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Monday, October 31, 2016

Taking concrete actions on malnutrition in Africa

As African continent expressed determination to tackle malnutrition with zero hunger initiatives, it must be seen to be in deed and in words by following through all implementation programmes capable of making this dream a reality, writes REMMY NWEKE.
How to drum relevant supports required for the under-five children and their mothers to eventually tackle the hunger surrounding the subject of malnutrition in children cannot be over-emphasised, especially if the Zero Hunger for the continent of Africa will be achieved, then, there is need for the 54 member nation of African Union to take required actionable steps towards making this possible.

This also formed the focus of the recent study by the joint efforts of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and Pardee Center for International Futures in Pretoria, South Africa, outlined some conditions that must be met in order for Africa to realise this goal. 

According to the Senior Advisor on Programme Development to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) NEPAD, Mr. Martin Bwalya, which noted that support for under-5 children and mothers as one of the dynamics of achieving zero hunger on the continent by 2025. He stressed at the formal launch of the Zero Hunger Report 2025 that, the demand side on agriculture produce is increasing access, including incomes, consumer subsidies, prices, school feeding programmes, are some of the support to under-5 children and mothers, as well as pregnant women. This, he said will not happen without the supply side which is productivity and production by way of expansion of cropland, yield increase, livestock heads and reduction of post-harvest losses.

Increase in cropland:
Bwalya pointed out that overall, the food availability needs to be increased by 437 million metric tonnes by 2025 or 47 per cent of current demand. 

“To do this requires cropland to increase by 1.5 per cent; crop yields need to increase by 3.2 per cent, and livestock head size needs to increase by 5.8 per cent year,” he said.

Insisting that in order for Africa to attain its goal by 2025, a wide range of actions by different actors to bring about the necessary substantial change in the dynamics of demand and supply is requisite, just as any efforts to eliminate hunger will have to factor in robust risk assessments, including climate change.

Corroborating Bwalya, the Regional Director for World Food Programme in Johannesburg, Chris Nikoi, emphasized that “If we continue on the current trajectory, we will not be able to achieve the Malabo Declaration target of ending hunger by 2025 and eliminating child stunting. Conditions for success include political will, as well as addressing the challenges of the impact of climate change and weather shocks.”

Zero Hunger in Africa by 2025 is possible:
The determination by NEPAD on the possibility of having zero hunger in the next nine years in the continent, re-echoed when the at Pretoria launch, when the chief executive of NEPAD, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, took the stage, indicating that on the premise of the goals set in the 2014 Malabo Declaration through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), would end hunger in Africa by 2025.

He noted that nearly one in five people is hungry, even as hunger has decreased steadily since the mid-1990’s, due to population growth, but has actually increased in absolute numbers. In addition, Mayaki said, net food imports since the early 1990s have grown to about 14 per cent of the total demand, maintaining that one of the goals set in the 2014 Malabo Declaration through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), is ending hunger in Africa by 2025.

He emphasised that success in Africa will therefore be through regional integration, be it in ending hunger, agriculture or infrastructure, highlighting the major levers in policies, investments, technologies as well as human and institutional capacities necessary to sustain desired levels of supply and demand-access to food.

Improving capacity to intervention implementations:
“We cannot continue doing business as we are doing it today, since growth in Africa has not been inclusive enough. We need improved capacity to implement various interventions to do things differently if we are to deliver on Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the goal of eliminating hunger by 2025,” Dr. Mayaki underscored.

Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda, CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), noted that hunger affects women and children disproportionately, while women are the backbone of agriculture in Africa.

“The face of hunger in Africa is that 32 per cent of under-5 children are stunted – the numbers have stagnated instead of going down. If the cognitive capacity of children in Africa is reduced for life, who are the future leaders for the continent? Agriculture needs to be more nutrition sensitive. Hidden hunger challenges are therefore critical and need to be addressed,” Dr. Sibanda said.

Speaking at the same event, Lynette Chen, CEO of the NEPAD Business Foundation also maintained that food security and the trajectory of economic growth need to be balanced with nutrition sensitive agriculture.

