Inter Press ServiceAfrica – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sun, 19 Nov 2017 14:50:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 Are Prospects of Rural Youth Employment in Africa a Mirage?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage/#comments Mon, 13 Nov 2017 17:59:35 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153004 (Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

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(Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

By Raghav Gaiha and Vani S. Kulkarni
NEW DELHI, Nov 13 2017 (IPS)

Many recent accounts tend to dismiss productive employment of youth in rural areas in Africa as a mirage largely because they exhibit strong resistance to eking out a bare subsistence in dismal working and living conditions. We argue below on recent evidence of agricultural transformation that this view is overly pessimistic, if not largely mistaken.

Raghav Gaiha

The 15–24-year-old age group represents 20% of SSA’s population today and, unlike in other regions, this youth share will remain high and stable (19% in 2050). In absolute terms, SSA’s youth will grow from nearly 200 million in 2015 to nearly 400 million in 2050, and its share in the labour force will remain the highest in the world, even if following a declining trend. Representing 37% today – in comparison with 30% in India, 25% in China and 20% in Europe – it should still account for 30% in 2050 (ILO, 2016).

Agriculture has a substantial role in meeting the youth employment challenge facing Africa. Even in a most optimistic scenario, non-farm and urban sectors are not likely to absorb more than two-thirds of young labour market entrants over the next decade. But there will be vast opportunities for the innovative young people in agricultural systems as they adapt to a range of challenges in the near future. These challenges relate to raising productivity in a sustainable way, integration into emerging high value chains, and healthy diets.

While the challenges are daunting, the potential benefits of addressing them are enormous. Higher prices, more integrated value chains, widening connectivity to markets in some areas, and greater private and public engagement in the sector are creating new opportunities. A major barrier is, however, strong negative preferences/attitudes of the youth towards agriculture.

A survey of rural in- and out-of school young people towards agriculture, based on field-work in two regions in Ethiopia, is remarkably rich and insightful (IDS Bulletin Volume 43 Number 6, 2012). Life as a farmer was tied to life in a village which most respondents saw as hard and demanding. Yet there was considerable heterogeneity in the views of the young. Participants in both regions concurred that agriculture has changed significantly over the last decade. The introduction and adoption of agricultural inputs such as improved seeds, fertilisers and better farming methods (such as slash ploughing, sowing seeds in rows, water pumps, modern beehives) have produced significant increases in productivity and earnings.

There were competing narratives on whether agriculture was becoming more desirable to young people as a result. Participants felt that these developments were making agriculture more and more profitable and therefore more appealing. But they felt that there was a huge obstacle in engaging in it – scarcity of land. Although the dominant view was that young people are disinterested in agriculture, some participants pointed out that this was not always the case.

A slightly more positive attitude towards agriculture was evident among young people who had left school, either failing to complete high school for various reasons or to qualify for higher level education. Although this group of respondents were equally aware of the grimness of traditional agriculture and the life of the common farmer, many were not dismissive of agriculture as a possible future livelihood, while a few even saw it as a preferred livelihood option, under improved conditions.

Recognizing agriculture as a viable employment option is even more challenging when economic and social restrictions related to access to productive resources (eg land, credit and improved seeds) are taken into account. All these limitations are exacerbated for young women who, in general, have no prospect of land access due to rules of inheritance, and who know that they will mainly have to work for their husbands (ILO, 2016).

Although the government considers rural educated youth as instrumental in bringing about a transformation in agricultural skills, knowledge and productivity, it has not effectively addressed either the attitude of many young people towards agriculture or the obstacles preventing their entry into the sector.

To create opportunities commensurate with the number of young people who will need employment, constraints on the acquisition of capital, land, and skills must be removed or relaxed.

A few selected initiatives are delineated below.

Allowing alternative forms of collateral, such as chattel mortgages, warehouse receipts, and the future harvest, can ease the credit constraints-especially for young farmers. The OHADA7 Uniform Act on Secured Transactions, in effect in 17 Sub-Saharan African countries, was amended at the end of 2010 to allow borrowers to use a wide range of assets as collateral, including warehouse receipts and movable property such as machinery, equipment, and receivables that remain in the hands of the debtor. Leasing also offers young farmers some relief, as it requires either no or less collateral than typically required by loans. A case in point is DFCU Leasing in Uganda, which gave more than US$4 million in farm equipment leases in 2002 for items such as rice hullers, dairy processing equipment, and maize milling equipment. Some outgrower arrangements prefinance inputs and assure marketing channels. In Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia, Rabo Development (a subsidiary of Rabobank) offers management services and technical assistance to financial institutions, which, in turn, finance supply chains with a range of agricultural clients.

The two aspects of land administration that matter most to young entrants to the labour force are the need to improve security of tenure and the need to relax controls on rental. Land redistribution will also enhance young people’s access to land. In general, policies and measures that help the poor to gain access to land will also help young people.

The growing food demand in Africa is a major avenue for agro-processing, which can easily be developed using small and medium-sized entities (SMEs). This option requires less capital, is more labour intensive and facilitates the proliferation of units in rural boroughs and small towns, offering employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, local value added and new incomes. Agro-processing SMEs can also facilitate the resolution of post-harvest problems, which are a significant issue in SSA resulting in a loss of revenue for farmers.

In the Niger Delta, for instance, the IFAD-supported Community Based Natural Resource Management Programme is promoting a new category of entrepreneur-cum-mentor called the ‘N-Agripreneur’. These N-Agripreneurs own and run medium-scale enterprises at different stages of food value chains. They deliver business development services to producers, especially young people, who are interested in agro-based activities, such as farming as a business, small-scale processing, input supply and marketing.

In order to enable young people to respond to the environmental, economic and nutrition challenges of the future, they must develop suitable capacities. A case in point is ICTs which can develop young people’s capacities, while improving communication and easing access to information and decision-making processes. Investing in extending these technologies to rural areas, in particular targeting young people – who are generally more adaptable to their use – has allowed them to keep themselves up-to-date with market information and new opportunities.

In sum, there is an abundance of remunerative employment opportunities for the youth in rural areas that could dispel the mirage through imaginative government policies.

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Aid Groups Sound Alarm on DRC Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 09:25:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152989 The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the international community must step in before it worsens, humanitarian agencies warn. The escalation of ethnic clashes in southeastern DRC in recent months has left millions displaced and on the verge of starvation. In the past year alone, the […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 13 2017 (IPS)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the international community must step in before it worsens, humanitarian agencies warn.

The escalation of ethnic clashes in southeastern DRC in recent months has left millions displaced and on the verge of starvation.

In the past year alone, the conflict has displaced nearly 2 million, 850,000 of whom are children and some of whom have fled to the neighboring nations of Angola and Zambia. DRC already had the highest number of new displacements in the world in 2016.

Last month, the UN declared the DRC a level three humanitarian emergency—the highest possible classification on par with Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

“The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear,” said Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) DRC Country Director Ulrika Blom.

“The UN system-wide L3 response is only activated for the world’s most complex and challenging emergencies, when the entire aid system needs to scale up and respond to colossal needs.”

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), over 3 million people in the Kasai region are severely food-insecure, exacerbating hunger and malnutrition.

“As many as 250,000 children could starve in Kasai in the next few months unless enough nutritious food reaches them quickly,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley after a four-day mission to the central African country.

NRC said that over 80 percent of people in displacement camps in Tanganyika province did not have access to clean drinking water, heightening the risk of cholera outbreaks.

Though WFP and NRC are both scaling up assistance, aid agencies are constrained by challenges in funds and access.

The UN’s humanitarian response appeal for DRC is only 33 percent funded, the lowest level of funding for the country in more than 10 years, while WFP has received only one percent of the 135 million dollars needed for the next eight months.

Multiple active militias, poor road networks, and the upcoming rainy season further impede humanitarian access.

Swift intervention is needed now to stop the conflict and address humanitarian needs in order to prevent “long-term chaos,” Beasley said.

Though some families have been able to return to their villages in Kasai, Beasley noted that many could not work on their fields for fear of being attacked again.

“I have met too many women and children whose lives have been reduced to a desperate struggle for survival…that’s heartbreaking, and it’s unacceptable,” he said.

Blom expressed hope that a level three emergency classification will bring in more funds, and highlighted the importance of having such resources be flexible.

For instance, North Kivu, which hosts the largest number of displaced people in the country, is not included within the UN’s emergency classification. Blom said that though North Kivu is not experiencing the same level of violence as seen in Kasai, the conflict’s unpredictable nature could change this.

“Resources coming into the country must be flexible so we can put them to use where needs and gaps arise. Lives depend on it,” she warned.

DRC’s long-standing conflict has left over 8 million people in need of assistance and protection. The most recent iteration of the crisis has partly been fueled by the refusal of President Joseph Kabila to step down after his mandate expired in December 2016

Beasley said he saw the horror in survivor’s eyes as they told stories of beheadings and sexual violence.

“The Kasai region, it was rather appalling in ways that are truly hard to explain, in ways you actually don’t want to explain.”

According to a mission report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), security forces and militias “actively fomented, fueled, and occasionally led, attacks on the basis of ethnicity.”

