Inter Press Service » Africa http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 20 Jan 2017 04:28:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.14 Migrants Seeking Europe Catch Their Breath in Moroccohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/migrants-seeking-europe-catch-their-breath-in-morocco/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-seeking-europe-catch-their-breath-in-morocco http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/migrants-seeking-europe-catch-their-breath-in-morocco/#comments Fri, 06 Jan 2017 13:35:58 +0000 Fabíola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148422 City of Rabat, Morocco. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

City of Rabat, Morocco. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

By Fabíola Ortiz
NADOR, RABAT and CASABLANCA, Morocco, Jan 6 2017 (IPS)

With a stable economy and a peaceful political climate, Morocco – which has always been a transit country for migrants — is becoming a potential new destination for settlement. The elusive dream for most of those who cross the Sahara, though, is still Europe.

No more than 15 kilometers separate the Spanish enclave Melilla and the Moroccan coastal city of Nador, in the northeastern Rif region. This tiny Spanish town of 70,000 people became a major crossing point for those seeking to reach asylum in Europe."The image of living in Europe is changing and some of them prefer to stay in Morocco as long as they can access rights. It’s not a super-developed country, but neither is it a super-poor country." --Miguel Hernandez Garcia

Melilla, together with Ceuta, are the remaining Spanish territories on the African continent and the European Union’s only land border. Precisely for that reason, many Sub-Saharan Africans and increasing number of Syrians dream of reaching the other side as a promised land and better life.

Both cities erected fortified borders as the pressure from migrants increased. Every year, hundreds of Sub-Saharans (many of those undocumented in Morocco) endeavor to cross the fences or embark on the perilous journey by boat across the Mediterranean.

Last month, rescue ships saved around 60 migrants who were adrift not far from Melilla. In early December 2016, at least 400 people broke through the border fence of Ceuta. On Jan. 1, another wave of 1,100 African migrants attempted to storm the same fence.

Mohamed Diaradsouba, 24, risked his life after he decided to depart Ivory Coast. He traveled almost 5,000 kms from Abidjan to Nador, passing through Mali and Algeria. He left his wife and one-year-old son with the hope of one day coming back.

“Where I lived there was no employment, I couldn’t get money to survive. I came to Morocco because I want to cross to Spain. But here there is no job either. I’m sure I’ll find a job in Spain, France, Belgium or Germany and make my living,” he told IPS.

He and a group of four companions rely on small donations provided by activists and the Catholic Church in Nador. Undocumented migrants are not tolerated by local police, who frequently conduct street sweeps and arrest those without legal papers.

When IPS talked to Diaradsouba on a cold November night, he was living in a rural community called Khamis-akdim, a 15-minute drive from Nador. It had been three months since he and some 300 other people Sub-Saharans Africa had set up a makeshift camp in the surrounding forest due to fear of entering the city.

Campsite where Sub-Saharan migrants live near Nador, Morocco. Credit: Mohamed Diaradsouba

Campsite where Sub-Saharan migrants live near Nador, Morocco. Credit: Mohamed Diaradsouba

“We’re camping in the bushes up on a hill. Life here is not easy. We have to walk every day to fetch water and food. We sleep in plastic tents, so when it rains everything gets wet. I didn’t bring any suitcase with me, I’m only wearing my clothes. We’re afraid of the police, they don’t know what human rights are, I’d better stay in the forest,” he said, noting that other nationalities like Cameroonians, Guineans and Malians share the same campsite.

The Ivorian migrant did not have any legal papers, refugee card or asylum seeker certificate of any kind. He is among the thousands of invisible undocumented foreigners in Morocco who are not recognized by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or the Moroccan government.

“It’s difficult to get a paper or a residency permit. I’d have to travel to the capital Rabat (10 hours by train) to make a request. I’m waiting for my luck, one day it will come,” he said.

Diaradsouba had no idea how long he would have to wait to attempt his crossing to Europe. He was still unsure whether he would risk getting through the fences to Melilla, hide himself in the backseat of a car or go by boat. “There’s no fixed price to pay for a boat. We try to gather [funds] among 30 or 40 people. Everything will depend on how much money we’ll have to pay.”

Aziz Kattouf, an activist with the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), confirms that those people camping on the forest live in terrible conditions, but he says at least they are in a “safer place” than Nador.

“They’re far from the police’s eyes. They don’t want to stay, their only hope is to cross,” he told IPS, adding that there are other four large camps in the forest where undocumented people have erected tents.

Every two or three weeks, the police raid the camps. “They apprehend men and sometimes children, destroy their tents and take their phones. Many are sent by buses to further areas in the south of Morocco. But they always come back to the camps,” said the activist.

Living alongside the foreigners altered the daily life of residents of Khamis-akdim, but there has not been a case of mistreatment or racism against them. In fact, the local Berber farmers have shown solidarity, said Alwali Abdilhate, a Tamazight speaker.

“We have good relations with the people who are camping. Early in the morning, they go to the streams or waterholes to wash their clothes and buy food in our local market. There’s a bar that allows them to recharge their cell phones,” said Abdilhate, whose family home is located right by the path migrants take to reach the camping area.

A few weeks after the initial interview, Diaradsouba contacted IPS to say he had managed to reach Spain by boat entering through Almeria. He had to pay 2,500 euros to embark on the 12-hour sea journey.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), between January and December 2016, 8,162 migrants arrived by sea in Spain, while 69 people died attempting the crossing.

The majority of migrants in Morocco are Sub-Saharan male adults between 18 and 59 years old, says Miguel Hernandez Garcia, coordinator of a program run by the Association Droit et Justice that provides legal assistance for refugees and asylum seekers.

“There are different reasons for leaving their countries, threats of physical violence or political reasons. Some are in touch with members of their communities who have reached Europe and say living conditions aren’t what they used to be in the past. The image of living in Europe is changing and some of them prefer to stay in Morocco as long as they can access rights. It’s not a super-developed country, but neither is it a super poor country,” Garcia told IPS.

Morocco became the first Arab country to develop a policy that offers undocumented migrants the chance to gain permanent residency. In 2013, the King of Morocco Mohammed VI gave momentum to a new policy on migration after receiving recommendations from the National Council for Human Rights.

“Morocco ratified international conventions and needed to implement policies. It wanted to show a good image to the world as a welcoming country. It was a clever idea to put out this strategy to the international community as an open mind State with humanitarian will. Besides, it’s also a good thing for the economy,” said Garcia.

During a full one-year campaign for regularization, more than 90 percent of the 27,000 migrants who applied were documented. The government is now discussing in Parliament a raft of related legislation – the first law approved on the scope of the new policy was against human trafficking. A second law that still pending is about asylum.

“It’s basically to guarantee the access to rights for migrants. It’s only three years now that this policy is running and still no official body is in charge of it,” Garcia added.

Jean-Paul Cavalieri, the UNHCR representative in Morocco, said the first challenge is to finalise the law on asylum and extend medical benefits to refugees and regular migrants.

“Another challenge has to do with the territorialization of the policy, how you implement the policy on the ground in remote areas. The migrants are spread out across the country. That could be a model for [other] countries in the region. What we want is that refugees are able to find asylum and a protected space. It’s just the beginning, the policies are being developed, but it has to expand and be implemented.”

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Bringing South Africa’s Small-Scale Miners Out of the Shadowshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/bringing-south-africas-small-scale-miners-out-of-the-shadows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bringing-south-africas-small-scale-miners-out-of-the-shadows http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/bringing-south-africas-small-scale-miners-out-of-the-shadows/#comments Wed, 28 Dec 2016 11:21:31 +0000 Mark Olalde http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148327 The Masakane village in Mpumalanga sits mere meters away from coal heaps feeding Duvha Power Station. The formal coal industry has failed to bring economic opportunities to local communities, so many residents turn to informal coal mining for an income. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

The Masakane village in Mpumalanga sits mere meters away from coal heaps feeding Duvha Power Station. The formal coal industry has failed to bring economic opportunities to local communities, so many residents turn to informal coal mining for an income. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

By Mark Olalde
JOHANNESBURG, Dec 28 2016 (IPS)

In a country with unemployment rising above 25 percent, South Africans are increasingly looking for job creation in small-scale mining, an often-informal industry that provides a living for millions across the continent.

“How do you make formalisation not kill their businesses but rather improve their businesses?" --Sizwe Phakathi
Estimates for the number of small-scale miners in South Africa range from 8,000 to 30,000. Across the African continent, estimates put the number of such miners around 8 million. Roughly another 45 million are thought to depend on their income.

According to the United Nations’ African Mining Vision, almost 20 percent of Africa’s gold production and nearly all the gemstone production besides diamonds are mined by small-scale miners.

Sizwe Phakathi, now the head of safety and sustainable development at the Chamber of Mines, previously researched informal coal and clay mining in Blaauwbosch, KwaZulu-Natal with the Minerals and Energy for Development Alliance and the African Minerals Development Centre.

“We can’t classify it as ‘illegal mining.’ This has been happening for years, and people got to mining this area through customary practices,” he said.

Small-scale gold miners prepare to descend underground for a shift in an abandoned gold mine. South Africa’s mining industry shed 9,000 jobs last quarter alone, so activists search for ways to create new economic opportunities for small-scale mining. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/583/31093312584_6189501f5d_o.jpg

Small-scale gold miners prepare to descend underground for a shift in an abandoned gold mine. South Africa’s mining industry shed 9,000 jobs last quarter alone, so activists search for ways to create new economic opportunities for small-scale mining. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

These miners are often unaware of the law and operate with permission from the local chief or municipality but without a valid mining permit. In the community Phakathi studied, 94 percent of the miners had never held a mining permit and many did not know of the relevant legislation.

“Many of these people that work there, many of them are breadwinners of their households, and they are heads of households,” Phakati said.

Pheaga Gad Kwata, director of the Department of Mineral Resources’ (DMR) small-scale mining division, believes that bringing these miners into compliance would allow them greater access to technical knowledge and markets.

“We’ve realized that it is one of the activities where you can probably get a job quickly,” Kwata said, adding that the DMR is busy with workshops to educate miners on the benefits of working within the law.

An artisanal miner in Johannesburg displays ore. Activists argue that formalizing small-scale mining could create jobs and allow for the implementation of health and safety regulations. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

An artisanal miner in Johannesburg displays ore. Activists argue that formalizing small-scale mining could create jobs and allow for the implementation of health and safety regulations. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

This type of cooperation could assist Jiyana Tshenge, who works with the Prieska Protocol, a program aimed at linking the small-scale miners of a semiprecious gemstone called tiger’s eye to a lapidary and onward to international markets. This streamlined approach is expected to significantly increase the wages of the miners by cutting out the middlemen operating in the informal economy.

A lack of this market access, though, has tabled the project for the moment.

“If we can establish that market and establish a proper plan, we will then go back and engage with the people of the community properly,” Tshenge said. “I think we can create a lot of jobs.”

According to Phakati, an immediate benefit of regulation would be the implementation of health and safety standards, something he found severely lacking in his research. In his case study, the vast majority of workers never used personal protective equipment such as hardhats, goggles or gloves. The local Mzamo High School also had to be relocated when mining encroached on the school and released harmful gases.

The Matariana informal settlement houses illegal gold miners on the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine, about 50 miles west of Johannesburg. South Africa is home to more than 6,000 abandoned mines, many of which attract small-scale miners. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

The Matariana informal settlement houses illegal gold miners on the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine, about 50 miles west of Johannesburg. South Africa is home to more than 6,000 abandoned mines, many of which attract small-scale miners. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

However, formalisation is slowed by the very poverty it is meant to alleviate. Small-scale miners have trouble paying for transport to the DMR’ offices, which are often far from their communities. The costs associated with procuring a permit – such as setting aside a financial provision for environmental rehabilitation and producing environmental impact assessments – also continue to present a barrier to entry.

“How do you make formalisation not kill their businesses but rather improve their businesses? Formalisation should be tailored to their needs,” Phakati said.

Pontsho Ledwaba of the University of the Witwatersrand’s Centre for Sustainability in Mining and Industry argues that legislative changes are necessary to smooth the formalisation process. Mining permits currently must be renewed every few years, which could make it difficult to guarantee a return for anyone lending money to these miners. The amount of land allocated in mining permits also weakens these operations’ financial sustainability.

“Five hectares is actually too small for some of the minerals. For granite, sandstone, it’s too small. In terms of investment, [small-scale miners] don’t get investment because two years, five years is a small time to break even and pay back,” Ledwaba said.

According to Ledwaba, the government needs to aim regulations toward historic mining sectors that already operate nearly legally.

“The bulk of them actually mine what we called industrial and construction minerals. These are your sands, your clay, your sandstone,” Ledwaba said. “Those are the ones government has tried to move to the legal space.”

Many of these sectors operate outside the law simply because the relevant legislation came into effect after mining began.

Besides the economic barriers to formalisation, experts agree that sweeping changes to small-scale mining cannot succeed without the participation of female miners.

Between 40-50 percent of Africa’s small-scale mining workforce is female, according to research from the international relations consulting firm German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation.

“Clearly one of the beneficiaries of formalising this is you should create employment for women,” Phakati said. “The formalisation and development of this sector need to target women.”

In rural South African provinces such as Limpopo, women have mined clay for generations. In other areas such as the North West, there are examples of mining permits held by women. Although mining is seen as a male-dominated industry, experts say small-scale mining can be a breeding ground for female entrepreneurship.

“I’ve come across a number of operations actually owned by women,” Ledwaba said. “[Formalisation] will definitely have a gendered impact.”

