Inter Press Service » Africa http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 26 Sep 2016 16:33:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 Community Conversations in Ethiopia Prevents Exploitative Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/community-conversations-in-ethiopia-prevents-exploitative-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=community-conversations-in-ethiopia-prevents-exploitative-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/community-conversations-in-ethiopia-prevents-exploitative-migration/#comments Thu, 22 Sep 2016 13:30:44 +0000 UN Women http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147048 Lack of economic resources and opportunities are driving Ethiopia’s young women to migrate, often through illegal brokers, as domestic workers in the Gulf countries. They face risks of exploitation, trafficking, poor working conditions and sexual harassment in the destination countries. A programme by UN Women and ILO has initiated ‘Community Conversations’ to ensure safe migration, and raise awareness about the Domestic Workers Convention.]]>

Lack of economic resources and opportunities are driving Ethiopia’s young women to migrate, often through illegal brokers, as domestic workers in the Gulf countries. They face risks of exploitation, trafficking, poor working conditions and sexual harassment in the destination countries. A programme by UN Women and ILO has initiated ‘Community Conversations’ to ensure safe migration, and raise awareness about the Domestic Workers Convention.

By UN Women
Sep 22 2016 (IPS)

Five years ago, when Meliya Gumi’s two daughters, Gifty* and Chaltu,* aged 16 and 18, migrated to Dubai and Qatar respectively, as domestic workers, everyone thought they were moving towards a better future. As a widowed mother of eight with little resources, living in the village of Haro Kunta in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, Gumi had a difficult time making ends meet.

Meliya Gumi (front left) contributes ideas on how to prevent irregular migration at one of the Community Conversation sessions in her village. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Meliya Gumi (front left) contributes ideas on how to prevent irregular migration at one of the Community Conversation sessions in her village. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Gumi’s daughters made it to their destination countries through illegal brokers, but found themselves trapped in poor working conditions with no benefits or protection. They send some money to Gumi every now and then, which supplements her meagre income.

“My wish is to see my daughters come back home safe and I would never want them to leave again, as long as they have some income to survive on,” says Gumi, who is now one of the 22 active participants of the “Community Conversations” initiative in her village, supported by UN Women and International Labour Organization (ILO). The Community Conversations aim to prevent “irregular migration”—exploitative or illegal migration, including smuggling and trafficking of workers, mainly to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries [1]—by providing information and making the community aware of the risks. The initiative also raises awareness about the ILO Convention 189, namely the Domestic Workers Convention, which went into force globally in 2013 and has 22 ratifications to date. Ethiopia has yet to ratify the Convention and raising awareness about protecting the rights of migrant domestic workers is a critical step forward.

Among the nine administrative regional states in Ethiopia, the Oromia region, where Gumi’s village is located, is most prone to migration and a popular source for illegal brokers. Some 161,490 domestic workers from this region have migrated overseas between 2009 and 2014, of which an estimated 155,860—96 per cent—were women [2].

“One of the key interventions of the Project is to also address safe migration for women,” says UN Women Deputy Representative in Ethiopia, Funmi Balogun. “UN Women recognizes the rights of women to safe migration to seek better opportunities and to improve their livelihoods. To enable this, the project strengthens the capacities of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and its affiliates to provide gender-sensitive information as part of pre-departure training for potential migrant women domestic workers, so that they understand their rights, know how to access support and how to save and protect their earnings. This training and support were designed to assist potential female migrants understand their rights, whether in Ethiopia or in their receiving countries, know where support systems for them are located and strengthen their ability to effectively save and protect their earnings. The institutions were also supported to understand the rights of migrant workers as stated in ILO Convention 189, and to institutionalize processes and systems for reintegrating returnee women migrant workers into their communities.”

Coordinated by trained facilitators, the Community Conversations take place twice a month and engage men and women of different age groups, returnee migrant workers, families of migrant workers and prospective migrants, religious leaders and community influencers. The initiative is active in three regions of Ethiopia—Amhara, Oromia and Tigray—and in the Addis Ababa city administration since 2015, and have been successful in changing attitudes and practices of the communities regarding irregular migration. For example, in the Adaba district alone, within four months of implementation, the conversations led to significant reduction of irregular migration. The Government of Ethiopia is now institutionalizing the practice of Community Conversations at the village level throughout the country.

Kebede Tolcha (left), Adaba district’s Labor and Social Affairs Office Head, explains on results of the Community Conversations while the village chairman, Amano Aliya (right) goes through the documented agendas discussed by the participants. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Kebede Tolcha (left), Adaba district’s Labor and Social Affairs Office Head, explains on results of the Community Conversations while the village chairman, Amano Aliya (right) goes through the documented agendas discussed by the participants. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Kebede Tolcha, Adaba district’s Head of the Labour and Social Affairs Office, notes that the initiative is not only helping the villagers in making informed decisions about migration, it is also empowering them to identify the root causes of migration and take their ideas for solutions to policy makers. “In past four months, we have prevented 19 individuals—13 women and 6 men— from taking up irregular migration, and enabled 31 school drop outs who were preparing to migrate illegally, to get back to school in this community,” he added.

As Gumi shares the experiences of her daughters as a cautionary tale for others, she stresses, “If enough resources, including land and employment, is provided to the younger ones, there will be no need for them to migrate.” As a result of the discussions and with the support from the government, some parents have started investing in their children’s education and income generating activities, rather than financing irregular migration.

Ashewal Kemal, 17, changed her mind about migrating as a domestic worker using unsafe means as a result of the Community Conversation initiative in the Oromia district. She went back to school, completed 10th grade and now works as an Office Assistant in her village administration. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Ashewal Kemal, 17, changed her mind about migrating as a domestic worker using unsafe means as a result of the Community Conversation initiative in the Oromia district. She went back to school, completed 10th grade and now works as an Office Assistant in her village administration. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

The Community Conversations in Adaba District are part of a joint project, ‘Development of a Tripartite Framework for the Support and Protection of Ethiopian and Somali Women Domestic Migrant Workers to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States, Lebanon and Sudan’ by ILO and UN Women and funded by the European Union. Over 140,000 women and 85,000 men have participated in the Community Conversation initiative as part of the project.

* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals

Notes
[1] The GCC states include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
[2] UN Women (2015). Unpublished study on the Nature, Trend and Magnitude of Migration of Female Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs) from Ethiopia to GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) States, Lebanon and Sudan. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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Jobs Are Crucial for Peace, Stem Radicalization and Violent Extremism in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/jobs-are-crucial-for-peace-stem-radicalization-and-violent-extremism-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jobs-are-crucial-for-peace-stem-radicalization-and-violent-extremism-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/jobs-are-crucial-for-peace-stem-radicalization-and-violent-extremism-in-kenya/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 12:22:30 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147013 Ambassador Amina Mohamed (@AMB_A_Mohammed) is the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Siddharth Chatterjee (@sidchat1) is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya. ]]> Under Vision 2030, the agriculture sector is to be made more innovative, commercially oriented and modern. Photo Credit: WikiMedia

Under Vision 2030, the agriculture sector is to be made more innovative, commercially oriented and modern. Photo Credit: WikiMedia

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 21 2016 (IPS)

Today 21 September 2016 is the International Day of Peace.

Kenya has the largest number of jobless youth in East Africa, putting a strain on the economy’s growth and also threatening peace and security when hopeless youth gravitate towards violent extremist groups.

Today, youth form two-thirds of Kenya’s population, many of them unemployed, with the ratio of youth unemployment to overall adult unemployment standing at 46 percent, according to the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census. At the same time, there are eight dependents for every ten working Kenyans, meaning that the average worker will very often have little left to save or invest for growth.

While this youth bulge may seem like a disaster in the making, investing in the sectors with highest potential can turn it into a gateway to rapid economic growth and development as we have seen among Asian Tigers like Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia.

By all projections, agriculture presents this opportunity.

While the African Union has recognised agriculture as the driving force of social and economic transformation, the youth often feel that agriculture lacks the glamour, sophistication and allure of the professions they seek.

This is regrettable. Africa not only has the largest percentage of arable land in the globe, and untapped potential for irrigated agro-pastoralism on its vast arid and semi-arid lands, but it also has the highest ratio of young people with the necessary knowledge, innovative skills and physical strength.

Of particular interest are youth in hard to reach areas, such as the arid and semi-arid lands, who are increasingly disgruntled by dim prospects of good jobs and increasingly prone to the temptations of extremist groups. These groups sway them with blandishments and exploit their feelings of exclusion and hopelessness.

In northern Kenya, which has borne the brunt of extremism in the country, traditional livestock farming methods can be targeted for transformation into a quality-driven, export-targeting industry. This calls for investment in education, rural transport and electricity, and smart business and trade policies.

In these areas, formal education should provide young people with basic numeracy and literacy, managerial and business skills, and introduce them to agro-pastoralism. It has been shown that education is key to overcoming development challenges in rural areas, and that improved access to education also improves rural children’s food security.

The power of the internet also offers a great opportunity for attracting youth in far-flung areas to agriculture. Packaging and disseminating information on agri-business to the youth through social media platforms like blogs, websites, Twitter and Facebook has proven effective in Kenya. Much more can be achieved with increased access to the internet especially in the remote parts of the country.

There is a great potential pay-off for the continent: according to the World Bank, African agriculture and agribusiness could be worth $1 trillion by 2030. Clearly, this is the low hanging fruit that Kenya should aim to invest in to solve the myriad problems associated with youth unemployment.

Agro-pastoralism has great potential to improve livelihoods for youth and women and reduce food insecurity, create incomes and generally help youth to feel engaged and involved with the national development agenda. Those promoting entrepreneurship must therefore include agribusiness as a priority area of focus, particularly at the county level.

Acting on this, President Uhuru Kenyatta during this year’s African Green Revolution Forum held in Nairobi, announced that the government would invest US$200 million to enable 150,000 young agricultural entrepreneurs to gain access to markets, finance and insurance.

With their dynamism, enthusiasm and innovativeness, the youth are our greatest asset and a force for improving the productivity and growth of all sectors in Kenya.

To reap the dividends, Kenya’s priority focus needs to be on growth in sectors that can absorb them, particularly agriculture.

Policies must also ensure that women and girls, who do most of the actual work in farms across Africa, can achieve their potential. Lack of collateral and financial literacy often make them ineligible for financial assistance while cultural norms deny them land inheritance rights and, at times, restrict their movement and access to markets for their produce.

Kenya’s Vision 2030 aims to turn the country into an industrialized, middle-income country and provide a high quality life in a safe and secure environment to all its citizens by 2030.

It is only when the current large group of youth has been given education and skills demanded by the sectors of greatest potential that we will turn the youth bulge into a force for good and transform Kenya into a peaceful and prosperous nation.

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From Where I Stand: Nahimana Fainesihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/from-where-i-stand-nahimana-fainesi/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=from-where-i-stand-nahimana-fainesi http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/from-where-i-stand-nahimana-fainesi/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2016 10:28:54 +0000 UN Women http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146981 Nahimana Fainesi [Finess], 30, fled her native Burundi in July 2015 and has since been living in the Lusenda refugee camp in Fizi, Democratic Republic of Congo. She works as a farmer in a UN Women cash-for-work programme there, which is funded by the Government of Japan. Her work is directly related to Sustainable Development Goal 2, which seeks to end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular people in vulnerable situations, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food; and SDG 16, on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. ]]> Nahimana Fainesi in the Lusenda refugee camp in Fizi, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Catianne Tijerina/UN Women

Nahimana Fainesi in the Lusenda refugee camp in Fizi, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Catianne Tijerina/UN Women

By UN Women
Sep 19 2016 (IPS)

“This is my second time living in communal camps, second time running away from civil war to protect myself. What made me leave [Burundi] was the problem of random people invading others’ homes, attacking those without husbands. They would enter with knives. Before they kill you, they would first rape you. When I saw those attacks, and people dying, I left with my one-year-old son. I didn’t have the chance to get all my children because it was a case of everyone for themselves, running for their lives.

When I got to the Lusenda Camp (in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), I had no hope. UN Women gave me hope, motivation and empowerment. After some time, I was appointed committee member of the women’s group. I found a job [through a cash-for-work programme] and that money helped me cross back to get my children. I have five children—four girls and one boy.

Camp life is another challenge. Two of my children have now matured into young women. When they go walking around, I remain in constant fear, because at any time they could get raped. The food is also insufficient and gets depleted even before the next ration.

I survive by farming to get a little cash. Women farm together, growing several types of crops. Once they are ready to be harvested, we sell the produce. One must always think about how you can get your hands dirty to attain your goals and feed your family. Happiness begins with you.”

