who signed the Paris Agreement in 2015 have included agriculture as both an adaptation and mitigation strategy on climate change in their national development plans and climate-related strategies including the Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs).

The United Nations recently agreed to discuss issues related to agriculture, paving the way for the promotion of CSA approaches such as heat adapted crops and weather index insurance for crops and inputs.

This actually means that if one has policy that supports climate smart technologies then one needs to tackle a wide range of policy issues, says Bruce Campbell, director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Campbell cites improving the regulatory framework for index-based insurance, enhancing the ICT regulations so they can foster the spread of mobile phones and connectivity and enhancing the business operating framework so that private sector can function easily.

“Scaling up is crucially dependent on government, providing an enabling policy environment for farmers and business,” Campbell told IPS. “Research also needs to be changed, to be much more connected to the end-users of stakeholders – research must be directed to the issues that stakeholders see as priorities.”

Show us the money

Food security is an urgent priority but agriculture has been the poor cousin when it comes to investment both in research and innovations compared to other sectors. Campbell predicts a slow process in agriculture investment.

“Agriculture is also to blame – the sector lags behind in terms of its excitement around innovation – when one thinks of climate smart solutions, the public think of electric cars, wind energy,” he said, adding that, “Agriculture needs to up its game on innovation and communicating about the exciting things that are indeed happening in agricultural innovation.”

Upping agriculture’s game needs money, which the sector does not have.  Global costs of adaptation in the agricultural sector have been estimated at 7 billion dollars per year to 12.6 billion per year but only. 2.5 percent of public climate finance goes to agriculture. The majority of the needs for finance will have to be derived from private sources, making it imperative to get markets in agriculture working in Africa, currently a net food importer spending more than 50 billion dollars annually.

“Without a conducive policy environment, we cannot achieve much,” argues Oluyede Ajayi, Senior Programme Coordinator of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), an ACP-EU institution based in The Netherlands, which has just launched a 1.5 million Euro regional project to help more than 150,000 smallholder farmers in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe address the impacts of climate change.

Stable and clear CSA policies matter in attracting public investment in public goods such as weather stations, data quality and training, Ajayi says while highlighting the need by researchers and development workers to effectively engage in CSA policies by understanding the political process, and identify policy champions and shapers that could help in policy engagement.

“We need to create an enabling policy environment with government and private sectors cooperating in order to upscale CSA,” said Ajayi. “We have to make sure that within policies, we emphasize empowering women and youths.”

The challenge to science and policy makers is how to bring the science/policy nexus and to directly bear on accelerating and expanding the evolution, adaptation and uptake of climate smart farming practices, Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), who gave a keynote address at the 4th Global Science Conference on Climate Smart Agriculture in South Africa last November.

According to the Malabo Montpellier Panel – a group of international agriculture experts guiding policy choices on food and nutritional security in Africa – examples and innovations in climate smart agriculture have multiple benefits. For example, agroforestry helps to diversify the produce of farms, improves soil quality and enhances resilience. Solar irrigation enables smallholder farmers to increase their yields without contributing to emissions while the use of stress tolerant seed varieties counter climate change, are more nutritious and are often more pest and disease resistant.

Climate Smart Agriculture not smart?

The concept of ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’ was originally developed by the FAO and the World Bank, claiming that “triple wins” in agriculture could be achieved in mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions), adaptation (supporting crops to grow in changing climate conditions), and increasing crop yields. The FAO views CSA as an approach for developing agricultural strategies for food security under climate change.

But the global civil society organization, ActionAid, says there is confusion on the meaning and benefits of climate smart agriculture.

A number of industrialised countries (the US in particular), along with a number of agribusiness corporations, are now the most enthusiastic promoters of the concept, ActionAid says.

“But increasingly civil society and farmer organisations express concerns that the term can be used to green-wash industrial agricultural practices that will harm future food production, said ActionAid in briefing.

ActionAid contends that some governments and NGOs also worry that pressure to adopt Climate Smart Agriculture will translate into obligations for developing countries’ food systems to take on an unfair mitigation burden. They point out that their agricultural systems have contributed the least to the problem, but that mitigation obligations could limit their ability to effectively adapt to the climate challenges ahead.

“Ultimately, there are no means to ensure that ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’ is actually smart for the climate, for agriculture, or for farmers,” says ActionAid.

While there is debate on the benefits and constraints of climate smart agriculture technologies, its techniques such as conservation agriculture have improved the productivity for farmers like Zvomarima.

“CA has produced good results for me and as I apply its methods more, I am convinced my crop yields can only get better.”

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Goodbye Mugabe, Hello New Zimbabwe?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/goodbye-mugabe-hello-new-zimbabwe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=goodbye-mugabe-hello-new-zimbabwe http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/goodbye-mugabe-hello-new-zimbabwe/#respond Tue, 21 Nov 2017 22:49:00 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153139 Robert Mugabe – the world’s oldest head of state – is dead, politically at least. After 37 years in power, Mugabe, 93, had become almost synonymous with the country he led. Nothing was said about Zimbabwe without a mention of Mugabe: his rule, his candor and his unforgettable one-liners. It was his wit combined with […]

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Former teacher turned revolutionary leader and Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe. Credit: Al Jazeera/cc by 2.0

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Nov 21 2017 (IPS)

Robert Mugabe – the world’s oldest head of state – is dead, politically at least.

After 37 years in power, Mugabe, 93, had become almost synonymous with the country he led. Nothing was said about Zimbabwe without a mention of Mugabe: his rule, his candor and his unforgettable one-liners.Events of the last fortnight culminated in the removal of one of Africa’s political godfathers and a grandmaster of guile.

It was his wit combined with his political astuteness that made Mugabe more feared than he was adored. Mugabe has missed an opportunity to die in office, a wish he personified by holding on to power for so long.

Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has known since independence from the British in 1980, resigned today after facing impeachment by his own party – which a few months back had endorsed him as their sole presidential candidate for the national elections due in 2018. If he had won, Mugabe would have been in office until the age of 98 – another world record.

But at the party Central Committee meeting last week, Minster Obert Mpofu said it was with “a heavy heart” that the Central Committee was removing Mugabe, who had contributed “many memorable achievements.”

The ruling Zanu PF party made a record of its own. It dramatically fired Mugabe as its leader and endorsed a decision to impeach him after Mugabe ignored a Nov. 20 deadline to voluntarily step down.

A diehard dictator forced out

But events of the last fortnight culminated in the removal of one of Africa’s political godfathers and a grandmaster of guile. The sacking of Emmerson Mnangagwa as the country’s Vice-President from the government and ruling party Zanu PF because he was disloyal and accused of plotting to dethrone Mugabe set in motion events that saw Mugabe fighting for his political life.

Mugabe appears to have given in to his wife Grace’s penchant for power. He purged the party’s senior leadership, seen as an obstacle to Grace’s goal of a Mugabe dynasty. It was too much to take for the army, Zanu PF and the people. Enough was enough and Mugabe had to go. Grace – 41 years Mugabe’s junior – had to be stopped.

A joke is told that Mugabe was once asked when he will say goodbye to the people of Zimbabwe, only to retort: “Where are they going for me to say goodbye to them?”

Now Mugabe himself has been forced to say goodbye.

“I have resigned to allow smooth transfer of power,” he wrote in his resignation letter, which was read aloud to applause at a joint session of the Zimbabwean Parliament. “Kindly give public notice of my decision as soon as possible.”

Mugabe ‘s avowed principle that ‘politics shall always lead the gun and not the gun politics’ was reversed when army tanks rolled into the streets of the capital Harare last week, held Mugabe and his family under house arrest and took over the state broadcaster. Their action, justified as a means to rid the country of criminals who had misled the President, was never referred to as a coup. The gun took over the politics, putting Zimbabwe on a new unknown path to change. Yet Mugabe initially brazenly brushed off the events of the past week as no threat to his leadership.

After the last week’s massive public clamour for Mugabe to step down, a frail and feeble Mugabe appeared to give the Zimbabwean populace a middle figure in a rambling speech last Sunday that he would preside over the forthcoming congress of the Zanu PF which has fired him as its leader and head of State.

Lost legacy

A former teacher turned revolutionary leader, Mugabe espoused the reverent statesman, reconciler and nation builder. His pro-development policies are credited with creating educated, savvy citizens, many of whom have made a mark on the global stage. But an educated people quickly understood the suppression of their rights as Mugabe consolidated power. He changed the law to become executive President in 1987, the same year he forged a Unity Agreement between Zanu PF and rival political party, PF Zapu led by his erstwhile opponent, Joshua Nkomo.

