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Gloomy Outlook For Zimbabwe’s Economy With Cholera Outbreak
September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Nevson Mpofu..

A health worker screens mothers and their babies suspected to have cholera in a quarantined area in Harare on Friday. A state of emergency has been declared declared in Zimbabwe’s capital after the death of at least 30 people from cholera. People in Harare feara repeat of the cholera outbreak that killed thousands of people in in 2008. Picture: AP/African News Agency

A health worker screens mothers and their babies suspected to have cholera in a quarantined area in Harare on Friday. A state of emergency has been declared declared in Zimbabwe’s capital after the death of at least 30 people from cholera. People in Harare feara repeat of the cholera outbreak that killed thousands of people in in 2008. Picture: AP/African News Agency

The current looming and fast spreading epidemic is zooming with high costs to the community, nation and Civil Society. The boom of the disease spread stands with the death of 40 people in total up to now. About 3000 people got diagnosed, treated and discharged at Beatrice Infectious Disease Hospital.

Cholera has been declared state of Emergency at a time the country is in Political doldrums, economic melt- down, cash crisis and subsequent poverty increase. The blow will lead to more Absolute poverty, this later impacting on growth and development.

The Health disaster in 2008 cost the Government hefty chunk of money out of national struggling coffers. Since 2008, the Government kept busy talking politics. Part of its responsibility it leaves this for Civil Society to take the lead. Meanwhile, the Government spends time crafting and singing politics.

Up to date disasters have a total cost of US 66 Billion Economic Losses and 29 billion Insured losses. The total amount could be Humanitarian Aid to lift up Health, Education and Agriculture in terms of Food Security .Currently 3,4 million people are in  need of food aid in Zimbabwe . Southern Africa alone needs more food aid . Worse still , Sub Saharan Africa and the World with almost 7 and half billion population has almost 4 people vulnerable to hunger and in sheer poverty .

The International Community group of UNITED NATIONS FAMILIES [UNICEF and WHO] Non- Governmental Organizations like World Vision, Red Cross, European Commission, countries like Australia, Netherlands, Switzerland, USA , Denmark and a few provided support . This total amount rose to nearly 6 million spent on Zimbabwe 2008 cholera. UNICEF supplied 360,000 liters of water a day .According to its report at least a total of US 17,500,000 was needed for elimination of the whole cholera outbreak.

World Health Organization Country Representative in Zimbabwe Juliet Nabiyonga said a disaster is said to be looming because a number of people have died. Some, she said have been receiving treatments. However it goes deeper and deeper to a pronounceable disaster which takes more of our budgets, increases poverty and lowers the Gross Domestic Product.

Juliet Nabiyonga highlighted as well on the issue of Anti-Biotic resisting the outbreak of cholera which is expanding in the whole city of Harare. However, it is pathetic to note that it is becoming a country wide issue.

‘’The fact that Anti-Biotic are resisting, means we have a big problem as a nation. This is the big problems we face as a country. Cholera has been declared an Emergency .The Health issue is the No 1 challenge. It means all we have as our resources become part of this problem we currently have in the country.’’, she said.

A Disaster and Risk Management Expert Nathan Nkomo said such kind of disasters like on the issue of cholera remain with the Ministry of Health and Child Care. However, the costs accompanied by this are high . In the case of Cholera, he said it is different from natural disasters like those related to climate change.

‘’Yes. We deal with disasters but with those like related to Climate Change, Elnina and Lanina hazards which lead to severe hunger in communities, starvation in families and famine at Regional levels. Although the Civil Society takes the responsibility in some costs incurred, the Government takes the bigger risk responsibility. When such natural disasters occur , the Government losses million in short space of time , this creates Absolute , chronic , situational and Absolute poverty .’’But on ground there is a possibility that the country has spent more on disasters as compared to the net total amount it needs for its economy restoration , ‘’ he said .

Mahomed Ayoya , UNICEF Country Representative said the Child Rights Organization has done more in Zimbabwe than in some other countries . UNICEF in 2008 drilled boreholes in Budiriro . A lot of Community Health Care workers were trained to train as well Community people.

‘’UNICEF has done more in Zimbabwe to save the life of children in terms of communicable diseases which have adverse Health impacts on children . We helped in drilling boreholes. Secondly we joined hands with other Civil Society Groups to do advocacy, awareness and sensitization.

‘’Our goals and visions lies on achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. It all lies on reducing death rate , decrease infant and child mortality and to serve pregnant women . Together with UN PARTNERS we made it work in the Country. ‘’

The big blow Zimbabwe currently faces impoverishes communities and their immediate families. Deep to certain extents, this creates poverty and vulnerabilities. Among many developing countries of the World,             Zimbabwe has churned more of its resources on Political and Military activities at the expense of Health. A Political commentator who asked for pseudonym pointed out that the problem in Zimbabwe is they know about the Health disasters and possible crisis at the receiving end when it finally bites. The problem he cited is that more time is spent on politics.

‘’It does not end there. Most commitments and budgets are spent on Military interventions and politics at large. But, then comes, such disasters, they turn to the Health crisis at the same time looking for financial support from donors.

‘’In 2008, UNICEF spent on the issue of Cholera. The Government as well played its role, taking more from what is supposed to be for other programs. This impacts more on the economy. Actually the disaster is man-made rather than being eloquently natural ‘’, he pointed out clearly.

A Health Personnel Edward Rukani said the Government faced many disasters looming to crisis. One good example he cited relates to a time when civil servants rise for their increase in salary. This leads to disaster because clinics and hospitals at last suffer much,

‘’Just look at Health Professionals strikes which occurred in the country in June this year. Nurses took to the streets in mass collective action leaving hospitals in problems. You know that even Medical Doctors did the same. Instead of solving this in time they do it late. This takes more on the Government budget which might not have been there. What kind of a challenge is this? ‘’Terrible Mismanagement of crisis takes more of what we were not expecting ‘’, he concluded in despair. .

Adding a strong voice of comment , Prosper Chitambira LEDRIZ Economist said the share of Income countries spend is greater for high Income countries with Health spending ranging from 1,5% to 13% . Africa contributes lowest, but with several crises emanating from disasters of our man made nature, Zimbabwe is becoming as well like developing countries,

‘’But this is for negative reasons than positive like what happens with developed countries. We have come across several of this disaster. They come at time when we are obviously not prepared. This takes more out of pockets’. ‘However, Zimbabwe’s expenditure on Health is low at national budget level but it is the one with the highest amount. It increases and get stretches when such crisis like cholera comes. This impedes on Economic growth and development finally leading to death, illness and more spending on Health,’’ he said in conclusion.