This story, part of the “Where I am” editorial series, was replicated from the UN Women website <http://www.unwomen.org/>. IPS is an official partner of UN Women’s Step It Up! Media Compact.

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The Public Benefit Organisations Act Will Help Kenya’s March Towards the Sustainable Development Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/the-public-benefit-organisations-act-will-help-kenyas-march-towards-the-sustainable-development-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-public-benefit-organisations-act-will-help-kenyas-march-towards-the-sustainable-development-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/the-public-benefit-organisations-act-will-help-kenyas-march-towards-the-sustainable-development-goals/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2016 09:55:18 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146978 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator and the UNDP Resident Representative to Kenya. ]]> Willaim Ruto, Kenya's Deputy President said that, “This act will empower community based organizations to mobilize public opinion so as to shape development priorities as well as sharpen accountability mechanisms at all levels of government."

Willaim Ruto, Kenya's Deputy President said that, “This act will empower community based organizations to mobilize public opinion so as to shape development priorities as well as sharpen accountability mechanisms at all levels of government."

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 19 2016 (IPS)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Kenya was launched on 14 September 2016, Representing President Uhuru Kenyatta, the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Devolution and planning Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri, said Kenya was way ahead of implementing the SDGs through its Vision 2030, and the devolved system of Governance

Kenya now needs strategic and creative partnerships with civil society networks to raise public awareness and sustain momentum for the Goals’ diverse set of targets.

The SDG targets presents a challenge that is too big for any one government, and the coming into force of the Public Benefit Organisations Act (PBOs) therefore presents an opportunity to build broad partnerships with civil society groups, an acknowledged force for social justice, human rights and equity.

Stakeholders have now overcome the initial hurdles facing the Act when it was adopted in Parliament in 2013. These included suggestions for putting caps on funds for civil society organisations and other amendments that were considered overly restrictive.

There have been concerns that delays in implementing the Act would have led to an environment of control over civil society, more so in the lead-up to the 2017 elections when civil society is expected to complement the electoral management body’s voter education initiatives and advocate for free, fair and peaceful elections.

With the coming into operation of the Act on 9 September 2016, Kenya now has a legal framework, aligned with the Constitution of Kenya 2010, and that repeals the 1990 NGOs Coordination Act. This framework will, among other things, promote a vibrant civil society space in the country and stimulate continued local-level partnership for development, a key ingredient for the realization of the SDGs.

The decision by Cabinet secretary Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri to bring this Act into use, therefore, is a commendable step and a milestone decision which reaffirms the commitment of the Government of Kenya to its human rights obligations, notably freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly, consistent with the vision and values of the Kenyan Constitution.

County governments too stand to benefit as the Act presents an opportunity for Civil Society Organizations to engage with them towards realizing the constitutional promise of devolution and the SDG agenda at the sub-national level. This can only be realized if county governments embrace the new law and prioritize its operationalization at the county level by clearly factoring it in their development policies and plans.

The Government of Kenya and the UN collaboration on what is now a fully operational law has come a long way. After concrete engagements with the government for close to three years, a commitment to the operationalization of the PBO Act included in the Government roadmap that the UN supported following the Universal Periodic Review of Kenya in 2015.

The UN is ever ready to partner with the Government of Kenya and civil society including philanthropy to support a PBO implementation framework which is designed in an inclusive, credible and participatory manner and upholding human rights.

As the UN family, we believe that dynamic partnerships with civil society organizations are essential for generating public awareness and political support for human development priorities, as well as for implementing programmes. Civil society must be at the heart of any development response, and their participation can only give impetus to Kenya’s SDG campaign.

Discussing this on a flight to New York recently, with Kenya’s Deputy President Mr William Ruto, who also chairs the IBEC (Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council) that brings together all levels of Government both at national and county level, he welcomed this development. He said, “This act will empower community based organizations to mobilize public opinion so as to shape development priorities as well as sharpen accountability mechanisms at all levels of government.”

The Act will also facilitate the implementation of Kenya’s strategy on Countering Violent Extremism. This is because civil society provide forums through which youth can engage and participate in the political, economic and social spheres, and it has been an important voice in urging that the protection of human rights be placed at the center of the security response.

The post-2015 development agenda will be most effective only if it results from inclusive and open multi-stakeholder participation.

This means that the vision for the Kenya we want must be informed by the perspectives of her people, especially those living in poverty who are served well by civil society and to ensure that “no one is left behind”.

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Militarised Conservation Threatens DRC’s Indigenous People – Part 2http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/militarised-conservation-threatens-drcs-indigenous-people-part-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=militarised-conservation-threatens-drcs-indigenous-people-part-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/militarised-conservation-threatens-drcs-indigenous-people-part-2/#comments Thu, 15 Sep 2016 20:20:50 +0000 Zahra Moloo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146950 A group of young Mbuti men from Biganiro, DRC, sit in front of their houses, which consist of makeshift structures made of wood and plastic sheeting. Credit: Zahra Moloo/IPS

A group of young Mbuti men from Biganiro, DRC, sit in front of their houses, which consist of makeshift structures made of wood and plastic sheeting. Credit: Zahra Moloo/IPS

By Zahra Moloo
MUDJA/BIGANIRO, Sep 15 2016 (IPS)

The Bambuti people were the original inhabitants of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the oldest national park in Africa whose boundaries date back to 1925 when it was first carved out by King Albert of Belgium. But forbidden from living or hunting inside, the Bambuti now face repression from both park rangers and armed groups.

Other communities in the park accuse the DRC’s National Park Authority (ICCN) of expropriating land without their consent and without providing compensation, but park authorities say that rangers must undertake “legitimate defense” and take action when people in the park “recruit armed groups to secure the land.”Virunga National Park is considered a sensitive zone for the government because of potential oil exploration, mining and rebel groups.

Compounding the difficult relationship between communities and conservationists is the park’s location. According to researchers, it lies at the epicenter of an ongoing conflict and is affected by cross-border dynamics between Rwanda and Uganda.

Indigenous knowledge versus imposed development

Without access to the forest and to their ancestral lands to hunt and gather, the Bambuti have trouble surviving. Many depend on daily contractual labour from surrounding communities, such as cutting trees for wood that is sold in Goma. Seventy-year-old Muhima Sebazungu, one of Mudja’s community leaders, said that they are starting to forget their traditional knowledge of plants and medicines.

Patrick Kipalu, of the NGO Forest People’s Program, believes that the park and government’s exclusion of the Bambuti from conservation efforts is a waste of the immense amount of knowledge indigenous communities have about forest ecosystems. One solution, he said, would be to recruit them as rangers in protecting the park.

The ICCN’s Jean Claude Kyungu said that there are “specific criteria” for recruiting rangers, which the Bambuti do not fulfill, including having a diploma from the state.

Norbert Mushenzi, the ICCN’s deputy director of the Virunga National Park, said that the Bambuti have an “intellectual deficiency” and one way for them to benefit from the park is to “sell their cultural products and dances to tourists.”

His view is not unusual; many people, including those directly involved in advocating for the Bambuti, believe that they are inferior to Bantu communities. Although official policy under Mobutu’s regime aimed to ‘emancipate’ indigenous people and to consider them no different from other communities, in practice this meant promoting a sedentary lifestyle and agriculture.

A group of women from Mudja, DRC. Elders worry that the community is beginning to lose their knowledge of traditional medicine and plants. Credit: Zahra Moloo/IPS

A group of women from Mudja, DRC. Elders worry that the community is beginning to lose their knowledge of traditional medicine and plants. Credit: Zahra Moloo/IPS

Doufina Tabu, president of a human rights organization, the Association of Volunteers of Congo (ASVOCO), works with Bambuti communities living outside the park whose land has been stolen.

“In Masisi there was a pygmy who was arrested because someone tricked him into giving up his field. He did not have a title deed so he was accused of illegal occupation, even though it’s his own land,” Tabu said. “He was arrested one year ago and we are still trying to get him out.”

While Tabu advocates for the Bambuti to secure land, he also believes that they must integrate into society, “so they can live like others.”

“There are things in their culture that we must change. They can’t continue to stay in the forest like animals,” he said.

A report by Survival International states that forcing “development” on indigenous people has “disastrous” impacts and that the most important factor to their well being is whether or not their land rights are respected.

According to Kipalu, the living conditions of the Bambuti are far worse now than when they were in the forest. “Being landless and living on the lands of other people means that they end up being treated almost as slaves,” he said.

The Bambuti from Biganiro do not understand why they cannot access basic services and still be able to return to the forest.

18-year-old Shukuru from Biganiro completed two years of primary school and wants to drive a motorbike, but does not know where to begin. “It’s around 20 dollars just to learn,” he said. “And we barely find enough to eat everyday.”

Legal avenues and long-term solutions

Around Kahuzi-Biega National Park, which like Virunga, is classified as a World Heritage Site, the organization Environment, Natural Resources and Development, ERND, together with the Rainforest Foundation Norway, filed a legal complaint in 2010 for the Batwa, another indigenous group, to receive compensation for the loss of their lands inside the park.

The case landed at the Supreme Court in Kinshasa in 2013 where it has remained. In May 2016, the organizations submitted their complaint to the African Commission of Human and People’s Rights, but have yet to receive a response from the Congolese government.

Mathilde Roffet, from Rainforest Foundation Norway, said that even if the court rules in favour of the Batwa, they will still have to deal with UNESCO and the park’s status as a world heritage site. She hopes that the case can set a precedent for other national parks.

Virunga, however, is a different scenario and according to Kipalu, “a really sensitive zone for the government because of potential oil exploration, mining and rebel groups.”

At the national level, the Dynamique des Groupes des Peuples Autothtones (DGPA), a network of organizations that works on the rights of indigenous people in the country, have been working on a new law recognizing their rights.

Although the DRC voted to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in 2007, the country’s constitution, 1973 land law and the 2002 Forestry Code make no reference to the rights of indigenous people.

The proposed law includes the protection of their traditional medicine and culture, as well as access to land and natural resources. Article 42 specifically states that indigenous people have the right to return to their ancestral lands and be fairly and adequately compensated if they have to relocate.

Since 2014, its adoption has been stalled. “They keep saying ‘we will discuss it next week, next month’ but the country is going through a lot of political changes, so they are giving a priority to other political issues first,” said Kipalu.

In the meantime, the network is working with the ICCN and the government on road map for the short term, which includes ensuring that indigenous people have access to education and healthcare.

“We do want the communities to go back to their land eventually. Some want to go back to the forest, but others are ready to accept parcels of land outside. It’s going to take many years,” said Kipalu.

The ICCN’s Jean-Claude Kungu said that the ICCN has been trying to improve relations with communities around the park through different initiatives.

“We have proposed initiating development activities like hydroelectric projects, water delivery, and other projects in favour of the population,” he said.

In the meantime, the Bambuti of Mudja and Biganiro will have to remain where they are. Giovanni Sisiri who was attacked by a park guard, brings out a bow and arrow and aims it at the forest. “We will have to start a rebellion one day!” He said, laughing. “We first want peace. But if the provincial and central governments do not find a solution for us, we will have to fight for it.”

Reporting for this story was supported by the International Women’s Media Foundation

 

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Militarised Conservation Threatens DRC’s Indigenous People – Part 1http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/militarised-conservation-threatens-drcs-indigenous-people-part-1/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=militarised-conservation-threatens-drcs-indigenous-people-part-1 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/militarised-conservation-threatens-drcs-indigenous-people-part-1/#comments Wed, 14 Sep 2016 13:56:53 +0000 Zahra Moloo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146904 A man from the community of Mudja holds out his arm to show where he was injured by a park ranger. Credit: Zahra Moloo/IPS

A man from the community of Mudja holds out his arm to show where he was injured by a park ranger. Credit: Zahra Moloo/IPS

By Zahra Moloo
MUDJA/BIGANIRO, Sep 14 2016 (IPS)

It is late afternoon when a light drizzle begins to fall over a group of young men seated together in Mudja, a village that lies approximately 20 kilometres north of Goma on the outskirts of the Virunga National Park. Mudja is home to a community of around 40 families of indigenous Bambuti, also known as ‘pygmies.’*

One of the men holds out his arm to show an injury he received from a park ranger. Others chime in.“When the colonialists left the country, the people who managed those protected areas were trained by the Belgians that conservation should be done without people, in the old-school way." -- Patrick Kipalu of the Forest People's Program

“Just the day before yesterday, they shot at me when I was looking for honey and firewood,” says Giovanni Sisiri. “I abandoned everything, took my tools, and ran.”