Mark Olalde’s work is financially supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Fund for Environmental Journalism and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

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Bio-Product Targeting Deadly Toxin Holds Hope for Africa’s Foodhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/bio-product-targeting-deadly-toxin-holds-hope-for-africas-food/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bio-product-targeting-deadly-toxin-holds-hope-for-africas-food http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/bio-product-targeting-deadly-toxin-holds-hope-for-africas-food/#comments Tue, 27 Dec 2016 11:40:15 +0000 Ini Ekott http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148311 Application of Aflasafe in groundnut field. Photo courtesy of Aflasafe.com

Application of Aflasafe in groundnut field. Photo courtesy of Aflasafe.com

By Ini Ekott
ABUJA, Dec 27 2016 (IPS)

As food contaminants, aflatoxins are amongst the deadliest. Between 2004 and 2007, contaminated maize killed nearly 200 people in Kenya, left hundreds hospitalised and rendered millions of bags of maize unfit for consumption.

On average, 25 to 60 percent of maize – a staple in many African countries – has high levels of aflatoxins in Nigeria, warns the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). And with that comes the risk of liver cancer, suppressed immune system, stunted growth in children, and death.In the first year of the aflasafe trial, farmers recorded 13 percent average sales price over market rate, which is a 210 percent return on investment.

But despite such toxic potency, aflatoxins are hardly popular. Now, a made-in-Africa biocontrol product, Aflasafe, is taking on the poison, and is offering hope to millions across the continent who rely on vulnerable crops like maize.

“Aflatoxins are some of the most carcinogenic substances. But for four years that we have worked with farmers, we have seen great results in the use of aflasafe,” said Adebowale Akande, an aflasafe project lead at IITA, the institute that developed the product.

A four-year trial of aflasafe in Nigeria has yielded an impressive 80 to 90 percent reduction of aflatoxins, Akande said. “You will agree with me that four years is enough to know whether something is working or not,” he said.

Aflatoxin contamination is a global problem. But while developed countries regularly screen crops and destroy food supplies that test over regulatory limits, lax control and low awareness in developing countries mean billions of people face the risk of being exposed to the toxin daily.

The U.S-based Centre for Disease Control estimates that 4.5 billion people in developing countries may be chronically exposed to aflatoxins through their diet.

The toxins contaminate African dietary staples such as maize, groundnuts, rice either in the soil or during storage.

Countries in latitudes between 40 degrees north and 40 degrees south—which includes all of Africa—are susceptible to this contamination, the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa, PACA, an African Union body, said.

Besides health, aflatoxin also has serious economic implications.

“The direct economic impact of aflatoxin contamination in crops results mainly from a reduction in marketable volume, loss in value in the national markets, inadmissibility or rejection of products by the international market, and losses incurred from livestock disease, consequential morbidity and mortality,” said PACA in a 2015 paper.

Aflasafe production quality check after colonisation and drying. Photo courtesy of Aflasafe.com

Aflasafe production quality check after colonisation and drying. Photo courtesy of Aflasafe.com

Pull Mechanism

Aflasafe works by preventing the growth of aspergillus, the fungus that produces aflatoxin. It does so by stimulating the growth of large quantities of a harmless specie of aspergillus instead.

Developed over a decade by IITA, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, University of Bonn and University of Ibadan, aflasafe is applied by hand on soil two to three weeks prior to crop flowering. It works only for maize and groundnuts for now, amid ongoing researches for other crops.

Within two to three days of application, the anti-toxigenic strain of the fungus builds up rapidly on the crop, colonizes it and stops the toxic strain from developing. With that, over 90 percent of aflatoxins can be eliminated.

Despite such promise, there are challenges. Low awareness of the dangers of aflatoxins means low demand for aflatoxin-free maize. Also, poor regulation has limited investments in the control of aflatoxin.

The IITA set up the “pull mechanism” to ultimately expand the use of aflasafe by providing economic and technical incentives to smallholder farmers, who work in groups through intermediaries called implementers. It features per-unit payments based on the number of kilograms of maize treated with aflasafe.

Premium payments equal to 18.75 dollars are paid for every metric ton of high-aflasafe maize delivered to designated collection points. This corresponds to a premium rate of 5 percent to 13 percent depending on the current price of maize.

The pull mechanism began in 2012 in Nigeria, with four implementers and 1,000 farmers. By 2016, the number has grown to 25 implementers and 15, 000 farmers, Mr. Akande said.

Abubakar Yambab, 43, is one of such farmers. At Abaji, a suburb of Abuja where he lives, Mr. Yambab grows maize on a 1⅟2 hectare of land. He told IPS he first used aflasafe in 2015, and his yields have since improved in quantity and quality.

“Using aflasafe has a multiplier effect,” he said. “It removes the coloured particles (aflatoxin) we used to notice in the harvested maize and I don’t think I can grow maize now without aflasafe.”

Yambab said he receives subsidized fertilizers, farming equipment, tractors and chemicals from IITA, and has relied on his farm proceeds to feed his six children and two wives, in addition to recently completing a block home.

Receiving premium payment on aflatoxin-reduced maize makes business sense for the farmers despite investment in the aflasafe technology.

IITA said in the first year of its trial, farmers recorded 13 percent average sales price over market rate, which is a 210 percent return on investment. In 2015, average sales price stood at 15 percent over market rate, translating to 524 percent return on investment.

Commercialization

Nigeria was chosen as pilot location for aflasafe as it is the leading producer and consumer of maize in sub-Saharan Africa and up to 60 percent of its maize may be affected. The country is for now the only developing country in which aflasafe is ready for use by farmers.

But similar work is going to Senegal and Kenya. A manufacturing plant capable of producing 5 tons of aflasafe per hour is operational at IITA headquarters in Nigeria, Ibadan. Another is under construction in Kenya and a third is underway in Senegal.

The institute is also working on transferring the technology to allow companies produce and distribute aflasafe to millions of farmers throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

“It is slated to cover 500,000 hectares in 11 countries where aflasafe will soon be registered,” Matieyedou Konlambigue, who leads IITA’s Aflasafe Technology Transfer Commercialization Project, said at the launching of the project on Dec. 1 at Ibadan, Nigeria.

The targeted countries are Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Gambia, Uganda and Zambia, Konlambigue was quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria as saying. The project is to last from 2016 to 2020.

Yamdab said he would advise other farmers to use aflasafe for their crops. “If all farmers in the FCT (Federal Capital Territory) use aflasafe, it will really improve the quality of food products here,” he said.

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Climate Change Needn’t Spell Doom for Uganda’s Coffee Farmershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/climate-change-neednt-spell-doom-for-ugandas-coffee-farmers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-neednt-spell-doom-for-ugandas-coffee-farmers http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/climate-change-neednt-spell-doom-for-ugandas-coffee-farmers/#comments Thu, 22 Dec 2016 16:39:11 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148278 Nursery operators raise improved Robusta coffee seedlings in Uganda. Credit: IITA

Nursery operators raise improved Robusta coffee seedlings in Uganda. Credit: IITA

By Sally Nyakanyanga
KAMPALA, Dec 22 2016 (IPS)

Coffee production provides a quarter of Uganda’s foreign exchange earnings and supports some 1.7 million smallholder farmers, but crop yields are being undermined by disease, pests and inadequate services from agricultural extension officers, as well as climatic changes in the East African country.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), one of the world’s leading research partners in finding solutions for hunger, malnutrition, and poverty, is playing a key role in overcoming these challenges with simple, efficient practices like planting shade trees to protect coffee plants that require a cooler tropical climate.“The knowledge I’ve received towards adapting to farming that suits the changes in the climate, such as intercropping and planting shade trees, has transformed my life." --Coffee farmer Cathrine Ojara

Mujabi Yusuf, 41, a coffee farmer in the Nakaseke District of Central Uganda, told IPS prolonged droughts and unpredictable rainfall had been major setbacks.

“I have fed my family and sent them to school through coffee farming, but the weather has failed us,” says Yusuf. “Buying farming inputs such as fertilizer is a challenge because it’s expensive, yet for some time my farming production has been decreasing.”

Uganda has the largest population of coffee farmers in the world, yet 2 percent of its exports are not certified. It is Africa’s largest Robusta producer, accounting for 7 percent of global Robusta exports. The cost of production is low as a result of smallholder farmers using family labour and few inputs.

“Seasons have changed and become unpredictable. The rains sometimes come but for a short period. This has resulted in leaves wilting and eventually dying,” says Kironde Mayanja, a coffee farmer from Central Uganda.

“Drought stress, pests and diseases, poor quality of inputs, inadequate extension services and financial constraints inhibits farmers from adapting efficiently in Uganda,” says Elizabeth Kemigisha, IITA Communications Officer.

“There is a global awareness that if agricultural research for development is to have a positive impact on the beneficiaries of development efforts, all stakeholders in the process need to be on the same page. All stakeholders can all contribute to address the challenges of agricultural development and food security for all,” Kemigisha told IPS.

IITA generates evidence-based solutions such as a shade tree tool, farmer profiles and segmentation, new crop varieties, intercropping coffee and banana, as well as appropriate investment pathways for various stakeholders.

“Our research is used by non-governmental organisations and the private sector, and we work closely with governments, particularly National Agricultural Research Organisations (NARO). IITA has worked with HRNS as an implementing partner to conduct studies to enhance local knowledge on climate change adaptation in coffee growing,” Kemigisha said.

David Senyonjo, the Field Operations Manager in charge of climate change at HRNS, says his organization promotes and provides technical support for coffee production by working with smallholder coffee farmers.

“Research has helped to enhance farmers’ resilience to the adverse effects of climate change by providing them with the know-how to adapt to the changing climatic conditions,” says Senyonjo.

Cathrine Ojara, a female coffee farmer, is one such success story.

“The knowledge I’ve received towards adapting to farming that suits the changes in the climate, such as intercropping and planting shade trees, has transformed my life,” she says.

Ojara said she has been able to send her children to school and improve her household, as well as establish extra income through projects such as poultry.

Mayanja, who has an eight-acre farm, with the help of HRNS Africa has adopted new farming methods and his yields have increased from 20 to 50 percent.

“We have received training that has made me an expert in climate change and I have put to good use what I learnt to improve our crops. I have been practicing mulching, planting and managing shade trees, using fertilizers, digging water trenches and irrigation,” Mayanja told IPS.

Senyonjo noted that women face additional difficulties. “[They have a] lack of control over production resources like land, which in most cases is a prerequisite to having access to credit, hence women are less likely to use yield enhancing inputs like fertilisers,” he said.

“We don’t have our own land and due to time constraints and domestic responsibilities, we are unable to attend trainings on climate change,” Ojara told IPS.

While women do most of the farm labor, they only own 16 percent of the arable land in Uganda.

Hannington Bukomeko, a scientist with the IITA, said effective adaptation to climate change among coffee farmers requires low-cost and multipurpose solutions such as agroforestry, a practice of intercropping coffee with trees.

IITA has developed a shade tree advice tool, offering the best selection criteria for suitable tree species that provide various ecosystems services in different local conditions.

“Shade trees are one of the climate change adaptation practice we recommend for farmers. Shades modify the micro-environment so that it reduces the intensity of sunshine hitting the coffee plant as well as evaporation of water from the soil,” says Senyonjo.

Bukomeko explained that the tool helps coffee farmers to identify appropriate tree-selection.  “Farmers lack the knowledge on selecting the appropriate tree species, lack the tools and technical support to summarize such information to guide on-farm tree selection,” Bukomeko told IPS.

According to Bukomeko, the shade tree tool relies on local agro-forestry knowledge and scientific assessments of local on-farm tree diversity. “Users of the tool can identify their location in terms of country, province and ecological zone, select their desired ecosystem services and rank them according to preference. In return, the tool advises the user on the best tree options for a given location and ecosystem services,” says Bukomeko.

The shade tree tool was tested and validated for the studied regions, and found to serve the purpose of guiding on-farm tree selection for coffee farmers, according to IITA.

“Through government and other partners, the tool can be used by extension workers who will have mobile devices that can access the application tool,” says Kemigisha.

IITA has also conducted research on banana/plantain, cocoa, cowpea, maize, yam, and soy bean.

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Ethiopia Takes a Deep and Foreboding Breathhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/ethiopia-takes-a-deep-and-foreboding-breath/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopia-takes-a-deep-and-foreboding-breath http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/ethiopia-takes-a-deep-and-foreboding-breath/#comments Wed, 21 Dec 2016 13:16:36 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148263 Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (seated, center), surrounded by his security detail, at the ceremony marking the opening of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway in early October. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (seated, center), surrounded by his security detail, at the ceremony marking the opening of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway in early October. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
ADDIS ABABA, Dec 21 2016 (IPS)

Smart phone users in the Ethiopian capital are rejoicing. After a two-month blackout the Ethiopian government has permitted the return of mobile data.

Most Ethiopians who access the Internet do so through their phones, and previously the government had singled out social media activity as a major influence in agitating unrest that has doggedly seethed across the country since breaking out a year ago.“They’ve broken promise after promise, so people won’t believe them—that’s the problem.” --Merera Gudina, Chair of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress Party

But now, more than two months into the six-month state of emergency declared by the government on Oct. 9, protests previously rocking the country’s two most populous regions appear to have subsided, and gangs of young men are no longer prowling the country setting fire to buildings, blocking roads and clashing with security forces.

But despite the appearance of order being restored, no one seems to know what may happen next, or whether this calm will hold.

The current situation may simply serve as a temporary break in Ethiopia’s most sustained and widespread period of dissent and protests since the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) ruling party came to power following the 1991 revolution.

“The protests have shaken the EPRDF regime in ways not seen in more than two decades and a half,” says Mohammed Ademo, an Ethiopian journalist in Washington, D.C., and working alongside diaspora activists following events. “It did more to challenge the regime’s grip on power in one year than what some opposition groups have done in years.”