Africa is 1 billion in total population .Relative to their contribution of 19% of World population, developed countries contributes 85% of the World total spending on Health. Africa’s contribution to the World’s population relates to 3% of the Worlds Health spending.

Zimbabwe’s Allocation Efficiency has become much higher owing attention to communicable diseases upsurge. Secondly, the issue of elnina and lamina contributes to Agricultural, hydrological and meteorological droughts. Disaster repeatedly affects many developing countries due to lack of mitigation and adaptation measures, lack of finance and political will to solve man-made disasters.          The country is saving more on Health care, prevention, treatment and support.

 

 

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African Development Bank, mariner investment group, and africa50 price landmark $1 billion impact securitization
September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments
Structured as a synthetic securitization by Mizuho International, Room2Run transfers the mezzanine credit risk on a portfolio of approximately 50 loans from among the African Development Bank’s non- sovereign lending book, including power, transportation, financial sector, and manufacturing assets
MONTREAL, Canada, September 19, 2018/ —

  • With “Room2run,” AfDB Launches Securitization Market for Multilateral Development Bank Sector
  • Transaction is in Direct Response to G20 Action Plan for Mdb Balance Sheet Optimization
  • AfDB Commits to Reinvest freed up Capital into New African Infrastructure Lending, Making Room2run one of the Largest Impact Investments ever
  • Transaction is supported by New European Union Guarantee Tool (European Fund For Sustainable Development)

The African Development Bank (www.AFDB.org), the European Commission (http://EC.Europa.eu/growth/industry/innovation/funding/efsi_en), Mariner Investment Group (www.MarinerInvestment.com), LLC (Mariner), Africa50 (www.Africa50.com), and Mizuho International plc  (www.Mizuho-EMEA.com) today announce the pricing of Room2Run, a US $1 billion synthetic securitization corresponding to a portfolio of seasoned pan-African credit risk. Room2Run is the first-ever portfolio synthetic securitization between a Multi-Lateral Development Bank (MDB) and private sector investors, pioneering the use of securitization and credit risk transfer technology to a new and previously unexplored segment of the financial markets.

Structured as a synthetic securitization by Mizuho International, Room2Run transfers the mezzanine credit risk on a portfolio of approximately 50 loans from among the African Development Bank’s non-sovereign lending book, including power, transportation, financial sector, and manufacturing assets. The portfolio spans the African continent, with exposure to borrowers in North Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa. Mariner, the global alternative asset manager and a majority-owned subsidiary of ORIX USA, is the lead investor in the transaction through its International Infrastructure Finance Company II fund (“IIFC II”). Africa50, the pan-African infrastructure investment platform, is investing alongside Mariner in the private sector tranche. Additional credit protection is being provided by the European Commission’s European Fund for Sustainable Development in the form of a senior mezzanine guarantee.

“Room2Run gives us fresh resources to invest in the projects Africans need most,” said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group. “Africa has the most promise, the greatest natural resources, and the world’s youngest population. But we also have the world’s most persistent infrastructure deficits. The African Development Bank has the strategy to address these infrastructure finance gaps—and Room2Run gives us the capacity to make it happen.”

Structured as an impact investment, Room2Run is designed to enable the African Development Bank to increase lending in support of its mission to spur sustainable economic development and social progress. In connection with Room2Run, The Bank has committed to redeploy the freed-up capital into renewable energy projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, including projects in low income and fragile countries.

“On the Impact scale, Room2Run is off the charts,” said Dr. Andrew Hohns, Lead Portfolio Manager and head of the Mariner Infrastructure Investment Management team. “Room2Run answers the call of the G20 for private sector participants to step in and facilitate development finance, providing a template for attracting significant private sector capital into urgently needed projects in developing economies.”

Raza Hasnani, Head of Infrastructure Investment at Africa50 commented, “Room2Run provides an innovative and commercially viable solution to the African Development Bank’s risk management and lending objectives, while paving the way for commercial investors to support and benefit from the growth of infrastructure on the continent. Africa50 is very pleased to participate in this landmark transaction, which is in line with our mandate to drive increased investment in infrastructure in Africa, and to create pathways for long-term institutional capital to flow into this space.”

Room2Run enjoys the support and participation of the European Commission with an investment from the European Fund for Sustainable Development, in the form of a senior mezzanine guarantee. “Only a few days after announcing our renewed Alliance with Africa for sustainable investments and jobs, I am very happy to announce that we are, together with the African Development Bank, launching Room2Run,” commented Neven Mimica, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development. “This initiative is a perfect example of what we are doing to support investments in African low income and fragile countries through the External Investment Plan. Through Room2Run, we provide an additional protection to investments in the field of renewable energy. Through our Guarantee, investments under Room2Run will translate into extending supply to many people currently without electricity whilst creating much-needed new jobs.”

Room2Run also directly responds to calls by the G20 that MDBs use their existing resources to full capacity, as articulated in the 2015 G20 MDB Action Plan to Optimize Balance Sheets, as well as calls for greater MDB efforts to crowd-in private investment. The G20 has called on MDBs to share risk in their non-sovereign operations with private investors, including through structured finance, mezzanine financing, credit guarantee programs, and hedging structures.[1],[2]

The Government of Canada has been a global leader in advocating for MDBs to use their existing resources more efficiently and to mobilize private capital for global development. The goal of the G20 MDB Action Plan to Optimize Balance Sheets is to catalyze significant new development financing from the MDBs throughout the real economy in key development regions.  “Attracting more private capital into global development efforts is critical to building economies that work for more and more people around the world,” said Bill Morneau, Canada’s Minister of Finance, “that’s why Canada and our G20 partners have been calling on multilateral development banks to use their existing resources as efficiently as possible, and to look for new ways to attract more private capital.  We are pleased to see the African Development Bank come forward with a transaction that directly responds to both of these objectives.  Room2Run is an innovative solution to a long-standing challenge.”

Juan Carlos Martorell, Co-Head of Structured Solutions at Mizuho International, adds, “Compared to other synthetic securitizations, a major achievement of Room2Run has been to ensure that ratings agencies, and in particular S&P, reflect the merits of the risk transfer into their rating assessments for multilateral development banks. The Bank’s leadership through this transaction has now set the stage for broader adoption of the instrument throughout the MDB community.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Development Bank Group (AfDB).

