Inter Press ServiceAfrica – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sun, 27 May 2018 01:35:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Public-Private Pacts Open Doors to Climate Finance in Rwanda and Ethiopiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/public-private-pacts-open-doors-climate-finance-rwanda-ethiopia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=public-private-pacts-open-doors-climate-finance-rwanda-ethiopia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/public-private-pacts-open-doors-climate-finance-rwanda-ethiopia/#respond Sat, 26 May 2018 18:46:17 +0000 Ahn Mi Young http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155935 The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) presented the African model of a National Financing Vehicle in which the governments of Rwanda and Ethiopia have successfully promoted green growth and climate resilience, at an event May 25 on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in […]

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From left, Anthony Nyong, Director of Climate Change and Green Growth at AfDB, Hyoeun Jenny Kim, Deputy Director General of GGGI, Fisiha Abera, Director General of the International Financial Institutions Cooperation (Ethiopia). Credit: Ahn Miyoung/IPS

From left, Anthony Nyong, Director of Climate Change and Green Growth at AfDB, Hyoeun Jenny Kim, Deputy Director General of GGGI, Fisiha Abera, Director General of the International Financial Institutions Cooperation (Ethiopia). Credit: Ahn Miyoung/IPS

By Ahn Mi Young
BUSAN, May 26 2018 (IPS)

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) presented the African model of a National Financing Vehicle in which the governments of Rwanda and Ethiopia have successfully promoted green growth and climate resilience, at an event May 25 on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Busan, South Korea.

GGGI and AfDB signed a partnership to accelerate Africa’s inclusive and sustainable green growth.

“We will focus on Africa, as we are seeing a huge potential in Africa,” Hyoeun Jenny Kim, deputy director general of GGGI, said in her opening remarks.

“So far, we’ve worked very closely and very extensively with Ethiopia and Rwanda throughout the comprehensive stages of designing and developing projects as well as mobilizing funds,” she told IPS after the side event.

“We’ve so far worked only with a small number of countries… But these climate funding success stories in Rwanda and Ethiopia encouraged us to extend our reach to other Africa countries like Senegal, Uganda or Mozambique,” she added.

After a two-year stint as ambassador to Senegal, Kim, who previously worked at the OECD, joined GGGI in May as its new deputy director general, in charge of planning and implementation of 33 projects in 25 countries.

She emphasized the need for adopting locally relevant green growth paths in Africa, as well as mobilizing funds. “When I was working at OECD, I was seeing the agenda from a global perspective. [While in Senegal as a Korean ambassador], I have seen the unique and particular reality facing each African country. So I understand the need to adapt our climate resilience and green growth initiatives to fit the particular condition of each African country.”

The side event highlighted how Rwanda and Ethiopia have used public investment funding to bring aboard private sector investment with close cooperation with GGGI.

Hubert Ruzibiza, CEO of Rwanda’s Green Fund, revealed how Rwanda has successfully financed green growth and climate resilience through its National Fund for Environment and Climate Change (FONERWA), whose function is to identify and invest in the best public and private projects that have the potential for transformative change that aligns with Rwanda’s commitment to building a strong green economy.

The fund has created about 137,000 green jobs, rehabilitated 19,304 area (ha) of land against erosion, and made about 28,000 families connected to off-grid clean energy.

“FONERWA has a global track record as the national financing mechanism by bringing together public and private sector investment,” Ruzibiza noted.

The side event also highlighted the GGGI-Ethiopia partnership to design, develop and implement Ethiopia’s political commitment to CRGE (Climate Resilience Green Economy), as well as its national financing mechanism called the Ethiopia CRGE Facility, which is the country’s primary financial instrument to mobilize, access and combine domestic and international, public and private sources of finance to support the institutional building and implementation of the CRGE Strategy.

“As we are raising the green growth and climate resilient funding, especially from small and medium-sized business that constitutes about 90 percent of our business, so are the number of projects increasing,” said Fisiha Abera, Director General of the International Financial Institutions Cooperation in Ethiopia.

GGGI has been working closely with the government of Ethiopia since 2010 to omplement its CRGE strategy. GGGI supported CRGE to mobilize a 60-million-dollar grant from the Adaptation Fund (AF) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF), as well as another 75 million in climate finance. Most recently, GGGI helped mobilize 300 million dollars from the international private sector for the Mekele Water Supply Project.

“The CRGE model shows the importance of the government’s political commitment in which the government takes a holistic national approach. So our advisers are working closely with a wide variety of government functions,” said Kim.

The AfDB and GGGI signed an MOU on the sidelines of the African Development Bank Group’s Annual Meetings in Busan to promote programs, conduct joint studies and research activities to accelerate green growth options for African countries, as well as to work together in the GGGI’s cities programs and the AfDB’s initiatives on clean energy, sustainable landscapes, green cities, water and sanitation, with the ultimate goal of strengthening climate resilience in Africa.

The MOU was signed by Kim of GGI and Amadou Hott, Vice-President, Power, Energy, Climate and Green Growth, AfDB.

Ban Ki-moon, who previously served as the eighth Secretary General of the United Nations, took office as President of the Assembly and Chairman of the council of GGGI on March 27.

Headquartered in the heart of Seoul, GGGI has 28 member states and employs staff from more than 40 countries. Its areas of focus include green cities, water and sanitation, sustainable landscapes, sustainable energy and cross-cutting strategies for financing mechanisms.

AFDB is Africa’s premier development finance institution. It comprises three distinct entities: the AfDB, the African Development Fund and Nigeria Trust Fund NTF. Working on the ground in 44 African countries with an external office in Japan, the AfDB contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states.

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Digital Revolution Holds Bright Promises for Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/digital-revolution-holds-bright-promises-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=digital-revolution-holds-bright-promises-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/digital-revolution-holds-bright-promises-africa/#respond Fri, 25 May 2018 11:43:05 +0000 Eleni Mourdoukoutas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155923 Eleni Mourdoukoutas writes for Africa Renewal*

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Techies in Lagos, Nigeria, work on an open-source project. Credit: Andela/ Mohini Ufeli

By Eleni Mourdoukoutas
UNITED NATIONS, May 25 2018 (IPS)

Internet penetration is creeping up in Africa, bringing the prospect of digital dividends to a continent long marked by digital divides.

“Africa has reached a penetration which has broken the barrier of 15 %, and that’s important,” says Nii Quaynor, a scientist who has played a key role in the introduction and development of the internet throughout Africa. He is known as the “father of the Internet” on the continent.

However, Africans have not developed the ability to produce enough software, applications and tools to give economies the dividends they sorely need.

The shift to low-cost submarine connections from satellite connections is less than a decade old. The new undersea fibres have led to a remarkable increase in data transmission capacity that drastically reduces transmission time and cost.

Today 16 submarine cables connect Africa to America, Europe and Asia, and international connectivity no longer presents a significant problem, reports Steve Song, founder of Village Telco, an initiative to build low-cost telephone network hardware and software. This has allowed countries to share information, both within the continent and worldwide, more directly. It has created more space for innovation, research and education.

“Networks have ended the isolation of African scientists and researchers. You now have access to information from the more developed countries, and this is changing the way people think,” says Meoli Kashorda, director of the Kenya Education Network.

Internet penetration on the continent has not kept pace with mobile phone diffusion. In 2016 only 22% of the continent’s population used the Internet, compared to a global average of 44%, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN agency that deals with issues concerning information and communication technologies. And only 11% of Africans could access 3G internet, which allows mobile operators to offer a high data-processing speed.

Access to technology

The ITU notes that the people most likely to have access to digital technology in Africa are males living in urban areas or coastal cities where undersea fibres are available.

McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, estimates that if Internet access reaches the same level of penetration as mobile phones, Africa’s GDP could get a boost of up to $300 billion. Other experts concur that better access to technology could be a game changer for development and the closing of the income inequality gap in Africa.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the richest 60% are almost three times more likely to have internet access than the bottom 40%, and those in urban areas are more than twice as likely to have access as those in rural areas, according to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2016.

The World Bank’s development report of 2016 notes that digital dividends, which it describes as “broader development benefits from using these technologies” have not been evenly distributed. “For digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere requires closing the remaining digital divide, especially in internet access,” maintains the Bank.

Businesses that incorporate digital technologies into their practices will create jobs and boost earnings, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB). The bank reported in 2016 that two million jobs will be created in the ICT sector in Africa by 2021. Analyst programmers, computer network professionals, and database and system administrators will find jobs in the sector.

Although the World Bank paints a less rosy picture for digital dividends in Africa, the potential for millions of jobs in the sector is encouraging news for the continent’s youths, who make up 60% of Africa’s unemployed and are jobless at a rate double that of adults. Youths can easily take advantage of the jobs that digital revolution brings, says Bitange Ndemo, a former permanent secretary in Kenya’s ministry of information and Communication.

Technology can also help bridge inequalities caused by the education gap. According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), over one-fifth of children between the ages of six and about 11 are out of school, along with one-third of youth between the ages of about 12 and about 14. Almost 60% of youth between the ages of about 15 and about 17 are not in school.

On the bright side, as mobile Internet access expands, so will the Internet’s potential to narrow the continent’s education gap. E-learning continues to grow due to its affordability and accessibility.

In fact, IMARC Group, a market research company with offices in India, the UK and the US, reported earlier in 2017 that the e-learning market in Africa will be worth $1.4 billion by 2022. It will improve the education level of Africa’s workforce that will contribute positively to the continent’s economies.

Eneza Education, for example, a Kenya-based learning platform, surpassed one million users in 2016. The platform allows users to access learning materials using various devices. They can access courses and quizzes via text messages for only 10 Kenyan shillings ($.10) per week. Eneza caters to students and teachers in rural areas where opportunities are limited.

Also, Samsung’s Smart Schools initiative equips schools around the world with tablets, PCs and other devices, and builds solar-powered schools in rural areas. Currently 78 Smart Schools are operating in 10 African nations, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. The company’s strategy is to encourage underprivileged students to use digital devices.

With women 50% less likely to use the internet than men, some organisations are now making efforts to attract women to the digital world. Digital technologies can provide opportunities for women in the informal job market by connecting them to employment opportunities.

Analogue complements

High digital penetration is good, but good governance, a healthy business climate, education and health, also known as “analogue complements,” will ensure a solid foundation for adopting digital technologies and more effectively addressing inequalities, advises the World Bank. Even with increased digital adoption, the Bank says, countries neglecting analogue complements will not experience a boost in productivity or a reduction in inequality.

“Not making the necessary reforms means falling farther behind those that do, while investing in both technology and its complements is the key to digital transformation,” notes Bouthenia Guermazi, ICT practice manager at the World Bank.

Yet digital migration is receiving pushback from obsolete analogue operators who are concerned about the risks of digitizing. Automation poses a threat to those whose jobs can be done by cheaper and more efficient machines, a phenomenon that primarily affects already disadvantaged groups. For example, many banks and insurance companies have automated customer services.

The United Nations has set the goal of connecting all the world’s inhabitants with affordable, high-speed internet by 2020. Likewise, the African Union launched a 10-year mission in 2014 to encourage countries to transition to innovation-led, knowledge-based economies. This mission is part of its ambitious Agenda 2063, aimed at transforming the continent’s socioeconomic and political fortunes.

Rwanda is leading the charge via its Vision 2020 programme, which aims at developing the country into a knowledge-based middle-income country by 2020. Earlier this year, Rwanda rolled out its Digital Ambassadors Programme, which will hire and train about 5,000 youths to teach digital skills to five million people in the rural areas.

Unfortunately, digitization ranks low on the priority lists of many developing countries. And according to a recent report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), productivity gains from digitalization may accrue mainly to those already wealthy and skilled, which is typical in internet platform-based economies, where network effects (additional value for service as more people use it) benefit first movers and standard setters.

In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, an intergovernmental economic organization of 35 countries, where the digital economy has evolved the most, growing use of ICT has been accompanied by an increasing income gap between rich and poor.

The UNCTAD report also states that developing the right ICT policies depends on countries’ readiness to engage in and benefit from the digital economy, but the least-developed countries are the least prepared. To ensure that more people and enterprises in developing countries have the capacity to participate effectively, the international community will need to expand its support.

Guermazi urges leaders to develop a comprehensive approach to transforming their countries rather than rely on ad hoc initiatives.

“Digital dividends are within reach,” Guermazi insists. “The outlook for the future is bright.”

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

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Excerpt:

Eleni Mourdoukoutas writes for Africa Renewal*

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Ethiopia’s Green Growth Goals: A Launchpad for Wider Climate Action in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/ethiopias-green-growth-goals-launchpad-wider-climate-action-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopias-green-growth-goals-launchpad-wider-climate-action-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/ethiopias-green-growth-goals-launchpad-wider-climate-action-africa/#respond Fri, 25 May 2018 10:13:45 +0000 Dex Agourides http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155916 Dex Agourides is Head of Programs - Africa & Europe, Global Green Growth Institute

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Ethiopia's Green Growth Goals: A Launchpad for Wider Climate Action in Africa

Landscape of Tetchia in Southern Ethiopia. Credit: GGGI

By Dex Agourides
May 25 2018 (IPS)

The vision for a sustainable future in Africa is being realized at a time of great possibilities and this vision is underpinned by a shift in continental focus towards sustainable and inclusive economic growth and development. This focus highlights strategic efforts towards poverty alleviation, resilience building, promoting sustainable infrastructure and, efficient management of natural resources.

With this, East Africa stands as one of the fastest growing region on the continent, with a projected economic growth rate of 5.9% in 2018 and 6.1% in 2019. Within the region, Ethiopia is amongst the top contributors to this growth, with notable growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) averaging 10.8% between 2003 and 2015 (Second Growth and Transformation Plan – GTP II 2015/16-2019/20).