Witnesses told OCHR that two pregnant women’s foetus’ were removed and allegedly chopped into pieces, while another two women were accused of being witches and were beheaded.

Among the survivors was a woman who was raped with a rifle barrel four hours after giving birth. “I did not end up like the others because I lied on the ground pretend to be dead…and I hid my baby under my body,” she told OHCHR. Her newborn baby was reportedly shot twice in the head.

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Conservation Agriculture: Zambia’s Double-edged Sword against Climate Change and Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger/#comments Tue, 07 Nov 2017 15:41:58 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152923 As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020. While achieving this goal requires […]

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Minimum tillage (ripping) in Kasiya Camp, Zambia. Credit: Crissy Mupuchi/DAPP

Minimum tillage (ripping) in Kasiya Camp, Zambia. Credit: Crissy Mupuchi/DAPP

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, Nov 7 2017 (IPS)

As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020.

While achieving this goal requires serious mitigation ambitions, developing country parties such as Zambia have also been emphasising adaptation as enshrined in Article 2 (b) of the Paris Agreement: Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.“My skepticism turned into real optimism when the two hectares I cultivated under conservation farming redeemed me from a near disaster when the five hectares under conventional farming completely failed." --farmer Damiano Malambo

The emphasis by developing country parties on this aspect stems from the fact that negative effects of climate change are already taking a toll on people’s livelihoods. Prolonged droughts and flash floods have become common place, affecting Agricultural production and productivity among other ecosystem based livelihoods, putting millions of people’s source of food and nutrition in jeopardy.

It is worth noting that Zambia’s NDC focuses on adaptation. According to Winnie Musonda of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “There are three mitigation components—renewable energy development, conservation farming and forest management, while adaptation, which has a huge chunk of the support programme, has sixteen components all of which require implementation.”

This therefore calls for the tireless efforts of all stakeholders, especially mobilisation and leveraging of resources, and community participation anchored on the community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) approach.

Considering the country’s ambitious emission cuts, conservation agriculture offers a good starting point for climate resilience in agriculture because it has legs in both mitigation and adaptation, as agriculture is seen as both a contributor as well as a solution to carbon emissions.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Conservation Agriculture (CA) is an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security, while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. Minimum tillage, increased organic crop cover and crop rotation are some of the key principles of Conservation Agriculture.

As a key stakeholder in agriculture development, FAO is doing its part by supporting the Ministry of Agriculture in the implementation of the Conservation Agriculture Scaling Up (CASU) project. Targeting to benefit a total of 21,000 lead farmers and an additional 315,000 follower farmers, the project’s overall goal is to contribute to reduced hunger, improved food security, nutrition and income while promoting sustainable use of natural resources in Zambia.

So what is emerging after implementation of the 11 million Euro project? “The acid test was real in 2015 when the rainfall pattern was very bad,” says Damiano Malambo, a CA farmer of Pemba district in Southern Zambia. “My skepticism turned into real optimism when the two hectares I cultivated under conservation farming redeemed me from a near disaster when the five hectares under conventional farming completely failed.”

The bad season that farmer Malambo refers to was characterized by El Nino, which affected agricultural production for most African countries, especially in the Southern African region, leaving millions of people without food. But as the case was with farmer Malambo, CA farmers thrived amidst these tough conditions as the CASU project discovered in its snap assessment.

“CA has proved to be more profitable than conventional agriculture”, says Precious Nkandu Chitembwe, FAO Country Communications Officer. “In seasons when other farmers have struggled, we have seen our CA farmers emerging with excellent results”, she adds, pointing out that the promotion of legumes and a ready market has improved household nutrition and income security for the farmers involved in CA.

And farmer Malambo is a living testimony. “In the last two seasons, I have doubled my cattle herd from 30 to 60, I have bought two vehicles and my overall annual production has increased from about 150 to 350 by 50kg bags.

“I am particularly happy with the introduction of easy to grow cash crops such as cowpeas and soybeans which are not only money spinners but also nutritious for my family—see how healthy this boy is from soya-porridge,” says Malambo pointing at his eight-year-old grandchild.

While Zambia boasts a stable food security position since the introduction of government farmer input subsidies in early 2000s, the country’s record on nutrition leaves much to be desired. Hence, the recent ranking of the country in the top ten hungriest countries in the world on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) may not come as a surprise, as the most recent Zambia Demographic and Health survey shows that 40 per cent of children are stunted.

The GHI, now in its 12th year, ranks countries based on four key indicators—undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, of the countries for which scores could be calculated, the top 10 countries with the highest level of hunger are Central African Republic, Chad, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Zambia, Yemen, Sudan, Liberia, Niger and Timor-Leste.

“The results of this year’s Global Hunger Index show that we cannot waiver in our resolve to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030,” says Shenggen Fan, director general of IFPRI, adding that progress made since 2000 is threatened, emphasising the need to establish resilience for communities at risk of disruption to their food systems from weather shocks or conflict.

It is worth noting that Zambia has recognized the challenges of nutrition and has put in place several multi-sectoral measures such as the First 1000 Most Critical Days campaign—an integrated approach to address stunting by tackling both direct and indirect causes of under-nutrition. Unlike the standalone strategies of the past, the 1000 Most Critical Days campaign brings together all key Ministries and stakeholders of which the Ministry of Agriculture is a key stakeholder and entry point.

And the implementation of CA, of which crop diversification is a key principle, is one of the Ministry’s contributions to the overall objective of fighting under-nutrition. As alluded to by farmer Malambo, promotion of crops such as soy beans and cowpeas among other food legumes is critical to achieving household nutrition security.

“With a known high demand for good nutrition in the country, especially for rural populations, soybean and other food legumes offer an opportunity to meet this demand—from soybean comes soy milk which is as competitive as animal milk in terms of nutrition, use in the confectionary industry and other numerous value addition options at household level for nutritional diversity,” explains Turnbull Chama, Technical Assistant, Climate Change component at the FAO Country Office.

While CA is a proven approach to climate resilience in agricultural production for food and nutrition security, its adoption has not been without hitches. According to a study conducted by the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), adoption rates for Conservation Agriculture in Zambia are still very low.

The study, which used data from the 2015 national representative rural household survey, found that only 8.8% of smallholder households adopted CA in the 2013/14 season. The report notes, however, that social factors, such as belief in witchcraft and prayer as enhancement of yields, were found to influence decision-making considerably.

But for the Southern Province Principal Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Paul Nyambe, CA adoption should not be measured in a generic manner.

“The package for conservation agriculture is huge, if you measure all components as a package, adoption is low but if you looked at the issues of tillage or land preparation, you will find that the adoption rates are very high,” he says. “So, that’s why sometimes you hear of stories of poor adoption because there are several factors that determine the adoption of various principles within the package of conservation agriculture.”

Agreeing with these sentiments, Douty Chibamba, a lecturer at the University of Zambia Department of Geography and Environmental studies, offers this advice.

“It would be thus important for future policies and donor projects to allow flexibility in CA packaging because farmers make decisions to adopt or not based on individual components of CA and not CA as a package,” says Chibamba, who is also chairperson of the Advisory and Approvals committee of the Zambia Civil Society Environment Fund phase two, funded by the Finnish Embassy and managed by Panos Institute Southern Africa under its (CBNRM) forum.

This year’s World Food Day was themed around investing in food security and rural development to change the future of migration—which has over the years been proved to be as a result of the former. And FAO Country Representative George Okechi stresses that his organization is committed to supporting Zambia in rural development and food security to reduce rural-urban drift.

“With our expertise and experience, working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, we continue providing policy support to ensure that farmers get desired services for rural development,” says Okechi.

“We are also keen to help farmers cope with effects of climate change which make people make a move from rural areas to urban cities in search of opportunities,” he added, in apparent reference to Climate Smart Agriculture initiatives that FAO is implementing in Zambia, among which is CASU.

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Climate Change Summit a Step Further, Yes… But Where To?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-change-summit-step-yes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-summit-step-yes http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-change-summit-step-yes/#respond Mon, 06 Nov 2017 14:12:41 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152903 The UN Climate Change Summit in Bonn is a step further, most experts say. Fine, but towards what? On the one hand, the organisers – the UN, Fiji and Germany – express strong hopes that it will speed up the implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. On the other, a giant contributor to […]

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Scene from Codrington town in Barbuda during the Secretary-General’s visit to survey the damage caused by recent hurricanes. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 6 2017 (IPS)

The UN Climate Change Summit in Bonn is a step further, most experts say. Fine, but towards what?

On the one hand, the organisers – the UN, Fiji and Germany – express strong hopes that it will speed up the implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

On the other, a giant contributor to global warming – the United States – decided to desert that milestone Agreement. Meanwhile, major European powers have been, again, prodigious in unmet promises.

The UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn is the next step for governments to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement and accelerate the transformation to sustainable, resilient and climate-safe development, said Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on this major event, in the former German capital, on 6-17 November 2017.

As such Convention, the Bonn-based UNFCCC is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent “dangerous human interference|” with the climate system.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement entered into force on November 2017 and the era of implementation has begun, reminds Espinosa, emphasising that the Bonn conference will further clarify the enabling frameworks that will make the agreement fully operational and the support needed for all nations to achieve their climate change goals.

