Inter Press ServiceAfrica – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 21 Jan 2019 14:57:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Strangers in the Land: A Congolese Murder Casehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/strangers-land-congolese-murder-case/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=strangers-land-congolese-murder-case http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/strangers-land-congolese-murder-case/#respond Mon, 21 Jan 2019 14:57:10 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159724
A man walks down the street.
It's a street in a strange world.
Maybe it's the Third World.
Maybe it's his first time around.
He doesn't speak the language.
He holds no currency.
He is a foreign man.
He is surrounded by the sound.
The sound!
Cattle in the marketplace,
scatterlings and orphanages.
He looks around, around.

The post Strangers in the Land: A Congolese Murder Case appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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A man walks down the street.
It's a street in a strange world.
Maybe it's the Third World.
Maybe it's his first time around.
He doesn't speak the language.
He holds no currency.
He is a foreign man.
He is surrounded by the sound.
The sound!
Cattle in the marketplace,
scatterlings and orphanages.
He looks around, around.

By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, Jan 21 2019 (IPS)

I thought about this song by Paul Simon while I in 2011 spent a few weeks in Kinshasa. I was a foreign man in a strange world, surrounded by sights and sounds, completely dependent on my new-found Congolese friends. When our taxi got stuck in a traffic jam and we had to walk to our destination I was stopped by a group of heavily armed youngsters, lead by a man who claimed to be a policeman, charging me with an exaggerated high fine for taking photos within a restricted area.

Zaída Catalán and Michael Sharp. Credit: TT News Agency/AFP/Getty Images and Human Rights Watch

From my first day there I had found that in this impoverished nation a person like me was considered to be a walking wallet, incessantly confronted with phrases like: “I helped you, will you not help me?” “Monsieur, only something small.” I had to give some Congolese Francs to soldiers and policemen and US dollars to bureaucrats, the price depended on their status and position. The “policeman” who had stopped me was particularily threatening and I did not like the sight of Kalashnikovs in the hands of his companions. However, my friends were well connected. Since they were Congolese citizens responsible for the wellbeing of a UN official, they found the situation embarrassing. I did not carry a camera and could accordingly not have taken any photo. My Congolese friends spent more than half an hour trying to convince the threatening “policeman” to leave me alone. Finally one of them called a high positioned politician and handed the mobile to my adversary. Listening to the phone voice the self-proclaimed law enforcer became visibly scared and quickly disappeared.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a dangerous place. In 1997, Larent-Désiré Kabila became President after the kleptocrat Sese Seko Mobuto had fled to Morocco. Tensions between Kabila and interfering neighbouring countries caused the so called Second Congo War, involving the armies of nine African countries and at least twenty other armed groups. When Kabila was assassinated in 2001 he was succeeded by his son Joseph, who still rules the country. By 2008 the Second Congo War had caused 5.4 million deaths, the deadliest conflict since World War II.

In 2003, foreign armies had pulled out of Congo, though ethnic rivalries had become endemic while warring fractions try to control the gold, diamonds and cobalt mining, as well as oil drilling. Within such a panorama of violence, death and suffering, my encounter with false law enforcement was insignificant, though I was reminded of how vulnerable an outsider can be within a corrupt and violent environment where s/he does not speak the local language and furthermore is ignorant of hidden dangers, behavioural codes and power constellations.

On 12 March 2017, Zaida Catalán and Michael Sharp were killed close to the village of Bunkonde in Central Congo.1 On 24 April, a video of the murder was presented by the Congolese Government to the international press corps. It showed how Catalán and Sharp were shot and beheaded by men wearing the red bandannas of Kanuina Nsapu rebels.

The UN experts were investigating mass murders suspected to have been committed by Government troops. They spoke only English and French and had arrived at their fatal meeting on local motorbike taxis. On the video, the perpetrators spoke Tshilub, the language of Kanuina Nsapu rebels, though they made several linguistic errors. Orders were given by an invisible person, speaking French and Lingala (the language commonly spoken by Government troops), while one of the murderers in Tshiluba declared: “We belong to Kamuina Nsapu. When you come and force us to behave in an evil manner you die!” The sharp and detached video recording gives the impression of a staged incident.

The day before her death, Catalán had on her mobile phone registered a meeting with a member of Kamuina Nsapu. In Tshiluba he advised the UN observers to postpone the meeting, the Bunkonde area was extremely dangerous for people like them. The interpreters falsely translated the man´s warning as a statement that it was perfectly safe to attend the meeting. The interpreters were later exposed as Government agents. This and several other details (diary entries, phone records, testimonies) scrutinized by both local and international experts seem to indicate that the murders were instigated by the Congolese Government.

At the time, negotiations for an extension of UN support to the DRC was in a critical stage. Due to recent criticism of its appalling human rights record the Congolese Government feared it could lose UN support. However, three days after the bodies of Catalán and Sharp had been found, a new deal had been negotiated and the Security Council approved a renewed mandate, defined as “the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence and to support the Government of the DRC in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts.”2

In November 2018, Gregory B. Starr, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security, presented a 47-page report on the murder of Catalán and Sharp. Contrary to documentation available to the UN and leaked to the international press, Sharp´s report did not mention any indication of Governmental involvement. Instead it criticized Catalán´s and Sharp’s decision to use motorbike taxis, stating it allowed the murder to take place.

However, Starr had during his contacts with the victims´ parents declared: “We know who killed them, they look like Kamuina Nsapu. I’m not saying ´the Army´ or something like that, because we want the Congolese to continue to work with us on this.” Gregory Sharp was unaware that his statement had been recorded.3

Michael Sharp had a BA in history from Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg USA and a MA in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at Philipps-Universität, Marburg, Germany. From 2012 to 2015, he served as Eastern Congo Coordinator for The Mennonite Central Committee. In 2015 he began contract employment with the UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Zaída Catalán was a vegan, animal rights activist, and feminist. She had a BA in law from Stockholm University, Sweden. She had been vice president of the youth organisation of The Swedish Green Party, but left politics to support vulnerable groups in conflict areas. After working for EUPOL (The European Union Police and Rule of Law) in Afghanistan, the West Bank and the DRC she became an expert of humanitarian issues within the same UN Group as Michael Sharp.

Catalán and Sharp remind me of other young idealists I have met, who by bilateral and international organisations quite irresponsibly have been sent on extremely dangerous missions. They were unescorted brought to their death on motorbike taxis, probably due to the fact that they assumed it would be easier for witnesses to testify about the massacre they were investigating if there were no UN soldiers present, as they were presumed to cooperate with the Government. The UN experts were lured into a deadly trap, something that might happen to any stranger investigating crimes within a context s/he is not entirely familiar with. What is particularily worrisome in this case is that a former Director of the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service and former UN Under-Secretary-General blamed the death of two young idealists working for the UN on their own carelessness, while he for political reasons neglected ample evidence of the Congolese Government´s involvement in a gruesome crime.

1 They were members of a group of experts focusing its activities on areas of the DRC “affected by regional and international networks providing support to illegal armed groups, criminal networks and perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses”. The group was established in accordance with The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1533 (2004) (available at https://web.archive.org/web/20150917125926/http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1533/index.shtml).
2 https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/monusco
3 Swedish Television, 28 November 2018. https://www.svt.se/nyheter/granskning/ug/familjen-spelade-in-utredaren-i-hemlighet-har-undanhaller-han-information-om-mordet-pa-zaida-catal-n

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

The post Strangers in the Land: A Congolese Murder Case appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

A man walks down the street.
It's a street in a strange world.
Maybe it's the Third World.
Maybe it's his first time around.
He doesn't speak the language.
He holds no currency.
He is a foreign man.
He is surrounded by the sound.
The sound!
Cattle in the marketplace,
scatterlings and orphanages.
He looks around, around.

The post Strangers in the Land: A Congolese Murder Case appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Experience With Irregular Migration is the Best Teacherhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/experience-irregular-migration-best-teacher/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=experience-irregular-migration-best-teacher http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/experience-irregular-migration-best-teacher/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 10:41:04 +0000 Sam Olukoya http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159675 The International Organization For Migration (IOM) has taken its campaign against irregular migration to schools in Nigeria. The school campaigns are meant to educate children who are among victims of human traffickers. After being recruited, victims of traffickers are made to embark on dangerous irregular journeys through the desert and by sea in an attempt […]

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Students of the Itohan Girls Secondary School in Benin City, Nigeria sing during their morning assembly. Courtesy: Sam Olukoya

By Sam Olukoya
BENIN CITY, Nigeria, Jan 17 2019 (IPS)

The International Organization For Migration (IOM) has taken its campaign against irregular migration to schools in Nigeria. The school campaigns are meant to educate children who are among victims of human traffickers. After being recruited, victims of traffickers are made to embark on dangerous irregular journeys through the desert and by sea in an attempt to reach Europe. Many children die in the course of these journeys while many others are enslaved. Some young girls end up in the sex trade.

Students of the Itohan Girls Secondary School in Benin City, Nigeria sing during their morning assembly. The students have been joined by a team from the IOM and a group of young Nigerians who returned home after their failed attempt to migrate to Europe. With young girls at great risk of being targeted by traffickers who need them for the sex trade, Marshall Patsanza of the IOM says a girls’ school like this is an ideal place for the organization to carry out its campaign.

 

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Acts of Terror Will Not Undermine Our Resolvehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve/#comments Wed, 16 Jan 2019 14:29:49 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159666 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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President Kenyatta addresses the Nation on 16 Jan 2019. “I also commend the civilians who looked after one another. For every act of evil that led to injury yesterday, there were a dozen acts of compassion, overflowing patriotism and individual courage,” Credit: KBC

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 16 2019 (IPS)

On 15 January 2019, terror struck Nairobi’s 14 Riverside Drive.

Kenya is in mourning following a senseless act on innocent and defenseless civilians by individuals preoccupied with contemptible and misplaced ideology; who hope to intimidate others through violent acts of terror. Like in their other past attempts, they have failed, and Kenya remains unbowed.

As President Kenyatta has noted in his address; “We will allow no one to derail or frustrate our progress….We have prevailed and shall always prevail over evil. Let us now go to work without fear and continue with our work of building our nation.”

Our thoughts are with all the affected and families who are experiencing the most inconsolable pain and trauma of this heinous act. The UN Country Team in Kenya stands in solidarity with the families who are suffering the most inconsolable pain and will live for a long time with the trauma of this terrible attack.

As the intelligence and security apparatus continue with investigations, our message to Kenyans remains that, we cannot give in to fear or the temptation to define the attack as a war between races or religions. That has always been the narrative that the perpetrators of terror would wish to spread.

Fortunately, they have always been on the losing side of history. The attack on 14 Riverside Drive should not deter Kenya’s resolve, but should further strengthen the country’s determination to overcome adversity and challenges that threaten its social fabric.

We applaud the work of Kenya’s security emergency rescue services and first responders, who mobilised in remarkable timeliness, demonstrated exceptional professionalism and heroism, thereby keeping the number of fatalities to a minimum. We also commend Kenyans for their heroic acts and solidarity for one another during this time.

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his message “has strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Nairobi and extends his condolences to the families of the victims and wishes those injured a swift recovery. The Secretary-General expresses his solidarity with the people and Government of Kenya(GoK)”.

Terrorism remains a global threat and presents a challenging test for intelligence and law enforcement agencies worldwide. No country is immune. Kenya has done remarkably well in preventing numerous other attacks.

The reality is that a multitude of stresses impact vulnerable populations around the world, leaving many disproportionately susceptible to extremist ideologies — driven by factors such as surging youth unemployment — which terror groups take advantage as a considerable reservoir for recruits. There is a need for concerted efforts to weaken the terror groups’ narrative and win the battle of ideas.

The UN remains steadfast in its support to Kenya’s development agenda, including commendable initiatives by the government based on a long view of the prevention of violent extremism in line with the UN Development Assistance Framework.