East Africa stands as one of the fastest growing region on the continent, with a projected economic growth rate of 5.9% in 2018 and 6.1% in 2019. Within the region, Ethiopia is amongst the top contributors to this growth

Ethiopia’s rapid development is largely attributed to a public investment-led development strategy that has produced tangible growth and has measurably improved social circumstances.  These interventions have been guided by a series of targeted macro-economic planning instruments, namely, the First and Second Growth and Transformation Plans (GTP I 2010-2015 &GTP II 2015-2020), which outline the goals and benchmarks for Ethiopia to reach middle-income status by 2025.

Still, while inclusive growth and development is occurring, it has been differentiated in terms of distribution of gains across geographical regions and socio-economic groups.   This is partly attributed to the fact that Ethiopia has one of the most complex and variable climates in the world as a result of its location between various climatic systems and its diverse geographical structure.

Ethiopia, and its expanding socio-economic systems, are thus left vulnerable to adverse effects of climate change. So much so that by 2050, several key shifts in the climate are expected to develop, namely: Continued temperature increases; Annual rainfall variability and; Overall shifts in seasonal rainfall patterns.

Thus, climate change has the potential to leave the goals of reaching middle-income status by 2025, highly susceptible – the negative impact on the GDP is estimated to possibly reach 10% or more by 2050 – leaving the most vulnerable groups disproportionately impacted.

Recognizing the seriousness of this, Ethiopia stands committed to building a Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE), through developing a CRGE Strategy, which has been fully integrated into the GTP II at federal and sector levels. The CRGE embodies a political commitment to green growth nationwide as well as a realization that climate resilience is a core development priority for the future.

The CRGE is anchored in the following pillars: Sustained economic growth, at an average of 11% per annum (in real terms); Protection from the adverse effects of climate change and build resilience and; Limited emissions for this development trajectory and achievement a 64% reduction by 2030.  It is based on this that Ethiopia has submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC’s), making it one of the first Least Developed Countries (LDC’s) do this, with one of the most ambitious targets set by any economy globally.

 

Ethiopia's Green Growth Goals: A Launchpad for Wider Climate Action in Africa

 

As such, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) has been supporting the Government of Ethiopia since 2010, with the development and implementation of its CRGE vision and strategy – developed at sector level for Agriculture and Forestry (2014) and for Water and Energy (2015).  GGGI’s in-country delivery model consists of embedded expert/advisory technical support and capacity building to support CRGE ambitions and remain responsive to the dynamic issues facing its full realization.

Interventions are in fundamental alignment of CRGE strategic priorities, namely incentivizing targeted interventions and focused investment approaches that go well beyond the notion of ‘growth at all costs.’ Interventions are instead anchored in the principle of shared responsibility in building long-term, sector-wide resilience capacity to achieve carbon neutral growth.

To help ensure the bold vision and ambitions of the CRGE are fully realized by all of its principal stakeholders, GGGI supported the establishment and operationalization of the CRGE Facility, the CRGE’s principal national financing vehicle, based in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation (MoFEC).

This work has been focused on supporting the facility with positioning itself to mobilize and channel resources for climate action from domestic, international, public and private sector sources and the capitalize bankable green growth projects.  In line with this, in 2015 and 2016, GGGI supported MoFEC attain direct access accreditation by the Adaptation Fund (AF) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF), respectively.

Further, in 2017, GGGI supported the Facility with the mobilization of USD 60 million from the AF and GCF and mobilization of USD 75 million from bilateral development partners towards Ethiopia’s large scale Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Implementation Program.

With all that said, as we move forward and continue to build on the milestones reached in Ethiopia thus far, we draw on key lessons to continue to develop, scale-up and replicate climate-smart interventions to collectively achieve transformation and advance green growth development in the country and on the continent at large.

Our work moving forward shall continue to be focused on interventions that: Are aligned with Ethiopia’s key national strategies and implementation plans and anchored by its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs); Demonstrate real potential for transformational impact and; Demonstrate replicability/scale-up potential at national and continental levels, towards further unleashing climate smart opportunities in Africa.

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Excerpt:

Dex Agourides is Head of Programs - Africa & Europe, Global Green Growth Institute

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Africa Gains Momentum in Green Climate Solutionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 13:07:54 +0000 Sam Otieno http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155804 Promoting the widespread use of innovative technologies will be critical to combat the hostile effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and many African countries are already leading the way with science-based solutions. The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) provide support for countries in making sound policy, […]

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Kenyan farmer Veronicah Ngau shows off her young six-week old maize crops inside (left) and outside (right) of planting basins, an adaptation technique that conserves water. Credit: Ake Mamo/IPS

Kenyan farmer Veronicah Ngau shows off her young six-week old maize crops inside (left) and outside (right) of planting basins, an adaptation technique that conserves water. Credit: Ake Mamo/IPS

By Sam Otieno
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 17 2018 (IPS)

Promoting the widespread use of innovative technologies will be critical to combat the hostile effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and many African countries are already leading the way with science-based solutions.

The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) provide support for countries in making sound policy, technology, and investment choices that lead to better approaches for mitigation, adaptation and resilience.A satellite program in Kenya measures the progressive impact of drought on loss of forage, triggering timely insurance payouts to help vulnerable pastoralists.

From biogas to solar installations and improved water conservation, success stories abound on the continent. The challenge now, experts say, is to scale them up. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Africa’s renewable power installed capacity could increase by 290 percent between 2015 and 2030 — compared to 161 percent for Asia and 43 percent for Latin America.

The global Paris Accord is underpinned by its commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, securing funding for alternative sources of energy and adaptation of technology in everyday activities that are geared towards shrinking humanity’s carbon footprint on the planet.

African countries have internalised and made considerable efforts towards these goals despite budgetary constraints, with the United Nations lauding the continent for embracing technology and innovation in its journey to fight climate change.

Jukka Uosukainen, CTCN’s director, spoke with IPS during the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) Africa Regional Forum held in Nairobi, Kenya April 9–10, stressing that technology is already changing the fortunes of people in the continent.

For instance, Mali has successfully applied field contouring technology in rural areas such as Koutiala, reducing the volume of water runoff from 20 percent to 50 percent depending on the soil type.

“This has improved the yield of crops in an area that experienced severe drought and bettered the quality of livelihoods owing to a rise in income,” he noted.

Uosukainen said that Senegal has launched massive biogas digester projects through the National Biogas Program by implementing biomethanisation technologies that facilitate faster access to cleaner energy within the republic. The country also utilises tri-generation and co-generation technologies that use waste as raw materials for energy production.

Furthermore, Mauritius has aptly integrated the use of boiler economizers, which capture the waste heat from boiler stack gases (called flue gas) and transfer it to the boiler feedwater.

This has reduced the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, cutting energy costs and boosting socioeconomic growth amongst its citizens.

Morocco has adopted photovoltaic technology that harnesses solar power for greater energy production. The Noor Ouarzazate IV power station spans 137 square kilometres and generates 582 megawatts of renewable energy for over 1 million people. This has helped increase the nation’s uptake of renewable energy sources to an impressive 42 percent, lessening the rate of air pollution and enhancing quality of life.

In Kenya, a 630 MW geothermal plant has come on line, providing electricity for 500,000 households and 300,000 small and medium-sized enterprises. Kenya alone has the potential to generate 10,000 megawatts from its geothermal resources, says an analysis by Bridges Africa.

Tony Simons, director general of the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), said that most African countries have chosen clean energy technologies as a part of their environmental solutions and ICRAF supports these efforts through its work in developing cleaner options for woody biomass-based energy, a key technology used across the continent.

According to ICRAF, Kenya is using water conservation technologies like sunken-bed kitchen gardens and terracing to successfully increase yield production and improve food security.

ICRAF has partnered with several eastern Africa countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi in a project dubbed Trees for Food Security Project which conducts extensive research and development into special tree species for each nation.

This involves detecting the seedlings suitable for specific areas and ensuring modern agricultural techniques are employed during planting. The forest cover helps prevent desertification, reduces carbon dioxide emissions through photosynthesis and enhances of the aesthetic beauty of the lands.

And the Green Cooling Africa Initiative implemented in Ghana and Namibia encompasses modern air conditioning and refrigeration appliances that use minimal electricity and generate lower volumes of toxins into the atmosphere.

Simons called for gender equality in any strategies to address climate change because in all communities, knowledge of agricultural and natural resource management differs by gender, making it is essential to include women’s perspectives in addressing climate change at the farm and local level.

Rehabilitation of water projects is another field that’s getting attention, as African countries seek to reduce the overexploitation of such resources for the benefit of all stakeholders.

For instance, in Kenya, a policy of “green water” technology has been operationalized with the support of various local and international partners with the aim of curbing water shortages and channeling it to better uses.

This technology has enabled arid and semi-arid areas to have regular instances of water supply which is used for irrigation, animal husbandry and subsistence in homesteads. Therefore, it has limited the struggles that rural people undergo in search of water and pasture.

Also the government of Kenya, in partnership with the World Bank Group, the International Livestock Research Institute, and Financial Sector Deepening Kenya, implemented the Kenya Livestock Insurance program (KLIP) in the northern part of the county. KLIP, which is Africa’s large scale public-private partnership livestock insurance program, uses satellite imagery technology to provide early warning of drought.

The satellite measures the progressive impact of drought on loss of forage in the vulnerable pastoral regions of Kenya. It then triggers timely insurance payouts to help vulnerable pastoralists to purchase fodder and animal feed supplements to keep their core breeding alive until the drought has passed.

Acceptance of climate change technologies and innovations has resulted in better farming methods, higher crop yields, lower energy consumption and a reduction in carbon emissions throughout Africa.

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We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 14:27:23 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155759 Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Boko Haram has killed over 5,000 and displaced more than 300,000 people, according to US-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations. Credit: Stephane Yas / AFP

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Consider this. Boko Haram, the ISIS-affiliated insurgent group has sent 80 women to their deaths in 2017 alone.

The majority of suicide bombers used by terror group Boko Haram to kill innocent victims are women and children, US study reveals.

The incident only highlighted a growing trend of young girls joining extremist groups and carrying out violent acts of terrorism globally.

In a recent survey conducted on suicide bomb attacks in Western Africa, UNICEF found that close to one in five attacks were carried out by women, and among child suicide bombers, three in four were girls.

May 15 marks the International Day of Families, and this year’s theme focuses on the role of families and family policies in advancing SDG 16 in terms of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.

With terrorism posing a clear and present threat to peace today, and the recent trend where terrorists are using female recruits for increasingly chilling perpetrator roles, it is a good time to examine the various ways in which we are pushing our daughters towards the perilous guile of terror groups.

Amb. Amina Mohamed

Online and offline, terror groups are deliberately seeking to attract women, especially those who harbour feelings of social and/or cultural exclusion and marginalization.

The Government of Kenya has focused on the often-overlooked promise of girls’ education. The young girl of today has higher ambition and a more competitive spirit. She no longer wants to go to school and only proceed to either the submissive housekeeper role, or token employment opportunities like her mother very likely did.

She wants a secure, equal-wage job like her male classmates, to have an equal opportunity to making it to management positions, and access to economic assets such as land and loans. Like her male counterparts, she wants equal participation in shaping economic and social policies in the country.

This is why education is a prime pillar in Kenya’s National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism, which was launched in September 2016. The strategy aims to work with communities to build their resilience to respond to violent extremism and to address structural issues that drive feelings of exclusion.

Kenya has done relatively well in balancing school enrolment among genders. What young women now need is to feel that they have a future when they come out of the educational process. According to a recent survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), only about a third of Kenyans in formal employment, are women.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Although Kenya does not have a separate policy for girls’ education, the country has put in place certain mechanisms to guarantee 100% transition from primary to secondary education. This policy will address the existing hindrances to girls’ education and particularly, transition from the primary to secondary level where Kenya has a 10% enrollment gender gap.

Globally, it is estimated that if women in every country were to play an identical role to men in markets, as much as US$28 trillion (equal to 26 percent) would be added to the global economy by 2025.

Quality education for the youth must not only incorporate relevant skills development for employability, but for girls we must go further to provide psychosocial support. Already, girls and women bear the greater burden of poverty, a fact that can only provide more tinder if they are then exposed to radicalization.

According to estimates, the return on one year of secondary education for a girl correlates with as high as a 25% increase in wages, ensuring that all girls get at least secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa, would reduce child marriages by more than half.

All these demonstrate the cyclical benefits, from one generation to the next, of education as an intervention strategy. The Kenyatta Trust for example, a non-profit organization, has beneficiaries who are students who have come from disadvantaged family backgrounds. President Kenyatta the founder of the Trust says, “my pledge is to continuously support and uplift the lives of all our beneficiaries, one family at a time.”

For success a convergence of partners is crucial, spanning foundations, trusts, faith based organizations, civil society, media and to work with the Government to advance this critical agenda.

The UN in Kenya is working with the government to understand the push and pull factors that lure our youth to radicalization. One such initiative is the Conflict Management and Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) programme in Marsabit and Mandera counties, supported by the Japanese Government.

The project, being implemented in collaboration with the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the two County Governments, is part of the larger Kenya-Ethiopia Cross-border Programme for Sustainable Peace and Socio-economic transformation.

UN Women and UNDP in Kenya are also working with relevant agencies to establish dynamic, action-ready and research-informed knowledge of current extremist ideologies and organisational models.

To nip extremism before it sprouts, we must start within our families, to address the feelings of exclusion and lack of engagement among girls who are clearly the new frontier for recruitment by terror groups.

