Inter Press ServiceAfrica – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 18 Oct 2017 17:37:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 An Inequality Beyond Wealth: Gaps in Women’s Healthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/inequality-beyond-wealth-gaps-womens-health/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:54:17 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152578 While many often focus on wealth disparities, economic inequality is often a symptom and cause of other inequalities including women’s access to sexual and reproductive health. In a new report, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) explores the persistent, if not widening, inequalities in sexual and reproductive health around the world, holding back women and girls […]

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A mother and her child from West Point, a low-income neighbourhood of Monrovia, Liberia. The 10-worst countries to be a mother in are all in sub-Saharan Africa. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

While many often focus on wealth disparities, economic inequality is often a symptom and cause of other inequalities including women’s access to sexual and reproductive health.

In a new report, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) explores the persistent, if not widening, inequalities in sexual and reproductive health around the world, holding back women and girls from a productive and prosperous future.

“It’s not just about money,” Editor of UNFPA’s report Richard Kollodge told IPS.

“Economic inequality reinforces sexual and reproductive health inequality and vice versa,” he continued.

Despite its recognition as a right, access to sexual and reproductive health is far from universally realized and it is the poorest, less educated, and rural women that continue to bear the brunt of such inequalities.

Globally, women and girls in the poorest 20 percent of households have little or no access to contraception and skilled birth attendants, leading to more unintended pregnancies and higher risk of illness or death from pregnancy or child birth.

In the developing world, 43 percent of pregnancies are unplanned and this is more prevalent among rural, poor, and less educated women.

These inequalities are particularly prevalent in West and Central Africa.

In Cameroon, Guinea, Niger, and Nigeria, use of skilled birth care is at less than 20 percent among the poorest women compared to at least 70 percent among the wealthiest.

The lack of power to choose whether, when or how often to become pregnant can limit
girls’ education, delay their entry into the paid labour force, and reduce earnings, trapping women in poverty and marginalization.

“The absence of these services in these women’s lives leads them to be poor or makes them even poorer,” said Kollodge.

A woman with no access to family planning may be unable to join the labor force because she has more children than intended.

In high-fertility developing countries, women’s participation in the labor force remains low, from 20 percent in South Asia to 22 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Once in the paid labor force, underlying gender inequalities lead to women earning less than men for the same types of work.

Though the gender wage gap has decreased in recent year, women still earn 77 percent of what men earn globally.

At the current pace, it will take more than 70 years before the gender wage gap is closed.

Further gaps can be seen for women who have children—a “motherhood penalty,” Kollodge said—as well as for women of color and those with less education.

Illiterate people earn up to 42 percent less than their literate counterparts and a majority of the world’s estimated 758 million illiterate adults are women.

This can also be traced to harmful gender norms that keep girls from school, and creates a vicious cycle that keeps women in the bottom rung of the economic ladder and without access to sexual and reproductive health services.

If all girls stayed in and received secondary education, it’s estimated that child marriages would decrease by 64 percent, early births by 59 percent, and births per woman by 42 percent.

Among the countries that have made most progress is Rwanda, which has effectively closed the gap between poor and rich households in access to contraception.

Kollodge told IPS that Rwanda’s achievement shows that a low-income country can advance access to sexual and reproductive health.

“The policies that [countries] adopt really make a difference. There are things you can do, regardless of your GDP, to improve well-being and reduce inequality in sexual and reproductive health and rights,” he said.

Rwanda’s success is partly due to the expanded availability and integration of family planning services in each of the country’s villages and health centers.

But inequality in sexual and reproductive health is not just a developing country issue, Kollodge noted.

The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world.

In Texas, maternal mortality rates jumped from 18.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 to 35.8 deaths in 2014, the majority of whom were Hispanic and African-American woman.

Meanwhile, the government is working to repeal health coverage which risks returning to a time where many insurance plans considered pregnancy a pre-existing condition, barring women from getting full or any coverage.

Already, the Donald Trump administration has rolled back access to contraception, affecting up to 60 million women.

Elsewhere, the U.S.’ decision to cut funding to UNFPA is affecting the health and lives of thousands of women.

In 2016, the government provided 69 million to UNFPA programs, helping avert almost one million unintended pregnancies and prevent 2,300 maternal deaths.

“Any reduction to UNFPA has a direct impact on women and adolescent girls in developing countries,” said Kollodge.

The report calls to make information and services more available and accessible and recommends a number of actions including increasing access to child care which can help women join the labor force and climb out of poverty.

This will lead to not only better reproductive health outcomes, but also a healthier economy and society as a whole.

“If you eliminate these inequalities in accessing sexual and reproductive health and thus give women control over their own lives, you are going to make a lot of headway in economic inequality,” Kollodge told IPS.

He said that though eliminating inequalities in sexual and reproductive health alone will not be enough, countries will never achieve economic inequality if half of the world’s population lacks access to health services and rights.

“And if you continue to have extreme economic inequality, it drags down whole economies and prohibits countries from rising out of poverty fast enough to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Kollodge continued, pointing to SDG 1 which aims to end poverty by 2030.

The internationally adopted SDGs also include a goal to reduce inequality within and among countries by accelerating income growth of the poorest 40 percent of the population at a rate higher than the national average.

“If you don’t do that, you are never going to achieve shared prosperity,” Kollodge said.

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To Eliminate Poverty, Better Understanding Neededhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eliminate-poverty-better-understanding-needed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eliminate-poverty-better-understanding-needed http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eliminate-poverty-better-understanding-needed/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:05:31 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152572 Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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The latest Bank data on global poverty suggests that 767 million people, or 10.7% of the world’s population, live in extreme poverty. Credit: IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

As the United Nations’ Second Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017) comes to an end, more self-congratulation is likely. Claims of victory in the war against poverty will be backed by recently released poverty estimates from the World Bank, entrusted by the UN system to monitor poverty.

Mismeasuring poverty
The latest Bank data on global poverty suggests that 767 million people, or 10.7% of the world’s population, live in extreme poverty, compared to some 42% of the world’s population in 1981. Earlier figures suggested that most progress was due to East Asia, especially China.

The Bank’s international poverty line was revised from a dollar a day in 1985 to $1.08 in 1993, $1.25 in 2005, and $1.90 in 2011. Poverty estimates for 2011 are available using both $1.90 and $1.25 per day poverty lines. Global poverty has fallen from 14.5% of the world’s population (or 1,011 million people) using the $1.25 poverty line or 14.2% (or 987 million) with the new $1.90 line! Global poverty has thus declined more using the new yardstick, confounding those who expected a statistical explosion in the number of poor with the 52% increase during 2005-2011!

Echoing an earlier complaint, economics Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton believes that the World Bank has an “institutional bias towards finding more poverty rather than less” to ‘keep itself in business’ leading the fight against global poverty. No wonder the World Bank faces a serious credibility problem when it comes to its poverty role.

The World Bank’s poverty estimation methodology is problematic, as admitted by Martin Ravallion who pioneered its dollar-a-day measure. Doubts remain, even after several adjustments. The Bank’s poverty line appears arbitrary as it has not been consistently anchored to a broadly accepted specification of basic human needs.

Asian progress exaggerated
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) argued that the World Bank’s $1.25 yardstick was not representative of Asia, the continent that has supposedly contributed most to the decline in global poverty according to the Bank. There were only two Asian countries, compared to 13 African countries, in the sample with which the World Bank set its $1.25 benchmark.

The ADB deems other factors more relevant, such as living costs for Asia’s poor, food costs rising faster than the general price level, and vulnerability to natural disasters, climate change, economic crises and other shocks. Its estimated extreme poverty rate for Asia in 2010 thus increased by 28.8 percentage points to 49.5% while the estimated number of poor jumped by 1.02 billion to 1.75 billion people!

It is now widely agreed that poverty is multidimensional while the Bank still uses ‘money-metric’ measures. The UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report (HDR) publishes its Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) considering multiple deprivations across three dimensions – health (nutrition, child mortality), education (years of schooling, school enrolment) and living standards (cooking fuel, toilet, water supply, electricity, flooring, assets).

About 1.5 billion people in the 102 developing countries currently covered experience such acute deprivations. Close to 900 million people are vulnerable to falling into poverty following setbacks due to financial crisis, natural disaster and other factors.

Globalization reduced poverty?

With little convincing evidence, The Economist (30 March 2017) attributed the world’s “great progress in eradicating extreme poverty” to globalization.

In the Globalization and Poverty book, 15 economists considered whether globalization has helped spread wealth, as often claimed. They conclude that the poor benefit from globalization when appropriate complementary policies, such as investments in human resources, infrastructure, credit promotion, technical assistance and supportive institutions, are in place.

Most supposed evidence is indirect, suggesting poverty reduction is mainly due to growth attributed to globalization. But recent globalization has also seen sharply increased inequality and volatility, including more frequent and deeper financial crises.

Other policies associated with globalization and liberalization, such as privatization, financial sector deregulation and pro-cyclical macroeconomic policies, have also harmed the poor. The efficacy of programmes, such as microfinance and governance reforms, in significantly reducing poverty is now very much in doubt.

Rethinking poverty
The United Nations’ Report on the World Social Situation 2010 – Rethinking Poverty, and our accompanying volume, Poor Poverty, affirmed the urgent need to abandon the market fundamentalist thinking, policies and practices of recent decades in favour of more sustainable development- and equity-oriented policies appropriate to national conditions and circumstances. Such new thinking on poverty and its eradication can be summarized as follows:

• Dominant mainstream perspectives have led to poor, ineffectual policy prescriptions.
• Poverty reduction is helped by sustained growth of output and decent jobs.
• Growth helps raise incomes and fiscal resources for social spending.
• Growth needs to be more stable, with consistently counter-cyclical macroeconomic policies and better capacity to deal with exogenous shocks.
• Progressive structural change and inequality reduction are crucial for development.
• Social provisioning accelerates development and poverty reduction.
• Social protection can better mitigate negative shocks, prevent people becoming much poorer, and help generate economic activities and livelihoods.
• A basic social protection floor is affordable in most countries, although poorer countries will progress faster with donor support.

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What Do You Really Eat When You Order a Steak, Fish or Chicken Filet?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/really-eat-order-steak-fish-chicken-filet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=really-eat-order-steak-fish-chicken-filet http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/really-eat-order-steak-fish-chicken-filet/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 12:41:37 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152567 The world is running out of antibiotics to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) warned while announcing the World Antibiotic Awareness Week on 13-19 November. The reason, according to WHO, is that most of the drugs currently in the clinical pipeline are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics […]

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Cattle is by far the most susceptible livestock to Bovine TB (animal tuberculosis). Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 18 2017 (IPS)

The world is running out of antibiotics to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) warned while announcing the World Antibiotic Awareness Week on 13-19 November.

The reason, according to WHO, is that most of the drugs currently in the clinical pipeline are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics and are only short-term solutions. See: The World Is Running Out of Much Needed New Antibiotics

Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), on 20 September said on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), “A stronger global effort, including larger investments and improved surveillance measures, is required to ensure that antimicrobials are used responsibly and in ways that do not threaten public health and food production.”

What is it?


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major global threat of increasing concern to human and animal health.

It also has implications for both food safety and food security and the economic wellbeing of millions of farming households--FAO

AMR refers to when micro-organisms – bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites – evolve resistance to antimicrobial substances, like antibiotics.

This can occur naturally through adaption to the environment, the pace of AMR's spread is now on the uptick due to inappropriate and excessive use of antimicrobials.

Various factors are at play:

• Lack of regulation and oversight of use
• Lack of awareness in best practices that leads to excessive or inappropriate use
• The use of antibiotics not as medicines but as growth promoters in animals
• Over-the-counter or internet sales that make antimicrobial drugs readily availability common
• Availability of counterfeit or poor-quality antimicrobials

As a result of AMR, medicines that were once effective treatments for disease become less so – or even useless, leading to a reduced ability to successfully treat infections, increased mortality; more severe or prolonged illnesses; production losses in agriculture; and reduced livelihoods and food security.

The health consequences and economic costs of AMR are respectively estimated at 10 million human fatalities a year and a 2 to 3.5 percent decrease in global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), amounting to US$ 100 trillion by 2050. However, the full impact remains hard to estimate.

SOURCE: FAO

“We need surveillance on antimicrobial use and the spread of AMR – not only through hospitals, but throughout the food chain, including horticulture and the environment for more comprehensive risk assessments.”

This was not the first time UN agencies have sounded the alarm about the misuse and abuse of antibiotics both in humans and animals. To learn more, IPS interviewed Dr. Juan Lubroth, Coordinator on AMR and Chief Veterinary Officer at FAO.

Dr Juan Lubroth. Credit: FAO


So, what do you really eat when you order a steak, fish or chicken filet? IPS asked.

“Meat! Meat, and other foods of animal origin are high quality nutritious products that are very important, not least for women and growing children, and especially in the developing world or wherever under- and mal-nutrition are rampant,” Lubroth answers.

There is a widespread misunderstanding that food may contain hazardous antimicrobial residues if an animal was previously treated with these medicines, he said.

“This is not the case if farmers and other producers comply with the rules in respecting the withdrawal periods. These withdrawal periods ensure that the antimicrobial in question has been eliminated from the system of the animal so that the meat, the milk or eggs are fit for human consumption.”

According to Lubroth, the problem with antimicrobial resistance in farming lies in poor management systems where antimicrobials are given routinely and in excessive amounts which in turn drives development of antimicrobial resistance.

“As a consumer, you have the power to make a difference by choosing animal products from sustainable farming systems operated responsibly.”

A farmer and her cattle in Cambodia, which is sharing with other countries its successful experience in dealing with AMR. Credit: FAO


Meantime, farmers need more tools in their toolbox to produce food more sustainably to feed a growing global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, said the FAO Chief Veterinary Officer.

“More affordable vaccines and portable diagnostic tests for vets – or physicians, dentists, pharmacists – to accurately diagnose causes of disease will help to reduce reliance on antimicrobials. Innovations in alternatives to antimicrobials such as probiotics are promising too.”

Bacteria, Not Humans, But…

Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines.

WHO notes that bacteria, not humans or animals, become antibiotic-resistant. However, these bacteria may infect humans and animals – terrestrial or aquatic – and the infections they cause are harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria.

The UN estimates that around 700,000 human deaths each year are estimated to be related to antimicrobial resistant infections. Across the globe, AMR further poses a major “threat to food safety and security, livelihoods, animal health and welfare, economic and agricultural development.”

And FAO reports that the intensification of agricultural production has led to an increasing use of antimicrobials – a use that is expected to increase by 67 per cent by 2030.

IPS asked Lubroth how to reconcile the need for antibiotics in food and agricultural production with ensuring human and animal health?