“Mugabe is history already. Unfortunately, he has destroyed whatever legacy he had 20 years ago,” says economist and parliamentarian, Eddie Cross. “He will now be remembered as the man who destroyed our agricultural industry, brought hunger to the majority of people’s homes and allowed Africa’s most diversified economy to collapse.”

Cross says under Mugabe’s watch, incomes have declined by two-thirds, agricultural production by two-thirds or more, industry by over 80 per cent and employment is down to less than 10 per cent of the adult population. Mugabe, Cross believes, has driven over 5 million Zimbabweans into the Diaspora, the majority skilled, well-educated people with capacity.

“We are immediately faced with a cash crisis, a fiscal crisis and a complete lack of confidence in the State, the Banking sector and in government policy,” Cross told IPS. “All these issues have to be dealt with simultaneously. The economic wish list is a mile long – very difficult to prioritize but clearly we have to curb recurrent expenditure by the State, we have to increase revenue, we have to balance our budget and we have to restore confidence in our monetary policies and banking industry.”

The new government – when it is in place – will need to form a national government which has both popular support and international credibility if it can address the many problems facing Zimbabwe, economic recovery being one.

Cross is convinced the international community will demand a return to democracy as soon as possible and the full implementation of the Constitution as well as the restoration of the rule of law and adherence to human rights.

“They are going to demand respect for property rights and for strict compliance with an IMF programme,” says Cross, a founding member of the MDC and currently its Policy Coordinator General. “This tough wish list needs a strong government, it needs time and it needs credible and competent and incorruptible leadership.”

Mnangagwa, 75 – an ally and comrade in arms of Mugabe – has been mentioned as the new leader for Zanu PF, with his expulsion reversed this week. Described as a subdued contriver, Mnangagwa served in various portfolios of security, intelligence and justice. He has been seen as Mugabe’s go-to man with an uncanny ruthlessness in dealing with opponents.

In a widely circulated statement attributed to Mnangagwa, the former vice president who fled the country after being fired had urged Mugabe to step down and take heed of public calls.

“Mugabe can be tried domestically, but not by the ICC [International Criminal Court],” says Dave Coltart, a human rights lawyer and former cabinet minister. “Impeachment would be a legal way of terminating his presidency. Mnangagwa needs to comply with the Constitution.”

New faces, old ideologies

Touted as heroes, Zimbabwe’s army has pulled off epic public relations campaign to restore the country’s political and economic fortunes through a new government. But will there be a new order in Zimbabwe? As Zimbabwe remains on edge about what is to come, Coltart warns against celebrating the unclear promises of the military men.

“In all of our euphoria we must never become so intoxicated as to forget that it was the same generals who allowed Mugabe to come to power in 2008 and 2013,” said an opinion piece this week, urging that Zimbabweans should not forget how the military and war veterans spearheaded the violence which followed the March 2008 elections to ensure that Mugabe got back into power.

“So our message to the military must now be ‘thank you for cleaning up the mess you created but you must now return to your barracks as soon as possible and never again get involved in the electoral process,” Coltart said. “The real danger of the current situation is that having got their new preferred candidate into State House, the military will want to keep him or her there, no matter what the electorate wills….We, and the international community, must make it loud and clear to the military that they have no role to play in that election, other than assisting the police to keep the peace.”

A fraught future?

For many decades fear has been a powerful instrument in the hands of Mugabe and his supporters. Fear was used to cajole, silence and eliminate dissent. It worked to keep Mugabe in power, kept his supporters in line and opponents in check.

Jennie Williams, a human rights activist and founder of the movement, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), bears emotional and physical scars of crossing swords with the Mugabe régime in calling for change.

“I will be vindicated to hear Mugabe himself saying I resign,” says Williams, who was arrested more than 65 times for criticizing the Mugabe regime. “I am saddened that today the Zanu PF members have realized what we have been saying and calling for all this time but they did not have the courage to tell Mugabe to go.”

Williams, 55, is conflicted on what should be delivered in the post-Mugabe era.

“I am desperate for justice,” she told IPS by telephone. “I wanted justice for this country, for the people, for my family. Many people suffered under Mugabe’s rule and today have no jobs, cannot pay their bills, families have been torn apart but I am happy people have shaken away fear.”

The wish list is long. Zimbabweans seeks a restoration of economic stability, a return to the international fold, the revival of industry and the promise of jobs, peace and security to get on with their lives. Maybe Mugabe had an easy solution:

“We must learn to forgive and resolve contradictions real or perceived in a comradely Zimbabwean spirit,” Mugabe earlier told a stunned nation that was eagerly waiting for his resignation.

It finally came today as his own party introduced a motion to impeach him. According to news reports, after the letter was read by Speaker Jacob Mudenda, once-bitter rivals from ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change shook hands and hugged.

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Will Policymakers Listen to Climate Change Science This Time Around?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/will-policymakers-listen-climate-change-science-time-around/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-policymakers-listen-climate-change-science-time-around http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/will-policymakers-listen-climate-change-science-time-around/#comments Wed, 08 Nov 2017 23:31:42 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152946 Climate change is altering the ecosystem of our oceans, a big carbon sink and prime source of protein from fish. This is old news. Scientists say despite knowing enough about climate change, humankind is failing to turn the tide on climate change and the window of opportunity is fast closing. The sooner politicians listen to […]

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All countries need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions drastically in the middle of this century if Paris Agreement targets are to be reached. Credit: Bigstock

All countries need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions drastically in the middle of this century if Paris Agreement targets are to be reached. Credit: Bigstock

By Busani Bafana
BREMERHAVEN, Germany, Nov 8 2017 (IPS)

Climate change is altering the ecosystem of our oceans, a big carbon sink and prime source of protein from fish. This is old news.

Scientists say despite knowing enough about climate change, humankind is failing to turn the tide on climate change and the window of opportunity is fast closing. The sooner politicians listen to science, the faster can they commit to cutting global carbon emissions.“Wouldn’t it be a great achievement if the age of human dominance on earth goes down in history as an era of rethinking and changing behaviour?” --marine biologist Ulf Riebesell

Carbon emissions are increasing but our willingness to do something about them is not, scientists say.

As global leaders gather for COP23 which opened this week, the need to raise global ambitions to cut carbon emissions and put the world on a cleaner, more sustainable path, has never been more urgent.

Climate change projections point to increasing extreme weather, rising temperatures, droughts and floods. Seas and oceans – our biggest lungs – are warming and reaching a saturation point to absorb increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Are the impacts of climate change witnessed now motivation enough for our politicians to do something about it?

“Many of these changes are in line with what has been projected for climate change and there is a debate currently going on among governments that the ambition needs to be strengthened, but this is only an assumption and we do not know yet,” Hans-Otto Portner, Co-Chair of the IPCC’s Working Group II and Head of research section in Ecosystems Physiology at the Alfred Wegener Institute, told IPS.

Portner expects the current round of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations to show to what extent extreme events have changed the mentality of policy makers. Should we expect a radical shift in climate change positions at COP23?

“Climate change does not go away and its impacts will become more and more intensive so the pressure on policy makers to do something in the shorter term will be increasing,” Portner said. “It is really about those countries that are not much affected at the moment where there is this inertia and where maybe the awareness is large enough. Then you have individuals that do not follow the obvious insight from scientific information but rather follow their own beliefs. As a citizen you can only hope that these individuals will lose influence over time.”

Warming climate, cooling ambitions

There is no shortage of political influence for more ambitious actions on reducing carbon emissions and addressing climate change. It is however, peppered with attention-grabbing deniers like US President Donald Trump, who has triggered the process for the US to exit the Paris Agreement.

It is clear that the world knows enough about climate change than it did over the last century ago, but actions taken to date are insufficient, Portner said blaming the inertia on technological uncertainty. For, instance, he said the European car industry has taken a long time in establishing alternative engines despite many years of talk about electric vehicles.

Under the climate change agreement reached in 2015, global leaders committed to lower carbon emissions and cap global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius to about pre-industrial level. They also pledged to ensure a lower 1.5 degrees of warming to keep the earth sustainable for life. Scientists worry that political ambitions are still weak.

With the start of the 6th IPCC assessment cycle, pressure is on to validate the Paris Agreement at whose core is the world’s ability to adapt and reduce the impacts of climate change.

Acknowledging that defining climate change thresholds remains a challenge, Portner said all countries need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions drastically in the middle of this century if Paris agreement targets are to be reached.

“The current world climate report indicates clearly that net zero emissions are a precondition for limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. However, reducing CO2 emissions alone may not be sufficient,” Portner observed. “Net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere would have to contribute. This is already technically possible but the challenge is to develop and implement respective technologies at a larger scale.”