The post We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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U.S. Signals New Approach to Horn of Africa Allyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/u-s-signals-new-approach-horn-africa-ally/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-signals-new-approach-horn-africa-ally http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/u-s-signals-new-approach-horn-africa-ally/#respond Thu, 10 May 2018 12:13:42 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155699 The April inauguration of Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister came amid much fanfare and raised expectations for the future of true democracy in Ethiopia, while far less publicized though relevant developments in the American capital could also play a significant role in shaping that future. At a relatively youthful and spritely 42 years of age, Abiy […]

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Tewodrose Tirfe, chair of the Amhara Association of America, addresses press and supporters outside Washington’s Capitol Building after passage of House Resolution-128. Behind and to his left is Congressman Chris Smith and behind and to his right is Congressman Mike Coffman, both of whom played key roles in the resolution’s successful passage. Photo courtesy Tewodrose Tirfe/Congressman Mike Coffman’s office.

Tewodrose Tirfe, chair of the Amhara Association of America, addresses press and supporters outside Washington’s Capitol Building after passage of House Resolution-128. Behind and to his left is Congressman Chris Smith and behind and to his right is Congressman Mike Coffman, both of whom played key roles in the resolution’s successful passage. Photo courtesy Tewodrose Tirfe/Congressman Mike Coffman’s office.

By James Jeffrey
WASHINGTON, May 10 2018 (IPS)

The April inauguration of Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister came amid much fanfare and raised expectations for the future of true democracy in Ethiopia, while far less publicized though relevant developments in the American capital could also play a significant role in shaping that future.

At a relatively youthful and spritely 42 years of age, Abiy Ahmed is widely seen as a reformer who can take the necessary steps to calm a nation that has been engulfed in unprecedented levels of political unrest since the end of 2015.“The new resolution by the US House of Representatives is a reminder to the Ethiopian government that should it fail to reform, it can no longer rely on US largesse to contain problems at home.” --Hassen Hussein

Crucially, he heralds from the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), which represents the Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, and who have spearheaded protests against the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition party, of which the OPDO is a key member.

After the resignation of previous Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, many warned that if the EPRDF chose a figure from its old guard it might well lead to more, perhaps worse, unrest.

That has been avoided with the party embracing a politician with greater public support, and the first Oromo head of government in Ethiopia has already traveled to several areas of the country, promising to address grievances and strengthen a range of political and civil rights.

But, as everyone knows and agrees on, Abiy faces numerous challenges domestically and externally in bringing stability back to Ethiopia and settling a discontented populace that is the second largest in Africa.

One problem is the state of emergency declared in Ethiopia in February following the last prime minister’s surprise resignation (and which is the second state of emergency after the first ended in August 2017). This could hinder Abiy in moving forward with any reform agenda, because the new prime minister’s hold on the state security apparatus is much reduced than normal during a state of emergency, with a group of military officers referred to as the “Command Post” effectively in control of the mechanism of the state.

Also, the very fact of Abiy’s reluctance to push for the lifting of the state of emergency illustrates, observers say, how the internal dynamics of the EPRDF that played a large part in the undoing of Desalegn are still a force to be reckoned with.

The historical dominance of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the EPRDF continues to wield force and means Ethiopia’s new, apparently reformist, prime minister will need to deal shrewdly with members of the establishment resistant to reform or reconciliation efforts—if Abiy is, in fact, genuinely for reform, that is.

“I like the things [Abiy] has been saying in public—most of the country and many in the opposition at home and abroad resonate with the sentiments expressed in his public statements,” says Alemante Selassie, emeritus professor at the William and Mary Law School in the US.  “Still, I cannot say that I have full confidence in him, because he is a party functionary who rose through the ranks of the EPRDF and probably remains committed to upholding its hegemonic rule for the foreseeable future.”

Nevertheless, whatever the inner workings of the new prime minister’s mind, as an ex-army officer he understands the military-security apparatus and its culture; he has a strong party mandate and public support behind him, and he comes to power at a time when those previously in charge are reviled by the populace, thereby putting him in a unique position to potentially resolve many of the country’s problems.

Furthermore, recent developments in the US Congress may also have a bearing on what happens next. On April 10, the US House of Representatives unanimously adopted House Resolution-128: “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.”

The resolution—uunusually outspoken for US public policy in it criticism of Ethiopia’s government—condemns “the killings of peaceful protesters and excessive use of force by Ethiopian security forces; the detention of journalists, students, activists, and political leaders; and the regime’s abuse of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to stifle political and civil dissent and journalistic freedoms.”

The resolution and its wording deeply angered the Ethiopian government, which even suggested it might cut off security cooperation with the US if the resolution was passed. Ethiopia is viewed by the US as its most important ally in the volatile East African region, and hence receives one of the largest security and humanitarian aid packages among sub-Saharan African countries.

“The passage of HR-128 by the US House of Representatives without any opposition was a historical achievement,” says Tewodrose Tirfe, chair of the Amhara Association of America, a US-based advocacy group for the Amhara, Ethiopia’s second largest ethnic group. “The main difference this time, compared to previous attempts to get legislation through, was Ethiopian-American advocacy organizations working in coordination with human rights groups to bring to the attention of [US state] representatives the humanitarian and political crisis that has been unfolding in Ethiopia, especially the past three years.”

Congressman Chris Smith, Chairman of the House Subcommittee of Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, introduced HR-128, and played a major role, along with Congressman Mike Coffman, in achieving the passage of the resolution.

“Chairman Smith has held more hearings and authored more legislation on Ethiopia then anyone in Congress—he has been a voice for the Ethiopian diaspora for many years,” Tewodrose says. “Congressman Coffman put his political capital on the line for this resolution and helped us overcome every hurdle encountered.”

The vast sum of humanitarian aid and bi-lateral support Ethiopia receives from the US is not at risk—yet.  That said, Tewodrose notes, the Senate is considering a partner bill, which is even stronger in its wording. Senate Resolution 168 calls on the Department of State and USAID “to improve oversight and accountability of United States assistance to Ethiopia and to ensure such assistance reinforces long-term goals for improved governance.”

Essentially, Tewodros explains, this would tie aid to improved governance and more scrutiny of support given, because even though resolutions aren’t laws and are non-binding, if they have strong bipartisan support—like HR-128—coupled with the fact that Congress has the power of oversight, then agencies named in the resolutions would seriously consider implementing the terms of these declarations.

Furthermore, the Amhara Association of America and other advocacy partners are working to introduce binding legislation that would be signed by the president and would become the law directing how the US deals with Ethiopia.

“We believe this is a much easier task now since the Ethiopian diaspora groups are activated and engaged, the policy makers are educated, and we have built strong bipartisan support in Congress,” Tewodrose says.

That said, opposition exists in the Senate to the senate resolution, and there is still some way to go before a new law guiding US foreign policy towards Ethiopia emerges. But any resolution about Ethiopia, such as HR-128, could still have an impact on the actions of the Ethiopian regime and the new prime minister’s reform agenda.

Previously, though the US government was aware of well-documented problems with regards to human rights abuses, lack of democracy promotion and corruption at the highest levels of the Ethiopian state, it didn’t forcefully act to pressure Ethiopia’s government.

But the House resolution signals a shift in that approach. Besides condemning killings, detentions, and abuse of Ethiopia’s Anti-Terror Proclamation, the resolution also makes more ambitious demands of the Ethiopian regime including reforms that would protect the Ethiopian people’s civil liberties and release political prisoners, views that the new prime minister is also believed to share.

“The resolution could give Abiy a freer hand to deal more decisively with those resisting change—so far he has been very conciliatory and accommodating,” says Hassen Hussein an academic and writer based in Minnesota.  “The new resolution by the US House of Representatives is a reminder to the Ethiopian government that should it fail to reform, it can no longer rely on US largesse to contain problems at home.”

While HR-128 is an important development, what further US legislation, if any, follows it, is likely to have the most tangible impact on strengthening—or not—the hand of the new prime minister in persuading those power brokers within the EPRDF who control country’s security apparatus and the intelligence and economic sectors, to participate in negotiations for reform.

“The TPLF has ruled Ethiopia for the last 27 years with the support of the US and the UK,” Alemante says. “If it loses this support— financial, military, diplomatic, etc.— it has very little else to stand on.”

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Despite Setbacks, Africa Viewed as Continent of Hope, Promise & Vast Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 11:29:02 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155650 Africa has long been one of the world’s most beleaguered continents – singled out mostly for its conflicts, political and economic instability, rising poverty and hunger, inequalities and its environmental challenges. And in international circles, it is described as “Afro-pessimism.” Still, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has a more positive perspective of the long-suffering continent. Far […]

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By Thalif Deen
STOCKHOLM, May 7 2018 (IPS)

Africa has long been one of the world’s most beleaguered continents – singled out mostly for its conflicts, political and economic instability, rising poverty and hunger, inequalities and its environmental challenges.

And in international circles, it is described as “Afro-pessimism.”

Still, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has a more positive perspective of the long-suffering continent.

Far too often, he said, the world views Africa through a prism of problems. “But when I look to Africa”, he predicted last month, “I see a continent of hope, promise and vast potential.”

According to UN projections, Africa is expected to account for more than half the world’s population growth over the next 35 years. More than 30 per cent of Africa’s population is between the age of 10 and 24, and will remain so for at least the next 20 years.

“With the right investments, these trends could be the region’s greatest asset,” said former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

NAI Director Iina Soiri. Credit: NAI

With 55 years of study and research, the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), based in Sweden, has an equally positive view of Africa.

In an interview with IPS, NAI Director Iina Soiri and NAI head of research and governance specialist Victor Adetula, provided an assessment on the current situation in Africa.

Adetula told IPS the UN Secretary-General was right when he expressed the view that Africa has a vast potential for success.

“We are happy that world leaders are beginning to appreciate Africa in positive terms. We at the Nordic Africa Institute have always pointed out that there is hope for Africa despite all the challenges. Our knowledge production processes and outcomes, as well as other forms of intellectual engagement on the continent, run against the Afro-pessimism that is chanted in some quarters. For us, our knowledge of Africa makes us to have hope for Africa.”

Soiri pointed out that diversification of Africa’s image and promotion of the notion that Africa is “so much of everything” rather than just reduced to one image, this is our mission at NAI.”

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: Do you think that most African countries would succeed in achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including hunger and poverty alleviation, by the 2030 deadline? What would be the reasons if they falter in their goals?

NAI Head of Research Victor Adetula. Credit: African Peace Building Network

Adetula: First, the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not exclusively for Africa. Admittedly, the risks are far more for African countries due to a number of challenges. It is interesting however that the lessons of MDGs are being addressed in the SDGs, and there is hope there would be significant improvement in the performance of the African countries, particularly those that have made concerted efforts to synchronise the SDGs goals with their national development plans.

Soiri: The SDGs are global goals that oblige the whole global community. I would also like to point out that Africa on the continental level has its own Vision 2063, as well as national SDG plans. It is important that all countries are given support to enable implementation of the SDGs using their own strengths and analysis.

IPS: What is the biggest single political problem facing African nations? Lack of good governance or lack of financing for development?

Adetula: It is not so much a good idea to reduce the challenge of African countries to two issues, or to label them as political, economic, social etc. based on the historical experiences of other regions. However, it suffices to point out that the challenges in Africa have their causes in both the internal systems in the various African countries that are not supporting good governance, and the international environment which has become increasingly unfavourable to Africa.

Soiri: Again, countries in Africa differ greatly when it comes to governance systems in place. We again need to go into national level and address specific challenges. But as regards to financing for development, that is a problem shared by many African countries, as well as the whole global community.

IPS: Has there been a failure on the part of Western nations to fulfil their commitments on Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa?

Adetula: The ability of Western nations to meet up with their commitments on Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa cannot be the root cause of Africa’s development challenge. New knowledge has proved this assumption to be wrong that aid can produce autonomous development in Africa. Of course, we should admit that effective global partnership a way to go to promote global development. This needs to be influenced and driven by positive values of equality, fairness, and justice.

Soiri: At the moment, it is clear that financial commitments to match with the requirements of SDG agenda are still lacking drastically behind. Here, I would like to point out that instead of focusing only on ODA and other financial flows to Africa, more effort needs to be done curb illicit financial flows out of Africa and support domestic resource mobilisation. We need to rethink the whole structure of financing for development which has been dominated by ODA reported to OECD-DAC and open up the debate on all financial flows and transactions, to continue the so called Beyond Aid –debate.

IPS: Guterres recently warned that while poverty elimination is a shared priority across two agendas—the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 – there are “significant gaps that persist”, particularly with regard to industrialization, water, energy, infrastructure and the environment. Do you agree with this assessment?

Soiri: It is no news that huge gaps persist. What is most important is to facilitate knowledge and analysis capacity, strengthen countries’ own systems and capacity to own the development processes and allow national debate on the priorities. When a lot of things are missing, we need to first decide where we start to look for and for what – thus national consensus is essential how to go about national development plans.

And reach quick results to keep people satisfied and engaged. Global challenges in sustainable resource utilisation –water, energy, clean air, land, minerals – are huge and connected to sustainability of the whole planet.

And as there exist wide sentiments of grave inequality in how the resources have been used and overused until now, Africa needs to get more say when the future agreements on resource utilisation are made.

IPS: The UN says the majority of undernourished people in Africa live in conflict-affected countries, where hunger is almost twice as high when the crisis is protracted – advocating for stronger commitment by governments, the AU and the UN to promote peace, human rights and sustainable development? Any thoughts?

Adetula: The world is witnessing increase in violent conflicts and some new forms of violence, including those associated with globalisation processes. At the individual country level, good governance in terms of effective service delivery can help scale down the level of violence in Africa. Global governance and global partnership such as cooperation between the AU and the UN is a useful way to go.

Soiri: Many research has shown that there is a strong causality between conflicts and underdevelopment. Therefore most important is to solve the conflicts in order to create conducive environment for development efforts. But how conflicts are solved and peace agreements signed has a paramount importance for how the post-conflict development will succeed. Most important is to allow inclusive peace process which translates to inclusive long lasting state building.

IPS: What key role can the Nordic Africa Institute play in helping advance the political and economic transformation of Africa?