Together we can pursue smart, sustainable strategies that augment security with what the UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner describes as the triple nexus, “Achieving the 2030 Agenda and ensuring no one is left behind requires a pro-active, evidence-based and holistic approach to risk, resilience and prevention across humanitarian, development and peace effort.” This approach will be a long-term antidote to terrorism and the key to preventing violent extremism.

Already our partnership is underway with several local initiatives that are bearing fruit. Previously characterized by belligerence based on competition for resources, the border regions of Eastern Africa are slowly changing the narrative, replacing aggression with dialogue and socio-economic transformation.

A stand-out initiative is the Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme, launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. This initiative is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

Such initiatives represent determination and hope. They are a declaration that the soul of those on the right side of humanity can never be destroyed or prevented from living freely by terrorists.

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Q&A: ‘There’s a Lot More Climate Finance Available than People Think’http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/qa-theres-lot-climate-finance-available-people-think/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-theres-lot-climate-finance-available-people-think http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/qa-theres-lot-climate-finance-available-people-think/#respond Fri, 11 Jan 2019 18:07:00 +0000 Yazeed Kamaldien http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159590 IPS Correspondent Yazeed Kamaldien speaks to DR. FRANK RIJSBERMAN, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) about accessing finance for climate mitigation.

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Communities in rural Papua New Guinea install their own cost effective and energy efficient solar panels. GGGI says that governments should rather invest in renewable energy. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Yazeed Kamaldien
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Jan 11 2019 (IPS)

While growth in the green economy looks promising, government regulation and a business-as-usual approach are among the hurdles inhibiting cleaner energy production.

Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), believes shifts are needed to realise more projects. And he believes funding is available.

“We have teams in more than 30 countries. We work on policy barriers and help develop bankable projects. In the last two years we have helped our member countries mobilise at least one billion dollars in green and climate finance,” Rijsberman told IPS. GGGI is a treaty-based international organisation that assists countries develop a green growth model.

Rijsberman was among panelists discussing ‘Unlocking Finance for Sustainability’ at the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) Ministerial Conference being held in Cape Town, South Africa from Jan. 10 to 11. It gathered government leaders, businesses and environmentalists to focus on the challenge to “reduce inequalities, protect the environment and grow the economy”.

The conference focused on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted three years ago.

“It is time now to take these global goals and turn them into real changes in the lives of people and nations. It’s time for action,” stated the conference agenda.

“We can restructure our economic and financial systems to transform them into drivers of sustainability and social inclusion; the two prerequisites for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change,” it continued.

At the December United Nations’ Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland, where ministers from around the world negotiated on how best to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement, which outlines commitments to mitigate climate change, accessing finance was a topical issue. IPS reported from the  that the African team of negotiators had been concerned about who would carry the burden of financing the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

PAGE gathered around 500 innovators and leaders from governments, civil society, private sector, development organisations, media and the general public. The idea was to showcase “the experiences and creativity of first-movers…and engage in an open debate about what it is going to take to for us to have a ‘just transition’ to economics and societies that are more inclusive, stable and sustainable.”

Rijsberman offered his insights gained from working in different countries on accessing financing for green projects.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), says the largest amounts of money available is with the private sector and institutional development such as pension funds. This, he says, can be accessed for climate change mitigation. Credit: Yazeed Kamaldien/IPS

Inter Press Service (IPS): Where is this money that you mention for green projects?

Frank Rijsberman (FR): There’s a lot more finance available than people think. There tends to be an over focus on development money but the largest amounts of money is with the private sector and institutional development such as pension funds. We need to get the private sector off the sidelines and to invest in renewable energy.

IPS: And how can that be done?

FR: They need to realise that green investments are attractive. If you want to do socially important projects then renewable energy is it. It has become the cheapest, most attractive form of energy.

IPS: What about the role that governments play in this? They are the regulators that sometimes inhibit the private sector.

FR: Sometimes we sit in the room with the private sector and ask them what stops them from investing and they say it’s regulation and policies. We have to find a more welcoming environment.

We talk to governments and they talk about a study they did three years ago and tell us renewable energy is expensive. But we tell them prices have come down. All that governments know is how to build fossil fuel power plants. Fossil fuel project developers are still in their contact lists. The banks know what to do. They need to look at an energy mix.

IPS: So what is it about government policies that hinder moves to renewable energy?

FR: Some governments have laws that they use to disconnect companies from power if they put solar on their rooftops. Other countries, like Finland, still have old polices that are bad and that are still on the books. It is also difficult politically when the government subsidises fuel and not renewable energy. Governments need to remove policy barriers.

We are in the middle of such a rapid transition but if you sit in a country where governments don’t see that it’s difficult.

Coal and oil is more certain [to produce power] but for countries that need to import that, where prices are uncertain, it’s a lot more certain to use the sun and wind if you have this in your country.

IPS: How is the prospect for renewable energy looking in the developing world?

FR: If you are using only coal-fired power plants then you will sit with a stranded asset. Countries that already have a lot of investment in fossil fuels will find the change to renewable energy painful.

In Africa, most countries don’t have this. In some countries only 20 percent of people have energy access. These countries can invest in green energy and they can avoid making bad investments and can leapfrog into renewables.

They don’t have to look like Asia where they have rapidly developed economies and sit with coal-fired power stations that pollute their cities.

There is a real opportunity to avoid the problems that other countries have.

IPS: What about developing country examples of renewable energy that worked?

FR: Just two years ago when the Indian government wanted to a build a power plant they found the prices of large-scale solar panels less than coal-fired power plants. They scrapped all their plans. They are looking at solar power projects.

But there is still a lot of inertia. People are still continuing to invest in fossil fuels. We are trying to show governments through information and projects that this is feasible. We want to show how it can reduce risk.

We are working on projects. In Fiji the government gives a subsidy to low-income houses for electricity. We have proposed a project where the government puts solar panels on the roof and uses the same subsidy to finance this. It’s about using that money for sustainability.

Low-income houses have TVs and mobile phones. Making a package for people that puts solar on their roof is better. They can charge their mobile phones and [solar] also connects to their fridge and TV. Social movements have done this in some countries.

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Yazeed Kamaldien speaks to DR. FRANK RIJSBERMAN, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) about accessing finance for climate mitigation.

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Blue Economy Can be a Lifeline for Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/blue-economy-can-lifeline-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=blue-economy-can-lifeline-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/blue-economy-can-lifeline-africa/#respond Fri, 11 Jan 2019 15:43:45 +0000 Ruth Waruhiu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159588 By efficient management, the sustainable exploitation of resources in oceans, seas, lakes and rivers—also known as the blue economy—could contribute up to $1.5 trillion to the global economy, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental organization comprising of 36 countries. Last November experts, government officials, environmental activists, policy makers and academics […]

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By Ruth Waruhiu
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 11 2019 (IPS)

By efficient management, the sustainable exploitation of resources in oceans, seas, lakes and rivers—also known as the blue economy—could contribute up to $1.5 trillion to the global economy, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental organization comprising of 36 countries.

Last November experts, government officials, environmental activists, policy makers and academics converged in Nairobi, Kenya, for the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference. With the theme “Blue Economy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” the conference, convened and hosted by Kenya, with Canada and Japan as cohosts, looked at new technologies and innovation for oceans, seas, lakes and rivers as well as challenges, potential opportunities, priorities and partnerships.

Africa has 38 coastal and island states and a coastline of over 47,000 km, and hence presents an enormous opportunity for the continent to develop the sectors typically associated with the blue economy, says Cyrus Rustomjee, a blue economy expert and a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Nairobi Blue Economy conference was dedicated to realizing the untapped potential found in our oceans, seas, lakes and rivers.

“Expanding fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, transportation and maritime and inland ports can help to reduce African poverty and enhance food and energy security, employment, economic growth and exports, ocean health and sustainable use of ocean resources,” says Dr. Rustomjee.

He notes that more than 12 million people are employed in fisheries alone, the largest of the African blue economy sectors, providing food security and nutrition for over 200 million Africans and generating value added estimated at more than $24 billion, or 1.26% of the GDP of all African countries. Of concern at the Nairobi conference was the current wanton and large-scale exploitation of the world’s waters, especially in developing countries.

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya expressed concern over the “massive pollution of our water bodies; the evident overexploitation of water resources and their related biodiversities, as well as the specific challenge of insecurity, more so in the high seas.” Pre-conference advocacy by Kenya, Canada and Japan, the main organisers of the event, focused on many issues central to Africa’s development, including food security for vulnerable groups and communities, malnutrition, sustainable food production and gender equality in blue economy industries.

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Monica Juma, said the discussions were “dedicated to realizing the untapped potential found in our oceans, seas, lakes and rivers; and focused on integrating economic development, social inclusion and sustainability which promotes a blue economy that is prosperous, inclusive and sustainable.” While emphasizing the importance of unlocking the full productive potential of Africa’s waters, Ms. Juma said she especially hoped to see increased participation of women and youth in all areas of the blue economy.

A recurring theme at the conference was that the blue economy could boost a country’s economic growth and environmental protection and, by extension, help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. According to Macharia Kamau, the Principal Secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, overall the conference presented “immense opportunities for the growth of our economy, especially sectors such as fisheries, tourism, maritime transport, offshore mining, among others, in a way that the land economy has failed to do.”

The strategic importance of the blue economy to trade is clear, notes the International Maritime Organization, a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for regulating shipping. For instance, up to 90% of global trade facilitation by volume and 70% by value is carried out by sea. One challenge is that the oceans and seas absorb about 25% of the extra carbon dioxide emissions added to earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. Oil and gas remain major sources of energy, with approximately 30% of production carried out offshore.

Before the event in Kenya, the organisers highlighted current challenges within the blue economy, including a lack of shared prosperity, maritime insecurity and unsustainable human activities around and in oceans, seas, lakes and rivers, including overfishing. Other challenges are pollution, invasive species and ocean acidification, which lead to biodiversity loss and compromise human health and food security. In addition, a weak legal, policy, regulatory and institutional framework and poorly planned and unregulated coastal development exacerbate existing challenges.

To address these problems, participants called on leaders and policy makers to implement appropriate policies and allocate significant capital to sustainable investment in the sector to boost production, inclusiveness and sustainability. The Nairobi conference drew global attention to the blue economy; the challenge is ensuring concrete actions follow the vigorous discussion.

*The link to the original article from Africa Renewal, published by the United Nations: https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2018-march-2019/blue-economy-can-be-lifeline-africa

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Climate Change: Complex Challenges for Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-complex-challenges-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-complex-challenges-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-complex-challenges-agriculture/#respond Tue, 08 Jan 2019 13:55:44 +0000 Peter Luthi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159539 Peter Lüthi is in Communications at the Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, Zurich

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In the Siraro District of Ethiopia, extreme weather patterns are increasing. Since 2005, people have endured five droughts. Credit: Peter Lüthi / Biovision

By Peter Lüthi
ZURICH, Switzerland, Jan 8 2019 (IPS)

The unusually hot summer of 2018 showed that climate change affects a central part of our lives: agriculture. The severe drought in Liechtenstein led to large losses in the hay harvest.

In countries of the Global South, the consequences of climate change are already much more drastic. In Africa, for example, extreme weather conditions threaten food security for millions of people.

East Africa has encountered droughts at increasingly shorter intervals in recent years, most recently in 2005-6, 2009, 2011, 2014-15, and 2017.

Apart from drought, the conditions for agriculture are also becoming increasingly difficult due to the gradual rise in temperature, salinization and changing rainy seasons.

Serious consequences include decreasing availability of food and increasing conflicts over water–both obstacles to development opportunities of the affected states and possible triggers for migration.

Agriculture is also the cause

Agriculture and the food system are not only victims but also causes of climate change. The term “food system” refers to the entire food cycle, from production to harvesting, storage, distribution, consumption, and disposal.