A recent report by the World Resources Institute (WRI), a Washington-based research group says more than 55 countries – accounting for 60 percent of global emission- have committed to peaking their emissions by 2030. While this is good, global emissions need to peak by 2020 to prevent dangerous warming levels, the report urged.

Acting as a gigantic carbon sink, oceans take up about a third of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by human activities. However, when absorbed by seawater, the greenhouse gas triggers chemical reactions, causing the ocean to acidify, scientists say. While on the one hand, the ocean’s CO2 uptake slows down global climate change on the other, this absorption affects the life and material cycles of the ocean and those who depend on it.

The German Research network, Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification (BIOACID) has just concluded an 8-year extensive research on ocean acidification involving a team of more than 250 scientists from 20 German institutions. The research indicates that ocean acidification, warming and other environmental condition are impairing ocean life and compromising ecosystems services provided by oceans.

Fish off the menu

Ocean acidification reduces the ocean’s ability to store carbon and this threatens marine ecosystem that supports global fish stocks.

Research by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel shows that ocean acidification and warming will affect the availability of fish and global fish stocks. Besides, over fishing is a global problem though it is unevenly distributed.

“Overfishing is not necessarily an ecological catastrophe but its economically stupid and is unfair,” says Gerd Kraus, director of the Thunen-Instiute of Sea Fisheries in Hamburg. “Science is needed to make informed choices, for example, advising governments on the sustainable management of fish stocks.”

Fish are the primary source of protein for one billion people globally, primarily in developing countries. The loss of coral reefs that provide habitat and coastal protection will affect aquaculture and fish harvests.

“The future of this planet depends on us,” says Ulf Riebesell, a marine biologist at GEOMAR and Coordinator of BIOACID said, adding that, “Wouldn’t it be a great achievement if the age of human dominance on earth goes down in history as an era of rethinking and changing behaviour?”

But change is hard as it is slow. According to BIOACID in adopt a more sustainable lifestyle and economy, political influence is needed in regulating the phase out of fossil fuels.

Stop fumbling on fossil fuels

According to Felix Ekardt, Director of the Research Unit Sustainability and Climate Policy in Leipzi, fossil fuels are the main source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, which a 2017 landmark study says kills 9 million people, more than those killed by war, AIDs, hunger and malaria combined.

“Both (GHG and air pollution) are not only drivers of climate change but also cause ocean acidification,” Ekardt said. “Knowledge of natural scientific facts on sea and climate alone however does not trigger sufficient motivation in society, businesses and politics to reduce their emissions….The usual emissions-intensive lifestyle in industrialised countries and increasingly in developing countries has to be put on the spot.”

Arguing that shifting problems will not solve them, said ocean acidification and climate change are prime examples of truly global problems. BIOACID research calls for inducing a fast phase-out of fossil fuels as one of the options for effective ocean acidification policies.

“The most effective mechanism for that is to define clear political steps to eliminate fossil fuels used for power, heating, fuels and industrial use (such as fertiliser) from the market by implementing a mechanism for quantity control.”

Gebru Jember Endalew, Chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group, calls COP23 a vital step to set a clear rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. He bemoaned that LDCs and other developing countries cannot take ambitious actions to address climate change or protect themselves against its impacts unless all countries outdo the pledges on the table.

“As the 47 poorest countries in the world, the LDCs face the unique and unprecedented challenge of lifting our people out of poverty and achieving sustainable development without relying on fossil fuels,” Endalew said.

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When Policies Speak the Same Language, Africa’s Trade and Investment Will Listenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/policies-speak-language-africas-trade-investment-will-listen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=policies-speak-language-africas-trade-investment-will-listen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/policies-speak-language-africas-trade-investment-will-listen/#comments Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:21:24 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151709 The rising Maputo-Catembe Bridge is a hard-to-miss addition to Mozambique’s shoreline. The 725-million-dollar bridge – billed to be the largest suspension bridge in Africa on its completion in 2018 – represents Mozambique’s new investment portfolio and a show of its policy commitment to boosting international trade. But the country can improve on its trade and […]

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Mozambique is open for business. A new suspension bridge rises on Maputo Bay. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Mozambique is open for business. A new suspension bridge rises on Maputo Bay. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
MAPUTO, Aug 17 2017 (IPS)

The rising Maputo-Catembe Bridge is a hard-to-miss addition to Mozambique’s shoreline.

The 725-million-dollar bridge – billed to be the largest suspension bridge in Africa on its completion in 2018 – represents Mozambique’s new investment portfolio and a show of its policy commitment to boosting international trade.“African governments have identified policy incoherence as the elephant in the room." --Wadzanai Katsande of FAO

But the country can improve on its trade and investment if it can effectively align its national trade and agricultural policies to ensure sufficient coordination between trade and agricultural policymakers, experts say.

Initiatives to improve agricultural productivity, value chain development, employment creation, and food security are often constrained by market and trade-related bottlenecks which are a result of the misalignment between agricultural and trade policies.

This was part of findings discussed at a meeting convened by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in the Mozambican capital earlier this month. The high-level meeting attracted decision makers from the ministries of agriculture, finance, trade, industry and commerce, private sector representatives and donor groups.

To help address this challenge, FAO, in collaboration with Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) at the World Trade Organisation and the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), has piloted a regional project to help countries coordinate policy making processing, starting with agriculture and trade.

Mozambique is one of four countries in East and Southern Africa targeted in the pilot project aimed at developing a model for best practices in policy development and harmonization in enhancing economic development.

An assessment of the agriculture and trade policy framework and policymaking processes in Mozambique has been done to understand decision making in setting objectives and priorities for the country’s agriculture and trade sector.

The assessment also sought to contribute to the development of a coherent national policy framework on agricultural trade in Mozambique, said Wadzanai Katsande, Outcome Coordinator for the Food Systems Programme of the FAO.

Though listed as one of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) in the world, Mozambique is rich in natural and mineral resources including gas. The country is a bright investment destination in Africa.

Policy alignment is the key

“On paper, policies sound well and good, but in practice the story is different. There are still coordination and consistency issues in the policy formulation and implementation processes within and between agriculture and trade and these need to be addressed,” says Samuel Zita, an International Trade and Development Consultant, who recently led on an analytical study commissioned by the FAO on “Coordination between agriculture and trade policy making in Mozambique.”

“When agriculture and trade policies speak the same language that creates some predictability to investors, any disconnect between the two can have a negative effect on foreign direct investment,” Zita told IPS.

The study which focused on the country’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) processes also looked at the policy documents from these processes such as the CAADP National Agricultural Investment Plan (PNISA)] and the Diagnostic Trade Integration Strategy (DTIS). It recommended that Mozambique should improve the dissemination of policies, plans and strategies to stakeholders through various media. In addition, there should be an improvement in the description and publication of agricultural production and trade data.

Agriculture – defined by the national constitution as the basis of the country’s economic development – contributes 25 percent to Mozambique’s GDP of nearly 14 billion dollars. Raw aluminium, electricity, prawns, cotton, cashew nuts, sugar, citrus, coconuts and timber are major exports.

Policy cohesion can help facilitate trade development by simplifying the regulatory and policy environment for small businesses, so countries can attract private sector investment at local and international levels, says Jonathan Werner, Country Coordinator, Executive Secretariat of the Enhanced Integrated Framework at the WTO.

“We are facing many challenges for regional trade integration in Africa,” Werner Told IPS. “Our findings have shown that aligned policy processes can help create an enabling environment for trade and development.”

Policy cementing the SDGs

African governments have committed themselves to a multitude of agreements, protocols and declarations meant to promote greater agriculture productivity and trade which are major drivers of economic growth, but something is still missing in getting it all together: effective policies both at national and regional levels. Until the well-meaning policies trade and agriculture are aligned, Africa will continue to miss out on attracting the level of investment it should.

Mozambique has taken the first steps towards aligning its national agriculture and trade sector policies to boost economic development.

“African governments have identified policy incoherence as the elephant in the room and getting the policies in trade and agriculture to speak to each other is key to turning policies into action,” Katsande said noting that agriculture and trade development form the basis of key initiatives such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the Malabo Declaration and African Union’s Agenda 2063.

A boost for Inter-Africa trade

Africa has no less than 14 regional trading blocs but inter-Africa trade is low at 12 percent of the continent’s trade, according to statistics from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). However, Africa’s trade with Europe and Asia is at nearly 60 percent. Some of the bottlenecks to Africa trading with Africa include trade policy harmonization, reducing export/import duties low production capacity, differing production quality standards and poor infrastructure.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) set to be signed into operation by December 2017 will help double inter African trade. In 2012 African head of state endorsed the establishment of the free trade area by 2017. Trade is one of the pathways to unlocking economic growth in Africa to boost employment and foster innovation in a continent replete with opportunities.