NaijaAgroNet gathered that during the launch of the report on ending hunger in Africa, it was recognised that while the goal of eliminating hunger by 2025 might be very ambitious, it is not impossible. Steve Hedden, Research System Developer from Pardee Center maintained that “how we define hunger will dictate how we get there and how we reach our targets.”

UN member states must take concrete action on malnutrition:
In drumming support against malnutrition and hunger globally, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), an agency of the United Nations (UN) called on the government across the world to take concrete actions on malnutrition in all its forms. NaijaAgroNet also gathered that as at the time of going to the press, there are 193 UN member states in five regional groups, namely, the African Group with 54 member states; the Asia-Pacific Group with 53 member states; the Eastern European Group with 23 member states.

Looking at the aforementioned statistics, Africa seems to have a greater hand when it comes to voting in the United Nations, but the question remains whether this strength is being optimised to improve the well-being of the continent let alone ensuring that subject of malnutrition is erased.

It was not surprising that FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva insisted that the United Nations (UN) Decade of Nutrition offers a critical window for advances, pointing out that the 10 years running until 2025, will be a critical time for action to build healthy and sustainable food systems and end malnutrition in all its forms. He stressed at the just ended United Nations General Assembly which celebrated the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition, that “The purpose of the Decade of Action on Nutrition is to continue to draw the world`s attention to the importance of combatting malnutrition.”

Exploring ICN2 for Africa malnourished:
He reminded governments of their commitments made at the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in 2014 and called on them to transform those commitments into actions through national policies and programmes. He argued that a better governance on nutrition globally, “starts at country level” emphasizing that nowadays, one in three people worldwide is malnourished, pointing out that nearly 2.5 billion people suffer from at least one form of malnutrition, ranging from hunger to obesity to a lack of critical nutrients. 

“FAO has maintained a great synergy with WHO in leading the efforts in the fight against all forms of malnutrition. WHO is the lead in nutrition and FAO is here to complement that work. FAO has developed a work plan focused on the promotion of healthy food and healthy diets through nutritional education and the transformation of food systems,” said Graziano da Silva.


With the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) since 2014, African countries dream of making hunger and precisely malnutrition a thing of the past in the next nine years, mostly if requisite councils are taken and adhered to, will be a reality.

Therefore, we urge African countries to beef up their country level engagement both in terms of policies and commitment to continuity of programmes as within this period, most Africa countries will have the cause to have at least two general elections and powers are likely to change hands, but then the fear of continuity in policy and its attendant implementation becomes a nightmare that must be allayed whilst the opportunity still last.

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Water, water everywhere around Lagos, but not a drop to drink


Title: Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative roadmap for public water sector

Publishers: Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth-Nigeria

Date: October 2016

Pages: 56

Reviewer: Chido Onumah

Favour, 15, and her four siblings live with their parents in a two-room apartment in Bariga, a suburb formerly under Somolu Local Government Area of Lagos State, but now a Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of its own. Like in other places, the taps in the building have gone dry for years, and so is the public tap down the street erected by the government to meet the water needs of the people in the area. So they are forced to buy water from mai ruwa, the ubiquitous water vendors who have become a permanent feature of life serving the needs of the people in virtually every community in the State.

But most of the time the family can’t afford the vendors, so she and her brother, Tomi, 13, would pick up the jerrycans to go search for water for the use of the household before they go to school. To get enough water every morning, they have to do three trips each. And when they return from school, after homework, the other major preoccupation is to go look for water.

Almost on a daily basis, they live with the stress of pounding the streets with adults and early teens like themselves who are routinely roused from sleep before dawn by their parents to go and fetch water, not just for drinking and cooking, but also for other domestic needs for which the commodity is required. This is the depressing spectacle that is common in the coastal city of Lagos, a dreamy landscape of over 21 million residents.

Snuggled in the caressing coolness of the lagoon and the Gulf of Guinea, Lagos is the fabled city of water; water everywhere, yet in a disarming twist of cruel irony, its residents, especially low-income earners that form the bulk of the population, have no access to water. Thank God for mai ruwa. What would have happened without the intervention of this itinerant group of resilient economic hustlers whose main source of water supply are the boreholes and water tankers? Of course, this acute water shortage has severe consequences, including compromised sanitation and the impoverishment of Lagosians.

