Inter Press ServiceBusani Bafana – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 17 Nov 2017 19:02:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 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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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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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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Will Free Expression Equal Terrorism in Zimbabwe?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/will-free-expression-equal-terrorism-in-zimbabwe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-free-expression-equal-terrorism-in-zimbabwe http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/will-free-expression-equal-terrorism-in-zimbabwe/#respond Wed, 09 Nov 2016 13:09:18 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147693 Four years ago, a faceless writer using the nom de guerre Baba Jukwa set Facebook agog with detailed exposes of machinations within the ruling Zimbabwe National People’s Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF). Garnering over 400,000 followers on Facebook, Jukwa pierced the veil over freedom of expression in a conservative Zimbabwe. The enigmatic character, thought to […]

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Journalists from the weekly Sunday Mail as they were arrested on Nov. 4, 2015 on charges of reporting falsehoods. Pictured from left to right in handcuffs are the journalists, who included the Sunday Mail reporter Tinashe Farawo, the paper's investigations editor Brian Chitemba and The Sunday Mail editor Mabasa Sasa. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

Journalists from the weekly Sunday Mail as they were arrested on Nov. 4, 2015 on charges of reporting falsehoods. Pictured from left to right in handcuffs are the journalists, who included the Sunday Mail reporter Tinashe Farawo, the paper's investigations editor Brian Chitemba and The Sunday Mail editor Mabasa Sasa. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Busani Bafana
HARARE, Nov 9 2016 (IPS)

Four years ago, a faceless writer using the nom de guerre Baba Jukwa set Facebook agog with detailed exposes of machinations within the ruling Zimbabwe National People’s Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF).

Garnering over 400,000 followers on Facebook, Jukwa pierced the veil over freedom of expression in a conservative Zimbabwe. The enigmatic character, thought to be a mole within ZANU PF, remains unknown and has never been caught."The government is afraid the social media might be used the same manner it was used during the Arab Spring revolutions.” -- Njabulo Ncube, chair of the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum

Now the government – with a history of intolerance to dissent – is not taking chances with social media ‘dissidents’ in the ilk of Baba Jukwa. It is crafting a bill to clamp down on cybercrime and terrorism, but journalists fear the bill will trample the fragile freedoms of the press and expression in the country.

Should it become law, the Computer and Cyber Crime Bill will ensure that ‘abusers of social media’ are stopped dead in their tracks if statements by the government, the police and the army are anything to go by.

Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, Lieutenant General Valerio Sibanda, recently told the government-run Herald newspaper that the army was training its officers to deal with “cyber warfare where weapons – not necessarily guns but basic information and communication technology – are being used to mobilise people to do wrong things.”

The country’s Information Media and Broadcasting Services Minister, Chris Mushowe, has dismissed fears that the Computer and Cyber Crime Bill will be a death knell for press freedom, but his threats reflect the opposite.

“This Bill is not intended to kill freedom of expression, it is not intended to silence people…If anything, this is intended to ensure we join other nations in fighting the threat of terrorism,” Mushowe told the local media following a briefing with the British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing in August. “We do not want information to be transited through Zimbabwe or information here that threatens the national security of other countries.”

Despite guaranteeing freedoms of expression and of the press under its new Constitution, Zimbabwe is not the most conducive of places for journalists to do their jobs freely, especially those working for the independent press.

The Washington-based media advocacy organisation Freedom House named Zimbabwe, alongside Bangladesh, Turkey, Burundi, France, Serbia, Yemen, Egypt and Macedonia, as countries which suffered the largest declines in press freedom in 2015 in its Freedom of the Press report for 2016.

Already burdened by a raft of laws that restrict access to information, journalists have reason to worry. The Computer and Cyber Crime Bill could be the biggest and meanest strategic weapon the government has yet unleashed on free expression and press freedom.

Information has become the political currency for self-expression. Social media, especially Facebook and WhatsApp, has given Zimbabweans an affordable platform to gather and share information, vent about their daily grind and even organise public actions against a deteriorating economic and political situation at home.
Crippled by a severe drought, Zimbabwe has made a global appeal for 1.6 billion dollars for food and other humanitarian aid as more than four million people will need food until the next harvest season in March 2017. Fears abound about a worsening economic situation when government introduces its own bond notes later this month as a measure to ease the current shortage of cash since dumping the Zimbabwe dollar and introducing a multi-currency regime in September 2009.

Editor of the privately owned Zimbabwe Independent weekly Dumisani Muleya says life in the globalised and technology-driven 21st century presents two great challenges to governments across the world: thwarting terrorism and protecting national liberties. Technology, Muleya says, has played a part in making these challenges tougher, necessitating governments to balance security and liberty.

“The Zimbabwe government, which has a history of stifling political and civil liberties, particularly media freedom, must do the same,” Muleya told IPS. “The current Computer and Cyber Crime Bill must thus not be used as tool to snoop on citizens unduly and reinforce Zimbabwe’s image as a police state, but mainly protect people’s rights.”

Making a joke about President Mugabe, who is now 92, is no laughing matter in Zimbabwe and can land you in court or jail. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has represented more than 150 defendants since 2010 charged with insulting President Mugabe. In most cases the charges were dropped. Videos pocking fun at President Mugabe have gone viral, prompting the government to denounce ‘the gutter journalism’ on social media it says should not be allowed in the mainstream media.

“Government is aware of activists in the country collaborating with the diaspora cyber terrorists. They must be warned that the long arm of the law is encircling them,” Mushowe told the Zimbabwean press.

Acting chairman Zimbabwe National Editors Forum and past Chairman of the Media Institute for Southern Africa- Zimbabwe Njabulo Ncube describes the Computer and Cyber Crime Bill as a nullification of press freedom.