Gerhard Erasmus, an associate at the Trade Law Centre, a trade law capacity building institution based in Cape Town, South Africa, said low inter-Africa trade was a real issue which has been blamed by some economists on the fact that African nations often produce the same goods (mostly agriculture and basic commodities) for which the intra-African export opportunities are limited.

“Unless we move up the ladder of value addition, industrialization and services we will remain stuck,” Erasmus said. “Thus domestic development plans need adjustment and targeted investments are necessary. There are many trade facilitation challenges, from long queues at border posts, corruption, uncoordinated technical standards and requirements, to red tape and inadequate infrastructure.”

Eramus said regional economic communities and even the African Union had policies and plans to address the many trade challenges, but implementation often encountered problems at national levels regarding political buy-in, lack of resources, technical capacity problems, and plain bad governance.

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Southern Africa’s Marshall Plan to Stop Voracious Crop Wormhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/southern-africas-marshall-plan-stop-voracious-crop-worm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=southern-africas-marshall-plan-stop-voracious-crop-worm http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/southern-africas-marshall-plan-stop-voracious-crop-worm/#respond Tue, 18 Jul 2017 00:01:04 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151336 Southern African countries have agreed on a multi-pronged plan to increase surveillance and research to contain the fall army worm, which has cut forecast regional maize harvests by up to ten percent, according to a senior U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) official. The crop-eating fall army worm (Spodoptera frugiperda), first detected in Central and […]

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The fall army worm on the march. A farmer in Zimbabwe’s Gwanda District displays the pest that invaded his field. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

The fall army worm on the march. A farmer in Zimbabwe’s Gwanda District displays the pest that invaded his field. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jul 18 2017 (IPS)

Southern African countries have agreed on a multi-pronged plan to increase surveillance and research to contain the fall army worm, which has cut forecast regional maize harvests by up to ten percent, according to a senior U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) official.

The crop-eating fall army worm (Spodoptera frugiperda), first detected in Central and Western Africa in 2016, has been positively identified in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe where it has extensively damaged maize crops.An estimated 13.5 million tonnes of maize across Africa, worth 3 billion dollars, are at risk from the worms in the next year.

FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa, David Phiri, said Southern African countries have agreed on a region-wide strategy to contain the pest, known to attack more than 80 plant species, including staple cereals and vegetables. The agreed strategy includes undertaking national assessments to determine the impact of the pest on crop yields and using Integrated Pest Management (IPS), an environmentally friendly approach to controlling pests focusing on pest prevention and application of pesticides only as necessary.

“The Fall army worm is still a threat that is not going away soon,” Phiri told IPS in a telephone interview from Harare. “Depending on the country, the impact of the pest has been 2 to 10 percent reduction in yield and that is worrying for the region which has experienced a food crisis.”

The scale of the damage of the Fall Army worm is expected to be felt more on maize where over 741,316 acres of the cereal – the staple for more than 200 million people in most of Southern Africa – have been affected.

The United FAO says while it was too early to know the long term impact food security as a result of the outbreak of the pest, native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, the potential for serious damage and yield losses were high. This has necessitated the development of a coordinated strategy to manage the pest ahead of the next agriculture season.

A consultative multi-stakeholder meeting in Nairobi, Kenya in April 2017 formulated a region-wide Framework for the Coordinated Management of FAW which involves surveillance and early warning, impact assessment, sustainable management and coordination of the pest. The Framework will guide the development of projects and programmes by governments, researchers, academics, farmers and other actors to contain the migratory pest which can reproduce quickly in the right environment.

Estimates from the Centre for Agricultural and Biosciences International (CABI), show that 13.5 million tonnes of maize worth 3 billion dollars across Africa are at risk from the FAW in the next year. It gets worse, in all confirmed and suspected fall army worm incident countries; there is total value at risk of over 13.3 billion dollars across all crops, according to a note on the recommendations from the Stakeholders Consultation meeting.

“While countries are doing vulnerability assessments, the biggest problem we have now is the next cropping season, “ said Phiri. “The pest is there and we have to manage it as it will affect next year’s production because we have not identified any particular pesticide that can control it and this is a race against time.”

The FAO, which is leading the response strategy for the FAW, is working with the government of South Africa to lead the research on technologies to help manage the pest. Earlier in July, the FAO met with experts from Latin America in Accra, Ghana, to see which if their management technologies could be applied in Africa. Brazil spends an estimated 600 million dollars annually to control the fall army worm.

“For sure we know that Integrated Pest Management works and that for large farms the judicious use of pesticides might be the only option and when that happens we need to identify a particular pesticide that is effective and at the same time foes not harm the environment and does not lead to resistance and hence the marathon meetings and research going on at the moment,” Phiri said, noting that the cost to control the pest was not yet determined for the region as countries were undertaking assessments.

FAO is developing a long-term IPM-based strategy for the sustainable management of fall army worm, including forecasting, crop monitoring, use of biological control options, resistant varieties and promotion of good agricultural practices and the use of pesticides as a last resort.

Kerstin Kruger, Associate Professor in the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria, told IPS the recent arrival of fall army worm and other invasive species highlights the need for a strong scientific basis to respond to such threats.

Sub-Saharan Africa is economically highly dependent on agriculture and is considered to be amongst the most vulnerable regions to the economic threat posed by invasive species. Kruger said a thorough understanding of the biology of the pest and its interaction in its environment was key to its successful management.

North and South America have battled the FAW for decades and have developed a number of non-chemical management options ranging from planting of maize varieties that are less susceptible to FAW attack to monitoring with pheromone traps. In addition, biological control using natural enemies such as insect parasitoids, predators and microbial pesticides and BT-maize has been used.

“One avenue worthwhile exploring is to research local natural enemies of the related native Armyworm,” said Kruger, citing that wasps parasitizing the native African army worm may also attack the Fall army worm.

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The High Price of Desertification: 23 Hectares of Land a Minutehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/the-high-price-of-desertification-23-hectares-of-land-a-minute/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-high-price-of-desertification-23-hectares-of-land-a-minute http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/the-high-price-of-desertification-23-hectares-of-land-a-minute/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 12:28:53 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150885 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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12 million hectares of arable land are lost to drought and desertification annually, while 1.5 billion people are affected in over 100 countries

Farmer Margaret Gauti Mpofu adds manure to her vegetable crops in a field on the outskirts of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jun 15 2017 (IPS)

Urban farmer Margaret Gauti Mpofu would do anything to protect the productivity of her land. Healthy soil means she is assured of harvest and enough food and income to look after her family.

Each morning, Mpofu, 54, treks to her 5,000-square-metre plot in Hyde Park, about 20 km west of the city of Bulawayo. With a 20-litre plastic bucket filled with cow manure in hand, Mpofu expertly scoops the compost and sprinkles a handful besides thriving leaf vegetables and onions planted in rows across the length of the field, which is irrigated with treated waste water.Mpofu’s act of feeding the land is minuscule in fighting the big problem of land degradation. But replicated by many farmers on a large scale, it can restore the productivity of arable land.

“I should not be doing this,” Mpofu tells IPS pointing to furrows on her field left by floodwater running down the slope during irrigation. “The soil is losing fertility each time we irrigate because the water flows fast, taking valuable topsoil with it. I have to constantly add manure to improve fertility in the soil and this also improves my yields.”

Mpofu’s act of feeding the land is minuscule in fighting the big problem of land degradation. But replicated by many farmers on a large scale, it can restore the productivity of arable land, today threatened by desertification and degradation.

While desertification does include the encroachment of sand dunes on productive land, unsustainable farming practices such as slash and burn methods in land clearing, incorrect irrigation, water erosion, overgrazing – which removes grass cover and erodes topsoil – as well as climate change are also major contributors to desertification.

Desertification is on the march.  Many people are going hungry because degraded lands affects agriculture, a key source of livelihood and food in much of Africa. More than 2.6 billion people live off agriculture in the world. More than half of agricultural land is affected by soil degradation, according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

It gets worse. The UN body says 12 million hectares of arable land, enough to grow 20 tonnes of grain, are lost to drought and desertification annually, while 1.5 billion people are affected in over 100 countries. Halting land degradation has become an urgent global imperative.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that by 2030 Africa will lose two-thirds of its arable land if the march of desertification — the spread of arid, desert-like areas of land — is not stopped.

Deserting homes thanks to desertification

Though not new, desertification has serious economic and development implications, especially for Africa. The economic costs of desertification and land degradation are estimated at 490 billion dollars per year, but sustainable land management can help generate up to 1.4 trillion dollars of economic benefits, says the UNCCD, which this year marks the 2017 World Day to Combat Desertification under the theme, “The land is our home, our future.”