 

Media contacts:

AfDB: Nafissatou Diouf, Manager, Media Relations, N.Diouf@AFDB.org
Mariner Investment Group, LLC: David Press, Tel: (917) 721-7046, David@FeverPress.com
Africa50: Fleur Tchibota, Tel: +212666171099,F.Tchibota@Africa50.com
Mizuho International plc: Gayle Rodrigues, Corporate Communications, Tel: +44 207090 6213,
Gayle.Rodrigues@UK.Mizuho-sc.com
European Commission: Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela, Tel: + 32 229-65322

About the African Development Bank Group

The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group (www.AFDB.org) is the premier development finance institution in Africa with a mandate to spur sustainable economic development and social progress in the continent, thereby contributing to poverty reduction. The Bank Group achieves this objective by mobilizing and allocating resources for investment in the continent; and providing policy advice and technical assistance to support development efforts. The African Development Bank’s authorized capital of around USD 100 billion is subscribed to by 80 member countries made up of 54 African countries and 26 non-African countries.

www.AFDB.org

Media contacts:

AfDB: Nafissatou Diouf, Manager, Media Relations, N.Diouf@AFDB.org
Mariner Investment Group, LLC: David Press, Tel: (917) 721-7046, David@FeverPress.com
Africa50: Fleur Tchibota, Tel: +212666171099,F.Tchibota@Africa50.com
Mizuho International plc: Gayle Rodrigues, Corporate Communications, Tel: +44 207090 6213,
Gayle.Rodrigues@UK.Mizuho-sc.com
European Commission: Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela, Tel: + 32 229-65322

About the African Development Bank Group

The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group (www.AFDB.org) is the premier development finance institution in Africa with a mandate to spur sustainable economic development and social progress in the continent, thereby contributing to poverty reduction. The Bank Group achieves this objective by mobilizing and allocating resources for investment in the continent; and providing policy advice and technical assistance to support development efforts. The African Development Bank’s authorized capital of around USD 100 billion is subscribed to by 80 member countries made up of 54 African countries and 26 non-African countries.

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Remittance income will drive economic growth for Africa
September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments
Despite an economic slowdown, most African countries are reported to have a positive economic outlook. This is according to ICAEW’s (the institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) latest report. In Economic Insight: Africa Q3 2018 launched today, the accountancy body
NAIROBI, Kenya, 19 September 2018, -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The report, commissioned by ICAEW and produced by partner and forecaster Oxford Economics, provides a snapshot of the region’s economic performance. The regions include; East Africa, West and Central Africa, Franc Zone, Northern Africa, Southern Africa.
According to the report, East Africa continues to be the continent’s best performing region with a GDP forecast at 6.3%. This positive outlook is due to the region’s economic diversification and investment-driven growth. Ethiopia remains the region’s powerhouse, with growth forecast at 8.1%, thanks to the recent reforms under new prime minister Abiy Ahmed.

In Central and West Africa, growth is forecast at 2.9%. The constrained growth in the region is due to subdued non-oil economic activity by Nigeria – the region’s powerhouse. Ghana by contrast is the best performing country in the region with a forecast growth of 6.5%.

Michael Armstrong, Regional Director, ICAEW Middle East, Africa and South Asia said: “Despite the recent growth slump; all regions in Africa are projected to report a positive economic outlook, with remittance income expected to be a key economic booster in the coming months.”

Growth in the franc zone is forecast at 4.6%, largely driven by a boost of 7.4% in the region’s biggest economy, Ivory Coast, where investment is driving rapid expansion.

North Africa’s Egypt is forecast at 5.3%, as a result of structural and policy reforms, which have boosted manufacturing and investment. The county’s tourism sector has also continued to recover. Likewise, Libya is expected to record a growth of 16.5%, owing to posted improvements in oil production after the civil conflict.

Southern Africa has been affected by continued slow growth by the regional heavyweight South Africa, forecast at 1.5%. Angola, the region’s other economic leader, has the same forecast of 1.5%. Strong growth in both Botswana and Zambia is said to have little effect on the region’s overall performance.

Remittance income was emphasized in the report as a major economic factor for most African countries. Nigeria was the biggest receiver of remittances on the continent. The West African economic powerhouse received 29% ($ 22bn) of total remittances flowing to the continent in 2017, mostly from the gulf, the US and United Kingdom.

Egypt was the second biggest receiver of remittances on the continent with $20 billion of remittances. One of the countries highlighted where remittance flows continues to play an important role in terms of external accounts is Ghana. According to the world bank, remittance inflows amounted to $2.5bn in 2014: equal to roughly 18.6% of total exports that year. However, in 2017 the remittance inflows subsequently declined to $2.2bn equivalent to 15.8% of exports.

Uganda’s economic growth was reported to have recovered markedly last year. The country is expected to post a surplus of about 5.6% of GDP this year, supported by project aid and remittances inflows.

The report notes that despite remittances playing an important role in African economies, policies should focus on reducing the cost of remitting funds.

The full Economic Insight: Africa report can be found here: https://www.icaew.com/technical/economy/economic-insight/economic-insight-africa

Media enquiries:
Jamie Douglass, ICAEW press office, +44 (0)20 7920 8718 or email James.Douglass@icaew.com

Joel Chacha, Tell-Em Public Relations East Africa, +254 20 260 9990 or email joel.chacha@tell-em-pr.com

ICAEW is a world leading professional membership organisation that promotes, develops and supports over 144,000 chartered accountants worldwide. We provide qualifications and professional development, share our knowledge, insight and technical expertise, and protect the quality and integrity of the accountancy and finance profession.

As leaders in accountancy, finance and business our members have the knowledge, skills and commitment to maintain the highest professional standards and integrity. Together we contribute to the success of individuals, organisations, communities and economies around the world.

Because of us, people can do business with confidence.

2. ICAEW is a founder member of Chartered Accountants Worldwide and the Global Accounting Alliance.
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African Development Bank President Adesina urges Canada to be present at Africa’s investment table
September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments
Adesina made the call while meeting with 80 leading representatives of the Canada-Africa Chamber of Commerce in Toronto
Adesina

Adesina

TORONTO, Canada, September 19, 2018/ — African Development Bank President (www.AfDB.org), Akinwumi Adesina, on Wednesday urged Canadian business leaders to “be part of the action and seize investment opportunities on the continent.” Adesina made the call while meeting with 80 leading representatives of the Canada-Africa Chamber of Commerce in Toronto.

Promoting the Bank’s upcoming Africa Investment Forum (AIF), scheduled for 7-9 November 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Adesina said, “Canada must not be missing at Africa’s investment table. It is time to change the lens through which Africa is perceived and to make clear distinctions between perceived and real risks.”

AIF will bring together global private capital and investment funds, sovereign wealth funds and the private sector, for what is primarily being billed as a transactional marketplace to bridge Africa’s $68 – $170 billion infrastructure gap.