“The future looks bleak with the seemingly proliferation of harsh media laws that seek to criminalise the practice of the journalism profession in Zimbabwe,” Ncube told IPS. “The government is afraid the social media might be used the same manner it was used during the Arab Spring revolutions.”

Ncube believes government has muddied the waters by creating the impression that cyber terrorism is the production of subversive, inflammatory and inciting messages shared through the social media, which was in fact misconduct online or abuse of social media in breach of the country’s contentious laws such as the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act), the Interception of Communications Act and Postal and Telecommunications Act (PTA).

“This continuous misleading of the citizenry on what constitutes cyber terrorism is aimed at instilling fear and self-censorship among citizens when exercising their rights to free expression, access to information and freedom of conscience,” Ncube said.

Despite government underplaying its effectiveness, social media has given Zimbabweans a loud voice to amplify their struggles. The crackdown on the social media is meant to deal with activists calling for reforms within the government, Executive Director of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe and Secretary-General of the World Association of Press Councils, Loughty Dube, argued.

“If the government intends to use the law to curb internet crimes there should be a clear demarcation that should show that there are no sinister intentions by the state to snoop on citizen communications and to criminalise those that are using internet platforms to seek reforms and expose government excesses.”

Last August and two months after the online campaign led by Pastor Evans Mawawire using the #This Flag successfully mobilized Zimbabweans to stay away from work, Zimbabwe passed the National Information Communication Technology (ICT) policy. The policy which allows government to snoop on its citizens and control cyberspace by putting all internet gateways and infrastructure under a single company it controls.

It is the cohesive power of social media that the Zimbabwe government seeks to weaken through a carte blanche law to snoop on and even shut down social media. While it may raise the cost of accessing social media, block its operation and resort to threats, government cannot control social media, argues, lawyer and political strategist, Alex Magaisa.

“In physical spaces, the state can always deploy anti-riot police and use physical force to drive away demonstrators expressing their view,” Magaisa wrote on his blog, The Big Saturday Read. “However, on social media, the state is not well equipped to handle users…Social media presents a new terrain over which the state has no control.

Magaisa said the Computer Crime and Cybercrime Bill would create very wide, vague and indeterminate offences in respect of social media activity, while giving police extensive search and seizure powers. Measured against the Constitution, which protects freedoms of communication and the right to privacy, Magaisa said the Bill falls woefully short and a number of its provisions in the present form could be stuck down by the Constitutional Court if challenged.

“While some of the purported reasons for introducing the Bill, such as protecting children, preventing racial and ethnic hatred sound noble, most critics believe the real motive which has promoted the rapid response is political. This is the cause of the citizen’s mistrust, suspicion and resistance in respect of the Bill,” wrote Magaisa.

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The Beating Pulse of Food Security in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/the-beating-pulse-of-food-security-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-beating-pulse-of-food-security-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/the-beating-pulse-of-food-security-in-africa/#respond Wed, 12 Oct 2016 13:32:18 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147318 This article is part of IPS special coverage of World Food Day on October 16.

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Pulses are good for nutrition and income, particularly for women farmers who look after household food security, like those shown here at a village outside Lusaka, Zambia. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Pulses are good for nutrition and income, particularly for women farmers who look after household food security, like those shown here at a village outside Lusaka, Zambia. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
MASVINGO, Zimbabwe, Oct 12 2016 (IPS)

Elizabeth Mpofu is a fighter. She is one of a select group of farmers who equate food security with the war against hunger and shun poor agricultural practices which destroy the environment and impoverish farmers, especially women.

Mpofu grows maize, legumes and different beans on her environmentally-friendly 10-hectare farm in Masvingo Province, about 290 kms southeast of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare.“Pulses are the perfect food for Africa but their production is challenged by imperfect policies.” -- Charles Govati

Despite a region-wide drought in Southern Africa, she harvested 150 kg of dried beans this year. Although the number was still far less than what she harvests in a good season, dried peas and beans have armed farmers like Mpofu to battle food and nutritional insecurity at the household level.

The dried beans and peas belong to a class of food legumes known as pulses, widely considered a revolutionary food because of their many benefits. Pulses are rich in protein, drought resistant, offer an alternative cash crop and provide a fuel source. They are a perfect food in Africa, challenged by high rates of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, particularly among children under five years old.

The World Food Programme says the African region has the highest percentage of hungry population in the world, with one person in four undernourished, while over a third of children in Africa are stunted.

Celebrating the Year of Pulses

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines pulses as legumes with dry, edible seeds that have low fat content such as chickpeas, kidney beans, butter beans, black eyed peas, lentils, pigeon beans and cow peas among others.

Legumes used as vegetables such as green peas and beans or those used for oil extraction such as soybean and groundnuts are not classified as pulses.

“Pulses are the key to food security and nutrition in Africa, taking into consideration the climate crisis being faced on the continent,” Mpofu told IPS. “Pulses are providing a diversity of food for my family and also are important in improving soil health, especially in promoting an agroecology farming system.”

Pulses on display at a farmer's market in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Pulses are power crops, offering nutritional and income security for farmers in Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Pulses on display at a farmer’s market in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Pulses are power crops, offering nutritional and income security for farmers in Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Mpofu, a member of the International Coordination Committee (ICC) and the General Coordinator of La Via Campesina, an international peasants’ movement with a membership over 200 million farmers, is one of six special Ambassadors for the Africa region nominated by the FAO raise public awareness about the contribution of pulses to food security, and the positive impacts they can have on climate change, human health and soil biology.

“Without these pulses a woman cannot call herself a mother of a family because you do not have a complete dish to feed your family,” said Mpofu, a mother of three. “There is need to create awareness of the importance of pulses to build a strong united voice which will enable women to lobby for policies that promote peasant agroecology and food sovereignty.”