Armed paramilitary rangers from the Virunga National Park are tasked with protecting the park from poachers and trespassers, often at risk to their own lives. In Congolese law, human habitation and hunting within the park is forbidden, including for the Bambuti, its original inhabitants.

The Bambuti living in Mudja said that at times they defy these laws, venturing inside to collect wood, hunt small animals and gather non-timber products, but recently it has become more difficult.

“A pygmy cannot live without the park. Before, they could enter secretly,” said Felix Maroy, an agronomist and livestock farmer who works with Bambuti communities. “Since January 2015, the guards are always patrolling the area. And there are other armed groups too, like the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).”

Imani Kabasele, a resident of Mudja and the head of the local branch of an NGO, Program for the Integration and Development of the Pygmy People (PDIP), said that two years ago, a Mbuti resident of a neighbouring village, Biganiro, went to look for honey and disappeared for three days. His body was later discovered, cut up by a machete. Kabasele believes it was someone from the FDLR that killed him.

Imani Kabasele, the head of the branch of a Congolese NGO, PDIP, said that the Mbuti know the forest far better than any other communities, but is it is dangerous for them to venture inside. Credit: Zahra Moloo/IPS

Imani Kabasele, the head of the branch of a Congolese NGO, PDIP, said that the Mbuti know the forest far better than any other communities, but is it is dangerous for them to venture inside. Credit: Zahra Moloo/IPS

Militarisation and colonial conservation policies

The initial demarcation of the Virunga National Park boundaries dates back to 1925 when it was first created by King Albert of Belgium.

The oldest national park in Africa, it was later expanded to include over seven thousand square kilometres of land. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, it is now managed by a private-public partnership between the National Park Authority of the DRC (ICCN) and the EU-funded Virunga Foundation, and is home to about a quarter of the world’s mountain gorillas. Congolese farmers living around the Virunga said that its colonial history creates the impression that it was “created by the Mzungu (white man), for the Mzungu.”

After independence, other national parks were established, including Maiko National Park, and Kahuzi-Biega National Park in South Kivu.  According to the Global Forest Coalition, the creation of national parks led to the eviction of thousands of indigenous people who neither gave their consent nor received compensation for their loss of land. It was, they state, “in violation of international law” and the country’s 1977 law on expropriation for public purposes.

Patrick Kipalu, the DRC Country Manager for the Forest People’s Program, said there is an active conflict between communities around the park, both indigenous Bambuti as well as agricultural Bantu, and “conservationists, park rangers and other NGOs working for conservation.”

“The old school of conservation in the colonial period was ‘people out of the forest’ and ‘it’s a protected area without anyone inside,’” said Kipalu. “When the colonialists left the country, the people who managed those protected areas were trained by the Belgians that conservation should be done without people, in the old-school way. They have kept the same strategies, though the ICCN is thinking of a conservation strategy which is supposed to include and involve communities.”

Jean Claude (18, right), poses with his friend Denis Sinzira.  Most of the youth in Biganiro, DRC go to school until they are 9 or 10 years old. Credit: Zahra Moloo/IPS

Jean Claude (18, right), poses with his friend Denis Sinzira. Most of the youth in Biganiro only go to school until they are 9 or 10 years old. Credit: Zahra Moloo/IPS

Last year, in a letter to Kipalu, a representative of the customary chiefs in Lubero on the west coast of Lake Edward said that the ICCN had expropriated land without the consent of the people living on it and without offering any compensation. The letter also accused the ICCN of destroying and setting fire to villages. A 2004 report by a consultant to the World Bank, Dr Kai Schmidt-Soltau, states that the ICCN, along with WWF, claimed to have resettled 35,000 people from an area south-east of Lake Edward through a voluntary process, but that in fact the resettlement was carried out “at gun-point.”

Aggressive conservation activities are part of a widespread trend toward what some researchers call the militarization of conservation,an approach to protecting nature in which conservationists could engage in repressive policies that are counterproductive.

Jean Claude Kyungu, who in charge of community relations for Virunga, said that the park’s relations with communities around the park are good in some areas, but not in others, and that guards only fire at people if there is “resistance” from the population, for instance when communities “recruit armed groups to secure the land.” He added that the Bambuti are only arrested when they have defied the law.

When asked about the repressive behavior of park rangers and officers from the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) towards civilians in and around the park, Norbert Mushenzi, the ICCN’s deputy director of the Virunga National Park, said that the officers are “undertaking legitimate defense.”

“We also try to educate communities to leave and find alternative solutions, for instance to go to the fields around the park. There were 350 families in one area that left voluntarily,” he said. “The problem is not land. It’s that people want to concentrate in the park and we don’t know why,” he said.

But leaving the park and finding other places to settle is not so simple. One problem, according to Kipalu, is that people living inside illegally have nowhere to go. “The park is so big that it takes the whole area where communities work on their traditional lands,” he said.

Compounding the issue are larger and more complex political dynamics.  According to a group of researchers, Virunga lies at the “epicenter of ongoing conflict since 1993-4” and is “strongly affected by cross-border dynamics with both Rwanda and Uganda.” It is also a hideout for numerous armed domestic and foreign groups.

Communities who enter the park often do so with the protection of armed actors, and links between them are further strengthened by politicians who take advantage of the widespread sentiment that the park expropriated people’s ancestral lands, leading these politicians, in some cases, to “finance armed groups operating in the park.”

The authors suggest that the park “adopt a more conflict sensitive approach to conservation”, and increase efforts to improve local communication. But Jean-Claude Kyungu believes that the park’s approach is not particularly repressive given the enormous challenges. “At Kibirizi, the population lives with the FDLR,” he said. “Do we let these people just go and make their own laws not just in a park, but in a country, that is not their own? People who do not respect the boundaries have to be removed.”

Reporting for this story was supported by the International Women’s Media Foundation

*The word ‘pygmy’ has negative connotations and is used widely in the DRC. According to Survival International, it has been reclaimed by some communities as a term of identify.

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Conservation Congress Votes to Ban All Domestic Trade in Elephant Ivoryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/conservation-congress-votes-to-ban-all-domestic-trade-in-elephant-ivory/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conservation-congress-votes-to-ban-all-domestic-trade-in-elephant-ivory http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/conservation-congress-votes-to-ban-all-domestic-trade-in-elephant-ivory/#comments Sun, 11 Sep 2016 13:42:03 +0000 Guy Dinmore http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146875 By Guy Dinmore
HONOLULU, Hawaii, Sep 11 2016 (IPS)

The international conservation community has taken an important step towards saving African elephants from mass slaughter by voting at a major congress to call on all governments to ban their domestic trade in ivory.

A resolution at the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was passed overwhelmingly by governments and NGOs on its last day on Saturday despite fierce opposition from a minority of countries led by Japan, South Africa and Namibia.Tusks end up smuggled by criminal organisations to Asia where they are carved and sold openly -- mostly in China, Vietnam and Hong Kong -- under the guise of legal ivory imported before a ban on international trade came into force in 1989.

Motion 007 was the last and most contentious of 105 resolutions voted on at the 10-day IUCN congress in Honolulu. Delegates cheered and applauded as some 20 amendments put forward by Namibia and Japan were defeated, and the text of the resolution was approved.

The resolution, sponsored on the government side by the United States and Gabon, aims to deprive illegal poachers of market demand for elephant ivory. Results of a recently released Great Elephant Census of 18 African countries showed that poachers are killing some 27,000 savanna elephants a year, resulting in an annual population decline of 8 percent.

Activists say an elephant is being shot for its ivory every 15 minutes. Tusks end up smuggled by criminal organisations to Asia where they are carved and sold openly — mostly in China, Vietnam and Hong Kong — under the guise of legal ivory imported before a ban on international trade came into force in 1989.

“It is fantastic this was approved,” commented Susan Lieberman of the Wildlife Conservation Society, an NGO co-sponsor of the motion. “It is a great victory for elephants. We are calling on governments to say it is over, it is done — no more domestic trade in ivory.”

The IUCN does not have legal authority to force governments to adopt policies, but as the most authoritative voice on conservation issues – grouping nearly 1,400 states, government agencies and NGOs – its policy decisions carry considerable weight.

Next stop for conservationists on this issue is the meeting of parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Johannesburg on September 24. CITES banned the international trade in elephant ivory in 1989 but allowed two major auctions of ivory in the late 1990s and again in 2008. These sales led to a spike in poaching in Africa and resulted in CITES declaring a 10-year moratorium which expires in 2017.

Delegates in Honolulu said the IUCN policy decision would make it virtually impossible that the CITES conference would agree to South Africa or other nations being allowed to resume limited sales of ivory. A motion will also be put to CITES to call for a ban on the domestic trade in ivory.

Lieberman highlighted the push by most African states and civil society to ban domestic trade in ivory. Speakers at the IUCN congress calling for the ban included Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Benin, Congo, Senegal and Gabon.

“The loudest voices were African from the range countries who spoke out,” Lieberman noted.

But South Africa and Namibia argued that their elephant populations were growing because of their countries’ successful conservation efforts, funded in part by domestic sales of ivory. Both countries said they should not be penalised for the failings of others and that it would be a breach of their sovereignty to be ordered how to manage their wildlife.

Similarly Japan said it had strictly controlled its internal market and prevented the smuggling of ivory, and that efforts should focus on helping other countries achieve tougher regulation. A total ban on domestic trade also contradicted the concept of sustainable development championed by IUCN, Japanese Ministry of Environment official Naohisa Okuda told the Congress.

“Conservation and sustainable use should go hand in hand,” Okuda said.

NGOs however challenge Japan’s claims to have stopped the flow of illegal ivory across its borders. Activists also suspect that the opposition coalition between Japan and the two African nations concealed an intention by Tokyo to try to persuade CITES to allow Japan to buy ivory once more.

IUCN’s proposed ban will also encourage and support China to close its booming domestic trade in ivory where smugglers can earn over $1,000 a kilogram for tusks.

China and the US announced jointly a year ago their intention to ban ivory from their respective markets. The US went ahead – with limited exceptions such as ivory used in musical instruments – while China has not set a timetable.

Chinese government delegates did not speak during the debate over motion 007 but told activists privately that China welcomed the worldwide ban. NGOs are hopeful China will set a timeframe for its domestic ban by the end of this year.

The US urged all IUCN members to support the motion. “Legal markets mask illegal markets. To think otherwise masks the truth,” a State Department official told the plenary session.

At times the debate was heated. A speaker for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, a South African provincial agency which funds much of its budget from business operations, denounced what she called the “pseudo-science theories” of “smart people” who wanted to tell South Africans how to manage their wildlife.

Safari Club International, a pro-hunting lobby group, said the proposed ban violated the sovereignty of nations.

One of the strongest statements in support of the ban came from Uganda, speaking on behalf of 29 states grouped in the African Elephant Coalition. “The people benefiting from ivory are criminals and terrorists,” said a Ugandan wildlife official, accusing the Lord’s Resistance Army which operates across four countries, of funding its operations through ivory. “I have buried 100 of my Rangers in this war,” he said.

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Myths, Secrets and Inequality Surround Ugandan Women’s Sex Liveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/myths-secrets-and-inequality-surround-ugandan-womens-sex-lives/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=myths-secrets-and-inequality-surround-ugandan-womens-sex-lives http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/myths-secrets-and-inequality-surround-ugandan-womens-sex-lives/#comments Sun, 11 Sep 2016 00:14:40 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146867 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/myths-secrets-and-inequality-surround-ugandan-womens-sex-lives/feed/ 0 Entrepreneurship, Job Creation Take Centre Stage at NEPAD Meethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/entrepreneurship-job-creation-take-centre-stage-at-nepad-meet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=entrepreneurship-job-creation-take-centre-stage-at-nepad-meet http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/entrepreneurship-job-creation-take-centre-stage-at-nepad-meet/#comments Sat, 10 Sep 2016 11:27:11 +0000 Charles Mkoka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146861 NEPAD CEO Ibrahim Assane Mayaki fields questions from reporters at the Second Africa Rural Development Forum in Yaounde, Cameroon. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

NEPAD CEO Ibrahim Assane Mayaki fields questions from reporters at the Second Africa Rural Development Forum in Yaounde, Cameroon. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

By Charles Mkoka
YAOUNDE, Cameroon, Sep 10 2016 (IPS)

The two-day Second Africa Rural Development Forum concluded Friday with renewed calls to economically empower young people, many of whom are leaving the resource-rich continent and migrating to places like Europe under very risky circumstances.