This year the WDCD is focusing on the link between land degradation and migration and how local communities can build resilience to several development challenges through sustainable management practices.

The number of international migrants worldwide has grown from 222 million in 2010 to 244 million in 2015, according to the United Nations. The UNCCD says behind these numbers are links between migration and development challenges, in particular, the consequences of environmental degradation, political instability, food insecurity and poverty.

“Migration is high on the political agenda all over the world as some rural communities feel left behind and others flee their lands,” Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, said in a public statement ahead of the global observation of the WDCD.

“The problem [of migration] signals a growing sense of hopelessness due to the lack of choice or loss of livelihoods. And yet productive land is a timeless tool for creating wealth. This year, let us engage in a campaign to re-invest in rural lands and unleash their massive job-creating potential, from Burkina Faso, Chile and China, to Italy, Mexico, Ukraine and St. Lucia.”

Barbut said more than 100 of the 169 countries affected by desertification or drought are setting national targets to curb a runaway land degradation by the year 2030.

“Investing in the land will create local jobs and give households and communities a fighting chance to live, which will, in turn, strengthen national security and our future prospects for sustainability,” said Barbut.

The 17th of June was designated by the United Nations as the World Day to Combat Desertification to raise public awareness about the challenges of desertification, land degradation and drought and to promote the implementation of the UNCCD in countries experiencing serious drought and desertification, particularly in Africa.

Loss of land , loss of livelihoods

The 1992 Rio Earth Summit identified desertification together with climate change and biodiversity loss as the greatest challenges to sustainable development. The UNCCD was established to galvanize global efforts to maintain and restore land and soil productivity while mitigating the effects of droughts in the semi-arid and dry sub humid areas where some 2 billion people depend on the ecosystem there.

In May 2017, a high-level event on Land Degradation, Desertification and Drought held at the UN headquarters and organized by the Permanent Mission of Qatar, Iceland and Namibia together with the office of the President of the General Assembly underlined Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) as a catalyst in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainable Development Goal 15 emphasizes the protection, restoration and promotion of sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainable forest management, combating desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

“More than half of the world’s agricultural land is affected by soil degradation, and the deterioration of dry lands has led to the desertification of 3.6 billion hectares of land,” Ambassador Peter Thomson, President of the General Assembly, told the high level meeting, citing the drought and famine which affected millions of people across Africa.

Last year, many countries in Southern Africa declared a drought disaster. The Southern Africa Development Community launched a 2.4-billion-dollar food and humanitarian aid appeal for 40 million people affected by a drought that was the worst in more than 30 years.

With food demand expected to grow by 50 percent to 2030, there will be greater demand for land, leading to even more deforestation and environmental degradation if global action is not taken to restore the productivity of degraded lands.

The UNCCD is promoting a land degradation neutral world by 2030. It has set the Target 15.3 to combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.

Achieving SDG target 15.3 would empower women and girls who mostly bear the brunt of desertification, land degradation and drought, and also contribute to ending poverty and ensuring food security, said the Group of Friends on Land Degradation, Desertification and Drought co-chaired by Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson of Iceland and Ambassador Neville Gertze of Namibia.

Land is finite but restoring it is not

The world cannot grow new land but there is good news. Degraded land can be restored.  Burkina Faso, which is hosting the official global events to mark the 2017 WDCD, has shown the way.

The West African nation, one of the early signatories to the UNCCD, has since the early 1980s been rehabilitating degraded land by building on our traditional techniques such as the Zaï and  adopting new techniques that work such as farmer managed natural regeneration.

“We are hosting the global observance on 17 June because we want to show the world, what we have achieved and is possible in order to inspire everyone into action,” Batio Bassiere, Burkina Faso’s Minister of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change, said in a statement.

Innovative farmer Yacouba Sawadogo from northwestern Burkina Faso is credited with using an old practice known as ‘zai’ in which holes are dug into hard ground and filled with compost where seeds are planted.  During the rainy season the holes catch water and retain moisture and nutrients for the seeds during the dry season.

Within 30 years, Sawadogo has turned a degraded area into a 15-hectare forest with several tree species in a country where overgrazing and over-farming had led to soil erosion and drying.

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Excerpt:

This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Microbes, New Weapon Against Agricultural Pests in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/microbes-new-weapon-against-agricultural-pests-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=microbes-new-weapon-against-agricultural-pests-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/microbes-new-weapon-against-agricultural-pests-in-africa/#comments Mon, 10 Apr 2017 11:24:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149879 Microscopic soil organisms could be an environmentally friendly way to control crop pests and diseases and even protect agriculture against the impacts of climate change, a leading researcher says. Africa is battling an outbreak of trans-boundary pests and diseases like the invasive South America fall armyworm (FAW), tomato leaf miner and the TR4 which have […]

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A farmer shows a crop-eating fall armyworm taken from his field in Gwanda, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

A farmer shows a crop-eating fall armyworm taken from his field in Gwanda, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Apr 10 2017 (IPS)

Microscopic soil organisms could be an environmentally friendly way to control crop pests and diseases and even protect agriculture against the impacts of climate change, a leading researcher says.

Africa is battling an outbreak of trans-boundary pests and diseases like the invasive South America fall armyworm (FAW), tomato leaf miner and the TR4 which have cost the agriculture sector millions of dollars in crop damage.“Chemicals are a quick fix and short-term solution to insect pest control and also kill the predators of the pests." --Dr. Christian Thierfelder

“Research from our labs at Auburn University has shown a great potential in microbes for helping fight pests- and we have done some research on fall army worm that are pests in turf grass,” said Dr. Esther Ngumbi, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the Auburn University in Alabama, United States.

Ngumbi’s research has looked at how beneficial soil microbes help recruit natural enemies.

Microbes are tiny organisms like bacteria and fungi that interact with the soil and plants. Though not widely appreciated in much of Africa, Ngumbi said microbial formulations have been found to improve plant growth and protect crops from insects, drought and other climate-related extremes.

Researchers also say microbes can help preserve the environment threatened by growing reliance on chemical solutions in fighting crop and livestock trans-boundary pests and diseases. Pesticides pose a threat to food safety, human and ecological health, necessitating the promotion of non-chemical alternatives to handling pests.

Researchers at Auburn University have worked on beneficial soil bacteria/microbes, specifically plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR). The soil dwelling bacteria that colonize plant roots have beneficial effects of increasing plant growth and enhancing the ability of plants to fight off herbivorous insect pests such as the beet armyworm-Spodoptera exigua and the fall armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda to which they have a direct toxic effect.

First reported in Sao Tome and Principe in January 2016, the crop-eating pest has affected thousands of hectares of crops in Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe to date. The pest which is difficult to control with one type of pesticide can cause extensive crop damage of up to 73 percent in the field. It also attacks non-cereal crops including potato, groundnut, spinach, tomato, cabbage, soybeans, cotton and tobacco.

In Brazil the fall armyworms have a cost of 600 million dollars a year to control.

Dr. Christian Thierfelder, Senior Cropping Systems Agronomist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Southern Africa Regional Office, says poor identification of the pest delayed response to the outbreak in November 2016 because the pest has never been encountered before in Southern Africa.

“Everyone was classifying it [FAW] as a stalk borer or the American bollworm but they were all wrong. This new pest has now been identified as the fall armyworm and people started extensively using pesticides – some of them not yet registered,” Thierfelder told IPS.

“Chemicals are a quick fix and short-term solution to insect pest control and also kill the predators of the pests. This affects the environment and also birds who feed on caterpillars making it important to focus more on alternative ways through biological solutions such as Integrated Pest Management, crop diversification and intercropping.”

The use of IPM has been recommended to deal with insect pests. Integrated pest management is an approach that seeks to minimize and rationalize the use of chemicals.

The approach promotes the use of safer alternatives to pesticides like biocontrol and cultural practices. These include resistant cultivars to control insect pests and diseases, crop rotation and diversification at the plot and landscape, monitoring of insect pests using pheromone traps and seed treatment with beneficial soil rhizobacteria to reduce soil and foliar diseases.

Thierfelder said during extensive field tours in southern Africa, he observed less damage in early planted maize fields under conservation agriculture, intercropped with pigeonpeas or cowpeas and with some trees nearby.

“Here the attack of the fall armyworm was minimal,” said Thierfelder. “This shows that nature can help us in biological pest control as predators can hide in those diversified landscapes and control the pest.”

FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for southern Africa, David Phiri, says the fall army worm has threatened food security in the region because it is new and exposed the need to investment in surveillance systems.

“We do not have ready-made control mechanisms for the fall armyworm and we worry that pesticides used indiscriminately might actually contribute to environmental damage and also contribute to pesticide resistance,” Phiri said.