This cycle produces significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Paradoxically, modern industrial agriculture aims to intensify operations to compensate for the loss of production caused by climate change.

However, using ever more fossil fuels, synthetic fertilizers, and agrochemicals increases emissions of climate-damaging gases instead of reducing them. Industrialized agriculture causes additional problems as well, including large-scale deforestation, immense water consumption, soil compaction and erosion, chemical pollution of the environment, and biodiversity loss.

This exacerbates the overexploitation of natural resources and increases climate change vulnerability.

In the project “Food security in rural Ethiopia” by Biovision and Caritas Vorarlberg, the village communities of the Siraro district dig erosion control ditches.
This is important for preserving and enhancing natural resources. Credit: Peter Lüthi / Biovision

Carrying on like in the past is no longer an option

“Industrial agriculture has reached a dead end—there is no option to continue as before,” warns Hans Rudolf Herren, winner of the World Food Prize and longtime president of the Biovision Foundation.

The renowned agronomist and entomologist urges global agriculture to embrace organic, multifunctional, healthy and sustainable practices that take agroecological principles into account, rather than striving for the highest possible yields.

This option is now also recognized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as a response to the many challenges of climate change.

Diversity increases resilience

Climate change is a complex problem involving various factors. This calls for holistic solutions. These include agroecology adapted to the local political, social, and natural conditions.

An important principle of agroecology is the promotion of diversity. The more diverse an ecosystem is, the more flexible it can react to changes, recover from disturbances, and adapt to new conditions.

Diversified agroecosystems use synergies from mixed cultivation or agroforestry systems and rely on natural fertilizers from compost and manure.

Agroecology combines traditional and new knowledge. This includes locally adapted and robust plant varieties and animal breeds. Efficiency-enhancing measures, such as irrigation systems, are becoming increasingly important.

At the societal level, fair trade conditions and market access for all producers are important, as is responsible governance. The latter is necessary to coordinate and issue appropriate political policies.

Save money for drought periods: Barite Jumba from Siraro learned how to raise and breed chickens in Biovision and Caritas Vorarlberg’s project. With the income from her egg business, she buys surplus vegetables to sell at a profit on the market.
This enables her to save money for food when her own supplies run out. Credit: Peter Lüthi / Biovision

Acting at all levels

A breakthrough for agroecology principles will require dialogue between all actors involved. Only then can the course of agriculture change towards a joint sustainable future.

This is the aim of the Biovision Foundation’s advocacy team. Together with an alliance of goal-oriented organizations and states, these agroecology advocates succeeded in establishing the demand for sustainable agriculture as part of the UN’s 17 sustainability goals in New York in 2015.

The Biovision Foundation supports the achievement of these goals both for agriculture and for climate protection at three levels:

Here at Biovision, we focus on raising public awareness for sustainable consumption and on establishing a network to implement sustainability goals.

At the international level, the advocacy team discusses agroecology with interested country representatives to position agroecology principles in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In the project “Advocacy for Agroecology,” Biovision supports countries with concrete recommendations for action and a coordinated policy dialogue to plan climate-friendly agroecological measures.

Through various grassroots projects in Africa, Biovision has demonstrated various concrete examples of successful application of these measures. LED’s support to train and inform smallholders is of crucial importance for farmers to have the ability to prepare themselves for the consequences of climate change.

*This article was first published in “Blickwechsel”, the magazine of the Liechtenstein Development Service LED.

The post Climate Change: Complex Challenges for Agriculture appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Peter Lüthi is in Communications at the Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, Zurich

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Getting to the Heart of Irregular Migration in Nigeria’s Marketshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/getting-heart-irregular-migration-nigerias-markets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=getting-heart-irregular-migration-nigerias-markets http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/getting-heart-irregular-migration-nigerias-markets/#respond Tue, 08 Jan 2019 08:33:43 +0000 Sam Olukoya http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159532 Thousands of migrants mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa have died or ended up in slavery as they attempt to travel to Europe irregularly through the desert and across the sea. Many were recruited by traffickers who deceived them into believing that the passage to Europe would be safe and easy. The International Organization for Migration, IOM, […]

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Returnee migrants volunteering for the International Migration Organisation (IOM) are campaigning in Nigerian markets against irregular migration by sharing their own stories of strife. Credit: Sam Olukoya/IPS

By Sam Olukoya
BENIN CITY, Nigeria, Jan 8 2019 (IPS)

Thousands of migrants mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa have died or ended up in slavery as they attempt to travel to Europe irregularly through the desert and across the sea. Many were recruited by traffickers who deceived them into believing that the passage to Europe would be safe and easy.

The International Organization for Migration, IOM, has embarked on a peer-to-peer campaign aimed at letting vulnerable people know the real dangers.

Migrants who returned home after their failed attempt to reach Europe have been engaged volunteers to tell their harrowing stories in markets and other public places in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.

The voice from the Public Address system urges people to travel the right way and not to kill themselves with the dangerous journey through the desert and sea. Messages like this were spread within some Lagos markets by returning migrants.

 

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Global Warming: Severe Consequences for Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/global-warming-severe-consequences-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-warming-severe-consequences-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/global-warming-severe-consequences-africa/#respond Fri, 04 Jan 2019 14:31:16 +0000 Dan Shepard http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159488 Dan Shepard is a UN public information officer specializing in sustainability issues--including SDGs, biodiversity & climate change.

 
Africa Renewal*

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Farmers planting during a rainy season in Dali, North Darfur, Sudan. Credit: UN Photo / Albert Farran

By Dan Shepard
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 4 2019 (IPS)

Record global greenhouse gas emissions are putting the world on a path toward unacceptable warming, with serious implications for development prospects in Africa. “Limiting warming to 1.5° C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, cochair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III.

But IPCC, the world’s foremost authority for assessing the science of climate change, says it is still possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5° C—if, and only if, there are “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.” For sub-Saharan Africa, which has experienced more frequent and more intense climate extremes over the past decades, the ramifications of the world’s warming by more than 1.5° C would be profound.

Temperature increases in the region are projected to be higher than the global mean temperature increase; regions in Africa within 15 degrees of the equator are projected to experience an increase in hot nights as well as longer and more frequent heat waves.

The odds are long but not impossible, says the IPCC. And the benefits of limiting climate change to 1.5° C are enormous, with the report detailing the difference in the consequences between a 1.5° C increase and a 2° C increase. Every bit of additional warming adds greater risks for Africa in the form of greater droughts, more heat waves and more potential crop failures.

Recognizing the increasing threat of climate change, many countries came together in 2015 to adopt the historic Paris Agreement, committing themselves to limiting climate change to well below 2° C. Some 184 countries have formally joined the agreement, including almost every African nation, with only Angola, Eritrea and South Sudan yet to join. The agreement entered into force in November 2016.

In December 2018, countries met in Katowice, Poland, for the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—known as COP24—to finalise the rules for implementation of the agreement’s work programme. As part of the Paris Agreement, countries made national commitments to take steps to reduce emissions and build resilience. The treaty also called for increased financial support from developed countries to assist the climate action efforts of developing countries.

But even at the time that the Paris Agreement was adopted, it was recognized that the commitments on the table would not be enough. Even if the countries did everything they promised, global temperatures would rise by 3° C this century. According to the IPCC, projections show that the western Sahel region will experience the strongest drying, with a significant increase in the maximum length of dry spells. The IPCC expects Central Africa to see a decrease in the length of wet spells and a slight increase in heavy rainfall.

West Africa has been identified as a climate-change hotspot, with climate change likely to lessen crop yields and production, with resultant impacts on food security. Southern Africa will also be affected. The western part of Southern Africa is set to become drier, with increasing drought frequency and number of heat waves toward the end of the 21st century.

A warming world will have implications for precipitation. At 1.5° C, less rain would fall over the Limpopo basin and areas of the Zambezi basin in Zambia, as well as parts of Western Cape in South Africa. But at 2° C, Southern Africa is projected to face a decrease in precipitation of about 20% and increases in the number of consecutive dry days in Namibia, Botswana, northern Zimbabwe and southern Zambia. This will cause reductions in the volume of the Zambezi basin projected at 5% to 10%.

If the global mean temperature reaches 2° C of global warming, it will cause significant changes in the occurrence and intensity of temperature extremes in all sub-Saharan regions. West and Central Africa will see particularly large increases in the number of hot days at both 1.5° C and 2° C. Over Southern Africa, temperatures are expected to rise faster at 2° C, and areas of the southwestern region, especially in South Africa and parts of Namibia and Botswana, are expected to experience the greatest increases in temperature.

Perhaps no region in the world has been affected as much as the Sahel, which is experiencing rapid population growth, estimated at 2.8% per year, in an environment of shrinking natural resources, including land and water resources.

Inga Rhonda King, President of the UN Economic and Social Council, a UN principal organ that coordinates the economic and social work of UN agencies, told a special meeting at the UN that the region is also one of the most environmentally degraded in the world, with temperature increases projected to be 1.5 times higher than in the rest of the world.

Largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture, the Sahel is regularly hit by droughts and floods, with enormous consequences to people’s food security. As a result of armed conflict, violence and military operations, some 4.9 million people have been displaced this year, a threefold increase in less than three years, while 24 million people require humanitarian assistance throughout the region.

Climate change is already considered a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing problems, including conflicts. Ibrahim Thiaw, special adviser of the UN Secretary-General for the Sahel, says the Sahel region is particularly vulnerable to climate change, with 300 million people affected.

Drought, desertification and scarcity of resources have led to heightened conflicts between crop farmers and cattle herders, and weak governance has led to social breakdowns, says Mr. Thiaw. The shrinking of Lake Chad is leading to economic marginalization and providing a breeding ground for recruitment by terrorist groups as social values and moral authority evaporate.

*Africa Renewal, which is published by the United Nations, reports on and examines the many different aspects of the UN’s involvement in Africa, especially within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). It works closely with the many UN agencies and offices dealing with African issues, including the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa.

The post Global Warming: Severe Consequences for Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dan Shepard is a UN public information officer specializing in sustainability issues--including SDGs, biodiversity & climate change.

 
Africa Renewal*

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DRC Farmers in “Schools Without Walls” Learn to Increase Harvesthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/drc-farmers-schools-without-walls-learn-increase-harvest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drc-farmers-schools-without-walls-learn-increase-harvest http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/drc-farmers-schools-without-walls-learn-increase-harvest/#respond Wed, 02 Jan 2019 18:49:51 +0000 Badylon Kawanda Bakiman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159461 It was almost four years ago in 2015 that members of Farmer’s Frame of Idiofa (FFI), a farmers group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), produced a mere eight tonnes of sweet potatoes on two hectares of land. But the main reason for the low yield had not necessarily been a climate-related one, but […]

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Smallholder farmers at Mamani 6 km from Kikwit, the capital of Kwilu province. Many across the country are learning new farming techniques through practical application. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

By Badylon Kawanda Bakiman
KIKWIT, DR Congo, Jan 2 2019 (IPS)

It was almost four years ago in 2015 that members of Farmer’s Frame of Idiofa (FFI), a farmers group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), produced a mere eight tonnes of sweet potatoes on two hectares of land. But the main reason for the low yield had not necessarily been a climate-related one, but an educational one.
“Thanks to the knowledge about agricultural techniques learnt from Farmer Field School, FFI has produced 30 tonnes of sweet potato in 2017 from a field of two hectares,” says Albert Kukotisa, chairman of FFI, from Kikwit, Kwilu province in southwest DRC.

FFI’s group of farmers are just some of those across the country who are learning new farming techniques thanks to the Farmer Field School (FFS) – an initiative by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

The field schools are not necessarily a new concept. According to a survey they were first introduced in 1989 in Indonesia where schools were developed to hope farmers deal with pesticide-induced problems.