“It is also an excellent example of the cooperation and collaboration between nations that will truly meet the global climate change challenge… This meeting is incredibly important.”

The conference –known as the signatory countries or Contracting Parties 23 session (COP 23)– is presided over by the government of Fiji with support by Germany. Prior to its opening, Espinosa encouraged governments, the private sector, and civil society organisations to be ready to work together to “accelerate implementation and take the crucial next steps towards transformative change.”

“We all have a role to play, and COP 23 will shine a light on both action underway and the many possible actions every individual and institution can take moving forward.”

Although small island states contribute the least to climate change, they bear the brunt of its effects. Credit: FAO/Sue Price


The Polluters Do (Not) Pay Principle

This is on the one hand. On the other, the US administration announced that it would promote coal, natural gas, fossil oil and nuclear energy as an answer to the climate change challenge. And the US President Donald Trump spelled out in September this year his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

In spite of this negative development, the UNFCCC executive secretary expressed optimism ahead of the last Group of the seven more industrialised powers (G 7)–The Web of Paris Cannot Be Broken by One Missing Link, she said on July 7.

The point is that is it is not about the US only. In fact, other major contributors to global warming and gas emissions, such as many European highly industrialised countries, have been heralding day after day their formal commitment to reduce gas emissions, expand the use of alternative sources of energy, and a long etcetera.

So far, major car-makers have been very active promoting the sale of vehicles moved by electric and, hybrid engines.

For now, China as a key source of pollution seems to be addressing the need to slow down the fast process of climate change in a serious manner.

The Visible Dangers

Meantime, the grave impacts of climate change are visible on almost all fronts. See: Floods, Hurricanes, Droughts… When Climate Sets the Agenda

At the same time, the leaders of two top UN specialised organisations, have been warning that Climate change migration is reaching crisis proportions. See: Climate Migrants Might Reach One Billion by 2050

Another major UN organisation has recently explained the reasons of the massive displacement of people. See: The Roots of Exodus: Why Are People Compelled to Leave their Homes?

In Barbuda, Secretary-General António Guterres walks through Codrington town and meets with returnees. Credit:UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


One key cause of the growing, dangerous impact of climate change is the prevailing economic model consisting of voracious depletion of natural resources in both production and consumption patterns has proved to be one of the world’s main killers due to the huge pollution it causes for air, land and soil, marine and freshwater. See: Pollution or How the ‘Take-Make-Dispose’ Economic Model Does Kill

And the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has warned that pressures on global land resources are now greater than ever, as a rapidly increasing population coupled with rising levels of consumption is placing ever-larger demands on the world’s land-based natural capita. See: Alert: Nature, on the Verge of Bankruptcy.

On top of this and that, the United Nations weather agency announced on 30 October 2017 that the levels of carbon dioxide (C02) surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016.

Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued this warning in Geneva, at the launch of the organisation’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

The report indicates that carbon dioxide concentrations reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400 ppm in 2015. “We have never seen such big growth in one year as we have been seeing last year in carbon dioxide concentration,” said Taalas.

The WMO chief said “We are not moving in the right direction at all… In fact we are actually moving in the wrong direction when we think about the implementation of the Paris Agreement …”

A Common Cause, Really?

The UNFCCC explains that the Paris Agreement builds upon this Convention and – for the first time – brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim –it reminds– is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The central aim should definitely be to prevent the growing everyday human dramas such as the loss of food security and means of survival, the forced need to abandon their homes and families to face death and brutality at the hands of smugglers and human traffickers, to be exploited as “modern” slaves, and to prevent the world’s seas and oceans from being home to more plastic than fish.

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Women and Malnutrition in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-malnutrition-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-malnutrition-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-malnutrition-africa/#comments Tue, 31 Oct 2017 15:55:42 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152836 Raghav Gaiha, is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

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Raghav Gaiha, is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

By Raghav Gaiha and Vani S. Kulkarni
NEW DELHI and PHILADELPHIA, Oct 31 2017 (IPS)

Undernutrition is widespread and a key reason for poor child health in many developing countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, around 40 percent of children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth, that is, severely reduced height-for-age relative to their growth potential. Stunting is a result of periods of undernutrition in early childhood, and it has been found to have a series of adverse long-term effects in those who survive childhood. It is negatively associated with mental development, human capital accumulation, adult health, and with economic productivity and income levels in adulthood.

Raghav Gaiha

Vitamin A deficiency is associated with the higher risk of morbidity and mortality, and ocular disorders such as night blindness, xerophthalmia and blindness, affecting infants, children and women during pregnancy and lactation. African regions account for the greatest number of preschool children with night blindness and for more than one-quarter of all children with subclinical vitamin A deficiency.

The central premise is that agricultural development has enormous potential to make significant contribution in reducing malnutrition and the associated ill health. With its close links to both the immediate causes of undernutrition (diets, feeding practices, and health) and its underlying determinants (such as income, education, access to WASH – water, sanitation and hygiene- and health services, and gender equity), the agriculture sector can play a strong role in improving nutrition outcomes.

Women are vitally important agents, both in their roles as producers and as custodians of household welfare. Their importance, moreover, is generally greater in the lowest-income settings and among households with high dependency ratios—in which a large proportion of household members are nonearning and often nutritionally vulnerable dependents.

The resources and income flows that women control often have positive impacts on household health and nutrition. In some countries, women tend to lack access to economic opportunities outside the domestic sphere to which traditional customs often confine them, especially in rural areas. They are also very often severely constrained by time and the multiple—often simultaneous—roles they play as producers and caregivers. Agricultural programmes and policies that empower and enable women and that involve them in decisions and activities throughout the life of the programme achieve greater nutritional impacts.

Vani S. Kulkarni

Although women comprise more than 50% of the agricultural workforce in most of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region, the productivity gap between men and women farmers persists. To illustrate how wide the gap is, in Tanzania, Malawi, and Uganda narrowing the gender gap in agricultural productivity has the potential of raising the gross domestic product by USD 105 million, USD 100 million, and USD 65 million, respectively (IFAD,FAO and WFP, 2015). Women farmers typically use lower levels of purchased technological inputs, such as fertilizer and high-yielding seed varieties. That women lack access to these key technological inputs explains a significant portion of the productivity gap. They are often hesitant to adopt these technologies if they do not control the benefits that accrue from adopting. Moreover, women also face unique challenges, due to their lifecycle and reproductive roles, which further influence their participation on- and off-farm.

In Kenya, new varieties of sweet potatoes rich in beta-carotene were introduced to women farmers with an end goal of improving vitamin A intake of young children, thereby preventing vitamin A deficiency. There was a significant increase in the intake of vitamin A-rich foods, among children whose mothers received both the production-focused intervention of planting materials and access to agricultural extension services, and the consumption-focused intervention of nutrition education and training in food processing and preparation. By contrast, there was a decrease in vitamin A intake among children whose mothers received only the production-focused inputs. This example suggests that: (a) women’s farm production offers an entry point for interventions that can improve nutrition; and (b) interventions that increase women’s agricultural productivity and increase their health and nutrition knowledge may yield more benefits than ones that target only productivity or only knowledge.

In Ethiopia, a women-focused goat development project was expanded to include interventions to promote vitamin A intake, nutrition and health education, training in gardening and food preparation, and distribution of vegetable seeds. Goat owning households consumed all produced milk; 87% by the adults as hoja; children in the participating households had slightly more diversified diets; they were also more likely to consume milk more than 4 times a day. As substitutions occur between foods, in the absence of anthropometric indicators, nothing definitive could be inferred about improvements in child nutrition.

Women’s employment in agriculture has positive impacts on nutrition in the household when women have decision-making power over resource allocation. In Uganda, for example, evidence from randomized controlled trials showed positive impacts from biofortified crops, including orange-fleshed sweet potato, on vitamin A status among women and children. Ownership of livestock was associated with better household food security in Kampala. However, there were mixed impacts on the links between women’s empowerment, intrahousehold decision-making, and better nutrition outcomes.

Failure to understand cultural norms and the gender dynamics within the household can result in unanticipated outcomes. In the Gambia, for example, a project geared to increasing women’s rice production was so successful that the land it was grown on was reclassified internally within the household. This resulted in output from that land being sold by men as opposed to women. Women therefore lost their original income stream, but remained committed to increased labour.

Vegetables and legumes are often regarded as women’s crops. Recognizing this, a project in Togo was successful because it promoted the introduction of soybeans as a legume rather than as a cash crop. Promotion as a cash crop would have resulted in the crop switching to male control. Interventions promoting the production of animal source foods also assessed their impact on maternal income or women’s control over income. The results were quite mixed. For example, an intervention involving intensified dairy farming in Kenya showed that an important share of the additional income was controlled by women, whereas in Ethiopia men’s incomes benefited significantly more from intensified dairying than did women’s. Whether women’s income is likely to increase depends on the livestock or aquaculture production system, the nature of the intervention, and cultural beliefs and practices relating to gender. Even if the intervention is targeted to women’s livestock and aquaculture activities, women lose control over the income generated by those activities.