Opening the conference, the director of programmes implementation and communication at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Estherine Fotabong, reminded delegates that Africa’s high economic growth rates have not translated into high levels of employment and reductions in poverty for youth and those living in rural areas.Africa’s fight against poverty, hunger and unemployment will be won or lost in rural areas.

Fotabong observed that Africa’s fight against poverty, hunger and unemployment will be won or lost in rural areas, adding that is what frames the rural transformation strategy and agenda for the entire continent.

“This is the experience of all newly wealthy nations, as the most effective means of expanding the domestic market of their own population whose incomes and purchasing power is growing. Without a growing domestic market, in terms of ever-growing numbers of rural and urban people whose income is growing, then it is difficult to escape structural poverty through an outward looking economy,” Fotabong told a jam-packed conference at the Hilton Hotel in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

She added that Africa has deviated from standard processes of structural transformation in that it is experiencing urbanisation without manufacturing jobs.

Urbanisation should typically be a consequence of economic growth, not a lack of it. Unemployment and poverty are structural not temporary — and this is not mostly self-correcting. There is need for “big push policy interventions,” she stressed.

NEPAD’s Chief Executive Officer Ibrahim Assane Mayaki agreed. “Attaining Africa’s Agenda 2063 aspirations and goals to a large extent depends on the transformation of rural areas,” Mayaki told the audience drawn from across the continent.

Immediately after the opening ceremony, a high-level panel discussion moderated by Mayaki zoomed in on challenges regarding demographic growth, pressure on natural resources, employment creation and economic diversification in designing and implementing new development strategies for job creation in rural areas.

Cameroonian Secretary General of Livestock in the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Industries Jaji Manu Taiga said the government has pumped close to 100 million dollars into his ministry to revitalise the rural sector. Capacity is also being developed among youth in the fisheries sector.

“I am urging Cameroonians that are in the diaspora who wire transfers and invest their money in hotels and apartments to come back and re-think about investing in agriculture and rural development,” Taiga added.

Taiga’s words were corroborated by Ananga Messina Clémentine, Cameroonian minister in charge of rural development. Clémentine forecasted wealth creation generated from agri-business in an ambitious plan where over 5,000 youth are currently being trained in enterprise development. She said there is a ready market in the case of agro-commodities as Cameroon is surrounded by petroleum-producing countries.

“It is time we make agriculture attractive, train and sensitize all demographic groups despite gender so that they know it is profitable. They need to know issues related to market analysis, choices of where to sell their products and building entrepreneurship spirit,” she said.

Clémentine added that in order to make agro products and commodities competitive on the market, there was a need for improved value addition and use of information technology in search of diverse market accessibility. She also stressed that post-harvest losses, currently up to 40 percent, must be brought down to manageable levels, especially in crops such as cassava and cereals. She urged African women to be actively engaged in all those activities, as a part of employment of different jobs within the value chain.

Responding to a comment from the plenary on the effects of climate change on agriculture, Clémentine said that studies have shown that at least 300 hectares of forest are destroyed annually in the Congo basin as a result of bush furrowing, a cultivate and abandon form of farming. She suggested adoption of modern agriculture methods that are less damaging to the environment and to mainstream climate change in African interventions.

Philomena Chege, Deputy Director in the Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya, suggested that the time is up to also consider shifting from subsistence farming to mechanization to ensure high productivity and time management on the part of youth.

Project Coordinator of Authentique Memorial Educational Foundation Mme Atim Taniform cited the issue of land ownership rights among women, who are only allowed to use land and not own it.

“There is preference for males over women when it comes to ownership of land which results in young women being marginalized. But also there are issues of startup capital for the youth as well which makes embarking on such initiatives a challenge in most cases,” she said on the sidelines of the meeting.

Koffi Amegbeto, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Senior Policy Officer for West Africa, told IPS that the kind of interventions his office is implementing include support for the formulation and implementation of policies, strategies and programmes that generate decent rural employment, especially for rural youth and women.

“Effective support has been provided to more than twenty countries in the biennium 2014-2015. In particular, FAO is assisting governments in the development of effective public private partnerships fostering youth inclusion in agriculture and in the design of youth-friendly and climate smart methodologies for technical and vocational education and training (e.g. Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS) methodology),” Amegbeto told IPS.

Thanks to the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund, he added, FAO launched multi-country programmes on youth employment in East and West Africa, while a third programme is geared towards supporting the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency’s Rural Futures Programme.

Secondly, FAO provides policy advice, capacity development and technical support to extend the application of international labour standards in rural areas.

“The main areas of focus have been child labour prevention in agriculture, and occupational safety and health. Four countries (Cambodia, Niger, Malawi, and Tanzania) were supported with programmes to prevent child labour in agriculture with important results in terms of increased awareness and strengthened institutional capacities to prevent child labour,” he said.

Third, FAO provides support to improve information systems and knowledge on decent rural employment at national, regional and global levels.

FAO’s work in the period 2014-2015 included putting in motion the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) in Nigeria, accompanying the Ministry of Youth, Employment and the Promotion of Civic Values in Senegal in developing a national Rural Youth Employment Policy, conducting a youth-focused value chain assessment of the small ruminant value chain in Ethiopia, and entrepreneurship skills training for vulnerable youth in Mali and Zambia.

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Will the World’s Largest Single Market Transform Africa Fortunes?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/will-the-worlds-largest-single-market-transform-africa-fortunes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-the-worlds-largest-single-market-transform-africa-fortunes http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/will-the-worlds-largest-single-market-transform-africa-fortunes/#comments Fri, 09 Sep 2016 12:00:20 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146852 Africa is not trading enough with Africa to boost economic development, but a new free trade area could change all that. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

A rich but poor Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prospects and problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

Africans not trading with Africans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Japan and South Africa Try to Block Proposed Ban on Domestic Ivory Tradehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/japan-and-south-africa-try-to-block-proposed-ban-on-domestic-ivory-trade/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=japan-and-south-africa-try-to-block-proposed-ban-on-domestic-ivory-trade http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/japan-and-south-africa-try-to-block-proposed-ban-on-domestic-ivory-trade/#comments Thu, 08 Sep 2016 19:02:02 +0000 Guy Dinmore http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146849 Ivory crush at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge on November 14, 2013. Credit: Robert Segin/USFWS

Ivory crush at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge on November 14, 2013. Credit: Robert Segin/USFWS

By Guy Dinmore
HONOLULU, Hawaii, Sep 8 2016 (IPS)

Japan and South Africa have ignited a furore at a major conservation congress by coming out against a proposed appeal to all governments to ban domestic trade in elephant ivory.

Elephants in Africa are being killed by poachers for their tusks at the rate of one every 15 minutes, according to the results of the recently released Great Elephant Census. A motion that would seek to halt the domestic trade in ivory was seen as one of the most significant and contentious to be voted by delegates at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu.

But Japan and South Africa expressed their opposition to such a ban on Wednesday when a contact group of government and NGO representatives attempted to hammer out an agreed text of a resolution sponsored by the United States and Gabon.

In a sign of the sensitivity over the motion, the media was expelled from the conference hall by the International Union for Conservation of Nature chair of the contact group. Negotiations continued into Wednesday night but the Japanese and South African delegations walked out of the talks after the session decided to stick with the original strong wording of the motion calling for a ban. A vote by the plenary session of the IUCN congress, which convenes every four years, is to be held on Friday.

Conservationists from NGOs pushing for the ban on domestic trade were livid at the attempts by Japan and South Africa, backed apparently at times by Namibia, to significantly water down the motion.

“This is atrocious,” commented Mike Chase, founder of Elephants Without Borders and the principal investigator for the Great Elephant Census carried out in 18 countries.

“Six elephants were killed while they were deliberating over one sentence,” said Chase of the first 90-minute session, checking his watch.

Susan Lieberman, vice president of international policy for Wildlife Conservation Society, a co-sponsor of the motion on behalf of NGOs, commented: “There is a crisis going on here. People are in denial over the crisis. What good is IUCN if we cannot do something strong on ivory?”

Japan and South Africa say they are just as much for saving Africa’s elephants as everyone else but that the right way forward is through regulated and tightly controlled domestic trade, not a ban.

“Regulating is fiddling while Rome burns,” commented Ms Lieberman.

Naohisa Okuda, director of the Biodiversity Policy Division of Japan’s environment ministry, said a ban was “not appropriate”.

“We have to stop all the illegal trade. It is not necessary to ban legally traded ivory,” he told this reporter, giving the example of ivory imported by Japan before the 1989 ban on international trade in ivory came into force. “The problem is identifying what is legal and what is illegal,” he added. He said the international community should find an effective control system for the trade of ivory, which could be used to benefit conservation of African elephants.

“The Japanese control system is very good and highly effective, as the IUCN recognises,” Okuda said. “Other countries should follow.” However some activists dispute this and question the amount of carved ivory artefacts produced in Japan.

South Africa argues that its elephant populations are stable or even growing and that culls are needed, with the proceeds from ivory sales going to conservation efforts. The government has also held one-off sales of ivory stocks, but activists say these sales have triggered a spike in raids by poachers.

Morgan Griffiths of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa said that despite the sophisticated technology used in Kruger National Park, poachers were increasingly trying to infiltrate from Mozambique where they are driving the elephants to extinction. But South Africa’s conservation efforts are “totally stretched” protecting the endangered rhinoceros from poachers and Griffiths is among those urging the government to accept a ban on all domestic trade.

“One-off sales of ivory will trigger massive outbreaks of poaching,” he said.

Other African countries are calling for the ban on domestic trading of ivory, knowing that as much pressure as possible must be brought to bear on China and Vietnam, the main importers of illegal ivory, to stem demand.

The IUCN, whose voting members include some 1300 NGOs and governments, does not have the legal authority to impose bans on domestic trade. But such an appeal by the world’s most authoritative conservation organisation – if broadly supported — would carry considerable moral weight and put pressure on governments to act.

Motion 7 on ivory is among several contentious issues under debate at the IUCN Congress. Others include proposals to create “No Go” areas, such as indigenous peoples’ sacred sites, with stricter protection laws; to set up marine reserves for 30 percent of the world’s oceans; and policy guidelines for “biodiversity offsets” by industrial companies.

China is by far the biggest consumer of illegally smuggled ivory, much of it passing through Hong Kong and Vietnam. A year ago China and the US announced jointly that they would enact a ban on their respective domestic ivory trade. China has not given a timetable, however, and has remained silent during the debate in Honolulu. Hong Kong says it will ban its domestic trade by 2021.

“It is unconscionable that these animals are being killed for vanity and trinkets. To stop the trade in ivory we have to stop supply and the demand side,” said Tony Banbury, chief philanthropy officer of Vulcan Inc which was set up by billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen and funded the Great Elephant Census.

The Great Elephant Census, an aerial survey that took almost three years and tracked 350,000 square miles, showed that savanna elephant populations in 15 countries had declined by 30 percent – equal to some 144,000 elephants – between 2007 and 2014. The rate of decline is accelerating and is currently running at an annual 8 percent primarily due to poaching, meaning that some 27,000 elephants a year in those countries are being slaughtered for their ivory. Comparative data did not exist for three countries. The sharpest declines were seen in Tanzania and northern Mozambique.

 

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Finding the Sweet Spot of Africa’s Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/finding-the-sweet-spot-of-africas-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=finding-the-sweet-spot-of-africas-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/finding-the-sweet-spot-of-africas-agriculture/#comments Tue, 06 Sep 2016 15:41:18 +0000 Maria Andrade http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146806 Potato Training for IP members of Kadahenda, Rwanda. Credit: International Potato Center Sub-Saharan Africa

Potato Training for IP members of Kadahenda, Rwanda. Credit: International Potato Center Sub-Saharan Africa

By Maria Andrade
NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 6 2016 (IPS)

Africa is a continent where, at least outwardly, we like to celebrate our diversity—the rich variety that can be found in our many cultures, languages, fashions, flora and fauna. That’s why it’s perplexing to see such a large segment of the African population depending on a very small number of food crops, like maize, rice and wheat.

And it’s more than just boring to the palate. It’s severely diminishing the quality of our diets and making our farming systems more vulnerable, especially during severe droughts like the one that hit Southern Africa this year.I’ve learned from my work with sweet potatoes that we can turn Africa's “Cinderella crops” into the belle of the ball.

Meanwhile, there has been a lot of talk lately about how Africa’s agriculture sector is primed to become a new economic engine for a continent that has become too dependent on commodities like oil. This week, Heads of State and top officials from across Africa and around the world are coming to Nairobi for the African Green Revolution Forum, where there could be millions of dollars in new commitments for Africa’s smallholder farmers.