Noting that farmers are challenged by lack of information, Mpofu says most have to make do with poor inputs, for example, growing commercial hybrid seeds rather than native varieties that have proven to be resilient for generations.

“The principles of keeping and producing native seeds is our way of advocating for food sovereignty through the promotion of our indigenous seeds and agroecology farming methods, and these principles can work in promoting the growing and consumption of pulses especially in Africa where we face challenges of food insecurity,” said Mpofu.

Recognising the importance of pulses to global food and nutritional security and environmental sustainability, the 68th United Nations General Assembly voted in 2013 to declare 2016 as the International Year of Pulses (IYOP).

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said at the 2015 launch of IYOP that pulses are important for the food security of millions, particularly in Latin America, Africa and Asia, where they are part of traditional diets and often grown by small farmers.

The IYOP is positioning pulses as a key contributor to meeting Sustainable Development Goal #2 of ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition while promoting sustainable agriculture.

In Malawi, farmers like Janet Mingo do not go hungry even when her maize crop fails — which it has done often owing to drought. The reason: protein rich pigeon peas (Cajanus Cajan) Mingo intercrops with maize on her quarter of a hectare plot in Chikalogwe village in the southern Balaka District, one of the driest regions of the country.

Pigeon peas are a nutritious legume which also improve crop yields by fixing nitrogen into the soil. More strategically for Mingo, pigeon peas are a key cash crop. Each season, Mingo harvests up to 1500 kg of pigeon pea from her plot, earning enough money to buy maize and cover other household needs.

“I now sell my maize crop and pigeon peas through the Agriculture Commodity Exchange,” said Mingo, who was introduced to pigeon pea by her local extension officer. “Life is hard but I do not feel the pinch.”

Mphatso Gama, the principal agricultural officer for Machinga Agriculture Development Division in Southern Malawi and a member of the National CA Taskforce, told IPS that farmers who used to rely entirely on maize have diversified into pigeon pea as a second crop. As a result, both their food security and income has improved.

“The drought-resilient pigeon has been a lifesaver,” Mphatso said. “While intercropping the nitrogen-fixing legume with maize has boosted yields, importantly pigeon peas have become a viable cash crop for farmers in Malawi, where it has a ready market and is a good source of protein for families.”

Tapping the trade power of pulses

Gavin Gibson, former executive director of the Global Pulse Confederation, told IPS that pulses are part of the traditional diets of the greater part of the world’s poorest population.

Gibson said of the 60 to 65 million tonnes of pulses produced annually, until very recently only around 7 to 10 million tonnes were traded between countries.  The rest were consumed domestically in countries where pulses are traditionally grown.

India, where pulses have been consumed for thousands of years as a staple food, is the biggest producer and consumer of pulses.  Africa is still finding its feet in ramping up its production of pulses, but is making progress.

“We think that this is likely to change quite quickly for a number of reasons, not least of which is the rapid emergence of new origins in Northern Europe and Africa,” Gibson said.

“We strongly believe — and will be forcefully promoting and driving — the view that increased demand from new market sectors that will rapidly emerge from the work of this group will of necessity force measures to be taken by governments and local communities alike to overcome present logistical and educational barriers in developing countries.”

Pulses, a climate-smart food

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), which has developed more than 80 percent of cowpea varieties released to farmers in Nigeria through its breeding programmes, says pulses such as cowpea are an alternative source of protein from the expensive animal sources.

Cowpea – a widely grown food and animal feed legume in the semi arid tropics in Africa and Asia – is one of the most drought-tolerant crops adapted to the dry areas of poor soils. But there is more. Pulses helping fix nitrogen in the soil thrive under uncertain growing conditions, making them climate smart.

“There is no doubt that pulses are very important in food and nutrition security in Africa,” says Christian Fatokun, a cowpea breeder with IITA. “However, they are a part of the solution to food and nutritional security in Africa. Apart from being good sources of plant based protein they also help in providing nitrogen in the soil for companion or following crops because they are capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen.”

Radical policies for pulse production

While strategic to ensuring food security in Africa, pulses are not being prioritised as an important crop, argues Charles Govati, a development specialist and chair of the Agriculture Supply Services Consortium (ASSC) in Malawi.

“Pulses are the perfect food for Africa but their production is challenged by imperfect policies,” Govati told IPS. “There too much lip service paid to pulses yet there are challenges of low production, poor soils, pests and diseases which affect their production. Farmers focus on growing more for income and less for food and nutrition, besides we need structured markets in Africa to boost production if we are serious about pulses in ensuring food security.”

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Will the World’s Largest Single Market Transform Africa Fortunes?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/will-the-worlds-largest-single-market-transform-africa-fortunes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-the-worlds-largest-single-market-transform-africa-fortunes http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/will-the-worlds-largest-single-market-transform-africa-fortunes/#respond Fri, 09 Sep 2016 12:00:20 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146852 Getting just a sliver of the global trade in goods and services worth more than 70 trillion dollars, Africans have every excuse to decide to trade among themselves. Many argue that it is the only way to leverage trade to secure a better life for the continent’s more than a billion people who need food […]

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Africa is not trading enough with Africa to boost economic development, but a new free trade area could change all that. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Africa is not trading enough with Africa to boost economic development, but a new free trade area could change all that. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Sep 9 2016 (IPS)

Getting just a sliver of the global trade in goods and services worth more than 70 trillion dollars, Africans have every excuse to decide to trade among themselves.

Many argue that it is the only way to leverage trade to secure a better life for the continent’s more than a billion people who need food and jobs.The prospects of a single market are appetizing: 54 countries, over a billion people and a combined GDP in excess of 3.4 trillion dollars, nearly double the current annual value of traded goods and services in Africa.