It is this embarrassing dilemma bedeviling the city that the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria seeks to address in its latest audacious report entitled, Lagos Water Crisis: Alternative Roadmap for Efficient Water Sector. A tour de force of no mean reckoning, the 56-page report (including references) is at once an eye-opener—a sobering, reflective and penetrating excursion into the stark profile of public water utility in Africa’s most populous city. Thankfully, while it paints an ugly picture of this sector, this document also offers a ray of hope.

The content page has seven sub-headings and kicks off with the executive summary that outlines the aim of the report, which includes charting a pathway out of the Lagos water problem, highlighting the impact and reasons why the current water system is not working, offering blueprints from around the world that would suit the Lagos situation and making concrete proposals that can be exploited in the interim, as well as continuously by the Lagos State government and the Lagos State Water Corporation.

According to the report, Lagos is responsible for more than 60 percent of industrial and commercial activities in Nigeria. The Lagos State Water Supply Master plan estimates daily water demand in the city at 540 million gallons per day (MGD) and production by the Lagos State Water Corporation at 210 MGD. It says, however, that the Corporation’s website lists total production capacity at only 163 MGD. By 2020, water demand is expected to reach 733 GMD.

The report opens a rare insight into the health and economic implications of the Lagos water crisis. It notes that since water and sanitation are crucial factors in public health, the impact of water crisis on public health is grave. “Indeed, it puts the State’s booming population at risk of diseases like cholera, dysentery, diarrhea and salmonellosis, in addition to escalating cases of typhoid and malaria fever,” the report observes gravely.

Quoting Dr. Jide Idris, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, it recalls that in February 2016, 25 children in Otodo Gbame, in Ikate Eti-Osa Local Government Area of the State died after drinking the community’s pathogen-infected water.

Unfortunately, many houses are currently serviced by boreholes. The dangers of drinking such water, it is says, include long-term exposure to toxins. Also quoting a 2012 report published in Resources and Environment, the report says some borehole water samples examined in Lagos contained high concentration of the heavy metals lead and cadmium at levels above the World Health Organisation (WHO) maximum acceptable concentration (MAC). It warns that only adequate water treatment could help control heavy metal exposure.

On the economic consequences of water shortage, the report notes that the high cost of sourcing water has made Lagos residents poorer. It notes, “The average family could use up to seven or eight jerrycans daily, which translates to N10,000 to N17,000 monthly in a nation where the middle class average family income is N75,000-N100,000. This high price threatens the availability of water, which improves the quality of life and makes citizens healthier for economic activities and development.”

Faced with such high human and economic cost as a result of water crisis, it is pertinent to examine how Lagos found itself in this awkward position. For starters, the report observes that the root of Lagos water crisis is not traceable to a single cause, but to a number of causes which includes, first and foremost, the fact that for decades expansion of the public water system has not corresponded with the rapid growth of the metropolis.

Other reasons include ageing and insufficient water infrastructure, decades of policies that did not work, failure to ensure meaningful public participation, poor labour practices, regulatory failures, and, of course, inadequate budget allocation. For example, though the governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, described the State’s 2016 budget as the “people’s budget,” it falls short on water, with only N17.6billion or 2.7 percent for the State’s Water Corporation. In spite of this, the report notes that with the right financial and social policies, Lagos can fund the water structure required to ensure all Lagosians have affordable access to safe water.

If there’s one significant achievement of this report it is the fact that it brings to the fore the problem of access to water as a human rights issue. It clearly underscores this notion through interviews with a cross section of Lagos residents which show that the public desires a system that sustains their right to water and allows the people to participate in making decisions about their water needs.

However, to fulfil the human right to water, the report says governments must ensure water is available, physically accessible, affordable, safe, and acceptable in odour, colour and other qualities. The concept of water privatization being canvassed in some quarters is unanimously rejected by all individuals and groups featured in the interviews.

The report examines public water successes, citing examples and models from around the world which Lagos could draw from if it is committed to re-inventing its public water system. It reminds those who are angling for the privatization of water that the most prominent examples of efficiency are located in the public sector, not the private sector. “For example, public operator Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA) increased coverage from 20% to 90% in less than 20 years,” the report says.