He added that, “We need to take the issue of monitoring and surveillance very seriously. Historically FAO has been trying to inform and convince governments that they should try to monitor as a matter of course not just monitor when there is a threat because they might be pests and disease coming into the region.”

According to the 2017 FAO report “The future of food and agriculture: Trends and challenges,” public investment is required to catalyze and support private investment. Investment in R&D has to be associated with the development of infrastructure and services to prevent and control the spread of pests and diseases; including trans-boundary ones and mechanisms that help reduce risks.

Rob Vos, Director of FAO’s Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division and one of the authors of the report, told IPS that the threats posed by biological invasions and outbreaks of existing trans-boundary pests highlight the importance of investing in agricultural research to rapidly respond to threats.

“The nature of trans boundary pests requires management on an international scale with countries coordinating their efforts. FAW is a highly mobile pest. The threat it poses to maize production and food security in Africa is not confined to individual countries but affects the entire region,” Vos said.

“Successful management of recurrent and new threats such as FAW is likely to be best achieved through collaboration among governments and international and national organizations.”

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Three Times as Many Mobile Phones as Toilets in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/three-times-as-many-mobile-phones-as-toilets-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=three-times-as-many-mobile-phones-as-toilets-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/three-times-as-many-mobile-phones-as-toilets-in-africa/#respond Tue, 21 Mar 2017 00:02:57 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149503 This story is part of IPS coverage of World Water Day, observed on March 22.

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Clean water is still a pipe dream for more than 300 million Africans. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Clean water is still a pipe dream for more than 300 million Africans. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Mar 21 2017 (IPS)

Though key to good health and economic wellbeing, water and sanitation remain less of a development priority in Africa, where high costs and poor policy implementation constrain getting clean water and flush toilets to millions.

A signatory to several agreements committing to water security, Africa simply cannot afford the infrastructure to bring water to everyone, argues water expert Mike Muller.Lack of access to clean water can contribute to famine, wars and uncontrolled and irregular migration.

Sub-Saharan Africa uses less than five percent of its water resources, but making water available to all can be prohibitively expensive, Muller, of the Wits University School of Governance in South Africa and a former director general of the South African Department of Water, told IPS.

“Domestic water supply is a political priority in Africa and sanitation has grown in importance,” he said, “but the services cost money.”

According to the World Water Council, a global body with over 300 members founded in 1996 to advocate for world water security, the world needs to spend an estimated 650 billion dollars annually from now to 2030 to build necessary infrastructure to ensure universal water security.

Water woes still running

Africa is still far from enjoying the returns from investments in the water sector; for example, it has more citizens with mobile phones than access to clean water and toilets. A 2016 report published by Afrobarometer, a pan-African research network, which explored access to basic services and infrastructure in 35 African countries, found that only 30 percent of Africans had access to toilets and only 63 percent to piped water – yet 93 percent had mobile phone service.

Governments need to invest in water projects that will avail clean water to all in a world where over 800 million people currently do not have access to safe drinking water, and where water-related diseases account for 3.5 million deaths each year, said the World Water Council in a statement ahead of the World Water Day. The WWC warned that water insecurity costs the global economy an estimated 500 billion dollars annually.

“World leaders realize that sanitation is fundamental to public health, but we need to act now in order to achieve the UN’s Global Sustainable Development Goal Number 6 – to deliver safe water and sanitation to everyone everywhere by 2030,” World Water Council President Benedito Braga said in a statement. “We need commitment at the highest levels, so every town and city in the world can ensure that safe, clean water resources are available.”

Noting the key impact of water access, Braga warned that lack of access to clean water can contribute to famine, wars and uncontrolled and irregular migration.

“Water is an essential ingredient for social and economic development across nearly all sectors. It secures enough food for all, provides sufficient and stable energy supplies, and ensures market and industrial stability amongst others benefits,” he said, adding that the world has missed the sanitation target, leaving 2.4 billion people without access to improved sanitation facilities, necessitating the investment in water and sanitation which the World Water Council said brought an estimated 4.3 dollars in return for every dollar invested through reduced health care costs.

Children fetch water from a canal at the Magwe irrigation scheme in south Matabeleland, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Children fetch water from a canal at the Magwe irrigation scheme in south Matabeleland, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Wealth from wastewater

World Water Day 2017 focuses on waste water, which the United Nations inter-agency entity UN-Water says is an untapped source of wealth if properly treated.

The United Nations defines wastewater as “a combination of domestic effluent consisting of blackwater (excreta, urine and faecal sludge) and greywater (kitchen and bathing wastewater) in addition to water from commercial establishments and institutions, industrial and agricultural effluent.”

According the fourth World Water Development Report, currently only 20 percent of globally produced wastewater receives proper treatment, and this was mainly dependent on a country’s income. This means treatment capacity is 70 percent of the generated wastewater in high-income countries, compared to only 8 percent in low-income countries, according to a UN-Water Analytics Brief, Waste Water Management.

“A paradigm shift is now required in water politics the world over not only to prevent further damage to sensitive ecosystems and the aquatic environment, but also to emphasize that wastewater is a resource (in terms of water and also nutrient for agricultural use) whose effective management is essential for future water security,” said UN-Water.

Muller said Africa cannot talk of waste water without first delivering adequate clean water.

“The focus on waste water reflects the rich world’s desire to reduce pollution, protect the environment and sell technology,” Muller said. “There are some major cities and towns where ‘used’ water is treated and reused, in others untreated water is sought after by peri-urban farmers because it provides valuable fertilizer as well.

“But in places without adequate water supplies or sewers to remove the wastewater, waste water treatment is not yet a priority, [and] without water supply there can be no waste water.”

According to the World Water Council, about 90 percent of the world’s wastewater flows untreated into the environment. More than 923 million people have no access to safe drinking water and 2.4 billion others do not have adequate sanitation.

“Nearly 40 percent of the world’s population already faces water scarcity, which may increase to two-thirds of the population by 2025. In addition, approximately 700 million people are living in urban areas without safe toilets,” the Council said.

Waste water can be a drought-resistant source of water especially for agriculture or industry, nutrients for agriculture, soil conditioner and source of energy.

Some impurities in wastewater are useful as organic fertilizers. With proper treatment, wastewater can be useful in supporting pasture for grazing by livestock.

Clever Mafuta, Africa Coordinator at GRID-Arendal, a Norway-based centre that collaborates with the UN Environment, says an integrated and holistic approach is needed in water management across the world.

“Making strides in safe drinking water alone is a temporary success if other elements such as sanitation and wastewater management are not attended to, especially in urban areas,” Mafuta told IPS. “Wastewater often ends up in drinking sources, and as such if wastewater is not managed well, gains made in the provision of safe drinking water can be eroded.”

The UN estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses 40 billion hours per year collecting water – the same as an entire year’s labour by the population of France.

The Africa Water Vision 2025 launched by a number of UN agencies and African regional bodies in 2000 noted extreme climate and rainfall variability, inappropriate governance and institutional arrangements in managing national and transactional water basins and unsustainable financing of investments in water supply and sanitation as some of the threats to water security in Africa.

African ministers responsible for sanitation and hygiene adopted the Ngor Declaration on Sanitation and Hygiene in May 2015 in Senegal, committing to access to sanitation and eliminating open defecation by 2030. However, this goal remains extremely distant.

African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) has developed an African monitoring and reporting system for the water and sanitation sector. Executive Secretary Canisius Kanangire calls it an important step in ensuring effective and efficient management of the continent’s water resources and the provision of adequate and equitable access to safe water and sanitation for all.

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Excerpt:

This story is part of IPS coverage of World Water Day, observed on March 22.

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Former Boko Haram Abductees Speak Outhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/former-boko-haram-abductees-speak-out/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=former-boko-haram-abductees-speak-out http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/former-boko-haram-abductees-speak-out/#respond Sat, 18 Mar 2017 22:39:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149482 Though still fearful for her life and the safety of her family, one of the girls who escaped abduction by Boko Haram in Nigeria has appealed to global leaders to intervene and help bring back 195 schoolgirls still being held by the terrorist network. Next month it will be three years since the Nigerian militants […]

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Chibok girls who survived Boko Haram, Sa'a (left) and Rachel (right) at a press conference moderated by Vikas Pota, CEO, Varkey Foundation, at the Global Skills and Education Forum, Dubai. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Chibok girls who survived Boko Haram, Sa'a (left) and Rachel (right) at a press conference moderated by Vikas Pota, CEO, Varkey Foundation, at the Global Skills and Education Forum, Dubai. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
DUBAI, UAE, Mar 18 2017 (IPS)

Though still fearful for her life and the safety of her family, one of the girls who escaped abduction by Boko Haram in Nigeria has appealed to global leaders to intervene and help bring back 195 schoolgirls still being held by the terrorist network.