And while they are also not new to the DRC, they are proving an effective way to educate and assist farmers.

Lazard Milambo, an FAO expert says that the new element to the FFS is that farmers are introduced to “new ideas with guided exercises without imposition and stimulating discussions by farmers.” He says the involvement of farmers themselves in the training process is also new.

With the FFS, however, farmers are not just told about new techniques and research, they are able to implement it also. Each week, a group of 20 to 25 farmers meet in local field and under the guidance of a trained facilitator they implement new farming techniques. Facilitators have various backgrounds and can include extension workers, employees from NGOs or previously-trained farmers.

“In groups of five they observe and compare two plots over the course of an entire cropping season. One plot follows local conventional methods while the other is used to experiment with what could be considered best practices. The plot of land belongs to a member of the group,” Patience Kutanga, an expert, agricultural engineer and one of the trained facilitators, explains.

Didier Kulenfuka, an agriculture expert adds that “small farmers experiment with and observe key elements of the agro-ecosystem by measuring plant development, taking samples of insects, weeds and diseased plants, and constructing simple cage experiments or comparing characteristics of different soils. At the end of the weekly meeting they present their findings in a plenary session, followed by discussion and planning for the coming weeks.”

According to a World Bank report, “DRC farmers are particularly poor and isolated, therefore vulnerable to climate impacts and other external shocks…”
In a country with 80 million hectares of arable land, “there are more than 50 millions of farmers in the country with land. Most of them are smallholders,” Milambo says.

And according to the same World Bank report the government is, however, committed to a green revolution, pledging to reduce rural poverty by 2020 through agricultural production systems. The government allocated 8 percent of its 2016 budget to agriculture.

But Kikwit, the capital and largest city of Kwilu province, and home to some 186,000 people, has only one university with an agronomic faculty.

Farmers and smallholders instead rely on the advice and knowledge of agricultural extension officers. And now, as Milambo points out, about two million smallholder farmers are working across the country with some 20,000 FFSs.

Françoise Kangala, a 47-year-old farmer of Kongo Central (formerly Bas-Congo) province explains that he learned a lot from the course, including how to identify the best field for planting his crop and how to choose top seeds. His increased knowledge showed in the increased harvest.

“So, my family has harvested 20 tonnes of maniocs [Cassava], Obama variety for a field of one hectare. In 2014 it wasn’t the case. The same land produced only 7 tonnes. Observations about results between old practices and the new is among the innovations of the approach.’’

For John Masamba, a smallholder farmer from Goma, North Kivu province, east of DRC, it’s necessary to popularise this system around the DRC “because it’s a school without walls.” He said he appreciated learning through practice.

“Together, farmers swap experiences. With the knowledge from FFS and using resilient seeds, I have produced [in 2018] 19 tonnes of maize from one a field of one hectare, compared to 7 tonnes in 2016,’’ he says.

Going forward this increased production by smallholder farmers will be crucial to the country’s food security. Smallholding farming contributes — around 60 percent — to the country’s food security, according to Milambo.

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From Mali: A Lesson in Tolerancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/mali-lesson-tolerance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mali-lesson-tolerance http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/mali-lesson-tolerance/#respond Wed, 02 Jan 2019 07:34:34 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159451 We all adhere to generalizations. For example, while reading and speaking about Muslims and Christians, sweeping opinions might easily become prejudices, particularily if we do not know any individual behind the labels. When I some years ago was working for a Malian NGO, I met a marabout and a Christian who proved that devotees to […]

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Interviewing a marabout in a village north of Markala, Mali. Credit: Mamadou Demblele

By Jan Lundius
Stockholm/Rome, Jan 2 2019 (IPS)

We all adhere to generalizations. For example, while reading and speaking about Muslims and Christians, sweeping opinions might easily become prejudices, particularily if we do not know any individual behind the labels. When I some years ago was working for a Malian NGO, I met a marabout and a Christian who proved that devotees to different religions might find mutual support in their individual beliefs.

Marabouts serve as imams, preaching in and taking care of mosques, they are generally teachers as well. Assisted by my friend Seydou, who translated his Mandé into English, I spoke with a respected marabout. After a while I found that Seydou only provided brief summaries of what the old man said. I asked him if he really translated everything. Seydou confessed that he found that the marabout “talked a lot of nonsense”. When asked what he found specifically disconcerting Seydou answered that the marabout had stated that people were living on the moon. Since I had asked him about his opinion about fundamentalists’ views of the Qur’an I wanted Seydou to repeat my question to the marabout, while trying to translate what he said, word by word. The marabout apparently answered:

– These young hotheads interpret the Holy Qur´an as if they are living on the dark side of the moon. Residing in the moon’s cold shadow they cannot conceive the sun’s light, nor feel it´s warmth. It´s not enough to read God´s words. In my life God is my sun and joy. Words are not enough for understanding the world. Time is a strict master. It taught me to discern what is right or wrong. The Holy Qur’an is truly the word of God, through it His Messenger, may peace be upon him, transmits God´s word to all people, in all places, all the time. By providing us with the words of God the Messenger, may peace be upon him, wanted us to change for the better, not for the worse. God gave humans free will and wants us to choose what is right. God is righteous. He does not want us to choose what hurt others. Fundamentalists do not believe in any free will. They do not know what love is. They do not want people to think. They want to stop us from making free choices. Accordingly, they place themselves above God. Only God is all-knowing and all-powerful. I believe God speaks to all people through The Holy Qur´an, but through my experiences and in my dreams He talks to me.

After our meeting with the marabout, Seydou made contact with a Christian man. We met him in the village school where he was president of the school association. I had been told that he was the only Malian Christian in the district and asked why he, in a country where almost everyone was a Muslim, had become a Christian. He explained that his father had been a Muslim, but also member of a Chiwara society, a traditional initiation organisation that through traditional teachings and rituals taught Bamana youngsters social values. While studying in Markala he had out of curiosity been reading the Bible. Feeling lonely and bewildered he eventually distanced himself from the way of life in his agrarian village. Soon he identified himself with Jesus, assuming that God´s son had told people that a person must be a conscious disciple, able to choose what to believe in and not blindly follow what others tell you to think and do.

He converted to Christianity, returned to his village and began working as a teacher. However, the villagers despised him and tried to dismiss him from teaching. For a man who was not white, rich, powerful and disrespectful, it would have been impossible to leave the faith of his ancestors. The teacher must be an idiot and on top of that outright dangerous.

When I asked him for how long he had endured being the only Christian in the village, the teacher answered that he had “followed Christ” for twenty years, considering it to be his duty to transmit his faith to others, even if villagers spat behind his back. It was the marabout I had been talking to earlier who changed the Christian´s life. One evening the marabout met with him, confessing:

– I realize you are a holy man. Someone as lonely and strong as you must have a robust faith. You have struggled for your beliefs, while I was born into my position. If you would
doubt God, you don´t have to worry about losing people’s respect, they don´t revere you anyway. In contrast, if I would expose doubts and weaknesses I may lose everything I have. People don´t believe in you, but they believe in me. When I suffer hard times, I have no one to turn to. However, I trust you. You know God, just as I assume I know God. I do not know if you need me, but I need you. I know that if I brought my doubts and worries to you, you would understand me. Likewise, when you are in trouble, you may come to me.

The two men became friends. During the Friday prayers, following their fateful meeting, the marabout sent for the Christian. In front of his congregation he declared: “This is my friend. He´s a holy man. If you respect me, you respect him”. Since that time the Christian had become an integrated part of his society. I asked him:

– Are you now respected by everyone?

He smiled:

– Perhaps respected, but not entirely accepted.

Mali is a country with a vibrant, varied and ancient culture, though its fragile democracy has been threatened by coups and jihadist insurgencies. In 2013, upon the Government´s request, France intervened militarily, reconquering Islamist strongholds and in 2015 a United Nations´ monitored ceasefire was established between the Government and Tuareg separatists, though parts of the country remain tense while al-Qaeda-linked militants sporadically carry out attacks.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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The Adolescent Girl Holds the Key to Kenya’s Economic Transformation and Prosperityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/adolescent-girl-holds-key-kenyas-economic-transformation-prosperity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=adolescent-girl-holds-key-kenyas-economic-transformation-prosperity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/adolescent-girl-holds-key-kenyas-economic-transformation-prosperity/#respond Mon, 31 Dec 2018 12:58:09 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159448
Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Dr Natalia Kanem, Chief of UNFPA, “We are steadfastly committed to our three goals: Zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and the elimination of harmful practices including violence that affect women and girls”. Credit: UNFPA Tanzania

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 31 2018 (IPS)

Teenage pregnancy in Kenya is a crisis of hope, education and opportunity.

The countdown to a New Year has begun. Can 2019 be a year of affirmative action to ensure hope and opportunity for Kenya’s adolescent girl?

Consider this. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says that when a young adolescent girl is not married during her childhood, is not forced to leave school nor exposed to pregnancies, when she is not high risk of illness and death nor suffering maternal morbidities, when she is not exposed to informal work, insecurity and displacement; and is not drawn into an insecure old age-she becomes an asset for a country’s potential to seize the demographic dividend.

So what is the demographic dividend?

It means when a household has fewer children that they need to take care of, and a larger number of people have decent jobs, the household can save and invest more money. Better nutrition, education and opportunities and more disposable income at the household level. When this happens on a large scale, economies can benefit from a boost of economic growth.

One of the goals of development policies is to create an environment for rapid economic growth. The economic successes of the “Asian Tigers” during the 1960s and 1970s have led to a comprehensive way of thinking about how different sectors can work together to make this growth a reality. This helps explain the experience of some countries in Asia, and later successes in Latin America, and optimism for improving the economic well-being of countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Republic of Korea is the classic example of how its gross domestic product (GDP) grew over 2,000 percent by investing in voluntary family planning coupled with educating the population and preparing them for the types of jobs that were going to be available.

With over 70% of Kenya’s population less than 30 years of age, the country’s favorable demographic ratios could unlock a potential source of demand and growth, Kenya is currently in a “sweet spot”. Fertility levels are declining gradually and Kenyans are living longer. There is reason for optimism that Kenya can benefit from a demographic dividend within 15 to 20 years. It is estimated that its working age population will grow to 73 per cent by 2050, bolstering the country’s GDP per capita 12 times higher than the present, with nearly 90 percent of the working age in employment.

The key to harnessing the demographic dividend is enabling young people and adolescent girls in particular, to enjoy their human rights and achieve their full human potential. Every girl must be empowered, educated and given opportunities for employment, and above all is able to plan her future family, this is the very essence of reaping a demographic dividend.

Each extra year a girl stays in high school, for example, delivers an 11.6 per cent increase in her average annual wage for the rest of her life.

The UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem has said: “We are steadfastly committed to our three goals: Zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and the elimination of harmful practices including violence that affect women and girls”.

So what can be done?

First, end all practices that harm girls. This means, for example, enforcing laws that end female genital mutilations and child marriage.

Second, enable girls to stay in school, at least through high school. Studies have shown the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to become pregnant as an adolescent and the more likely to grow up healthy and join the paid labour force.

Third, reach the marginalized and impoverished girls who have traditionally been left behind.

Forth, make sure girls, before they reach puberty, have access to information about their bodies. Later in adolescence, they need information and services to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Finally, take steps to protect girls’ – and everyone’s – rights.

As we countdown to 2019, let us prioritize the development of every girl’s full human potential. Our collective future depends on it. We must do everything in our power to ignite that potential-for her sake and for the sake of human development and humanity.