In conclusion, it is arguable that there are improved impacts on nutrition if agricultural interventions are targeted to women and when specific work is done around women’s empowerment (for example, through behaviour change communication), mediated through women’s time use, women’s own health and nutrition status, and women’s access to and control over resources as well as intrahousehold decision-making power. That this may be dismissed out of hand is not unlikely either, given the persistence of male dominance.

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Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/sustainable-water-management-lever-green-growth-ethiopia-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-water-management-lever-green-growth-ethiopia-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/sustainable-water-management-lever-green-growth-ethiopia-region/#respond Tue, 31 Oct 2017 14:58:24 +0000 Peter Vos http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152825 Peter Vos is Global Sector Lead Water, Global Green Growth Institute

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Renewable energy sources are not available to every country, never mind their still high capital and installation costs, which can be restraining factors

Credit: Bigstock

By Peter Vos
ADDIS ABABA, Oct 31 2017 (IPS)

Sustainable water supply is imperative for economic growth, but so often gets side-lined in the rush for development. The unanticipated consequence is a global economy that is increasingly stunted by water resource challenges, with worldwide predictions suggesting that global water demand will increase by approximately 75% more than global water supply in the next 30 years!

For most of Africa, economic development, urbanisation and food security have traditionally been linked by a strong but delicate bond, with poor management of national resources threatening to destroy this balance. In Ethiopia, extreme hydrological variability (climate change) has also been a key impediment to sustainable water management, resulting in periods of severe drought for this ‘Water tower of Africa’. The Government of Ethiopia has set ambitious targets for broad-based economic growth in its Second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP-II), with the ambition of becoming a lower middle-income country by 2025. These targets will heavily depend on and impact available freshwater sources. As a result, water efficiency increase and water conservation are now increasingly seen as critical for ensuring future water resources.

Based on the premise of ‘increased water efficiency’ as opposed to ‘increased water resources’, key policy and investment specialists from both the public and private sector gathered in Addis Ababa on 17 October to discuss Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Region, as part of the Global Green Growth Week 2017. Co-moderated by Peter Vos (Global Water Sector Lead of the Global Green Growth Institute) and Kitty van der Heijden (Director of Africa and Europe of the World Resource Institute), the session attracted some 70 actors and stakeholders from the local and international water sector. Featuring six distinguished panellists, the primary question reiterated throughout the session was what are the main impediments to sustainable water management, and what innovative tools can be used to solve these?

 

Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Region

Figure 1

 

The audience set the scene on the current water situation in their region, with 77% saying that they were very worried that the lack of water resources could impact economic growth (Figure 1). However, 84% also said that access to clean, reliable water resources has improved over the past 10 years (Figure 2), shining a positive light on the situation. This optimism was echoed by panellist H.E. Dr. Mary Kitutu (Minister of State for Environment of Uganda) and keynote speaker Tesfaye Fichala (Special Assistant to the Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Electricity of Ethiopia), who gave examples of large scale reforestation and wetland restoration success stories in Uganda, and the positive impacts of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) to date. Sustainable water management, particularly at the energy-water nexus, is essential for both Ethiopia and Uganda who aim to become middle income countries in the next 10 years.

 

Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Region

Figure 2

 

Most participants agreed that sustainable water management is primarily a function of the government, with research institutions, civil society and the private sector also having a prominent role (Figure 3). Panellist Joy Busolo (Kenya representative of the 2030 Water Resources Group) stressed the importance for collective action and collaboration, as “the private sector has a role to play in terms of innovative financial mechanisms, and a main priority for 2030 WRG is to crowd more private sector finance”. Panellist Tafese Refera (Director of Public Affairs and Communication of Coca Cola Sabco) shared similar sentiments, stating that water is a major worry for Coca Cola, and increasing the sustainability of water resources is a major concern. In the last two decades, four of the seven boreholes drilled in Ethiopia have completely dried up, and local bottling companies are committed to financially investing a large portion of their profits to sustainable water practices. He stated that it is not simply a case of raising the cost of water, as “by raising costs, we are ultimately marginalising the poor”. Panellist Khalid Bomba (CEO of the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, ATA) added that from his experience, ownership by local communities is far more important than putting a price tag on water, as local communities will ensure that water use is sustainable.

 

Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Region

Figure 3

 

Both the audience and panellists agreed that effective water policies is one of the most influential tools for promoting sustainable water management. Panellists Khalid Bomba and Dr. Gete Eshetu (Director of the Water and Land Resource Centre, WLRC, Addis Ababa University) stressed the importance of evidence-based policy interventions as a powerful tool for change. An abundance of data is available, but is often scattered and not always easily translated into practical application. “Ensuring that the knowledge base and available data is fully robust, and that decision-makers have access to it and know what to do with it”, is a key challenge that Khalid Bomba has identified for his organisation. In a region where the agriculture sector accounts for more than 70% of water demand, many organisations focus on quantifying water sustainability, with the ATA having mapped 70% of the shallow groundwater, and the WLRC addressing the challenges of land degradation and associated poverty in Ethiopia and the eastern Nile sub-region, to name just a few.

Ethiopia will undoubtedly be confronted by numerous water challenges on its path to economic transformation, but this session serves as a reminder to the wealth of ideas and opportunities that that can arise from collaboration. ‘Accessible data, awareness on all levels, sustainable investments, political willingness, policy coherence, multi-sectoral partnerships, involvement of the private sector, water fees, and land restoration’ are some of the suggested solutions that could guide Ethiopia on a path to sustainable water management.

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Impending Drought? There’s an App for That – Or Should Behttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/impending-drought-theres-app/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=impending-drought-theres-app http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/impending-drought-theres-app/#comments Mon, 30 Oct 2017 20:48:34 +0000 Sam Otieno http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152807 Fostering and harnessing innovative technologies could significantly reduce the negative impacts from climate change, including drought, water scarcity and food insecurity in African countries. According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) by 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions. […]

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A cornfield in Zimbabwe shrivels under poor rainfall conditions that affected the crop nationwide. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

A cornfield in Zimbabwe shrivels under poor rainfall conditions that affected the crop nationwide. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Sam Otieno
NAIROBI, Oct 30 2017 (IPS)

Fostering and harnessing innovative technologies could significantly reduce the negative impacts from climate change, including drought, water scarcity and food insecurity in African countries.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) by 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions. By 2050, the demand for water is expected to increase by 50 percent.Drought-prone regions also run the risk of becoming a breeding ground for insurgencies, extremism, and terrorism across borders.

Likewise, drought caused as a result of climate change, a complex global phenomenon with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts, is causing more deaths and displacing more people than any other natural disaster.

UNCCD told IPS that extreme and erratic weather events such as droughts, flash floods, hurricanes, and typhoons increase food insecurity. For instance, droughts create food shortages. Flashfloods erode fertile soil. These phenomena degrade the land, reducing its capacity to absorb and store water, in turn, its productivity.

Therefore, the continent needs a paradigm shift that would lead to the effective mitigation and resilience to the effects of climate change.

For example, implementing early warning systems and new technologies by metrological agencies, use of cell phones to share climate information with local communities, the creation of climate maps and deployment of drones to collect climate data.

“Comprehensive early warning systems would help countries to analyze drought risk, to monitor and predict the location and intensity of an upcoming drought, to alert and communicate in time to the authorities, media and vulnerable communities and to inform affected populations what options or courses of action they can take to pre-empt or reduce the potential impact of an oncoming drought,” said UNCCD.

According to UNCCD, adopting smart tech strategies would help Africa to address the drought challenges in many ways, depending on the action strategy and the technology and its application. For herders and pastoralists in the African drylands, for example, smart techs/mobile applications would help increase the security of pastoral zones by guiding them to the nearest water resources so as to ensure year-round access to grazing and water.

Moreover, it would support them to create networks as they arrive in unfamiliar communities, helping them gather relevant information related to their livestock as well as access to emergency management and weather.

According to the Confronting Drought in Africa’s Drylands: Opportunities for Enhancing Resilience report, while drought is a global phenomenon, the impacts are more severe in developing countries where coping capacities are limited.

In sub-Saharan Africa, drought causes significant food insecurity and famine. It has crippled countries from Ethiopia to Zimbabwe and affected as many as 36 million people in the region.

Drought in sub-Saharan Africa is also associated with social unrest, local conflict, and forced migration. Drought-prone regions run the risk of becoming a breeding ground for insurgencies, extremism, and terrorism across borders.

Nicholas Sitko, Programme Coordinator, Agricultural Development Economics Divisions at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and an expert in rural development with extensive experience in Africa, told IPS that much needs to be done in Africa, where large shares of the population rely directly on agriculture production or indirectly on agriculture.

When farmers have knowledge of impending climate events, they can select more appropriate seed types or crop varieties, or can shift their investments and labor to other activities that are less prone to the climate shock.

“This is really critical for building resilience to climate change. The use of new forecasting models coupled with ICT that can link this information to policymakers and farmers provides new opportunities for adaptation than existed just a few years ago. Yet, they still remain fairly limited in scope and need to be scaled out to more users,” said Sitko.