Next month it will be three years since the Nigerian militants abducted more than 270 girls from the town of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria.

Last October, the Boko Haram fighters freed 21 of the girls, including one with a baby that triggered global outrage and spurred the social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls.

Telling our story

“We have to share our story and tell the world about it for the world to know,’ the student, using a pseudonym to protect her identity, Sa’a* (20) said at press conference on the sidelines of the two-day Global Education and Skills Forum.

Earlier SAA and another girl, identified as Rachel*, who lost her father and siblings to Boko Haram, told the Forum that the kidnapping of the schoolgirls was a painful episode that the world should not forget.

“The only thing we need to do is to ask the world leaders to bring back the girls. We cannot do anything other than speak out,” said SAA, who escaped from the clutches of Boko Haram. She jumped off a moving truck when the group attacked and burnt her school and books in Borno State in April 2014.

Sa’a, who was moved from Nigeria and is currently studying in the United States, said the traumatic ordeal should not be allowed to happen to any student. Her resolve to continue her schooling was the reason she has come out publicly about her experience.

“Every child needs to be educated and to go to school,” Sa’a said. “We must never forget this until all the girls are safely back. Next month it will not be three days but three years and they are not back. It is painful.”

Sa’a told the conference that after they were abducted and forced at gunpoint into trucks, she decided to jump off a moving truck together with a friend who sustained injuries. They were helped by a shepherd and made their way to safety.

Emmanuel Ogebe is a human rights lawyer and director of the Education Must Continue Initiative, which has assisted child victims and IDPs from conflicts, primary Boko Haram. Most of the victims are in Nigeria and a handful in the United States.

“Most venerable targets of Boko Haram have been educational institutions and religious institutions. Pastors have been killed in thousands and over 600 teachers have been killed by Boko Haram and we see vulnerability in both areas,” Ogebe told IPS.

“It is a painful situation of what happened to the girls because we understand that there were early warnings that the terrorists were going to strike and supported by the fact that teachers escaped and left the girls. The sense of failure to protect is very story in addition to the fact that the government did not protect the girls at school even when they were warned.”

Since January this year, Sa’a has started college under a project by the Education Must Continue Initiative, a charity which has helped about 3000 other internally-displaced children go to school. She now has an ambition to study science and medicine.

Hope persists

“My dream is to be a medical doctor in the future and inspire others and go back to my home country and help those kids to go back to school and assist others get the education they deserve,” Sa’a says.

Rachel, who is back at school in Nigeria, says she wanted to be medical doctor as well but would now like to be a top ranking military officer after what happened to her father and three brothers.

“I would like to contribute to a better nation. I am not conformable because of what I have seen and I feel bad,” Rachel said. “Some girls cannot go to school now because of what happened and do not value education because without education they can survive. This is sad.”

Rachel is a teenager that went to school in northeast Nigeria. Her father was a plainclothes policeman who had moved his family with him to a smaller town where he thought it would be safer. He was assigned to protect the local church. Rachel’s mum found a job working in the Education department of the church that her father was on security detail to.

Then one day in late 2014, Boko Haram terrorists attacked the church that her father had been assigned to protect.  Rachel’s father fled to his house to gather his children. Unfortunately, as they tried to escape, they ran into the terrorists who shot dead her father and three younger brothers on the spot. They were 14, 12 and 10 years old and in secondary and primary school, respectively.

Vikas Pota, Chief Execuive of the Varkey Foundation, the hosts of the Global Education Forum, said the Boko Haram question is wider than simply the question of the girls, and is related to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria and elsewhere. He said collective action was needed to make the world more inclusive thereby creating an environment to access education to all.

“I think it is ridiculous in today’s age that so many girls and all the human intelligence that exists that we do not know where these girls are. It shows we do not care,” Pota told IPS, adding that,” As a father, how can we tolerate this situation? I think the government not – just the Nigerian one but governments around the world – should help and make sure this situation is resolved.”

*True identities have been changed to protect their families.

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Can Africa Slay Its Financial Hydra?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/can-africa-slay-its-financial-hydra/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-africa-slay-its-financial-hydra http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/can-africa-slay-its-financial-hydra/#respond Thu, 26 Jan 2017 11:23:49 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148677 Thanks to growing investor interest, increasing respect for democratic reforms, and its vast food production potential, the Africa Rising narrative is only getting better. But Africa’s development success story will only be complete when the continent plugs the hemorrhaging of its financial resources badly needed for its own development. Africa is losing an estimated 50 […]

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Curbing illicit financial flows will free finances for development projects like the provision of safe drinking water. A man collecting water at a government-funded borehole in Southern Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Curbing illicit financial flows will free finances for development projects like the provision of safe drinking water. A man collecting water at a government-funded borehole in Southern Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jan 26 2017 (IPS)

Thanks to growing investor interest, increasing respect for democratic reforms, and its vast food production potential, the Africa Rising narrative is only getting better.

But Africa’s development success story will only be complete when the continent plugs the hemorrhaging of its financial resources badly needed for its own development. Africa is losing an estimated 50 billion dollars annually through illicit financial flows (IFFs) — half of all global losses and the equivalent of Morocco’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)."[Illicit Financial Flows] are only a tip of the iceberg. Within the paradigm of Africa's natural capital losses, part of which is in the form of IFFs, the losses are mind-boggling.” --UNEP's Richard Munang

According to the World Bank, IFFs refer to the deliberate loss of financial resources through under-invoicing, which researchers say is a blot on the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative. Worst, IFFs are depriving Africans of needed resources to access better food, education and health care. Despite a decline in the prevalence of undernourishment in Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Food Programme says the region still has the highest percentage of population going hungry, with one in four persons undernourished.

As cancerous as corruption, illicit financial flows are costing Africa big time. This is despite a continental initiative to curb them at a time Africa is making some progress on good governance, according to the seminal Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance 2016.

Can the wings of capital flight be clipped?

A 2015 report by the High-level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa established by the African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) puts the average financial losses at between 50 billion and 148 billion dollars a year through trade mispricing. South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Mozambique and Liberia are some of the countries that have suffered most due to trade mispricing.

“IFFs significantly hamper Africa’s development and progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) considering the astronomical investments the region needs to mobilize and the declining international sources,” climate change expert and the United Nations Environment Programme’s Regional Climate Change Programme Coordinator, Richard Munang, told IPS.

Cumulatively, IFFs range from natural resources plundering and environmental crimes like illegal logging, illegal trade in wildlife, and unaccounted for and unregulated fishing (IUU) to illegal mining practices, food imports, and degraded ecosystems. Munang estimates that Africa loses up to 195 billion dollars annually of its natural capital — an amount exceeding the total annual cost Africa needs to invest in infrastructure, healthcare, education and adapting to climate change under a 2°C warming scenario.

“Reversing IFFs and other natural capital losses is an urgent imperative if the region is going to develop and achieve the SDGs,” said Munang, adding that in terms of climate resilience, for instance, it is projected that to meet adaptation costs by the 2020s, funds disbursed annually to Africa need to grow at an average rate of 10-20 percent annually from 2011 levels.

“So far, this has not been achieved. And no clear pathway exists from international sources,” Munang said. “But IFFs are only a tip of the iceberg. Within the paradigm of Africa’s natural capital losses, part of which is in the form of IFFs, the losses are mind-boggling.”

A recent study called “Financing Africa’s Post-2015 Development Agenda” shows that from 1970 to 2008, Africa lost between 854 billion and 1.8 trillion dollars in illicit financial flows — good money in bad hands.

UNECA says illicit financial flows are unrecorded capital flows derived from the proceeds of theft, bribery and other forms of corruption by government officials and criminal activities, including drug trading, racketeering, counterfeiting, contraband and terrorist financing.

In addition, proceeds of tax evasion and laundered commercial transactions are counted under IFFs. Africa is also losing much-needed money to drug trafficking, tax dodging, wildlife poaching, human trafficking and theft of minerals and oil.

Tax Inspectors without Borders (TIWB), a project launched by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2015, has helped collect more than 260 million dollars in additional tax revenues in eight pilot countries, indicating the potential of tightening tax audits.

Head of the TIWB Secretariat James Karanja noted that capacity-building can help companies pay their taxes, stop tax dodging and help raise domestic resources to fund government services.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, GDP growth has averaged five percent in Africa in the last decade, consistently outperforming global economic trends. This growth has been boosted by among other factors, rapid urbanization, expanding regional markets, sound macroeconomic management and improved governance.

The Panel chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki also fingered large commercial corporations as culprits in IFFs, which have been fueled by corruption and weak governance. The solution, the panel said was to boost transparency in mining sector transactions and stop money laundering via banks, actions which rested on coordinated action between government, private sector and civil society.