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Excerpt:


Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Changing the Gender Bias in Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/changing-gender-bias-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=changing-gender-bias-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/changing-gender-bias-agriculture/#respond Sat, 22 Dec 2018 13:46:06 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159427 Women entrepreneurs are playing an important role in transforming global food security for economic growth, but they have to work twice as hard as men to succeed in agribusiness. “Agriculture and agribusiness are generally perceived as run by men,” entrepreneur and Director of  the Nairobi-based African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAN) Beatrice Gakuba, told IPS. […]

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Urban farmer, Elizabeth Tshuma in her horticulture plot, at Hyde Park outside Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Many say women entrepreneurs face more challenges in getting their foot in the door in agricultural business than men. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
WAGENINGEN, the Netherlands, Dec 22 2018 (IPS)

Women entrepreneurs are playing an important role in transforming global food security for economic growth, but they have to work twice as hard as men to succeed in agribusiness.

“Agriculture and agribusiness are generally perceived as run by men,” entrepreneur and Director of  the Nairobi-based African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAN) Beatrice Gakuba, told IPS. She noted that women entrepreneurs have to prove themselves, even though they are as capable and innovative as men.

“Women entrepreneurs face more challenges in getting their foot in the door in agricultural business than men when it comes to access to finance because of several factors, including socio-cultural beliefs,” adds Gakuba, who runs a flower export business.

“The relationship between money and human beings has always been handled by men, so when a woman says ‘I want to grow my business, or I want to get a loan’, there are many questions asked. Women define agribusiness because more are employed in agriculture.”

Opening opportunities, closing barriers

Agriculture is an important source of livelihood for the poorest and is a way of eradicating extreme poverty, especially among rural women. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), if women had the same access as men to resources such as information, land, improved technologies and credit facilities, they could increase agricultural yields by up to 30 percent, and lift more than 100 million people out of hunger.

Given their contribution to agricultural development, how can women be empowered, and how can digitalisation in agriculture help to close the growing gender gap? These were some of the critical questions posed at a recent workshop hosted in Wageningen by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).

The workshop, organised this month around the theme of ‘Making next generation agriculture work for women, explored concrete strategies for creating and improving women’s opportunities in agriculture and agribusiness. The three-day event drew 40 participants from African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries working to advance women’s position and performance in the agriculture sector.

CTA Director Michael Hailu reflected on the question of how to ensure that women have a fair share of the benefits of agriculture and value addition.

“In Africa, 68 percent of economically active women are in agriculture, but they get very little benefit from it,” said Hailu, citing disparities between the amount of labour women invest in agriculture and the volume of their earnings.

Being a woman entrepreneur in agribusiness comes with a catalogue of challenges, which include gender inequality, cultural and social barriers, limited markets, lack of land tenure, and skewed access to knowledge and information, finance and a range of productive assets.

“Women put in more into agriculture, but get far less from it, and can do more with a little recognition of their innovation and knack for enterprise,” said Sabdiyo Dido Bashuna, senior technical adviser for value chains and agribusiness at CTA.

CTA recently launched VALUE4HER, a collaborative project with AWAN and the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF), in an effort to help women develop agribusinesses and derive more income from agri-food markets.

“We want to bring in more young women to be job creators and not just job seekers,” said Irene Ochem, entrepreneur and CEO of AWIEF. “Women entrepreneurs face barriers of not having adequate management and business leadership skills, and we try to address these through networks.”

Urban farmer, Elizabeth Tshuma in her horticulture plot, at Hyde Park outside Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Lack of access to technology is a one of major challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in agriculture. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Designing the right interventions

Inclusion and equal participation in agricultural production has long been an issue for women farmers and entrepreneurs.

“It is important to recognise that culture is part of agriculture,” said anthropologist Deborah Rubin, co-founder of Cultural Practice, a United States-based consulting firm working on gender in agriculture, health, evaluation and monitoring.

“We have to look at the cultural context in the way in which production takes place. What is important is to see the cultural context as enabling rather than as an impediment,” she added, warning against generalisation about the rigid roles of women and men in agriculture.

Roles have changed over time in response to conditions in and outside the community, said Rubin. She stressed the need to focus on specific constraints faced by women in agriculture, in order to design the right interventions.

“We have to look for things we can do immediately – either provide support, or change a discriminatory policy, or give access, for example for women to be able to cultivate land, not necessary ownership but to provide access,” said Rubin.

Closing the gender gap?

Researcher and development economist Cheryl Doss said the narrative about women and agricultural productivity should be reframed because narrow analyses have diverted focus from the bigger and more important question of how to target women for agricultural development interventions. In a 2017 research study, Doss cautions that genderblind approaches to designing interventions will miss key constraints, opportunities and impacts, because gender is embedded in the distribution of all resources for agriculture.

Despite the challenges of entering and staying in agribusiness, change lies within women themselves: “Women empower themselves,” said Rubin. “There is a role for policies and organisations to support the act of women empowering themselves, but in the end it is the women who have to take that responsibility, and who can act on it.”

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Overfishing Threatens Malawi’s Blue Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/overfishing-threatens-malawis-blue-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=overfishing-threatens-malawis-blue-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/overfishing-threatens-malawis-blue-economy/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2018 17:38:12 +0000 Mabvuto Banda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159420 Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake, provides an economic lifeline to many fishing families. But overfishing is affecting many of these lives, with women being affected the most. The lake, also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique, has the largest number of endemic fish species in the world — 90 […]

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Judith Twaili shows where she used to dry the fish catch when business was better. Credit: Mabvuto Banda/IPS

By Mabvuto Banda
MANGOCHI, Malawi, Dec 21 2018 (IPS)

Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake, provides an economic lifeline to many fishing families. But overfishing is affecting many of these lives, with women being affected the most.

The lake, also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique, has the largest number of endemic fish species in the world — 90 percent out of the almost 1,000 species of fish in the lake can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development estimates that fishing contributes about four percent to Malawi’s gross domestic product (GDP), and that it employs about 300,000 people.

However, that is probably not the case now because fish stocks in the lake have been dwindling over the years due to over-fishing and women are the hardest hit.

Judith Kananji’s life-changing story tells it all. Kananji who is from a fishing family in Micesi Village Traditional Authority Mponda, in the lakeshore district of Mangochi, says she has in the meantime stopped purchasing fish because the trade is no longer lucrative compared to in previous years.

“The problem is that the fish is no longer found in abundance and it’s only the small fish available at the moment and it’s expensive. Unlike before we were having bigger fish which was easy to make profits. This time around it is hard to purchase small fish to sell at a higher price,” she told IPS.

“About 8 years ago, I used to make a good profit from capital of about MK100, 000 (137 dollars). But now it is even impossible to make profits with a working capital of MK800, 000 (1,095 dollars),” she said.

According to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), protocol report, “Years ago, it was the norm to catch about 5,000 fish a day, but now, fishers catch about one-fifth of that, or even as less as a mere 300 fish a day.”

Kananji said that the increase of fishing vessels on the lake has negatively contributed to depleting fish levels because there is stiff competition among the fishermen, which is leading to overfishing.

But SADC also said, “The rapid drop in Lake Malawi’s water levels, driven by population growth, climate change and deforestation, is threatening its flora and fauna species with extinction.”

Kananji said: “Sadly it is us women who buy fish from fishermen who have been pushed out of business because fishermen in most cases raise their prices to meet operating costs whenever there is a small catch.”

“This works to our disadvantage because fish prices at the market are always low,” she added.

Just like Kananji, Chrissy Mbatata received a loan from a micro finance lending institution popularly known as village bank to bank roll her fish selling business.

Mbatata is, however, in more trouble. She is currently struggling to settle the loan.

“Initially it was easy for me to pay the loan and support my family because I was making good money. Now it is even hard to break even. Fish is not available and I don’t know where the money to pay back the loan and support my family will come from,” Mbatata told IPS.

The dwindling fish is not only affecting businesses but also the protein intake in a country where the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund says around 46 percent of children under five are stunted, 21 percent are underweight, and four percent are wasted and Micronutrient deficiencies are common.

“Chambo [the famous local fish] used to be the cheapest source of protein for us but now it’s now a luxury we only can afford at month-ends. Imagine a single fish going at K1 800 (2.4 dollars)?” said Angela Malajira, a widow of four from Lilongwe’s Area 23 suburb.

To reverse the trend government and fishing communities have found sustainable ways to harness the industry by setting up some rules and empower chiefs to implement them.

Every year, the government prohibits fishing on the lake from the month of November to December 31 to allow breeding to take place.

Interestingly this has been well received, without any resistance, from fishing communities because they understand the importance of increasing the fish levels in the lake.

Instead the communities have formulated their own bylaws outlawing fishing from November to March —  extending the fishing for 5 months.

Vice Chairperson for Makanjira Beach Village Committee Malufu Shaibu said the fishing communities agree that fishing on the lake should shut down for a long time because it has shown that the move can help to improve fish levels on lake.

He explained that during the past five months, assessment has shown that there are more fish species and volume that have started to be seen on the lake as opposed to when the lake was closed for two months
only.

“We want the lake to be closed for six months. We are glad that now we have a lot of fish due to the prolonged time of breeding which we gave the fish,” said Shaibu.

“Our children will now be able to see fish the way we saw them. The benefits for closing the lake for a long time are more than the disadvantage.”

But Shaibu, like Kananji, complained that commercial fishermen are derailing their efforts to improve fish stocks.

Mangochi District Fisheries Officer Thomas Nyasulu said that an office they are working with the newly revived Fisheries Association of Malawi to rein in on big commercial fishermen on the lake.
He said closing the lake for a long period of time would make their work more easy and fulfilling.

“It is good that the fishermen are suggesting this move. It can really help a lot. On regulating the commercial fishermen, we are working with fisheries association of Malawi in making sure that all big fishermen are following their fishing grounds,” said Nyasulu.

The bylaws are working. In April this year a 40-year-old man was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of K800,000 (1,095 dollars) or in default serve 60 months imprisonment with hard labour for fishing on the lake when had closed contravening the  fisheries conservation and Management Act.

The Magistrate Court sentenced Kennedy Fatchi of Makawa Village in the area of Traditional Authority Mponda in the district after he pleaded guilty to the charges.

Police prosecutor Maxwell Mwaluka told the court that on March 4, 2018 the chiefs working with the Fisheries Inspectorate in the district came across a commercial fishing company on the lake fishing.

He said the team seized the fishing materials and the convict was charged with three counts which he pleaded guilty to.

“This is the only way we can go back to having more fish in our lake which would inadvertently improve our lives,” said Kananji.

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Nigerian Radio Drama Tells True Life Stories of Irregular Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/nigerian-radio-drama-tells-true-life-stories-irregular-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nigerian-radio-drama-tells-true-life-stories-irregular-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/nigerian-radio-drama-tells-true-life-stories-irregular-migration/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2018 13:34:48 +0000 Sam Olukoya http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159413 The International Organization for Migration has taken its campaign against irregular migration to the airwaves in Nigeria. Working in conjunction with some Nigerian radio stations, the United Nations Migration Agency has launched a radio series on safe migration. The programme, which includes dramas, is made to entertain the audience while at the same time highlighting […]

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Returnee migrants are telling their personal stories on radio as part of the IOM's Migrants as Messengers campaign against irregular migration. Courtesy: Sam Olukoya

By Sam Olukoya
BENIN CITY, Nigeria, Dec 21 2018 (IPS)

The International Organization for Migration has taken its campaign against irregular migration to the airwaves in Nigeria. Working in conjunction with some Nigerian radio stations, the United Nations Migration Agency has launched a radio series on safe migration.

The programme, which includes dramas, is made to entertain the audience while at the same time highlighting the dangers of irregular migration. Nigeria has a high incidence of irregular migration and many have died while undertaking dangerous journeys through the desert and sea trying to reach Europe.