Oromo culture includes an important role for elders based on the "Gadaa system", a form of Oromo traditional government, with leadership being attained by passing through numerous age-related grades. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Oromo culture includes an important role for elders based on the “Gadaa system”, a form of Oromo traditional government, with leadership being attained by passing through numerous age-related grades. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

For up until now, the political gamble underpinning the EPRDF’s developmental state project—similar to China’s strategy—has been that the material transformation of Ethiopia would ultimately satisfy the divergent populations comprising Ethiopia’s ethnic federation.

With months of the state of emergency still to run, however, the EPRDF now has a critical opportunity to forge a sustainable route out of the mire. The big question is whether it will seize the opportunity or is capable of doing so.

Because since 1991, dogged by criticism over its authoritarian style and human rights record with Western observers and governments calling on it to deepen its commitment to democratic reforms, it hasn’t shown much interest in listening.

A more overt security presence is now visible in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, such as this armoured vehicle parked in iconic Meskal Square. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

A more overt security presence is now visible in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, such as this armoured vehicle parked in iconic Meskal Square. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

“If you look at our history, the present system is the best in terms of development,” says Abebe Hailu, an Addis Ababa-based human rights lawyer who lived through the 1974 downfall of Emperor Haile Selassie and the ensuing military dictatorship that eventually fell in 1991 to the EPRDF’s founders. “But there’s still a lot to do when it comes to developing democracy.”

Protests that began last November with Oromo farmers objecting to land grabs have mushroomed into an anti-government movement which now includes the Amhara, Ethiopia’s second largest ethnic group after the Oromo (together the two groups represent about 60 percent of the population).

And protests have occurred in places transformed by economic growth, such as the Amhara capital, Bahir Dar, and Adama, Oromia’s most cosmopolitan city. Meanwhile, the rhetoric of ethnic hatred and cleansing has already shown itself.

The Oromo are proud of their cultural traditions and enjoy opportunities to celebrate that heritage. They also share a common language, Afaan Oromoo, also known as Oromoiffa, which belongs to the Cushitic family, unlike Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, which is Semitic. A different language is only one of many sources of tension the Oromo have within the Ethiopian federation. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

The Oromo are proud of their cultural traditions and enjoy opportunities to celebrate that heritage. They also share a common language, Afaan Oromoo, also known as Oromoiffa, which belongs to the Cushitic family, unlike Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, which is Semitic. A different language is only one of many sources of tension the Oromo have within the Ethiopian federation. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

This all illustrates that despite the EPRDF’s efforts to forge a new nation-state identity bolstered by economic transformation, ethno-regional loyalties have lost none of their appeal; especially in the face of government oppression identified with a Tigrayan elite—from an ethnic group forming only 6 percent of the population—accused of usurping power and much of that new wealth.

“The constitution the government came up with is a perfect match for a country like Ethiopia,” says one Addis Ababa resident, explaining how this ethnic federalism best matches Ethiopia’s diversity—he himself is of mixed ethnic heritage. “But you have a group of Tigrayans in government deciding the fate of 100 million people who aren’t allowed to say anything,” The result, he adds, is the constitution is shown to be only as good as the paper it is written on.

Against such a background, these protests have illustrated that the perennial problem for Ethiopia’s rulers over the centuries remains unsolved: maintain the integrity of a country and people whose boundaries are those of a multi-ethnic former empire forged by violent conquest of subjugated peoples (such as the Oromo).

Admittedly until recently, and for most of the last two decades, it appeared the EPRDF was on top of this challenge, demonstrating the most impressive economic and development-driven track record of any Ethiopian government in modern history.

Against the fiasco of international assistance in Somalia, Ethiopia is a development darling, held up as a heartening example of indigenous government and international partners succeeding in reducing the likes of poverty and mortality rates.

Geopolitical considerations also mean Ethiopia is an important peace and security bulwark for the West in the Horn of Africa, a region troubled by internecine fighting in South Sudan, Islamic insurgents in Somalia and floods of refugees abandoning Eritrea.

But statistics that wowed the international community have masked the more complex reality in which most Ethiopians, while not as susceptible to famine and disease, remain utterly stifled in their lives’ endeavors.

“Usually protests start in towns where you have the politically active but this has been a popular revolution at the grassroots in rural areas in Amhara and Oromia,” says Yilikal Getenet, chairman of the opposition Blue Party. “People are dying and people are protesting about clear [issues].”

During its rule the EPRDF has shunned diversity of political opinion, repeatedly cracking down on opposition parties, putting their politicians in jail of forcing them into exile. The 2015 election produced a parliament without a single opposition representative. Freedom of expression in Ethiopia is strictly curtailed—an independent civil society no longer exists.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s citizenry is increasingly angry at seemingly never-ending government corruption. And a mushrooming youthful population means the number of young unemployed men across the country irrevocably rises, their thoughts and frustrations turning toward the center of power that is Addis Ababa.

Numbers killed during protests range upward of 600, with thousands imprisoned, according to rights and opposition groups.

“We now have names, and in most cases even photos, of the more than 1,000 victims who were killed by security forces since the protests began,” Mohammed says.

Having built a brand over the last 25 years as the safest and most reliable country in the volatile Horn of Africa, Ethiopia has found its reputation on the line amid the upheaval. Now it’s trying to repair the damage to that brand and to society itself.

“The government must be ready to accept fundamental reforms,” Abebe says.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn conducted a major cabinet reshuffle at the end of October, changing 21 of 30 ministerial posts, including 15 new appointees.

The selection of technocrats without party affiliation is a positive signal the party is serious about delivering changes, say some, while others argue it perpetuates the monopoly rule of a select few, an intelligentsia judged worthy to lead the perceived ignorant Ethiopian masses.

The government is also promising “deep reforms” to solve root causes of protests. But for a country with a millennia of centralized, autocratic rule, that’s much easier said than done.

A prevailing accusation among its opponents is the EPRDF still clings to the same left-wing revolutionary ideology of 1991 that insists on Leninist single-party control, hence it remains fundamentally anti-democratic and unable to countenance reform.

Others claim moderates exist in the party who could help change its direction for the better. But that’s a tough sell.

“This government is the most isolated government from the Ethiopian people,” says Merera Gudina, Chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress Party, who was arrested at the beginning of December for allegedly flouting state of emergency laws. “They’ve broken promise after promise, so people won’t believe them—that’s the problem.”

Hence many argue the EPRDF has lost all legitimacy and must make way for a transitional government. Others counter that’s neither feasible nor in Ethiopia’s best interests.

“People need to recognize that if you push too fast you can get more chaos,” Abebe says.

Instead, according to many, the EPRDF should focus on the following: purge its ranks of the corrupt and ineffective; reform key public institutions found wanting; release political prisoners; take seriously negotiations with opposition elements home and abroad; ensure Ethiopia’s youth are given jobs and hope.

Also, at the same time, the government must establish a new electoral commission to guarantee the next local elections in 2018 and national elections in 2020 are freely contested.

“If we don’t achieve free and fair elections then, this country will be in serious danger—that is the last chance we have—really,” Lidetu said. “But we also can’t wait until those elections: so starting from now we have to have dialogue between the different political groups in an open manner.”

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Refugees from Boko Haram Languish in Cameroonhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/refugees-from-boko-haram-languish-in-cameroon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugees-from-boko-haram-languish-in-cameroon http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/refugees-from-boko-haram-languish-in-cameroon/#comments Fri, 16 Dec 2016 15:17:54 +0000 Mbom Sixtus http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148227 UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi is received at the Minawao Camp in Cameroon’s Far North region on Dec. 15, 2016, where some 60,000 refugees have fled attacks by Boko Haram. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi is received at the Minawao Camp in Cameroon’s Far North region on Dec. 15, 2016, where some 60,000 refugees have fled attacks by Boko Haram. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

By Mbom Sixtus
MINAWAO CAMP, Cameroon, Dec 16 2016 (IPS)

Tears spring to Aichatou Njoya’s eyes as she recalls the day Islamic militants from Boko Haram arrived on her doorstep in Nigeria.

“It was on May 24, 2013. My husband was sleeping in his room while I was on the other side of the house with our six children. The youngest was only one month old,” she mutters, pausing to collect herself.The funding gap for refugees and IDPs in Cameroon now stands at 62.4 million dollars.

Njoya told IPS when the armed insurgents broke into the house, they grabbed her husband and dragged him into her room. “They brought him in front of us and put a machete to his neck and asked him if he was going to convert from Christianity to Islam. They asked thrice, and thrice he refused. Then they slew him right in front of me and our children,” she said, still holding back tears.

The widowed refugee said an argument ensued among the assailants as to whether to spare her life or not. They finally agreed to let her live. The next day she escaped with her children to the hills and trekked for several days until they reached the border with Cameroon, where the UNHCR had vehicles to transport refugees to the camp. The camp had just been set up, she says.

Njoya, now 36, has been living in the Minawao refugee camp in Cameroon’s Far North region for more than three and a half years now, with scant hope of returning anytime soon.

IPS spoke with Njoya and others during the Dec. 15 visit of Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner for the United Nations Refugee agency UNHCR, to the camp. Grandi called for the financial empowerment of Nigerian refugees to help them cope with insufficient humanitarian aid.

The camp hosts about 60,000 Nigerians who have fled their homes since 2011 because of attacks carried out by the Islamist terror group, Boko Haram.

Grandi spoke with refugees, representatives of national and international NGOs, and officials of the Cameroonian government who gathered to welcome him. Cameroon is the third country he is visiting as part of his tour of countries of the Lake Chad Basin affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.

Grandi said his visit was intended to encourage donors to provide more aid to affected countries and governments to work together to reinstate peace in the region and facilitate the return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) their homes.

“We have made efforts to improve aid, but aid is still insufficient. I have listened to complaints of these refugee women who say they do not have any income generation activities and I think the UNHCR and its partners should begin working in that direction. Help them help themselves,” he said.

He had just listened to representatives of the refugees and refugee women discussing the difficulties they face on a daily basis, including food and water shortages, scarcity of wood, insufficient medicines, and insufficient classroom and medical staff in health units in the camp.

Growing population, funding gap aggravate living conditions

According to Njoya, and every other refugee who talked to IPS, including Jallo Mohamed, Bulama Adam and Ayuba Fudama, living conditions are growing worse by the day. They all complain of joblessness. Njoya says even when they leave the camp with refugee certificates as IDs, Cameroonian security officers still stop them from going out.

“This hinders the success of the income generation activities we are yearning for,” she said.

“When we just got here, they gave each refugee 13 kg of rice monthly. It was later reduced to 10 and last month (November 2016) it dropped further. The rationing for wood has also declined.  Nowadays when you go to the health unit for headache, they give you paracetamol. If you have a fever, they give you paracetamol. If you have stomach ache or anything else, they give you the same tablets. And when you go there at night, there is no one on duty,” says Jallo Mohamed.

Reports say there are periods when as many as 50 births are recorded per week in the Minawao camp.

“You can’t blame them. They sleep early every night because they do not have TV sets or other forms of entertainment. That is why the birth rate is as it is,” said a medic at the camp who asked not to be named.

Cameroon currently hosts more than 259,000 refugees from the Central African Republic and 73,747 Nigerians. Funders led by the U.S., Japan, EU, Spain, Italy, France and Korea were able to raise only 37 per cent of a total of 98.6million dollars required in assistance for refugees and IDPs in Cameroon this year – a funding gap of 62.4 million dollars, according to the UNHCR factsheet.

The funding gap for requirements of Nigerian refugees, according to the UNHCR, stands at 29.7 million dollars. Nevertheless, High Commissioner Grandi remains positive that empowering refugees to earn incomes will improve living standards at the Minawao Camp.

Regarding the wood shortage, he said he saw fuel-efficient cooking stoves in Niger and Chad and will encourage stakeholders in Cameroon to introduce the models in the camp. He also reassured refugees that an ongoing water project will provide the camp and host communities with clean pipe-borne water.

The High Commissioner’s mission to Cameroon also includes the launching of 2017 Regional Refugee Response Plan for the Nigeria Refugee Situation.

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Putting Women Front and Centre in the Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/putting-women-front-and-centre-in-the-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=putting-women-front-and-centre-in-the-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/putting-women-front-and-centre-in-the-development-agenda/#comments Mon, 12 Dec 2016 17:15:38 +0000 Robert Kibet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148192 Delegates participate in one of the women’s forums during the Nov. 28-Dec. 1 HLM2 Nairobi meeting. Credit: Robert Kibet/IPS

Delegates participate in one of the women’s forums during the Nov. 28-Dec. 1 HLM2 Nairobi meeting. Credit: Robert Kibet/IPS

By Robert Kibet
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 12 2016 (IPS)

Reengineering the framework of support by bringing in women as new actors in effective development cooperation will play a pivotal role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“We need to deliberately make sure that women are part of the development agenda,” Stephen Gichohi, country manager at Forum Syd’s office in Kenya, told a recent Nov. 28-Dec. 1 Second High Level Meeting (HLM2) on the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) in Nairobi.“If you look across countries, institutions working on gender equality and women’s rights issues are the least funded." -- Patricia Akakpo of the Network for Women Rights in Ghana

The HLM2Nairobi meeting brought together over 5,000 delegates from across the globe, and saw a 400 delegation Civil Society Organisations Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) endorse the Nairobi Outcome Document.

“Through the government of Kenya’s hosting of this meeting and its leadership, stronger language on gender equality, women’s empowerment and youth’s role in development was made possible,” Theresa Nera-Lauron, co-chair and CSO Policy Advisor, Effective Development Cooperation told IPS.