Stella Kilonzo, Senior Director of the Africa Investment Forum; Timothy Turner, African Development Bank Group Chief Risk Officer; Garreth Bloor, Managing Director, Glenheim Venture Capital; Chris Clubb, Managing Director, Convergence Blended Finance; Hakan Gunay, Senior Director of Finance, Skypower Global, were among panelists  discussing investment and blended finance options in Africa at the event.

Addressing participants, Bank Executive Director, David Stevenson explained that the Forum was “about deals and getting things done and not a talk shop.”

Adesina, who is leading a high-level delegation alongside Stevenson, Executive Director for Canada, China, South Korea, Kuwait and Turkey, also met with Reeta Roy, President/CEO of the MasterCard Foundation, to discuss synergies for supporting youth employment and access to finance for women entrepreneurs in Africa.

Earlier in Ottawa on Tuesday, Adesina announced a $1 billion synthetic securitization transaction at Canada’s National Press Theater.

Although securitization is routine for commercial banks, it is cutting-edge for development finance institutions. The African Development Bank is the first Multi-Lateral Development Bank (MDB) to use this game-changing innovative financing mechanism. Room2Run, structured as an impact investment, will enable the Bank to increase its lending to spur economic development and social progress across the continent.

“Africa has the most promise, the greatest natural resources, and the world’s youngest population. But we also have the world’s most persistent infrastructure deficits. The African Development Bank has the strategy to address these infrastructure finance gaps—and Room2Run gives us the capacity to make it happen,” Adesina said.

The landmark transaction was concluded with the Mariner Investment Group and Africa50.

At Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Adesina exchanged views with Diane Jacovella, Deputy Minister of International Development and Leslie E. Norton, Assistant Deputy Minister, Sub-Saharan Africa Branch at Global Affairs.  The two parties explored areas for further partnership between the Bank and Canada, including support for the Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative.

In a keynote address at the Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa on Africa’s economic situation, President, Adesina said, “Some ask the question whether the Africa rising story is over. Well I don’t think Africa was ever down.”

Adesina told partners and employees of Global Affairs, “The continent is not different from other parts of the world that pass through episodes of growth spurts and dips. The narrative on Africa should not be determined outside of Africa. Africa must control its own narrative,” he noted.  The event was hosted by David Morisson, Canada’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Later, meeting with African ambassadors, the Bank President commended Canada’s leadership role in helping advance Africa’s economic agenda. He acknowledged the ambassadors’ collective commitment and support in promoting Africa as an investment destination of choice.

Adesina wrapped up the Ottawa stop with a bilateral meeting with Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Internal Trade Diversification, where he again made the case for increased investment on the continent and urged Canada to look to Africa as a new trade destination in line with its diversification agenda.

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Tanzanian President Says No To Birth Control
September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

Magufuli

Magufuli

The Tanzanian President while speaking at a rally in Meatu, in the Simiyu region recently sparked an uproar in the country after stating that women should not use birth control pills. President Magufuli said that the use of contraceptives is a sign of laziness.

President Magufuli said the remarks in reference to the ‘hardworking’ people of Meatu. He said, “You people of Meatu keep livestock. You are good farmers. You can feed your children. Why would you opt for birth control? These are my views, but I don’t see any need for birth control in Tanzania.” In light of this, Magufuli said that people who opt to use contraceptives do so because they are lazy to feed a large family.

The president also lambasted outsiders saying that they were the ones who are giving bad advice to Tanzanian people. Magufuli went further to state that outsiders were badly advising Tanzanians on birth control whereas in their own countries they are battling a sharp decline in population especially among the productive age group owing to the use of birth control methods.

The remarks by Magufuli angered a lot of people both locals and foreigners.

Members of the legislature who spoke to the media soon after Magufuli’s rally said that it is sad to see the president encouraging people to stop taking birth control pills. Cecil Mwambe, one of the vocal MPs in the Tanzanian Parliament said that the remarks from the president are ignorant and unwise more so considering the time in which they came. Mwambe said that currently the country’s health insurance scheme can only accommodate a maximum of four children from one family and encouraging women to stop taking contraceptives will only worsen the strain being faced by the health sector in the country.

The biggest worry for Tanzanians as relayed by Judy Gitau, regional coordinator for Africa for the charity Equality Now is that often times in Tanzania a statement such as the one given by Magufuli end up becoming a law. Gitau said, “From past experiences whenever the president issues a statement on a given issue, in practice it becomes policy, and so we can expect ramifications.” Rapping Magufuli’s remarks, Gitau went further to state that “We (Tanzania) will end up with women having unplanned children, huge families and unable to sustain their lives.”

Having already spearheaded the creation of some unconventional laws in the country such as banning miniskirts, it will not be much of a surprise if Magufuli leads from the front in formulating a policy which rewards women who do not take birth control pills.

The Speaker of Parliament who is a personal friend of the president, Job Ndugai, however, said that there is no need to worry as far as policy change is concerned because the president’s comments were advisory and did not represent a governmental position.

Tanzania is a signatory to the Maputo Protocol which gives women the power to control their fertility and chose any method of contraception. The Maputo Protocol currently influences the country’s sexual and reproductive health policy.

Statistics from the UNFPA state that only a third of Tanzanian women do use family planning. A lot of women especially those in rural Tanzania do not use family planning methods. It is for this reason that the country has one of the highest rates in the world as on average one woman has five children.

In another event which angered many women across the country, the Parliament with the blessings of Magufuli recently banned all female legislators from wearing artificial nails and false eyelashes. The decision was reached after a ‘health official’ advised the Parliament of the health problems posed by artificial nails and fake eyelashes.

 

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South Africa Legalises Use of Marijuana
September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

In a landmark ruling on the 18th of September 2018, the South African Constitutional Court legalised the growing, possessing and the use of marijuana in private. The ruling was a major victory for the thousands of pro-marijuana activists in the country and it also set a good precedence to other African countries.

The Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled that the ‘the personal use of cannabis is not a criminal offence’.  The Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo reading out the Court’s judgement said the law which banned the use of marijuana in private is “unconstitutional and therefore invalid”. He went on to say that “It will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption.”

The Constitutional Court bench reached the decision unanimously.

It was not an easy journey however for pro-marijuana activists in South Africa. For decades, they had to contend with playing cat and mouse with law enforcement agencies. However, the first major step they took to have the use of marijuana legalised for personal use came last year when three activists approached a provincial court in Western Cape. The activists won their case and marijuana for personal use was legalised in the province.

The ruling did not go down well with the South African government which argued that decriminalising marijuana would lead many people to start doing drugs and potentially move on to more dangerous drugs. The government sought the help of the Medical Research Council which said that their research showed a link between heavy use of marijuana and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Armed with this information which strengthened their case (in that marijuana posed a health hazard to users), the South African government approached the Constitutional Court to appeal the decision of the Western Cape provincial court.