Pointing the way forward for Lagos, the report offers Governor Ambode and the State House of Assembly a set of policy guidelines which, if followed with the appropriate political will, could transform the Lagos water system “from a source of disease, conflict and suffering into a model for all the world to emulate.”

Well-researched and brilliantly rendered, ERA/FoEN has through this report once again demonstrated its legendary capacity to intervene and proffer solutions in critical areas of life, especially as it affects the environment. Unlike the Lagos water, the language of this report is accessible, and is made more captivating by graphic illustrations that accentuate as much as the word the quality of the entire package.

This is not a document that should be left to gather dust on the shelves of public libraries (where they exist) or government offices. It is a report that state governors across the country should permanently hold on to if they are serious about solving the water crisis in their states.

Perhaps as a way of driving home the importance of water, it is just as fitting that the authors summoned the immortal words of Leonardo Da Vinci to wrap up this excellent report: “Water is the driving force of all nature.”

Onumah is the Coordinator of the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL).
*The title of this review is paraphrased from lines in the poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

MIIVOC urges Wike to intervene over Egi Community, Total face-off

A non-governmental organisation, the Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC) has urged the Rivers State Governor, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike to step in and resolve the difference between the Egi Community in Ogba Egbema Ndoni Local Government Area of the State and Total Oil Company in the area before it escalates, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Making this call recently, the Executive Director, MIIVOC, Dr. Walter Duru, warned in Port Harcourt that the lingering disagreement between the two parties could worsen the already threatened security situation in the area.

He noted recent newspapers report that a group identified as Egi Freedom Fighters gave conditions for acceptance of the state government’s amnesty, stressing that among their demands were the rebuilding of houses of members of the community, allegedly destroyed by the military at the instance of the oil company, employment and scholarship opportunities, skills acquisition, capacity development, among others.

“I have not read any reaction from Total Oil Company, accepting that they sent the military to destroy the people’s houses or denying it. It does not appear to me like a good strategy. Although they did not indict the state government, the government’s response so far could be better,” he said.

Dr. Duru, who also is Chairman, Board of the Freedom of Information Coalition, Nigeria, lamented that if urgent steps are not taken, the begging peaceful situation in that community could degenerate.

“I am afraid that if the parties do not find a way to resolve the issues, the tension in the area could be further heightened. ONELGA LGA is already tensed. Omoku community is today a shadow of itself. Government must be strategic in its engagements, to ensure that the near culture of violence in the area is not sustained. The group’s demands, apart from that of rebuilding of houses, are not different from the age-long issues and causes of agitation in the Niger Delta. The group has listed their demands. There has to be a way out. Let the government intervene,” he said.

Duru who is a member of the Federal Government’s Steering Committee on the Open Government Partnership, beckoned on the State governor, as Chief Security Officer of the State to step in, reach out to the parties and, if possible, involve an independent Civil Society Organisation to broker peace among the parties.

“Whatever strategy to be adopted must be such that can stand the test of time and ensure sustainable peace in the area,” he declared.

Further, Dr. Duru argued that it is easier to prevent the escalation of the issue, than to manage the crises when it eventually escalates, urging the government to act quickly.

“The state government’s amnesty programme appears to be working. Many have embraced it. 
However, borrowing a leaf from the parable of the lost sheep in the Bible, Governor Wike, as father of the state should look into the matter dispassionately and ensure that justice is done. Let a platform be created for dialogue between the community and the company so the issues would be addressed. Applying force in the matter could backfire. Let dialogue be the instrument,” he said.

Uboshe Uboshe/GEE
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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

'Heathrow expansion, danger to Paris deal on Climate Change’

Climate change and energy policy expert, Prof. Alice Larkin has kicked against the United Kingdom (UK) plan to expand the popular Heathrow Airport in the capital city of London, citing climate change concerns, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Larkin, who is a professor of Climate Change and Energy Policy at  the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Mechanical, Civil and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester, was reacting to the plan proclaimed Tuesday by UK government.

NaijaAgroNet notes that at a cabinet committee on Tuesday, the government approved plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, thus expanding UK airport capacity. Although, there will be a public consultation on the effects of the expansion before the government makes a final decision as part of a national policy statement on aviation, Professor Larkin urged the government to pay attention to climate change scientists.