How to balance intensive and extensive production to meet the needs of a growing world population is a difficult and equally important question, he said. “Livestock, aquaculture and crop production needs to be guided by the right policies, ss do the human health sector and the environment sector.”

According to Lubroth, changes needed include better tracking of animals from primary production areas on farms to the market, and products to consumers, as well as regulation of antibiotic use through the approval of a licenced veterinarian, and better hygiene on farms to prevent infections.


Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health today. It poses a major challenge http://www.fao.org/antimicrobial-resi…

“Antimicrobials are essential to ensure animal health and for animal welfare. Sick animals under human care have a right to treatment, however, the routine use of antibiotics for growth promotion must be phased out.”

Lubroth emphasises that a sustainable agriculture sector is essential to safeguard food security and nutrition, development of countries and gender equality around the world, and that food security is a significant factor to achieve stability and peace.

“Optimising production practices such that we can minimize the need for antimicrobials requires investment. In this we all have a role to play, from government policies and investment in the food and agriculture sector, to the producers implementing the necessary practices, and the retailers and consumers where there needs to be a recognition that this does come at a cost and will impact the price of food.”

This is observed in some markets where meat produced “antibiotic-free” retails at a higher price, he said.

According to Lubroth, the best way to assist developing countries is have the enabling conditions for them to produce their own food and to take responsibility for their own national development.

Healthy Animals

The single most important action to create this balance is education – in all sectors, he said. For the food and agriculture sector, it is education about good management practices based on hygiene and care on the farm, which reduce the need to treat livestock or the growing fish. Herd, flock and aquaculture health is key.

“Healthy animals provide food and livelihoods and they do not need antimicrobials… We also need affordable and quick diagnostic tools to be used on the site to get the right treatment for the corresponding disease.”

How? FAO formed an inter-departmental working group on AMR, bringing together multidisciplinary experts. And it supports the agriculture sector to move towards responsible use of antimicrobials, and towards sustainable food production systems, and it is present in the rural communities and in constant dialogue with the farmers on site as well as in the halls of government ministries.

“In the end, this is where the change starts – in the meetings and communications between professionals and farmers.”

FAO is currently active on the ground in more than 25 countries to engage the food and agriculture sector in addressing AMR and provide them with support for implementation.

“But what we can invest is a tiny portion of what is needed by countries, as countries are developing their national action plans they are now starting to also cost their implementation and realise that this is a multimillion dollar investment.”

However, Lubroth explains, the benefit of such investment is multiple as many aspects such as improving biosecurity, implementing good hygiene practices among others can reduce the burden of disease in the production system and also improve the safety of the food produced. In this context it is a worthwhile investment, with great dividends in health.

The Business Sector

The business sector has been signalled as one of the major causes leading to the excessive use and misuse of antibiotics in the food and agriculture and animal production chains.

What is this sector’s response to the world efforts to reduce the misuse and abuse of antibiotics? IPS asked Lubroth.

The business sector is a very important stakeholder in this matter, he answers. They are in close contact with consumer demands and consumer behaviour patterns.

“They are often multinational companies with great potential to put demands on suppliers. And that is what is happening now – we see major food companies putting demands for improved policies on antimicrobial use in the supply chain.”

The Consumers

According to Lubroth, we also see that there are over 6 billion of consumers – their voice can be very powerful and can change industrial or commercial or marketing policies.

“We need to be careful though, so that animal welfare or health are not jeopardized by too strict policies. Sick animals will always need adequate treatment.”

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Driven to Extremes–How Poverty Fuels Extremism, and How to Help Africa’s Youthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/driven-extremes-poverty-fuels-extremism-help-africas-youth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=driven-extremes-poverty-fuels-extremism-help-africas-youth http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/driven-extremes-poverty-fuels-extremism-help-africas-youth/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 08:21:38 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152536 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya. Follow him on twitter: @sidchat1

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African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldier greets a group of children during a patrol in the Kaa’ran district of Somali capital, Mogadishu. Credit: UN Photo/Stuart Price

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

Poverty is a blight, and one that disproportionately affects sub-Saharan Africa. It is a vast and complex issue whose tentacles reach into many areas, including climate change, sustainable development and–crucially–global security. The link between poverty and violent extremism is compelling, and means that if we want to address extremism, we must fight inequality too.

This year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October takes as its theme A path toward peaceful and inclusive societies. This is timely, coming as it does just a few weeks after the release of a landmark survey into the forces driving young Africans towards violent extremism.

Published by UNDP, Journey to Extremism in Africa: drivers, incentives and the tipping point for recruitment presents compelling evidence that violent extremism can never be beaten if feelings of deprivation and marginalization, especially among the young, are not addressed.

Almost 500 former–or in occasional cases current–voluntary recruits to extremist organizations such as Al Shabaab, Boko Haram or Ansar Dine were interviewed for the survey. Most cited lack of employment, healthcare, education, security and housing as reasons for joining the groups, with very few mentioning religious ideology.

In Kenya as in many other countries, the regions acknowledged to be flashpoints for radicalisation and violent extremism are synonymous with extreme poverty, high illiteracy levels and under-investment in basic services. The majority of those living in these regions have for years believed themselves to be excluded from the national development agenda.

The findings drive home the reality that a focus on security-led responses to extremism cannot provide lasting solutions, but rather that confronting the challenges of radicalism and terrorist threats, particularly in Africa, calls for action on a range of social, cultural, economic and political fronts.

The report estimates that extremism caused 33,000 deaths in Africa between 2011 and 2016, with related displacement and economic devastation causing some of the worst humanitarian disasters on the continent.

Numerous studies show that increasing inequality hinders economic growth and undermines social cohesion, increases political and social tensions and drives instability and conflict.

Achim Steiner, the UNDP Administrator at an event in New York about SDGs in Action: Eradicating Poverty and Promoting Inclusive Prosperity in a Changing World, emphasized, “The critical importance of leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first”.

A further challenge to Africa’s progress is highlighted in the latest UNDP Africa Human Development Report, which shows that gender inequalities continue to hobble the continent’s structural, economic and social transformation.

When women attain higher measures of economic and social wellbeing, benefits accrue to all of society. Yet too many women and girls, simply because of their gender, cannot fulfil their potential due to lack of education, early marriage, sexual and physical violence, inadequate family planning services, and high incidences of maternal mortality.

According to the UNDP report, gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa $95 billion a year, equivalent to about six percent of the region’s GDP.

The challenge of creating economic opportunities for Africa’s youth is monumental. Consider this. Every 24 hours, nearly 33,000 youth across Africa join the search for employment. About 60% will be joining the army of the unemployed, adding to existing social and economic pressures.

Government can help by creating a policy environment that encourages the young to become entrepreneurs and job creators. Simplifying registration processes, offering tax incentives, and incentivising the informal sector that employs the overwhelming majority of Kenyans would be a step in the right direction. Reforming an education system that ill-prepares the young for entrepreneurship and business would be another.

With only 13 years to achieve the SDGs, the search for solutions must make use of the evidence on the causes, consequences and trajectories of violent extremism. If Africa is to curtail the spread of violent extremism and achieve sustainable development, there must be determined focus on the health, education and employment of disadvantaged youth.

Only by tackling entrenched inequalities both economic and gender-based can Africa achieve sustainable prosperity, and end the scourge of poverty.

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The Road Out of Poverty Depends on Feeding Our Children Nutritious Food Firsthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/road-poverty-depends-feeding-children-nutritious-food-first/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=road-poverty-depends-feeding-children-nutritious-food-first http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/road-poverty-depends-feeding-children-nutritious-food-first/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 21:28:42 +0000 Mercy Lungaho http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152531 Mercy Lung’aho is Nutrition scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

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We have collected evidence which shows that eating specially-bred, high-iron beans twice-a-day for just four-and-a-half months can reduce iron deficiency and actually reverse anemia in young women in Rwanda.

Credit: Robbie Corey-Boulet/IPS

By Mercy Lung’aho
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

One drizzly morning in some lush green tea plantations in Rwanda, I was on my way to visit a local community, to assess nutrition indicators among women and children. We stopped in a green blanket of tea fields and spoke to one young tea picker, I’ll call her Mary, who had a baby strapped to her back.

What I remember distinctly is that while her baby was probably the same age as my young son at home, he was about half the size. We chatted briefly about her job. Surrounded by the tea leaves, she said she was curious about how they tasted. She had never tasted tea.

Later that day, we got the tea pickers together for a discussion. I asked them how often they ate meat. There was a ripple of laughter through the group. “Christmas Day,” they all said in unison.

When I asked the group what they would do with every extra dollar saved, they did not tell me they would buy better food. Instead, they all agreed: “We would buy shoes”. Waking up at 4am to walk to the tea farm would be more comfortable in good shoes.

What I understood more fully after this meeting was what I had already suspected: that nutrition had taken a back-seat in this farming community.

We have collected evidence which shows that eating specially-bred, high-iron beans twice-a-day for just four-and-a-half months can reduce iron deficiency and actually reverse anemia in young women in Rwanda.
The nutrition evidence we collected that day showed that anemia was prevalent. Like the small baby on her back, Mary was malnourished. So the cycle of malnutrition continues. Agriculture has a strange way of leaving the vulnerable behind, and this is what we must stop.

 

The nutritional magic of beans

At the Pan African Bean Research Alliance in collaboration with HarvestPlus, we have collected evidence which shows that eating specially-bred, high-iron beans twice-a-day for just four-and-a-half months can reduce iron deficiency and actually reverse anemia in young women in Rwanda.

Our research, published in The Journal of Nutrition, was the first of its kind to show that eating “biofortified” beans, bred to contain more iron, can have a significant impact on iron levels in the blood and improve brain function.

Our results were tremendously exciting: they show for the first time that these beans are an excellent vehicle for delivering long-term, low-cost major health solutions – with profound implications for global nutrition, agriculture and public health policy.

Our research further shows that, fast-tracking nutrition in mothers before they even become pregnant is essential if we want to tackle malnutrition and put a stop to the vicious cycle of poverty and economic stagnation that poor diets perpetuate. Adolescent nutrition before pregnancy has a bigger impact on stunting in children than we thought.

We need to target undernourished women like Mary with nutritious food – well before they are pregnant.

 

Tackling malnutrition before it strikes

Instead of focusing on preventing malnutrition, we are too busy responding to food crises. We are fighting fires, instead of making sure they don’t happen in the first place. This is a crisis, and we must treat it like one. That is why we are spearheading the development of a Nutrition Early Warning System, or NEWS.

It will take advantage of the latest advances in “machine learning” to create a powerful tool that can process, track and monitor a constant flow of data relevant to food and nutrition – alerting decision makers well before malnutrition becomes apparent.

We are currently working on a prototype of NEWS, which will initially focus on boosting nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa, eventually targeting vulnerable populations globally.  It will analyze the nutritional status of populations in select countries in sub-Saharan Africa to find options for successful interventions.

I cannot look the other way while women and children are dying of anemia and stunting on our watch. I’m positive that we can fix it. As I join other food security experts at the Borlaug Dialogue this week – I will be sharing these lessons, as evidence that investing in agriculture can create vibrant rural areas that provide a road out of poverty.

A pathway towards employment, wealth creation, and economic growth that includes young people. But unless we focus on getting our young people a more nutritious diet, we will continue to fail millions like Mary – and her baby – before they have even had a chance to make a start in life.

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Despite Odds, Women Gain Stature in African Politicshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/despite-odds-women-gain-stature-african-politics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=despite-odds-women-gain-stature-african-politics http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/despite-odds-women-gain-stature-african-politics/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 12:47:43 +0000 Kwamboka Oyaro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152510 Once in a while, Africa produces talented women politicians who, despite the odds, overcome the obstacles that impede their success in the political arena. Some of the African women who have shattered the glass ceiling include Liberia’s outgoing president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; former president of Malawi, Joyce Banda; Mauritius’s president, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim; and former interim […]

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Launch of the African Women Leaders Network in New York. Credit: UN Photos

By Kwamboka Oyaro, Africa Renewal*
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

Once in a while, Africa produces talented women politicians who, despite the odds, overcome the obstacles that impede their success in the political arena.

Some of the African women who have shattered the glass ceiling include Liberia’s outgoing president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; former president of Malawi, Joyce Banda; Mauritius’s president, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim; and former interim president of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza.

For most African women, however, the political terrain is too rough to navigate. Few make the journey, perceiving that their male colleagues would try to undermine them. In their effort to take up leadership positions, qualified African women can expect to confront gender-based attacks, including being labelled “prostitutes” or “concubines”. Sometimes they are sexually harassed, and they often contend with men seeking sexual favours as preconditions for support.

Propositions from senior male office holders as a precondition for entry into the field are unacceptable, says former Nigerian senator Uche Lilian Ekwunife. She adds that this is a tactic men have used for years to discourage women from entering the political fray.

Ms. Ekwunife recollects her 2011 re-election campaign for Nigeria’s House of Representatives, when her opponent superimposed her head on a naked body and sent the picture to YouTube “just to demean my person.” Luckily, that childish slur backfired, and Ms. Ekwunife easily won the election to the legislative body.

Four years later, when she sought election to the senate in 2015, her experience was less pleasant. Although she was re-elected to become one of six women out of the 109 senators in Nigeria’s upper law-making body, her political journey was short.

The courts nullified her election after she had been in the senate only six months. She believes that her election’s nullification was politically motivated, even though there was the issue of her switching political parties at the last minute.

Ms. Ekwunife’s experience is not unique among women political hopefuls in Africa. For example, just two days after activist Diane Shima Rwigara declared her intention to run for the presidency in Rwanda’s general election in August this year, social media was awash with purported nude pictures of her. Her candidacy was disqualified by election officials.

In neighbouring Uganda, a member of the opposition Zainab Fatuma Naigaga and some male colleagues were arrested on their way to a political rally in October 2015. But it was only Ms. Naigaga who was stripped naked by abusive police officers, while the men were left alone.

In Kenya, MP Millie Odhiambo Mabona was analysing the country’s Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014 in Parliament when a commotion on the floor degenerated into a free-for-all brawl.

Ms. Mabona says she was assaulted by two pro-government MPs. “That day I was in a dress and these men kept pulling it up while I pulled it down. They went ahead and tore my panties,” Ms. Mabona told Africa Renewal in an interview.

One of the accused male MPs was quoted in the local dailies, saying, “I slapped her because she wanted to assault the deputy speaker. That was great disrespect.” The MPs later passed the bill on security laws.

Women facing sexual harassment must call the men’s bluff, says Ms. Mabona. “If they threaten me with exposing my sexual encounters, I tell them I would also expose those that I went out with.” Ms. Ekwunife, taking a different tack, says “women need to focus and ignore these distractions.”

Besides issues relating to their bodies and their private lives, African female politicians, most of the time, begin their career in politics later in life, and start from a position of disadvantage of having to balance family and work. They also tend to have less money than their male counterparts to spend on campaign expenses.