But Africa is unlikely to achieve its agriculture potential, or be prepared to deal with challenges like drought that climate change will make more frequent, unless we change our thinking about crop diversity.

For the last two decades, my work has revolved around developing and promoting nutritionally enhanced sweet potato. It has convinced me that, with the right approach, farmers will cultivate a wider variety of crops and consumers will embrace the new additions to their dinner table.

Africa is actually blessed with a wealth of crop diversity. Much of it – including sorghum, yam and cowpea – is native to the continent. But many other crop types have arrived via trade, like banana, pigeon pea and wheat from Asia, and beans, cassava and maize from the Americas. But rather than capitalize on this full basket of food options, we’ve bet too heavily on just a few crops.

Take the case of maize in Eastern and Southern Africa. Yes, it can grow in different farming environments and supply large amounts of calories. But the crop has weaknesses. It’s susceptible to drought and pests and its nutritional quality is mediocre.

And while recent research has delivered more resilient and nutritious maize varieties, these are not sufficient. The fact remains that in many regions, rising temperatures and increasingly erratic rainfall will cause maize yields to fall—by up to 22 percent in many areas and up to 60 percent in South Africa and Zimbabwe, according to a 2015 report from the Montpellier Panel.

There is a strong body of research showing that farmers are much less likely to suffer catastrophic losses from pests, disease or drought if they plant a broader array of crops. Today, the devastation caused by outbreaks of lethal necrosis in maize and stem rust in wheat is greatly intensified by the lack of alternative crops. In Malawi, while drought ruined maize and bean crops this year, farmers growing naturally hardy, nutritional crops like chickpea and sweetpotato fared much better.

If the benefits are so clear, then why don´t farmers just spontaneously diversify? The answer is that they may want to diversify, but often don’t due to policy and institutional barriers. When crops like maize started to dominate, governments and the private sector accelerated their take-over by providing subsidies, research and other support.

Meanwhile, other potentially useful crops like cassava and sorghum were neglected, sometimes acquiring derogatory labels like the “poor man’s crop” or “crop for marginal lands.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve learned from my work with sweet potatoes that we can turn Africa’s “Cinderella crops” into the belle of the ball.

First, we need research that is focused on adding value to these crops and further enhancing their already natural resilience. In the case of sweetpotato, we bred for higher levels of beta-carotene (the chemical precursor of vitamin A), better drought tolerance and virus resistance.

A second critical task: farmers need a reliable source of healthy seed. This is not easy for crops typically ignored by local and multinational seed companies, especially if they are propagated with bulky and perishable plant parts like sweetpotatoes. For sweetpotato, we worked through local farmer networks and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to achieve large-scale multiplication and dissemination of improved planting material.

Finally, marketing and branding, not something that comes naturally to researchers like myself, have to be part of the picture. We employed a variety of marketing and communications tools to make consumers aware of the many benefits of the sweetpotato – as a staple food, animal fodder, snack and ingredient in processed foods.

The theme for the upcoming African Green Revolution Forum is “Seize the Moment” and I can’t think of a better time for influential leaders attending this meeting to make crop diversity a central part of their plans for African agriculture. Just as many will admire the colorful dress of West African attendees, they should also be embracing a larger mosaic of food crops for our farmers. I’ve already seen the good things that happen when a big colorful splash of orange-fleshed sweet potato is added to African farms and African diets.

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Yemeni Refugees Still Stuck on Wrong Side of the Waterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yemeni-refugees-still-stuck-on-wrong-side-of-the-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemeni-refugees-still-stuck-on-wrong-side-of-the-water http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yemeni-refugees-still-stuck-on-wrong-side-of-the-water/#comments Tue, 06 Sep 2016 13:38:32 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146799 A Yemeni man proudly watching over an infant in the camp. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

A Yemeni man proudly watching over an infant in the camp. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
OBOCK, Djibouti, Sep 6 2016 (IPS)

Tears emerge from the slit of 20-year-old Gada’s black niqab face veil. After more than a minute’s silence she still can’t answer the question: How bad was it in Yemen before you left?

During 2015, escalation of fighting in Yemen led to a mass exodus. The UN refugee agency estimates that more than 2.4 million Yemenis have fled their homes to elsewhere in the country, and 120,000 have sought asylum in other countries.“My future used to be in Yemen when I had a father with an income. But if we go back we’ll be starting from scratch. Before, we depended on ourselves, but how do we do that now?” -- Issa, an 18-year-old refugee in the camp in Obock.

This includes Somalia and Djibouti on the opposite side from Yemen of the 30-km stretch of water known as Bab-el-Mandeb, meaning the Gateway of Tears—a name derived from the long history of people perishing when trying to cross it—at the southern entrance to the Red Sea.

Some of those who went to Djibouti settled in a refugee camp that grew outside Obock, a small sun-parched town on the Horn of Africa coast. Facilities in the camp remain basic, though they now include a school started singlehandedly by an American missionary to provide Yemeni children and young adults with education, as well as something more intangible.

“Education is obviously important, and the school gives parents a much needed break from their kids in the cramped camp, but this is more to do with showing the refugees that they matter and have a future—that they’re not left out,” says Marianne Vecchione, a Los Angeles resident who has spent the past year in Obock.

After one typically sweltering day in the camp—daily temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit—as the sun sets Yemeni children giggle among themselves as they hesitantly approach and pet a group of camels, idling in a sandy lane running between groups of tents.

: With little to provide excitement in the camp, Yemeni children are drawn by a group of camels. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

With little to provide excitement in the camp, Yemeni children are drawn by a group of camels. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

The sight of the camels provides a rare moment of excitement amid the drudgery of camp life. Housed in the simple tents are Yemeni from all over the country and from all walks of life: from poor fisherman to relatively affluent professionals of the middle class.

“I had everything, a job and an internet shop, but the Houthi rebels took it,” says 25-year-old Saddam from the city of Alhodida. “Everything’s gone. The shop was probably worth 25,000 dollars. Mum and dad are still there, my sister is in Ta’izz and I have two brothers in the camp, but we don’t know where my other brother is—he’s lost somewhere.”

Despite such deprivations, refugees try to keep a sense of humour about their predicaments.

“Welcome to the Middle Ages,” 22-year-old Ali says with a smile as he lifts a hanging cloth acting as the entrance to an enclosed area, comprising a small central open area with a tent at either end, in which lives Ali, his mother and five siblings, two of whom go to the camp’s school where Ali volunteers as a teacher. Ali says his family knew a much better life in Sana’a, Yemen’s largest city, before his father was killed by a military plane’s bomb strike during fighting and the family fled.

“My future used to be in Yemen when I had a father with an income,” says Ali’s 18-year-old brother Issa. “But if we go back we’ll be starting from scratch. Before, we depended on ourselves, but how do we do that now?”

The camp at its peak had about 3,000 people, now there are about 1,000. Refugees have started returning to Yemen, braving the ongoing fighting there.

“There’s nothing like home,” says one woman in a group of Yemeni female refugees discussing what they miss. “Even if you are somewhere better, you can’t compare with it—where you had your childhood, the traditions, the parks, the mosques and culture. We miss everything, the breath and waves of Yemen. We even miss the shop keepers as they were part of daily life.”

A young refugee girl pushing a wheelbarrow of rubbish through the camp. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

A young refugee girl pushing a wheelbarrow of rubbish through the camp. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

In August, UN-sponsored talks in Kuwait for establishing peace in Yemen ended after 90 days unresolved, with fighting resuming between government forces and rebels.

“When will there be peace? Maybe in 30 years if the old generation dies and the young are more peaceful and loving,” says a 45-year-old Yemeni who back in Yemen is head of a tribe and didn’t want his name used due to his position. “The rebels came from nothing and took over everything, killing a lot. They had to have someone behind them—big support to get all the weapons.”

Yemen has fallen foul of a proxy war being waged between Saudi Arabia, supporting Yemen’s government forces, and Iran, backing the Houthi rebels who, according to Yemeni in the camp, having committed the most and worst atrocities.

Vecchione recounts how one day she told young school children to draw pictures for a class and by its end she found herself looking at scrawled pictures of the likes of bombed-out houses, dead people and boats being shelled—as refugees fled over the sea to Djibouti they were targeted by unknown forces on the Yemen mainland firing artillery at boats.

Many refugees are deeply traumatised, something the aid world can forget in its haste to deliver assistance, according to Vecchione.

“In the aid world things are done according to projects and programs, they’re not done according to individuals,” Vecchione says. “So the aid world can forget you’re dealing with someone who is traumatized and who needs special care, and needs a different way of handling.”

Djibouti’s government is often criticiz]sed for not doing enough to help large numbers of unemployed and impoverished in the country. But Vecchione notes how its Ministry of Education helped and cooperated fully with her when she undertook to take two groups of students to Djibouti City to complete exams, enabling them to progress to high-school and university in the future.

“The government does have challenges but they are showing the way internationally [with refugees],” says Tom Kelly, U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti, who has visited the camp a number of times and hosted the students at his residence while they took exams in the city. “They’ve saved thousands of lives. It deserves credit for opening its borders to people who had nowhere else to go.”

The influx of Yemeni refugees into Djibouti has totalled about 35,000, Kelly says, adding how, relative to the size of Djibouti’s population, this is like 13 million people entering the U.S.

Despite the refugees’ dire situation, Vecchione encountered opposition to her endeavours to help. She was accused by some of trying to convert students to Christianity—even though the school taught the Yemeni curriculum including lessons on the Koran and Islam.

At one stage, tensions were such her bosses considered pulling her out of Obock. But she stayed, and is adamant it was worth it. Everywhere she goes around the camp and small town she is accompanied by a common refrain from both young and adult voices: “Marianne! Marianne!”

It’s clear that some refugees appreciate what one Christian volunteer has done for them, despite what can be vast cultural and religious differences.

Meanwhile, although the ongoing war in Yemen can easily appear impossibly intractable, and its terrible fallout insurmountable, Vecchione notes how often the smallest things can still make a big difference.

“The school also breaks down some of the regional challenges people have based on the war, as there’s a lot of north/south and inter-city squabbling based on the fighting and trauma,” Vecchione says. “Different cities committed different atrocities, but the school brought [children and parents] together, and unified them as one people.”

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Islam Right Nowhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/islam-right-now/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=islam-right-now http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/islam-right-now/#comments Tue, 06 Sep 2016 13:26:35 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146798 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.]]>

The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

By Johan Galtung
ALICANTE, Spain, Sep 6 2016 (IPS)

Watching Christianity nearly a century–fundamentalist Christians fighting ritualistic Christians fighting secularism, generally moving fundamentalism–>ritualism–>secularism–maybe the same for Islam? Their similarities make “Islam right now” a repetition of Christianity; their differences shout, Watch Out! Let us see where this leads us.

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Violence-prone fundamentalist evangelical Christians are still on top of the USA and some Nordic countries; but much less in ritualistic Catholic-Orthodox Christianity, meaning by far most of Europe.

Beauty of worship, the psychology of confession, less verbalism; all help.

Secularism makes faith so metaphorical for many that Christianity becomes only a ritual for Christmas-Easter, baptism-marriage-funeral (if there are no secular alternatives). Result: empty churches.

Our secular age makes literal faith in dogmas difficult, and that tears at the faith. But this is where two major differences enter:
• Islam is much less dogmatic, there is much less to tear at, only the readily acceptable shahada, faith in one Alla’h and his prophet Muhammad;
• If that faith turns metaphorical, Islam has the other four pillars of Islam to fall back upon: prayer together, sharing, fasting, pilgrimage, every day, a whole month every year, once a life.

The point of gravity in Islam moves more easily from faith to practice; and may stop there. There is much built-in outer practice that will survive a decrease in inner faith. Result: full mosques.

Moreover, the four pillars are compatible with key secular values:
• prayer together: with more we-, less I-culture less loneliness;
• sharing: with more altruism, less egoism;
• fasting: with more solidarity for those in misery and self-control;
• pilgrimage, with the sharing of something sacred, above our selves.

A “good Muslim” does all that; what does a “good Christian” do? Going to mass and to the confession booth are church, not social, answers. The clear social answer is monastic orders, monks and nuns dressing, living apart from others, doing Samaritan work. Others are invited to do the same, but where-when-how? Easier leaving it to the state.

The West should stop talking about jihad and jihadism as “holy war”, even if also abused by some Muslims, and try to understand[i]. Jihad means “to strive, exert oneself in the path of God”[ii].

There are four aspects: inner, greater jihad fighting the evil in oneself; spreading Islam by the word; by good deeds, like honest business; and defensive jihad if Islam is trampled upon with moderate retribution. No aggression: “Fight in the way of God against those who fight you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loveth not aggression.” (Qur’an 2:190).