She pointed out that in the 2000s, research fed into a heated debate on airport expansion in the UK and based on some of the work, arguments were made against further airport expansion, on the grounds that this would be at odds with climate change commitments.

“Just a few years on, with an additional 180 Giga Tonnes of CO2 accumulating in the atmosphere, global climate change policy objectives have been strengthened, and air travel is still dominated by the privileged few,” she said.

Larkin also lamented that the approval of a third runway at Heathrow that will expand capacity and support further passenger growth, stressing that it would be reasonable then to ask some questions.
“Has there been a new, groundbreaking technical solution to decarbonise the aviation sector? Can an increase in air travel somehow sit comfortably alongside the Paris Agreement’s goals? Did we just get the maths wrong the first time around? Sadly, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding ‘no’” she argued.

As said by her, there have been improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency, which have been incremental, pointing out that alternative fuels continued to be researched, their mainstream global penetration to propel civil aircraft remains decades away and not just for technical reasons.

She emphasised that the only real saving grace from the climate perspective is that growth in UK-related passenger numbers has been lower than previously forecast. This has been partly due to the global economic downturn and also, in-part, due to a constraint on airport expansion. In other words, we’ve been somewhat successful in limiting high levels of CO2 growth from the UK’s international flights by maintaining the existing level of airport capacity.

Larkin posited that all this suggests that climate change science is being overlooked to an even greater extent than it was before, in favour of poorly evidenced arguments in support of expanded airport capacity to increase economic growth.

“What is particularly shocking about this turn of events, is that this is happening just days before the Paris Agreement comes into force.  The unavoidable reality is that the highly constrained carbon budget that is consistent with the Paris Agreement requires all sectors to urgently reduce CO2 emissions and accelerate away from using fossil fuels. Of course some sectors will achieve this sooner than others, but no sector can be excluded.

Technically and operationally, she said, options for decarbonising the aviation sector within a timeframe consistent with the Paris goals remain few and far between, which means that demand-side measures that constrain further growth, and have been constraining growth in the past, must receive much greater attention.

She maintained that policy measures aimed at increasing capacity and supporting further growth in air travel, such as the third runway at Heathrow, are at odds with the Paris Agreement. Such developments risk future stranded assets, and are inconsistent with tackling climate change. Researchers will need to raise their voices to new levels given this week’s decisions.

NaijaAgroNet further notes that the upcoming call from the Environmental Audit Committee for evidence of the impacts of the third runway is a welcome opportunity on the horizon, but the government has to be willing to sit up and pay attention to the evidence of climate change scientists and prove their commitment to the Paris Agreement.

Remmy Nweke/ED, Ops
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Monday, October 24, 2016

Anambra speaker, Rita Maduagwu says property rights for women non-negotiable

The Speaker of the Anambra State, House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Barrister Rita Maduagwu, has said that property rights for Nigerian women is no longer negotiable, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Maduagwu in a lecture entitled “Property Rights of Women, Nigerian Perspective,” to the Anambra State Women Association Lagos (ASWAL) at the Colonedes Hotels Ikoyi, Lagos, to mark the 25 years of the association, said that constitutionally, this issue has been taken care of over 17 years.

Rt. Hon Maduagwu also identified cultural inequalities and gender barriers to property rights ‎drawing comparisons in Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa customs.

She cited extant laws to drive home her argument for equal opportunities, and pointed out that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has abolished most of the discriminations against women.

She further said that the abolition affords Nigerian women to own properties in the country.