Soiri: During its 55 year of existence, the Nordic Africa Institute has been both the sign of and key for Nordic countries continued engagement in development of Africa. We embody our societies’ interest to continue investing in betterment of African peoples. Via our research and knowledge production and dissemination, we enlarge understanding of African key development challenges and their solutions and deepen decision-makers’ knowledge on best practices to contribute successfully for the development and conflict resolution.

We also build Africa’s own knowledge production capacity with our guest research programs, partnerships and joint research and conference activities, and translate and disseminate African aspirations and analysis for Nordic audiences. We are the only Africa research center in the whole world that surpasses national borders and bring together the whole Nordic region to study, analyse and develop Africa with a specific policy relevant mission – to contribute for the improvement of African people’s lives and educate our own citizens on importance on Africa.

Our library is the biggest resource hub for African social sciences literature in Northern Europe, and by using modern technology some of its resources can be accessed almost everywhere in the world, alleviating the chronic lack of academic and development related resources in the African continent.

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Low Awareness Restrains Growth of Solar Technologieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/low-awareness-restrains-growth-solar-technologies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=low-awareness-restrains-growth-solar-technologies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/low-awareness-restrains-growth-solar-technologies/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 00:04:46 +0000 Tonderayi Mukeredzi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155638 Every year, Amos Chandiringa, 43, a farmer in Nemaire village in Makoni district in northeastern Zimbabwe, laboriously waters his tobacco nursery with a watering can. The toil of the job often leaves him without the energy or time to do other household chores. “I live near a dam, so I’ve access to plenty of water, […]

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A young woman admires a parabolic solar cooker at a solar fair in Rusape, Zimbabwe. Credit: Tonderayi Mukeredzi/IPS

A young woman admires a parabolic solar cooker at a solar fair in Rusape, Zimbabwe. Credit: Tonderayi Mukeredzi/IPS

By Tonderayi Mukeredzi
RUSAPE, Zimbabwe, May 7 2018 (IPS)

Every year, Amos Chandiringa, 43, a farmer in Nemaire village in Makoni district in northeastern Zimbabwe, laboriously waters his tobacco nursery with a watering can. The toil of the job often leaves him without the energy or time to do other household chores.

“I live near a dam, so I’ve access to plenty of water, but I cannot do much with the water because I lack the necessary technology to mechanise my farming. Installing an electric or diesel water pump have been options, but that is expensive,” he tells IPS.Government, solar last mile distributors and development agencies say using solar electricity to power irrigation pumps, process harvests and for preservation of crops can transform rural lives.

In February, Chandiringa was privileged to host a combined farmers’ field day and solar fair at his homestead for the first time in his area and in the history of his farming career.

Solar entrepreneur Isaac Nyakusendwa says farmers like Chandiriga could make light work of their farming and multiply their yields if they used solar pumps to draw water from the dam to irrigate their crops or to use in the home.

Although farming is the occupation of most people in Rusape and other areas of rural Zimbabwe, the usage of solar photovoltaic systems remains limited mainly to lighting and entertainment.

Government, solar last mile distributors and development agencies say using solar electricity to power irrigation pumps, process harvests and for preservation of crops can transform rural lives by providing better crop yields, higher incomes and reducing the physical labor of farming.

Nemaire councillor Sam Maungwe says farmers in his area earn good money, mostly from tobacco farming, but due to poor knowledge of solar technologies, many of them spend their earnings on radios and household furniture.

“Farmers here largely grow tobacco, hence the area suffers from a double strain of wood cutting for tobacco curing and firewood. The use of solar in farming by our farmers would be good as it will lengthen their farming season and increase their income,” Maungwe tells IPS. “But more importantly, we want our farmers to extend the use of solar to tobacco barns so that they stop the indiscriminate cutting down of trees for tobacco curing.”

Petronella Karima, an extension officer, says there should be more platforms to educate rural farmers and expose them to new, affordable technologies because most of them are not aware of the capabilities of solar products.

“Many use solar for entertainment. Some have big solar home systems in their homes, but they don’t know that they can use it to water their crops and install water in their homes. With the knowledge they got from the solar exhibition, I believe many will now use solar to irrigate their crops and to harvest water,” Karima says.

Chiedza Mazaiwana, the Power for All Campaign Manager at Practical Action Zimbabwe, says awareness of renewable energy solutions is relatively low, with market penetration of solar lighting and home systems estimated at only 3%.

She says consumer literacy on renewable energy products is critical in unlocking the huge potential of renewable products in off grid rural communities.

“Lack of knowledge is a major barrier to the development of the solar market. Most potential rural customers are unaware of recent advances in solar technology, reductions in the cost of the technology, availability of financing solutions such as the pay-as you-go (PAYG) model that allows them to access technologies and products that would ordinarily be beyond their reach,” she adds.

The past distribution of poor quality products and installations have also undermined trust and reduced demand, making it very hard for businesses to establish a presence in rural areas.

However, as part of a rural solar market development effort, government, renewable energy firms and development agencies are concertedly using field days and solar fairs to encourage the use of solar energy as a way of improving livelihoods in rural areas.

Solar fairs are emerging as a key platform for awareness raising and consumer education on solar for off-grid communities and for solar distributors to create business linkages with farmers. Other methods include media campaigns and the use of trusted opinion leaders such as chiefs, head teachers and faith leaders to spread the word about the novelty of renewable energy solutions. This method has proved particularly effective in East Africa.

Nyakusenda, who is the chairman of the Renewable Energy Association of Zimbabwe, a grouping of solar distribution companies says, “Lack of knowledge about solar energy and its capabilities is one of the many barriers scuttling the development of the solar market. Through combined field day and solar fairs, we are facilitating, and giving farmers a perfect and rare opportunity to shop for and to interact with suppliers of solar products in one place thereby expose them to quality products and genuine companies.”

He says the PAYG model allows the farmers to pay a nominal deposit for a renewable product of their choice, and finish the payment in small, cheap monthly instalments.

During the fairs, young males and females have been particularly attracted to solar powered lighting, entertainment and communication gadgets while women liked solar cooking stoves and older males got attracted to water pumping systems.

Practical Action’s gender officer Tony Zibani says the use of solar technology can ease the triple burden of work on women and reduce gender-based violence in the homes as chores performed by women would be lessened by technology.

Over 60% of Zimbabwe’s population do not have access to energy and rely on solid biomass fuels such as firewood, charcoal and kerosene as their main cooking fuel – solutions that are expensive, unreliable and environmentally unsustainable.

While the demand for energy in rural areas is increasing, the provision of electricity is skewed greatly towards higher-income households and urban areas, leaving out a large proportion of the rural population.

Mazaiwana asserts that decentralized electrification solutions are the fastest, most cost-effective and sustainable approach to universal energy access, in addition to providing economic opportunities for communities.

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In South Sudan, Denial of Humanitarian Aid is a War Tactichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/south-sudan-denial-humanitarian-aid-war-tactic/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-sudan-denial-humanitarian-aid-war-tactic http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/south-sudan-denial-humanitarian-aid-war-tactic/#respond Fri, 04 May 2018 09:08:40 +0000 Christine Monaghan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155615 Christine Monaghan is research officer, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict

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In South Sudan, Denial of Humanitarian Aid is a War Tactic

Credit: Watchlist

By Christine Monaghan
May 4 2018 (IPS)

When I visited South Sudan last year, I heard story after story about health professionals and humanitarian workers being prevented from doing critical work. Government officials regularly increased fees for nonprofits trying to alleviate the effects of conflict, stopped humanitarian convoys from delivering life-saving supplies, and erected bureaucratic obstacles designed to impede access to civilians in need.

“There are ‘sitting fees’ you need to pay to government and the opposition when negotiating access to deliver aid,” one aid worker told me. “There are ‘airport fees’ for landing at the airstrip; to carry cash into the field – anything more than $100 requires an authorization from at least five different ministries. You line everything up and then they will say something is missing or something has changed.”

These are just some examples of obstacles the South Sudanese government has created to prevent humanitarian workers from doing their vital work in a conflict zone. Government officials – and the opposition – have blatantly denied humanitarian aid, preventing civilians from accessing essential services and NGOs from functioning. This strategy is being used as a war tactic, and contributing to the spread of disease, injury and death.

The government has succeeded in shrinking humanitarian space and making a harrowing situation for civilians even more miserable. Humanitarian organizations always do important work, but in South Sudan, their work is indispensable, as it has gone well beyond the traditional mandate of providing emergency health assistance.

In a new report, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict found that in 2016 and 2017, there were at least 750 incidents involving denial of humanitarian access, many of them committed by government authorities. In dozens of interviews with health, humanitarian and NGO workers I conducted in South Sudan and neighboring Uganda, I heard about many disturbing steps the government has taken to block access for humanitarian workers and NGOs.

In recent years, I have investigated denials of humanitarian access in many conflict zones, including Afghanistan and Yemen. But the extent to which this is happening in South Sudan is far beyond anything I have seen.

In March 2017, for example, the government increased work permits for foreigners from $100 to a staggering $10,000. Two months later, it increased registration fees for international NGOs, from $2,000 to $3,500. Government officials have also interfered in the recruitment of NGO staff by reviewing candidate lists and even sitting in on interviews and vetoing choices.  They have frequently changed license and registration requirements, making it difficult for NGO staff to travel for work.

“The government has required new license plates at least three times, which also requires new driver’s licenses and new registrations,” a humanitarian worker told me. “They announce the new procedure on Thursday and then pull you over on Friday if you haven’t complied and make you pay a fee.”

All this is taking place in a country that is in desperate need of humanitarian aid. As of December, at least 20 percent of South Sudan’s 1,900 hospitals had closed, and about half were functioning with extremely limited capacity, according to the UN Office for Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Warring parties were responsible for at least 50 attacks on medical facilities in 2016 and 2017 – another part of the war strategy and a vicious way to prevent civilians from accessing care. As a result, malnutrition, cholera and famine are gripping parts of the country.

The strategy behind these actions is clear – it is part of the war arsenal. The government has succeeded in shrinking humanitarian space and making a harrowing situation for civilians even more miserable. Humanitarian organizations always do important work, but in South Sudan, their work is indispensable, as it has gone well beyond the traditional mandate of providing emergency health assistance. Since 2013, humanitarian organizations have provided up to 80 percent of all health care services in the country, according to OCHA.

As is often the case in conflict zones, children and women are disproportionately affected by these war tactics. Of the four million people who have been displaced, children and women make up to 85 percent of this number, according to OCHA.

At Watchlist, we are calling on South Sudanese government to uphold its obligations to allow for unimpeded humanitarian access. A dedicated independent body should be established to investigate incidents of denials of humanitarian access, and all procedures for humanitarian and NGO workers should be made consistent and transparent.

Even in wartime, there are rules to be followed. They are designed to limit the impact of conflict on children, women and civilians at large, and allow the most vulnerable to access humanitarian assistance. The government of South Sudan has shamelessly violated these rules and gone out of its way to endanger the lives of its own citizens.

The international community must take immediate action to end this insidious tactic of war that has had devastating consequences for the children of South Sudan.

Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict is a New York-based global coalition that serves to end violations against children in armed conflict and guarantee their rights. For more information: https://watchlist.org/

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Excerpt:

Christine Monaghan is research officer, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict

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Leading from the Front: Zambia Launches Plant a Million Trees Initiativehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/leading-front-zambia-launches-plant-million-trees-initiative/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=leading-front-zambia-launches-plant-million-trees-initiative http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/leading-front-zambia-launches-plant-million-trees-initiative/#respond Thu, 03 May 2018 12:42:00 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155598 As global climate experts meet in Bonn this week to discuss how to take climate action forward, Zambia counts itself amongst the leaders as President Edgar Lungu officially launches the Plant a Million (PAM) trees Initiative. In fact, the initiative is even more ambitious than its name implies, and aims at planting at least two […]

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President Edgar Lungu just before planting a tree during the launch of Plant a Million Trees Initiative in Chinsali District. Credit: Munich Advisors Group

President Edgar Lungu just before planting a tree during the launch of Plant a Million Trees Initiative in Chinsali District. Credit: Munich Advisors Group

By Friday Phiri
CHINSALI, Zambia, May 3 2018 (IPS)

As global climate experts meet in Bonn this week to discuss how to take climate action forward, Zambia counts itself amongst the leaders as President Edgar Lungu officially launches the Plant a Million (PAM) trees Initiative.

In fact, the initiative is even more ambitious than its name implies, and aims at planting at least two billion trees by 2021. According to President Lungu, the initiative is in line with the country’s Seventh National Development Plan whose aim is to diversify the economy from copper dependency.

President Lungu says the initiative, which targets young people through schools, colleges and universities, will be used as a vehicle for mindset change among Zambians to begin to value the importance of planting trees as a tool for economic diversification.

“This initiative marks the beginning of growing money through trees and government stands ready to support it and ensure that it succeeds,” he said during the launch at Kapasa Makasa University in Muchinga Province, Northern Zambia.

In line with the country’s commitments to international treaties, especially the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change, President Lungu said government envisages not only creating a tree-based economy, but also mitigating climate change through the initiative.

He is particularly concerned with the country’s alarming deforestation rate of 276,021 hectares per year, making Zambia one of the most deforested countries in Africa.

“The Plant A Million initiative will significantly contribute to reducing deforestation which has earned Zambia a bad name of being one of the most deforested countries in Africa as a result of uncontrolled harvesting of trees,” he said.

The Zambian president added that he was impressed with the youth involvement model through schools, colleges and universities, saying it will help push the agenda of mindset change because “when our learners appreciate the importance of trees, it will in turn create a positive impact in families and the communities at large.”

President Edgar Chagwa Lungu planting a tree while Minister of Lands and Natural Resources looks on. Credit: Munich Advisors Group

Speaking earlier, Higher Education Minister Nkandu Luo said her Ministry would use the initiative to redefine the education system from exam-based to real-world practices.