The Africa rising narrative might be getting the much needed validation to tackle widening inequality, joblessness, generalized poverty, food and nutritional insecurity that eclipse successes in meeting some of the development targets included in the newly agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A rich but poor Africa

The narrative of a poor Africa is about to change. That is, if Africa stands together as much as it did in fighting for its political independence. This time the fight is for a place on the global trade stage. After years of negotiations and the establishment of several free trade blocs, the signing of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement targeted for December 2017 could set Africa on a new development path.

Africa has more to gain than lose in creating the CFTA, which will rival trade agreements like the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Africa already has the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) signed in June 2015 combining three largest trading blocs: The East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

The three regional economic communities have a combined GDP in excess of 1.3 trillion dollars and a population of 565 million. However, the TFTA, which has been signed by 16 of the 26 member countries, is yet to be ratified to come into force, a blow for the journey to the CFTA.

In their paper on the adoption of the TFTA, Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development and Director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at  Harvard University, and Francis Mangeni, COMESA Director of Trade, Customs and Monetary Affairs, view regional trade as part of a broader strategy for long-term economic transformation.

They argue that African trade integration measures combine the facilitation of free movement of goods and services, investment in infrastructure, and promotion of industrial development as part of the long-term political vision to unleash the continent’s entrepreneurial potential through regional trade culminating in the African Economic Community by 2028.

Market in Kivu, DRC. A Continental Free Trade Area could transform Africa's economic fortunes. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Market in Kivu, DRC. A Continental Free Trade Area could transform Africa’s economic fortunes. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Global trade is an undisputed source of economic development and a decider between the rich and the poor as it facilitates wealth creation and spurs innovation in every sector.

According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, global trade is on the rise but developing countries, many in Africa, account for a small share of this global commerce. Foreign direct investment has gone up in Africa from 9 billion dollars in 2000 to 55 billion in 2014, but rich countries have benefitted more, a situation the first target of the expired Millennium Development Goal 8 sought to address through the development of an open, rule based, predictable and nondiscriminatory trading and financial system.

While an equitable trade system is a global ideal, Africa has the potential to turn the trade tide in its favour by transforming political will into action. Africa has a wide range of natural and mineral resources making beneficiation industries a viable investment option that will help cut unemployment and eliminate poverty which dog many countries in Africa.

Prospects and problems

The prospects of a single market are appetizing: 54 countries, over a billion people and a combined GDP in excess of 3.4 trillion dollars, nearly double the current annual value of traded goods and services in Africa.

“The proposed Continental Free Trade Area will expand the continent’s regional investment to West Africa which is currently not covered by the tripartite consolidation of COMESA, EAC and SADC,” Juma told IPS. “This will enlarge investment opportunities for Africans to invest across the continent. A larger continental market will also make African more attractive to foreign investors.”

Juma, who is writing a book on the CFTA to be published to coincide with signing of the agreement in 2017, believes that a larger single market will enable African factories to operate at full capacity, which will in turn stimulate greater technological innovation.

“The impact on innovation will include greater movement of skills to the continent from outside and across the continent between countries. Africans will be able to learn new skills from their foreign counterparts which will help to strengthen the continent’s technological base,” he said.

Africa has as many trade opportunities as it has obstacles to realizing the free movement of goods, services and people. One of the major obstacles to the CFTA identified by Juma is adjusting national laws and practices to enable countries to implement the agreement. Resistance will come from firms that have been previously protected from external competition. A solution, Juma is convinced, lies in balancing corrective measures with incentives.

“The agreement needs to include remedies and incentives that help countries to adjust to the new regime,” he said. “In this regard, the agreement should not be about free trade but it should also have provisions for infrastructure and industrialisation. It should be an economic development agreement, not just a free trade arrangement.”

Africans not trading with Africans

Statistics from COMESA indicate that inter-Africa trade is a paltry 12 percent compared to trade with Europe and Asia, at nearly 60 percent. At the heart of the poor intra-African trade are prohibitive national trade measures. It is easier to buy products from Europe than for African countries to sell to each other.

Trade policy harmonisation and reducing export/import duties are critical to freeing the movement of goods and people. Last month, the African Union launched the electronic Pan African passport, paving the way for free movement across borders and an important step towards a free trade zone. The passport, initially for African heads of state, foreign ministers and diplomats, will be available to African citizens by 2018.

African governments under the African Union have established the Continental Free Trade Agreement Negotiating Forum which has met several times to hammer out modalities of the continent wide free trade zone mooted in 2012. African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Fatima Haram Acyl, told the first meeting of the negotiating forum in February 2016 that the Continental Free Trade Area will integrate Africa’s markets in line with the objectives and principles of the Abuja Treaty.

It remains for Africa to up investments in road, rail and air infrastructure, communications and seamless service delivery and agriculture which are disproportionate among the 54 member states creating unease as to what a single market will mean for both poor and rich economies.

Economic disparities present a hurdle Africa must overcome as many of Africa’s 54 countries are small, with populations of less than 20 million and economies under 10 billion dollars. National markets would be insufficient to justify investments as adequate supply of inputs and sufficient demand would be too expensive or out of reach that a bigger market will achieve.

The consulting firm McKinsey predicts consumer spending in Africa will rise from 860 billion dollars to 1.4 trillion by 2020, potentially lifting millions out of poverty should a single market be inaugurated.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has calculated that the CFTA could increase intra-African trade by as much as 35 billion dollars per year over the next six years.

Concluding CFTA negotiations this year in good time for the 2017 deadline could open a new chapter in African trade and chart a new path towards economic independence and growth. The only question that remains is, will it happen?