The HLM2Nairobi built on the Rome Declaration on Harmonisation (2003), the set of principles adopted in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005), the Accra Agenda for Action (2008), the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan (2011) where the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) was born, and the outcome of the First High-Level Meeting of the GPEDC in Mexico City (2014).

Patricia Akakpo, Programme Manager, Network for Women Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT), says despite progress on gender equality and women’s rights, much needs to be improved.

“The general CSO concern, for instance, on democratic ownership is not about shared ownership. The shrinking space of women’s rights and a backlash on gains made in gender and women rights clearly reveals that more needs to be done,” Akalepo told IPS.

She says gender-responsive budgeting has been sector-specific, coupled with failure of the governments to meet commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“If you look across countries, institutions working on gender equality and women’s rights issues are the least funded. Gender ministries are the least funded. Feminists organizations don’t have the funds to organize to advance women’s rights,” she says.

This comes in the wake of concerns regarding the failure of development support to marry country development policies.

“We need to look at quality for development cooperation and aid in general as countries have been getting much on development support, but little concern is given to whether the support marry with the country development policies, such as the Vision 2030 for Kenya, “said Gichohi.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta reiterated the need to include all sectors of the population in the development and implementation of the socio-economic agenda.

“We are happy that the topic of incorporating women, youth and persons with disabilities in the development cooperation has raised big interest in this meeting. We must chose to champion the economic empowerment of women and youth in recognition to the potential they can contribute to the Agenda 2030,” said Uhuru when he opened the HLM2Nairobi meeting.

“HLM2Nairobi focussed on women and youth, a population largely left out. Nothing about us without us. We must involve the voices of youth and women in the development agenda,” Memory Kachambwa, Programme Manager for the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), told IPS in an interview.

Reacting to President Uhuru’s sentiment, Kachambwa reiterated the need for policymakers to stop viewing women as victims, and rather as agents of change in their own right who should influence the aid agenda.

Africa, a continent endowed with rich natural resources – especially from the extractives sector – has borne the brunt of tied aid and illicit financial flows, but concern was also raised about the impact of it on the women.

“For every one dollar that comes through development aid, 10 dollars leaves African countries. African has natural resources, but cannot be accounted for, and has been the interest of donor countries which have Multi-National Companies. Governments need to work on certain jurisdictions that provide multinational companies loopholes for tax avoidance,” said Kachambwa.

In a report last year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said that companies and government officials are skimming as much as 60 billion dollars annually though illicit financial flows.

“The 60 billion dollars lost through illicit financial flows from African continent is much more than the aid being received. Women are disproportionately affected. This shows there is more in utilizing local resources to fund development in the developing world,” Angel Gurria, OECD Secretary General, told IPS in an interview.

With women facing the harsh reality of fragility in states witnessing violence, Kachambwa calls for linkages with instruments such as the UN Security Council Resolution 1825 and Beijing Declaration.

“Women’s leadership, active participation and influence on different levels in society is important for a sustainable development and a strong democracy,” says Lisbeth Petersen, head of the International Programme Department at Forum Syd.

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New Anti-Corruption Leader Takes the Helm in Ghanahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/new-anti-corruption-leader-takes-the-helm-in-ghana/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-anti-corruption-leader-takes-the-helm-in-ghana http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/new-anti-corruption-leader-takes-the-helm-in-ghana/#comments Sun, 11 Dec 2016 12:37:20 +0000 Kwaku Botwe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148178 Residents in Kumasi, the capital of Ghana's Ashanti region and stronghold of the opposition NPP, carry a casket, ready to bury John Mahama and his NDC whom they say is politically dead. Credit: Kwaku Botwe/IPS

Residents in Kumasi, the capital of Ghana's Ashanti region and stronghold of the opposition NPP, carry a casket, ready to bury John Mahama and his NDC whom they say is politically dead. Credit: Kwaku Botwe/IPS

By Kwaku Botwe
KUMASI, Ghana, Dec 11 2016 (IPS)

Ghanaian opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo has made history as the first son of a former president to lead the West African country, beating incumbent President John Mahama in the 2016 presidential elections held on Wednesday, Dec. 7.

Nana Akufo-Addo’s father, Edward Akufo-Addo, was part of the “Bix Six” leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), which included the country’s first prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah. Edward Akufo-Addo later became president in the second republic.“I voted for Nana because I believe his one-district-one-factory policy will create a lot of jobs so I could easily find one when I graduate.” -- Second-year university student Modesta Bonsu

President Mahama, leader of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDC), called to concede defeat and congratulate third-time contender and flagbearer of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) Nana Akufo-Addo minutes before the electoral commission came out to announce the results.

The 72-year old opposition leader fulfilled his lifetime dream of stepping into his father’s shoes by polling 5.7 million votes (53.85 percent) to beat 59-year old President Mahama who managed 4.7 million votes (44.40 percent) in an election with 68.62 percent turnout.

This was about 10 percentage points lower than the last presidential elections in 2012. The average voter turnout is 72 percent.

The NPP’s flagship campaign message of creating jobs and building a stronger economy seems to have resonated with voters in a country where almost half of the youth between the ages of 15 and 25 are unemployed, according to the latest World Bank report.

“I voted for Nana because I believe his one-district-one-factory policy will create a lot of jobs so I could easily find one when I graduate,” second-year university student Modesta Bonsu told IPS.

Osborn Adu, a 26-year-old IT worker, said utility bills and the cost of living have become so high that “sometimes I have to support my mom from money that I’m saving to pursue further education”.

A jubilant supporter of the new president celebrates on Dec. 10 in Kumasi, the capital of Ghana's Ashanti region and stronghold of the opposition NPP. Credit: Kwaku Botwe/IPS

A jubilant supporter of the new president celebrates on Dec. 10 in Kumasi after the results were announced. Credit: Kwaku Botwe/IPS

Economic analysts say the NDC’s flagship message of infrastructure development failed to gain traction, with survey results showing that the primary issues of concern for voters were lack of jobs, high cost of living, and corruption.

The energy crisis, which was at its worst in the last two years, also saw electricity bills skyrocket, resulting in the collapse of businesses and attendant job losses. The institute of Statistical, Scientific and Economic Research found in a 2014 study that on average, the country loses production worth 2.1 million dollars per day as a result of the crisis and that it lost about 680 million dollars in 2014, which translates into about 2 percent of GDP.

The Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Ghana (ICU) warned last year that more than 3,000 jobs would be lost to the erratic power supply by the end of 2015. It is of little surprise that in a survey conducted among SME operators by Policy Think Tank Imani-Ghana, many wanted to see a change in government.

The NPP not only promised to cut taxes on electricity bills but also to financially restructure and provide a recovery plan for the utility companies to ensure sufficient reserve of energy to end blackouts.

The NPP flagbearer’s message of building a factory in each of the 216 districts in Ghana and ensuring that farming communities, especially in the northern part of the country, have irrigation facilities for year-round production of crops – the one-village-one-dam policy – seems to have been well received by voters.

Former president of the Peasant Farmers Association Mohammed Adam Nashiru believes the policy will help create thousands of jobs for farmers. “Our parents who were rice farmers during the Acheampong regime in the 1970s could buy for themselves brand new Mercedes Benz cars because the agriculture sector was booming due to good government policies,” he said.

“In my personal interaction with Nana Addo, he embraced the Agriculture Mechanisation Services Centres programme, where in some communities they are going to have equipment like tractors, combine harvesters, dryers and everything, so that small-scale producers who cannot afford to buy these machines can afford the services of these centres,” Nashiru said.

“So this is also another nice idea because 1,000 peasant farmers combined cannot even afford to buy a single tractor. But when these opportunities are available, the farmers can have the services of these tractors in their respective communities. So we hope and pray Nana Addo will give it the needed attention so that people, especially in the three northern regions, can get jobs and that will help curb the rural-urban migration,” he added.

One issue that gained a lot of public attention is corruption. Several cases which many see as loot-and-share have bedeviled the Mahama administration. The legal campaign by a former attorney general to help the state retrieve some 12 million dollars the government illegally paid to NDC financier and businessman Alfred Woyome has dragged out to the point that the frustrated former AG said the only way to get the money back into state coffers was to boot the government out.

Adu Owusu Sarkodie, an economics lecturer at the University of Ghana, believes Nana Akofu-Addo’s policy of fighting corruption and managing the public debt – which has more than tripled from 8.2 billion dollars in 2012, when John Mahama took over, to 26.4 billion dollars – can save the country money it can then funnel into economic development.

Sarkodie said that the country could easily have raided “the 1 billion cedi [236-million-dollar] Euro bond that we issued right here, because there are so many leakages in the tax system which can be sealed to ensure we are able to raise a lot of money for economic development.

“So Nana’s promise to fight corruption can provide the fuel for his one-district-one-factory and one-village-one-dam policies, because the 51 million Woyome money and other such payments can do a lot of things,” he added.

Economists say the incoming government must work to reduce the high public debt and poor economic indicators such as high inflation, high interest and exchange rates and low GDP growth rate.

The outcome of this election also brings to a close the lingering question of whether Ghanaian voters lean more towards political parties or leaders of parties.

Since 1992, Ghanaians have shuffled between the two main political parties, The National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), every eight years. Things, however, took a different turn when then president Mills of the NDC died few months before the end of his first term. His then vice President John Mahama took over as the flagbearer and won on the ticket of the party.

This meant that while 2016 marked eight years of government for the NDC, President Mahama has served only four years. Political analysts were not sure whether Ghanaians would give the president another term or say goodbye to the NDC after eight years. The outcome of the election thus marks another historic event – Mahama becomes the first president to be denied re-election.

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The United Nations Volunteer: From Global To Localhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/the-united-nations-volunteer-from-global-to-local/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-united-nations-volunteer-from-global-to-local http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/the-united-nations-volunteer-from-global-to-local/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2016 09:04:17 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148083 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Kenya ]]> George Gachie, Kenya National UN Volunteer shares a moment with school children in Kibera slums, the community where  he is leading a Participatory Slum Upgrading Project for  UN-Habitat. Photo Credit; UNDP Kenya

George Gachie, Kenya National UN Volunteer shares a moment with school children in Kibera slums, the community where he is leading a Participatory Slum Upgrading Project for UN-Habitat. Photo Credit; UNDP Kenya

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 5 2016 (IPS)

Today 05 December is International Volunteer Day, and every year we recognize the invaluable contributions of volunteers to peace and development.

Consider this. George Gachie has been serving as a national United Nations Volunteer (UNV) with UN-Habitat for over three years. He grew up in the Kibera Slums – a challenging environment, where young people have very few opportunities and early pregnancy, school dropout, organized gangs, crime, diseases and drug abuse are common. In order to make it out of this situation one had to be smart. But as George himself put it during a recent UNV Blue-Room Talks event in Nairobi, ‘I am happy because it is volunteerism that got me out of the situation’.

In an acknowledgement of the expected role of the youth in delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals, volunteerism has now been recognized as a key driver in the development space. For Kenya, this is particularly apt given the large number of youth graduating every year but who find only limited employment opportunities.

Volunteerism is offering not only a chance to contribute to social development and a sense of self-worth, it also provides them with priceless lessons that sets them up for entering the job market and setting a foundation for their career.

The United Nations Volunteer programme has for many years delivered social services across a range of sectors. Today, the UNV Kenya programme remains one of largest UNV operations in the world, with 148 national and 47 International serving UN Volunteers. Kenya also contributes the largest number of UN Volunteers serving abroad, a testimony to the country’s commitment to humanitarian action and development.

Studies show that engaging in volunteerism from a young age helps people take their first steps towards long-term involvement in development. It is thus a perfect avenue to address the oft-repeated lament by corporate employers that the education system does not prepare students for the job market.

In that sense, volunteering is not just a way to get more numbers to ‘get the job done’, but a transformative opportunity for people from all walks of life, and a two-way exchange between the volunteer and the people they work with. By creating a sense of cohesion, reciprocity and solidarity within society, volunteering builds social capital, because it converts individual action into collective response directed towards a social end.

Volunteering also makes a significant economic contribution globally. It’s generally estimated that volunteers contribute an average of $400 billion to the global economy annually.

UNDP’s Administrator Ms Helen Clark has spoken about “ the tremendous impact UN Volunteers are making within the UN system. In implementing the SDGs, UNDP will continue to see volunteers as catalysts for change who amplify citizens’ voices and facilitate participation so that development can be truly people-centred”.

The impact of a volunteerism programme must be felt at the local level by building the capacity of people, including the marginalized, and should make the governance process more participatory and inclusive.

UNV has a strong track record of getting development results. In Kenya, UNV supported a neighborhood volunteer scheme to help ensure peaceful elections in 2013.

UN volunteers, including data analysts, planners, legal assistants and communication experts are deployed in 35 out of the 47 counties in the country, bringing critical capacity to the devolution process in Kenya.

In addition, 25 national and international UN Volunteers are engaged to support the humanitarian challenges on refugees in the country and well over 50 volunteers support operations of the United Nations Environment Program at its headquarters in Nairobi.

Having seen the contribution of volunteers, we can confidently vouch for community-based volunteering structures in all counties, to not only provide gainful occupation for Kenya’s youth, but to give them greater voice and participation in decision-making.

On the occasion of this year’s International Volunteer Day, the UN is committed to working with the Kenyan Government to integrate the concepts of volunteerism into development programming.

This can be done through various modalities, including facilitating volunteer schemes that target the contributions or integration of particular groups. Another area that holds great potential in advancing the course of volunteerism includes documentation of the various dimensions of volunteer involvement including its impacts on marginalized groups.

Volunteerism can be a powerful wind in our sails as we seek to achieve the SDGs and advance human development in Kenya.