Having argued its case before the Constitutional Court saying legalising marijuana was not in line with South Africa’s constitutional values, given that it could harm citizens (health wise), the Constitutional Court was not convinced and instead, upheld the Western Cape provincial court ruling which decriminalised the use of marijuana.

The Constitutional Court in its ruling said that the government’s ban on marijuana infringed on section 14 of the South African constitution which gives all citizens the right to privacy.

As the Constitutional Court is the highest court in the land, it’s ruling not only meant that Western Cape locals could continue using marihuana freely but that the whole of the country could also do the same. In essence, the ruling effectively decriminalised the use of marijuana for the whole country.

The ruling was widely celebrated in all parts of the country. Chants of “Weed are free now” were heard in the public gallery soon after the court ruling. In the streets, many marijuana users took out their weed and publicly smoked in celebration.

One marijuana user who spoke to the media, Ruaan Wilson said that “I’m happy I won’t be getting any more criminal records for possession…Now we can get the police to focus on real drugs and thugs.”

Phephsile Maseko, a representative of the Traditional Healers Organisation said that “We have used cannabis to treat anxiety, colic in children and as an antiseptic in secret for many years…Now we will be able to develop the plant even further.”

In its ruling, the Constitutional Court did not, however, specify the amount that can be used by an adult in private use. This is to be decided by the South African Parliament which was given 24 months to draft new laws which reflect the order (court ruling).

The Constitutional Court did, however, spell out explicitly that marijuana may not be consumed in public, nor distributed or sold, or used by minors.

Before the ruling, South Africa only grew herbal marijuana for export. The country is one of the biggest exporters of herbal marijuana to the United Kingdom and continental Europe.

In Africa, South Africa is the first country to legalise marijuana for personal use. It is however joined by Lesotho and Zimbabwe as the only three countries where the growing of medicinal marijuana is legalised.

The ruling by the Constitutional Court of South Africa also reinforces the notion that the country is one of the most liberal in Africa particularly and the world in general as it also recognises same-sex unions.

 

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Pelum Zimbabwe to host multi-sectoral dialogue to address Zimbabwe’s malnutrition challenges
September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

PELUM-ZWE Country Director; Getrude Pswarayi-Jabson

PELUM-ZWE Country Director; Getrude Pswarayi-Jabson

The Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Zimbabwe in partnership with the Seed and Knowledge Initiative (SKI) will convene a multi-sectorial dialogue on seed, health and nutrition to allow key stakeholders to collectively address malnutrition challenges faced by Zimbabwe. The multi-sectorial dialogue, the first of its kind, will be held on 20 September 2018 at Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre in Mt Hampden.It also seeks to get nutrition commitments
cemented into multi-sectoral plans and strategies, according to a
spokesperson.

Malnutrition is a global challenge threatening the realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The 2017 Global Nutrition Report notes that 2 billion people lack key micronutrients, 155 million children are stunted, 52 million children are wasted, 2 billion adults are overweight or obese and 41 million children are overweight (Global Nutrition Report, 2017).

Zimbabwe faces a growing level of chronic malnutrition and its worst manifestation is stunting which affects 32% of children in the country. A typical diet in Zimbabwe is deficient in Vitamins and minerals required for health, development and survival (National Micronutrient Survey, 2012).

The Country Coordinator for PELUM Zimbabwe, Mrs Gertrude Pswarayi-Jabson says, “Zimbabwe’s efforts to curb malnutrition still need much more attention. The country’s food system needs to be addressed because the malnutrition problem is taking place within the struggle between two alternative visions of food and nutrition.

The first is a model of large-scale industrial agriculture that aims to maximise short-term productivity based on technical solutions. The second is a vision of small-scale sustainable farming and diversified agroecological systems based on the fundamental human right to adequate food and nutrition and based on the use of ecological sound practices, agricultural biodiversity and local knowledge development.”

“Understanding the challenge of malnutrition in all its forms requires a holistic and multidisciplinary analysis, one that combines the political and technical perspectives. Above all, it requires recognising the need for urgency and justice, the appreciation for diversity and the values of human dignity, equity, sustainability and sovereignty. These are issues that remain at the periphery of policy discussion and formulation and why this Dialogue matters most,” says Pswarayi-Jabson.

PELUM Zimbabwe is a network of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working with smallholder farmers practicing diversified agro-ecological farming for improved livelihoods. SKI is a regional initiative aimed at reviving and enhancing traditional seed and knowledge systems and to deepen understanding about their functions,
within the context of supportive agricultural, cultural and ecological practices.

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Africa could learn a lot from India to address its sanitation challenges
September 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

…….Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention to share India’s
sanitation and hygiene success
By Wallace Mawire

Parameswaran Iyer, secretary in the ministry of drinking water and sanitation and an erstwhile World

Parameswaran Iyer, secretary in the ministry of drinking water and sanitation and an erstwhile World

African countries could learn a lot from India which has taken massive strides towards achieving universal safe sanitation. The number of people without access to toilets in rural India has gone down from 550 million in 2014 to less than 150 million today, through an intensive behaviour change campaign, the Swachh Bharat Mission, which has become a people’s movement. India is on track to achieve
open defecation free status by 2019, significantly contributing to the global achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 on Clean Water  and Sanitation and improving health, educational and other outcomes for millions of people.

The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India,with support from UNICEF, is organizing the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention, MGISC (www.mgiscindia.org) in New Delhi. The convention will bring together ministers and other leaders from over 50 countries around the world in order to both showcase India’s progress and learn about the best Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) practices across the globe.

The MGISC is a four-day international conference scheduled to be held  from 29 September-02 October 2018 in New Delhi and is being organized by the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), or Clean India Mission, the world’s largest sanitation programme. WSSCC is pleased to be involved in the event as a convenor of the Technology and Innovation session during the MGISC. The session focuses on the various technologies and innovations in the field of rural sanitation.

A rural sanitation technology competition was organised in the run-up to the MGISC, and the session also consists of presentations by the top five finalists of the competition and selection of the top innovation by the jury. WSSCC is also supporting general communications and outreach for the meeting.

At a briefing last week, Mr. Parameswaran Iyer (IAS), Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India said

“India has taken massive strides towards achieving universal safe sanitation. The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) was launched on 2 October 2014, with an aim to build a Clean and Open Defecation Free (ODF) India by 2 October 2019, as a befitting tribute to the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.”

Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF India Representative, added, “Safe water, effective sanitation and hygiene are critical to the healt child and every community – and thus are essential to building stronger, healthier, and more equitable societies. SBM is a unique programme, it is the largest such programme in the world and represents a mass movement. Swachh Bharat has captured the attention of the people across the globe. The convention will be a platform to exchange ideas and foster collective effort to ensure that every girl and boy has access to safe drinking water and sanitation.”

Since the inception of the SBM program, the rural sanitation coverage of India has increased significantly, from 39 per cent in October 2014 to over 92 per cent as of end of August 2018. The number of people without access to toilets in rural India has gone down from 550 million in 2014, to less than 150 million today. According to the latest real-time data, over 83.9 million household toilets have been constructed under the Swachh Bharat Mission. As a result, 21 States/Union Territories, 450 districts, and approximately 450,000 villages have declared themselves as free from open defecation.

India is on track to achieve open defecation free status by 2019, significantly contributing to the global achievement of SDG 6. Open defecation can have debilitating impact on the economy. A UNICEF report in 2017 found that if a family invests in a toilet, it will save Rs. 50,000 a year in India. The study conducted across 10,000 households in 12 states, to measure the economic impact of sanitation
at a household level, discovered that a single rupee invested in sanitation, allows a family to save Rs. 4.30 by averting medical costs.

Sanitation is not just about building toilets but about changing behaviour. Open defecation means that diseases such as cholera, polio, and hepatitis are spread more easily. It means that children are at a higher risk of diarrhoea, which in turn leads to malnutrition. Women are the worst affected due to lack of sanitation facilities. A huge number of pregnant women or new mothers die annually in India from
preventable causes. This includes haemorrhage, eclampsia, sepsis and anaemia. Many deaths occur due to poor nutrition and improper sanitation.

The success of the Clean India Mission will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the global achievement of SDG 6.2. India is the only country which received special recognition in the Joint Monitoring Programme 2017 update by the WHO and UNICEF. The MGISC aims to share sanitation success stories and lessons from the participating countries and culminates with the launch of the Mahatma’s150th birth year celebrations in India, as SBM enters its final year of implementation.

The MGISC will be attended by over 50 minister-led delegations from high, middle, and low-income countries including Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Japan. Participants will gain practical knowledge on key challenges, successes, failures and opportunities, share experiences across regions and with other government decision-makers, and accelerate progress towards ending open defecation as part of the broader effort to achieve SDG Target 6.2 by 2030. Participants will go home
stimulated, motivated and empowered as part of a broader sanitation and hygiene movement.

A parallel exhibition of sanitation innovations will be held at the meeting venue.

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Africa: U.S. is Africa’s ‘Ideal Partner’ for Promoting Democratic Institutions & Economic Growth – Tibor Nagy
September 19, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Tibor P. Nagy, Jr.*

Tibor Nagy

Tibor Nagy

After having the honor of serving my country as a diplomat for more than 30 years – 22 of them in eight different African countries – this week I have the opportunity for the first time to underscore U.S. interests in and commitment to the continent at the United Nations General Assembly.

In dozens of meetings and conversations in New York, I will highlight the importance of a continued and strong U.S.-Africa partnership that prioritizes the following goals:

  • Promoting stronger trade and commercial ties between the United States and Africa by establishing a level playing field across African markets;
  • Harnessing the potential of Africa’s tremendous youth bulge as a force for economic ingenuity and prosperity, which is a counter narrative to violent extremism and despair;
  • Advancing peace and security through robust partnerships with African governments via bilateral and regional mechanisms; and
  • Most importantly, reemphasizing that the United States has an unwavering commitment to Africa.
 Far from being mutually exclusive, these priorities are mutually reinforcing. Our failure or success depends on a “whole of government” approach in working with international partners, civil society, and the large African diaspora in the United States, towards a future which leads to peace, stability and prosperity – now and for future generations across Africa.

My experiences in both diplomacy and academia have convinced me that Africa truly is at a critical crossroads, and the direction it takes in the next few years will have a major impact – for good or ill – not only on the continent, but across the world.

 Everyone who follows trends in Africa knows that a demographic sea change is coming between now and 2050, when the continent will double its population to more than two billion and the percentage of Africans younger than 25 years of age will surpass 75 percent. These millions and millions of young Africans will have high aspirations for employment and quality of life – no different than young people anywhere in the world. With the proliferation of social media, African youth have a clear window into the countless possibilities that the world has to offer, but more importantly can compare their own circumstances with those of their peers around the globe.

Africa’s leaders are beginning to understand that their most important challenge is to create meaningful and lasting jobs for their youth. And I plan to do all I can to help, since the United States is the ideal partner for supporting Africans in building and strengthening democratic institutions and the type of business environments which attract investment that foster economic growth.

The fact is that a more prosperous and democratic Africa offers enormous commercial and trade opportunities for the United States.  As the global economy becomes increasingly intertwined and Africa represents a larger share of global trade, I firmly believe that American companies can and should have deeper ties to the continent, which can also lead to our values and way of doing business becoming the standard in Africa.

American businesses put an emphasis on the rule of law, transparency, recourse for investors, and a level playing field.  Our companies also prioritize training and employing Africans for the jobs they should be doing in their countries. This operating model is the underlying secret to our entrepreneurial culture and thriving economy.

As we look to Africa’s future and try to ensure the youth bulge is an asset for the continent rather than a hindrance, it is important to keep several critical factors in mind:

  • The growing number of young people requires an exponential increase in jobs;
  • Job creation requires growing economies driven in part by increasing foreign direct investment;
  • Foreign companies won’t invest in the absence of a welcoming investment climate, a level playing field, and an educated work force; and
  • Finally, African governments which are most open to partnership with the private sector, especially U.S. business, will reap the benefits of knowledge transfers and skills building among their people.

My career has shown me the enormous potential and abundant opportunities for Africa’s future.  As Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, I will be guided by my overarching belief that we must look at Africa through the windshield, and not through a rear view mirror.

I call on U.S. business to take on this challenge as well, and for those with little or no experience on the continent to embrace the vast opportunities that Africa offers.  I am deeply humbled that President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo are entrusting me with the honor of leading the Bureau of African Affairs, and helping lead our engagements in Africa at this most crucial time in the continent’s history.

*The Piece was originally published at Allafrica.com.Ambassador Nagy is Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairsin the United States Government. He is a retired career Foreign Service Officer who spent 32 years in government service, including as the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia (1999-2002) and Guinea (1996-1999), as well as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Nigeria (1993-1995), Cameroon (1990-1993), and Togo (1987-1990). He received his B.A. from Texas Tech University and M.S.A. from George Washington University.