NaijaAgroNet notes that Anambra State Women Association Lagos was formed 25 years ago by Anambra women resident in Lagos with the aim of promoting peaceful coexistence among ndi-Anambra,  welfare of the members  to enlighten women on their roles  towards building Anambra State and to help the vulnerable and the poor in the society to name a few.
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Experts say climate change may cause decline in nutrients

Experts have raised alarming over the global effects of climate change to food which may lead to loss of nutritional content of some foods, such as declining zinc, iron and protein counts in staple cereals, and trigger new health issues, including diarrhoea for humans and an array of transboundary animal diseases, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Experts at the Food and Agriculture Organisation, beyond 2030, scientific evidence has shown negative pressures on food production will be increasingly felt everywhere. Until then, adverse impacts of higher temperatures are sharply skewed towards developing countries, pointing to dimmer prospects for their food self-sufficiency.
They said that helping smallholders adapt to climate change risks is critical for global poverty reduction and food security.
Close attention, FAO experts said, should be paid to removing obstacles they may face and fostering an enabling environment for individual, joint and collective action.
Further, FAO urged policy makers to identify and remove such barriers, stressing that these obstacles can include input subsidies that promote unsustainable farming practices, poorly aligned incentives and inadequate access to markets, credit, extension services and social protection programmes, and often disadvantage women, who make up to 43 percent of the agricultural labour force.
The report stresses that more climate finance is needed to fund developing countries' actions on climate change.  International public finance for climate change adaptation and mitigation is growing and, while still relatively small, can act as a catalyst to leverage larger flows of public and private investments. More climate finance needs to flow to sustainable agriculture, fisheries and forestry to fund the large-scale transformation and the development of climate-smart food production systems. Adaptation and mitigation of climate change must  occur in tandem. 

Without action, agriculture will continue to be a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. But by adopting climate-smart practices and increasing the capacity of soils and forests to sequester carbon, emissions can be reduced while stepping up food production to feed the world's growing population, the report said. Food systems can further contribute by minimizing food losses and waste, as well as by promoting healthier diets that also leave a lighter environmental footprint.
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Saturday, October 22, 2016

American climate change youths plot Trump’s downfall

The Young Americans may be spoiling for way as they are galvanizing global climate change advocates against Mr. Donald Trump, alleging the presidential candidate for the Republican party wants to destroy the Paris Climate Change deal, reports NaijaAgroNet.

To this end, they are muscling up global youth campaign using the Short Messaging Service (SMS) otherwise known as ‘texting’ to make sure they fail Mr. Trump by simply texting.

Confirming this resolve, in an online petition via Avaaz, the lead advocate, Emma Ruby-Sachs, insisting that Mr. Trump is trying to destroy the global deal on Paris climate change, hence he deserves global campaign against him.

“Trump wants to tear up the Paris climate deal, and that's just the start of his horrifying plans! But now there's a way we can all help stop him, just by texting,” Ruby-Sachs said. 

NaijaAgroNet recalls that Avaaz is a 44-million-person global campaign network that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people shape global decision-making. Avaaz means "voice" or "song" in many languages has memberships in every nation of the world; whereas its team is spread across 18 countries on 6 continents and operates in 17 languages. 

Isaac Oyimah/GEE

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Agriculture on high agenda @22nd COP in Morocco

Agriculture will be high on the agenda at the forthcoming 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP) slated for Morocco starting November 7, 2016, reports NaijaAgroNet.

Revealing this position, the Director-General, FAO, José Graziano da Silva, said in Rome that the year 2016 seems to be a year of commitment, therefore deserves to have more action than ever before.

"2016 should be about putting commitments into action," he said, noting the international community last year agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate agreement, about to come into force.

“Agriculture will be high on the agenda at the 22nd Conference of the Parties in Morocco starting  November 7,” he declared.

The FAO report underscores that success in transforming food and agriculture systems will largely depend on urgently supporting smallholders in adapting to climate change.

Developing countries are home to around half a billion smallholder farm families who produce food and other agricultural products in greatly varying agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions. Solutions have to be tailored to those conditions; there is no one-size-fits-all fix.

The FAO report describes alternative, economically viable ways of helping smallholders to adapt and making the livelihoods of rural populations — often the most exposed to the downside risks of climate change - more resilient.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE
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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Don’t under-rate contribution of agriculture to greenhouse

The role of agriculture cannot be over-emphasised in efforts to curb the greenhouse gas emissions, says the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), reports NaijaAgroNet.

The Director-General, FAO, José Graziano da Silva while presenting the report of the State of Food and Agriculture 2016, said that agriculture, including forestry, fisheries and livestock production, generate around a fifth of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Agriculture, he said, must both contribute more to combating climate change while bracing to overcome its impacts.