Shauna Shames of New Jersey’s Rutgers University-Camden, writing about “Barriers and solutions to increasing women’s political power,” notes that “when money dominates politics, women lose out. With women having persistently lower incomes for many reasons, they are far less likely than men to be in the social and business networks that pour money into political campaigns.”

Major political parties rarely nominate women for elected positions during primaries because of the belief that women stand a slim chance of winning against men. In Kenya, for example, all the leading parties nominated men as presidential candidates for the August 2017 elections.

Sometimes a political party will attempt to curry favour by nominating women, yet will not fully back the female politicians to win elections, explains Ms. Ekwunife.

Women candidates are more vulnerable than their male counterparts to electoral violence, including physical attacks on the candidates themselves, their families or supporters, from the campaigns to election time, says Ms. Mabona.

The Kenyan government pledged to enhance security for women aspirants in the lead-up to the August 2017 general election. The cabinet secretary for interior security, the late Joseph Nkaissery, in June announced the government’s intention to protect women candidates, but also told them to be “tough,” without explaining what he meant, leaving pundits to infer a tacit approval for women to be violent.

Ms. Mabona herself witnessed raw violence early this year during her political party’s fiery primaries in her Mbita Constituency in western Kenya. Her bodyguard was killed and her house was burned down.

Will the ground be level anytime soon for women politicians in Africa? Dismas Mokua, a political analyst with Trintari International, a Nairobi-based public relations firm, says women in Africa have made some impact in politics but could do better. Most societies are patriarchal and don’t expect women to take up leadership positions, explains Mr. Mokua.

“Running for a public office requires resources. A lot of women candidates may not have the requisite finances,” says Mr. Mokua. Against all odds, the time is now for Africa’s visionary female politicians to join politics and change the narrative.

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

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Can the Kenyan Lion Kick High Enough to Be the South Korean Tiger of Africa?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/can-kenyan-lion-kick-high-enough-south-korean-tiger-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-kenyan-lion-kick-high-enough-south-korean-tiger-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/can-kenyan-lion-kick-high-enough-south-korean-tiger-africa/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 11:52:14 +0000 Mary Kawar and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152505 Dr Mary Kawar is Country Director of the ILO for Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Follow her on twitter: @mary_kawar

Mr Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya. Follow him on twitter: @sidchat1

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Taekwondo a Korean martial art also practiced in Kenya. Credit: Capital FM

By Mary Kawar and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

In 1953 South Korea emerged from the ravages of a debilitating war, yet the total gross domestic product in nominal terms has surged 31,000 fold since 1953.

Consider this: in 1950 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of South Korea was US$ 876 and Kenya’s was US$ 947. In 2016, the GDP per capita of South Korea rose to US$ 27,539 and Kenya’s to US$ 1,455.

South Korea over the past four decades has demonstrated incredible economic growth and global integration to become a high-tech industrialized economy. In the 1960s, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. In 2004, South Korea joined the trillion-dollar club of world economies.

In South Korea the Gini coefficient is 0.30 (extent of inequality) whereas in Kenya it is much higher at 0.45. Despite posting some of the highest GDP growth rates globally, countries in Africa continue to have the worst poverty and unemployment rates, with Kenya being one of those countries where the gap between rich and poor is widening.

While the majority of these Kenyans are occupied in the agricultural industry, technology advances and the rising prominence of the service industry is threatening to render many of these superfluous unless urgent shifts in growth models are undertaken to create quality jobs.

Lessons from economic structural transformation abound especially from the Asian tigers. Once an agricultural country like Kenya, South Korea spent much of the 20th century driving modern technologies and is now regarded as one of Asia’s most advanced economies. Among the focus areas for the country were facilitating industrialization, high household savings rates, high literacy rates and low fertility rates.

What South Korea achieved was fast economic growth underpinned by a strong industrial base that led to full employment and higher real wages. When the 1997 financial crisis threatened employment and welfare of its citizens in 1997, the country engaged in ambitious structural adjustment that introduced social protection measures for workers, the unemployed and poor people, in addition to reigniting the drivers of growth.

The international experience suggests that, for a given increase in the labor force, GDP growth should be at least double that rate to prevent unemployment from rising, and even higher if unemployment is to be reduced. With Kenya’s labor force growing at 3 percent corresponding to one million youth entering the job market each year, GDP should keep growing at 6 percent.

But this may not be enough as there is a lot of slack in the labor market to be absorbed. Kenya has one of the highest informal sector employment rates in the continent. With about three out of four workers employed in casual jobs whose key features include unpredictable incomes, poor working conditions and low productivity.

According to the latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), employment in the informal economy has grown much faster than in the formal economy, rising by nearly 4 million versus 60,000 since 2009, with the corresponding share of the formal economy in total employment shrinking to 17 percent from 19 percent.

Income inequality remains a challenge in Kenya, with the highest 10 percent earning almost 15 times higher than the lowest 10 percent, which is double of that in South Korea.

There are grounds for optimism, as Kenya seeks to move from being a regional leader to local innovator. In August 2016, Kenya hosted the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which was the first on African soil. Kenya is also developing policy and institutional reforms to increase export through better trade logistics and greater regional integration.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to boost standardization activities between the two countries. Credit: Citizen TV


In addition, Kenya’s internet prices are low at half of even lower than those in neighboring countries. Innovations in mobile phone-based banking and related technological platforms have resulted in more financial inclusion that has reached 75 percent of the population. A large population of educated youth is already employed in these areas that have high job creation potential.

Kenya’s policies will need to consider the effects of technological innovations on the labor market and their socioeconomic impact. Household incomes improve when the largest number of people get involved in technology-based productive work. Even agriculture needs to be high-tech and include agro-processing.

Underlying this is the ability of the education and training system to adapt and promote the creation of a sustainable and inclusive economy. Kenya’s policies will therefore need to assess the effects of technological innovations on the labor market and their socioeconomic impact.

Kenya is moving ahead on education with its more than 1000 post-secondary institutions, 22 public and more than 30 private universities that produce the largest numbers of highly trained and skilled persons in the East African Community.

However, Kenya has substantial disparities in access to education. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, children in capital city Nairobi have about 15 times more access to secondary education than those living in Turkana, one of the poorest counties.

In addition to education, that increases employability on the labor supply side but does not in itself create jobs, more emphasis should be given to policies that increase labor demand. With an increasing youthful population, Kenya faces a window of demographic opportunity not only numerically.

Today’s youth are more educated than their parents and are “waiting in the wings”, not yet active but ready and willing to do so. But for this to happen and thus reduce youth and educated unemployment, there is a need to ensure that there are enough opportunities for them to participate actively in the economy and society.

Unfortunately, about 43 percent of Kenya’s youth are currently either unemployed or working yet living in poverty. Not unrelated to the few employment opportunities at home, many job seekers emigrate. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) reports for Kenya a skilled emigration rate of 35 per cent reaching 51 percent among health professionals. These rates are among the highest in the world. A continued lack of decent work opportunities as a result of insufficient or misapplied investments can perpetuate, if not increase, emigration and lead to an erosion of the basic social contract underlying democratic societies.

Still within the area of labor markets, good governance is critical for linking employment growth to decent employment creation. A recent meeting on the Future of Work organized by the Ministry of Labour, the Kenya Federation of Employers and the Kenya Federation of Trade unions in collaboration with the International Labour Organization discussed the implications for the 4th industrial revolution and its impact on Kenya. The discussion confirmed that laws, policies and institutions can be improved through social dialogue that would also include the informal sector.

For women, access to family planning and maternal health services – as well as education for girls is the best bet for improved economic opportunity. Global data shows that the highest benefits from reducing unintended pregnancies would accrue to the poorest countries, with GDP increases ranging from one to eight percent by 2035. There are few interventions that would give as wide-reaching impacts.

Finally, Kenya would need to address the rural/urban divide. Urban population growth is naturally fueled from growth in the population already living in cities but in Kenya, more than in many other African countries, urban growth comes from significant internal migration. This suggests that the country side is becoming increasingly less attractive. The share of population living in slums remains high at 55 percent with no discernible decline since 1990.

In conclusion, increases in real wages and decent employment creation will remain elusive as long as growth is not inclusive while educated job seekers are not employed in sectors that require new skills. The shifting population of Kenya provides many opportunities for growth. With a median age of 18, investing in Kenya’s youth would reap a demographic dividend. Key investments have to be in education and skills, empowerment of women and girls, a Marshal plan of employment and equity. These would help accelerate Kenya’ march to prosperity and help end poverty.

When this happens, Kenya will increase its ability to introduce more comprehensive and effective social protection policies that would add to the income security provided by decent employment. And unlike South Korea, Kenya should not wait to do so after a financial crisis.

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Hunger in Africa, Land of Plentyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/hunger-africa-land-plenty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hunger-africa-land-plenty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/hunger-africa-land-plenty/#comments Sat, 14 Oct 2017 23:45:22 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152493 Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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A tea farmer in Nyeri County, central Kenya contemplates what to do after his crop was damaged by severe weather patterns. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 2017 (IPS)

Globally, 108 million people faced food crises in 2016, compared to about 80 million in 2015 – an increase of 35%, according to the 2017 Global Report on Food Crises. Another 123 million people were ‘stressed’, contributing to around 230 million such food insecure people in 2016, of whom 72% were in Africa.

The highest hunger levels are in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) according to the Global Hunger Index 2016. The number of ‘undernourished’ or hungry people in Africa increased from about 182 million in the early 1990s to around 233 million in 2016 according to the FAO, while the global number declined from about a billion to approximately 795 million.

This is a cruel irony as many countries in Africa have the highest proportion of potential arable land. According to a 2012 FAO report, for African sub-regions except North Africa, between 21% and 37% of their land area face few climate, soil or terrain constraints to rain-fed crop production.

Why hunger?
Observers typically blame higher population growth, natural calamities and conflicts for hunger on the continent. And since Africa was transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer in the 1980s despite its vast agricultural potential, international food price hikes have also contributed to African hunger.

The international sovereign debt crises of the 1980s forced many African countries to the stabilization and structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) of the Bretton Woods institutions. Between 1980 and 2007, Africa’s total net food imports grew at an average of 3.4% per year in real terms. Imports of basic foodstuffs, especially cereals, have risen sharply.

One casualty of SAPs was public investment. African countries were told that they need not invest in agriculture as imports would be cheaper. . Tragically, while Africa deindustrialized thanks to the SAPs, food security also suffered.

In 1980, Africa’s agricultural investments were comparable to those in Latin America and Caribbean (LAC). But while LAC agricultural investment increased 2.6 fold between 1980 and 2007, it increased by much less in Africa. Meanwhile, agricultural investments in Asia went from three to eight times more than in Africa as African government investments in agricultural research remained paltry.

Thus, African agricultural productivity has not only suffered, but also African agriculture remains less resilient to climate change and extreme weather conditions. Africa is now comparable to Haiti where food agriculture was destroyed by subsidized food imports from the US and Europe, as admitted by President Clinton after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

Lost decades
SAP advocates promised that private investment and exports would soon follow cuts in public investment, thus paying for imports. But the ostensibly short-term pain of adjustment did not bring the anticipated long-term gains of growth and prosperity. Now, it is admitted that ‘neoliberalism’ was ‘oversold’, causing the 1980s and 1990s to become ‘lost decades’ for Africa.

Thanks to such programmes, even in different guises such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), Africa became the only continent to see a massive increase in poverty by the end of the 20th century. And despite the minerals-led growth boom for a dozen years (2002-2014) during the 15 years of the Millennium Development Goals, nearly half the continent’s population now lives in poverty.

The World Bank’s Poverty in Rising Africa shows that the number of Africans in extreme poverty increased by more than 100 million between 1990 and 2012 to about 330 million. It projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”.

Land grabs
Despite its potential, vast tracts of arable land remain idle, due to decades of official neglect of agriculture. More recently, international financial institutions and many donors have been advocating large-scale foreign investment. A World Bank report notes the growing demand for farmland, especially following the 2007-2008 food price hikes. Approximately 56 million hectares worth of large-scale farmland deals were announced in 2009, compared to less than four million hectares yearly before 2008. More than 70% of these deals involved Africa.

In most such deals, local community concerns are often ignored to benefit big investors and their allies in government. For example, Feronia Inc – a company based in Canada and owned by the development finance institutions of various European governments – controls 120,000 hectares of oil palm plantations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Advocates of large-scale land acquisitions claim that such deals have positive impacts, e.g., generating jobs locally and improving access to infrastructure. However, loss of community access to land and other natural resources, increased conflicts over livelihoods and greater inequality are among some common adverse consequences.

Most such deals involve land already cleared, with varied, but nonetheless considerable socioeconomic and environmental implications. Local agrarian populations have often been dispossessed with little consultation or adequate compensation, as in Tanzania, when Swedish-based Agro EcoEnergy acquired 20,000 hectares for a sugarcane plantation and ethanol production.

Land grabbing by foreign companies for commercial farming in Africa is threatening smallholder agricultural productivity, vital for reducing poverty and hunger on the continent. In the process, they have been marginalizing local communities, particularly ‘indigenous’ populations, and compromising food security.

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s World Food Day on October 16.

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How to Change the Future of Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/change-future-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=change-future-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/change-future-migration/#comments Sat, 14 Oct 2017 19:34:43 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152497 The world is on the move. More people have been forced to flee their homes than at any time since the Second World War due to increased conflict and political instability, hunger, poverty, and an increase in extreme weather events linked to climate change. Such a short paragraph hardly depicts the growing drama of migration, […]

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DROUGHT IN THE HORN OF AFRICA. Food security conditions in drought-hit areas are alarming [...read more]. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 14 2017 (IPS)

The world is on the move. More people have been forced to flee their homes than at any time since the Second World War due to increased conflict and political instability, hunger, poverty, and an increase in extreme weather events linked to climate change.

Such a short paragraph hardly depicts the growing drama of migration, but much can be learned from World Food Day 2017, marked on 16 October, which this year proposes specific ways to address the huge challenge of massive human movement.

Large movements of people today are presenting complex challenges, which call for global action, says on this the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), adding that many migrants arrive in developing countries, creating tensions where resources are already scarce, but the majority, about 763 million, move within their own countries rather than abroad.

Ten facts you need to know about Hunger

1. The world produces enough food to feed everyone, yet, about 800 million people suffer from hunger. That is one in nine people. 60% of them are women.
2. About 80% of the world’s extreme poor live in rural areas. Most of them depend on agriculture.
3. Hunger kills more people every year than malaria, tuberculosis and aids combined.
4. Around 45% of infant deaths are related to malnutrition.
5. The cost of malnutrition to the global economy is the equivalent of USD 3.5 trillion a year.
6. 1.9 billion people – more than a quarter of the world’s population – are overweight.
7. One third of the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted.
8. The world will need to produce 60% more food by 2050 to feed a growing population.
9. No other sector is more sensitive to climate change than agriculture.
10. FAO works mainly in rural areas, in 130 countries, with governments, civil society, the private sector and other partners to achieve #ZeroHunger.