He noted that there is already a range of on-the-shelf farm practices that can help farmers improve and stabilize yields in the context of climate change, but what is appropriate for a farmer varies considerably by climate region and their economic conditions.

FAO is working with the World Meteorological Organization to better respond to climate variability and climate change on the basis of better and more readily accessible data.

Speaking at a G7 Agriculture Ministers meeting on Oct. 14, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva noted that some 75 countries mainly in Africa, and many Small Island Developing States (SIDS), do not have the capacity to translate the weather data, including longer-term forecasts, data into information for farmers.

“There is an urgent need to take the data which is available globally and to translate it to the ground level,” he said.

Florence Atieno, a smallholder farmer from Western Kenya, would welcome technology that enabled farmers to obtain accurate scientific information on when to plant, to assess the mineral deficiencies in the soil to purchase the right fertilizers, to access knowledge about improved farming techniques and to negotiate better prices for their crop.

She told IPS not all people, systems, regions and sectors are equally vulnerable to drought, stressing that it was important to combine forecasts with detailed knowledge of how landscapes and societies respond to the lack of rain. That knowledge is then turned into an early intervention.

“Africa needs to understand who is vulnerable and why, as well as the processes that contribute to vulnerability in order to assess the risk profiles of vulnerable regions and population groups,” said Atieno.

 

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Who is Really Responsible for Collapse of Zimbabwe’s Health Services?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/really-responsible-collapse-zimbabwes-health-services/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=really-responsible-collapse-zimbabwes-health-services http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/really-responsible-collapse-zimbabwes-health-services/#respond Fri, 27 Oct 2017 14:29:05 +0000 Frederic Mousseau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152765 Frédéric Mousseau* is Policy Director at the Oakland Institute

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Many children under 15 in Zimbabwe discover their HIV status only when they fall critically ill later in life. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/ IPS

By Frederic Mousseau
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, Oct 27 2017 (IPS)

On October 22, 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it had removed Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador following outrage and concerns raised by his appointment just two days before.

A Guardian article cited WHO member states and activists “who noted that Zimbabwe’s health care system, like many of its public services, has collapsed under Mugabe’s regime.” Another article explained “Mugabe, 93, is blamed in the West for destroying Zimbabwe’s economy and numerous human rights abuses during his 37 years leading the country as either president or prime minister.”

Regardless of Robert Mugabe’s fitness for the position, these commentaries do call for a clarification around who and what exactly destroyed the Zimbabwean economy and its health system.

Zimbabwe’s economic collapse started after the land reform initiated in 2000. The reform intended to remedy the skewed land repartition that was inherited from the British colonial era, during which 5,000 white farmers took possession of around half of the country’s land, leaving several million black Zimbabweans on overcrowded, less fertile land.

For many observers, it became clear in the 1990s that giving land back to black farmers was necessary to fight hunger and poverty in Zimbabwe. As stated by the World Bank “land redistribution was critical for poverty alleviation, essential for political sustainability, and imperative for increasing economic efficiency.” However, rich countries rejected the government’s requests for support for a smooth reform.

In a letter to the Zimbabwean government in November 1997, U.K. Secretary of State for International Development, Ms Claire Short bluntly stated: “I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new Government from diverse backgrounds without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers.”

It is largely this flat rejection that resulted in the radical and violent implementation of the land reform in 2000 through which the white farms were confiscated and transferred to black farmers. Lacking resources, technical skills, and adequate support, the black farmers who resettled in these farms were initially often not able to restore the previous levels of production.

The drop in production and export earnings contributed to the economic crisis faced by the country in the early 2000s. However, ten years later, development experts recognized the reform as a success, having transferred the land occupied by some 4,000 white farmers to over one million black Zimbabweans who had restored agricultural production and improved their livelihoods.

The reform was met with anger by several Western governments, who took punitive measures including economic sanctions and cutting down development aid to the country. In the years following the reform, aid from the UK and the US went through a major shift that prioritized emergency food aid distributed by Western NGOs over public funding to health and agriculture assistance.

In the following years, despite a prevalence of HIV/Aids exceeding 20% – one of the highest in the world- Zimbabwe was excluded from the Global Fund against HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis. The disease claimed 3,000 lives every week – 170,000 per year by the mid-2000s. The number of orphans reached over 910,000 in 2005 – 20 percent of the country’s children.

Life expectancy dropped to 34 years in 2005 compared to 61 in the 1990s. The anti-retroviral drugs remained inaccessible to the majority of HIV/Aids infected people – out of 295,000 persons needing treatment, only 9,000 received it in 2004.

In May 2005, a grant of USD 10 million was provided through the Global Funds against a request for help of more than USD 300 million made by the government. Even with this grant, Zimbabwe remained the least assisted country with just over USD 1 per capita provided by the Global Fund.

A comparison with other countries in the region shows the extent of the punishment: South Africa received five times more per capita funding; Namibia, 58 times; and Swaziland, 112 times. Furthermore, Zimbabwe was also excluded from other aid packages such as the US President Initiative on HIV/Aids and the PEPFAR program.


In March 2005, the Director of UNICEF warned that “despite the world’s fourth highest rate of HIV infection and the greatest rise in child mortality in any nation, Zimbabweans receive just a fraction of donor funding compared to other countries in the region” and appealed to donors “to look beyond politics and to differentiate between the politics and the people of Zimbabwe.”

The extent of Western outrage created by the nomination of Robert Mugabe as WHO Ambassador is an indication that the so-called donors still don’t look beyond politics. They have never been able to digest the land reform –the threatening precedent that Zimbabwe created in the region, where land and agriculture are still much dominated by white farmers and agribusiness corporations (in South Africa, 80 percent of the agricultural land is still controlled by white farmers today).

It is quite ironic that the WHO’s Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, comes from Ethiopia, a close ally of the US and the UK. Both countries largely subsidize Ethiopia’s economy and don’t miss an occasion to praise its economic policy despite the government-led land grabbing and forced evictions of local farmers and pastoralists for the establishment of large-scale plantations.

Interesting food for thought for the new generation of African leaders.

* Frédéric Mousseau has conduccted numerous reviews and studies for international development agencies, including several research missions to investigate the crisis in Zimbabwe in the 2000s.

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Congo’s Wake Up Callhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/congos-wake-call/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=congos-wake-call http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/congos-wake-call/#respond Thu, 26 Oct 2017 05:43:37 +0000 Ulrika Blom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152740 Ulrika Blom is Country Director of the Norwegian Refugee Council in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She has worked in the country for five years.

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A family flee violence in Kamonia, Kasai province, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Credit: UNHCR/John Wessels

By Ulrika Blom
GOMA, DR Congo, Oct 26 2017 (IPS)

Late last week, the humanitarian community activated a Level 3 emergency for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This trigger in the global humanitarian system is seldom used, and only after serious deliberation by the top echelons of the UN system.

The alarm is uniquely activated for the world’s most complex and challenging emergencies. It is decided on based on five criteria: scale, complexity, urgency, capacity and reputational risk. It calls for the entire humanitarian system to scale up and respond to colossal needs.

Today, only three other crises are recognized as system-wide Level 3 emergencies: Syria, Yemen and Iraq. DR Congo has joined a club no nation actively seeks membership of.

How did we get here?

The central African nation passed a tipping point mid-last year when it recorded the highest increase of newly displaced people in the world. While the country’s Kivu provinces in the east have long been plagued by conflict, Grand Kasaï in the southcentral region saw widespread violence erupt. Almost a million people fled their homes across the country in 2016.

2017 has shown little sign of improvement. Another million people have been displaced so far this year, largely because of continued violence in Kasaï and the escalation of inter-communal fighting in Tanganyika province. An additional 100,000 Congolese have fled to neighbouring countries as refugees.

A dangerous thread flows through these crises – shocking levels of violence-related displacement, destruction of homes, attacks on schools, child-soldier recruitment and widespread humanitarian needs. It’s a toxic mix that has stretched the country’s humanitarian system to its limit.

Epicentre of the crisis

The Level 3 emergency was activated on 20 October across DR Congo, with a focus on Kasaï, Tanganyika and South Kivu provinces. Violence in Kasaï, Tanganyika and South Kivu has displaced millions over the past year. Close to 4.3 million people in these areas are estimated to face crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity.

The United Nations warns that further displacement is likely in these regions, as widespread armed group activities, unrest and violence fueled by ethnic and political conflict, affect many areas.

All this takes place against the backdrop of one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises. At least 8.5 million people across DR Congo need assistance and protection. Close to two million children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition. Disease outbreaks, including cholera, affect tens of thousands of people each year.

Aid organisations have asked for USD 812 million to respond to the crisis in 2017. That’s only USD 109 per person we want to help. Despite this, the aid appeal is just 32 per cent funded almost 11 months into the year, making DR Congo one of the most underfunded crises in the world.

The Norwegian Refugee Council was one of the first international aid organisations to respond to the crisis in Kasaï this year, providing food and school support for tens of thousands of people in need. Today, along with other relief agencies, we face the very daunting task of addressing immense needs on the ground without the capacity to properly respond.