“Over the years, the thinking in our school system has been that education is passing exams but we are redefining this thinking, so that people know that education is total transformation of a human being, and this programme is one of the ways to do it,” she said.

As one of the brains behind the initiative, Professor Luo said that Zambia was aiming to break the world record of planting the most trees, which is currently held by India. Last year, Volunteers in India planted more than 66 million trees in just 12 hours in a record-breaking environmental drive.

About 1.5 million people were involved in the huge campaign, in which saplings were placed along the Narmada river in the state of Madhya Pradesh throughout Sunday.

India committed under the Paris Agreement to increasing its forests by five million hectares before 2030 to combat climate change.

“We are aiming to beat the world record, to go above 66 million trees done by India. We aim to plant at least a billion trees by 2019, and another billion plus by 2021; and I am positive that with universities’ involvement, it is doable,” she said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Jean Kapata is optimistic that the initiative will not only add value to people’s livelihoods through income from the sale of fruit and other forest products, but also contribute to the country’s ambitious mitigation targets as set in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).

“As you may be aware, tree planting plays an important role in addressing impacts of climate change, and mitigating effects of climate change. In this regard, the Zambia Plant A Million initiative is also responding to national efforts of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.

Zambia has undertaken, and is still implementing, several tree planting and preservation projects across the country. Central to such initiatives has been the goodwill of the country’s first president, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, who was a pioneer of tree planting during his time in office.

And according to Emmanuel Chibesakunda, PAM initiator and project manager, the initiative wants to build on this foresight and activism of the 94-year-old freedom fighter and founding father of the nation.

“I am pleased to announce this morning that Dr. Kenneth Kaunda has kindly agreed to be the goodwill ambassador for this initiative,” announced Chibesakunda amid thunderous applause from those who gathered to witness the ceremony in a district which is also home to Dr. Kaunda. “Dr. Kaunda did not only lead our country into independence, but also pioneered tree planting in Zambia.”

Chibesakunda shared his inspiration for the initiative, which he said was from his father who taught him that talent was like a seed which needed to be planted in the right soil to germinate into beautiful fruit. This led to his passion for trees, and especially the involvement of children and young people.

“My father told me that we all have talents, but what matters is where we plant them,” he told the gathering. “And my desire for this project is that we plant the knowledge in the young generation, let us put the future into their hands.”

So far, tree nurseries have been set up at 12 schools in Lusaka, and the project expects to reach 720 schools in the next two years in 60 districts across the country.

 

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In Beacon of Press Freedom, Dark Spots Persisthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/beacon-press-freedom-dark-spots-persist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beacon-press-freedom-dark-spots-persist http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/beacon-press-freedom-dark-spots-persist/#respond Mon, 30 Apr 2018 00:02:04 +0000 Kwaku Botwe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155524 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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Vendors pick up newspapers from a distribution center in Accra, Ghana. Credit: Kwaku Botwe/IPS

Vendors pick up newspapers from a distribution center in Accra, Ghana. Credit: Kwaku Botwe/IPS

By Kwaku Botwe
ACCRA, Apr 30 2018 (IPS)

Ghana is a living contradiction, at least in the arena of freedom of expression, free speech and press freedom.

It is touted as one of the continent’s best atmospheres for media workers and does have a highly free media space, being ranked number one in Africa and number 23 in the World Press Freedom Index 2018 by Reporters Without Borders.

But that only gives half the picture of the culture of freedom of speech, information and the press in the country. Just last month a journalist from one of the country’s top media houses was beaten to near death by the police.

His crime was that he was doing his job as a journalist and had asked a police officer who had been deployed to disperse a demonstrating crowd the name of one of the anti-riot vehicles. That harmless question was enough to provoke the officer, who pounced on the journalist and was later joined by other officers who had no clue what crime the journalist had committed.

Latif Iddrisu suffered facial, neck and rib injuries and has been experiencing intermittent pain since. He was diagnosed with a fractured skull after four X-ray examinations and a CT Scan. The journalist, who has been recovering at home for close to a month now, says he’s been traumatized as he awaits doctors’ final verdict about whether “I will be in a position to work actively again”.

“For now, all that I have been praying for is a good outcome so that I can get back to work and do even much better, much more ground-braking documentaries and impactful investigative stories to help build the nation,” he told IPS.

Latif Iddrisu in the hospital after being assaulted by police. Photo Courtesy of Latif Iddrisu

The vicious attack on Iddrisu was not an isolated incident. It adds to a long list of attacks on journalists by politicians and their supporters as well as ordinary people, with personnel from the security forces, especially the police, leading the onslaught.

Such abuses against journalists are commonplace in the West African sub-region in particular and Africa in general. The Media Foundation for West Africa’s compilation of abuses against journalists in the region gives a very gloomy picture of press freedom culture. In the past 15 months alone, the Foundation has compiled 12 such assaults with a total of 17 journalist victims in Ghana. And these are just the cases that caught the attention of the Foundation.

In the sub-region, the Foundation says it recorded “nine violations in six countries during its monitoring of the freedom of expression environment in February 2018. Five incidents of physical assaults were recorded in four countries – Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Ghana. Mali, Togo and Nigeria recorded one incident each of arrests and detentions, while Benin recorded one incident of suspension of a media house. The violations affected ten journalists, 11 citizens and one media organisation”.

Colonial-era laws persist despite new constitutions

These abuses continue despite the embrace of democracy and the rule of law by all countries in the sub-region. New constitutions guaranteed basic human rights, including freedom of expression and, in many cases, freedom of the press. But many countries still maintain what some have described as colonial-era laws that restrict free press and expression which are inconsistent with their constitutions.

A typical example is the use of criminal defamation laws – laws which criminalise the publication of untrue statements, reports or rumors that are likely to alarm the public – in African countries to harass, detain and imprison journalists, as well as impose hefty fines.

In the sub-region, countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia have long promised to repeal the laws, but this is yet to happen. Liberia, for instance, attracted the world’s attention in 2013 in what is arguably the most infamous libel defamation judgment in West Africa. The Supreme Court on August 20, 2013, sentenced Rodney Sieh, the Managing Editor of the FrontPage Africa newspaper, to 5,000 years in prison after the journalist was unable to pay a fine of 1.5 million dollars in a civil suit for defamation brought by then Minister of Agriculture, Chris Toe.

Of course the jailing of two editors of the Independent Observer within hours of publishing a column comparing Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma’s behaviour to that of a rat also attracted global attention and condemnation. The 10-court-appearance case dragged out for six months (October 2013 to March 2014) and eventually saw the cautioning and discharge of the journalists after they were forced to plead guilty to conspiracy to defame the president as part of a deal to end the case.

Commenting on the case, Reporters Without Borders said, “The government’s policy of harassing the media is a threat to fundamental freedoms. The authorities use criminal defamation and sedition charges to intimidate journalists and then allow the proceedings to drag on in order to keep up the pressure.”

The story could only be worse in countries like Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria which have for a long time remained adamant in refusing to repeal criminal defamation laws.

And this is where Ghana stands tall. The West African country has distinguished itself on the continent and in the sub-region, having repealed its criminal libel law since 2001, beating its colonial master the United Kingdom which repealed its law in 2009. This accolade makes Ghana the only country in the sub-region to have done so with a clear 17-year margin. But even here, journalists and media houses are not out of the doghouse yet.

Ghana enjoys a thriving press and is ranked number one in Africa in terms of media freedom. Credit: Kwaku Botwe/IPS

Politicians, public office holders and businessmen can still press for civil charges, which may bring hefty fines. In February 2014 the General Secretary of the then political party in power, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, was awarded 250,000 dollars in defamation damages (25% of what Ntetia demanded) against the Daily Guide newspaper by an Accra Fast-Track High Court.

It was in respect to a story which alleged that Nketia used his position in government to divert building materials for his personal building project. In spite of this, it is still refreshing to note that no journalist would ever spend a day in prison for what they publish, a fact journalists Kweku Baako and Haruna Atta who were imprisoned in 1998 using the libel law will appreciate.

Lip service to RTI law

Ghana has not been able to consolidate its commitment to free press with a right to information (RTI) law which is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the country’s constitution. This is against the backdrop of several treaties and agreements the country has signed which require that such a law be passed.

In Africa, RTI is guaranteed in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights; African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance; African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption; African Union Youth Charter; among others. For years CSOs, NGOs, academics, journalists have been advocating for an RTI law without success.

Ghana’s RTI bill was drafted and reviewed by government in 2003. Since then parliamentarians have discussed it, referred it, reviewed it and published it – anything but pass it. Interestingly parliamentarians have passed about 300 bills into law since 2003, with one of the latest being the special prosecutor law which was a campaign promise by President Akufo-Addo.

More than 15 African countries, including seven in West Africa, have passed the RTI law since Ghana first drafted its own in 2003. And yet the West African country ranks higher in press freedom among all these countries. The reluctance of politicians to pass the RTI bill has left many to conclude that successive governments dread what the passage of an RTI will mean for their corrupt deals.

The executive director of the Media Foundation for West Africa, Sulemana Braima, says “It is regrettable that we are hosting this global event without the RTI,” adding that “the absence of the law remains one of the darkest spots on our democracy, freedom and human rights credentials.”

Ghana hosts 2018 World Press Freedom Day

When Ghana was selected as the host of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, having beaten India and other prominent countries, there were some who thought the nonexistence of an RTI law was a big blot on an otherwise reputable event. But Ghana is not the first country to host the event on the continent.

It becomes the sixth country to host the event in African and the second in the West African sub-region (Uganda, Namibia, Senegal, Monzambigue, and Tunisia have all hosted the event in the past). It appears what determines a host country is not based solely on press freedom practices.

When Colombia hosted the event in 2007 it was in recognition of the 10th Anniversary of the establishment of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Cano was a Colombian journalist who was killed by hired assassins in 1986. Since the inception of the Prize in 1997, two African journalists have won it (Christina Anyanwu, Nigeria in 1998 and Geoffrey Nyarota, Zimbabwe in 2002). Tunisia seem to have won the host in 2012 because of the theme: 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers, New Voices with the Arab Spring as a main focus.

And so with this year’s global theme: Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law, Ghana definitely fits in. Again, going by milestones and anniversaries it looks as if Ghana’s celebration of 25 years of uninterrupted democratic governance and the rule of law (1993 – 2018) has coincided with the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of the World Press Freedom Day. A good reason to celebrate it on Ghanaian soil.

The post In Beacon of Press Freedom, Dark Spots Persist appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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Kenya- Overcoming Rivalry & Conflict Through Cultural Diplomacyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kenya-overcoming-rivalry-conflict-cultural-diplomacy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-overcoming-rivalry-conflict-cultural-diplomacy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kenya-overcoming-rivalry-conflict-cultural-diplomacy/#respond Fri, 27 Apr 2018 12:54:48 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155510 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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First Lady Margaret Kenyatta (centre) with host Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok (second right) and Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki (second left). Credit: Jared Nyataya | NATION

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 27 2018 (IPS)

Cultural diplomacy is a soft power that promotes the exchange of ideas, information, art, and culture to strengthen friendship and cooperation among nations and communities.

One of the best examples of such cultural diplomacy is the American education airlift programme of the early 1960s – a programme now considered a good example of successful cultural diplomacy – which benefited many young Kenyans, including a young Kenyan scholar who married an American. Their son went on to become the father of the 44th President of the US.

The son of this Kenyan scholar, – US President Barack Obama, presided over a fundamental shift towards public and cultural diplomacy, that was credited with milestones such as limiting Iran’s nuclear energy programme, in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Barack Obama, 10, and his father, also named Barack Obama. Obama’s father left the family to study at Harvard. Credit: The Associated Press

He often defended this approach as a successful diplomatic mission “committed to increasing people-to-people contacts and paying more attention to differences in cultures and values”. Unlike previous administrations, President Obama chose to persuade others through values and ideas, as opposed to flaunting military might.

A similar approach is being used in Kenya’s northern frontier, where the charm of soft power is slowly replacing the aggressive and violent conflicts among traditional adversaries. For a long time, a recurrent and perennial conflict has existed, especially during dry seasons. Neighbours in the arid region have continued to clash over access to key water and grazing resources.

In the meantime, the proliferation of small arms and ammunition trafficked into the country have escalated cultural practices such as cattle raids, turning them into deadly confrontations, while the re-drawing of administrative and electoral boundaries have provided more flashpoints for ethnic conflicts.

Now leaders in the area are taking a cue from history, with the interaction of peoples, the exchange of cultural practices, language, religion, ideas and arts being identified as a pathway towards improved relations between the ethnic groups. Through the annual Turkana Cultural Festival, former enemies are bonding relationships and realising that their differences are simply artificial.

The Turkana cultural festival, is a colourful 3-day event showcasing the region’s art, sports and music. Among the regular visitors to the festival are governors, minister and members of legislative assemblies from the neighbouring counties, a positive move not just towards building cultural bridges, but finding common ground and shared desires for the region’s economic prosperity and national cohesion.

This year on 19 April 2018, the border communities and their leaders from South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda joined their counterparts from Kenya in the fourth edition of the Turkana Cultural Festival in Lodwar, which was branded Tobong’u Lore(Turkana for welcome home) by the county government.

“I was honored by the presence of Her Excellency The First Lady of Kenya Ms Margaret Kenyatta and the Deputy President of Kenya, Mr William Ruto. Their presence gave a very special touch to the event” said Turkana County Governor Honorable Josphat Nanok.

Recent discourse from leaders has noticeably moved from belligerence, to forging of trade relationships, and unifying the region’s populations. No less than seven Governors, elders, ministers, some from counties previously seen as rivals of the Turkana, attended this year’s edition of the Turkana Festival.

“This festival is to celebrate peace. These are neighbors who have been fighting over pasture for their livestock and boundaries, but since we started this festival we have seen peace gradually return,” added Governor Nanok.