Jihad accommodates honest business a religious duty. Like chosen people, promised land (Genesis 15:18) in Judaism makes fighting for Israel from Nile to Euphrates a religious duty. Like warfare to protect the West is a Christian duty, for God, King and Fatherland.

God is divine, King semi-divine as rex gratia dei, Fatherland not. The gap between Christianity and secular Fatherland has been bridged by preventive war as sacrament[iii]; reactive war against attack not needed. In EU, however, there is a mix of Fatherlands with no King and no God. Hence Br-exit for her to continue to Rule the Waves, for God or not.

Imagine Muslims abusing a Western sacred word, democracy, calling Western wars “democratism”.

They would be right because people who profess democracy also often go to war. And they would be wrong by missing the whole idea. Like “jihadism”, “democratism” would locate the cause of war on the other side, and not in the relation between them; making the relation even worse instead of appreciating the profundity.

Christians give to Caesar that of Caesar and to God that of God, opening for secularism. Islam does not, but moves from fundamentalist true faith to ritualistic true practice are compatible with secularisms.

Such as democracy, in Muslim Egypt and Turkey; Islam embracing “all equal under the law” as a special case of “all equal under Alla’h”. USA did not like it but preferred a military coup. To Washington, national evangelist, “true” democracy means “pro-USA” democracy.

How about IS, is it more I for Islamic faith, or more S for State with institutions for the other four pillars? It could be both, making transitions from true believers to true ritualistic practitioners easy. The problematic word is not “Islamic” but “State”. Pitted against USA and EU IS may take on their attributes; after Brexit more USA than EU.

The historical record is terrifying and long-lasting, including:
• Islam expanding East-West to the Iberian peninsula 711-1492, north but beaten at Tours (732), Lepanto (1571), Vienna (1683); stopped in the Balkans;
• The Catholic Christian Crusades 1095-1291 against Muslims but also against Orthodox Christians and Jews;
• Three centuries across the Mediterranean to Barcelona-Genoa-Napoli to catch Christian slaves for heavy road work[iv];
• West colonizing Islam (except Iran) 1830-1960, starting with Algeria;
• The massive US-led coalitions attacking in Afghanistan from 2001 and in Iraq from 2003 with 9/11 as a pretext, killing, displacing millions;
• IS now killing a small fraction, as retribution with moderation[v].

Six violences, three by each. The first four lasted centuries, a bad omen for the last two. But have a second look. In the first two the two religions played major roles; in the last two the state system, United States vs Islamic State[vi].

State wars are shorter; decades, not centuries. However, the wisdom of challenging US as an Islamic state rather than as an invincible ummah with provinces can be disputed[vii].

We have given reasons that Islam will survive secularization better than Christianity, having much to fall back upon; how about IS vs US?

We might argue that both will lose because the state system itself is yielding to regionalism and localism. Islam is ready, with ummah regionalism and imam localism.

Christianity, however, is split between Latin and Anglo America, US and EU, Catholic-Protestant and Orthodox Europe–much more than Sunni vs Shia and Arab vs non-Arab. And local churches are more for spiritual, not also for mundane affairs[viii].

On top of that: the world, even USA, is tired of endless warfare. Let Islam settle. The West and Christianity have serious work to do.

NOTES:

[i]. Gary Wills, the famous columnist, took the trouble to understand: “My Koran problem”, NYRB, 24 March 2016. His Koran problem was that he knew nothing: “–we Christians begin with the greatest deficit of knowledge /whereas/those who know the Koran have quite a lot of knowledge about Torah and Gospel, since Allah sent them both to earth before he sent the Koran.–we Westerners cannot even remember it unless we learn something about the Koran. It’s about time”. Indeed.

[ii].Professor Mohammad Hashim Kamali, chairman of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies in Malaysia, in a lecture and in articles like “Concept of ‘jihad’ misunderstood”, New Straits Times 14 July 2014.

[iii]. Look at who comes to the funerals of Norwegian soldiers with mandate to kill in Afghanistan: the King, top bishops.

[iv]. Robert Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters. White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800, Palgrave Macmillan.

[v]. Sarah Birke, “How ISIS Rules”, NYRB, 5 Feb 2015: armed resistance being difficult, the alternative from the inside was silent resistance, or migration. Or what we have now, open US/IS warfare.

[vi]. But religious discourse did not wither away, here are two:
* George Bush 10 Feb 2003, on a possible attack on Iraq: “Liberty is God’s gift to every human being in the world”. (Washington Post, 10 Feb 2003);
* Osama bin Laden 11 Feb 2003: “victory comes only from God, all we have to do is to prepare and motivate for jihad”. Audio message conveyed by jorgenj@peace.uit.no.

[vii]. For a deep analysis of the present situation, see Abbas Aroua, “The Salafiscape in the Wake of the Arab Spring”, www.cordoue.ch.

[viii]. In a play, Maria og Magdalena; Lidelseshistorien og kristen=dommen (the Passion Story and Christianity) Oslo: Kolofon 2016, this author tries to liberate Crist, driven by conscience and compassion, from the Church as Mary’s son, not God’s begotten by the Holy Spirit–as inspiration for us all.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 5 September 2016: TMS: Islam Right Now

The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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Without Indigenous People, Conservation Is a Halfway Measurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/without-indigenous-people-conservation-is-a-halfway-measure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=without-indigenous-people-conservation-is-a-halfway-measure http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/without-indigenous-people-conservation-is-a-halfway-measure/#comments Mon, 05 Sep 2016 19:18:47 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146793 Srewe Xerente, an indigenous man from Brazil, performs a ritual during a forum on ancestral rights at the World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii, where native peoples are demanding greater participation in conservation policies. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Srewe Xerente, an indigenous man from Brazil, performs a ritual during a forum on ancestral rights at the World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii, where native peoples are demanding greater participation in conservation policies. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
HONOLULU, Hawaii, USA , Sep 5 2016 (IPS)

“You don’t convert your own house in a tourist site,” said Oussou Lio Appolinaire, an activist from Benin, wearing a traditional outfit in vivid yellows and greens. He was referring to opening up to tourists places that are sacred to indigenous people.

Appolinaire, who belongs to the Gun people in the West African country of Benin, heads the indigenous-led sustainable rural development NGO GRABE-Benin. He told IPS that “People suffer displacement from sacred sites. If we lose knowledge, we lose ourselves. The sacred is like life. Conservation is the respect of natural law, of every single element in nature.”“Conservation has been State-centered, despite the poor results. Indigenous people' rights to their lands are not adequately recognised or protected.” -- Victoria Tauli-Corpuz

Thanks to the work of GRABE-Benin and other organisations, the government of Benin approved Interministerial Order No.0121 – the first law of its kind in Africa, which protects sacred forests, granting them legal recognition as protected areas that must be sustainably managed.

Benin has more than 2,900 sacred forests, only 90 of which have so far been formally protected.

Appolinaire’s demand for greater participation by indigenous groups in conservation is being voiced by indigenous representatives in the World Conservation Congress, running Sep.1-10 in Honolulu, the capital of the U.S. Pacific Ocean state of Hawaii.

This year’s edition of the congress, which is held every four years by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has drawn 9,500 participants from 192 countries, including delegates from governments, NGOs, and the scientific and business communities.

Indigenous representatives in Honolulu are focusing on problems related to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets – the 20 points contained in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, adopted in 2010 by the states party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

An assessment carried out in May by the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) of the CBD expressed concern over the scant progress made with respect to capacity-building and participation regarding the biodiversity targets among indigenous and local communities.

Aichi Biodiversity Target 14 states that “By 2020, ecosystems that provide essential services, including services related to water, and contribute to health, livelihoods and well-being, are restored and safeguarded, taking into account the needs of women, indigenous and local communities, and the poor and vulnerable.”

Target 18 refers to respect for “traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and their customary use of biological resources.”

Target 11 is for “at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas,” to be conserved by 2020. But indigenous people are worried that this will run counter to respect for their rights in their traditional ancestral lands.

Indigenous leaders from every continent listen to the report by U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz during the Sep. 1-10 World Conservation Congress in Honolulu. Credit: Courtesy of Emilio Godoy

Indigenous leaders from every continent listen to the report by U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz during the Sep. 1-10 World Conservation Congress in Honolulu. Credit: Courtesy of Emilio Godoy

“We agree with conservation, but what needs to be discussed is conservation with rights, exercised by indigenous people,” said Julio Cusurichi, the president of the Peruvian NGO Native Federation of the Madre de Dios River and its Tributaries (FENAMAD) and representative of the Shipibo-Conibo community.

“The government has created natural areas in our territories and they are limiting our activities,” he told IPS. “It would seem that indigenous people are obstacles and have to be removed from our territories.”

In the southeastern department of Madre de Dios in Peru’s Amazon jungle region, 60 percent of the highly biodiverse territory is a natural protected area. It is also home to some 10,000 people belonging to seven of the country’s 54 indigenous groups.

One of the common problems is the tendency of governments to create protected areas in indigenous areas, without a proper consultation process.

The congress, whose theme this year is “Planet at the Crossroads”, will produce the Hawaii Commitments, 85 of which were approved by the Switzerland-based IUCN Members’ Assembly, made up of governments and NGOs, prior to the Honolulu gathering.

The debate in Honolulu is focused on 14 motions on controversial issues, like compensation for destruction of biodiversity, closing domestic markets for ivory trade, and improved standards for ecotourism. Of the 99 resolutions, only eight mention indigenous people.

“There is little participation in the implementation of conservation policies; just because an indigenous person heads up an office doesn’t mean indigenous people are participating,” complained Dolores Cabnal, a member of the Q’eqchí community who is director of policy advocacy in the Guatemalan NGO Ak’Tenamit Association.

Her NGO is active in the eastern Guatemalan department of Izabal, where there are three natural protected areas that are home to both indigenous and black communities. In these areas, local residents depend on agriculture and fishing, which leads to clashes with the authorities because the law on nature reserves makes these activities illegal.

Activists and experts agree that it will be difficult to reach the Aichi Biodiversity Targets without the involvement of native peoples.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Kankanaey Igorot indigenous people of the Philippines, complained that states are ignoring the role of native people.

In visits to Brazil, Colombia, Finland, Guatemala, Honduras, Norway, Paraguay and Sweden, Tauli-Corpuz found violations of the rights to free, prior, and informed consultation, traditional lands, participation, natural resources, compensation for damage, and cultural rights.

“Conservation has been State-centered, despite the poor results. Indigenous people’ rights to their lands are not adequately recognised or protected,” the special rapporteur said during a meeting with indigenous people in Honolulu.

An estimated 50 percent of the world’s protected natural areas have been established on indigenous lands. The proportion is highest in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in countries like the Philippines, India and Nepal in Asia, and Botswana, Cameroon, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania in Africa.

“The problems of indigenous peoples are not only of one country, they’re global. We have to recognise indigenous law, we can’t change laws of nature,” said Appolinaire.

FENAMAD’s Cusurichi, winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, calls for co-management by governments and local communities. “We need secure land tenure and it must include resource management and food security,” he said.

In Guatemala, indigenous organisations plan to present a draft law in Congress for the regulation of their rights, natural protected areas, and extractive activities.

Cabnal said the government should study which peoples are in natural protected areas, why they are there and what they need, rather than trying to drive them out.”

The concerns expressed in Honolulu will also be presented at the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD, to be hosted by Cancun, Mexico from Dec. 4-17.

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Elephant Census Ramps Up Pressure to Stop Domestic Trade in Ivoryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/elephant-census-ramps-up-pressure-to-stop-domestic-trade-in-ivory/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=elephant-census-ramps-up-pressure-to-stop-domestic-trade-in-ivory http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/elephant-census-ramps-up-pressure-to-stop-domestic-trade-in-ivory/#comments Sat, 03 Sep 2016 10:31:10 +0000 Guy Dinmore http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146766 Savanna elephant populations in 15 countries declined by an average of 30 percent – equal to some 144,000 elephants – between 2007 and 2014. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

Savanna elephant populations in 15 countries declined by an average of 30 percent – equal to some 144,000 elephants – between 2007 and 2014. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

By Guy Dinmore
HONOLULU, Hawaii, Sep 3 2016 (IPS)

A dramatic decline in Africa’s savanna elephant populations caused by poaching – as exposed by the results of a three-year aerial survey released this week – has piled pressure on reluctant governments to back proposals that would lead to bans on domestic trade in ivory.