SOURCE: FAO

What to Do?

One key fact to understand the current reality is that three-quarters of the extreme poor base their livelihoods on agriculture or other rural activities.

Consequently, creating conditions that allow rural people, especially youth, to stay at home when they feel it is safe to do so, and to have more resilient livelihoods, is a crucial component of any plan to tackle the migration challenge, says the UN specialised body.

Meantime, one key solution is to invest in food security and rural development, which can address factors that compel people to move by creating business opportunities and jobs for young people that are not only crop-based (such as small dairy or poultry production, food processing or horticulture enterprises).

It can also lead to increased food security, more resilient livelihoods, better access to social protection, reduced conflict over natural resources and solutions to environmental degradation and climate change, FAO adds.

“By investing in rural development, the international community can also harness migration’s potential to support development and build the resilience of displaced and host communities, thereby laying the ground for long-term recovery and inclusive and sustainable growth,” according to the WFD 2017’s theme ”Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development.”

Migration is part of the process of development as economies undergo structural transformation and people search for better employment opportunities within and across countries.

The challenge is to address the structural drivers of large movements of people to make migration safe, orderly and regular, FAO underlines, adding that in this way, migration can contribute to economic growth and improve food security and rural livelihoods.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has joined FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, a large number of agriculture ministers, including several from the Group of Seven (G7) most industrialised countries, and the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development to celebrate World Food Day 2017 at FAO on 16 October.

In an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis on July this year donated 25,000 euro to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s “efforts supporting people facing food insecurity and famine in East Africa.”

The Pope said the funds are “a symbolic contribution to an FAO programme that provides seeds to rural families in areas affected by the combined effects of conflicts and drought.” See: Pope Francis Donates to FAO for Drought, Conflict-Stricken East Africa. Also see: East Africa’s Poor Rains: Hunger Worsened, Crops Scorched, Livestock Dead

World Food Day 2017 has been marked in the context of a world where global hunger is on the rise for the first time in decades. See: World Hunger on the Rise Again

Causes and Remedies

The WFD is marked just a week after FAO launched its State of Food and Agriculture 2017 report, in which it recalls that population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace.

The report posed questions such as what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefiting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to enter labour markets in the decades to come? See: How to Eradicate Rural Poverty, End Urban Malnutrition – A New Approach

Credit: FAO

The Day has also been preceded by a new study which reveals a widening gap in hunger. The 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI) states that despite years of progress, food security is still under threat. And conflict and climate change are hitting the poorest people the hardest and effectively pitching parts of the world into “perpetual crisis.” See: Not True that Hunger Doesn’t Discriminate — It Does

Climate Change and the Migration Crisis

Meanwhile, two UN high officials —Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction and the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and William Lacy Swing, the Director General of the International Organization for Migration— have addressed the key issues of climate change and migration.

Climate change migration is reaching crisis proportions, they wrote on 10 October, noting that over the last 18 months, some 20 countries have declared drought emergencies, with millions forced off their land.

According to Glasser and Swing, while it may not be the first time, for many, it could be the last time they turn their backs on the countryside and try to make a life in urban slums and informal settlements, adding that for at least the last two years, more people have been forced from their homes by extreme weather events than by conflict.

“We need to set about the long-haul task of making the planet fit for purpose once more through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and, in the meantime, making it more resilient to disasters, limiting the damage already done.”

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, for it part, warned that exacerbated by climate-related shocks, increasing conflicts have been a key driver of severe food crisis and recently re-emerged famines.

Conclusion: the causes of growing human suffering have been clearly identified–conflict, political instability, hunger, poverty, and an increase in extreme weather events linked to climate change. Aemedies have been also presented. All is needed is for decision-makers to listen… and implement. The future of migration can in fact be changed.

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s World Food Day on October 16.

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Not True that Hunger Doesn’t Discriminate — It Doeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/not-true-hunger-doesnt-discriminate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-true-hunger-doesnt-discriminate http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/not-true-hunger-doesnt-discriminate/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 15:27:25 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152470 In a world where only 8 individuals – all of them men—possess as much as half of all the planet’s wealth, and it will take women 170 years to be paid as men are*, inequality appears to be a key feature of the current economic model. Now a new study reveals that there is also […]

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According to a new study, hunger emerges the strongest and most persistently among populations that are already vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Credit: 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI)

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

In a world where only 8 individuals – all of them men—possess as much as half of all the planet’s wealth, and it will take women 170 years to be paid as men are*, inequality appears to be a key feature of the current economic model. Now a new study reveals that there is also a widening gap in hunger.

In fact, the 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI) states that despite years of progress, food security is still under threat. And that conflict and climate change are hitting the poorest people the hardest and effectively pitching parts of the world into “perpetual crisis.”

Although it has been said that “hunger does not discriminate,” it does, says the 2017 Global Hunger Index, jointly published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Concern Worldwide, and Welthungerhilfe.

According to this study, hunger emerges the strongest and most persistently among populations that are already vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Hunger and inequality are inextricably linked, it warns. By committing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the international community promised to eradicate hunger and reduce inequality by 2030.

“Yet the world is still not on track to reach this target. Inequality takes many forms, and understanding how it leads to or exacerbates hunger is not always straightforward.”

Women and Girls

The GHI provides some examples–women and girls comprise 60 per cent of the world’s hungry, often the result of deeply rooted social structures that deny women access to education, healthcare, and resources.

Likewise, ethnic minorities are often victims of discrimination and experience greater levels of poverty and hunger, it says, adding that most closely tied to hunger, perhaps, is poverty, the clearest manifestation of societal inequality.

Three-quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas, where hunger is typically higher.

The 2017 Global Hunger Index tracks the state of hunger worldwide, spotlighting those places where action to address hunger is most urgently needed.

This year’s Index shows mixed results: despite a decline in hunger over the long term, the global level remains high, with great differences not only among countries but also within countries.

For example, at a national level, Central African Republic (CAR) has extremely alarming levels of hunger and is ranked highest of all countries with GHI scores in the report.

While CAR made no progress in reducing hunger over the past 17 years—its GHI score from 2000 is the same as in 2017—14 other countries reduced their GHI scores by more than 50 per cent over the same period.

Meanwhile, at the sub-national level, inequalities of hunger are often obscured by national averages. In northeast Nigeria, 4.5 million people are experiencing or are at risk of famine while the rest of the country is relatively food secure, according to the 2017 Index.

Child Stunting

This year’s report also highlights trends related to child stunting in selected countries including Afghanistan, where rates vary dramatically — from 24.3 per cent of children in some parts of the country to 70.8 per cent in others.

While the world has committed to reaching Zero Hunger by 2030, the fact that over 20 million people are currently at risk of famine shows how far we are from realising this vision, warns the report.

“As we fight the scourge of hunger across the globe, we must understand how inequality contributes to it. To ensure that those who are affected by inequality can demand change from national governments and international organisations and hold them to account, we must understand and redress power imbalances.”

The study notes that on 20 February, the world awoke to a headline that should have never come about: famine had been declared in parts of South Sudan, the first to be announced anywhere in the world in six years. “This formal famine declaration meant that people were already dying of hunger.”

This was on top of imminent famine warnings in northern Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen, putting a total of 20 million people at risk of starvation, it adds.

“Meanwhile, Venezuela’s political turmoil created massive food shortages in both the city and countryside, leaving millions without enough to eat in a region that, overall, has low levels of hunger. As the crisis there escalated and food prices soared, the poor were the first to suffer.”

This year’s report also highlights trends related to child stunting in selected countries including Afghanistan, where rates vary dramatically — from 24.3 per cent of children in some parts of the country to 70.8 per cent in others.

According to 2017 GHI scores, the level of hunger in the world has decreased by 27 per cent from the 2000 level. Of the 119 countries assessed in this year’s report, one falls in the extremely alarming range on the GHI Severity Scale; 7 fall in the alarming range; 44 in the serious range; and 24 in the moderate range. Only 43 countries have scores in the low range.

In addition, 9 of the 13 countries that lack sufficient data for calculating 2017 GHI scores still raise significant concerns, including Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria.

To capture the multidimensional nature of hunger, GHI scores are based on four component indicators—undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality.

The 27 per cent improvement noted above reflects progress in each of these indicators according to the latest data from 2012–2016 for countries in the GHI:

• The share of the overall population that is undernourished is 13.0 per cent, down from 18.2 per cent in 2000.
• 27.8 per cent of children under five are stunted, down from 37.7 per cent in 2000.
• 9.5 per cent of children under five are wasted, down from 9.9 per cent in 2000.
• The under-five mortality rate is 4.7 per cent, down from 8.2 per cent in 2000.

By Regions

The regions of the world struggling most with hunger are South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara, with scores in the serious range (30.9 and 29.4, respectively), says the report.

Meanwhile, the scores of East and Southeast Asia, the Near East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States range from low to moderate (between 7.8 and 12.8).

These averages conceal some troubling results within each region, it says, adding that however, including scores in the serious range for Tajikistan, Guatemala, Haiti, and Iraq and in the alarming range for Yemen, as well as scores in the serious range for half of all countries in East and Southeast Asia, whose average benefits from China’s low score of 7.5.

For its part, the UN State of Food and Agriculture 2017 report, released on 9 October, warns that efforts to eradicate hunger and poverty by 2030 could be thwarted by a thorny combination of low productivity in developing world subsistence agriculture, limited scope for industrialisation, and rapid population growth.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report also argues that rural areas need not be a poverty trap.

In short, also hunger discriminates against the ultimate victims of all inequalities–the most vulnerable. Any reaction?

*Oxfam International’s report ‘An economy for the 99 per cent’.

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s World Food Day on October 16.

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Forcing Displaced Nigerians May Worsen Humanitarian Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/forcing-displaced-nigerians-may-worsen-humanitarian-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forcing-displaced-nigerians-may-worsen-humanitarian-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/forcing-displaced-nigerians-may-worsen-humanitarian-crisis/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 09:11:46 +0000 Jan Egeland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152462 Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council and a former United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator.

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“Boko Haram came in the dark of night,” recalls Haja (17). “They killed my husband.” She fled with their young baby, Mommodu. Credit: Norwegian Refugee Council / Michelle Delaney

By Jan Egeland
Maiduguri City, Nigeria, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

Haja grabbed her eight children and fled as Boko Haram set her home ablaze two years ago. Today we sit in her hut in a displacement camp, and she wonders how she is going to keep her children fed. I’ve spoken to many families in Nigeria’s north-eastern Monguno town. Their stories paint a horrifically detailed picture of the brutal violence these communities have endured over the past eight years.

The Nigerian Armed Forces have been at war with the Islamic extremists Boko Haram since 2009, fighting a battle that has seen well over 20,000 people killed. Recent military gains have pushed the jihadists back. In response, Boko Haram has stepped up attacks on softer targets like marketplaces and camps sheltering displaced people. Civilians have become the preferred pawns in this senseless conflict.

Borno State – the crisis’s epicentre – saw the highest number of attacks this year since 2013. Also on the rise is the appalling use of children as human bombs. We have seen four times as many so far this year, compared to the whole of last year. Here in northeast Nigeria, no place is sacred, no person is safe.

Despite these dangers, many government officials are keen to see communities move back home. This is usually a cause we should all champion. But the unfortunate truth is that pushing people back now will have harmful consequences.

Too scared to return

In the largest report of its kind to date, the Norwegian Refugee Council surveyed over 3,400 households – representing 27,000 displaced people – in Borno State, to find out whether communities were ready to return home. The results were undisputable.

Eighty-six per cent of people interviewed say they are too scared to return in the immediate future. Over 80 per cent of those cite insecurity as the main factor preventing them returning. An overwhelming majority tell us they feel safer in camps than where they were before. A startling statistic, considering camps are increasingly the target of suicide attacks.

Even if the security situation improves, our Not Ready to Return report found that half of the displaced people interviewed say their homes were destroyed in the conflict. There’s nothing left waiting for them.

Let them decide

Communities who decide to return home must do so of their own free will. Reports of coercion to expedite people moving home are most concerning. Returns must be safe, voluntary and informed.

Before displaced Nigerians return home, two key things must be done. Firstly, the overall security situation must improve. Communities must be, and feel, safe. This is the primary responsibility of the government and its armed forces.

Secondly, resources must be channelled into rebuilding homes and re-establishing livelihoods. Families need a roof over their head and the prospect of making a living if they are to have any chance of starting anew. This is where the international community can support.

We can provide them with the tools to do so – construction material, farming equipment, start-up capital and livestock. My organisation also counsels returnees on housing, property and legal rights. This is just a first step.

A toxic mix

Forced returns and new bouts of violence are just two ingredients adding to the danger that is stewing in the northeast. We managed to avert a famine striking Nigeria, for now. But let’s not forget that the food crisis persists. More than 5.2 million Nigerians do not have enough to eat.

The violence, coupled with food insecurity and a push to move people home prematurely, will certainly create a toxic mix ideal for exasperating the humanitarian crisis in the northeast.

Now is the time for long-term strategies, not short-term thinking – for Hajja’s sake and the 1.8 million other Nigerians anxiously waiting to return home.

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Transforming Agriculture in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/transforming-agriculture-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=transforming-agriculture-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/transforming-agriculture-africa/#comments Thu, 12 Oct 2017 11:48:24 +0000 Akinwumi Adesina http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152432 Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina is President of the African Development Bank

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World Food Day - Transforming African Agriculture - World Food Day - Farmer in a field on the outskirts of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Farmer in a field on the outskirts of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Akinwumi Adesina
ABIDJAN, Côte d'Ivoire, Oct 12 2017 (IPS)

The African rural world is one I know well. I grew out of rural poverty myself and went to a rural school without electricity and lived in a village where we had to walk for kilometers to find water. We had to study after dark with candles or kerosene lanterns. By God’s grace, I made it out of poverty to where I am today. But for tens of millions of those in similar situations, especially in rural Africa, the outcomes are not like mine. For most, the potential has simply been wasted.

Some 60% of Africans live in rural areas. Such areas are dependent overwhelmingly on agriculture for livelihoods. The key to improving the quality of life in rural areas is therefore to transform agriculture. But the low productivity of farming, the poor state of rural infrastructure, digital exclusion and poor access to modern tools and agronomic information make the quality of life very low in these areas.

Unfortunately not much has changed since I was at my rural school. Economic opportunities are even shrinking for many, with high poverty levels, leading to the repeated inheritance of poverty. As a result, rural youths are discouraged, disempowered and vulnerable to recruitment by terrorists who find decimated rural areas ideal for their activities.