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The Center for Human Rights and Democracy (CHRDA) condemns Cameroon governments travel permits requirements and restrictions in Anglophones regions
September 19, 2018 | 0 Comments
These kinds of action not only harm the future prospects of individuals and peace, but also diminishes our own reputation and performance as an outward-looking community
 

Felix Agbor Anyior Nkongho

Felix Agbor Anyior Nkongho

YAOUNDE, Cameroon, September 18, 2018/ — Calls on government to start an all-inclusive dialogue to end the deadly crisis; Calls on all Anglophones and Francophones in Cameroon and the international community to speak out against this hateful policy 

The Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) (www.CHRDA.org), the leading human rights organization working to realize human rights in Cameroon,  strongly condemns the decision by the government of President Paul Biya through its Regional Delegate of Transport in the Northwest Region, to issue a travel restriction among Anglophones in the North west region.

This policy amounts to nothing less than a xenophobic and counterproductive action by the government and it should be repealed immediately.

This tragic decision by the government violates the best traditions of Cameroon’s constitution as well as in direct contravention of international humanitarian and human rights laws. We implore President Paul Biya, and those around him, to consider the ramifications of the travel restrictions on Anglophones.

In a time when the country is faced with its worst crisis since independence many citizens and law enforcement personal losing their life’s, Cameroonians are looking to their government for many things including leadership, all-inclusive dialogue, guaranteeing their rights and ending the violence.

These kinds of action not only harm the future prospects of individuals and peace, but also diminishes our own reputation and performance as an outward-looking community.

This policy by the government does not make Anglophone and Francophones safe; rather, it makes us less safe by breeding negative sentiments around the country, stifling opportunities, escalating violence,  interfering with cross-cultural relationship building, and making it more difficult to provide assistance and protection to those who need it most especially the refugees I visited in Nigeria and Internally displace persons CHRDA tries to assist on a daily basis.

In the midst of an escalating war in the country, this is a significant setback for those who are obviously in need of protection and those who are finding peaceful solution to the crisis. The Cameroon government must live up to its international obligations and provide protection for those fleeing persecution and conflicts in the Anglophone region and not restrict travel.

We call on all Anglophones and Francophones in Cameroon and the international community to join us in speaking out against this hateful policy, which sends an official message of intolerance, undermines the Cameroonian people, and threatens the lives of thousands of people who desperately and urgently need sanctuary in our country—while doing nothing to bring peace to the Anglophone region.

Felix Agbor Anyior Nkongho,Founder and Chairman,

Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa

 

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Silent Cries – Is Anyone Listening? Experiences of Parents & Children Living with Disabilities in African Diaspora Communities.
September 17, 2018 | 4 Comments

By Nkeu-ndum  Giddeon N.Angafor

Giddeon & Claris with their two boys, Lesra and Gicles

Giddeon & Claris with their two boys, Lesra and Gicles

I am not sure about you, I do not know your personal thoughts, beliefs, convictions and approach to disability. All I can say, and with certainty too is that most African communities in the diaspora hold varied and diverse views about disability.  Some see disability negatively, noting that it is a subject not to be discussed, especially in public.  For others, disability and disabled persons are generally portrayed stereotypically, seen either as a curse, the result of a sinful act committed by their family or a burden to society. Some, like me, see it as a positive challenge, a unique opportunity to usher in new concepts, convictions and a shift in some of the thought processes about disability and the disabled within our communities. I am acutely aware, based on experience, that some families of African descent in the diaspora who have children living with disabilities experience uncountable daily challenges. That some of the issues which they encounter, and which they find difficult to articulate are the results unconscious and sometimes deliberate actions of the people in their communities.  As a parent, caring for a child with autism and disabilities, some of the views elaborated above, and the actions alluded to can cause overwhelming distress. These cause some families affected by disability to constantly cry out, albeit silently, asking to be heard, seeking to be understood, wanting to be accepted, especially by those they call family, their African diaspora communities.

As parents of a child with autism and other disabilities, we have learnt, over the past 13 years, that some of our kin and kindred find it hard to accept, let alone embrace, articulate and celebrate the reality of disability.  Such a lack of understanding and failure to recognise and accept that disability is a fact of life, even by some who have family and friends living with disabilities is a bigger challenge than caring for the person living with a disability. Due to these and other difficulties, some parents of children with additional needs find it hard to go out in public for a number of genuine reasons. This has come to light, over and over in our support network for parents and families of disabled children. Many of them recount examples of when they and their disabled child have been looked at as if they do not have a right to belong. Many parents of disabled children of African descent that we encounter have experiences of when adults, especially those of ‘high status’ within their communities, who they expect to be understanding have pulled their child away from a child with a disability as if they were something contagious. Some of these negative actions and approaches to disability by some members of African communities in the diaspora stem from their families, communities and cultural approaches to disability, which are not only negative, but I dare say outdated. Needless to say that their effects can be quite hurting for those at the receiving.

Being parents of African descent in the diaspora, whose child lives with disabilities, my wife and I understand the origin of these views, however, we do not condone them. Unfortunately, this is not true of all the parents in our situation as our interactions indicate that some find it difficult to accept, let alone understand that some can still hold such views. This is true of our Ugandan friend who cannot reconcile the fact that many in his diaspora community work in the medical or care profession, looking after adults and children with disabilities. In spite of that, they fail to accept and accommodate one of theirs in a similar situation. What is more worrying for our friend is the fact that some in his diaspora community make jokes and negative comments about disability in his presence. In doing so, they are failing to recognise the hurt and psychological trauma it brings to his family. Many of us can come to terms with the fact that this is happening, however, we should refuse to give these views our blessing. The key question here is WHY should we say NO to such attitudes?

Claris and Lesra at a Community event

Claris and Lesra at a Community event

The first and natural reason why we should shun these views for me is personal, the fact that we are the parents of a handsome young 13-year-old, who is living with autism and other disabilities. A son who did not ask to be born, a life that we made, and one that we have a duty and a responsibility to love, care for, appreciate and celebrate, irrespective of whether they are disabled or not. Secondly, our experience and that of other parents and families of African background, who are in similar situations teach us that our communities’ approach is driven by fear, ignorance and in some cases, a culture which we have failed to hold accountable. (Especially as most of the views and approaches about disability in these cultures have no sound scientific backing).  We are afraid to let go of our deep-rooted, false assumptions and traditional beliefs; that disability is a curse or the result of witchcraft. Believing that if we dare to associate with ‘such’ then we will be contaminated or cursed. We forget that these children are individual and different, that they live a different reality, one which we should seek to understand and appreciate instead of judging and stigmatising them.