This story is part of special IPS coverage of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation, observed on September 12.

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Fertilizer Access Grows Farmers, Food and Financehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance/#respond Tue, 26 Jul 2016 11:07:24 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146220 Brightly coloured cans, bags of fertilizer and packets containing all types of seeds catch the eye upon entering Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop tucked at the corner of a roadside service station. But her seeds and fertilizers have not exactly been flying off the shelves since Khorommbi opened the fledging shop six years ago. Her […]

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Smallholder farmers prosper if they have access to knowledge and use of inputs such as fertilizers and credit. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Smallholder farmers prosper if they have access to knowledge and use of inputs such as fertilizers and credit. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
LOUIS TRICHARDT, South Africa, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

Brightly coloured cans, bags of fertilizer and packets containing all types of seeds catch the eye upon entering Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop tucked at the corner of a roadside service station.

But her seeds and fertilizers have not exactly been flying off the shelves since Khorommbi opened the fledging shop six years ago. Her customers: smallholder farmers in the laid back town of Sibasa, 72 kilometers northeast of Louis Trichardt in Limpopo, one of South Africa’s provinces hard hit by drought this year. The reason for the slow business is that smallholder farmers cannot access, let alone effectively use plant-nourishing fertilizers to improve their low productivity.

“Some of the farmers who walk into my shop have never heard about fertilizers and those who have, do not know how to use them effectively,” Khorommbi told IPS said on the sidelines of a training workshop organised by the International Fertilizer Association (IFA)-supported African Fertilizer Volunteers Program (AFVP) to teach smallholders farmers and agro dealers like her about fertilizers in Limpopo.

Khorommbi, describing information as power, says fledging agro-dealer businesses are a critical link in the food production chain. Agro-dealers, who work at the village level, better understand and are more accessible to smallholder farmers, who in many cases rely on the often poorly resourced government extension service for information on improving productivity.

“Smallholder farmers can make the change in food security through better production, one of whose key elements is fertilizer,” said Khrorommbi, one of more than 100 agro-dealers in the Vhembe District of Limpopo.

An assistant checks stock in Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop in Vhembe District, Limpopo, South Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

An assistant checks stock in Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop in Vhembe District, Limpopo, South Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Growing knowledge, growing farmers

Noting the knowledge gap on fertilizers, the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), supported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and private sector partners, launched Agribusiness Support to the Limpopo Province (ASLP) in 2015 which has trained over 100 agro-dealers in the Province.

The project promotes the development of the agro dealer hub model, where established commercial agro dealers service smaller agro dealers and agents in the rural areas, who in turn better serve smallholder farmers by putting agricultural inputs within easy reach and at reasonable cost. The AFVP aims to attract the private sector in South Africa – a net fertilizer importer – to developing the SMEs sector in the fertilizer value chain focusing on smallholder farmers and agro dealers.

Smallholder farmers hold the key to feeding Africa, including South Africa, but their productivity is stymied by poor access to inputs and even effective markets for their produce, an issue the FAO believes private and public sector partnerships can solve.

AFAP and a private company, Kynoch Fertilizer, have embarked on an entrepreneurship development program for smallholder farmers and agro dealers in the Limpopo province, one of the country’s bread baskets, in an effort to help close the ‘yield gap’ among smallholder farmers.  Smallholder farmers and agro dealers have been trained on fertilisers, soils, plant nutrients, safe storage of fertilizers, environmental safety and business management skills.

“By using more fertilisers correctly, South Africa’s smallholder farmers can grow more and nutritious food, achieve household food security, create jobs, increase incomes and boost rural development,” AFAP’s Vice-President, Prof. Richard Mkandawire, told IPS. “To grow and support SMEs in Africa is the pathway if we are to reduce hunger and poverty. The future of South Africa is about growing those rural enterprises that will support smallholder farmers and employment creation.’

In 2006, African Heads of State and Government signed the Abuja Declaration at a Fertilizer Summit in Nigeria committing to increase the use of fertilizer in Africa from the then-average 8kg per hectare to 50kg per hectare by 2015 to boost productivity. Ten years later, only a few countries have attained this goal.

Mkandawire said research has established that for every kilogram of nutrients smallholder farmers apply to their soils, they can realize up to 30kg in additional products.

Research has shown that smallholder farmers in South Africa in general do not apply optimum levels of fertilizers owing to high cost, poor access and low awareness about the benefits of providing nutrition for the soil.

Fertilizer Registrar and Director in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests (DAFF) in Limpopo Province Jonathan Mudzunga says smallholder farmers have structural difficulties in getting much needed fertilizers, a critical input in raising crop yields and providing business and employment creation opportunities for agro dealers.

“Commercial farmers are successful because they have access to inputs such as fertilizers and knowledge and it does not mean smallholder farmers are having challenges because they do not know how to farm but the biggest issue is knowledge and access to affordable inputs,” Mudzunga said.

Agriculturalist at Kynoch, Schalk Grobbelaar, says smallholder agricultural production in Limpopo is hampered by, amongst other things, low use of productivity-enhancing inputs such as fertilizers, seeds and crop protection products; animal feeds and veterinary medicines for livestock.

“Fertilizer increase yields. We fertilize what crops will take away and we put back into the soil but farmers lack knowledge on the balancing fertilizers according to what crops need,” said Grobbelaar.

Agriculture support is food business

The South African government is promoting SME development and growth of smallholder farmers who are key to tackling food insecurity at household level.

Despite their high contribution to economic growth and job creation, SME’s are challenged by among other factors, funding and access to finance, according to the 2015/16 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report. Lack of finance is a major reason for SMEs – which contribute 45 percent to South Africa’s GDP- leaving a business in addition to the poor management skills which are a result of lack of adequate training and education.