We must pay particular attention to three factors: extreme rural poverty, high rates of unemployment among youths and environmental degradation – what I refer to as the “triangle of disaster”. Wherever these three factors are found, civil conflicts and terrorism take root, destroying people’s ability to work farms and access food markets.

Akinwumi Adesina

We must invest urgently and heavily in Africa’s rural areas and turn them from zones of economic misery to zones of economic prosperity. In particular, we must create jobs and stable societies in order to disrupt terrorist recruitment campaigns that are taking root in these rural areas. So, we must connect economic, food, and climate security together to have a chance of economic prosperity.

We need to jumpstart the transformation of the agricultural sector. The African Development Bank is leading the way by investing $24 billion in agriculture in the next ten years.

In doing so, the Bank wants to encourage agriculture to move away from giving the appearance of a development sector for managing poverty and subsistence to an industrialised food planting and processing business for creating wealth for the owners and decent jobs for the workforce.

Africa imports $35 billion of food net annually, expected to rise to $110 billion by 2025, if current trends continue. Meanwhile, by growing what we do not consume and consuming what we do not grow, Africa is decimating its rural areas, exporting its jobs, eroding the incomes of its farmers, and losing its youth through voluntary migration to Europe and elsewhere.

Imagine what $35 billion per year will do if Africa feeds itself: It is enough to provide 100% electricity in Africa. And $110 billion savings  per year in food imports is enough to close all infrastructure deficits in Africa.

We must pay particular attention to three factors: extreme rural poverty, high rates of unemployment among youths and environmental degradation - what I refer to as the "triangle of disaster". Wherever these three factors are found, civil conflicts and terrorism take root, destroying people's ability to work farms and access food markets.
So we must think differently. Africa produces 75% of cocoa but receives only 2% of the $100 billion a year chocolate markets. The price of cocoa may decline, but never the price of chocolates. The price of cotton may fall, but never the price of garments and apparels. In 2014 Africa earned just £1.5 billion from exports of coffee. Yet Germany, a leading processor, earned nearly double that from re-exports.

This is also because the EU imposes a 7.5% tariff charge on roasted coffee but exempts non-decaffeinated green coffee. As a result, most of Africa’s coffee exports to the EU are unroasted green coffee beans sold as an unimproved commodity, but European manufacturers reap the rewards.

To transform its rural economies Africa must embark on agricultural industrialization and add value to all its agricultural commodities. Governments, while persuading developed countries to change their import priorities for agricultural products, should provide incentives to food and agribusiness companies to locate in rural areas.

We must get youths into agriculture and see it as a profitable business venture not a sign of lacking ambition. That’s why the Bank has rolled out its ENABLE youth program to develop a new generation of young commercial farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs. Our goal is to develop 10,000 such young agricultural entrepreneurs per country in the next ten years. In 2016, the bank provided $700 million to support this program in 8 countries and we’ve got requests now from 33 countries.

This is part of the African Development Bank’s larger programme: Jobs for Youth in Africa, with the goal of creating 25 million jobs within 10 years, and a focus on agriculture and ICT. We are investing in skills development in computer sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics to prepare the youths for the jobs of the future.

We know the technologies exist to transform African agriculture. But they remain, for the most part, on the shelves. I have always remembered what Norman Borlaug said: “take it to the farmers”. To achieve this, the African Development Bank and the CGIAR has developed the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) – a new initiative to scale up appropriate agricultural technologies from the CGIAR and national systems, all across Africa. The Bank and its partners plan to invest $800 million in the initiative.

The food and agribusiness sector is projected to grow from $330 billion today to $1 trillion by 2030, and there will also be 2 billion people looking for food and clothing. African enterprises and investors need to convert this opportunity and unlock this potential for Africa and Africans.

This is the transformation formula: agriculture allied with industry, manufacturing and processing capability equals strong and sustainable economic development, which creates wealth throughout the economy.

Africa can feed itself – and Africa must feed itself. And when it does, it will be able to feed the world. In this way today’s African farmers will contribute to feeding the world tomorrow. That is why the African Development Bank set “Feeding Africa” as one of its most important High 5 priorities.

It’s the Bank’s recipe for agricultural transformation of Africa, and we will not stop until we achieve it.

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s World Food Day on October 16.

 

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Biotechnology Part of the Solution to Africa’s Food Insecurity, Scientists Sayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/biotechnology-part-solution-africas-food-insecurity-scientists-say/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biotechnology-part-solution-africas-food-insecurity-scientists-say http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/biotechnology-part-solution-africas-food-insecurity-scientists-say/#comments Thu, 12 Oct 2017 10:23:21 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152431 A growing number of African countries are increasingly becoming food insecure as delayed and insufficient rainfall, as well as crop damaging pests such as the ongoing outbreak of the fall armyworm, cause the most severe maize crisis in the last decade. Experts have warned that as weather patterns become even more erratic and important crops […]

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Reduced and insufficient rainfall as well as crop-damaging pests threaten to cripple the very backbone of African economies. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Reduced and insufficient rainfall as well as crop-damaging pests threaten to cripple the very backbone of African economies. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Oct 12 2017 (IPS)

A growing number of African countries are increasingly becoming food insecure as delayed and insufficient rainfall, as well as crop damaging pests such as the ongoing outbreak of the fall armyworm, cause the most severe maize crisis in the last decade.

Experts have warned that as weather patterns become even more erratic and important crops such as maize are unable to resist the fall armyworm infestation, there will not be enough food on the table."Even as we push for biotechnology, there is a need for regulations that guarantee the protection and safety of people and the environment." --Hilda Mukui, an agriculturalist and conservationist in Kenya

Confirming that indeed a severe food crisis looms while at the same time calling for immediate and sufficient responses, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) 2017 World Food Day theme is “Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development.”

Over 17 million people in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda have reached emergency food insecurity levels, according to the UN agency.

“Maize is an important food crop in many African countries and the inability of local varieties to withstand the growing threats from the fall armyworm which can destroy an entire crop in a matter of weeks raises significant concerns,” Hilda Mukui, an agriculturalist and conservationist in Kenya, told IPS.

“Due to its migratory nature, the pest can move across borders as is the case in Kenya where the fall armyworm migrated from Uganda and has so far been spotted in Kenya’s nine counties in Western, Rift Valley and parts of the Coastal agricultural areas,” she said.

FAO continues to issue warnings over the fall armyworm, expressing concerns that most countries are ill-prepared to handle the threat.

David Phiri, FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa, says that this is “a new threat in Southern Africa and we are very concerned with the emergence, intensity and spread of the pest. It is only a matter of time before most of the region will be affected.”

The UN agency has confirmed that the pest has destroyed at least 17,000 hectares of maize fields in Malawi, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Across Africa, an estimated 330,000 hectares have been destroyed.

“To understand the magnitude of this destruction, the average maize yield for small scale farmers in many African countries is between 1.2 and 1.5 tons per hectare,” Dr George Keya, the national coordinator of the of the Arid and Semi-arid lands Agricultural Productivity Research Project, told IPS.

FAO statistics show that Africa’s largest producers of maize, including Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa, are all grappling with the fall armyworm outbreak.

Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture notes that the maize stalk borer or the African armyworm – which is different from the fall armyworm – cost farmers at least 25 million dollars annually in missed produce and is concerned that additional threats from the vicious Fall Armyworms will cripple maize production.

FAO and the government of Nigeria in September 2017 signed a Technical Cooperation Project (TCP) agreement as part of a concerted joint effort to manage the spread of the fall armyworm across the country.

According to experts, sectors such as the poultry industry that relies heavily on maize to produce poultry feed have also been affected.

Within this context, scientists are now pushing African governments to embrace biotechnology to address the many threats that are currently facing the agricultural sector and leading to the alarming food insecurity.

According to the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, a genetically modified variety of maize has shown significant resistance to the fall armyworm.

Based on results from the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) maize trials in Uganda, scientists are convinced that there is an immediate and sufficient solution to the fall armyworm.

Although chemical sprays can control the pest, scientists are adamant that the Bt maize is the most effective solution to the armyworm menace.

Experts say that the Bt maize has been genetically modified to produce Bt protein, an insecticide that kills certain pests.

Consequently, a growing list of African countries have approved field testing of genetically modified crops as a way to achieve food security using scientific innovations.

The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) which is a public-private crop breeding initiative to assist farmers in managing the risk of drought and stem borers across Africa, is currently undertaking Bt maize trials in Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique and recently concluded trials in South Africa to find a solution to the fall armyworm invasion.

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation confirms that on a scale of one to nine, based on the Bt maize trials in Uganda, the damage from the armyworm was three for the Bt genetically modified variety and six on the local checks or the popularly grown varieties.

Similarly, Bt maize trials in Mozambique have shown that on a scale of one to nine, the damage was on 1.5 on Bt maize and seven on popularly grown varieties.

“These results are very promising and it is important that African countries review their biosafety rules and regulations so that science can rescue farmers from the many threats facing the agricultural sector,” Mukui explains.

In Africa, there are strict restrictions that bar scientists from exploring biotechnology solutions to boost crop yields.

According to Mukui, only four countries – South Africa, Sudan, Burkina Faso and Egypt – have commercialized genetically modified crops, while 19 countries have established biosafety regulatory systems, four countries are developing regulatory systems, 21 countries are a work in progress, and 10 have no National Biosafety Frameworks.

Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi and more recently Kenya are among the countries that have approved GM crop trials after the Kenya Biosafety Authority granted approval for limited release of insect resistant Bt maize for trials.

As Africa’s small-scale farmers face uncertain times as extreme climate conditions, crop failure, an influx of pests and diseases threaten to cripple the agricultural sector, experts say that there is sufficient capacity, technology and science to build resilience and cushion farmers against such threats.

“But even as we push for biotechnology, there is a need for regulations that guarantee the protection and safety of people and the environment,” Mukui cautions.

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s World Food Day on October 16.

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How to Eradicate Rural Poverty, End Urban Malnutrition – A New Approachhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach/#respond Mon, 09 Oct 2017 06:40:57 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152386 Population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace. But what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefitting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to […]

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Nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of isotopes and radiation techniques to combat pests and diseases, increase crop production, protect land and water resources, ensure food safety and authenticity, and increase livestock production. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 9 2017 (IPS)

Population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace. But what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefitting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to enter labour markets in the decades to come?

These are some of the main questions posed by the just-released State of Food and Agriculture 2017 report, which argues that a key part of the response to these challenges must be transforming and revitalising rural economies, particularly in developing countries where industrialisation and the service sector are not likely to be able to meet all future job demand. “Unless economic growth is made more inclusive, the global goals of ending poverty and achieving zero hunger by 2030 will not be reached,” Graziano da Silva.

“It lays out a vision for a strategic, ‘territorial approach’ that knits together rural areas and urban centres, harnessing surging demand for food in small towns and mega cities alike to reboot subsistence agriculture and promote sustainable and equitable economic growth,” says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its report, issued on 9 October.

One of the greatest challenges today is to end hunger and poverty while making agriculture and food systems sustainable, it warns, while explaining that this challenge is “daunting” because of continued population growth, profound changes in food demand, and the threat of mass migration of rural youth in search of a better life.

The report analyses the structural and rural transformations under way in low-income countries and shows how an “agro-territorial” planning approach can leverage food systems to drive sustainable and inclusive rural development.

Otherwise, the consequences would be dire. In fact, the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers risk being left behind in structural and rural transformations, the report says, while noting that small-scale and family farmers produce 80 per cent of the food supply in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and investments to improve their productivity are urgently needed.

“Urbanisation, population increases and income growth are driving strong demand for food at a time when agriculture faces unprecedented natural-resource constraints and climate change.”

Harvesting sunflowers in Pakistan. Credit: FAO

Moreover, urbanisation and rising affluence are driving a “nutrition transition” in developing countries towards higher consumption of animal protein. “Agriculture and food systems need to become more productive and diversified.”

Catalytic Role of Small Cities, Towns

According to the report, small cities and towns can play a catalytic role in rural transformation rural and urban areas form a “rural–urban spectrum” ranging from megacities to large regional centres, market towns and the rural hinterland, according to the report. In developing countries, smaller urban areas will play a role at least as important as that of larger cities in rural transformation.

“Agro-territorial development that links smaller cities and towns with their rural ‘catchment areas’ can greatly improve urban access to food and opportunities for the rural poor.” This approach seeks to reconcile the sectoral economic aspects of the food sector with its spatial, social and cultural dimensions.

On this, the report explains that the key to the success of an agro-territorial approach is a balanced mix of infrastructure development and policy interventions across the rural–urban spectrum.

“The five most commonly used agro-territorial development tools –agro-corridors, agro-clusters, agro-industrial parks, agro-based special economic zones and agri-business incubators – provide a platform for growth of agro-industry and the rural non-farm economy.”

A Clear Wake-Up Call

Announcing the report, FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva said that in adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development two years ago, the international community committed itself to eradicating hunger and poverty and to achieving other important goals, including making agriculture sustainable, securing healthy lives and decent work for all, reducing inequality, and making economic growth inclusive.

With just 13 years remaining before the 2030 deadline, concerted action is needed now if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be reached, he added.

“There could be no clearer wake-up call than FAO’s new estimate that the number of chronically undernourished people in the world stands at 815 million. Most of the hungry live in low-income and lower-middle-income countries, many of which have yet to make the necessary headway towards the structural transformation of their economies.”

Graziano da Silva said that successful transformations in other developing countries were driven by agricultural productivity growth, leading to a shift of people and resources from agriculture towards manufacturing, industry and services, massive increases in per capita income, and steep reductions in poverty and hunger.

Countries lagging behind in this transformation process are mainly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Most have in common economies with large shares of employment in agriculture, widespread hunger and malnutrition, and high levels of poverty, he explained.

Nuclear techniques are now used in many countries to help maintain healthy soil and water systems, which are paramount in ensuring food security for the growing global population. Credit: FAO

1.75 Billion People Survive on Less than 3.10 Dollars a Day

According to the latest FAO estimates, some 1.75 billion people in low-income and lower-middle-income countries survive on less than 3.10 dollars a day, and more than 580 million are chronically undernourished.

The prospects for eradicating hunger and poverty in these countries are overshadowed by the low productivity of subsistence agriculture, limited scope for industrialization and –above all– by rapid rates of population growth and explosive urbanisation, said Graziano da Silva.

In fact, between 2015 and 2030, their total population is expected to grow by 25 percent, from 3.5 billion to almost 4.5 billion. Their urban populations will grow at double that pace, from 1.3 billion to 2 billion.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people aged 15–24 years is expected to increase by more than 90 million by 2030, and most will be in rural areas.