“Illicit financial flows are a challenge to us as Africans, but clearly the solution is global. We couldn’t resolve this thing by just acting on our own as Africans,” Mbeki told the UN’s Africa Renewal magazine in a 2016 interview in New York.

For instance, Zimbabwe is currently in a financial crisis, having lost close to 2 billion dollars to illicit financial flows in 2015, according to the Reserve Bank. The figure is four times the money Zimbabwe attracted in Foreign Direct Investment in 2015 and more than half the 2016 national budget. The Global Financial Integrity Report estimates that over the last 30 years, Zimbabwe has lost a cumulative 12 billion dollars to IFFs.

“It is a grave concern. I looked at the statistics and found out that it’s a cancer that we are brewing,” Central Bank Governor John Mangudya conceded.

Is transparency the tool for slaying development’s demon?

The World Bank says curbing IFFs requires strong international cooperation and concerted action by developed and developing countries in partnership with the private sector and civil society.

IFFs pose a huge challenge to political and economic security around the world, particularly to developing countries. Corruption, organized crime, illegal exploitation of natural resources, fraud in international trade and tax evasion are as harmful as the diversion of money from public priorities, says the World Bank.

Advice on how to make tax policies more transparent — such as requiring all tax holidays to be publicly disclosed, along with names of officials involved in granting the holiday — would likely increase tax revenues collected by governments while reducing the risk of corruption and the potential for firms to abuse tax holiday provisions.

Global initiatives to limit tax evasion and stop proceeds of crime such as the the OECD/Global Forum on Taxation and the UN Conventions against Drugs, Trans-national Organized Crime and Corruption (UNODC) are yielding results. The World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) programme found that of nearly 1.4 billion dollars in frozen corrupt assets in OECD countries between 2010 and 2012, less than 150 million has been recovered.

Proceeds of illicit financial flows are difficult to recover despite some high-profile cases like that of Teodorin Nguema Obiang, the son of Africa’s longest serving leader, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea. In 2014, a U.S. court ordered Teodorin to sell 30 million dollars’ worth of property believed to have been the proceeds of corruption. In 2013, 700 million in assets stolen and stashed in Switzerland by the Sani Abacha regime was returned to Nigeria.

A 2016 report by the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, “Foresight Africa: Top Priorities for the Continent 2017”, says good governance significantly impacts the mobilization of domestic resources such as tax revenues, as well as external financial flows such as FDI, ODA, remittances, and illicit financial flows.

The report said lowest levels of corruption and highest levels of political stability correlated with the highest tax-to-GDP ratio while “conversely, countries with low political stability scores have a relatively high ODA-to-GDP ratio. In addition, though the differences are subtle, the charts hint that more corrupt countries have higher FDI-to-GDP ratios.”

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Climate Change, A Goat Farmer’s Gainhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain/#respond Tue, 15 Nov 2016 11:14:43 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147763 Bongekile Ndimande’s family lost more 30 head of cattle to a ravaging drought last season, but a herd of goats survived and is now her bank on four legs. In money value, the drought deprived Ndimande of more than 21,000 dollars. Each goat would be worth an average of 714 dollars if they had survived […]

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Nomsa Mthethwa, from Jozini in KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa, has put her children through university from goat keeping. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Nomsa Mthethwa, from Jozini in KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa, has put her children through university from goat keeping. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
KWAZULU NATAL PROVINCE, South Africa, Nov 15 2016 (IPS)

Bongekile Ndimande’s family lost more 30 head of cattle to a ravaging drought last season, but a herd of goats survived and is now her bank on four legs.

In money value, the drought deprived Ndimande of more than 21,000 dollars. Each goat would be worth an average of 714 dollars if they had survived in the dry, hot and rocky environment in her village of Ncunjana in the KwaZulu Natal Province, which has been stalked by a drought that swept across Southern Africa.Goats are much better at dealing with drought, vulnerability and a changing environment than cattle. They're also easier for women to herd.

More than 40 million people are in need of food following one of the worst droughts ever in the region, with the Southern African Development Community launching a 2.8-billion-dollar emergency aid appeal.

Smallholder farmers in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal Province have shifted to goat production to adapt to climate change. Their fortitude could be a success story for African agriculture in need of transformation to produce more food to feed more people but with fewer resources.

Livestock farmers like Ndimande are making good of a bad situation. They need help to cope with worsening extreme weather events which have led to increased food, nutrition and income security in many parts of Africa.

Science, innovation and technology

Adapting agriculture to climate change and climate financing are pressing issues at the seminal 22nd meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 22) which opened this week in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh. Morocco – already setting the pace in implementing the global deal to fight climate change through innovative projects – has unveiled the Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA), a 30-billion-dollar initiative to transform and adapt African agriculture.

The transformation of the agricultural sectors in addressing climate change is essential to tackling hunger and poverty, José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, said in a message in the run-up to the COP 22 following the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on Nov. 4. Agricultural sectors are uniquely positioned to drive sustainable development through climate-smart sustainable agriculture approaches, da Silva emphasised.

Almost all African countries have included agriculture in their climate action plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), highlighting the grave risk that climate change poses both to food security and economic growth on the continent, said Bruce Campbell, director of the CGIAR research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Science, innovation and technology will be at the core of adaption in African agriculture, he said.

According to the African Development Bank, 315 to 400 billion dollars will be needed in the next decade to implement the continent’s agricultural transformation agenda.

Harnessing technology is one of many solutions in addressing the impacts of climate change if smallholder farmers are to sustainably produce food, while rearing livestock. The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) – which has launched a regional project to improve farmer’s access to technologies to lift them out of hunger and poverty – has identified diversifying livestock-based livelihoods as one of four proven solutions that cereal and livestock farmers in Southern Africa can adopt to transit to climate-resilient agriculture.

Goat fortunes

Swapping cattle for goats has allowed Ndimande to grow her flock from 30 goats three years ago to 57 goats and 15 kids. Last year, she sold six goats at an average price of 67 dollars each and invested the proceeds in a new three-bedroom tile and brick house.

Ndimande is one of several farmers in KwaZulu Natal Province who, through training in goat management under a collaborative agribusiness and Community Animal Health Worker project, are helping transform livestock farming.

The Mdukatshani Rural Development Project is a 5-million-dollar partnership between the national Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, the KwaZulu Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Heifer International South Africa to double goat production by developing 7,000 female commercial farmers and creating over 600 jobs for the youth in KwaZulu Natal Province.

In addition, the project seeks to create 270 micro-businesses and generate 7.1 million dollars in revenue within five years.

“Goats have given me food and income because I am able to sell them within a short space of time unlike cattle,” Ndimande told IPS, explaining that better livestock management skills have improved her flock.

Goats are much better at dealing with drought, vulnerability and a changing environment than cattle. They’re also easier for women to herd, said Rauri Alcock, a director of the Mdukatshani Rural Development Project.

“Women are our priority attention because they are in charge in many households and are the vulnerable people we are trying to get to, so goats, women, global warming come together very well,” Alcock told IPS during a tour of agribusiness project organised jointly by CTA and the Southern Africa Confederation of Agriculture Unions (SACAU) for livestock farmers from across Southern Africa.

Alcock explains that Mdukatshani Rural Development Project’s main entry point has been helping farmers avoiding kids’ deaths in their flocks. Despite being productive, the high mortality of kids at weaning lowers productivity for a farmer to be able to start selling their goats.

“Goats are an adaptation strategy as we talk about climate change. We see that male farmers who have had cattle and lost them are now moving towards keeping goats because goats are actually more resilient and better animals for a harsh changing environment,” said Alcock.

Another farmer, Sikhumbuzo Ndawonde (46), a former steel factory worker in Johannesburg until he was retrenched, has supported his family through keeping goats even though he does not eat them.

“I never eat any goat meat but I love keeping them because I get good income from them besides being able to have a goat for traditional ceremonies. They are now my job,” said Ndawonde, who has a flock of 33 goats and sells at least 10 goats each year.

Climate change has winder implications for livestock keepers in Southern Africa but with management, this is a route to sustainable livelihoods, says Sikhalazo Dube, a livestock specialist and the Southern Africa regional Representative for the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

“One of the challenges caused by elevated levels of carbon in the atmosphere is increase in the woody component of the vegetation. Goats as largely browsers are best suited to reduce bush encroachment and in the process benefit nutritionally,” said Dube, adding that in declining feed availability due to drought, keeping goats is ideal.

Small stock can be produced in small areas and require less feed, making them ideal for women and youth who are often landless or not supported to own land to use as an entry point for income generation and Small Medium Scale Enterprises, Dube said.

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