The United States and Gabon, plus nine NGOs, are co-sponsoring a motion at the IUCN World Conservation Congress underway in Honolulu that would push all governments to extend an existing international ban on the ivory trade to their own domestic markets.“It is unconscionable that these animals are being killed for vanity and trinkets. To stop the trade in ivory we have to stop supply and the demand side.” -- Tony Banbury, Vulcan Inc’s chief philanthropy officer

But several rich nations, as well as some African countries, are opposed to the measure which could prove to be among the most hotly disputed of some 100 motions to be voted on by the 1,300 members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature who hold a congress every four years. A vote is scheduled to take place on Sep. 7, although it is possible that negotiators could first reach agreement on a revised text.

Susan Lieberman, vice president of international policy for Wildlife Conservation Society, a co-sponsor of the motion, told IPS she expected a close vote, but that the shocking results of the Great Elephant Census (GEC) could tip the balance.

“The GEC puts pressure on governments. It shows this is not the time to wring your hands but the time to take action,” she said.

Statistical analysis of the census findings showed that savanna elephant populations in 15 countries had declined by an average of 30 percent – equal to some 144,000 elephants – between 2007 and 2014.

The rate of decline accelerated in that period and is currently running at an annual 8 percent “primarily due to poaching”. Those figures indicate poachers are slaughtering some 27,000 elephants a year

The aerial survey, carried out by spotters in low-flying planes, spanned nearly 350,000 square miles in 18 countries. The data, after statistical analysis, came up with a count of 352,271 elephants. Comparative data only existed for 15 countries. The spotters also counted carcasses that helped compile estimates on the percentage of illegally killed elephants. Forest elephants, more difficult to spot by air, are to have a separate census.

The sharpest declines were seen in Tanzania and northern Mozambique, while some areas showed slight increases or a stable population, including South Africa and parts of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Kenya. Relatively high carcass ratios in Uganda and the W-Arli-Pendjari conservation complex spanning Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso suggested that numbers there had been swelled by elephants moving in from surrounding areas.

Mike Chase, founder of Elephants without Borders, was the principal investigator for the census which was funded at a cost of 7 million dollars and by Vulcan Inc, created by Paul Allen, billionaire philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft.

“Armed with this knowledge of dramatically declining elephant populations, we share a collective responsibility to take action and we must all work to ensure the preservation of this iconic species,” Allen said in a statement on Aug. 31 accompanying the release of the census at the start of the 10-day IUCN congress.

Tony Banbury, Vulcan Inc’s chief philanthropy officer, told a press conference on Sep. 2 that it was highly important that motion 007 seeking a ban on domestic trade was passed with broad support.

“It is unconscionable that these animals are being killed for vanity and trinkets,” he said. “To stop the trade in ivory we have to stop supply and the demand side.”

The U.S. has paved the way by imposing its own ban on domestic trade in ivory in June. China, the biggest consumer of illegally smuggled ivory, has pledged to stop its domestic trade. Its prohibition is not yet in force but the announcement had the effect of sharply reducing market prices.

However, according to James Deutsch, Vulcan Wildlife Conservation director, “many countries in the EU are sitting on the fence” over the issue. He mentioned the powerful lobbying of the fine arts and antiquities sectors, even though ivory more than 100 years old would be exempt, singling out the UK. France is among those backing the proposed ban.

A vote by IUCN members to stop domestic trade in ivory would not be legally binding. However, as noted by Lieberman of the Wildlife Conservation Society, such a move by the world’s leading conservation movement would in turn pile pressure on governments to back a similar resolution at the triennial meeting of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, to be held in Johannesburg later this month.

There is debate over whether CITES, which regulates international trade in certain threatened animal species, can use its remit to ban domestic trade, but a vote to that effect would be seen as highly influential if not binding.

Lieberman said Japan was known to be against the motion at IUCN, as were Namibia and South Africa, while other African nations had appealed for help in imposing bans.

Brian Child, a South African professor at the University of Florida, interjected during Vulcan Inc’s press conference to protest that a ban on his country’s domestic and controlled trade of ivory would be a “breach of sovereignty” that penalised South Africa for what he said was its good husbandry of elephants.

Turning to Europe, Lieberman said Germany wanted the issue of the domestic ban raised not at IUCN but at CITES, while the position of the UK was unclear. The EU votes as a bloc at CITES but member states vote separately at the IUCN.

The UK had not even sent a representative to the IUCN congress, apparently as a result of confusion over funding following the referendum decision to quit the European Union, she added.

“It is inconsistent that the UK is not showing leadership on this,” Lieberman said. However, she added, Prince William, a patron of the Royal Foundation which puts conservation among its top priorities, was known to be against the domestic trade in ivory while the royal family had withdrawn its extensive collection of ivory objects from public display.

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At the Nexus of Water and Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/at-the-nexus-of-water-and-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=at-the-nexus-of-water-and-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/at-the-nexus-of-water-and-climate-change/#comments Sat, 03 Sep 2016 00:01:05 +0000 Justus Wanzala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146764 In less than 15 years, a 40 percent global shortfall in water supply versus demand is expected if we carry on with business as usual. Credit: Bigstock

In less than 15 years, a 40 percent global shortfall in water supply versus demand is expected if we carry on with business as usual. Credit: Bigstock

By Justus Wanzala
STOCKHOLM, Sep 3 2016 (IPS)

With the clock counting down towards the November climate summit in Marrakech, Morocco, where parties to the climate treaty agreed in Paris will negotiate implementation, it’s clear that managing water resources will be a key aspect of any effective deal.

Here at World Water Week, which concluded on Friday, Susanne Skyllerstedt, programme officer for Water, Climate Change and Development at the Global Water Partnership (GWP), says her organisation is working with Sub-Saharan African governments to incorporate adaptation strategies into the partnership’s climate change programme.

“For us, resolutions of COP21 are part and parcel of what we are implementing and those of COP22 (in Marrakech) will be embedded in our long-term agenda of ensuring water security in Africa and rest of the developing world in a bid to attain water-related sustainable development goals,” she told IPS.

GWP is a Stockholm-based organisation that has been involved in fostering integrated water resource management around the world for the last 20 years. GPS has four regional offices in Africa covering Southern, Eastern, Central and West Africa.

As an inter-governmental entity, GWP works with organisations involved in water resources management. These range from national government’s institutions, United Nations agencies to funding bodies. Other stakeholders include professional associations, research institutions, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector. GWP has a water and climate change programme to support governments on water security and climate change resilience.

Already, said Skyllerstedt, GWP has a programme that was started in Africa through the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) together with the African Union Commission and other development partners. The programme has been a key platform for supporting African governments.

These include support on national climate change adaptation programmes more so in the sphere of policy formulation. For Sub-Saharan Africa countries noted for vulnerability to impacts of global climate change, the programme is key in supporting climate adaptation and mitigation initiatives.

Through monitoring and evaluation programmes conducted in the recent past, GWP has learned vital lessons and is cognisant of areas that need more resources to achieve the desired goals. Already, she said, GWP is running a three-year programme on climate change aimed at achieving sustainable development goals linked to water, energy and food through climate resilience.

She said they are implementing initiatives aimed at enabling countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to acquire highly relevant technologies on sustainable water management. “We have demo programmes on new technologies being implemented by our partners in Africa but they need to be scaled up to have a major impact,” she said.

GWP is also addressing the challenge of water pollution, to ensure availability of cleaner water for human consumption and other uses. It is collaborating with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to promote water security and hygiene. “The aim is to incorporate water, sanitation and hygiene component in climate resilience,” Skyllerstedt explained.

GWP is also developing tools for better planning on water, sanitation and hygiene to help communities during calamities such as floods.

“We have an urban planning project focusing on urban water systems and infrastructure we work with national government and other partners on issues planning putting into consideration matters of access to water and sanitation facilities as well as water related calamities.

At the same time GWP collaborates with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) on drought and flood monitoring.

“We work with experts and stakeholders to ensure national plans take into account climate change-related hazards,” Skyllerstedt said. “Many African countries face challenges in fighting impacts of extreme weather such as floods and droughts, and here is where the adaption programme is relevant.”

For the next three years GWP intends to widen its support to encompass not only national climate change adaptation programmes but also Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) on reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that countries published prior to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

“National Adaptation Programmes (NAPs) and NDCs should be merged to avoid duplications,” she observed.

The biggest challenge to implementation of GWP programmes by its partners in Africa and elsewhere remains access to financial resources.

“During the COP21 in Paris last year, there were lots of pledges on financing initiatives for enhancing water security and its access by the poor. Unfortunately, our partners are not able to access the money due technical bottlenecks,” she said.

The situation has compelled GWP to embark on enhancing the capacity of their partners in Africa in the spheres of  project design as well as making of investment plans and strategies.

Skyllerstedt spoke to IPS during the World Water Week held in Stockholm, Sweden from 28 Aug. 28 to Sep. 2 and organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute.

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Migrant Labour Fuels Tensions in Mauritiushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/migrant-labour-fuels-tensions-in-mauritius/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrant-labour-fuels-tensions-in-mauritius http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/migrant-labour-fuels-tensions-in-mauritius/#comments Mon, 29 Aug 2016 19:44:35 +0000 Nasseem Ackbarally http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146714 Workers from Bangladesh in Mauritius. Many fall into debt to pay for their travel, yet find it almost impossible to save any money despite working long hours. Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

Workers from Bangladesh in Mauritius. Many fall into debt to pay for their travel, yet find it almost impossible to save any money despite working long hours. Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

By Nasseem Ackbarally
PORT LOUIS, Aug 29 2016 (IPS)

They come from Bangladesh, China, India and Madagascar, mainly to run the machines in the textile industry here. But they do all kinds of other jobs too, from masons to bakers, house cleaners and gardeners.

For the eight consecutive year in 2016, the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report ranked Mauritius first among African economies, and its GDP per capita was over 16,820 dollars, one of the highest in Africa. But there is a darker side to the success of this upper middle income island nation in the Indian Ocean, situated about 2,000 kilometres off the southeast coast of the African continent.“The government argues that foreigners are hired because the locals refuse the jobs. The truth is the government itself discourages the locals by introducing a four-month short-term contract, for example, in the construction sector." -- Trade unionist Reeaz Chuttoo

“Living like animals”

Local enterprises rely on foreign workers because Mauritians are increasingly reluctant to work long hours under difficult conditions. But these foreigners live in very poor conditions and in many cases, in human indignity.

Thirty-six-year-old Bangladeshi Maqbool* left his wife and two children back home in Dhaka two years ago and came to work in the manufacturing sector in Mauritius, hoping to earn enough money to offer a decent life to his family.

“I paid 150,000 takkas (about 2,000 dollars) to an agent who got me this job. I was supposed to get 675 dollars a month, which represents a huge amount in my country, and I was ready for any sacrifice to earn it,” he said. To his bitter disappointment, he earns only about half of that.

Foreign workers all have such stories to tell. They take loans or sell the family’s lands or jewelry to pay for their travel to Mauritius. “The island is very beautiful but there is no money here. I run short of money every month after paying for my own expenses. I send some to the family every three months and I save nothing,” adds Massood*.

Both men are frustrated as they have to leave the island in a couple of months and they have yet to save any money to take back home.

Running away from poverty

Poverty, unemployment and the rising costs of living in their home countries force thousands of Bangladeshis, Chinese, Indians and also Malagasy people to look for jobs abroad. About 40,000 of them already work in the manufacturing sector, the construction industry, hotels, transport and also in the seafood hub. They start work very early in the morning and finish up very late at night. They are forced to do overtime and do not earn more than a 150 dollars a month.

A local welfare officer from a well-known textile enterprise confirms under condition of anonymity that the foreigners work night and day with little time for rest and live and sleep in unhygienic dormitories with just a cupboard and a thin mattress full of fleas and bugs.

“I feel sorry for them. They live like animals and are helpless. They accept things as they are,” he told IPS.

Those who resist or cause trouble on their worksites are sent back home. Hundreds of them faced this fate last year after they took to the streets demanding better wages and protesting against their working conditions. Even though, says trade unionist Feisal Ally Beegun, these migrants are exemplary workers.

Still, some of them claim they are happy. “Please sir, tell them to give me more work and more money, no fuss about it,” one Bangladeshi worker pleaded with IPS, while others working at the Compagnie Mauricienne du Textile (CMT), which employs a few thousand expatriates, ran away upon seeing journalists.

A security guard posted at the gate of this factory in Phoenix, in the centre of the island, revealed that the foreigners have had so many problems with their employer and the police last year that they now refuse to talk to the media.