Time to deliver

The recognition of DR Congo at the highest level of emergency will hopefully turn global attention, funds and resources towards the crisis. But it’s paramount that existing funding is not shifted around the country. New money needs to come in.

For example, North Kivu province hosts the largest number of displaced people the country – close to a million. However, the region is not included as an area of focus in the declaration of the upgraded emergency.

While North Kivu may not have the same level of recent violence as the Kasaï region, the conflict’s unpredictable nature means this could change quickly. Resources coming into the country must be flexible so we can put them to use where needs and gaps arise.

Countless lives depend on it.

A harsh lesson

DR Congo is a textbook example of what can happen when a crisis slips off the international radar. This cyclical conflict has decimated the country for decades. In the past few years, donor attention has waned and been diverted to emergencies elsewhere in the world. Protracted crises need long-term commitment. We should acknowledge the Congo case as evidence of this.

Our lack of action today will result in further hardship for millions of Congolese tomorrow and for generations to come. The international community must mobilize now to help those who have suffered in silence for too long.

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Time Running Out for Somaliland’s Crumbling and Neglected Treasureshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/time-running-somalilands-crumbling-neglected-treasures/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-running-somalilands-crumbling-neglected-treasures http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/time-running-somalilands-crumbling-neglected-treasures/#respond Thu, 26 Oct 2017 00:01:02 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152734 The name alone—Berbera—ripples with exotic resonance, conjuring images of tropical quays, swarthy traders and fiery sunsets imbued with smells of spices, incense and palm oil. Lying on the Gulf of Aden opposite Yemen, this ancient trading port’s sun-baked streets and waterline are steeped in history. The town’s old quarter is a wealth of pre-20th century […]

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“When I was a boy we thought these pictures had some sort of devilish connection,” says 57-year-old Musa Abdi, who has spent his whole life around Las Geel and these days helps look after the site. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

“When I was a boy we thought these pictures had some sort of devilish connection,” says 57-year-old Musa Abdi, who has spent his whole life around Las Geel and these days helps look after the site. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
BERBERA, Oct 26 2017 (IPS)

The name alone—Berbera—ripples with exotic resonance, conjuring images of tropical quays, swarthy traders and fiery sunsets imbued with smells of spices, incense and palm oil.

Lying on the Gulf of Aden opposite Yemen, this ancient trading port’s sun-baked streets and waterline are steeped in history. The town’s old quarter is a wealth of pre-20th century Ottoman architectural gems and old neighbourhoods where Arab, Indian and Jewish trading communities once thrived.“We have to act very soon if we are to save it from disappearing.” --Jama Musse, Director of the Red Sea Culture Centre

It would be a shoo-in candidate for becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site, some say, were it not for Somaliland’s political limbo that means it is still viewed as part of Somalia—which hasn’t ratified the 1972 World Heritage Convention—and the fact that many of the buildings are crumbling at such a rate that soon there may be nothing for UNESCO to consider.

“Neglect and lack of awareness among Somalilanders is making the problem worse,” says Jama Musse, director of the Red Sea Culture Centre in Hargeisa. “I have not heard of any restoration schemes, and unfortunately we have to act very soon if we are to save it from disappearing.”

Berbera’s old quarter isn’t the only site under threat. About 100 kilometres to the west, deep in the Somaliland scrub-land, are the caves of Las Geel.

“This is one of the most important rock art sites in eastern Africa for at least two reasons,” says Xavier Gutherz, who led the team of French archaeologists that in 2002 discovered Las Geel. “The high number and quality of execution of the panels of rock art, and the originality of the representations of cattle and characters.”

But some of the 5,000- to 10,000-year-old renditions of primordial life are now unrecognizable smears due to lack of protection from the elements and animal activity.

“There isn’t money to look after the site better, our tourism department is tiny,” says Abdisalam Mohamed who works in the few ramshackle offices belonging to Somaliland’s ministry of tourism in the centre of Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa.

Images of human figures among animals, some depicted drinking from udders, illustrate people living off herds. Hence Las Geel demonstrates, experts say, how the pastoralist lifestyle existed in the Horn of Africa region thousands of years before it reached Western Europe. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Images of human figures among animals, some depicted drinking from udders, illustrate people living off herds. Hence Las Geel demonstrates, experts say, how the pastoralist lifestyle existed in the Horn of Africa region thousands of years before it reached Western Europe. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Still unrecognized by the international community since declaring independence more than 25 years ago after a civil war when part of Somalia, Somaliland’s government has a tiny budget. It is unable to access global finance or loans, instead relying on diaspora remittances to bolster the economy.

Supporting tourism infrastructure simply isn’t a priority in such circumstances. Hence many of Somaliland’s historical highlights could be lost—and with them the very basis of a potential tourism industry that could help boost the livestock exporting-dependent economy and change global perspectives about this wannabe nation state.

In addition to inadequate maintenance of historical sites, lack of funding means another of Somaliland’s potential tourism assets barely registers on the radar: its beaches, stretching for about 850 kilometres, which are almost entirely undeveloped.

“There’s very little at the beaches in terms of infrastructure—there needs to be more,” says Georgina Jamieson with tourism consultancy service Dunira Strategy, which conducted a feasibility study of heritage tourism as a driver of sustainable economic growth in Somaliland.  “We concluded that over the short term that Somaliland’s historical sites are its strongest assets.”

Las Geel draws foreign tourists and the Somaliland diaspora alike. There are hopes the site can one day be part of an expansive tourism industry in Somaliland. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Las Geel draws foreign tourists and the Somaliland diaspora alike. There are hopes the site can one day be part of an expansive tourism industry in Somaliland. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Somaliland can also offer tourists exposure to nomadic and pastoralist traditions; Islamic history, such as the Masjid al-Qiblatayn ruins at the seaside village of Zeila, one of the few ancient mosques featuring two mihrabs indicating the direction of Mecca; and the likes of the camel market in Hargeisa, and further afield the escarpment around the Daallo Forest, home to magnificent birdlife and hallucinogenic panoramas.

But even with so much to offer, attracting Western tourists is a tall order when their governments have travel advisories in place warning about Somaliland.

“Poor old Somaliland is placed with Syria and Yemen, and that means you won’t get hotel groups interested or foreign investment in infrastructure either,” says Jim Louth with adventure travel company Undiscovered Destinations that sends groups of tourists to Somaliland.

As with many of the country’s burdens, Somaliland’s image problem that impedes its tourism comes down to its continuing lack of statehood.

“The only way we can sell the country’s assets is to have international recognition,” Musse says. “Tourism will not grow without that recognition. It’s a simple fact. The world does not know about us.”

The upshot, Musse explains, is that foreigners don’t know who to contact, no one takes responsibility, and the types of institutions normally operating abroad to protect tourists’ interests don’t exist, which presents the danger of anyone offering advice without accountability.

There is, however, one potential tourist boost for Somaliland less dependent on Western travel advisories reforming.

“Ethiopia is our neighbour and with its large population offers a big market,” Mohammed Abdirizak, who runs Hargeisa-based Safari Travel Tour and Culture travel agency, says of the country with one of the world’s fastest developing economies and a population set to hit around 127 million by 2037, according to current estimates. “Many of its middleclass are going to Kenya and Djibouti for holidays when they could be coming here.”

Somaliland could also benefit from becoming an onward destination for the increasing numbers of foreign tourists lured to Ethiopia as its tourism industry takes off, says Mark Rowlatt, a 56-year-old habitual traveller planning his Somaliland itinerary from Hargeisa’s Oriental Hotel after visiting Ethiopia.

Around him on the walls of Hargeisa’s oldest hotel are posters depicting Somaliland’s beaches and historic sites under the hopeful banner of what might be: “Wonderful Somaliland—The Newest Tourist Destination in Africa.”

Some of those rooting for Somaliland tourism say the government isn’t doing enough, using its constrained budget as an excuse not to be more proactive while failing to appreciate how tourism is a means to tackle poverty and chronic unemployment rates that leave swathes of young men lounging on streets.

Despite all the challenges facing Somaliland, however, crime is rare, with the last terrorist attack in 2008. An armed escort is often mandated for travel outside the capital, but most say that has more to do with the government fearing how even one tourist-related incident would undermine efforts toward international recognition than with actual threat.

Foreign tourists choosing to take their governments’ travel advisories with a pinch of salt can visit in relative safety, usually reporting incident-free and enjoyable adventures.

The main challenge for most tends to be the midday heat, especially at Berbera simmering away at sea level. But relief is at hand at Baathela Beach on the outskirts of town.

“With its small waves it reminds me of the Mediterranean,” says Xavier Vallès, an NGO health consultant in Somaliland who grew up next to the beach in Barcelona, before wading into the cooling waters, utterly alone—other than the bored-looking armed guards beside his vehicle.

Meanwhile, back in the old quarter, goats opted to rest in the shade of the crumbling walls.