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BAPA+40: An Opportunity to Reenergize South-South Cooperationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bapa40-opportunity-reenergize-south-south-cooperation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bapa40-opportunity-reenergize-south-south-cooperation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bapa40-opportunity-reenergize-south-south-cooperation/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2018 12:35:46 +0000 Branislav Gosovic http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159409 Branislav Gosovic, worked in UNCTAD, UNEP, UNECLAC, World Commission on Environment and Development, South Commission, and South Centre (1991-2005), and is the author of the recently-published book ‘The South Shaping the Global Future, 6 Decades of the South-North Development Struggle in the UN.’

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Global South-South Development Expo 2018. Credit: UNOSSC

By Branislav Gosovic
GENEVA, Dec 21 2018 (IPS)

The upcoming conference on the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA+40), scheduled to take place in the Argentine capital on 20-22 March 2019, ought to be more than just another UN conference where the developing countries assemble to present their demands and seek support from the North.

Also, it must not turn out to be a replay of the 2009 1st UN High-level Conference on South-South Cooperation*, i.e. an anodyne event in terms of impact and follow-up, though such a scenario may be preferred by some, risk of which exists since the 2019 gathering is also scheduled to last only three days, not enough time for genuine deliberations and negotiations.

Therefore, it is up to the developing countries to build up BAPA+40 into a major global event.

a. South-South cooperation and the United Nations system

One of the key objectives of the Global South at BAPA+40 should be to place South-South cooperation at the very centre of the UN system of multilateral cooperation.

The UN system needs to recognize the diversity and broad spectrum that SSC subsumes, to resist the limits being imposed on SSC and it being distanced and cut off from its original institutional and political roots and aspirations.

The United Nations ought to introduce clear and specific measures and programmes, necessary human and financial resources, and mandates by “mainstreaming” and “enhancing support” for SSC in every organization and agency of the UN system, to have them incorporate the needs and objectives of South-South cooperation.

It needs also to be reiterated that South-South cooperation is not a substitute for North-South development cooperation, but a parallel and new sphere of multilateral cooperation that opens new and promising opportunities, stimulates North-South cooperation, and provides alternative and innovative approaches in development cooperation.

In the fold of the UN, a significant, yet very limited step to mainstream South-South Cooperation has been taken by upgrading the UNDP Special Unit for TCDC first into a Special Unit for South-South Cooperation and then into the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).

This cannot and should not be the end-station, but needs to be followed up ambitiously and seriously at the global level, by appointment of a UN Secretary-General’s high level representative who would provide political vision for South-South cooperation and the establishment of a UN specialized entity within the UNDP platform or in the UN Development System (UNDS) in the making, whose mission would be to promote South-South cooperation, as recommended by the Group of 77 Ministerial Meeting.

Any such entity would need to have its own intergovernmental machinery, a major capital development fund for South-South projects, and fully staffed substantive secretariat equipped to perform a number of important functions, including initiating and funding projects, undertaking research, maintaining a data base on SSC and a directory of national actors involved in SSC, and publishing a regular, periodic UN report on South-South Cooperation called for by G77 Summits.

A suggestion has been floated to consider entrusting this task to UNCTAD, given that its mandate concerning North-South issues has been eroded and its role marginalized.

Such a central entity for SSC would need to be backed, at the regional level, by greatly strengthened and invigorated UN regional economic commissions in the South.

These Commissions are the principal UN bodies based in and with a full knowledge of their respective regions. Their key mission should be the promotion of South-South cooperation or “horizontal cooperation”, as traditionally referred to in Latin America.

The proposed structure, drawing also on UN specialized agencies in their areas of competence, would have as one of its tasks to support and energize sub-regional, regional and inter-regional South-South cooperation.

Regular, high-level UN conferences on South-South cooperation would need to be convened, and a consolidated and regular substantive, analytical and statistical UN report on the state of South-South cooperation will need to be prepared.

b. Global South and South-South cooperation

Given the overall global context, the developing countries cannot rely solely on the United Nations, even if and when the suggested institutional improvements are approved and become operational.

South-South cooperation is an opportunity for the Global South to contribute to achieving a number of outstanding goals and aspirations and be a vehicle for reshaping the global system.

For this to happen, however, what is needed on the part of the developing countries is hard work, mobilization of resources and of collective power, major and sustained efforts and commitment/obligation to pursue and attain a series of objectives that need to be identified and agreed on.

In their efforts to follow this advice, in addition to many practical obstacles and problems, the developing countries would also encounter opposition and doubts within their own ranks, not to mention a frontal or undercover resistance by actors of the North.

This resistance would especially come from those who would consider every major move in that direction as a potential threat to their own interests and global designs, and would, very likely, take steps, including within individual developing countries, often with local support and even via ”inconvenient” regime and leadership change, to influence and embroil the collective efforts.

What matters, however, is that today the Global South has the resources and collective power to move forward, and that this is not a “mission impossible”, as some who are familiar with problems and difficulties encountered in South-South cooperation efforts and undertakings and the building and management of joint institutions might point out. There is little that stands in the way of:

    • Undertaking a critical, in-depth review and analysis of: South-South cooperation, important actions and proposals agreed on over the years and their implementation, experiences, public attitudes, performance of individual countries, functioning of joint institutions and mechanisms of cooperation and integration, main obstacles and shortcomings that call for action, including the all too frequent difficulties or failure to follow up on important decisions taken at the political level.
    • Focussing on how to resolve the issue of lack of adequate financing for South-South cooperation, activities, projects and institutions, probably one of the most serious practical obstacles standing in the way of SSC being put into practice as desired and called for.

    • Inspiring, informing about and involving in the South-South cooperation project the public and individuals; with this in mind, applying capacity-building and training to raise the awareness of the existing experiences and opportunities; using to this end also educational, marketing, media and public relations approaches, which are so common in contemporary society and are used not only to advertise and publicize goods and services, but also political and social goals and causes, in this case the common identity of the South as an entity.

    • Setting up a South organization for South-South cooperation, and pooling together and networking intellectual and analytical resources available in the South and internationally to staff and support the work of that institution.

    • Placing on the agenda the challenge of intellectual self-empowerment of the Global South and the harnessing of its intellectual resources and institutions into an interactive network for support of common goals and collective actions.

    • Evolving, at the highest level, a representative system of political authority (e.g., heads of state or government, one delegated from each region) for regular and ad hoc communication, consultations and contacts, for meetings to assess progress in the implementation of agreed SSC goals, and for communication/interaction with all heads of state and/or government in the Global South.

    • Based on the workings and experience of the South Commission, of the now defunct UN Committee on Development Planning and of the G77 High-Level Panel of Eminent Personalities of the South, to consider establishing a permanent South-South commission or committee to bring together, on a regular basis, high-stature personalities and thinkers from the South to reflect and deliberate on challenges faced by the developing countries and by the international community.

    • Elaborating and agreeing on a blueprint for national self-empowerment for South-South cooperation, to guide and be used as a reference by the individual developing countries in line with their own characteristics and capacities, and transforming this blueprint into a legal instrument binding for all developing countries.

    • Nurturing, training and educating future cadres and leaders for South-South cooperation, directly exposing them to and familiarizing them with different problems and different regions of the South, and, when they are ready, deploying them in national, sub-regional, regional and multilateral, including UN, settings.

    • Focussing on the role of “digital South-South cooperation” in the promotion and energizing of all forms of South-South cooperation, including closer contacts, communication, information sharing and interaction, mutual understanding between and among the peoples and countries of the South, transfer of technology, and education and culture.

    • Calling for closer cooperation between and joint initiatives of G77 and NAM, an important pending political and institutional topic on the agenda of the Global South.

There is little new in the above suggestions, which draw on practical experiences and have been articulated over the years and in different contexts. What they propose is within reach, is doable, and would represent a major “leap forward” for South-South cooperation.

What is needed today is firm political will, long-term vision and determined initiative for a group of the South’s countries and leaders to launch such a process on the desired track and, most importantly, sustain it with the necessary political commitment and financial and institutional support.

The 2019 Buenos Aires Conference in March next year is an opportunity for the South to stand up and raise its collective voice, as at the very beginnings of South-South cooperation in Bandung (1955), Belgrade (1961), Geneva (1964) and Algiers (1967).

* This article is a shortened version of the concluding pages of an extensive essay “On the eve of BAPA+40 – South-South Cooperation in today’s geopolitical context”, which was published in VESTNIK RUDN. International Relations, 2018, Volume 18, Issue 03, October 2018, pp. 459-478, the international journal of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN), formerly Patrice Lumumba University, in a special volume to mark the 40th anniversary of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action. (See http://journals.rudn.ru/international-relations/article/view/20098/16398 )

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Excerpt:

Branislav Gosovic, worked in UNCTAD, UNEP, UNECLAC, World Commission on Environment and Development, South Commission, and South Centre (1991-2005), and is the author of the recently-published book ‘The South Shaping the Global Future, 6 Decades of the South-North Development Struggle in the UN.’

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Ghana’s Contribution to Plastic Waste Can Be Reduced with the Right Investmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/ghanas-contribution-plastic-waste-can-reduced-right-investment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ghanas-contribution-plastic-waste-can-reduced-right-investment http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/ghanas-contribution-plastic-waste-can-reduced-right-investment/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2018 07:32:22 +0000 Albert Oppong-Ansah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159388 Twelve-year-old Naa Adjeley lives in Glefe, a waterlogged area that is one of the biggest slums along the west coast of Accra, Ghana. The sixth grade student, his parents and three siblings use 30 single-use plastic bags per day for breakfast. When they finish eating the balls of ‘kenkey’, fried mackerel, and pepper sauce, the […]

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About 2.58 million metric tonnes of raw plastics are imported into Ghana annually of which about 73 percent of this effectively ends up as waste. Credit: Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

By Albert Oppong-Ansah
ACCRA, Dec 21 2018 (IPS)

Twelve-year-old Naa Adjeley lives in Glefe, a waterlogged area that is one of the biggest slums along the west coast of Accra, Ghana. The sixth grade student, his parents and three siblings use 30 single-use plastic bags per day for breakfast.

When they finish eating the balls of ‘kenkey’, fried mackerel, and pepper sauce, the plastic bags that the food was individually wrapped in are dumped into the river that runs through the slum, eventually ending up in the ocean, which lies a mere 50 metres from their home.

In one month, this family alone contributes over 900 pieces of single-use plastics to the five trillion pieces of microplastic in the ocean. This is because their community of over 1,500 households, which sits on a wetlands, does not have a waste disposal system.

So assuming that their neighbours also dump their waste into the river and that they consume similar amounts of plastics per day, this means they add over 1.3 million pieces of single-use plastics to the sea each month.

The situation is the same in all the other settlements that are close to degraded lagoons around the ocean.

To date, Accra has some 265 informal settlementss, including Chorkor, James town, Osu, Labadi, Teshie, Korlegonor, Opetequaye, Agege and Old Fadama.

With all of these being in different stages of development, according to a recent study by the People’s Dialogue on Human Settlements (PD) Ghana, a non-governmental organisation. Professor Alfred Oteng-Yeboah, Chair of the Ghana National Biodiversity Committee, recalls that 10 years ago food was packaged with leaves and women went to the market with woven baskets or cotton bags.

“Now because of civilisation, every food item or prepared food bought in this country is first wrapped in a single-use plastic and then is kept in plastic carrier bags. If Accra has a population of over 2.6 million and everyone uses a single plastic every day, just calculate how much plastic waste is generated per day,” he told IPS.

About 2.58 million metric tonnes of raw plastics are imported into Ghana annually, of which 73 percent effectively ends up as waste, while only 19 percent is re-used, according to the country’s Environmental Protection Agency.

Sadly, less than 0.1 percent of the waste is recycled, meaning all the plastic waste generated ends up in the environment.

John Pwamang, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, is worried about the discharge of plastics into the various lagoons, and ultimately in the sea. “The reckless manner in which we throw away waste has become the most insidious threat to the ocean today,” he told IPS.