While the country produces more than enough food for all, many South Africans do not access the right amount and type of food, says a 2014 report by the Southern Africa Food Lab, an organisation promoting food security in the region.

“Poor South Africans are not able to spend money on a diverse diet. Instead the only option to facilitate satiety and alleviate hunger is to feed family members large portions of maize meal porridge that do not address nutritional needs,” according to Laura Pereira, author of the Food Lab report.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, bemoaning underinvestment in Africa’s agriculture, said innovation from farm to market was one solution to turning the sector – employing half of the continent’s population – into a thriving business.

“African farmers need better tools to avoid disasters and grow a surplus – things like seeds that can tolerate droughts, floods, pests, and disease, affordable fertilizer that includes the right mix of nutrients to replenish the soil,” Gates said when he presented the 14th Nelson Mandela Lecture in Pretoria, South Africa last week.

Gates said farmers need to be connected to markets where they can buy inputs, sell their surplus and earn a profit and for them to reinvest in into the farm. That in turn provides on and off the farm employment opportunities and supports a range of local agribusinesses.

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Drought Dries Up Money from Honeyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-dries-up-money-from-honey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-dries-up-money-from-honey http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-dries-up-money-from-honey/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 13:14:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145631 “It is everything” is how smallholder farmer Nyovane Ndlovu describes beekeeping, which has long been an alternative sweet source of income for drought-beaten farmers in Zimbabwe. A drought worsened by the El Nino phenomenon – which has now eased – led to a write-off of crops in many parts of Zimbabwe and across the Southern […]

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Zimbabwean farmer and beekeeper Nyovane Ndlovu with some of the honey produced under his own label. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Zimbabwean farmer and beekeeper Nyovane Ndlovu with some of the honey produced under his own label. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jun 15 2016 (IPS)

“It is everything” is how smallholder farmer Nyovane Ndlovu describes beekeeping, which has long been an alternative sweet source of income for drought-beaten farmers in Zimbabwe.

A drought worsened by the El Nino phenomenon – which has now eased – led to a write-off of crops in many parts of Zimbabwe and across the Southern Africa region where more than 28 million people will need food aid this year. More than four million people need assistance in Zimbabwe, which has made an international appeal for 1.6 billion dollars to cover grain and other food needs. The drought, the worst in 30 years, has destroyed crops and livestock.

Ndlovu, 57, from a village in the Lupane District, a dry area prone to drought and hunger, is one of the country’s growing number of honey heroes, using forest resources to cope with a changing climate and complement his farming income.

But even beekeeping has not been immune to the latest severe drought , and many farmers who have depended on honey to make ends meet are reporting major losses this year.“Last year I got three 25-litre buckets of honey and this year not even one bucket. The weather changed so that the bees lacked enough flowers for food." -- Nyovane Ndlovu

“Honey is my food and my children love it because they know each time I harvest they never go hungry,” says Ndlovu, who trained in beekeeping more than 10 years ago.

Beekeeping, practiced by more than 16,000 farmers in Zimbabwe, generally complements maize and grain crops. Last season, Ndlovu harvested a tonne of maize and 0.5 tonnes of sorghum, low numbers even for a drought year.

“Even in times of drought I have realized something from the field, especially small grains, but this past season has been terrible for many farmers,” says Ndlovu, who won a scotch cart and a plough in 2012 for emerging as the top farmer in an agriculture competition. “I turned to beekeeping when I realized the benefits. The proceeds from my honey sales have allowed me to pay school fees for my children and cover other household needs. I am getting more from honey than I do from cropping.”

Lupane District located 172km North West of Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo is home to more than 90,000 people, many who get by through limited cropping and extensive cattle rearing. The area is also home to state-owned indigenous hardwood forests, on which communities depend for fuel and food.

More honey, more money

Ndlovu has more than 20 Kenya Top Bar hives and two Langstroth hives – considered the best technology for apiculture because they give a higher production and quality honey. In a good season Ndlovu earns more than 500 dollars from honey sales. He even has his own label, Maguswini Honey, which he plans to commercialize once his honey has received a standard mark. A 375ml bottle of honey sells for four dollars in the village but five dollars when he delivers it to customers in Bulawayo and beyond.

Last year, Ndlovu and his neighbours, who belong to Bumbanani, a 30-member local beekeepers association, sold 900 dollars worth of honey within three days of exhibiting at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, an annual business showcase hosted in the city of Bulawayo. This year, they did not even make half the amount because they harvested less honey because of the drought.

“Last year I got three 25-litre buckets of honey and this year not even one bucket. The weather changed so that the bees lacked enough flowers for food and the water was also scarce and the hives did not have a lot of honey,” Ndlovu told IPS.

Another farmer, Nqobani Sibanda from Gomoza village in Ward 12 in Lupane, this year harvested one 20-litre bucket of honey compared to 60 litres last year.

“This year the flowers withered early and we think the bees did not have enough food, hence the honey harvest was low. I have four hives and each hive can give me up to 20 litres of honey on a good season and I can get 300 dollars or more, but not this year,” Sibanda said.

Development researcher with the Institute of Development Studies at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Everson Ndlovu, told IPS that income-generating projects such as beekeeping are an easy way for farmers to earn extra income in times of poor or no harvests and these projects can be up scaled into viable commercial enterprises.

“There is need for more training in business management, linking such small scale businesses to the market and business associations to get them properly registered and empowered,” said Ndlovu adding that, “the impact of drought has made it strategic for smallholder farmers to diversity their livelihoods but they need to receive weather information on time and in a manner they understand for them to make right decisions.”