Giddeon and Lesra

As a community, we are not only invited but challenged to share the reality of these parents and their children. A reality which calls us to come out of our comfort zones and dare to journey with them, seeking to understand them, especially their lives and their stories, so that we can better appreciate and communicate what it means to have a disability. If we do this, we can experience how it feels to be the family, friend and community member of a person who lives with disabilities. Doing this will enthuse those from African backgrounds, who see disability as a tragedy for the child and their family to start seeing it as an opportunity to share our common humanity with them. An occasion to challenge views which encourage a culture of ‘us’ and them, creating an impression in some that they do not belong in our circles. When we embrace this new approach our communities will keep fear aside and start seeing disability as an occasion to prove our collective ability. They will engage in build platforms imbued with love, support and understanding for children, parents and families of those living with disabilities. By so doing, our communities will gain a new impetus, one in which we can all stand together and be each other’s keeper, acting positively and morally, in a way that is dignifying to all with additional needs.

As I draw to a close, it is fair to note, that everyone, including the rich and famous, has their own challenges. It is also important to ascertain that some of the challenges faced by parents and siblings of children living with disabilities within African communities stem from misconceptions, a lack of understanding and sometimes actions of their peers which are not deliberate. Despite that, our experience of being at the receiving end teaches us that in communities where people accept, embrace, articulate and celebrate disability, the burden is less cumbersome for those in these situations. This explains why it is important that our communities should cultivate cultures which show kindness and consideration to those facing any disability challenges. Recognising that a child with special needs is ‘somebody’, not a ‘nobody’. They are someone’s child, a brother or sister, who is loved, treasured and celebrated, even if just by one person. They are not a ‘retard’, ‘ngombe’, ‘craze thing’ or a ‘troublemaker’ as they are sometimes called in our communities.

Giddeon skydiving to raise autism and disability awareness

Giddeon skydiving to raise autism and disability awareness

It is my fervent wish and hope, that together we can tease out, and find ‘ability’ in disability (this ability). That as individuals and African communities in the diaspora we can blossom together, supporting and enabling our community members with children with disabilities to thrive and fulfil their God-given talents. That together we can deploy and manifest our ‘abilities’ which are that which is life-giving and empowering. Together we can accept, embrace, articulate and even celebrate disability as part of the realities of life, it is not enough to just see it as a taboo.

*Nkeu-ndum Giddeon N. & Claris N. Angafor are the founders of CAN-Abilities Foundation, a family run foundation and advocacy charity which creates disability awareness amongst ethnic minorities and other communities in the UK. You can find them at www.canabilities.org or follow them on Facebook to keep abreast with their activities.

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Rainwater storage and smarter farming is making life easier for Niger’s farmers
September 16, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Thin Lei Win*

Men buying and selling goats at the market in Dargue village in Maradi Region in south central Niger on Aug 16, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Thin Lei Win

Men buying and selling goats at the market in Dargue village in Maradi Region in south central Niger on Aug 16, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Thin Lei Win

DARGUE, Niger, Sept 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Grappling with desert conditions, insurgency and decades of political instability, Niger has long struggled to feed its rapidly growing population. But experts say efforts to change that are bearing fruit – and may even be a model for the region.

Four out of five of Niger’s people eke out a living through farming or fishing, yet three-quarters of the landlocked west African country on the southern edge of the Sahara is arid.

Among them is 35-year-old Boukari Lawali, who struggled to produce enough food for his family from his six-hectare plot before 2015, when the United Nations launched a pilot scheme to help farmers in his village use rainwater more effectively.

“Before, the produce from my farm would be enough for only three months, now we have food for seven months,” Lawali told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Dargue, a dusty village in the south of the country.

“Before, if there was rain, the plants would be washed away. Now they are not,” said Lawali, a father of six who grows millet, sorghum and beans.

Lawali’s farm was transformed using an ancient technique that involves digging half moon-shaped trenches to allow rain to soak into the soil during the wet season instead of running off the hard-baked surface.

The simple technique is helping to restore land that was once fertile but has been degraded by erosion, deforestation, overgrazing and climate change.

Since 2015 nearly 20,000 hectares of agricultural and pastoral land has been restored in this way with the help of the U.N., which has also provided farmers with better seeds and built markets to make it easier for them to sell their produce.

The impact has been transformative.

Villagers say malnutrition has all but disappeared and school attendance in the village and surrounding areas has more than doubled.

The head of the World Food Programme – one of the U.N. agencies running the project – said Niger could be a “model for all of Africa” if this scheme and others like it were rolled out across the country.

“Niger can be an effective role model where when we work together, we can end hunger, we reduce migration, teen pregnancies, birth rates, conflict as well as recruitment by extremist groups,” David Beasley told journalists during a recent visit to Niger.

CONFLICTS

Niger, a former French colony with a population of about 20 million, is one of the world’s least developed countries with among the highest fertility rates.

Conflicts in neighbouring Mali and Nigeria have pushed thousands of refugees into the country in recent years.

With food production struggling to keep pace, the government has set out ambitious plans to restore 1 million hectares of degraded land over the next four years and boost irrigation.

Currently just three percent of all irrigable land in Niger is irrigated.

“We want to scale this up, not just with the U.N. partners but with others too,” said Ali Bety, who heads Nigeriens Nourishing Nigeriens (3N), a government initiative to combat hunger and poverty.

“In Niger it doesn’t rain very much, but when it does rain it is quite intense, so we need to find a way of harvesting all of that water so we can irrigate and grow for a longer period,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation, the U.S. government’s main development fund, is investing $254.6 million to rehabilitate and develop three large-scale irrigation systems.

On a smaller scale, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is introducing cisterns to help people harvest and store rainwater in Niger, where desertification claimed 100,000 hectares of land every year.

Bety said he wanted to end the cycle of “constant food insecurity” that has left 1.6 million Nigeriens reliant on food handouts according U.N. estimates.

Last year the 3N initiative was credited with halving the number of people suffering from hunger in Niger since 2011 in a U.N.-backed award for the world’s best policies to combat desertification.

The regional head of mission for the U.S. government’s aid programme USAID, Lisa Franchett, said there had been “substantial improvements in the prevalence of hunger, poverty and stunting” in the areas where it works with the government.

Near Dargue lies an area of pastoral land where people from surrounding villages have been paid to build half moon pits around which small plants are now starting to grow.

Issoufou Bizo, who is overseeing the restoration project, thought the land had been left permanently barren after a severe drought in 1984. Now he brings his sheep here to graze.

“I remember when there used to be a forest here. There were trees everywhere. There were also birds and animals,” said the 42-year-old. “I feel very happy to see this green again.”

* Courtesy of Thomson Reuters Foundation

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