“Young rural people faced with the prospect of a life of grinding poverty may see few other alternatives than to migrate, at the risk of becoming only marginally better off as they may outnumber available jobs in urban settings.”

Enormous Untapped Potential

The overarching conclusion of this report is that fulfilling the 2030 Agenda depends crucially on progress in rural areas, which is where most of the poor and hungry live, said the FAO Director General.

“It presents evidence to show that, since the 1990s, rural transformations in many countries have led to an increase of more than 750 million in the number of rural people living above the poverty line.”

To achieve the same results in the countries that have been left behind, the report outlines a strategy that would leverage the “enormous untapped potential of food systems” to drive agro-industrial development, boost small-scale farmers’ productivity and incomes, and create off-farm employment in expanding segments of food supply and value chains.

“This inclusive rural transformation would contribute to the eradication of rural poverty, while at the same time helping end poverty and malnutrition in urban areas.”

A major force behind inclusive rural transformation will be the growing demand coming from urban food markets, which consume up to 70 per cent of the food supply even in countries with large rural populations, he added.

The FAO chief explained that thanks to higher incomes, urban consumers are making significant changes in their diets, away from staples and towards higher-value fish, meat, eggs, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, and more processed foods in general.

The value of urban food markets in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow from 150 billion dollars to 500 billion dollars between 2010 and 2030, said Graziano da Silva.

Urbanisation thus provides a “golden opportunity for agriculture”, he added. However, it also presents challenges for millions of small-scale family farmers. “More profitable markets can lead to the concentration of food production in large commercial farms, to value chains dominated by large processors and retailers, and to the exclusion of smallholders.”

Small-Scale Producers

According to the FAO head, to ensure that small-scale producers participate fully in meeting urban food demand, policy measures are needed that: reduce the barriers limiting their access to inputs; foster the adoption of environmentally sustainable approaches and technologies; increase access to credit and markets; facilitate farm mechanisation; revitalise agricultural extension systems; strengthen land tenure rights; ensure equity in supply contracts; and strengthen small-scale producer organisations.

“No amount of urban demand alone will improve production and market conditions for small-scale farming,” he said. “Supportive public policies and investment are a key pillar of inclusive rural transformation.”

The second pillar is the development of agro-industry and the infrastructure needed to connect rural areas and urban markets, said Grazano da Silva, adding that in the coming years, many small-scale farmers are likely to leave agriculture, and most will be unable to find decent employment in largely low-productivity rural economies.

Agro-Industry Already Important

In sub-Saharan Africa, food and beverage processing represents between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of total manufacturing value added in most countries, and in some more than 80 per cent, he said. “However, the growth of agro-industry is often held back by the lack of essential infrastructure – from rural roads and electrical power grids to storage and refrigerated transportation.”

In many low-income countries, such constraints are exacerbated by a lack of public- and private sector investment, FAO chief explained.

The third pillar of inclusive rural transformation is a territorial focus on rural development planning, designed to strengthen the physical, economic, social and political connections between small urban centres and their surrounding rural areas.

In the developing world, about half of the total urban population, or almost 1.5 billion people, live in cities and towns of 500,000 inhabitants or fewer, according to the report.

“Too often ignored by policy-makers and planners, territorial networks of small cities and towns are important reference points for rural people – the places where they buy their seed, send their children to school and access medical care and other services.”

Recent research has shown how the development of rural economies is often more rapid, and usually more inclusive, when integrated with that of these smaller urban areas.

“The agro-territorial development approach described in the report, links between small cities and towns and their rural ‘catchment areas’ are strengthened through infrastructure works and policies that connect producers, agro-industrial processors and ancillary services, and other downstream segments of food value chains, including local circuits of food production and consumption.”

“Unless economic growth is made more inclusive, the global goals of ending poverty and achieving zero hunger by 2030 will not be reached,” warned Graziano da Silva.

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Alternative Financing Strategies to Boost Small Businesses in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/alternative-financing-strategies-boost-small-businesses-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alternative-financing-strategies-boost-small-businesses-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/alternative-financing-strategies-boost-small-businesses-africa/#respond Thu, 05 Oct 2017 12:38:20 +0000 Franck Kuwonu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152365 A few years ago, more than half a century after the concept was first proposed, the government of Côte d’Ivoire completed construction of the Henri Konan Bédié Bridge, a span over the Ébrié Lagoon linking the north and south of Abidjan, the country’s main city. The project became a reality after the government received development […]

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Chef and owner of a restaurant and catering company in Liberia. Credit: UN Photo/C. Herwig

By Franck Kuwonu, Africa Renewal*
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 5 2017 (IPS)

A few years ago, more than half a century after the concept was first proposed, the government of Côte d’Ivoire completed construction of the Henri Konan Bédié Bridge, a span over the Ébrié Lagoon linking the north and south of Abidjan, the country’s main city. The project became a reality after the government received development bank and private capital financing.

Similarly, the Dakar-Diamniado Highway in Senegal, although a public structure, was built and is being operated by private companies. Increasing difficulties in obtaining traditional financing, including bank loans for public infrastructure such as roads, railways and dams are forcing African countries to explore alternative financing approaches.

Having the private sector build and operate infrastructure, recoup its investments and later transfer the infrastructure to governments is one way of compensating for the shortfall in official development assistance and banks’ reluctance to provide loans.

Economic backbone

Aid to the least developed countries (LDCs), most of which are in Africa, fell by 3.9% in 2016, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which promotes policies that improve economic and social well-being of rich countries.

At the moment, governments are coming up with innovative financing strategies, while big corporations are relying on investments or bank loans to grow and expand their businesses. However, Africa’s small and medium-size (SMEs) enterprises, still struggle for financing.

Governments that seek financing from private partnerships or international financing institutions such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank and others often realise that the funding available cannot meet the financial needs of the SMEs.

“In Ghana, SMEs can safely be regarded as the backbone of the economy, employing thousands of people,” Ghana’s minister of finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, said at a gathering of Ghanaian entrepreneurs in June.

SMEs represent 92% of all local businesses in Ghana, providing up to 85% of manufacturing jobs in the country and contributing about 70% to the country’s GDP. In Nigeria, 37 million SMEs employ about 60 million people and account for about 48% of the country’s GDP.

South Africa (the most advanced economy south of the Sahara) is home to more than 2.2 million SMEs, about 1.5 million of them in the informal sector. About 43% of South Africa’s SMEs operate in trade and accommodations, according to South Africa’s Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), which, among other functions, implements the government’s small business strategy.

A 2016 SEDA report says that SMEs face challenges in accessing finance and markets. Yet eight out of 10 jobs and nine out of 10 of all businesses in sub-Saharan Africa are related to small business, according to UN figures.

Potential

SMEs, especially those in the informal sector, have a hard time accessing bank loans. A majority of African SMEs rely on personal savings or start-up capital from friends and family.

“Even when a bank is willing to lend them some money, the collateral and guarantee they require and sometimes the down payment is just too much for a small company like us,” says Alex Treku, the communications and projects manager at the Togo-based LOGOU Concept Togo (LCT).

LCT manufactures a type of electric food mixer (the Foufou Mix) that is used in place of the traditional mortar and pestle and saves women the energy used in pounding yam for fufu, a West African staple dish.

“The Foufou Mix allows for quick and hygienic yam preparation in approximately eight minutes,” the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) said when it named LCT the runner-up for the Innovation Prize for Africa in 2014.

AIF added that “pounding of yam has traditionally been done by women; this innovation provides a solution not currently being contemplated by international manufacturers. It also opens up possibilities for a whole new industry for manufacturing of such appliances on the continent.”

One-third of Nigerians reportedly eat fufu, making the country of 170 million people an attractive market for the gadget. Yet LCT is able to manufacture only about a hundred mixers a month, according to Mr. Treku. The reason? “We don’t have access to bank credit or funds to grow our business,” he says. LTC currently employs 19 people.

Operational capacities and access to markets are other challenges African MSMEs face, but access to financing is the most critical.

Partnership and innovation

On the occasion of the first-ever MSME Day marked globally on 27 June, the AfDB called for an increase in new and affordable financing schemes. Both the AfDB and the IFC would like SMEs to have increased access to financing.

Last year the AfDB reported helping 156,000 SME business owners through financial intermediaries such as commercial banks, development investment and guarantee funds. That’s a good start, but hardly enough, experts say.

By providing coverage for risks associated with lending to SMEs, an intermediary such as the African Guarantee Fund (AGF) can provide credit guarantee facilities to financial institutions that give loans to enterprises they would normally be reluctant to lend to.

Last June, the AGF announced that through a partnership with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, the European Union and the UN Development Programme, some 5,000 SMEs in “development minerals” in five countries will have more affordable financing because of AGF’s $12 million credit guarantee.

Two years ago, the IFC and Ecobank, a pan-African commercial and investment banking group, launched a $110 million risk-sharing facility that allows Ecobank to lend money to SMEs operating in fragile and conflict-afflicted states in West and Central Africa. In addition to current efforts by traditional banks to lend to SMEs, experts have urged SMEs in Africa to explore innovative financing, such as cooperative financing and diaspora funds.

The World Bank is said to be exploring other ideas like crowdfunding—an innovative way of financing a project by raising funds from a very large number of people—peer-to-peer lending, social impact bonds and development impact bonds.

But the AfDB wants credit providers to increase lending by at least $135 billion to meet demand by African SMEs. As the overall financing gap in developing countries is currently between $2.1 and $2.6 trillion, new strategies are required to finance the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

According to the World Economic Forum, “blended finance” could plug this hole. Should these funds become available, the majority of SMEs still operating in the informal sector will have to “take giant steps towards formalisation in order to increase their potential for accessing formal credits,” according to a 17 March study, Financing the Growth of SMEs in Africa: What Are the Constraints to SME Financing within ECOWAS? published in the Review of Development Finance.

The authors of the study maintain that policy reforms are as necessary as available financing. They also suggest requiring companies to provide credit information to boost creditors’ confidence and to make sure that government-sponsored credit schemes are managed efficiently and transparently.

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

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Ghana Aims to Regain Top Spot in Cocoa Productionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/ghana-aims-regain-top-spot-cocoa-production/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ghana-aims-regain-top-spot-cocoa-production http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/ghana-aims-regain-top-spot-cocoa-production/#comments Thu, 05 Oct 2017 12:03:16 +0000 Kwaku Botwe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152368 Ghana is home to the world’s favourite cocoa beans. They’re bigger in size, have a higher butter content and superior flavour – all qualities which make Ghana’s cocoa the world standard against which all cocoa is measured. But while cocoa used to be the biggest foreign exchange earner for the West African country, contributing about […]

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Professor of Food Science and Technology at the University of Ghana, Emmanuel Afoakwa, and other researchers at a cocoa farm. Credit: Kwaku Botwe/IPS

Professor of Food Science and Technology at the University of Ghana, Emmanuel Afoakwa, and other researchers at a cocoa farm. Credit: Kwaku Botwe/IPS

By Kwaku Botwe
ACCRA, Oct 5 2017 (IPS)

Ghana is home to the world’s favourite cocoa beans. They’re bigger in size, have a higher butter content and superior flavour – all qualities which make Ghana’s cocoa the world standard against which all cocoa is measured.

But while cocoa used to be the biggest foreign exchange earner for the West African country, contributing about 45 percent of the total foreign exchange earnings, now the commodity barely provides 25 percent.“They [farmers who sell their lands] don’t know what they are doing because cocoa is a legacy that can be left to children, unlike one-time cash.” --Nana Kwasi Ofori of the Cocoa Farmers Association

Farmers in Ghana follow a strict routine in the planting, harvesting and drying of cocoa, supported and monitored by the government regulator, the Ghana Cocoa Board.

They employ natural drying of the beans in the sun (instead of heating), turning the beans at regular intervals for not less than a week. This natural and painstaking means of drying ensures the beans turn out their characteristic golden brown. The layers of monitoring at the time of purchase are all part of government’s intervention.

The country is the second biggest supplier of cocoa worldwide, beaten only by its West African neighbour, Cote D’Ivoire. But Ghana was once the world champion. It lost the first spot to its neighbour in the 1970s after government reduced the price given to farmers, thereby discouraging many from going into the venture.

Exchanging Golden Pods for Golden Nuggets

Several factors have contributed to the shortfall. Distribution of free or subsidized farm inputs such as fertilizers or chemicals have been fraught with several challenges.

“Not all of us were given the free fertilizers. And they were politicizing it. Someone with a small farm of four acres could be given 50 bags of fertilizer while others with very big farms were given less,” Abusuapanyin Kwabena Amankwaa, a cocoa farmer, told IPS.

Central Regional Chief Cocoa Farmer Nana Kwasi Ofori also said that “farmers who are not cultivating cocoa were given some of the inputs”.

CEO of the Cocoa Board Joseph Baidoo has said his interactions with farmers revealed that Ghana’s fertilizers – which are not supposed to be for sale – were in fact being sold in Nigeria, Gabon and other neighbouring African countries, adding that this meant the free fertilizers were given to political party loyalists who were not cocoa farmers.

Diseases such as black pod, swollen shoot, and capsids have had a field day as a result.

The new government decided to discontinue the free fertilizer programme following what it says were complaints from farmers. Instead, it wants to sell the fertilizer at subsidized prices.

Ghana has an annual cocoa production target of one million tonnes. That target was achieved in 2011. Since then government has struggled to maintain the target, with annual production hovering around 800,000 tonnes.

In previous years, government decided to absorb the cost and technical assistance needed to apply the right chemicals and fertilizers to cocoa farms nationwide – initiatives called the Mass Spraying Exercise and the Hi-tech Programme, respectively.

Government also created the Rehabilitation Programme where old, less productive trees were felled and replaced with new, more-yielding hybrid seedlings for free. This saw a big dividend in cocoa bean output, with the country recording its highest cocoa output of over 1 million tonnes in 2011. But government has not been able to sustain the programme.

Probably the biggest threat to hit the cocoa industry in recent times is illegal mining, locally called galamsey. The upsurge in the search for gold between 2012 and 2016 has threatened the livelihoods of several cocoa farmers as galamsey takes over cocoa farms.

“Some chiefs are part of the problem which we are facing. They sell the land to the miners and collect the money so sometimes farmers are not even compensated,” said Nana Kwasi Ofori, an executive member of the Cocoa Farmers Association.

Most farmers are tenant farmers who work on lands owned by chiefs or families. Fifty-three-year-old Adwoa Oforiwaa, a cocoa farmer in the Central Region, says she was only given 500 cedis (about 112 dollars) as compensation when galamsey operators took over a good part of her farm.

“When they [galamsey operators] come, they tell you they have orders from the chiefs or even government, and they start the destruction,” she added.

A journalist in the Western Region – the leading cocoa-producing region in Ghana – Yaw Obrempong says some farmers willingly sell off their cocoa farms for ready cash.