The festivals are providing the communities with a forum to embrace the different values and needs of diverse cultures. Gradually, each festival is seen as a peace-building and soft power tool in communities previously marked by ethnic conflict and isolationism.

There is also another crucial initiative, which is drawing former foes together in the border region between Kenya and Ethiopia. The Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme was launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. The initiative, driven by the need to foster peace and sustainable development in the cross-border area of Marsabit County, Kenya, and the Borana/Dawa Zones, Ethiopia, is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia have a shared vision of turning this once violent and fragile region into a prosperous & peaceful area. Moyale-07 Dec 2015. Credit: UNDP Kenya

The populations in Marsabit County, and the Borana/Dawa are largely pastoralists and their movement transcends national and international boundaries. This movement has often led to clashes over resources, pitting people who share a common cultural background against each other.

Early successes include the strengthening of peace communities with members from across the two countries, which have gained wide legitimacy.

As the Cross Border Programme activities gain traction and the communities engage in legitimate business, their inter-dependence will slowly erode the temptation to fall back on the safety of tribal enclaves.

Advances in communication continue to render physical barriers irrelevant, there is no better opportunity to move cultural diplomacy out of the periphery, and into the forefront of diplomacy. As the true window to the soul, culture must now be the premier option for solving conflict around the globe.

The First Lady Margaret Kenyatta underscored the need to preserve the diversity of the country’s rich cultural heritage, saying it enhances Kenya’s identity at the global arena. She said in promoting culture, focus must be placed on positive values that boost peace and harmony.

Kenya is showing the way.

The post Kenya- Overcoming Rivalry & Conflict Through Cultural Diplomacy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Africa’s Millennials Using Technology to Drive Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africas-millennials-using-technology-drive-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africas-millennials-using-technology-drive-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africas-millennials-using-technology-drive-change/#respond Fri, 27 Apr 2018 10:43:10 +0000 Eleni Mourdoukoutas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155507 Eleni Mourdoukoutas writes for Africa Renewal*

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Young people are using technology to change society. Credit: Alamy

By Eleni Mourdoukoutas
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 27 2018 (IPS)

When some 276 teenage girls were kidnapped from their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria in April 2014, Oby Ezekwesili, a civil society activist and former World Bank vice president, was disheartened by the lacklustre response of her government and local television stations.

Ms. Ezekwesili and others decided to take to social media to demand action from the government. They emphasized their point with a march to the national assembly in the capital, Abuja.

Within three weeks, the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign put the girls’ kidnapping front and centre on the world stage: the Twitter hashtag had been used over one million times, including by notable influencers former US first lady Michelle Obama and girls’ rights activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai. The grassroots movement proved instrumental in pressuring the Nigerian government to acknowledge the kidnapping and to commit more resources to rescuing the girls.

Technology and young people

Beginning with the Arab Spring in 2011, young Africans have been using technology to mobilise around issues affecting them. Images of young Africans assembled in protest, mobilising around hashtags, are now commonplace on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

Professor Alcinda Honwana, inter-regional advisor on social development policy at the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), cites the immediacy of social media as a key factor in mobilising large numbers of people and catalysing change.

“Without the internet and social media, it would be very difficult to organise a huge rally in 48 hours,” Prof. Honwana told Africa Renewal in an interview. Social media enables organizers to have a major impact on society, she said, “because you can assemble large numbers of society very quickly and differently from what you would do when you had to go to the streets or knock on doors or put up flyers.”

Young people’s political activism probably safeguarded the integrity of the 2016 election in The Gambia. They began using the hashtag #GambiaHasDecided when former president Yahya Jammeh refused to vacate his office and hand over power after suffering electoral defeat.

In addition to spreading the word over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the anti-Jammeh campaign also encouraged citizens to wear T-shirts bearing the slogan. “Social media has forever changed the dynamics of politics in Africa,” Raffie Diab, one of the campaign’s founding leaders, told Africa Renewal.

In October 2014, young people organised over social media against Blaise Compaoré, then president of Burkina Faso, who was planning to change the constitution to allow him to run for another two terms, thereby extending his 27-year tenure.

The emergence of the movements Ça suffit (That’s Enough) and Le balai citoyen (the Citizen’s Broom) marked the first time since the Arab Spring that popular movements managed to unseat an African president.

Driving transparency

Likewise, young people in Senegal have drawn attention to the country’s high unemployment rate over social media, and their protests galvanised the population to vote out President Abdoulaye Wade in the 2012 election.

Just as citizens broadcast the abuses of government with video and photographic evidence during the Arab Spring, Africa’s younger generation is taking advantage of tech-based strategies to drive accountability and transparency.

One example of this is Livity Africa, a South Africa–based nonprofit organisation whose aim is to amplify authentic youth voices and concerns, in part through its nationwide media channel, “Live Magazine” SA.

Launched in 2011, the channel highlights issues that are overlooked by mainstream media, and it encourages government accountability via its weekly “Live from Parliament” segment.

Similarly, the Nigeria-based SMS and web platform “Shine Your Eye” facilitates public engagement with parliamentarians and other elected officials by providing access to their track records.

By sending a free SMS message to the platform’s dedicated number or visiting its website, anyone can get detailed information on the record of a public official. African leaders themselves are also now using technology to attract young people to their campaigns.

Voters under the age of 35 made up 51% of the entire electorate in the 2017 election in Kenya, and the number of voters in the 26–35 age range had more than doubled since 2013, according to data from the electoral commission.

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta maintains active Facebook and Twitter accounts, and his supporters say his modern communication tactics are “demystifying the presidency.”

In an unprecedented break from his predecessor Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s new president Emmerson Mnangagwa has wasted no time in engaging directly with Zimbabweans over social media, regularly posting comments on Facebook that address concerns raised by his constituents. Mr. Mugabe famously did not own a smartphone.

Mr. Mnangagwa is gaining popularity for posting short videos on his Facebook and Twitter accounts in which he encourages citizens to message their thoughts as part of a “new national dialogue,” maintaining that leadership is a “two-way street.” The digital approach is exciting many Zimbabweans who are eager to get the president’s attention.

While young people in recent years have become the most politically engaged on the continent, their involvement has been primarily through protests and activism rather than voting.

Negative effects

Youth engagement with social media also has its negative effects. “Sadly, [social] media is not often used wisely by youth,” notes the Africa Alliance of the Young Men Christian Association, a leading pan-African youth development network.

It adds that, “Instead, increasing reports reflect that young people use these virtual spaces as platforms for cyber bullying, violence and intimidation.” The association maintains that this is “an age of unprecedented access to explicit images and videos” that can have a harmful influence on the youth.

In 2016, the African Development Bank, a multilateral development finance institution, reported that by 2050 Africa will be home to 38 of the 40 youngest countries in the world, and that all 38 will have median populations under 25 years of age. Experts believe that the youth vote will determine election outcomes in a few years.

Campaigns encouraging young people to vote span the continent. In 2014, South Africa’s electoral commission launched the “I Voted” campaign, which encouraged voters to take a picture of their marked thumb and post on social media with the hashtag #IVoted. The hashtag boasted more than 30,000 uses on Twitter.

Not a cure-all

However, Prof. Honwana warns that social media is not a cure-all for apathy. In the case of South Africa, the national South African statistical service reported that young people accounted for only 18% of total voters in the 2016 local government elections, despite those under the age of 35 making up 66% of the total population.

She asserts that while social media can be a useful tool for conveying the importance of voting, young people will not take up ballots over mobile devices unless they believe that their votes will bring about real change in their lives.

In the 2016 presidential election in the Gambia, for instance, young people largely supported Adama Barrow, who challenged Mr. Jammeh, because they thought Mr. Barrow would bring about a change in governance. “I just know Barrow will be different. He’s listening to us,” 25-year-old Gambian voter Haddy Ceesay told The Guardian, a UK-based newspaper.

Still, Prof. Honwana does not see social media as just a trend. “If we are talking about young people, I think everything that will happen from now on is going to be through social media. That’s where they live,” she said.

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information

The post Africa’s Millennials Using Technology to Drive Change appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Eleni Mourdoukoutas writes for Africa Renewal*

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From Declaration to Action: Improving Immunization in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/declaration-action-improving-immunization-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=declaration-action-improving-immunization-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/declaration-action-improving-immunization-africa/#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:04:40 +0000 Joyce Nganga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155459 Joyce Nganga is policy advisor with WACI Health, an African regional health advocacy NGO headquartered in Kenya.

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Inviolate Akinyi, a 46-year-old grandmother, got her granddaughter immunized using a mix of private and public clinics. Credit: Veronique Magnin – Habari Kibra Volunteer

By Joyce Nganga
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 25 2018 (IPS)

Inviolate Akinyi, a 46-year-old grandmother, is certain that her grand-daughter needs to get all her vaccines for her to grow up healthy and strong. She uses a mix of private and public clinics in Kibera, one of the largest informal settlement in Nairobi, to get the 15-month-old the shots she needs.

Mary Awour, mother to two-year-old Vilance Amondi, also believes immunization is important to protect her child against infectious diseases. She got all the required vaccines for him at the public Kibera South Hospital.

But many children in Africa are not as fortunate as these two children. Instead, they are faced with health threats like diphtheria, measles, mumps, whooping cough, rubella, tetanus, diarrhea, pneumonia and other childhood disease.

While immunization is a critical intervention for preventing these diseases, millions of children do not have access to them because of state fragility or conflict, lack of parental education, religious practices–and too often—inability to access the vaccines because of cost or geographic location. Children in remote rural or mountainous areas face greater barriers to vaccine access.

As recently as 2000, slightly under 10 million children died globally from vaccine preventable deaths before their fifth birthday. The numbers declined to 6.3 million by 2013 but sub -Saharan Africa accounted for 50 percent of the under-five deaths worldwide.

Mary Awour mother to two-year-old Vilance Amondi said she got all the required vaccines for him at the Kibera South Hospital which is government facility. Credit: Veronique Magnin – Habari Kibra Volunteer

While Africa has made significant gains in immunization in the last 15 years, one in five children still do not have access to life-saving vaccines. Of the more than 19 million children worldwide who did not get the three doses of Diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) in 2013, 40 percent or 7.6 million were from sub-Saharan Africa.

According to a UNICEF report, in 2016, more than half of all children unvaccinated for DTP3 lived in just six countries, three of them in Africa: Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

That same year, African leaders signed the Addis Declaration of Immunization (ADI), pledging to ensure that everyone receives the full benefits of available vaccines to inoculate them against infectious diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.

The Declaration, which was ratified in January 2017, contains ten commitments including: increasing vaccine-related funding, strengthening supply chains and delivery systems, attaining and maintaining high quality surveillance for targeted vaccine preventable diseases, developing an African research sector to enhance immunization implementation, and making universal access to vaccines a cornerstone of health and development effort in Africa.

These steps to scale up immunization rates on the content in line with the rest of the world and achieving the targeted Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) rate of 90 percent national coverage, and 80 percent coverage in every district or administrative by 2020. To date, representatives from 50 African countries have signed, and three statements of support were signed by civil society organizations, religious leaders and parliamentarians to support implementation of the ADI.

At only 80 percent coverage in Africa, routine immunization is the lowest of any region in the world. This is unsatisfactory since immunizations have long been proven as a cost-effective way to improve global health—and in the current age, a critical pathway to attaining the sustainable development goals.

Worldwide, more than three million deaths are prevented annually as a result of vaccinations. In the case of debilitating diseases like polio and meningitis, vaccines prevent permanent disabilities as well. Effective immunization programs are being heralded now for the impending eradication of the polio virus. One of the most lethal childhood infections, only eight cases were recorded in the world last year—in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

For Africa and elsewhere in the developing world, universal access to immunization is central to enabling individuals lead productive lives and for the continent to reach its full potential. Increasingly, we recognize that good health is a major driver of economic growth and must be at the center of all development plans. The cornerstone of this is strong immunization programs and sustainable systems.

As the world and Africa commemorates this year’s immunization week, in the full glare of GAVI transition, a challenge to universal access to immunization for poor and middle-income countries, our call to government is to re-examine their commitments and contributions towards domestic resources to ensure all children access immunization and that the gains made, will be sustained and even surpassed.

Women like Inviolate and Mary demonstrate the commitment of mothers to protect their children. It is up to government to remove the barriers, create the policy environment and make the resources available to fund routine immunization for every child.

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Excerpt:

Joyce Nganga is policy advisor with WACI Health, an African regional health advocacy NGO headquartered in Kenya.

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Over to You, Children! Zambia’s ‘Plant a Million Trees’ Takes Roothttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/children-zambias-plant-million-trees-takes-root/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-zambias-plant-million-trees-takes-root http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/children-zambias-plant-million-trees-takes-root/#respond Tue, 24 Apr 2018 00:38:06 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155418 Trees are a vital component in the ecosystem—they not only give oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give refuge to wildlife, but also provide materials for tools, shelter and ultimately, food for both animals and human beings. In fact, according to the World Bank statistics, some 1.3 billion people around the world depend on […]

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Matero East primary school students collecting water. Credit: Munich Advisors Group

By Friday Phiri
LUSAKA, Apr 24 2018 (IPS)

Trees are a vital component in the ecosystem—they not only give oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give refuge to wildlife, but also provide materials for tools, shelter and ultimately, food for both animals and human beings.

In fact, according to the World Bank statistics, some 1.3 billion people around the world depend on forests for their livelihood—that is a fifth of the global population. This includes income from the sale of trees and tree-related products. It also includes the value of fruit, fodder, medicines, and other direct or indirect products that they consume.

In monetary terms, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates the annual net benefit of restoring 150 million hectares of land at approximately 85 billion dollars per year. Additionally, it would sequester massive amounts of greenhouse gases.