Honey is traded globally and last year’s sales of natural honey were worth 2.3 billion dollars, according the World Top Exports website that tracks key exports. The sales were led by Europe with 35.2 percent of international honey sales, with Africa accounting for just 0.4 percent of the exports.

Bees which provide honey, propolis, Queen Jelly and beeswax among other products, help boost food security for some two billion smallholder farmers worldwide at no cost, a February 2016 study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found. The FAO has called for the protection of bees and insects that play a vital role of pollination thereby sustainably increasing food supply. However, climate change is affecting global bee colonies.

A drought of many things

“Farmers have been affected by the drought and beekeeping was not spared, as seen by the low amount of honey they realized this year compared to last year in Lupane, a dry area,” said Clifford Maunze, a beekeeping trainer and Project Officer with Environment Africa under the Forestry Forces Programme supported by the FAO.

“We have trained farmers on beekeeping and helped them counteract the effects of the drought by planting more trees that bees like such as Moringa Oleifera, commonly known as the drumstick tree, which flowers constantly and have promoted the development of homestead orchard where they can have citrus trees to provide forage for the bees,” Maunze said.

Environment Africa, working with the Department of Agriculture Extension Services (Agritex), has trained 1,382 farmers in Lupane District and over 800 in Hwange District on beekeeping under a programme started in 2011. Lupane was chosen for apiculture projects because of its indigenous forests, some of which are threatened by expanding agricultural land, veld fires and deforestation.

“While the drought has affected farmers in Lupane, apiculture is the way to go providing income and jobs because it is cost-effective,” Maunze said.

In drier regions like Matabeleland North Province, farmers can harvest honey twice a season and with at least five hives a farmer can get 100 litres of honey. This can be even more in regions with higher rainfall and forage, where farmers can harvest up to four times a season.

Figures from the national statistical agency Zimstats and Agritex show that Zimbabwe produces over 427,000 kg of honey annually against a local demand of 447,000 kg. The deficit of nearly 20,000 metric tonnes is made up through imports, a situation that farmers like Ndlovu are seeking to change through intensive investment in apiculture.

Zimbabwe is aiming to raise honey production to a target 500,000 litres by 2018, according to Zim-Asset, a national strategy to revive the country’s battered economy, currently facing a cash crisis.

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Natural Capital Investment Key to Africa’s Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development/#respond Mon, 23 May 2016 17:49:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145267 Plugging Africa’s funding gaps to accelerate social and economic development requires a fresh approach to using its natural capital, environment experts said on Monday. It is time Africa invested billions of dollars – part of the 50 billion dollars lost through illicit financial flows – in adding value to its natural and mineral resources. “Africa’s […]

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New Generation Aims to Plug Africa’s Research Deficithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-generation-aims-to-plug-africas-research-deficit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-generation-aims-to-plug-africas-research-deficit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-generation-aims-to-plug-africas-research-deficit/#respond Wed, 04 May 2016 12:50:48 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144964 The tonnes of uncollected garbage piling up on the streets of her home in Cairo was a brain wave for Sherien Elagroudy. Elagroudy has since developed a facility to transform waste into alternative solid fuel for use by cement companies. This has helped reduce the frequency of power cuts to save on electricity, and contributed […]

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Innovations Boost Income for Women Rice Farmershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/innovations-boost-income-for-women-rice-farmers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=innovations-boost-income-for-women-rice-farmers http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/innovations-boost-income-for-women-rice-farmers/#respond Mon, 18 Apr 2016 04:46:52 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144658 Salabanya Tabaitou no longer squints from the irritating wood smoke each time she has to parboil her rice paddy. Now Tabaitou feeds logs into a chute of a specially designed brick stove with a chimney that draws away the smoke. The stove with a stainless steel parboiling vessel cooks her rice in 20 minutes – […]

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Rice: Africa’s Ticket Out of Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rice-africas-ticket-out-of-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rice-africas-ticket-out-of-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rice-africas-ticket-out-of-poverty/#respond Wed, 17 Feb 2016 06:27:59 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143908 Africa is eating more rice than other food staples, though it produces less than it needs. This is good news for the cereal’s potential to help Sub Saharan Africa out of poverty according to researchers. Rice is the second most important source of calories in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), a […]

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Science: Not Just a Western Sector, It Can Help Africa Toohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/science-not-just-a-western-sector-it-can-help-africa-too/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=science-not-just-a-western-sector-it-can-help-africa-too http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/science-not-just-a-western-sector-it-can-help-africa-too/#respond Wed, 20 Jan 2016 07:51:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143638 Small-scale farmer Augustine Sibanda has grown resilient traditional sorghum varieties passed down through generations but has increased his yields after he adopted improved seed varieties developed through research. Sibanda, a farmer in the Jambezi District in semi-arid Matabeleland north province, is passionate about farming and is astute in seeking and applying new knowledge. Sorghum – […]

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Africa Closer to a Cure for Banana Diseasehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/africa-closer-to-a-cure-for-banana-disease/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-closer-to-a-cure-for-banana-disease http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/africa-closer-to-a-cure-for-banana-disease/#respond Mon, 14 Dec 2015 13:05:07 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143333 In one Ugandan dialect, ‘kiwotoka’, describes the steamed look of banana plants affected by the Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) – a virulent disease that is pushing African farmers out of business and into poverty. A bacterial pathogen affecting all types of bananas including sweet banana (Cavendish type) and plantain bananas, a staple for more than […]

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A farmer showing a banana affected by the Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) whose signs include premature ripening of the bunch and rotting of the fruit. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Dec 14 2015 (IPS)

In one Ugandan dialect, ‘kiwotoka’, describes the steamed look of banana plants affected by the Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) – a virulent disease that is pushing African farmers out of business and into poverty.