“We have to keep reminding ourselves that we are fast reaching the point where there will literally be more plastics in the sea than fish. Our fishermen will agree with me as they already are experiencing it. They always have more plastics than fish in their trawls. I am inclined to believe that the situation in Ghana may be more dire than it would appear,” he said.

Dr Kofi Okyere, a Senior Lecturer at the Cape Coast University, says lagoons are home to diverse species. There are 90 lagoons and 10 estuaries with their associated marshes and mangrove swamps along Ghana’s 550-km coastline stretch.

“Although I cannot put precise statistical figures, most of the lagoons, especially those located in urban areas, have been heavily polluted within the last decade or two. The pollutants are largely domestic and industrial effluent discharge, sewage, plastics, aerosol cans and other solid wastes, and heavy metal contaminants (lead, mercury, arsenic, etc.) from industrial activities,” he told IPS.

Nelson Boateng, Chief Executive Director of Nelplast Ghana Limited, is one of a group of people and companies that are finding alternative uses for plastic waste. He is holding a paving brick made from recycled plastic. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

However, while a large number of Ghanaians are still using plastic, and discarding it, there are a few people and organisations that are putting the plastic to better use.

Nelson Boateng, Chief Executive Director of Nelplast Ghana limited, began moulding and creating pavement blocks from plastic in 2015.

The company uses 70 percent sand and 30 percent plastic to manufacture the pavement blocks, but the ratio of the two materials changes depending on the kind of pavement project.

Walking IPS through the process in an interview, he explains the plastic waste is mixed with sand and taken through a melting process, and then the pavement slab is ready.

“So far we have paved many important areas, including residential areas, the premises of the Action Chapel, the frontage of Ghana’s Ministry of Environment Science, Technology and Innovation and some walkways in the country.”

“The advantage of plastic pavement blocks compared to the conventional cement blocks is that it is 30 percent cheaper, it does not break, there is no green algae growth, it does not fade. A square metre of our plastic paves cost GHC 33 (6.9 dollars) while the concrete cost 98 (20.20 dollars) I am doing this because I love the environment and I did all this on my own to beat plastic,” he said.

Currently, Boateng is recycling 2,000 kilos of plastic waste, but his factory, which is situated on a one-acre piece of land at the Ashaiman Municipal Assembly, has the capacity to produce 200,000 plastic pavement blocks.

Of the over 500 waste pickers who sell plastics to Boateng, 60 percent are women who depend on this as their livelihood. With the price of a kilo being 10 US cents women make a minimum of 10.40 dollars per sale.

Ashietey Okaiko, 34, a single mother and plastic picker of Nelplast Ghana limited, confirmed to IPS that she earns 31 dollars on average per sale, and that is what she uses to take care of her family.

“Because people now know that plastic waste is valuable, many women who are now employed are picking plastics. The company needs support to be able to buy more because sometimes when we send it they do not buy,” she says.

Boateng stated that pickers could collect up to the tune of 10,000 kilograms a day, saying, “I feel bad telling them I cannot pay due to financial constraints.”

Similar to Boateng’s innovation is the efforts of the Ghana Recycling Initiative by Private Enterprises (GRIPE), an industry-led coalition under the auspices of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), a non-governmental organisation, that is manufacturing modified building blocks out of plastic.

The initiative, carried out in conjunction with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, is pending certification by the Ghana Standard Authority for commercial use.

Ama Amoah, Regional Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager at Nestle, a leading member of GRIPE, told IPS that the group has done community and schools education and awareness campaigns on proper waste management practices for plastics.

There are also other innovators such as Seth Quansah, who runs Alchemy Alternative Energy, which is converting plastic waste and tires through internationally approved and environmentally sound processes into hydrocarbon energy, mainly diesel-grade fuels.

Through the Ghana Climate Innovations Centre, and Denmark and the Netherlands through the World Bank, Quansah has received mentorship and is preparing to expand the company.

Ghana’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Ken Ofori Atta, says the Ministry of Environment, Science Technology and Innovation (MESTI) is in the process of finalising a new National Plastic Waste Policy, which will focus on strategies to promote reduction, reuse, and recycling.

But Helen La Trobe, an environmental volunteer in Ghana, tells IPS, “African industry should seek innovative approaches to reduce plastic use and plastic waste in all its forms by replacing plastic with other innovative products and reducing, reusing and recycling where replacing is not currently possible.”

She also wants the government to provide adequate public rubbish bins at trotro stops (bus stops) and markets to have these frequently emptied.

She says plastic is indestructible and breaks into smaller and smaller parts, called microplastics, but it takes more than 500 years to completely disappear. 

According to Trobe, microplastics and microbeads, tiny polyethylene plastic added to health and beauty products such as some skin cleansers and toothpaste, absorb toxins and industrial chemicals from the environment. As fish and other marine life ingest tiny pieces of plastic, the toxins and chemicals enter their tissue and then the food chain, which ultimately affect humans.  

While Boateng does not believe that production of plastic is a problem, but that authorities need to support innovators and there is a need for a behavioural change, he adds, “The more the support, the cleaner the environment. If we are serious of ridding the country and the sea of plastics this is the way forward. When people go to the beach to clean up, the waste ends ups in the land field site, which is still in the environment.”

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For Love of the Game: Using Football to Educate Nigerians About the Dangers of Irregular Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/love-game-using-football-educate-nigerians-dangers-irregular-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=love-game-using-football-educate-nigerians-dangers-irregular-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/love-game-using-football-educate-nigerians-dangers-irregular-migration/#respond Thu, 20 Dec 2018 13:03:32 +0000 Sam Olukoya http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159382 Hundreds of desperate young Nigerians die yearly in the Sahara Desert or at sea while making irregular journeys to Europe. The desperation to reach Europe at all cost, irrespective of the risks, is a major social problem in Africa’s most populous country. Besides the desire for Europe, Nigerians also love football. Taking advantage of football’s […]

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Restoring Ghana’s Mangroves and Depleted Fish Stockhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/restoring-ghanas-mangroves-depleted-fish-stock/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=restoring-ghanas-mangroves-depleted-fish-stock http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/restoring-ghanas-mangroves-depleted-fish-stock/#respond Thu, 20 Dec 2018 10:56:13 +0000 Albert Oppong-Ansah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159368 It was just three and a half years ago that the Sanwoma fishing village, which sits between the sea and the mouth of the Ankobra River on the west coast of Ghana, experienced perpetual flooding that resulted in a loss of property and life. This was because the local mangrove forests that play a key […]

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A fish catch has come in. Since the community from the Sanwoma fishing village have begun restoring the mangroves, the lagoon has seen a marginal increase in fish stock. However, the stock in the ocean remains depleted. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IP

By Albert Oppong-Ansah
ACCRA, Dec 20 2018 (IPS)

It was just three and a half years ago that the Sanwoma fishing village, which sits between the sea and the mouth of the Ankobra River on the west coast of Ghana, experienced perpetual flooding that resulted in a loss of property and life.

This was because the local mangrove forests that play a key role in combating the effects of coastal erosion and rising sea levels had been wantonly and indiscriminately harvested. “Of a total 118-hectares mangrove, we had depleted 115 hectares,” Paul Nato Codjoe, a fisherman and a resident of the community explains.

The fisherfolk here depended heavily on the Ankobra wetland mangroves for cheap and available sources of fuel for fish processing. Wood from the mangroves was also used as material for construction, and sold to generate income.

But a video shown by officials of Hen Mpoano (HM), a local non-governmental organisation, helped the community understand the direct impact of their indiscriminate felling.

And it spurred the fishfolk into action. Led by Odikro Nkrumah, Chief of the Sanwoma, the community commenced a mangrove restoration plan, planting about 45,000 seeds over the last three years.

Rosemary Ackah, 38, one of the women leaders in the community, tells IPS that the vulnerability to the high tides and the resultant impact was one of the reasons for actively participating in the re-planting.

HM, with support from the United States Agency for International Development-Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP),provided periodic community education about the direct and indirect benefits of the mangrove forests.

In Ghana, there are about 90 lagoons and 10 estuaries with their associated marshes and mangrove swamps along the 550-km coastline stretch.

Dr Isaac Okyere, a lecturer at the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Cape Coast, explains to IPS in an interview that the conservation of mangrove forests is essential for countries like Ghana, where the marine fishery is near collapse, with landings of important fish species at 14 percent of the record high of 140,000 metric tons 20 years ago.

The fisheries sector in Ghana supports the livelihoods of 2.2 million people — about 10 percent of the population.

Carl Fiati, Director of Natural Resource at the Environmental Protection Agency speaking in an interview with IPS, explains: “Ghana is in a precarious situation where many of the stocks are near collapse and species like the sardine and jack mackerel cannot be found again if we do not take steps to conserve, restock and protect them. A visit to the market shows that sardines, for instance, are no more.”

The Sanwoma community is not unique in the degradation of their mangroves. According to Okyere, the Butuah and Essei lagoons of Sekondi-Takoradi, the Fosu lagoon of Cape Coast, the Korle and Sakumo lagoons of Accra and the Chemu lagoon of Tema are typical examples of degraded major lagoons in the country.

“Most of the lagoons, especially those located in urban areas, have been heavily polluted within the last decade or two.” Domestic and industrial effluent discharge, sewage, plastics, and other solid waste and heavy metal contaminants (lead, mercury, arsenic, etc.) from industrial activities are blamed for this.

Rosemary Ackah is part of the women’s group that was assigned to collect seedlings used to grown a nursery of mangrove trees. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

According to Ackah, many of the women in the community also became involved in the mangrove regeneration because of the positive resultant effect of clean air that would reduce airborne diseases in the community.

“As women, we take care of our husbands and children when they are ill so we thought we should seize this opportunity to engage in this as health insurance for our families,” she added.

Ackah says the women’s group was assigned to collect seedlings used to grown a nursery. They also watered the seedlings.

“We also played a significant role during transplanting. When our husbands dig the ground we put in the seedlings and cover the side with sand. It is a joy to be part of such a great replanting project, that will help provide more fuelwood for our domestic use,” Ackah told IPS.

Codjoe says that thanks to the technical assistance from the project, the community developed an action plan for restoration and is also enforcing local laws to prevent excessive mangrove harvesting.

The community has taken control of its future, and particularly its natural resources, and has established the Ankobra Mangrove Restoration Committee to guide and oversee how the mangrove is used and maintained.

To ensure that the re-planting is sustainable, Codjoe explains that the community has, in agreement, instituted a by-law that all trees within 50 meters of the river must not be harvested. Anyone doing so will have to replant them.

It is uncertain if indiscriminate felling of the mangroves continues to happen as many in the community acknowledge the positive results of the re-planting.

“We have seen positive signs because of the re-generation, the flooding has been drastically reduced,” says Ackah.

She has witnessed another direct improvement: the high volume and large size of the shrimp, one of the delicacies in Ghana, that they local community harvests. “This has really boosted our local business and improved our diet,” she says.

Codjoe says the fish stock in the river increased and agreed that a high volume of shrimp was harvested.

Ackah adds that the project donors SFMP and local implementer HM also helped them reduce dependence on the mangroves for their livelihoods and created a resilience plan in the form of a Village Savings and Loan Scheme.

The scheme, she explains, has financially empowered members to address social and economic challenges they face, thus reducing dependence on fisheries and mangroves in terms of the need for income.

In West Africa, the economic value of nature’s contributions to people per km2 per year is valued at 4,500 dollars for mangrove coastal protection services, 40,000 dollars for water purification services, and 2,800 dollars for coastal carbon sequestration services.

This is according to an Assessment Report on the state of biodiversity in Africa, and on global land degradation and restoration, conducted under the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Fiati says that Ghana’s new draft Coastal and Marine Habitat Regulation policy, which encapsulates the protection, management and sustainable use of mangroves, will be ready and sent to the Attorney General’s Department this month to be signed into law.

And the local fisherfolk of Sanwoma are assisting in sharing their experiences and knowledge.