However, it is globally recognised that forest restoration requires an integrated approach which appreciates and understands forests along their entire value chain. Thus, it is crucial to see forest landscape restoration efforts as much more than just protecting forests, but as a force for economic growth and poverty reduction.

It is from this background that several game-changing initiatives such as the decade-long United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)’s Great Green Wall, UN REDD plus strategy for carbon trading, and national governments’ annual tree planting exercises are being implemented to restore the world’s degraded landscapes and in the process transform millions of lives.

Seedlings thrive at Chunga School. Credit: Munich Advisors Group

For Zambia, the forestry sector contributes significantly to household incomes for forest dependent communities, particularly in rural areas. Nationally, according to recent data by the Integrated Land Use Assessment (ILUA) project, the forestry sector contributes 5.5% to GDP.

But for a country which boasts 44 million hectares of forests covering 58.7 percent of the total land surface area, 5.5% contribution to GDP is not good enough. And an alarming annual deforestation rate of 276,021 hectares confirms this challenge that require immediate attention.

“Growing population and economic pressure has increased demand for economic and social development, forcing people to just take from the environment instead of growing from it,” says Richard Jeffery, a conservation expert. Jeffery believes “Plant A Million” (PAM) initiative could reverse this trend as it is promoting an economic benefit model.

What is PAM?

“Plant A Million” (PAM) aims to plant at least two billion trees by 2021. According to Emmanuel Chibesakunda, PAM initiator, sponsor and project manager, the vision is to accelerate and scale up a tree-based economy for socio-economic change in Zambia and mitigate climate change impacts.

“Plant A Million is a joint public-private tree planting initiative that is promoting a tree-based economy and sustainable development through local school and community participation,” Chibesakunda told IPS. “This initiative focuses on developing the future of Zambia with the full set of skills and know how, through promoting thought leadership and innovation, social responsibility, leadership skills and helping children to connect to the world.”

Therefore, he adds, the project has taken a deliberate strategy to entrust the future in the hands of future leaders—children, thus the emphasis on public schools and community participation.

Under this strategy, he says, education and attitude change are key project outcomes:

“We want to shift away from the focus on number of trees planted as the wrong success factors. Key is how many trees survive the critical first two years, and the value they add to the community. Our focus is attitude change, and it has to start with the future leaders—children.”

Children as key players

There is a common adage in one of Zambia’s local languages, Bemba, which states: imiti ikula empanga, loosely translated as “today’s seedlings are tomorrow’s forests.” In a nutshell, the values being imparted in today’s children will determine the future world view.

Roy Lombe, an educator, believes that today’s seedlings have to be well nurtured through a practical hands-on approach. “Our generation has mishandled forests due to poor attitude, and so we don’t want to fall in the same trap,” he says. “Once they learn the value of a tree while young, they will not depart from it when they grow into adults.”

Confirming this nurture-analogy, is Maureen Chibenga, a 16-year-old Grade Eleven pupil at Lake Road PTA School.

“When the project team came to our school, I did not hesitate to be a champion, as my interest in trees dates back to my early life family values—farming,” Chibenga told IPS. “My grandfather has a farm, my father has a farm, so I saw this as an opportunity to grow my knowledge of trees and their value to humanity.”

For 15-year-old Subilo Banda, also in Grade Eleven at the same school, his motivation, he says, is to correct the wrongs of the past.

“I think our generation is open-minded. The old generation’s mistakes have taught us what we know. That’s why I think it is a very good idea to start with us in terms of mindset change,” he says, adding that there is a better possibility for his generation to embrace a ‘green’ lifestyle due to this early exposure and education.

As an incentive, the schools involved will be earning an income. Chilando Chella, Lake Road PTA School Manager, cannot wait for this exciting opportunity to make extra cash: “We have targeted to raise 50,000 seedlings this year from which we expect to earn thousands of kwacha. And we plan to plough back this money into skills training, for we know that not all of our learners will end up in the formal sector.”

So far, the project has already reached out to 12 schools with 15,000 students in Lusaka district, who are growing 500,000 tree seedlings. A further 132 schools are on standby to be included in the program within the next eight months with the target from the vice president to reach 720 schools in all 10 provinces in the next two years involving approximately one million children.

Zambian Vice President Inonge Wina (right), with Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Jean Kapata, during the launch of the 2018 tree planting exercise. Credit: Munich Advisors Group

Government buy-in

With the project announced by Republican Vice President in February 2018 during the National Tree Planting day, almost all ministries are already keyed-in. Strategic among them are the Ministries of National Development Planning (overall coordination), General Education and High Education (Schools, Colleges and Universities), and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, which holds the forestry sector portfolio.

Professor Nkandu Luo is the Minister of Higher Education. With a considered view that her ministry is the bedrock on which development is anchored, Professor Luo also believes the project is in tandem with, and supports the value system agenda that government is promoting, as espoused in the country’s constitution.

“Honesty and hard work are some of the key values that our constitution is promoting, and I think this project is timely in this regard. Teaching our young ones to learn the value of hard work, of honesty and being able to earn based on one’s input and not expecting to earn where one has not sown. So, this project will be used by the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs to push the value system agenda as advocated in our constitution.”

Meanwhile, for the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the approach of not looking at plantations but individuals is very important, considering the high deforestation rate that the country is recording.

“I am not afraid to mention here, and let me put it on record, that for as long as we do not provide alternative energy solutions for our people, they will continue cutting trees,” laments Jean Kapata, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources.

“But I am happy to report that we have started looking at several alternative options one of which is the bamboo for charcoal which we believe will be a game changer if well implemented.”

According to Kapata, government is considering scaling up plantations of some fast-growing bamboo species which can be harvested starting at four years and can go on up to fifty years.

However, attitude change requires information. And Dora Siliya, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, argues for a narrative change regarding the climate change and development discourse.

“We have been looking at this climate change issue wrongly, only thinking about how to mitigate, adapt and conserve, we have not thought of what wealth and jobs can be created from this agenda…so it is time we took a different approach as communicators on how to publicise these issues for mindset change, and this ministry is taking a lead on that front.”

In terms of scale, PAM is an ambitious project that could change Zambia’s forestry landscape forever. However, with several initiatives undertaken in the past, which have seemingly not achieved the desired results, there is always room for caution.

Finnish Ambassador to Zambia Timo Olkkonen provides some guidance to the PAM initiators:

“Finland has directly and indirectly contributed to Zambia’s efforts to have sustainably managed forests, over the last 50 years of development cooperation between the two countries. However, some of the projects and programmes have not been hugely successful; it is therefore imperative for you to understand reasons why some of the initiatives of the past have not yielded much results, there are key lessons to be learnt.”

As the project awaits its official launch by President Edgar Chagwa Lungu later this month, the children already involved are keen to be key influencers.

“I wouldn’t blame charcoal makers for it is a source of livelihood for some of them, but let them learn to plant more than what they cut,” says 15-year-old Mutwiva Upeme, Grade Eleven pupil at Chunga School. “Thank you for letting us get involved—we are the future!”

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The Gang Rape and Murder of an 8 Year Old Child in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 18:21:40 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155414 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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A protest march in New Delhi against the rape a a child in Kathua. Credit: PTI

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 23 2018 (IPS)

Grotesque and barbaric, is the only way to describe the rape and murder of an 8 year old child, in a country where women and girls are traditionally revered as Goddesses.

There have been numerous cases of rape across the country, however, the story of little Asifa, who was sedated, gang raped, tortured and then murdered in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir has haunted us all. While Asifa was killed in January 2018, the details of the case only grabbed national headlines in April, this was partly due to the heinous nature of the crime, and disturbing allegations that the child’s treatment, was the result of a concerted plan of action to drive out the nomadic Muslim community which her family belongs to.

Since then, the media in India has been awash with case after case of babies and girls being raped across India, with little to no action taking place to prevent this deluge of sexual assault and violence. From an 8-month old baby girl in Indore, to a 9-year in Etah, Uttar Pradesh, to a 10-year old girl in Chhattisgarh, to the rape of a 16-year old in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh (allegedly by a leader in the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s ruling party), there is seemingly a new atrocious daily headline which exposes the rape and murder of yet another child.

All the while, elected officials have either been shockingly silent, or have spoken out too late, and some have even shown their active support for the accused perpetrators of such crimes.

Have we become so numbed in India, that such revelations no longer hold any shock value for us? Has the simple humanity of protecting our innocent and helpless children from harm, the most important duty of every adult in India, forsaken us?

Consider this. In 2016, over 19000 cases of rape were registered in India. In 2017, in India’s capital Delhi, an average of 5 rapes was reported every day.

In response, through an executive order and cabinet approval, the Indian government introduced the death penalty for those found guilty of the rape of a child under the age of 12.

Globally death sentences are coming to an end. It is my personal belief that the death penalty will have little or no effect, however heinous the crime is. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “when fighting a monster, be careful not to become a monster yourself”.

The issue that India is grappling with at present is an endemic, societal problem and no quick fixes are likely to solve it. Harsh penalties alone will not be a deterrent. As the malaise is systemic, so too should be the cure.

So here is a four-tier approach

Firstly, it is important to increase the reporting of rape and assault. Across the world rape is a generally underreported crime; this is all the more true in India. It is essential that women and children be educated on their rights on reporting of a violent act against them through an active social media campaign.

Secondly, it is absolutely vital that law enforcers are trained to react swiftly and with sensitivity to women and children who have been harassed, assaulted or raped. Sensitivity training and knowledge of the rights of women and children are another vital need and must be made mandatory for all law enforcement agencies.

Thirdly, punishments need to be exemplary and widely covered in the media. There must be a “shock and awe” campaign of zero tolerance of sex offenders and those who kill and violate women and children. Fast track courts must ensure that the law is surgical and unrelenting in pursuing and ensuring that such offenders face the full force of justice, regardless of their rank and station.

Finally, a nationwide campaign is needed to ignite values and traditions that respect and nurture women and children. This can only be borne out of consensus in society. Awareness amongst men of the scope of this issue is critical. Men who turn a blind eye to such brutal acts in their own neighbourhoods, communities and families are just as culpable as those that perpetrate these acts. Action from courts and police will not suffice if the community remains defiantly opposed to change.

So the biggest question remains: how exactly to engage the entire populace to initiate a change in mindset? How can a national conversation on this subject be leveraged into national action?

The post The Gang Rape and Murder of an 8 Year Old Child in India appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Exhibition of Artifacts Stolen From Ethiopia Revives Controversyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 00:01:08 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155390 A new exhibition that opened April 5 at London’s famous Victoria and Albert museum of ancient treasures looted from Ethiopia has revived debate about where such artifacts should reside, highlighting the tensions in putting Western imperialism in Africa and the past to rest. The exhibit comprises 20 royal and religious artifacts plundered during the Battle […]

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A manuscript from Maqdala now at the British Library. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
LONDON, Apr 23 2018 (IPS)

A new exhibition that opened April 5 at London’s famous Victoria and Albert museum of ancient treasures looted from Ethiopia has revived debate about where such artifacts should reside, highlighting the tensions in putting Western imperialism in Africa and the past to rest.

The exhibit comprises 20 royal and religious artifacts plundered during the Battle of Maqdala in 1868, when a British force laid siege to the mountain fortress of Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros.  “We have both a growing opportunity and growing responsibility to use the potential of digital to increase access for people across the world to the intellectual heritage that we safeguard.” -- Luisa Mengoni, head of Asian and African collections at the British Library

After their victory, the British force was at liberty to take what it wanted. The scale of the treasures stolen by the army isn’t widely known—inside the British Library are hundreds of beautiful Ethiopian manuscripts taken too.

While the argument for returning such artifacts appears strong, and perhaps obvious to most, legal issues surrounding a museum’s responsibility as a global custodian, as well as how best to make items available to the public, make the matter more nuanced than it seems.

“Museums have a global responsibility to better understand their collections, to more fully uncover the histories and the stories behind their objects, and to reveal the people and societies that shaped their journeys,” says Tristram Hunt, the Victoria and Albert museum’s director. “To this end, we want to better reflect on the history of these artifacts in our collection – tracing their origins and then confronting the difficult and complex issues which arise.”

The V&A website describes the museum’s collection of Ethiopian treasures as an “unsettling reminder of the imperial processes which enabled British museums to acquire the cultural assets of others.”

Hence efforts over the years by those like Richard Pankhurst, recognised as arguably the most prolific scholar in the field of Ethiopian studies, who helped found the Association for the Return of the Ethiopian Maqdala Treasures (AFROMET), and focused his efforts on the roughly 350 Maqdala manuscripts that ended up in the British Library.

“It is not widely known what happened,” said Pankhurst before his death in 2017. “The soldiers were able to pick the best of the best that Ethiopia had to offer. Most Ethiopians have never seen manuscripts of that quality.”

Tewodros had the country scoured for the finest manuscripts and collected in Maqdala for a grand church and library he planned to build.

“They are so lavish as they were made for kings,” says Ilana Tahan, lead curator of Hebrew and Christian Orient studies at the British Library, whose staff take their duties of guardianship as seriously as those trying to get the manuscripts returned to Ethiopia.

The front page of one of the Makdala manuscripts given to the British Library, on which is written: Pres. [Presented] by H. M. the Queen [Queen Victoria] 21 Jan. 1869. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

The front page of one of the Makdala manuscripts given to the British Library, on which is written: Pres. [Presented] by H. M. the Queen [Queen Victoria] 21 Jan. 1869. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

“It’s true that the level of care and quality in Briton is much better than ours, but if you come to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies where we have a few Maqdala items previously returned you can see how well they are kept and made available to the public,” says Andreas Eshete, a former president of Addis Ababa University—which houses the institute—and another AFROMET co-founder. “These manuscripts are among the best in the world and one of the oldest examples of indigenous manuscripts in Africa, and they need to be studied carefully by historians here.”