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Innovation for Climate-Smart Agriculture Key to Ending Hunger in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/innovation-climate-smart-agriculture-key-ending-hunger-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=innovation-climate-smart-agriculture-key-ending-hunger-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/innovation-climate-smart-agriculture-key-ending-hunger-kenya/#comments Mon, 23 Oct 2017 07:15:32 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152645 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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Vaccination of live stock in Samburu County, Kenya. Credit: @FAO/LUIS TATO

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya , Oct 23 2017 (IPS)

Some parts of Kenya are reeling from the effects of probably the worst drought in the last 20 years. With nearly 3.4 million people food insecure, Kenya’s food security prognosis looks gloomy, with climate change and natural resource depletion set to pose even greater risks in the long term.

Rising temperatures and unpredicatble rainy seasons could destroy crop yield gains made in the recent past, and the threats of extreme weather such as flooding, drought and pests becoming more real. These will make production more difficult and spike food prices, hurting the prospects of reaching SDG 2 on ending hunger.

Already, many countries in Africa have seen a decline in food security, with other key factors contributing to this deterioration being urban growth, greater household expenditures on food and decrease in international food aid programmes.

The recent drought across Eastern and Southern Africa has slowed down programmes for adaptation and resilience-building, forcing a shift towards alleviating hunger and malnutrition-related crises.

Now observing 40 years since opening operations in Kenya, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that in the first quarter of 2017, 2.6 million Kenyans were already classified as severely food insecure. Up to three consecutive years of poor rains have led to diminished food production and exhausted people’s coping capacities particularly in the North Eastern, Eastern and Coastal areas of Kenya.

FAO is at the centre of response initiatives that require significant collaboration by the national and county governments, the private sector, non-profit organisations and other stakeholders, whose objectives include developing structurally-sound food systems and fixing dysfunctional markets.

One example is an agreement between FAO and Kenya signed in early 2017 to provide immediate assistance for affected pastoral households in the country. So far, it has provided animal feed and water, animal health programmes and purchase of animals for slaughter (de-stocking).

A return on investment study carried out by FAO in Kenya in July 2017 revealed that providing animal feed for key breeding stock – at a cost of USD 92 per household – ensured their survival and increased milk production. As a result, there was a return of almost USD 3.5 on every USD 1 spent.

FAO’s highly committed and passionate Kenya Representative, Dr. Gabriel Rugalemasays, “given the long-term threats, sustainable agriculture as envisaged under SDG 2 calls for innovation towards climate-smart agriculture. Some of the goals must be better seeds, better storage, more water-efficient crops and technologies that put agricultural data into the hands of farmers”.

FAO Representative Gabriel Rugalema visits Nadzua Zuma in Kilifi. Nadzua lost 36 of her 40 cattle during Kenya’s 2016-2017 drought. Credit: @FAO/TONY KARUMBA


It also requires looking into areas with untapped potential. This is what the FAO-led Blue Growth initiative aims to achieve towards building resilience of coastal communities and restoring the productive potential of fisheries and aquaculture.

Kenya has a large aquatic biodiversity, with estimates of sustainable yield of between 150,000 and 300,000 metric tonnes, while the current production level is only about 9,000 metric tonnes per year. Optimal harnessing of resources is often hindered by infrastructural limitations and inappropriate fishing craft and gear.

Targeted improvements include regulatory changes, research and development, and access to markets, all aimed at empowering the small fish farmers who contribute consistently to the seafood supply chain.

As Africa’s population continues to grow, the continent can only harness the demographic dividend by creating a huge working-class youth base. Agriculture is undoubtedly the one sector that can absorb most of the unemployed young people in Kenya as well as semi-skilled to highly skilled labour.

FAO is part of the efforts by the government of Kenya to create opportunities that will present youth with the allure and career progression currently lacking in agriculture.

Through National Youth in Agribusiness Strategy (2017-2021), Kenya seeks to enable access by youth to friendly financial services for agricultural entrepreneurship, improve access to markets, promote climate-smart agricultural technologies and address cross-cutting challenges including gender disparities, cultural barriers, alcohol and substance abuse and HIV & AIDS.

A young man, inspecting and packaging fingerlings for sale – Kakamega County, Kenya. Credit: @FAO/TONY KARUMBA


FAO together with the United Nations family in Kenya is determined to work with the government and people of Kenya to turn the country’s youthful population into an agricultural asset, because agriculture presents the best opportunity for attaining Vision 2030 and achieve SDG 2.

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Can Index Insurance Make African Farmers Climate-resilient?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/can-index-insurance-make-african-farmers-climate-resilient/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-index-insurance-make-african-farmers-climate-resilient http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/can-index-insurance-make-african-farmers-climate-resilient/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 10:33:27 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152617 Index insurance is being promoted as a solution to protect climate affected smallholder farmers in Africa. This type of micro insurance is slowly gaining ground as a way of compensating farmers for lost crops and livestock due to climate change. A number of African governments have either introduced or are piloting index insurance while some […]

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Can Index Insurance Make African Farmers Climate-resilient?

Panel discussion on innovating agriculture for climate and food security in Africa, during the Global Green Growth Week conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

By Wambi Michael
ADDIS ABABA, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

Index insurance is being promoted as a solution to protect climate affected smallholder farmers in Africa. This type of micro insurance is slowly gaining ground as a way of compensating farmers for lost crops and livestock due to climate change.

A number of African governments have either introduced or are piloting index insurance while some are still waiting and watching to see if it will have any tangible impact. Various experts attending the Global Green Growth Week conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia discussed and shared experiences with index insurance as an innovation in agriculture for climate and food security in Africa.

“We have managed to serve over 1.3 million farmers. So we have proved that index insurance is scalable. But the key challenge is financial education for the farmers and the regulatory environment regarding use of technologies like mobile phones to provide the services.”
Dr. Bruce Campbell, Director of the CGIAR Research Program On Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security explained how in the older days of insurance you had to go out and find out if anything is damaged and there would be a payout after everything is damaged “Index insurance is a really neat product because it is based on index. So if the rain drops below a certain amount, the insurance company knows the crop has failed and they will pay the money immediately.”

Campbell said with index insurance, the farmer gets the money immediately and does not have to sell his/her assets in order to survive. It also reduces the transaction costs.

According to Campbell, index insurance, also known as parametric insurance, has been around for close to 17 years and is slowly taking root in Kenya, Zimbabwe and other African countries. With this experience, countries can now share experience about it works and what needs to be improved.

A common example, Campbell told IPS, is of a remote rural farmer who buys seed, uses his mobile phone to take an image of the barcode on the seed pack and sends it to the insurance company to buy insurance. “When the rain fails, they can get the payment back as insurance,” Campbell explained.

It is estimated that sixty farmers in Kenya are registered under the index insurance schemes being rolled out with help of insurance firms partnering with mobile phone operators.

David Muigai, an Actuarial Officer with Sygenta Foundation For Sustainable Agriculture said their experience in East Africa has shown that index insurance offers affordable insurance and has helped farmers to benefit from agriculture.

“We have managed to serve over 1.3 million farmers. So we have proved that index insurance is scalable. But the key challenge is financial education for the farmers and the regulatory environment regarding use of technologies like mobile phones to provide the services.”

Zimbabwe’s mobile network, Econet Wireless, is providing services offering climate-based insurance to farmers via SMS and voicebased messages. “They also ensure that you shouldn’t just sell insurance. It should be bundled with other things like agricultural advisories and funeral policies,” explained Dr. Campbell, also resident in Zimbabwe.

Uganda is among the African countries that have just introduced an index insurance scheme run on a public private partnership basis between insurance firms, the insurance regulatory authority and the Central Bank of Uganda, which holds the money.

The Government of Uganda allocated a USD2 million budget this financial year to provide a 50% premium subsidy to smallholder farmers. Under the same scheme, large-scale farmers are given 30% premium subsidy.

“By so doing we think we are going to increase production and productivity of the farmers. The farmers are going to get bankable and we are reducing the risk of the financial institutions to the farmers. They are coming out to lend money to the farmers because they know that their money is secure,” said Musa Lukwago, a Senior Economist with Uganda’s Ministry of Finance.

Lukwago said the elite are being attracted to livestock and crop farming because they know they are covered under the index insurance scheme. He gave the example of a retired civil servant who invested his employment gratuity in growing passion fruit. “There was drought and the farmer lost the entire crop. He was found dead the following day. We believe he would still be alive if he had insurance,” Lukwago narrated.

But the reviews on index insurance remain mixed.

According to Lukwago, there is need for a lot of farmer sensitization. “You must convince the farmers that it works. They must see the benefits. If there is a season hit by drought and the insurance companies are not paying, expect a decline the next season”.

Based on Uganda’s experience, Lukwago added that index insurance requires a lot of meteorological data. “You need to put up weather stations to measure climatic changes, you must domesticate the products. Some of the concepts from Western Can Index Insurance Make African Farmers Climate-resilient? world may not work in our local situations.”

Muigai said challenges remain in persuading insurance regulators and Central Banks in East Africa to accept text messages as evidence of insurance purchases. Kennedy Tesfam, from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Addis Ababa is of the view that while index insurance has been in Africa for quite a while it is not taking off.

Tesfalidet Hagos, Managing Director at Ethiopia’s Luna Exports Slaughterhouse Plc said his organization has tried index insurance in the vegetable sector and hopes that it can work in livestock production.