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Unleashing Africa Full Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/unleashing-africas-full-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unleashing-africas-full-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/unleashing-africas-full-potential/#comments Fri, 02 Dec 2016 15:22:37 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148058 Amb. Amina Mohamed is the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and a Kenya’s candidate for the position of Chairperson of the African Union Commission.]]>

Amb. Amina Mohamed is the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and a Kenya’s candidate for the position of Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 2 2016 (IPS)

Africa, the cradle of mankind and home to the youngest population in the world, has a historic opportunity to realise its full potential, in sharing our potential prosperity, by enhancing economic growth, promoting and entrenching democratic ideals. That is why I am so passionate to be running for the coveted African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson.

Amb. Amina Mohamed

Amb. Amina Mohamed

It is time for the African Union to provide leadership. Africans of all walks of life are looking up to it. I also strongly believe our continent is at a turning point, a defining moment, when we must drive an agenda that realises a common vision of integration, cooperation, collaboration and committed leadership. It is Africa’s time; we cannot afford to miss this golden opportunity to put it at the centre stage of world politics and economics while improving the lot of our people and countries.

We already have a sound blueprint going forward as envisaged in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 – TThe Africa We Want.

This blueprint has a clear roadmap for implementation. One of the critical areas is achieving synergy of member States through collaboration among the eight regional economic groupings and AU’s strategic partners.

Africa’s markets must communicate with each other to harness trade and investment. Infrastructure deficit stands as an impediment towards this objective. We must secure seamless connectivity through people-to-people interactions, ICT and knowledge transfer throughout the Continent. Hard infrastructure development should also be reinforced by more intra-Africa rail, road, air and water linkages.

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere once said: “Together, we the people of Africa will be incomparably stronger internationally than we are now with our multiplicity of unviable states’. It is no longer tenable to keep talking of our great potential. It is time to make the African Continent; felt, heard and respected on the global scene. For this to happen, Africa must take greater responsibility of financing its development and programmes. Such has been the agreement by our Finance and Planning Ministers since March, 2015. Domestic resource mobilisation is the assured strategic complement to foreign investment and official development assistance. Focused leadership at the AUC will guarantee that this decision is fully implemented.

In order to increase the financial resources available internally, industrialisation and diversification remain pertinent. More specifically, we need to harness our blue economy and fast-track the mining industry.

Africa has to build the capacity of our youthful population. In 2015, African Youth aged 15 – 24 years accounted for 19 percent of the global youth poppulation and projected to increase by 42 percent by 2030. This is a demographic dividend to Africa’s prosperity. Women must also be fully enabled to play an inclusive role in all spheres of Africa’s development. Tapping into African talent will be the hallmark of my tenure. The collective success to Agenda 2063 lies in creating an indomitable human force to resolve Africa’s challenges.

Every African citizen deserves a life of dignity free from harm, in order to promote social justice and the realization of their potential. I am optimistic that together we can continue to create a Continent that not only embodies our pride and dignity, but also the hub for peace and stability.

Africa must also make its cultural diversity a cause for celebration. Cultural exchange across the continent through education, travel and symposia. This will renew our Pan-African ideals especially among younger Africans.

Our continent has made significant strides in expanding access to education and better health care. In order to shelter our population from extreme want, we ought to explore skills diversification and universal health coverage.

Investing in value-addition through agro-processing will increase Africa’s global market share and attain collective food security and comparative advantage.

Going forward, we must remain in partnership with the rest of the world. Global challenges such as climate change will only be resolved through cooperation. However, Africa remains most vulnerable from effects of global warming. As such, we need to; take serious mitigation and adaptation measures, utilise indigenous knowledge to generate local shared solutions and build resilient communities in addition to our continued demands for climate justice.

Thus, united by the vision of an independent Africa working for better lives of all her people, it is now time for the AUC to foster the realisation of Africa’s full potential through transformative leadership harnessed by the AUC Secretariat.

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Selling Their Bodies for Fish and a Handful of Shillingshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/selling-their-bodies-for-fish-and-a-handful-of-shillings/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=selling-their-bodies-for-fish-and-a-handful-of-shillings http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/selling-their-bodies-for-fish-and-a-handful-of-shillings/#comments Mon, 28 Nov 2016 19:44:53 +0000 Diana Wanyonyi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147985 People at Gasi Beach in Kwale County, on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast, wait for fishermen to buy the daily catch. Credit: Diana Wanyonyi/IPS

People at Gasi Beach in Kwale County, on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast, wait for fishermen to buy the daily catch. Credit: Diana Wanyonyi/IPS

By Diana Wanyonyi
KWALE, Kenya, Nov 28 2016 (IPS)

It’s Saturday morning and Hafsa Juma* is seated on a traditional mat known locally as a mkeka under the scorching sun outside her homestead, located near Gasi Beach on the Kenyan coast.

Clad in a traditional Swahili dress known as a dera, complemented by a mtandio wrapped around her head, Hafsa, 15, says she has been suffering from flu and headaches for more than a week. She hoped the hot sun might ease her chills and shivering, since her parents are unemployed and too poor to pay for a doctor visit."As much as I don’t like what I do, I'm forced to do it because we need to survive.” -- Asumpta, age 14

Hafsa is one of many girls who barter their bodies for fish and a little money at Gasi Beach on the Indian Ocean, in Kwale County. The oldest of three siblings, she is the breadwinner for her family.

Living near the beach, she is easy prey for male fishermen. She said started sex work two years ago.

“I completed standard eight [the final year of primary school] in 2014,” she said. “My parents are not well and that is why there is no food to eat at home. I’m forced to go and look for something small to bring home. I leave at around 8 p.m. and I come back to the house at around 12 a.m. Every night, I have one client. After he agrees to my demands, he gives me 200 shillings (about two dollars) and half a kilogramme of fish,” she said, avoiding eye contact.

Hafsa described being forced by her parents, especially her mother, to provide food for her family by offering sexual favours to male fishermen.

“I usually go to Gasi beach every day,” the teenager said. “In a month, if I work well, I get 5,000 Kenyan shillings (equivalent to 50 dollars) and I don’t have a problem with that.”

Walking with Hafsa along the shore of the Indian Ocean, our conversation is interrupted by a green wooden fishing boat with fishermen from the deep sea approaching the shore, where women, men and children with baskets eagerly wait to buy fresh fish from the fishermen coming in from the night catch.

Most of Hafsa’s clients are fishermen from the neighbouring country of Tanzania, who travel to Gasi once a year during the northeast monsoon winds and stay there for three months, from December to March, to fish and sell their catch.

After the monsoon season is over, and the foreign fishermen go back home, her clients are mostly motorcyclists who carry passengers, locally known as bodaboda.

“When I want to go to any given place away from home, I just board a motorcycle. When I’m almost at my destination, the bodaboda rider agrees to have sex for money. He gives me 100 shillings, and I also do the same with different bodaboda men to return home.”

Iddi Abdulrahman Juma is vice chairman of the Gasi Beach Management Unit, and a beneficiary of training from a non-governmental organisation known as Strengthening Community Partnership and Empowerment (SCOPE) that works to end commercial sexual exploitation of children in Kwale County. Juma blamed parents and guardians for making children vulnerable by sending them to buy fish at the beach.

“We’ve been seeing like 10 children coming here to the beach to buy fish, which is also dangerous. Some of them are already pregnant and others infected with deadly diseases. The age group of children who indulge in commercial sexual exploitation is between 12 and 17 years old,” he said.

Twenty kilometers from Gasi, in the Karanja area of Kwale County, 14-year-old Asumpta Pendo* sweeps out a thatched mud shanty. She says it is a mangwe — a place where palm wine known as mnazi (a traditional liquor) is sold.

Just like Hafsa, Asumpta also indulges in sex for money with clients, often drunk, just to put food on her family’s table. She is also forced by her mother to sell mnazi.

“I dropped out in class seven because my mother was unable to educate me and we live in poverty. Life is hard,” she said. “Most of my clients are palm wine drinkers. In a day, I usually get one or two clients. Some of them prefer to use condoms, while others refuse. They usually give me money — between a dollar and 12 dollars a night.

“If I refuse to sell palm wine to male customers here at home, my mother beats me and goes to the extent of denying me food. As much as I don’t like what I do, I’m forced to do it because we need to survive,” Assumpta said.

A 2009 baseline survey conducted by the End Child Prostitution in Kenya network, an umbrella of various civil society organisations, found 10,000 to 15,000 girls living in the coastal areas to be involved in child sex tourism.

To address this problem, SCOPE has partnered with the organization Terre des Hommes (TDH) from the Netherlands to implement a programme aimed at ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Kwale County and three sub-counties, Matunga, Msambweni and Lunga Lunga.

The strategy includes creating awareness among the general community and calling on local citizen constituencies to raise their voices against these abuses.

The coordinator of SCOPE’s End Commercial Sex programme, Emanuel Kahaso, said that the problem is serious in Kwale County, popular with tourists for its clean, sandy beaches.

“In 2006, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reported that there were more than 50,000 children in Kenya who have engaged in sexual exploitation and 30,000 who are selling their bodies along the beaches in coastal Kenya,” he said.

“As an organisation, we also found out that more than 15,000 children here in the Kenyan south coast are used for commercial sex work in tourism,” he said. “Because of traditions and taboos, parents do not talk openly with their children about reproductive health and some of the perpetrators who are found guilty of the vice are not arrested because of these taboos.”

Emerging hotspots such as drug dens, nightclubs and discotheques, as well as an increase in bodaboda transport, have lured many children into commercial sex. According to local sources, in many instances, early marriage and commercial sex work have been initiated by parents, as well as child sex tourism and prostitution along the beach areas.

The problem is further exacerbated by the cultures and traditions of the local tribes, which are gender-biased and support various forms of sexual exploitation of children. Illiteracy is high, the economy is poor and laws to protect children are rarely enforced.

At Msambweni Referral County Hospital, Saumu Ramwendo, a community health worker for SCOPE, empowers and counsels young girls on health matters and fighting commercial sexual exploitation. The group has so far been able to reach 360 children who are the victims of sexual exploitation and 500 others considered at risk.

*Names have been changed to protect their identities.

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Let’s Unite to End Violence Against Women in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/lets-unite-to-end-violence-against-women-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lets-unite-to-end-violence-against-women-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/lets-unite-to-end-violence-against-women-in-kenya/#comments Fri, 25 Nov 2016 01:48:16 +0000 Sicily Kariuki2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147952 Mrs Sicily Kariuki, is the Cabinet Secretary for Gender, Youth and Public Service in the Government of Kenya, Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya and Stefano A. Dejak is the European Union Ambassador to Kenya.]]> Rally against violence to women in 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya

Rally against violence to women in 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya

By Sicily Kariuki, Siddharth Chatterjee and Stefano A. Dejak
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 25 2016 (IPS)

Consider this. According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of Kenya, 4 out of every 10 Kenyan women undergo some form of violence, whether physical or sexual. This figure is staggering and should compel us to pause and reflect.

Today, on the International day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, let us join together to say: enough is enough!

Gender Based Violence, including domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking and harmful practices, such as forced child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still endemic in Kenya, despite the existence of legislation, administrative directives, judicial sanctions, and awareness-raising efforts by a variety of agencies and the government.

It is time for every man to start doing something to end the scourge of violence against women and girls in their homes and communities. A call to action was made by the President of Kenya, HE Mr Uhuru Kenyatta when he urged every citizen to join the government’s efforts to end violence against women and girls during the #HeForShe (a solidarity movement for gender equality) launch in November 2014.

The #HeForShe campaign aims to bring home the message that although laws exist to deal with gender violence and guarantee gender equality, every man must take personal responsibility to root out the vice of gender discrimination in his home. Only then can a society begin to take a stand together to bring to an end injustice committed against women and girls, denying them basic human rights such as a life in dignity, choice and freedom.

Did you know that gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average US$ 95 billion a year, peaking at US$105 billion in 2014– or six percent of the region’s GDP – jeopardising the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth, according to UNDP’s Africa Human Development Report 2016.

Violence and discriminative structures contribute to keeping women out of the workforce, thus dragging down women, their families, and entire communities for generations, in Kenya and elsewhere. For Kenya to reach the goals enshrined in Vision 2030 the potential of all Kenyans, women and men, have to be realized.

Kenya is at a demographic transformation. Fertility levels are declining gradually and Kenyans are living longer. There is reason for optimism that Kenya can benefit from a demographic dividend within 15 to 20 years. It is estimated that Kenya’s working age population will grow to 73 percent by year 2050, bolstering the country’s GDP per capita 12 times higher than the present, with nearly 90 percent of the working age in employment. (NCPD Policy Brief: Demographic dividend opportunities for Kenya, July 2014.)

For this to happen women have to join the work force. So improvements in health and nutrition status, especially of girls, women and children, is critical. Appropriate education and skills will enable them to participate in the economy and provide needed labor for its growth. In addition, studies have shown that girls’ education particularly secondary level, and empowerment will delay early marriage and slow adolescent fertility.

Cultural, social and economic barriers that hinder empowerment of girls and women must be addressed and we have to raise our voices to end the scourge of violence against women and girls.

Women are half of Kenya’s demographic dividend; if they are given the right tools and community support, they can not only become financially independent, but be the engines that fuel Kenya’s future growth.

So we need to continue to raise awareness – in Kenya, in the EU, and around the world – to provide information and raise awareness about violence against women, targeting the general public as well as professionals who can help change this situation: police officers, teachers, doctors, judges amongst others. And beyond raising awareness, Kenya has for the first time formulated a comprehensive framework encompassing practical interventions that we hope will drastically reduce cases of Gender-Based Violence.