Tewodros had actually admired Britain, even hoping they would help develop his country. But a perceived snub when Queen Victoria didn’t reply to a letter of his, led to him imprisoning a small group of British diplomats, resulting in General Robert Napier mounting a rescue mission with a force of 32,000.

On Easter Monday, 13 April 1868, with the British victorious in the valleys surrounding his mountaintop redoubt Maqdala and about to launch a final assault, Tewodros bit down on a pistol—a previous present from Queen Victoria—and pulled the trigger.

In Ethiopia today, Tewodros remains revered by many for his unwavering belief in his country’s potential, while the looting of Maqdala continues to spur the efforts of AFROMET and others continuing the activism of Richard Pankhurst.

“Though Richard was unsuccessful with the British Library manuscripts, there was the return of a number of crosses, manuscripts from private collections,” says his son, Alula Pankhurst, himself a historian and author.

Alula Pankhurst notes that the family of General Napier recently returned a necklace and a parchment scroll to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies.

“My father would have argued that the items should be returned as they were wrongly looted,” Alula Pankhurst says. “There is now the technology available to make copies [of the manuscripts] that are indistinguishable from the originals and microfilms mean that copies could be retained.”

But such technology is also seen by those at the British Library as a reason why the manuscripts can remain where they are.

“We have both a growing opportunity and growing responsibility to use the potential of digital to increase access for people across the world to the intellectual heritage that we safeguard,” says Luisa Mengoni, head of Asian and African collections at the British Library.

One of the items in the V&A exhibit: a gold and gilded copper crown with glass beads, pigment and fabric, made in Ethiopia, 1600-1850. Photo courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

One of the items in the V&A exhibit: a gold and gilded copper crown with glass beads, pigment and fabric, made in Ethiopia, 1600-1850. Photo courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The British Library is continuing its efforts to make the manuscripts accessible to the public through new exhibits. And during the next two years the library plans to digitise some 250 manuscripts from the Ethiopian collection, with 25 manuscripts already available online in full for the first time through its Digitised Manuscripts website.

“The artwork suffers when it is digitalised, plus many of the manuscripts have detailed comments in the margins—there are many reasons scholars need to attend to the originals and which are not met by digital copies,” Andreas says.

But the return of the manuscripts is actually out of the library’s hands. New legislation would have to be passed by the British Parliament for the manuscripts, or any artefacts held in British museums, to be returned.

“While some restitutionists may grumble that the majority of items have not been returned, much has been done to spread knowledge of their existence – and great artistry – to Ethiopian scholars, and to the world at large,” says Alexander Herman, assistant director of the Institute of Art and Law,  an educational organisation focused on law relating to cultural heritage. “This has been made possible by the willingness of the British Library to invest in this once-overlooked part of its collection.”

The complex issue of repatriating looted objects has rumbled on in Europe and the United States for years without much resolution, though now there appears an increasing openness to engage with the issue, both on the part of major Western museums and governments.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said in November that the restoration of African artefacts was a “top priority” for his country, and at a speech in Burkina Faso said that “African heritage can’t just be in European private collections and museums.”

In the meantime, other options treading a middle ground are beginning to be talked about more openly. Hunt says he is “open to the idea” of a long-term loan of the objects to Ethiopia, a move Alula Pankhurst says “would be a step in the right direction.”

But that’s still not good enough for others.

“The restitution of Ethiopian property is a matter of respecting Ethiopia’s dignity and fundamental rights,” says Kidane Alemayehu, one of the founders of the Horn of Africa Peace and Development Center, and executive director of the Global Alliance for Justice: The Ethiopian Cause.

“Looting another country’s property and offering it on loan to the rightful owner should evoke the deepest shame on any self-respecting country.”

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Child Soldiers Released, But Risk Remainshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-soldiers-released-risk-remains/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-soldiers-released-risk-remains http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-soldiers-released-risk-remains/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:22:15 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155369 More than 200 child soldiers were released by armed groups in war-torn South Sudan, and help will be needed to ensure their safe and bright future, according to a UN agency. The release took place in Western Equatoria State and follows a similar release last month that saw 300 children freed. Both releases are part […]

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Child soldiers released by armed groups in Yambio, South Sudan. Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 20 2018 (IPS)

More than 200 child soldiers were released by armed groups in war-torn South Sudan, and help will be needed to ensure their safe and bright future, according to a UN agency.

The release took place in Western Equatoria State and follows a similar release last month that saw 300 children freed.

Both releases are part of a series, supported by the UN’s children’s agency (UNICEF), that will see 1,000 children freed from armed groups.

“No child should ever have to pick up a weapon and fight” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan.

“For every child released, today marks the start of a new life. UNICEF is proud to support these children as they return to their families and start to build a brighter future,” he said.

Laying Down of the Guns

During a ceremony, known as the ‘laying down of the guns,’ the released children were formally disarmed and given civilian clothes.

The 112 boys and 95 girls that were disarmed were from the South Sudan National Liberation Movement and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

“UNICEF, UNMISS and government partners have negotiated tirelessly with parties to the conflict so as to enable this release of children. But the work does not stop here.” Mdoe said.

“The reintegration process is a delicate one and we must now ensure the children have all the support they need to make a success of their lives.”

Counselling and Psychological Services

UNCIEF says that the priority will now be medical screenings, counseling and psychosocial services.

Recent research from Child Soldiers International, a rights group that aims to stop and end all child recruitment, illuminated some of the horrific realities that children face when they fall in with armed groups.

The report, based on interviews with ex-child soldiers, detailed everything form forced murders, spying on neighbors and family members, denial of education and healthcare to forced cannibalism.

For girls, the trauma can be even deeper. It was found that a majority suffered sexual abuse and violence. Rapes, forced marriages and pregnancy are all common for girls caught in armed groups.

Such experiences for girls, CSI reported, are compounded when they return home, as many are ostracized by their families and labelled ‘prostitutes’ by their communities.

“Every effort will be made to ensure the correct psychological services. There will be immense trauma to overcome.” Mdoe said.

Families will also need support in order to facilitate reintegration.

Other reintegration services

The children involved in this release will also have access to vocational training as well as age-specific education services in schools and accelerated learning centers.

Their families will also be provided with three months’ worth of food assistance to support reintegration.

The South Sudanese Government has committed to halt child recruitment by armed groups in the country.

Child recruitment ‘far from over’ in South Sudan

Yet despite their commitment and the U.N’s tally of releasing 2,000 children in the country, advocacy groups say that some 19,000 children remain caught in South Sudan’s armed forces and groups.

As peace talks resume, the UNICEF has called on all parties to the conflict to end the use of children and to release all children in their ranks.

But with conflict lingering into its sixth year in the world’s youngest nation, the risk that children will be used in fighting remains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A young voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy and passion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disrupting the status quo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

Busani Bafana is a writer at Africa Renewal*

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DR Congo’s Mai-Ndombe Forest ‘Savaged’ As Landless Communities Strugglehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 16:10:51 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155317 Thousands of logs loaded into makeshift boats at the port of Inongo at Lake Mai-Ndombe stand ready to be transported to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Inongo is the provincial capital of the Mai-Ndombe Province, a 13-million-hectare area located some 650 km northeast of Kinshasa. The logs have been illegally […]

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The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change. Credit: Forest Service photo by Roni Ziade

The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change. Credit: Forest Service photo by Roni Ziade

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
INONGO, Democratic Republic of Congo, Apr 17 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of logs loaded into makeshift boats at the port of Inongo at Lake Mai-Ndombe stand ready to be transported to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Inongo is the provincial capital of the Mai-Ndombe Province, a 13-million-hectare area located some 650 km northeast of Kinshasa. The logs have been illegally cut from the Mai-Ndombe forest, an area of 10 million hectares, which has some trees measuring between 35 and 45 meters.“Evicting the guardians of the forest risks losing the forest." --Marine Gauthier

Destined for overseas export

“We witness this kind of spectacle every day, whereby tons and tons of logs and timber find their way to the capital either via the Congo River or by road, where they will eventually be shipped overseas, or just sold to the black market,” environment activist Prosper Ngobila told IPS.

Mbo, the truck driver who brought the load, confirmed: “This stock and others that are already gone to the capital are destined for overseas export. I’m only a transporter, but I understand that the owner of this business is a very powerful man, almost untouchable.”

Thousands of logs cut from trees 20 meters in height are currently lying in the Mai-Ndombe forest waiting to be hauled off, while thousands more have been left there to rot for years, Ngobila added.

“It’s shocking to say the least,” he said.

Rich in natural resources

The forests of Mai-Ndombe (“black water” in Lingala) are rich in rare and precious woods (red wood, black wood, blue wood, tola, kambala, lifake, among others). It is also home to about 7,500 bonobos, an endangered primate and the closest cousin to humans of all species, sharing 98 percent of our genes, according to the WWF.

The forests constitute a vital platform providing livelihoods for some 73,000 indigenous individuals, mostly Batwa (Pygmies), who live here alongside the province’s 1.8 million population, many of whom with no secure land rights.

Recent studies also have revealed that the province – and indeed the forests – boasts significant reserves of diamond, oil, nickel, copper and coal, and vast quantities of uranium lying deep inside the Lake Mai-Ndombe.

Efforts to save the forests

The WWF and many environmental experts, who deplore the gradual destruction and degradation of these forests for their precious wood and for the benefit of agriculture, continue to plead and lobby for their protection.

The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change.

In an effort to save these precious forests, the World Bank in 2016 approved DRC’s REDD+ programmes aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fight forest’s deforestation and degradation, which it would fund to the tune of 90 million dollars annually.

The projects, which are currently estimated at 20, have since transformed the Mai-Ndombe Province into a testing ground for international climate schemes. And as part of the projects, indigenous and other local people caring for the forests and depending on them for their livelihoods were supposed to be rewarded for their efforts.

Flaws and fiasco

However, Marine Gauthier, a Paris-based expert who authored a report on the sorry state of the Mai-Ndombe forest, seems to have found serious flaws in these ambitious programmes.

The report, released a few days before the International Day of Forests on March 21 by the Rights and Resources’ Initiative (RRI)), cited weak recognition of communities’ land rights, and recommended that key prerequisites should be addressed before any other REDD+ funds are invested.

In the interim, it said, REDD+ investments should be put on hold.

Gauthier, who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to stop the funding from doing more damage to the people of the forest, told IPS in the aftermath of the report’s release, “In DRC and more specifically in the Mai-Ndombe, the history of natural resources management has always been done at the expense of local communities.

“Industrial logging concessions have been granted on their traditional lands without their consent and destroyed their environment without any form of compensation, and protected areas have been established on their lands prohibiting them to access to the forest where they hunt, gather, conduct traditional rituals, hence severing them from their livelihood and culture – again, without their consent.”

Struggle for landless peasants

Under the DRC’s 2014 Forest Code, indigenous people and local communities have the legal right to own forest covering an area of up to 50,000 hectares.

Thirteen communities in the territories of Mushie and Bolobo in the Mai-Ndombe province have since asked for formal title of a total of 65,308 hectares of land, reports said, adding that only 300 hectares have been legally recognised for each community – a total of only 3,900 hectares.

Alfred Mputu, a 56-year-old small scale forest farmer who is among the people still waiting for a formal title, told IPS: “I have been working and living in this land for decades, but as long as I don’t have a formal title that gives me the right to own it, I wouldn’t say it belongs to me.

“What if the government decides to sell it to foreign companies or to some rich and powerful people? Where will we go to live?”

The consequences of these communities living in and around these forests with no secured land rights could be dire, according to experts.

Zachary Donnenfeld, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) senior researcher for African futures and innovation, told IPS: “They could have their land sold out from under them by the government, likely to a private multinational company.

“Even if they are allowed to stay on their land, the environmental degradation caused by this industry could cause a noticeable deterioration in the quality of life for people in the area.”

Pretoria-based Donnenfeld added: “My guess is that the government is more interested in selling these resources to multinationals than it in seeing it benefit the community.

“To be fair, the government could be trying to sort out competing claims among the local groups. There could have been some overlap, for example communities bidding for the best land, and the government could be deciding what’s fair based on historical use or something. That said, my guess is that communities won’t get most of this land – at least in a secured land rights sense.”

Poverty and conflicts

Gauthier pointed out that these situations create poverty and conflicts between project implementers and communities, as well as between communities.

“Instead, when communities get secured land rights and are empowered to manage their lands themselves, studies show that it is the best way to protect the forest and even more efficient than government-managed protected areas.

“REDD+ opens the door to more land-grabbing by external stakeholders appealed by carbon benefits. Local communities’ land rights should be recognised through existing legal possibilities such as local community forest concessions so that they can keep protecting the forest, hence achieving REDD+ objectives.”

Gauthier said if their land rights are not secured, they can get evicted, as has already happened elsewhere in the country, such as South Kivu in the Kahuzi Biega National Park where 6,000 pygmies were expelled.

“Evicting the guardians of the forest risks losing the forest, when enabling them to live in and protect the forest as they have always done is the best way to keep these forests standing.”

Many observers say situations such as these impact negatively on the most vulnerable – women and children – who are already bearing the brunt of a country torn apart by dictatorship, economic mismanagement, corruption and two decades of armed conflict.

Chouchouna Losale, vice-coordinator of the Coalition of Women for the Environment and Sustainable Development in the DRC, told IPS that a humanitarian crisis has ensued in the Mai-Ndombe Province after the savannahs donated to women were ‘given’ to an industrial logging company.

“There are now cases of malnutrition in the area,” Losale said.

The Coalition of Women for the Environment and Sustainable Development advocates for the recognition of rights and competence of women in general, and aboriginal women in particular, in the Congolese provinces of Mai-Ndombe and Equateur.

“I urge the government to advance the process of land reform in order to provide the country with a clear land policy protecting forest-dependent communities,” Losale said, adding that proper consultation with communities should be done to avoid conflict.

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