In the meantime, the Sanwoma are ensuring that the importance of the preservation of their mangrove forests is passed down to young people.

“Because of a lack of knowledge about the importance of such a rich resource we were destroying it. And it was at a fast rate. Now I know we have a treasure. As a leader, I will use it to sustainably and protect it for the next generation. Also, I will make sure I educate children about such a resource so they will keep it safe,” Nkrumah told IPS.

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As Climate Change Pummels Agriculture, Irrigation Offers the Best Protectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/climate-change-pummels-agriculture-irrigation-offers-best-protection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-pummels-agriculture-irrigation-offers-best-protection http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/climate-change-pummels-agriculture-irrigation-offers-best-protection/#respond Wed, 19 Dec 2018 11:58:13 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159357 The changing climate and extreme weather events are affecting agricultural productivity in Africa to such an extent that a panel of experts are urging governments to prioritise and invest in irrigation to ensure food security. Increased heat spells, coupled with flash flooding and frequent droughts, are making farming impossible and unprofitable as many African smallholder […]

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A farmer waters her plot at the Tjankwa Irrigation Scheme, in Plumtree District, 100km west of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS.

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Dec 19 2018 (IPS)

The changing climate and extreme weather events are affecting agricultural productivity in Africa to such an extent that a panel of experts are urging governments to prioritise and invest in irrigation to ensure food security.

Increased heat spells, coupled with flash flooding and frequent droughts, are making farming impossible and unprofitable as many African smallholder farmers rely on rain-fed agriculture.

Irrigation development can increase food security while extending the growing season, securing more income and jobs, said the Malabo Montpellier Panel, a group of international experts guiding policy to boost food and nutrition security in Africa.

Irrigation the best investment

In a study launched this week, the Malabo Montpellier Panel said Africa has the potential to irrigate 47 million hectares. This can boost agricultural productivity, improve livelihoods and accelerate economic growth.

“A number of economies in Africa depend on agriculture,” said Ousmane Badiane, Malabo Montpellier Panel co-chair and Africa director for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). “That is why water control and irrigation are important to reduce poverty and to eradicate hunger across Africa.”

About 20 percent of cultivated land worldwide is irrigated and this contributes to about 40 percent of total food output, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Africa is one of the regions in the world with the highest number of people who are hungry. It also has the lowest crop yields in the world as only six percent of cultivated land is irrigated on the continent, compared to 14 percent in Latin America and 37 percent in Asia.

“Irrigation must be made a priority in Africa because it works,” Badiane told IPS. “Once you commit to irrigation as a high-level priority, you put into place the institution mechanisms to deliver that effectively within government but in partnership with private sector and local communities.”

In 2014, 54 African governments signed the Malabo Declaration committing to halve the number of people in poverty by 2025. They sought to do this through agriculture growth that creates job opportunities for young people and women.

A study, Water-Wise: Smart Irrigation Strategies for Africa found that irrigated crops can double yields compared to rain-fed yields on the continent.

Furthermore, the economic benefits of expanding areas under irrigation would be double the costs of rain-fed agriculture under climate change.

Greater levels of irrigation have led to better and longer harvests, higher incomes and better prospects for farmers in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Niger and South Africa.

These six countries are success models for either having the largest irrigated areas or for achieving the fastest growth in expanding irrigation agriculture. For example, Ethiopia increased the area under irrigation by almost 52 percent between 2002 and 2014, achieving the fastest growth in irrigation in Africa. Morocco has nearly 20 percent of its arable land currently equipped for irrigation.

A member of the 8-hectare Tjankwa Irrigation Scheme, in Plumtree District, 100km west of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS.

Success in the crop yields

In Zimbabwe, FAO has implemented a 6.8 million dollar Smallholder Irrigation Programme (SIP) programme in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development (MAMID) funded by European Union (EU) to improve income, food and nutrition security of communal farmers involved in small-scale irrigation. The programme has seen the rehabilitation of 40 irrigation schemes has benefitted 2,000 households in Manicaland and Matabeleland South Province.

Smallholder farmers in Matabeleland South Province are benefitting from irrigation schemes, which have allowed them to increase productivity even during droughts.

Landelani Ndlovu, a member of the 8-hectare Tjankwa Irrigation Scheme, says she earns 400 dollars from growing vegetables under a community irrigation project that started in 2012.

“Irrigation has helped us produce more vegetables and crops and to increase our income which we would not do if we relied on the seasonal farming when we have rain,” Ndlovu said.

In West Africa, Patience Koku, who farms with a pivot irrigation system, tells IPS, “the importance of irrigation in increasing grain yields cannot be over emphasised.”

“We are currently able to grow two crop cycles a year, meaning we double our output annually. In addition to this our grain yields are always higher in our irrigated crop. Corn cobs fill up completely to the tip, translating in higher yields,” Koku said.

Filling the funding gaps

“The profitability of irrigation is proven and in most cases there are high rates of return,” said Badiane. “A commitment was made by African leaders in Maputo in 2003 for countries to allocate 10 percent of their national budgets for agriculture. If they did so, a fraction of that could fund the 47 million hectares of irrigation. The funding gap for irrigation is huge because the potential is large.”

Badiane said by making irrigation a high-level priority, African governments can attract private sector investment and innovation and facilitate the uptake of technologies in growing agriculture to drive economic growth. Improved regulations for safe and sustainable use of water are also a driving factor in promoting irrigation development.

Irrigation allows farmers to produce crops over extended periods, particularly in areas where there is one rainy, Badiane said, noting that there was a business case for investing in irrigation as a way to pull farmers out of poverty while securing food and income.

Expanding what works

Badiane said irrigation development will help deliver on the food security and nutrition targets under the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Malabo Declaration. A critical factor was getting the buy-in of decision makers at the highest level of government who need proof that irrigation works.

Decision makers do not take innovation lightly because they know the cost of failure is extremely high, said Badiane, adding that scaling up irrigation development will aid agricultural transformation.

Africa, in particular, will require nothing short of a complete water transformation,” says Nathanial Matthews, Programme Director at the Global Resilience Partnership a partnership of public and private organisations that work together to build a resilient, “sustainable and prosperous future for vulnerable people and places”.

He urged Africa to transform its water use by scaling up traditional practices, deploying new technologies and improving governance.

“Taking action is urgent, with 95 pe cent of the continent relying on rain-fed agriculture and 25 countries already experiencing widespread hunger, poverty and under nutrition,” Matthews told IPS.

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Investors Turn Kenya’s Troublesome Invasive Water Hyacinth into Cheap Fuelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel/#respond Wed, 19 Dec 2018 06:34:12 +0000 Benson Rioba http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159315 Currently 30 square kilometres of Lake Victoria, which stretches to approximately 375 kilometres and links Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is covered with the evasive water hyacinth that has paralysed transport in the area. But scientists are harvesting and fermenting the weed, and one intrepid chemistry teacher has built a business out of it. The presence […]

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Water hyacinth is a weed and if not controlled on Lake Victoria, experts are concerned that the lake’s water levels might drop by 60 percent. Courtesy: CC by 2.0/Madeira Botanic Garden

By Benson Rioba
KISUMU, Kenya, Dec 19 2018 (IPS)

Currently 30 square kilometres of Lake Victoria, which stretches to approximately 375 kilometres and links Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is covered with the evasive water hyacinth that has paralysed transport in the area.

But scientists are harvesting and fermenting the weed, and one intrepid chemistry teacher has built a business out of it.

The presence of water hyacinth on the lake is concerning. Late last year, Margaret Kidany, one of the people involved in conserving Lake Victoria’s beaches, said the lake’s water levels might drop by 60 percent if the weed is not controlled. If it is not eliminated, it will kill the livelihoods of thousands of households that rely on the lake for an income.

However, the Centre for Innovation Science and Technology in Africa, founded by former chemistry teacher Richard Arwa, is making the best out of the invasive water hyacinth.

Funded in its start-up stages by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the innovation company, which employs six people and serves 560 households, manufactures ethanol from the weed. This is proving a cheaper source of clean fuel for many of the locals while at the same time preserving the lake.

The process they use is a simple one.

The centre hires locals to harvest the hyacinth from Lake Victoria before transporting it to their workshop for processing. Once at the workshop, the hyacinth is pretreated to remove microorganisms that might compete with the enzymes during processing.

The hyacinth is then dried and chopped into smaller pieces to reduce the surface area for efficient processing. The dried hyacinth is then mixed with water, acids and enzymes in tight closed tanks for fermentation.

After fermentation the mixture is subjected to high temperatures (80 degrees Celsius), producing ethanol and carbon dioxide and methane as final products.

“This was part of a science congress project for secondary schools and it won accolades throughout the country and we, together with my students, decided to actualise the project,” says Arwa.

Arwa is still a chemistry teacher even though he started the institution in 2016.

He adds that they initially tried to produce beverage alcohol from the hyacinth but the project was not viable. According to Arwa, alcohol requires numerous purification processes to make it consumable. In addition the taxes on the product are high.

So it is less costly to make ethanol. Arwa says the company produces 100 litres daily.

The amount is considerable for their factory, and it is sold to 560 households in Yala in Kisumu city. Arwa tells IPS that they always run out of stock.

Lyne Ondula, a mother from Yala, in Kisumu county, is a happy customer.

“Hyacinth fuel burns slower than the usual kerosene I use and doesn’t produce smoke and soot while cooking like firewood or kerosene. To me it’s much cheaper and cleaner to use, no more coughing in my kitchen when preparing food,” she tells IPS.

Ondula says a litre of ethanol retails at 70 Kenyan shillings and lasts four days. That is in marked contrast to the higher cost of kerosene, which currently retails at a national average of 100 Kenyan shillings, and lasts only two days. She says she also used to buy charcoal which was quite expensive, retailing at 100 Kenyan shilling per a 15-kilogram tin, which only lasted hours. So now she only uses ethanol, which she pre-orders.

It is a cleaner option for this East African nation that is still heavily reliant on charcoal, kerosene and firewood as a source of energy. According to a market and policy analysis by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, while “LPG has penetrated Nairobi and higher-income households; bio-ethanol can be an attractive clean fuel for lower income households.”

Ondula’s sentiments were echoed by Sylvester Oduor, another resident from Yala in Kisumu County. He adds that ethanol fuel also produces more heat compared to charcoal when cooking.

Philip Odhiambo, energy and climate change coordinator at the WWF, says such innovations are key in harnessing the untapped opportunities of water bodies.

“There is a need to turn environmental challenges to create wealth and opportunities especially in creating jobs for our many unemployed youth,” says Odhiambo. He adds that the ethanol processing project is a viable way of managing green waste that has been a challenge in the country for a long time.

Odhiambo adds that the world is shifting towards clean, cheap energy and says there is a need to embrace creativity and tap into the energy potential of water bodies, besides the traditional sources of energy.

In addition, unlike other clean fuels, bio-ethanol can be produced domestically over time and could spur industrial growth in the sector “while delivering positive social and economic benefits,” says the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety report.

However, Arwa says accessing the initial capital of 50,000 dollars was a challenge as many financial institutions turned him away for lack of collateral. In the end he had to rely on donors like WWF to finance the project. The chemistry teacher adds that financial institutions did not have faith in the venture and were not ready to invest in the idea.

The immediate goal for the company is to expand production to 600 litres per day.

But Arwa has a five-year expansion plan that includes moving the small factory, which is about 40 kilometres away from Lake Victoria, closer to the lake to reduce costs. He hopes that once relocated, and with the support of partners, they will eventually be able to produce 10,000- 25,000 litres per day.

Arwa adds that he is looking for strategic investment partners to help in scaling up the ethanol project, reiterating that there is a huge untapped market for the product. “I usually feel bad when customers come to purchase ethanol but we turn them away. At the moment we cannot satisfy the demand,” he says.

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