“If the galamsey operator is here with a bag full of cash, why won’t I sell my land instead of staying in a queue for over two weeks only to be given a bag of fertilizer?” Obrempong noted.

He says some farmers claim they had to pay bribes in order to get farm inputs from the government. Other farmers sold their lands when the much-needed labour to work on the cocoa farms shifted into illegal mining.

But Nana Kwasi Ofori says, “They [farmers who sell their lands] don’t know what they are doing because cocoa is a legacy that can be left to children, unlike one-time cash.”

The galamsey invasion has affected a good part of the 1.7 million hectares of cocoa farms in the country.  The Government has launched an anti-galamsey crusade to flush out illegal miners. With the help of a taskforce including the military, several arrests and confiscation of galamsey equipment have been carried out.

The launch of the Media Coalition against Galamsey has also given government a shot in the arm. Government has moved the crusade a notch higher with the announcement by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources of its intention to procure drones at the cost of 3 million dollars for surveillance.

Guaranteed Pricing

Nonetheless, cocoa remains the most important economic crop for Ghana, raking in about 2 billion dollars annually, contributing to some 4.22 percent of the country’s GDP.  Such a feat has been achieved through government interventions such as price stability. For instance, the world price of cocoa beans has plummeted from about 3,122 dollars per tonne last year to about 1,900 dollars this year, yet the Cocoa Board maintained s producer price of 7,600 cedis per tonne (1,700 dollars).

The Board is able to cushion farmers with a Stabilization Fund established some ten years ago, as well as other sources of funds. This presents a big advantage for cocoa farmers in Ghana over other cocoa-producing countries on the continent this year.

For instance, the Ivorian government has slashed the prices of cocoa almost by a third, to 700 CFA per kg (about 1,300 dollars per tonne). Some Ghanaians have expressed concern that the development is likely to reverse the dreaded cross-border smuggling of cocoa (Ghana has in the past seen a lot of its cocoa smuggled to their neighbor countries because of price differences).

But professor of Food Science and Technology at the University of Ghana, Emmanuel Afoakwa says “it is not likely because Ghana is bent on protecting its premium quality and so there is tight security to ensure cocoa does not move from Cote D’Ivoire and other countries into the country”.

He adds that “farmers must cherish that government is interested in their welfare because government now loses about 500 dollars on every tonne of cocoa bought from them”.

The Ghana Cocoa Board also has an arrangement to pay for the felling and replanting of old and diseased cocoa trees. The board has announced that it will be giving away about 60 million seedlings to farmers for replanting. The exercise, called rehabilitation, is meant to boost output.

The Government also has a programme to woo youth into the sector to replace aging cocoa farmers. The Board is providing support for all young cocoa farmers by giving them hybrid pods, improved seedlings, free fertilizer and inputs, a farmer business school programme, as well as extension support to boost cocoa production. Cocoa farmers are also pushing for a Cocoa Farmers Pension Scheme which they believe will help attract the youth.

Cocoa Processing

To maximize revenue from cocoa, the government has its eyes on adding value to the cocoa it exports. The global cocoa market has an estimated value of 9 billion dollars for unprocessed cocoa beans, about 28 billion dollars for semi-processed/intermediate products and a whopping 87 billion dollars for fully processed/final products. In an attempt to get its share of the 87-billion-dollar cake, government has set a target of processing 50 percent of its exported cocoa.

Currently, the seven processing companies operating at various levels of value-addition process about 25 percent of the county’s exported cocoa. But most of the processed cocoa are exported in semi-processed form of cocoa paste.

Prof. Afoakwa says the huge capital requirement involved in processing cocoa into finished products fit for export could be a big hurdle for Ghana. Moreover, there are high tariff walls with regards to the export of processed products. For example, the European Union levies no duties on the import of raw cocoa beans, but levies a 7.7 percent and 15 percent duty on cocoa powder and cocoa cake, respectively.

He believes heightening the campaign on the consumption of cocoa products would be one way of tackling the issue.

“I’m working with Ghana Cocoa Board to conduct the cocoa product processing competition and we are bringing together ten different polytechnic institutions to develop new products using cocoa. We are going to invite high schools to come witness it. What we are trying to do is to advocate for higher consumption of cocoa products and this can be done when we know the kind of different products that we can make out of cocoa,” he added.

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Need for Inclusive Peace Efforts in South Sudan: No More ‘Compassion Fatigue’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/need-inclusive-peace-efforts-south-sudan-no-compassion-fatigue/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-inclusive-peace-efforts-south-sudan-no-compassion-fatigue http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/need-inclusive-peace-efforts-south-sudan-no-compassion-fatigue/#respond Wed, 04 Oct 2017 17:56:29 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152359 “Peace is not a one-day affair or event, it requires our collective effort,” said South Sudan’s Vice President, General Taban Deng Gai, while addressing the General Assembly at the UN. South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, celebrated its six-year anniversary on July 9 this year, with its president, Salva Kirr, marking 2017 as the ‘Year […]

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An Oxfam staffer helps a woman at UN House in Juba carry home some of the emergency supplies she has just received. Credit: Anita Kattakhuzy/Oxfam

By Lindah Mogeni
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 4 2017 (IPS)

“Peace is not a one-day affair or event, it requires our collective effort,” said South Sudan’s Vice President, General Taban Deng Gai, while addressing the General Assembly at the UN.

South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, celebrated its six-year anniversary on July 9 this year, with its president, Salva Kirr, marking 2017 as the ‘Year of Peace and Prosperity.’

A mere two years after its split from Sudan, a country plagued by decades-long of ethnic-based civil war between Arab and non-Arab tribes, the independent state of South Sudan erupted in conflict when President Kiir, a Dinka, accused his then vice president, Riek Machar, a Nuer, of attempting a coup.

Amid heightening political tensions, violent skirmishes flared up in the nation’s capital of Juba in mid-December 2013 between loyalist soldiers from both parties. South Sudan has been mired in conflict ever since – much to the dismay of its citizens who hadn’t imagined they would carry the torch of war into their new republic.

Three months into a peace agreement signed by both parties in August 2015, the conflict reached a boiling point in December 2015 when President Kiir dissolved South Sudan’s 10 regional states and established 28 new states, resulting in a surge of violence beyond the capital, to several areas of the country.

A transitional government formed by both parties in April 2016, with the peace agreement as a precursor, failed to temper the violence as clashes continued country-wide. Further, President Kiir’s appointment of General Gai, Machar’s political ally, as his new vice president inflamed Machar and his loyalists, resulting in a split within the opposition – thus fueling the conflict.

A government ceasefire, declared after Machar fled the capital, crumbled shortly thereafter.

With lengthy, arduous peace efforts failing and confidence in ending the conflict flailing, South Sudan is facing its gravest humanitarian situation in years.

“This is the last chance of salvaging the peace agreement in South Sudan…we must resolve now, both individually and collectively, to do more to end this conflict,” said Ambassador Nikki Haley, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, while addressing the UN Security Council last week.

More than 2.5 million people have been displaced by the South Sudan conflict. An estimated 830,000 have fled to neighboring countries, mainly Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda, according to Oxfam America.

Harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists, forced recruitment of child soldiers, widespread sexual violence and restricting movement of UN peacekeepers by both sides characterize the conflict in South Sudan, according to prominent human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

“In over 30 years working in South Sudan, Oxfam has never responded to such dire needs under such difficult conditions,” said Oxfam America’s president, Abby Maxman, speaking on South Sudan at the UN.

Asked about the country’s grim situation, Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam’s Senior Policy Advisor for Humanitarian Response, told IPS that, “with the conflict hitting many parts of the country simultaneously, with more access to advanced firepower, with a collapsing economy, with food insecurity and famine on the rise and, most especially, with no resounding commitment from the international community, South Sudan is more vulnerable than it has ever been.”

The suffering of communities in South Sudan has reached unprecedented levels.

“The situation is South Sudan is dire but not hopeless…when a situation is seen as hopeless and when the rhetoric surrounding it makes it seem ‘too complex’ and diminishes on-the-ground efforts, compassion fatigue arises,” said Gottschalk.

Though it is the responsibility of the significant parties in South Sudan to root out the source of the problem, it is the duty of the international community to navigate a peaceful outcome for the sake of 12 million South Sudanese who have not given up.

“We have not given up on them and we have not forgotten them…they have a friend and advocate in the US,” said Haley.

The UN, African Union (AU) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) recently agreed to pool their efforts to support the revitalization of the political process in South Sudan.

The primary goal in mind, for this joint communiqué, is to adequately represent all significant parties and encourage them to focus on the full implementation of the August 2015 Peace Agreement, under a permanent ceasefire.

“This is the last chance at salvaging the peace agreement in South Sudan…the different parties to the conflict must use the next several weeks to commit themselves to this process and to conclude it,” said Haley.

Before undertaking these well-intended collective measures, it is important to understand the nature of the conflict in South Sudan.

“To get the country back on its feet, we must first recognize this conflict for what it is and what it isn’t…it’s not a tribal conflict, because ethnic identity doesn’t determine allegiance on the ground, it’s not a military conflict, because civilians, not soldiers, are bearing the brunt of the violence…in many ways it’s not even a political conflict, because that would imply that it’s about competing visions for governing this nation…what it is, is a hostage situation,” said Maxman.

In July this year, the AU Commission, South Sudanese officials, and UN representatives met in Juba to discuss the establishment of an independent Hybrid Court for South Sudan, envisioned under the 2015 Peace Agreement, and agreed on plans to finalize the court’s statute by August, according to Human Rights Watch.

Notably, South Sudan is not a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC). As such, its leaders can only be held accountable by the ICC through a request from the Sudanese government or a referral by the UN Security Council.

Though a lack of accountability is a conflict-accelerant, a more immediate focus is required in the inclusive peace efforts geared towards helping the people in South Sudan.

“It’s high time we throw our lot in with the hostages, not the hostage-takers,” said Maxman.

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To Be an Egyptian Migrant in Rome (And Also Make Great Pizza)http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/egyptian-migrant-rome-also-make-great-pizza/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=egyptian-migrant-rome-also-make-great-pizza http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/egyptian-migrant-rome-also-make-great-pizza/#respond Thu, 28 Sep 2017 12:45:19 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152276 “I asked him: do you want to come with us to Greece? He said: ‘Why not?’ So my wife and myself packed up and drove to Athens to open our ‘trattoria’ there.” Mario* (63) and his wife Concetta* (57) started telling their story while waiting for the chef to prepare three pizzas and one spaghetti […]

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Credit: IOM/Ingy Mehanna. Contributor: Christine Beshay. International Organization for Migration

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 28 2017 (IPS)

“I asked him: do you want to come with us to Greece? He said: ‘Why not?’ So my wife and myself packed up and drove to Athens to open our ‘trattoria’ there.”

Mario* (63) and his wife Concetta* (57) started telling their story while waiting for the chef to prepare three pizzas and one spaghetti carbonara for this table of four tourists coming from four different countries.

When Mario learnt that one of them—this journalist– was born in Cairo, he said, “Come with me,” and led him to the kitchen. “Here is our champion.”

The “champion” is Mahmoud*, a young Egyptian man (29) who had arrived in Italy seven years earlier and started working as a dishwasher at Mario and Concetta’s small trattoria in the Trastevere area in the heart of Rome.

“He was watching me cooking all the time. And he quickly learnt how to cook pizza, pasta and everything,” said Concetta.

“Yes, very quickly and very well,” added Mario, “so we began to rely on him when we had many clients over the weekends.”

Both Concetta, Mario, Mahmoud and this journalist are all back in Rome now. They called the journalist and met again. Having left Greece due to the financial crisis that struck the whole world around a decade ago, they have opened another trattoria. “We are now becoming old so we asked Mahmoud to run our little restaurant.”

Pizza al taglio at Trastevere in Rome. Credit: Shoebill2. Public Domain.

Mahmoud hired a young Egyptian migrant as a dishwasher and as a kitchen assistant. History might repeat itself.

Mahmoud is just one of hundreds of young Egyptian migrants in Rome who work as chefs in typical Italian restaurants. Their pizza and pasta are much appreciated by local customers, who usually pay compliments to the owners and waiters for the tasty dishes.

“Journalist”* Ahmad

But, with very few exceptions, these Egyptian pizza-makers are not cooks–just migrants who reached Rome by sea with a tourist entry visa or as part of groups of migrants smuggled to Italy.

One of them, Ahmad* (36), tells IPS that he came to Rome around ten years ago as a correspondent for an Egyptian weekly magazine. “Actually I am not a journalist. By through friends, I managed to get a letter of accreditation from that publication to facilitate the more and more complex entry visa procedures.”

“I met some Egyptians who were working in restaurants in Rome and they helped me find a good job as a waiter with a work contract that allows me to stay here legally.”

“Of course I miss Egypt and my family, but life there has become so difficult that the best way I can help them is to save as much as I can from my salary and generous tips and send money to them.”

Smuggled Osman*

Working at a trattoria in the outskirts of Rome, Osman* (41) hesitates before telling IPS that he was a victim of smugglers who cheated him, demanding 3,000 dollars to take him to Europe. He managed to borrow 2,000 dollars and promised to pay the remaining amount as soon as he found a job.

“They treated me worse than an animal taken to a slaughterhouse,” Osman told IPS. Smugglers literally “loaded me” with dozens of other Egyptians on a truck to Libya.

“From there, after five endless weeks, they loaded us on a boat to Lampedusa Island” in Italy. Civil society humanitarian organisations “helped us find jobs as fruit pickers.”

Migrants arriving on the Island of Lampedusa, Italy. Credit: Sara Prestianni / noborder network. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

A Case of Tough Success

Halim* (49) has a different story. He was born in Port Said, northeast of Cairo. Italy is one of the main destinations for Egyptians in Europe, and Halim landed here during the fall of 1987, having taken a regular boat trip to Naples.

He immediately connected with others in the Egyptian community in the EUR area of Rome. “My father worked for eleven long years as a helping hand in a restaurant and then ventured into setting up his own business independently,” he told Laurent Vercken in an interview for IPS.

Halim is one of more than 100,000 migrants from Egypt who live in Italy. Like most other Egyptian migrants, he chooses to stay here rather than return to his native land. “There are no opportunities to work there and I prefer to work long hours in the kitchen that my father set up, which is giving me a better life.”

When Halim’s father passed away twelve years ago, he took on the responsibility of looking after his entire family.

It has been very hard work, with little free time spent with his loved ones. Halim soon found that running a business had serious pitfalls as well, like facing organised crime. He discovered that over the years, his father had made many undefined regular payments.

A few days after his father’s death, a couple of men came to the restaurant, pretending to buy some food. But after placing their orders, they forced him to provide a free meal and demanded cash payoffs in the future as well.