We must, once and for all, say no to this clear violation of our fundamental rights. All women and girls should be able to lead a life free from fear and violence: in Kenya, in the European Union, and everywhere in the world.

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Kenya’s Youth Unemployment Challenge Presents Opportunitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/kenyas-youth-unemployment-challenge-presents-opportunities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyas-youth-unemployment-challenge-presents-opportunities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/kenyas-youth-unemployment-challenge-presents-opportunities/#comments Tue, 22 Nov 2016 16:29:54 +0000 Ambassador Ken Osinde and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147888 Ambassador Ken Osinde is Chief of Staff, Office of the Deputy President of Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya.]]> Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and CEO of Safaricom, Bob Collymore at launch of the SDGs in Nairobi. Key role of private sector recognized. Credit: UNDP Kenya

Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and CEO of Safaricom, Bob Collymore at launch of the SDGs in Nairobi. Key role of private sector recognized. Credit: UNDP Kenya

By Ambassador Ken Osinde and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 22 2016 (IPS)

Consider this paradox. Every year 1 million young people join the job market in Kenya, yet Kenya has the largest number of jobless youth in East Africa.

As the government puts in place measures for addressing the issue of high youth unemployment and poverty, The private sector needs to join forces to sustainably grow its business and markets. Businesses and the societies that they operate in are symbiotic and it is now an established maxim that business cannot succeed in societies that fail.

Tackling poverty is the main mission of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda signed last year by 193 global leaders. The agenda obliges nations to tackle the causes of poverty by meeting the people’s health, education and social needs, to reduce inequality and exclusion and at the same time avoid wrecking the ecosystems on which life depends.

The target population for the SDGs – includes those who live below the poverty line and who make up nearly half of the population. Innovative organisations, whether in the public or private sector, have for a while now woken up to the reality that this population is critical to their future growth and sustainability.

The SDGs dovetail well with the pursuit of innovation which is at the heart of business sustainability. Innovation will drive sustainable impact because it aims to create value and expand opportunity for people to live better lives. It enables business to remain at the cutting edge of market competition and in turn generate tax revenues that governments can use to improve public services.

That pursuit for universal prosperity will have to be driven by a major paradigm shift, where the divide between government and profit-driven enterprises are purposefully bridged. Collaboration between business and public sector offers enormous promise when their respective talent, drive, expertise and resources are harnessed through a win-win partnership.

According to a study by PWC in 2015 – Make it Your Business, Engaging with the SDGs – 92% of businesses are aware of the SDGs, 72% are planning to take action, 29% are setting goals aligned with them, and 13% of businesses have identified the tools that they need.

It is encouraging that companies like leading Kenyan telecommunications company Safaricom are among the 13% in Kenya, leading the way in identifying the tools required and implementing strategies for change that align their business strategy to the SDGs through shared value creation.

Safaricom’s True Value assessment shows that the company sustained over 182,000 direct and indirect jobs during the year and, if the wider effects on the economy are included, this number increases to over 845,000 jobs.

What if we have five companies as purpose-driven and successful as Safaricom in Kenya?

The impact would be enormous. Such businesses would create jobs, boost tax revenues, and provide products and services which all helps improving standards of living for the poor. By increasing incomes and by improving quality, affordability, convenience, and choice in the marketplace, they would enhance access to healthcare, nutrition, connectivity, energy, water and sanitation and financial security.

Investing in the achievement of the SDGs supports pillars of business success, including the existence of rules-based markets, transparent financial systems, and non-corrupt and well-governed institutions and inclusive economic growth to reduce the critical wealth disparity in the country.

In Kenya, nowhere do these disparities stand out more than in the number of unemployed youth. It is now widely acknowledged that this pool of youth represent a unique potential for a demographic dividend.

“This dividend will be a reality if public and private partnerships help youth break out of a cycle of inter-generational poverty through entrepreneurship opportunities in such high-value sectors as agribusiness.” says Ambassador Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s Foreign Minister.

The majority of unemployed youth are afterall, in rural areas, and the focus should be on adding value to agricultural products, encouraging local-manufacturing, providing necessary infrastructure to stem urban migration and empowering women and youth to run small businesses.

Strengthening the education system to better deliver skills and competencies wanted by employers is another area to look at. Models such as the ones from Kuhustle or Andela are interesting to examine in our collective quest to quickly help wider scaleup and replication to more industries and sectors.

The youth in remote and poor underserved areas also represent incredibly important and rapidly growing potential markets as well as backward and forward supply chains through small business entrepreneurship if purchasing power and demand growth occurs with inclusive economic stimulation.

Properly empowered and prepared with skills to enter the job market, this population represents potential employees but also customers for businesses. This ultimately translates to reduction in household poverty levels.

President Uhuru Kenyatta remarked that, “While the private sector can and should contribute significantly to attaining the SDGs, governments will play an important role because they can address market failures”. As evidence, the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO) framework established by the President has enabled thousands of youth to graduate into entrepreneurs.

The United Nations and the Government of Kenya also stand ready to catalyse multi-stakeholder ecosystems in support of this agenda. We have a window of opportunity to engage these stakeholders to support local planning and technical SDG processes, especially through the SDG Philanthropy Platform established in the office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya, the Social Investment Focused Agenda (SIFA) within the Deputy President’s office as well as Global Compact Kenya based at Kenya Association of Manufacturers.

Everyone has a role in the delivery of the SDGs and partnering with responsible, innovative businesses in that process raises our chances of becoming the first generation to end poverty. Here lies the opportunity for all of us to join hands on collective impact on our society and our planet to ensure that we “leave no one behind”.

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Climate Finance for Farmers Key to Avert One Billion Hungryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-finance-for-farmers-key-to-avert-one-billion-hungry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-finance-for-farmers-key-to-avert-one-billion-hungry http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-finance-for-farmers-key-to-avert-one-billion-hungry/#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2016 13:05:43 +0000 Fabíola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147864 The arid region of Settat, 200 kms northeast of Marrakech, Morocco. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

The arid region of Settat, 200 kms northeast of Marrakech, Morocco. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

By Fabíola Ortiz
MARRAKECH, Nov 21 2016 (IPS)

With climate change posing growing threats to smallholder farmers, experts working around the issues of agriculture and food security say it is more critical than ever to implement locally appropriate solutions to help them adapt to changing rainfall patterns.

Most countries consider agriculture a priority when it comes to their plans to limit the rise of global temperatures to less than 2 degrees C. In line with the Paris Climate Change Agreement, 95 percent of all countries included agriculture in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).“We need to find solutions that allow people to live better, increase their income, promote decent jobs and be resilient." -- Martial Bernoux of FAO

“The climate is changing. We don’t have rains that we used to have in the past. In the last decade, we had two consecutive years of intense drought and we lost all the production. The animals all died because they had no water,” Ahmed Khiat, 68, a small farmer in the Moroccan community of Souaka, told IPS.

Khiat comes from a long line of farmers. Born and raised in the arid region of Settat located some 200 km northeast of Marrakech, he has cultivated the land his whole life, growing maize, lentils and other vegetables, as well as raising sheep. But the family tradition was not passed to his nine sons and daughters, who all migrated to the cities in search for jobs.

In the past, he said, farmers were able to get 90 percent of their income from agriculture — now it’s half that. “They don’t work anymore in the field,” Khiat about his sons. “The work here is very seasonal. I prefer they have a permanent job in the city.”

Moroccan farmer Ahmed Khiat, who has struggled with drought but benefitted from a direct seeding program that promotes resilience to climate change. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

Moroccan farmer Ahmed Khiat, who has struggled with drought but benefitted from a direct seeding program that promotes resilience to climate change. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

Agriculture is an important part of the Moroccan economy, contributing 15 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 23 percent to its exports. Around 45 percent of Morocco’s population lives in rural areas and depends mainly on agriculture for their income, Mohamed Boughlala, an economist at the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA) in Morocco, told IPS.

Seventy percent of the people in the countryside live in poverty. Unemployment is common among youth and around 80 percent of farmers are illiterate. Khiat, for example, says he does not know how to spell his own name.

The impacts of climate change are already visible in Morocco, said Boughlala. The proportion of dry years has increased fourfold as surface water availability decreased by 35 percent. Climate change particularly affects smallholders who depend on low-input and rain-fed agriculture, like the communities in Settat.

“The studies we did here we found that between 1980 to 2016, we lost 100mm of rainfall. The average rainfall before 1980 was around 427 mm per year and from 1981 to 2016 the average is only 327 mm per year. This means that we lost 100 mm between the two periods. If we show them there is a technology so you can improve the yield, reduce the risk and the cost of production, we can improve small farmers’ livelihoods,” stressed Boughlala.

In 2015, families who used conventional ploughing methods had zero yield. But the farmers who applied so-called “direct seeding” had an increase of 30 percent. Direct seeding is a technology for growing cereals without disturbing the soil through tillage, i.e. without ploughing. With this technique, the scarce rainfall infiltrates the soil and is retained near the roots of the crop, which results in higher yields compared to traditional seeding. Soil erosion is reduced and labour costs go down.

Direct seeding had been tested in Morocco by INRA as a way to increase resilience to climate change. Morocco piloted this technology with financial support of a 4.3-million-dollar grant from the Special Climate Change Fund of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – designed to strengthen the capacity of institutions and farmers to integrate climate change adaptation measures in projects which are implemented under the Plan Maroc Vert, or the green plan addressing Moroccan’s agricultural needs.

Khiat was one of the 2,500 small farmers benefitted by the direct seeding for cereals in 2011. Facilities like GEF and the Green Climate Fund will be key for African farmers to access financial resources to cope with global warming.

However, the African continent — home to 25 percent of the developing world’s population — receives only 5 percent of public and private climate funds. Although it contributes very little to greenhouse gas emissions, Africa is likely the most vulnerable to the climate impacts.

The need to protect African agriculture in the face of climate change was addressed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech (COP22) with the Global Climate Action Agenda on Nov. 17. The one-day event at the Climate Summit aimed to boost concerted efforts to cut emissions, help vulnerable nations adapt and build a sustainable future.

“We need to find new sources of funding for farmers. Climate change brings back the uncertainty of food insecurity in the world. We project that we may be soon see one billion hungry people in the world if we don’t act strongly to tackle climate change. In the COP22, we saw agriculture regaining the necessary importance,” José Graziano da Silva, the director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told IPS.

Solutions should be designed and implemented locally, stressed the natural resources officer with the Climate Change Mitigation Unit at FAO, Martial Bernoux. “Our number one objective is to achieve food security and fight poverty,” he told IPS.

“What is more perturbing to small farmers is the scarcity of water and the unstable cycle that changes the rainfall regime. The frequency of climatic events increased and farmers have no time to be resilient and no ability to adapt. It is necessary to work with microcredit mechanisms to help them,” said Bernoux.

When climate change is added to the food security equation, local solutions become more complex, he said. “We need to hear the communities’ demands, their deficiencies and potentialities to improve, like establishing an early warning system to inform farmers some days in advance when the rain is coming so they can prepare the land. If they lose this opportunity, it could be fatal for the yield.”

Agriculture is an overarching issue that affects nearly all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including food security, zero poverty, resilience and adaptation, argued Bernoux.

“We need to find solutions that allow people to live better, increase their income, promote decent jobs and be resilient,” he said. “By working with agriculture you connect with all the other SDGs.”

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This is No Way to Honour Kenya’s Contribution to Peace in South Sudanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/this-is-no-way-to-honour-kenyas-contribution-to-peace-in-south-sudan-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=this-is-no-way-to-honour-kenyas-contribution-to-peace-in-south-sudan-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/this-is-no-way-to-honour-kenyas-contribution-to-peace-in-south-sudan-2/#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2016 10:54:30 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147863 Ambassador Amina Mohamed is Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kenya. ]]> U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) force commander Lt. Gen. Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki of Kenya (R) stands next to Ellen Loj (C), Special Representative of the U.N. secretary-general. Photo Credit: AP

U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) force commander Lt. Gen. Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki of Kenya (R) stands next to Ellen Loj (C), Special Representative of the U.N. secretary-general. Photo Credit: AP

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 21 2016 (IPS)

The dismissal of Lt-Gen Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki as commander of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) comes off as a knee-jerk reaction that fails to address structural limitations of the UN peacekeeping operations.

Even more worrying for Kenya is that the action practically eviscerates the country’s unrivaled contribution to peace and stability in Sudan.

The reason given for the action was that the commander had failed to protect civilians during the violence in Juba last July. He arrived in Juba on 10 June 2016 and officially took over on 17 June 2016. The violence in Juba took place from 08 July to 12 July 2016. The tragic attack on the Terrain Hotel happened on 11 July 2016. The ex parte decision was arrived at against an individual who had arrived at the workplace just three weeks earlier, raising reasonable doubts about his culpability. This was clearly a scapegoating verdict rather than an honest intent to troubleshoot.

Kenya has taken part in peace keeping operations in more than 40 countries, sending out over 30,000 soldiers in the process. However, its military involvement was not the first contribution to peace in Sudan.

Kenya provided a huge logistics and operations hub for Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), way back in 1989, following a devastating famine and the civil war between the then Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Army. Kenya supported the first humanitarian programme that sought to assist internally displaced and war-affected civilians during an ongoing conflict which helped save millions of lives. It was by far the largest humanitarian assistance programme.

Kenya also took the lead in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in January 2005, by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the Government to end the civil war. It also set a timetable for a Southern Sudanese independence referendum. A top Kenyan soldier, General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, led in mediating the negotiations.

The two processes were quite long-drawn and laden with disappointments as would be expected of any belligerent setting, and Kenya bore the brunt squarely. This is why the latest decision to, as it were, blame the country’s military leadership on peacekeeping’s structural weakness did not go down well in Nairobi.