A bacterial pathogen affecting all types of bananas including sweet banana (Cavendish type) and plantain bananas, a staple for more than 400 million people in developing countries, BXW is so destructive that there is a 100 per cent crop loss where it strikes.


Smallholder farmers and the other actors in the banana value chain lose more than half a billion dollars in harvests and potential trade income across East and Central Africa. Signs of the disease first identified in Ethiopia more that 40 years ago, include wilting and yellowing of leaves with plants producing yellowish bacterial ooze, premature ripening of the bunch and rotting of the fruit.

Currently, there is no cure for BXW. It is spread by insects or using infected tools and has been controlled through a combination of methods. Farmers have been taught to remove and destroy affected plants, taking out the male bud which is the first point of attack by BXW, using sterilized farm tools and destroying single infected stems. But the disease has forced many smallholder farmers in Africa to abandon growing bananas, which hold the potential to improve food nutrition and income security. This is in line with the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed to by more than 160 global leaders in September 2015.

For farmer Lubega Ben from the Kayunga district in Uganda, a cure is long overdue. Each banana plant claimed by BXW on his 15-acre plot is one too many. Growing bananas for the past 40 years has helped Ben provide food and income for his family.

“Bananas are and have been very important for providing food and income for my family,” says Ben, who has been growing bananas for 40 years. “Though my children have all grown up and left home, bananas are what has seen them through their schooling and also fed them.”

Ben is convinced the 200 banana bunches he harvests each year could be more with better methods if the banana bacterial wilt is controlled.

From control to a cure
In addition to the package of efforts to control the disease, in 2007 researchers turned to science for a cure.

Scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) headquartered in Ibadan, Nigeria in partnership with the National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO) in Uganda are close to a breakthrough after more than eight years researching solutions to BXW.

In 2007, IITA and NARO, together with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) and Taiwan-based Academia Sinica successfully engineered resistance of the African banana to BXW using genes from green pepper in the laboratory. Green pepper contains what researchers call ‘novel plant proteins’ that give crops enhanced resistance against deadly pathogens.

The genetically modified (GM) banana varieties with resistance to the banana bacterial wilt disease were developed using genetic engineering. Genetic modification refers to techniques used to manipulate the genetic composition of an organism by adding specific useful genes. These useful genes could make crops high-yielding, flood, drought or disease resistant – key traits important for smallholder farmers in Africa who are experiencing weather variability linked to climate change.

IITA biotechnologist, Leena Tripathi, has been part of the research team leading the fight against the Banana Xanthomonas Wilt.

“We are still a long way. The project has a plan for commercialisation of the GM bananas resistant to BXW in 2020 for use by farmers,” Tripathi told IPS. ” We have tested ten independent lines we picked from bigger trial of 65 lines and have found them to be completely resistant to BXW compared to the non transgenic plants for several generations in two different trials confirming durability of the trait.”

The transgenic varieties have undergone confined field trials in Uganda, a major grower and consumer of banana in Africa. The results are so encouraging that smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa could soon be growing the new varieties commercially soon, says Tripathi.

According to Tripathi, with the encouraging results so far, IITA and NARO are working on Matoke varieties which are preferred in Uganda and dessert varieties preferred in Kenya.

“With a few more trials starting next year, then meeting the biosafety, environmental safety and satisfying regulatory processes, we hope by 2020 to get approvals and deregulation for commercialization and dissemination to farmers,” Tripathi said.

Raising the Africa Banana Export Potential
Developing GM banana cultivars resistant to BXW is seen as economically viable because of the banana’s sterile character and long growth period which have been a challenge in developing a resistant banana through conventional breeding.

“Genetic engineering is one of the most important crop breeding tools in the 21st century,” Daniel Otunge, Regional Coordinator of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) told IPS, adding that biotechnology has given breeders a faster, cleaner and certain way of producing crop varieties resilient to climate change, resistant to pests and diseases and that are nitrogen and salt-use efficient.

“Africa should be celebrating these crops because they provide us with the best chance to be more food secure and nutritionally robust,” said Otunge.

Researchers estimate that farmers will adopt GM bananas by up to 100 per cent once it is released, with an expected initial adoption rate of 21 to 70 per cent. The financial benefits could range from 20 million to 953 million dollars across target countries where the disease incidence and production losses are high, says research study, Ex-Ante Economic Impact Assessment of Genetically Modified Banana Resistant to Xanthomonas Wilt in the Great Lakes Region of Africa published in the PLOS ONE Journal in September 2015.

Concerned about the march of BXW, nine Uganda farmers got together in 2011 and formed a non-profit community-based organization, the Kashekuro Banana Innovation Platform (KABIP), to specifically control the pathogen on their plantations. More than 300 farmers in the Sheema District lost their plantations and 200 others were forced to replant or open new fields when BXW hit. They hope a solution lies in GM bananas.

“Our farmers have not been exposed to GM bananas. Therefore, we need to try them and test whether they can be a solution,” says Anthlem Mugume, the coordinator of KABIP representing more than 2000 farmers, told IPS.

Arguably one of the world’s favourite fruit, banana are the forth most important staple crop after maize, rice, wheat, and cassava with an annual world production estimated at 130 million tonnes, according to the African Agricultural Technology Foundation. Nearly one-third of this production comes from sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where the crop provides more than 25 per cent of the food energy requirements for over 100 million people.

East Africa produces and consumes the most bananas in Africa, with Uganda being the world’s second largest producer after India.

According to the WorldTop Export, a website tracking major exports, banana exports by country totaled 11 billion dollars, a 32.8 per cent overall increase in 2014. A cleaner, healthier banana, offers Africa a sweet opportunity to break into the global export markets, reduce poverty and boost business for smallholder farmers.

(End)

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