“The most important thing we are trying to achieve is to increase the income of the farmers. If we can ensure better productivity of the farmers, they will have better income and therefore take insurance. We want to begin from the root cause. And I believe the root cause of everything in Africa is poverty” Hagos said.

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Zimbabwe’s Diaspora Could Help Revive Ailing Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/zimbabwes-diaspora-help-revive-ailing-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zimbabwes-diaspora-help-revive-ailing-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/zimbabwes-diaspora-help-revive-ailing-economy/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:55:15 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152588 At the dawn of the millennium, Sheila Mponda, 60, waved goodbye to her four children, who were leaving Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom in search of greener pastures. Mponda had just lost her husband and had been a housewife all her life. While the parting was bittersweet, since they established new lives abroad, Mponda’s children […]

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Zimbabweans applying for South African work permits in Johannesburg in 2010. Credit: Raymond June/flickr

Zimbabweans applying for South African work permits in Johannesburg in 2010. Credit: Raymond June/flickr

By Sally Nyakanyanga
HARARE, Oct 19 2017 (IPS)

At the dawn of the millennium, Sheila Mponda, 60, waved goodbye to her four children, who were leaving Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom in search of greener pastures. Mponda had just lost her husband and had been a housewife all her life.

While the parting was bittersweet, since they established new lives abroad, Mponda’s children have faithfully sent her money to provide for her needs.“Slowly trust is being built between the government and the diaspora and enquiries from the diaspora associations have been coming in on how they can work together with government in national development.” --IOM Zimbabwe Chief of Mission Lily Sanya

“As a widow, people would expect me to live in abject poverty – with old age, no skills and a late husband.  But my children overseas have been a miracle,” she said.

They all hold down multiple jobs to sustain their families in the United Kingdom as well as back home. “[But] where would they be working [in Zimbabwe] with this current economy?” Mponda told IPS.

Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa Director of Human Rights Watch, explained that family-level remittances from the diaspora are very important as they keep families in Zimbabwe afloat and mean the difference between survival and starvation for many.

“The collapse of the Zimbabwean economy due to poor governance has made it difficult for the government to harness funds from the diaspora and make good use of them for sustainable development,” Mavhinga told IPS.

He stressed the need for the government to restore public trust and confidence in its willingness to protect people’s investments in its effort to lure more funding from the diaspora.

Dr. Prosper Chitambara, an economist at the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ), told IPS that remittances from the diaspora are only mitigating extreme poverty, serving as social protection rather than financing development.

‘The uncertainty in the country is affecting [it] to fully utilize and better harness remittances from the diaspora as no one would want to invest money in an unstable environment,” Dr Chitambara said.

He suggested the need for government to issue diaspora bonds, clarify the issue of dual citizenship and allow member of the diaspora to vote in elections.

“Government should engage people in the diaspora on how they can best work together for the development in the country,” Dr Chitambara added.

Last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) together with the government of Zimbabwe launched the Zimbabwe National Diaspora Directorate to enhance engagement and participation of the Zimbabwe diaspora on national development.

IOM Zimbabwe Chief of Mission Lily Sanya said, “We encourage the government to get to know its diaspora by mapping their locations, compiling inventories of their skills and experience, and engaging a wide range of the diaspora in listening events to understand what the diaspora is willing to offer and what it expects from the government in turn, as this lays the foundation for good communication and mutual trust-building.”

IOM is currently implementing a project dubbed “Promoting Migration Governance in Zimbabwe”, which seeks to provide capacity to the government to better manage migration issues.

“IOM aims at creating platforms to promote dialogue between government and the Zimbabwean Diaspora for the latter to participate in governance and national development,” Sanya said.

In October 2016, IOM facilitated the initial diaspora engagement meetings for government in the UK, Canada and South Africa.

“Slowly trust is being built between the government and the diaspora and enquiries from the diaspora associations have been coming in on how they can work together with government in national development,” Sanya told IPS.

A skills transfer program has been put in place, where Zimbabwean experts abroad can come back home on short-term assignments to build the capacity and skills of local professionals in the health and education sector.

“IOM has also been assisting irregular Zimbabwean migrants in foreign countries to return home with dignity under IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme. They are supported to start small businesses of their choice to help them reintegrate into society,” Sanya said.

In addition, IOM aided the government to formulate its National Diaspora Policy and action plan for the 2017–2022 period.

“Support is being provided to government through the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare (MoPSLSW) formulate the National Labour Policy which will ensure protection of the rights of Zimbabwean migrant workers abroad,” Sanya said.

For Zimbabweans in South Africa, the South African government has announced an extension of special permits for nearly 200,000 economic migrants by four years. This only applies to those already in possession of the permits, not new applicants.

“The government of Zimbabwe should make a fresh call for new applicants as there are likely more Zimbabweans undocumented in South Africa than those with special permits. This can help the government of Zimbabwe to document Zimbabweans and to place them in a formal tax role for them to contribute to the South African economy,” Mavhinga of HRW said.

The South African Minister of Home Affairs Hlengiwe Mkhize stressed that the extension was due to the worsening economic situation, but the permits are not a path to permanent residency.  As such Zimbabweans are expected to return home.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, more than one million people have sought asylum in South Africa. The majority of them are Zimbabweans, while others have come from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Mozambique, among other African countries. About 50-150 people are arrested each day as they attempt to renew their permits.

Speaking to the website Refugees Deeply, Gabriel Shumba, the director of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, said, “We have visited Lindela Repatriation Centre and noted with serious concern that those arrested for deportation include those either attempting to apply for or renewing asylum and refugee status.”

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One of the World’s Most Dangerous PIaces For Aid Workershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/one-worlds-dangerous-piaces-aid-workers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-worlds-dangerous-piaces-aid-workers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/one-worlds-dangerous-piaces-aid-workers/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 09:14:35 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152583 António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

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António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 2017 (IPS)

I will travel to the Central African Republic early next week to spend United Nations Day with a peacekeeping operation in order to pay tribute to peacekeepers across the world.

Peacekeeping operations are among the international community’s most effective tools for meeting the challenges of global peace and security. Peacekeepers show tremendous courage in volatile environments and great dedication in helping countries rise from the depths of armed conflict.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

I thank the uniformed and civilian personnel for their contributions and the troop contributing countries for their commitment and generosity. This service too often claims the lives of those who serve. Since the beginning of the year, 67 peacekeepers have died in the line of duty. We honour their sacrifice.

In the Central African Republic, 12 peacekeepers have been killed from hostile acts this year alone. It is important to remember that five years ago, the Central African Republic was experiencing mass atrocities, and United Nations peacekeepers helped avert the worst.

Today, the situation remains very troubling. My visit also aims to draw attention to a fragile situation that is often far from the media spotlight. Across the country, communal tensions are growing. Violence is spreading. And the humanitarian situation is deteriorating.

Since the beginning of this year, the number of internally displaced persons has almost doubled, reaching 600,000. The number of refugees in neighbouring countries has surpassed 500,000. About one out of four people in the Central African Republic have been forced from their homes since the beginning of the crisis.

Despite these rising needs, humanitarian personnel and aid workers are being targeted and access restricted. This year alone, 12 humanitarians have been killed in the Central African Republic, making it one of the world’s most dangerous places for aid workers to serve.

Meanwhile, our appeals for emergency aid are only 30 per cent funded. My upcoming visit will be an opportunity to engage with the Government and others in order to ease suffering, halt the current backsliding, and strengthen international support for peace.

I also aim to give impetus to the new United Nations approach to addressing and preventing sexual exploitation and abuse. We know that the good work and the tremendous sacrifice of peacekeepers around the world has been tarnished by the appalling acts of some UN personnel who have harmed the people they were meant to serve.

I am pained that some peacekeepers are alleged to have committed egregious acts of sexual exploitation and abuse against the people of the Central African Republic. During my visit, I will be accompanied by Jane Connors, who I appointed recently to serve as the Organization’s first Victims’ Rights Advocate. We are determined to ensure that the voices of victims are heard – I will myself be ready to meet with victims and their families – in and beyond the Central African Republic. Victims must be at the centre of our response if we want our zero-tolerance policy to be successful.

This is a critical moment for the Central African Republic. Much has been accomplished, including the election of a president and a government, following the inclusive Bangui Forum.

A special criminal court has been established with the help of the United Nations to ensure accountability, and in several aspects there has been progress towards recovery.

We need to do everything we can to preserve these achievements, support the UN peacekeeping operation and sustain peace. I have just asked the Security Council to increase the ceiling of troops in the Central African Republic and also to increase their capacity, their mobility and their ability to address the very dramatic challenges they face.

But there is no military solution to this crisis. We will continue to cooperate with the African Union and strongly support the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation, and I urge all partners to move this process forward, under the leadership of the Government of the Central African Republic, in line with the so-called Libreville Roadmap.

The country has seen enough brutality, enough division, enough conflict. It is time to consolidate the fragile gains and transform them into a sustained investment in peace and stability for the people of the Central African Republic.

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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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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.

The post Can the Kenyan Lion Kick High Enough to Be the South Korean Tiger of Africa? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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