The government of Kenya has already protested the lack of formal consultation prior to the dismissal of Lt-Gen Ondieki, terming it a demonstration of disregard of Kenya’s key role in South Sudan.

What’s more, one discerns a whiff of jury inconsistency; in August last year following allegations of multiple sex abuse allegations against peacekeeping troops in Central African Republic, it was the UN peacekeeping envoy Babacar Gaye who was fired. Inexplicably, in South Sudan case the axe fell on the newly-arrived military commander.

Kenya’s ire is quite expected, given that the international community was already getting exasperated with the situation in South Sudan. Just a few months before the incident in Juba, the United Nations Security Council had authorised an increase in troops and the use of lethal force to protect civilians.

At the time, we in the region were acutely aware that something was amiss and the ability of UNMISS to operate was so crippled that it required urgent attention if its mandate was to be achieved. That was also precisely why most of South Sudan’s neighbours offered to contribute to the protection force and started working on making it operational.

It was also critical that the peace process in South Sudan be continuously encouraged along and any challenges that arise be quickly addressed, if justice was to become the cornerstone of the governance architecture in South Sudan. It had become abundantly apparent to many of us that in fact the situation in South Sudan required more sustained political negotiation and support than military presence.

A report by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services released recently acknowledged that operational and political constraints within missions were at odds with their legal authority and mandate to act and that some missions felt outnumbered and stretched “making the use of force only a paper option”.

As was the case in many conflict areas, military action without commensurate effort in political negotiations sets any mission up for only limited impact. Tough questions must then be asked not only regarding the success rate of UN peacekeeping missions, but also how to deal with the center when it is reluctant or too slow to respond to the needs of the field. Perhaps we have not learnt from Srebrenica, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Security Council should much more actively support regional efforts by ensuring that the forces on the ground have the enablers and multipliers needed to ensure successful missions. History shows that missions with adequate resources and attention are more often than not successful.

Unless the international community goes back to the drawing board, well-intentioned efforts by countries who contribute troops such as Kenya will appear unappreciated, and the civilians in South Sudan will continue to shed blood needlessly. Member states will not want to participate in missions set for failure ab initio and where the speed to condemn is disproportionate to the urgency in supporting the mission.

Firing one of our generals for the systemic weaknesses of UN peacekeeping and without prior consultation is not only disrespectful, but dishonors Kenya’s contribution to peace in South Sudan.

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Battle of the Desert (II): A ‘Great Green Wall for Africa’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-ii-a-great-green-wall-for-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=battle-of-the-desert-ii-a-great-green-wall-for-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-ii-a-great-green-wall-for-africa/#comments Sun, 20 Nov 2016 07:39:46 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147849 Tera, Bajirga, Niger - Women at work for preparing the field for the next rainy season by escaving mid-moon dams to save water. Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Tera, Bajirga, Niger - Women at work for preparing the field for the next rainy season by escaving mid-moon dams to save water. Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 20 2016 (IPS)

Desertification, land degradation, drought, climate change, food insecurity, poverty, loss of biodiversity, forced migration and conflicts, are some of the key challenges facing Africa—a giant continent home to 1,2 billion people living in 54 countries.

And they are huge challenges indeed, in particular affecting Africa’s vulnerable drylands. Just think that the drylands of North Africa, Sahel and Horn of Africa extend over 1.6 billion hectares home to about 500 million people, i.e. slightly less than half of the entire population of the continent.

Nora Berrahmouni

Nora Berrahmouni

Such rapidly deteriorating situation, which has been exacerbated by climate change and its growing impact, has mobilised more than 20 African countries around the Sahara (North, East and West), international organisations, research institutes, civil society and grassroots organisations, to build together what has been called: The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI) or simply Africa’s Great Green Wall (GGW).

On this, Nora Berrahmouni, Forestry Officer (Drylands) at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), tells IPS in an interview that the GGW core area (focus area for intervention identified) is about 780 million hectares.

What is this Wall all about? “Africa’s Great Green Wall, the so-called “Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI)” is a Pan African initiative, established and endorsed by the African Union in 2007 and it is Africa’s flagship initiative to combat the effects of climate change, desertification, food insecurity and poverty.”"Drylands of North Africa, Sahel and Horn of Africa extend over 1.6 billion hectares home to about 500 million people"-- FAO

Here, Berrahmouni clarifies that the so-called Great Green Wall initiative “is not a line or a wall of trees across the desert. The “Wall” is a metaphor to express solidarity between countries and partners, a mosaic of sustainable land management and restoration interventions.”

Regardless of its name, the plan aims at promoting:

• Long-term solutions to the pressing challenges of desertification, land degradation, drought and climate change,

• Integrated interventions tackling the multiple challenges affecting the lives of millions of people in the Sahel and Sahara, including restoration of production systems, development of rural production and sustainable development hubs,

• And an urgent call to development actors and policy makers to invest more on long term solutions for the sustainable development of drylands in the Sahel and Sahara.

Asked about specific examples, these are “sustainable management of natural resources, including soils, water, forests, rangelands; promotion of sustainable rural production systems in agriculture, pastoralism and forestry, as well as sustainable production, processing and marketing of agricultural products and forest goods and services, says Berrahmouni.

Other examples include the diversification of economic activities through rural production centres, to stimulate job creation and offer income generation activities, in particular for youth and women, and to spread knowledge exchange about the causes of desertification and the best ways to combat and prevent it.

FAO is a key partner of the African Union and of its member states in implementing this initiative. Indeed, for FAO, this is a “game changer in addressing poverty eradication, ending hunger and boosting food and nutrition security in the continent,” the Algerian expert explains.

Djibo, Burkina Faso - Planting seeds and seedlings. Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Djibo, Burkina Faso – Planting seeds and seedlings. Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

From 2010 to 2013, FAO focused on supporting the African Union Commission and 13 member countries to put in place an enabling environment for the implementation of the GGWSSI. These countries are: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan.

With funding from the FAO Technical Cooperation Programme and the European Union (EU), this leading UN body in the field of food and agriculture has developed and implemented successfully two complementary projects.

These projects have lead to: the preparation and validation of national action plans and strategies for the implementation of the initiative in 13 countries; the development and validation of Regional Harmonized Strategy, ensuring that all stakeholders involved in the implementation of work towards a common and shared vision, objectives and results, and to put in place a community of practice for the effective implementation of Africa’s Great Green Wall.

Berrahmouni tells IPS that since July 2014 and with the support of European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Secretariat, FAO is implementing with partners a project called “Action Against Desertification” in support of the implementation of the Great Green Wall in 6 countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal) and South-South Cooperation in ACP countries.

On November 16, FAO presented to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Marrakech, Morocco (7-18 November), a groundbreaking map of restoration opportunities along Africa’s Great Green Wall. at the UN climate change conference.

Announcing that there are 10 million hectares a year in need of restoration along the Great Green Wall, it informs that restoration needs along Africa’s drylands have been mapped and quantified for the first time.

The map is based on collection and analysis of crucial land-use information to boost action in Africa’s Great Green Wall to increase the resilience of people and landscapes to climate change.

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Rural Job Creation Holds the Key to Development and Food-Security Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/rural-job-creation-holds-the-key-to-development-and-food-security-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-job-creation-holds-the-key-to-development-and-food-security-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/rural-job-creation-holds-the-key-to-development-and-food-security-goals/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2016 21:45:00 +0000 Nteranya Sanginga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147847 Nteranya Sanginga is the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.]]> Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

By Nteranya Sanginga
IBADAN, Nigeria, Nov 18 2016 (IPS)

Harvesting the benefits of core agricultural research, which often bears on improved crop varieties and plant diseases, increasingly depends on the social and economic conditions into which its seeds are sown.

It is a sign of the times that Kanayo F. Nwanze, the president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development who started off as a cassava entomologist when ITTA posted him to Congo in the 1970s, was recently hailed for his efforts to create African billionaires.

That happened when youth from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture’s Agripreneur program gave Nwanze special lapel pins after his guest speech at our golden jubilee celebration kickoff.

Our institute, IITA, has evolved with the times. I trained in microbial ecology, yet while agronomy research –remains very important, it is initiatives like our Youth Agripreneur program that underscore how we are paying more and more attention to the need to boost youth employment, especially in Africa.

Creating decent employment opportunities, especially rural employment opportunities, is the critical challenge of our time in Africa. It is the lynchpin of any possible success in the noble goals of hunger and poverty eradication.

The most obvious reason for that is demographic: Africa’s population is set to roughly double to 2.5 billion by 2050. Many of them, perhaps the majority, have not been born. Income opportunities and healthy affordable food will be in unprecedented demand. Today’s youth play a huge role in making that possible.

While Africa’s cities are expected to grow, even that will depend on decent rural jobs being created. Agriculture is not only called upon to increase food output and productivity, but to create jobs and even bring in the best and brightest.

The prospects are, in theory, quite good. The world is increasingly turning to sustainable agriculture, and research shows that diversified farming systems are more challenging – experientially, cognitively and intellectually – which both cushions the drudgery and spurs innovation to reduce it.

Yet the challenge, as the population projections show, is formidable. Growing by around 300 million every decade means all sectors need a giant and focused developmental push. Perceiving agriculture as the rural sector from which one escapes will backfire.

That’s one of the reasons why entomologist-turned research administrator Dr Nwanze talks about the need to foster opportunities for youth.

The IITA Youth Agripreneur program has ambitious aims. It has expanded quickly around Nigeria and other African countries.

At the same time, IITA is partnering with IFAD and the African Development Bank for the Empowering Novel Agribusiness-Led Employment for Youth in African Agriculture Program, dubbed ENABLE. The goal is to create 8 million agribusiness jobs within five years for youth.

How can IITA’s research contribute?

Take our project on Sustainable Weed Management Technologies for Cassava Systems in Nigeria. As its name suggests, this is very much geared to primary agricultural work. But it is not simply about having more cassava but about having enough extra cassava, and having it consistently, to support the use of this African staple food in flour.

As such it fits into other IFAD projects aimed at boosting the cassava flour value chain in the region. Once the weeds have been sorted out, this initiative is designed to require large gains in food processing capacity.

IITA researchers have managed to bake bread using 40 percent cassava in wheat flour, so the potential for this initiative is very large. Notice that it immediately suggests a role for bakers, confectionary products and others. That means more jobs.

This relates back to Dr. Nwanze’s time as an IITA field researcher, as he was involved in a successful effort to combat and control the cassava mealy bug that saved the continent millions of dollars.

One of the big challenges for scientists today is to make research contribute to growth. Breakthroughs often lead to solutions of food-system problems and thus relieve hunger and food and nutrition insecurity. IITA showed that by developing two new maize hybrids that deliver higher levels of vitamin A and improve child nutrition.

But we can go further, steering these breakthroughs into veritable engines of growth.

To be sure, this requires improvements on many fronts, such as better freight transportation networks. But such investments pay themselves off when they serve a common goal. Africa’s need and duty is to make sure that agriculture is ready to deliver the goods for such a take-off.

All this by the way will not only boost Africa’s agricultural productivity, which is lagging, but will boost the productivity of research itself, leading to higher returns and, one hopes, attractive jobs with higher incomes and better facilities. That’s important for future microbial ecologists and cassava entomologists!

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Phosphate Mining Firms Set Sights on Southern Africa’s Sea Floorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/phosphate-mining-firms-set-sights-on-southern-africas-sea-floor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=phosphate-mining-firms-set-sights-on-southern-africas-sea-floor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/phosphate-mining-firms-set-sights-on-southern-africas-sea-floor/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2016 11:23:49 +0000 Mark Olalde http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147811 President Jacob Zuma answers questions at the National Council of Provinces on Oct. 25, 2016. During the session, he said Operation Phakisa helped drive investments worth R17 billion toward ocean-based aspects of the economy since 2014. Courtesy: Republic of South Africa

President Jacob Zuma answers questions at the National Council of Provinces on Oct. 25, 2016. During the session, he said Operation Phakisa helped drive investments worth R17 billion toward ocean-based aspects of the economy since 2014. Courtesy: Republic of South Africa

By Mark Olalde
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 17 2016 (IPS)

A persistent fear of diminishing phosphorus reserves has pushed mining companies to search far and wide for new sources. Companies identified phosphate deposits on the ocean floor and are fighting for mining rights around the world.

Countries in southern Africa have the potential to set an international precedent by allowing the first offshore mining operations. South Africa specifically is one of the first countries on the continent to begin legislating its marine economy to promote sustainable development, and questions surround mining’s place in this new economy.While the fishing and coastal tourism industries account for slightly more than 1.4 billion dollars of GDP, the potential economic benefits from marine mining remain unclear.

From April 2007 to August 2008, the price of phosphate, a necessary ingredient in fertilizer, increased nearly 950 percent, in part due to the idea that phosphate production had peaked and would begin diminishing. Before prices came back down, prospectors had already begun looking for deep sea phosphate reserves around the world.

Since then, the fledgling seabed phosphate industry has found minimal success. While several operations are proposed in the Pacific islands, New Zealand and Mexico rejected attempts at offshore phosphate mining in their territory.

This means southern African reserves – created in part by currents carrying phosphate-rich water from Antarctica – are the new center of debate.

Namibia owns identified seabed phosphate deposits, and the country has recently flip-flopped about whether to allow mining. A moratorium was in place since 2013, but in September the environmental minister made the controversial decision to grant the necessary licenses. Since then, public outcry forced him to set those aside.