After contacting the local police station, Halim was advised to install micro-cameras and microphones inside the restaurant. “The police were then able to apprehend the thugs and have discovered a bigger network of local, organised crime groups that were taking advantage of migrant businesses,” he said.

Today, he seems older than his real age, but perhaps stronger than ever. When asked how he feels after so many years of being a migrant, he responds, “Try just to imagine that if I am not able to survive every day, who will help my family to survive?”

Unaccompanied Egyptian Children Migrating to Europe

Last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM)–Egypt launched its “Egyptian Unaccompanied Migrant Children:A Case Study on Irregular Migration,” designed to shed light on the irregular migration of Egyptian children to Europe.

Based on IOM counselling interviews in Egypt and Greece, the report looked at the driving forces behind unaccompanied children travelling irregularly from Egypt to Europe and their vulnerability. It also provided insights into the modus operandi and characteristics of smuggling networks operating from Egypt.

Over a million migrants arrived to Europe by sea in 2015 and some estimates suggest that up to 20 per cent of them may have been minors, the UN Migration Agency informs.

The report provides recommendations covering prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership for the development of a multidisciplinary response to address irregular migration of unaccompanied migrant children.

“The report addresses the significant information gap on the issue of irregular child migration and comes at a time where Egypt is the highest sending country of unaccompanied migrant children to Europe. We are working closely with the government to develop an integrated response and are seeking donor support,” said Amr Taha, IOM Egypt Head of Office.

Since 2011, the percentage of unaccompanied children among Egyptian irregular migrants reaching Europe has been remarkably high. In 2014, they accounted for nearly half of 4,095 irregular Egyptian migrants arriving in Italy. In 2015, Italy registered the arrival of some 1,711 Egyptian children – more than from any other country.

Migration Shaping the Middle East

Migration has long shaped the Middle East and North Africa, with countries in the region often simultaneously representing points of origin, transit and destination, says the UN migration Agency.

Demographic and socioeconomic trends, conflict and, increasingly, climate change are among the multitude of factors that influence migration dynamics in the region, IOM explains.

According to IOM, the migration context in the Middle East and North Africa can be broadly characterised as consisting of closely interrelated patterns. One of them is that forced migration and internal displacement are a result of “multiple, acute and protracted crises across the region, particularly in Iraq, Libya and the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Globalisation, conflict and instability, development differentials and –increasingly– climate change are amongst the multitude of factors that continue to influence the dynamics of human mobility in the region, says the UN specialised agency.

Question: Aren’t all these patterns and factors human-made? Being so, one wonders if perhaps governments cannot find a human-made solution other than building walls, shutting borders, and installing detention centres.

*Names of migrants have been changed to protect their identity.

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Malawi’s Communal Fight Against Deadly Avian Diseasehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/malawis-communal-fight-deadly-avian-disease/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=malawis-communal-fight-deadly-avian-disease http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/malawis-communal-fight-deadly-avian-disease/#respond Wed, 27 Sep 2017 12:32:03 +0000 Charles Mkoka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152259 Lydia Katengeza, a community vaccinator with the Nathenje Community Vaccination Association (NCVA), wakes up as early as 5 a.m., ready with her I-2 vaccine vial in a storage container in her hand. She moves from one house to another, visiting each poultry farmer. All of them are alerted a day in advance so that they […]

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A poultry farmer from Lumbwe village in Malawi hands her chickens to Lydia Katengeza to administer a vaccine against Newcastle Disease. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

A poultry farmer from Lumbwe village in Malawi hands her chickens to Lydia Katengeza to administer a vaccine against Newcastle Disease. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

By Charles Mkoka
LILONGWE, Sep 27 2017 (IPS)

Lydia Katengeza, a community vaccinator with the Nathenje Community Vaccination Association (NCVA), wakes up as early as 5 a.m., ready with her I-2 vaccine vial in a storage container in her hand. She moves from one house to another, visiting each poultry farmer. All of them are alerted a day in advance so that they don’t release their free-range chickens in the morning.

The first farmer she visited when an IPS reporter accompanied her on her rounds was Maxwell Panganani, who owns 30 chickens. The whole flock was given the vaccine, which protects poultry from the deadly Newcastle Disease (ND) and costs four cents per chicken. This means Katengeza collected 1.24 dollars from this farmer.Raised by 80 percent of local farmers, poultry is the greatest contribution to household food and nutritional security of all livestock species in Malawi.

She moved on to other households: Makalani Kumapeni, whose 51 chickens were given the vaccine; Chipiliro Kanamwali with 11 chickens; Peter Lumbwe with 24 chickens; Zeze Lumbwe with 14 chickens, Frank Thamisoni with 12 chickens and Samuel Asipolo, who just owns one.

Raised by 80 percent of local farmers, poultry is the greatest contribution to household food and nutritional security of all livestock species in Malawi. Farmers use chickens during weddings, funerals and other rituals, and for sale or as gifts. They are also bartered for other products.

However, despite the important role that chickens play in supporting households in rural areas, there is a major constraint to the expansion and increased productivity of poultry – the frequent devastation of flocks, up to 90 percent, according to the Department of Animal Health and Livestock Development (DAHLD). This damage is caused by ND, which strikes during the hot, dry months of August through to November annually.

The virus presents primarily as an acute respiratory illness, and is one of the most serious of all avian diseases. It is also transmissible to humans.

“We were first trained as farmer field facilitators in 2014 under a CARE Malawi programme. Later CARE linked us with Inter Aide, a French organization that provided us training in the procedures of how to be a community vaccinator,” says Katengeza, who is also village head woman of Chizinga in Traditional Authority Kalumbu, Lilongwe district.

According to Katengeza, the knowledge and procedures learnt during vaccine administration have been of great benefit to her as a farmer. As a result of the training, her chickens no longer die of ND. And as a ripple effect, she has also managed to help her fellow farmers to overcome the disease.

“I now have 10 goats, harvested 70 50-kg bags of maize this year, moulded bricks and built a good house. I am also able to pay school fees for my kids. As a family, we have sustained access to proteins as body-building foods from chickens once slaughtered,” says Katengeza.

She said CARE and Inter Aide have changed her life and that of other farmers.

Another farmer, Eveless Makalani, with a flock of 51 birds, has worked with community vaccinators for some time. She learned about them during the farmer extension meetings they conduct in the village.

“My family gets help from these chickens, especially during funerals and weddings, but also in the event of problems. We sell some of them as they are in high demand on the market, unlike hybrids.”

Malakani adds that the money earned from selling one chicken pays for the vaccination of over 50 chickens from ND – making it a viable business.

Yolomosi Tifere, a male community vaccinator who serves farmers in the Nathenje area, said the project should be expanded to include other health supports.

“This vaccine is for ND fine and good. However, we also need other drugs to address bacteria, cough, intestinal worms so that these problems are also taken care of,” Tifere said in an interview during the field visit.

Graça Archer, Programme Officer for Inter Aide Newcastle Disease Control Programme, said each ND campaign is systematic and runs for four months.

“During the first month, community vaccinators go house to house to do poultry registration, like how many chickens to vaccinate, how many vials are needed. The second month is for the actual vaccination of the chickens and the fourth month is for review of the success and challenges.” Archer explained in an interview.

The peak of the campaign takes place in July because the risk of an outbreak is high. This is when farmers have more money and exchange more chickens and there is a greater probability for them to become infected with ND.

“There is more acceptance from the farmers in July than the two other campaigns. For instance, last year we vaccinated 590,800 chickens,” says Archer, who expressed concerns about the erratic supply of the drug from CVL.

In order to ensure sustainability of the programme, NCVA was formed to strengthen local participation in the fight against ND. Meanwhile, the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicine is working in partnership with Inter Aide to improve the nutrition and livelihoods of smallholder livestock producers, and enhance family farm productivity and resilience in an increasingly changing climate.

“The I-2 vaccine is thermal tolerant demand driven, people see the benefit of vaccinating chickens so there is exponential growth for the vaccine need. However, production is not managed as an enterprise due to shortage of financing of the drug, hence its erratic availability,” Archer explained.

Gilson Njunga, Officer in Charge at the CVL, says they produce 3,000 bottles of the vaccine per month which translates to about a million dosages administered to chickens, as each bottle accommodates 300 chickens.

“Production of the vaccine vial is at 3,000 bottles monthly because we produce the vaccine within a diagnostic laboratory and not an independent vaccine lab. As such, the production process has to pass through quality control before being certified for use by farmers to ensure they are not contaminated,” Njunga told IPS.

Meanwhile, as a further step towards attaining food and nutritional security, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Malawi Government agreed on a Country Programme Framework estimated at 24.3 million dollars. The rationale for the proposed CPF priority areas is derived from the analysis and the enabling environment for Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture.

The analysis demonstrates that while the country is making good progress in food security and staple crop production, it remains vulnerable to shocks – many climate-related – that impede increased agricultural production, productivity and profitability.

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Global Companies Give Africa a Second Lookhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/global-companies-give-africa-second-look/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-companies-give-africa-second-look http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/global-companies-give-africa-second-look/#respond Tue, 26 Sep 2017 15:27:40 +0000 Zipporah Musau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152247 When travelling abroad for work and looking for accommodation, Joe Eyango, a Cameroonian living in the US, considers two factors: convenient transportation from the airport and around the city and reliable Internet access. He is a university professor and wants to be able to jet in, hit the ground running, make his presentation and zoom […]

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BMW South Africa announces the production of its one-millionth BMW 3 Series sedan at its manufacturing plant in Rosslyn, Pretoria in South Africa. Credit: BMW Group

By Zipporah Musau, Africa Renewal*
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 26 2017 (IPS)

When travelling abroad for work and looking for accommodation, Joe Eyango, a Cameroonian living in the US, considers two factors: convenient transportation from the airport and around the city and reliable Internet access. He is a university professor and wants to be able to jet in, hit the ground running, make his presentation and zoom off to another destination in a day or two.

Eyango has been to various countries in Africa for business and work but has reasons for preferring South Africa. “South Africa has a lot to offer compared with other African countries. The road system is good, there is adequate electricity and reliable Internet connection, which is necessary for work and business,” Eyango told Africa Renewal in an interview.

Recently, having been invited to present a conference paper on a tight schedule, Eyango flew into Johannesburg from Amsterdam, spent less than 30 minutes in customs at the O. R. Tambo International Airport, took a taxi and was at his hotel in less than an hour since arrival.

South Africa attracts many professionals and big multinationals. It’s currently home to more than 75% of all top global companies in Africa.

“Where these big companies choose to invest depends on whether the environment is right for business. Investors are interested in relatively stable countries, good infrastructure, reliable communication, electricity and labour,” says Dr. John Mbaku, a researcher at Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution and also a professor of economics at Weber State University, US.

Some of the global companies with a presence in South Africa include luxury car manufacturers BMW, the Standard Bank Group, Barclays Bank, Vodafone (one of the world’s largest communication companies), Volkswagen, and General Electric. There is also FirstRand, Sasol, Sanlam, and MTN Group.

In an earlier interview with South African officials on why they’d chosen the country as an investment destination, Sam Ahmed, then the managing director of Britannia Industries, an India-based manufacturer of biscuits, snacks and confectionery, said his organization had been looking for a country that would give it access to the entire African market while keeping its costs low.

“In South Africa you have first-world infrastructure and third-world cost,” Ahmed said. The company’s production costs in South Africa were much lower than in Southeast Asia, the company headquarters.

Big businesses are also attracted to countries where the legal system works, so they can be assured of justice should legal issues arise. South Africa’s judiciary has been hailed for its sound judgements and independence from political machinations relative to other African countries.

Another attraction for big businesses is human resources. The efficiency and smooth operation of these large companies depend on the calibre of its labour force. Despite many years of apartheid, according to Mbaku, South Africa provides its citizens with relatively good quality education the multinationals are looking for in their labour force.

However, despite its successes, South Africa continues to grapple with a high crime rate (especially in urban areas), graft accusations and the political uncertainty that businesses loathe.

Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, the secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN body that deals with trade, investment and development issues, acknowledges that South Africa has the oldest and most developed market economy in the whole of Africa for historical reasons: the market grew out of a strong mining and industrial base and the financial industry.

However, according to Kituyi, things are now changing and other African countries are also attracting big investors. “It’s true South Africa has had a head start, but in net terms, there is faster growth in alternative centres for both manufacturing and service delivery than in South Africa. Today, the financial services industry is growing faster in Morocco than in South Africa,” Kituyi told Africa Renewal in an interview.

He notes that some multinational enterprises operating out of South Africa have relocated substantially. “We recently saw the opening of the Volvo truck-manufacturing plant in Mombasa. And similarly, we have seen many other services, particularly IT-based services and telecommunications, growing in new nodes like Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda.”

Fringe benefits
So why should African governments want to encourage global companies to set up shop in their countries? Driven by insufficient funds, African governments are increasingly turning to private-sector companies for a much-needed boost. Foreign investments provide capital to finance industries, boost infrastructure and productivity, provide social amenities and create jobs, all of which can help a country reach its economic potential. And as countries rush to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, funding is key.

In Africa, governments and industry are gradually forming public-private partnerships (PPPs) in which companies provide capital while governments ensure an environment conducive to business. In the last 10 years, the continent has welcomed PPPs for projects in infrastructure, electricity, health and telecommunications.

Lenders like the African Development Bank are urging African countries to improve business environments by “creating the necessary legal and regulatory framework for PPPs, and to facilitate networking and sharing of experience among regulatory agencies and other similar organizations.”

Tread carefully
However, even as PPPs begin to change the face of Africa, there is need for countries to tread carefully and to learn from failed PPPs when signing up for such partnerships. “Ask yourselves, does the state have the capacity to forge ahead with these partnerships? This is necessary to avoid bad debt,” says Kituyi, adding that governments should not let private companies drive the agenda.

This word of caution is echoed by the Brookings Institution’s Mbaku, who is advising African governments to ensure that PPPs work to their advantage: “If you have a weak or corrupt leadership, you may not have the power or the skills required to negotiate a favourable partnership. You will end up with a PPP that is not really a partnership.”

Mbaku gives the example of oil companies that have been operating in Africa for more than 20 years yet still depend on expatriate labour instead of employing locals. Such companies are reluctant to transfer skills, knowledge and technology to the locals.

Another problem with PPPs is the imbalance of power. “If you are a government engaged in a PPP on a development project, there is inequality in power. The multinational has capital, skilled manpower and [an] external market. The government has no power over these,” says Mbaku.

Despite the challenges, however, PPPs will continue playing a major role in the development of poor countries. For African countries to attract multinationals and other big investors to partner with, their governments need to put their house in order—improve infrastructure, communication, security and the legal system, and fight corruption.

*(Africa Renewal, published by the UN’s Department of Public Information)

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