Source of irritation

The antipathy of the locals for the textile and manufacturing sector and for low-paid jobs has resulted in the import of labour to keep the wheels of the island’s industry turning. They were first brought in 1992 as a temporary measure as the industry moved from labour-intensive to capital-intensive manufacture.

Twenty-five years later, they are still here and the government believes they add value to the island’s economy by helping the factories deliver on time and also help in keeping the locals’ jobs.

Trade unionist Reeaz Chuttoo begs to disagree. “The government argues that foreigners are hired because the locals refuse the jobs. The truth is the government itself discourages the locals by introducing a four-month short-term contract, for example, in the construction sector, which the Mauritians refuse. In the seafood hub, foreigners are hired only for the night shift because no local does it.

“So the locals prefer to hawk cheap imported goods on the street rather than working long and late hours, even if they have to run from the police,” he says.

Chuttoo warns that a social explosion is in the making, with high unemployment, too many foreign workers and not enough jobs for the locals. “Mauritius is already invaded by a feeling of xenophobia and racism towards foreign workers,” he adds.

Jaynarain Mathurah, director at the Special Expatriate Unit of the Labour and Industrial Relations Ministry, brushes aside these allegations, arguing that foreign workers enjoy the same working conditions as the locals.

“We do not discriminate between them. The free zone manufacturing sector is governed by a remuneration order that is applied to all. Above this, there is a Special Migrant Workers Unit that take care of these migrants and it intervenes very fast with the employers when a problem arises,” he told IPS.

He believes the foreigners are well treated but agrees that “seeing their number, it happens that we are unable to visit them as often as we would have liked.”

“We believe they are well-off regarding their wages and their working and living conditions. Apart from their wages, they also get accommodation, food and transport,” he added.

According to him, low-paid jobs are common in developing countries where the free zone manufacturing sector has been introduced in a bid to create jobs. Investors are always looking for cheap and skilled labour and right now many enterprises in Mauritius plan to expand their activities and they need skilled labour.

“Where do I get them?” shouts a manager at Firemount Textiles in northern Mauritius.

Foreign workers will not stop coming to this island anytime soon, as they are needed to support its economic development in the absence of locals. They are now expected to increase in the agriculture and the ICT sectors.

*Names changed to protect their identities.

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Drought Deals Harsh Blow to Cameroon’s Cocoa Farmershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/drought-deals-harsh-blow-to-cameroons-cocoa-farmers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-deals-harsh-blow-to-cameroons-cocoa-farmers http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/drought-deals-harsh-blow-to-cameroons-cocoa-farmers/#comments Sun, 28 Aug 2016 22:27:34 +0000 Mbom Sixtus http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146702 Six million Cameroonians depend on the cocoa sector for a living. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Six million Cameroonians depend on the cocoa sector for a living. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

By Mbom Sixtus
KONYE, Cameroon, Aug 28 2016 (IPS)

Tanchenow Daniel fears he will lose more than half a tonne of his cocoa yield during the next harvest at the end of this month.

He usually harvests no less than 1.5 tonnes of cocoa beans during the mid-crop season, but he says every farmer in the Manyu Division of Cameroon’s South West Region is witnessing a catastrophe this year because of a prolonged dry season.

“The effects of droughts were worse this year because people had been ignorantly cutting down trees which provided shade to cocoa. Many trees have been dried up this year while bush fires dealt us a heavy blow,” Tanchenow told IPS, adding that though he is a victim, others have it even worse, including a friend who lost an entire farm of five hectares.

Adding insult to injury, prices fell in August, ranging from 1,000 CFA francs (1.72 dollars) per kg of cocoa to 1,200 CFA francs – down from prices as high as 1,700 CFA in July – with producers saying buying was delayed because of the drought.

Chief Orock Mbi of Meme division in Cameroon’s South West region tells IPS that he and other cocoa growers in the division also witnessed “a drastic drop” in cocoa yields in the past few months. He hopes for new methods to protect this key crop from the effects of climate change.

The South West Region of Cameroon is among the major cocoa-producing regions of Cameroon, along with the Center, East and South regions.

Data from the National Cocoa and Coffee Board suggests the drop in cocoa production was nationwide. The data indicates 7,610 tonnes of cocoa were exported in March. In April, the country exported 5,780 tonnes and the figure further dropped to 3,205 tonnes by the end of June.

Farmers pin hopes on cooperatives, new varieties

Cameroon is the world’s fifth-largest producer of cocoa. It has exported 239.7 million kgs this year of which 97 percent was grade II, according to statistics published on Aug. 3 by the Cocoa and Coffee Board.

The country’s minister of trade believes for this position to be maintained, farmers burdened by the undesirable effects of climate change must join cooperative unions. It is through these cooperative societies that government distributes farm inputs such as pesticides and improved variety seeds to smallholder farmers.

Trade Minister Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana addressed hundreds of farmers in Konye municipality on Aug. 3 as he launched the 2016/2017 cocoa marketing season.

He told the farmers in Cameroon’s third-largest cocoa producing locality that cooperative unions would help to constantly improve on the quality of their cocoa and protect them from deceitful cross-border buyers from neighbouring countries that pay them less than the worth of their produce.

Clementine Ananga Messina, Deputy Minister in charge of Rural Development in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, says cooperatives would help farmers make the best of aid offered in their localities, boost their bargaining power and improve gains for the six million Cameroonians who depend on the cocoa sector for a living.

Besides distribution, cooperatives sensitise farmers on the use of new varieties and techniques.

Zachy Asek Ojong, manager of the Konye Area Farmers Cooperative, tells IPS they have provided immense support to local members. “Farmers can attest to the assistance they have had from the cooperative society,” says Ojong.

Esapa, president of South West Farmers’ Cooperative, says “cocoa farmers have never really witnessed the effects of climate change until this year. So now we are beginning to work with common initiative groups in sensitising farmers, especially cocoa and coffee growers.”

He tells IPS the cooperative is now, among other things, advising farmers who had cut down trees to replant them in order to shade their cocoa and coffee farms. “The sunshine this year was so wild that people who set fires on their farms ended up burning many other farms around them. We are reinforcing campaigns against bush fires,” he said.

Tanchenow says he has planted 4,000 cocoa trees of a new variety commonly called “Barombi,” a name coined from an organisation that introduced the variety in the division. He says that two years in, yields are better and “Barombi is the hope for our cocoa’s future.”

However, he does not trust cooperative societies and calls them unreliable and tainted by favoritism.

“People in my area who depended on them for pesticides were shocked to find out selected individuals were called up by a different organisation to receive farm inputs from the agriculture ministry,” Tanchenow complained.

Farmers fall ever deeper in debt

The National Cocoa and Coffee Board says Cameroon’s cocoa was exported to eight countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain –  with the Netherlands alone importing 76.30 percent.

Still, farmers in Konye live without roads and electricity and depend on solar energy and firewood for drying and processing their cocoa. Some of them prefer to hang onto old ways of financing and sales despite the advantages of adhering to cooperatives.

Edward Ekoko Bokoba tells IPS that many farmers still prefer “pledging” their farms as means of financing, while others operate outside the major buyers of cocoa.

“Climate change is impacting pledging negatively, but some farmers seem to trust the system more than the micro-loans from the cooperatives,” he says.

“Pledging” is a system where farmers sign agreements with individuals who pay for farm inputs or lend them money. At the end of the harvest and sales, the funder’s money is reimbursed with an agreed quantity of cocoa or cash in interest.

Bokoba, who currently is expecting profits from a “pledge,” says when the dry season is prolonged or when the weather is distorted, as was the case this year, farmers are forced to borrow more money and may end up handing over all their harvest to creditors.  Some creditors are cocoa merchants who claim exclusive rights to purchase all their debtor’s cocoa and by so doing, dictate the price.

Another farmer, Ako Kingsley Tanyi, says though government is condemning sales of cocoa to trans-border buyers, some farmers prefer to sell their cocoa to Nigerian buyers who pay better prices. “Cocoa sold to Nigerians does not go through the Douala seaport and government does not have the figures,” he explains.

The performance of Cameroon’s cocoa has been as unstable as weather conditions in recent years. And the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) forecasted in 2011 that climate change will lead to a global slump in cocoa production by the year 2030.

Many hope that relief might be forthcoming from the United Nations Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to raise 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 to assist developing countries in climate change adaptation and mitigation once their country-based COP21 plans have been fine-tuned.

CIAT, whose mission is to reduce hunger and poverty, and improve human nutrition in the tropics, says the coffee and cocoa sectors could be the first to benefit from this fund.

In the same optimistic regard, Cameroon’s trade minister holds that government’s target to export 600,000 tonnes by 2020 would be met.

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Kenya Has Made Impressive Gains Under New Constitution, but the Hard Work is Just Beginninghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/kenya-has-made-impressive-gains-under-new-constitution-but-the-hard-work-is-just-beginning/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-has-made-impressive-gains-under-new-constitution-but-the-hard-work-is-just-beginning http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/kenya-has-made-impressive-gains-under-new-constitution-but-the-hard-work-is-just-beginning/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2016 09:24:16 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146680 Workers on a flower farm in Naivasha, in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province. Credit: David Njagi/IPS

Workers on a flower farm in Naivasha, in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province. Credit: David Njagi/IPS

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Aug 26 2016 (IPS)

On August 27 Kenyans will be celebrating not just the promulgation of the new Constitution six years ago, but also the tangible gains made throughout the country.

The 2010 Constitution heralded a new era of open and inclusive governance best epitomised by devolution, which is helping to bridge the development gap between rich and poor regions.  This gap was first created by colonialists who zoned the country into high-potential and low-potential agricultural areas.

The Constitution created 47 county governments where resources and power have been devolved since 2013. Despite teething problems, allocations to counties have risen from $210 million in 2013 to $280 million this financial year, signaling increasing commitments by both levels of government to enhance public service delivery and ultimately making devolution a success for Kenya.

In the difficult process of entrenching devolution, Kenya has enjoyed technical and financial support from the international community and the United Nations.

There are inspiring success stories coming from the counties, like the subsidised seeds and tractor services bringing down production costs for farmers in the North Rift, and rural access roads that are making it easier for farmers in central Kenya to get produce to market in time.

In other areas, the transformation has been profound. The hitherto impoverished northern county of Mandera became the poster child of devolution when its first Caesarian section was performed in Takaba Sub-county Hospital in October 2014.  Neighbouring Marsabit and Wajir counties conducted their first Caesarians two months ago.

In these counties, these procedures mark the difference between life and death and signal higher chances of survival for women, children and men through access to basic medical services. A recent study by the United Nations estimates that this region has the highest number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births in Kenya.

These milestones were largely made possible by increased county allocations to the health sector, with health facilities undergoing renovations and having medical stocks that were unavailable under centralised governance.

Going forward, the new Constitution must bring the promise of prosperity to the underprivileged and “leave no one behind”. This will not happen if the greatest segment – the youth – is not participating. Today, youth form two-thirds of Kenya’s population, many of them unemployed and with few prospects.

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”. By 2050, Kenya’s population is expected to reach 85 million. It is estimated that Kenya’s working age population will grow to 73 per cent in the next three decades.

The mission therefore is to have a laser-like focus on those investments that enable Kenya to reap from its demographic dividend, which means working towards a time when there will be fewer dependents for every Kenyan in employment.

With the right investments helping to bring about 90 per cent of working age population into meaningful employment, Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product could increase twelve-fold from current $1,377.

Improvements in education, health and nutrition, especially of girls, women and children, will contribute to a decrease in the number of children born to each family, as survival improves.

This calls for programmes to increase access to family planning to prevent unintended pregnancies. As women spend less time bearing and raising children, they can enter the workforce and contribute to economic production.

At the same time, we must not forget the fact that the Constitution recognises women as a special group deserving legal protection. That is why it directs that all public positions, including political office, shall not be occupied by more than two-thirds of either gender. This constitutional provision needs to be urgently and comprehensively implemented.

Even as Kenyans celebrate these achievements, it is not lost to all that a major test lies around the corner – that of remaining united in the countdown to the next general election, only one year away.

Preparations for the elections have started in earnest, with efforts to strengthen the institutions created by the Constitution to manage elections and resolve electoral disputes. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on matters relating to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has tabled proposals on electoral reforms. Kenyans are optimistic that the elections will be credible, free and fair, devoid of violence.

The new Constitution must guide Kenya towards being seen as a beacon of hope for democratic values, good governance, rule of law and social inclusion for all of Africa.

Towards this vision, the United Nations will remain a resolute partner of the Government and the people of Kenya.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya. Follow him on twitter @sidchat1

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