Most attempts at seabed phosphate mining have sputtered in the face of moratoriums and other roadblocks. Graphic courtesy of Centre for Environmental Rights

Most attempts at seabed phosphate mining have sputtered in the face of moratoriums and other roadblocks. Graphic courtesy of Centre for Environmental Rights

The former general project manager of Namibian Marine Phosphate (Pty) Ltd, a company that applied to mine in Namibia, told IPS that environmental groups and fisheries proved to be a loud and organised opposition. He predicted the debate in South Africa would be just as difficult for mining companies to win with no precedent for such mining.

Adnan Awad, director of the non-profit International Ocean Institute’s African region, said, “There is generally this anticipation that South African processes for mining and for the policy around some of these activities are setting a bit of a precedent and a bit of a model for how it can be pursued in other areas.”

Three companies, Green Flash Trading 251 (Pty) Ltd, Green Flash 257 (Pty) Ltd and Diamond Fields International Ltd., hold prospecting rights covering about 150,000 square kilometers, roughly 10 percent, of the country’s marine exclusive economic zone.

Diamond Fields International’s prospecting right along 47,468 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean shares space with areas of oil exploration and production. Source: Diamond Fields International Ltd. background information document

Diamond Fields International’s prospecting right along 47,468 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean shares space with areas of oil exploration and production. Source: Diamond Fields International Ltd. background information document

The law firm Steyn Kinnear Inc. represents both Green Flash 251 and Green Flash 257. “Currently it does not seem as if there is going to be any progress, and there is definitely not going to be any mining right application,” Wynand Venter, an attorney at the firm, said, calling the project “uneconomical.”

Venter said the Green Flash companies received drill samples, which showed current prices could not sustain seabed phosphate mining.

This leaves Diamond Fields as the only remaining player in South African waters. The company announced in a January 2014 press release that it received a 47,468 square kilometer prospecting right to search for phosphate.

According to information the company published summarising its environmental management plan, prospecting would use seismic testing to determine the benthic, or seafloor, geology. If mining commenced, it would take place on the seafloor between 180 and 500 meters below the surface.

“A vital and indisputable link exists between phosphate rock and world food supply,” the company stated, citing dwindling phosphate reserves.

Diamond Fields did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Environmentalists argue that not only would phosphate mining destroy marine ecosystems, but it would also lead to continued overuse of fertilizers and associated pollution. They call for increased research into phosphate recapture technology instead of mining.

“We could actually be solving the problem of too much phosphates in our water and recapturing it. Instead we’re going to destroy our ocean ecosystems,” John Duncan of WWF-SA said.

The act of offshore mining requires a vessel called a trailing suction hopper dredger, which takes up seafloor sediment and sends waste back into the water column.

A southern right whale swims off the coast of the Western Cape province near Hermanus, a town renowned for its whale watching. South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources granted three prospecting rights covering about 150,000 square kilometers, or 10 percent, of the country’s exclusive economic zone. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

A southern right whale swims off the coast of the Western Cape province near Hermanus, a town renowned for its whale watching. South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources granted three prospecting rights covering about 150,000 square kilometers, or 10 percent, of the country’s exclusive economic zone. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

“It amounts to a kind of bulldozer that operates on the seabed and excavates sediment down to a depth of two or three meters. Where it operates, it’s like opencast mining on land. It removes the entire substrate. That substrate become unavailable to fisheries for many years, if not forever,” Johann Augustyn, secretary of the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association, said.

In addition to direct habitat destruction, environmentalists argue the plume of sediment released into the ocean could spread out to smother additional areas and harm wildlife.

Mining opponents also worry offshore mining would negatively impact food production and economic growth.

Several thousand subsistence farmers live along South Africa’s coast, and the country’s large-scale fishing industry produces around 600,000 metric tonnes of catch per year.

“[Mining] may lead to large areas becoming deserts for the fish populations that were there. If they don’t die off, they won’t find food there, and they’ll probably migrate out of those areas,” Augustyn said.

While the fishing and coastal tourism industries account for slightly more than 1.4 billion dollars of GDP, the potential economic benefits from marine mining remain unclear. There are no published estimates for job creation, but Namibian Marine Phosphate’s proposal said it would lead to 176 new jobs, not all of them local.

“The benefits are not coming back to the greater South African community,” Awad said. “African countries generally have been quite poor at negotiating the benefits through multinational companies’ exploitation of coastal resources.”

South Africa is one of only three African nations – along with Namibia and Seychelles – implementing marine spatial planning. This growing movement toward organised marine economies balances competing uses such as oil exploration, marine protected areas and fisheries. Earlier this year, the Department of Environmental Affairs, DEA, published a draft Marine Spatial Planning Bill, the first step toward creating marine-specific legislation.

According to government predictions, a properly managed marine economy could add more than 12.5 billion dollars to South Africa’s GDP by 2033. What part mining will play in that remains to be seen.

“Internationally the off-shore exploration for hard minerals is on the increase and it is to be expected that the exploitation of South Africa’s non-living marine resources will also increase,” the DEA’s draft framework said.

Neither the Department of Mineral Resources nor the DEA responded to repeated requests for comment.

Mark Olalde’s mining investigations are financially supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Fund for Environmental Journalism and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Additional support for this story was provided by #MineAlert and Code for Africa.

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Why Kenya’s Engagement with the UN Is a Big Dealhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/why-kenyas-engagement-with-the-un-is-a-big-deal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-kenyas-engagement-with-the-un-is-a-big-deal http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/why-kenyas-engagement-with-the-un-is-a-big-deal/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2016 17:27:41 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147799 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya.]]> The President meets Mrs Jumwa Kabibu who after 50 years of misery underwent a successful UN supported fistula surgery. Photo Credit: Newton/UNIC

The President meets Mrs Jumwa Kabibu who after 50 years of misery underwent a successful UN supported fistula surgery. Photo Credit: Newton/UNIC

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 16 2016 (IPS)

President Uhuru Kenyatta warmly welcomed dozens of U.N Agencies, development partners and senior Government officials to the State House on 02 November 2016 to discuss the joint development plan from 2014 – 2018.

He is perhaps the only head of state in Africa to take on this responsibility personally and believes in the transformational power of the Government-UN partnership to address national priorities for sustainable development. (Speech/audio)

The United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) is a critical document that guides government and U.N, partnership, ensuring the UN system is fit for purpose and contributes effectively to national development priorities.

The framework is nurturing a partnership grounded in dialogue and learning, leading to concrete action and progress. Important progress has been made in areas like HIV/AIDS, clean water, energy, food security, and the environment during the past 2 years of this UNDAF(PDF document).

“I am impressed by the progress achieved since our last meeting in August, 2015. It is truly encouraging to see the Vision turn to Action,” he said during this year’s review.

He was alluding to progress resulting from a joint Government-UN approach to addressing issues such as poverty and various vulnerabilities; progress coming from commitment to joining up efforts and pooling respective expertise and resources to make an impact on Kenyans.

Testimonials abound regarding this impact. (Watch UNDAF video). They include a 70 year-old lady who received treatment after suffering fistula for 50 years; matatu (public transport vehicle) owners who have improved the terms and conditions of matatu drivers and conductors as per international labour and a women’s community group bordering the Amboseli National Park who are part of conservation efforts through livelihood programmes.

The UNDAF has leveraged the devolved system of government with tremendous results in some counties. The innovative Governments of Kenya-Ethiopia Cross-border Program on Peace and Socio-economic Development supported by the UN has potential of being replicated in other parts of the world.

These are the kind of stories coming out of the UNDAF review process, whose emphasis is on accountability for results. The stories tell of impact across most of the major pillars of the country’s Vision 2030, which also overlap with UN priorities such as peace, security, and poverty reduction.

The UNDAF in Kenya is recognized by the UN Development Group as a best practice in creating an alliance shaped by common interests and shared purpose, and bounded by clear principles that encourage autonomy and synergy.

The Framework was developed according to UN Delivering as One principles (DaO) aimed at ensuring Government ownership, demonstrated through UNDAF’s full alignment to Government priorities and planning cycles, and internal coherence among UN agencies and programmes operating in Kenya.

The partners have also been able to jointly recognize and agree on the national, regional and global realities that should inform their interventions. For instance, both the Government of Kenya and the UN are aware of Kenya’s looming youth bulge with 1 million young people joining the work force annually and the need to turn it into a demographic dividend, lest it turn into a demographic disaster.

“We must focus on our youth and provide alternatives to crime, violent extremism and despondency,” the President said during the review.

Kenya is on a journey to realizing Vision 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. The UNDAF has demonstrated that it presents the best opportunity for powering the implementation of Kenya’s development agenda. Kenya’s engagement with the United Nations Country Team and indeed all development partners brought together under a solid framework is therefore a plus for the people of Kenya.

The UN and Government must not relent in pursuing more gains. New realities are bringing about new threats to social and economic development, calling for new approaches, but also creating new opportunities for collaboration.

These new approaches may for instance involve deepening private-public partnerships to engage a third force – private companies – that have unique innovation and implementation capabilities. This engagement can only develop better and more integrated solutions to important national challenges. (RC Speech Audio)

Ultimately, this framework is not about the UN or the Government or non-state actors, but is aimed at achieving a transformation in the lives of every Kenyan and ensuring that “no one is left behind”.

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Convincing Investors to Unlock Africa’s Green Energy Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/convincing-investors-to-unlock-africas-green-energy-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=convincing-investors-to-unlock-africas-green-energy-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/convincing-investors-to-unlock-africas-green-energy-potential/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2016 11:07:15 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147785 Mustapha Bakkoury, President of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), speaking at the COP22 in Marrakesh. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Mustapha Bakkoury, President of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), speaking at the COP22 in Marrakesh. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
MARRAKECH, Nov 16 2016 (IPS)

Lowering investment risks in African countries is key to achieving a climate-resilient development pathway on the continent, say experts here at the U.N.-sponsored Climate Conference.

Mustapha Bakkaoury, president of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), says his country’s renewable energy revolution would not have been possible if multilateral partners such as the African Development Bank had not come on board to act as guarantors for a massive solar energy project, tipped to be one of a kind in Africa.Renewable energy has been identified as a key driver for Africa’s economic growth prospects, but requires multi-million-dollar investments which cannot be done by public financing alone.

The multi-billion-dollar solar power complex, located in the Souss-Massa-Drâa area in Ouarzazate, is expected to produce 580 MW at peak when finished, and is hailed as a model for other African countries to follow.

“Africa has legitimate energy needs, and development of Africa will happen through mobilisation of energy resources,” Bakkaoury told IPS at COP 22 after a roundtable discussion on de-risking investment in realising groundbreaking renewable energy projects.

Bakkauory believes it is possible for Africa to develop its energy sector while respecting the environment. “What we say is that there is no fatality between having energy resources and respect towards the environment, and Africa has abundant resources to do this through its key partner—the African Development Bank,” he said, noting the instrumental role of Africa’s premier multilateral financier to renewable energy in Africa.

And in affirming its continued commitment to universal access to energy for Africa, Alex Rugamba, AfDB Director for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, told IPS that “the Bank’s commitment has shifted gear as it has now a fully-fledged vice presidency dedicated to Power, Energy, Climate and Green Growth.”

Rugamba added that the Bank has learnt valuable lessons from various initiatives it is already supporting, and knows what is required to move forward with the initiatives without many challenges.

Renewable energy has been identified as a key driver for Africa’s economic growth prospects, but requires multi-million-dollar investments which cannot be done by public financing alone.

Private sector involvement is required to drive this agenda, a point underscored by World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development, Laura Tuck.

“Private sector cannot be ignored because the money they have is more than what is available under public financing,” she says.

But the risk is believed to be too high for private investors to off-load their money into Africa’s renewables, a relatively new investment portfolio with a lot of uncertainties. German Parliament State Secretary Thomas Silberhorn says the highest risk in Africa is politically related.

“It’s not about economic risks alone, but also political risks,” said Silberhorn. “You don’t need to convince German investors about solar energy because they already know that it works, what they need is reliability on the political environment and sustainability of their investments.”

Silberhorn, who gave an example of a multi-million-dollar project in Kenya currently on hold due to political interference, added that ways to reduce political risks should be devised for Africa to benefit from private sector investments in renewables.

But even as risk factors abound, World Bank’s Tuck believes there is hope for Africa, citing Zambia, where record cheap solar energy has been recorded.

“Through a competitive bidding process, we have in Zambia under the Bank’s ‘Scaling Solar’ program, recorded the cheapest price at 6.02 cents per KWh,” she said, heralding it as a model to follow in de-risking climate investments for Africa’s growth.

And in keeping with the objective of universal energy for all, experts note the need to ensure that the end users are not exploited at the expense of investors.

“While the state should not interfere in this business model to work, modalities have to be put in place to ensure that the people for which energy is needed, afford it, otherwise, the project becomes useless,” said MASEN’s Bakkaoury.

Following up on this key aspect and responding to the political risk question, Simon Ngure of KenGen Kenya proposes a key principle to minimise political interference—involvement of the local communities.

“If you involve the local communities from the onset, regardless of whether governments change, the projects succeed because the people will have seen the benefits already,” said Ngure, who also noted policy restructuring as another key component to de-risk climate investments.

Agreed that de-risking investment is a crucial component, small grants are another issue that the African Union Commission’s implementing Agency, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), believes could unlock the continent’s challenge of access to climate financing.

NEPAD Director of Programmes Estherine Fotabong told IPS that it was for this reason that the agency established the NEPAD Climate Change Fund to strengthen the resilience of African countries by building national, sub-regional and continental capacity.

“One of the objectives of the fund is to support concrete action for communities on the ground, but most importantly, to help with capacity building of member states to be able to leverage financing from complicated climate financial regimes,” said Fotabong, citing ECOWAS which she said used the funding to leverage financing from the Green Climate Fund, one of the financing regimes under the UNFCCC.

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