"There is no doubt climate change affects food security. What climate change does is to bring back uncertainties from the time we were all hunter gatherers. We cannot assure any more that we will have the harvest we have planted," he said.

As said by him, the uncertainty also translates into volatile food prices, noting "Everybody is paying for that, not only those suffering from droughts," warning that "business as usual" approach could put millions more people at risk of hunger compared to a future without climate change.

Most affected, he said, would be populations in poor areas in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia, especially those who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Future food security in many countries will worsen if no action is taken today.

He pointed out that overhauling farming and food systems will be complex due to the vast number of stakeholders involved, the multiplicity of farming and food processing systems, and differences in ecosystems. Yet, efforts must begin in earnest now as the adverse impacts of climate change will only worsen with time, the report emphasizes.

"The benefits of adaptation outweigh the costs of inaction by very wide margins," Graziano da Silva said.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE 
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Pix: Graziano da Silva

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Political will needed to fight against hunger

The Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has declared that the fight against hunger is essentially a political issue, reports NaijaAgroNet.

"Italy maintains that the fight for food security is, at this point in history, a question of politics with a capital ‘P'," he said while speaking at a session  in Rome to mark the 2016 World Food Day.

He also said, that the international community needs to urgently address the problems of inequality and injustice.

“Italy would strive to ensure that these themes are at the top of the international agenda, including at two important events in March next year: the G7 summit, which Italy will host and preside and a meeting of European Union leaders,

Renzi noted that Europe should reject a "culture of waste". Italy recently passed a new law aimed at curbing food waste, one that was based, "more on collaboration and less on punishment".

Another keynote speaker at the ceremony, Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco, whose country is hosting next month's COP22 climate talks, said these would be "action-oriented" and geared towards implementing the Paris Agreement.

"The Moroccan Presidency will seek to nurture and promote the spirit of mobilization which prevailed in Paris in terms of increasing climate funding, developing expertise and ensuring the transfer of technology. It will lay special emphasis on adaptation, primarily for the countries of the South and for Small Island States." Princess Hasnaa said.

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UN stresses need to eradicate poverty

In marking the 24th anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP), the United Nations has underscored the need to recognize and address the humiliation and exclusion endured by many people living in poverty, reports NaijaAgroNet.
The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, noted that as the world work together to honour the pledge to build a life of peace, prosperity and dignity for all, the world must recognize that prejudice and discrimination seriously impede efforts.
“To end poverty, we must commit to respect and defend the human rights of all people and end the humiliation and social exclusion that the poor face every day,” he said.
NaijaAgroNet recalls that this year marks the first commemoration of IDEP since the launch of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals in January 2016. Recent estimates show that despite significant gains since 2002 – the number of people living below the poverty line dropped by half – 1 in 8 people still live in extreme poverty, including 800 million people who do not have enough to eat.
Equally, NaijaAgroNet gathered that an estimated 2.4 billion people have no access to improved sanitation, 1.1 billion people have no access to electricity and 880 million people live in urban slums. Opportunities continue to remain scarce for the world’s most vulnerable people – 59 million children of primary school age are out of school and the youth unemployment rate is 15 per cent, more than three times the rate of adults.
“With its central pledge to leave no one behind, the historic and ambitious new 2030 Agenda recognises that development will only be sustainable if it is inclusive,” said the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo.
“We need to change the course of human development from one characterized by exclusion, inequalities, conflict, and unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, to one that is more inclusive, equitable and sustainable,” Hongbo said.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE
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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Lack of hand washing, kills over 300,000 in 2015 – UNICEF

The spate of cholera in aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti and with a new outbreak of war-in Yemen, have made it difficult for children, families and communities to make washing hands with soap a habit to help prevent the spread of diseases, says United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), reports NaijaAgroNet.

This is coming as UNICEF said over 300,000 lives should have been saved if hand washing has become a habit globally.

Chief of Communication for UNICEF Nigeria, Ms Doune Porter, told NaijaAgroNet that as the world celebrate the Global Handwashing Day, UNICEF has discovered that, in 2015 alone, over 300,000 children under the age of five died globally from diarrhoeal infections linked to poor access to safe drinking water and sanitation – a rate of over 800 per day.

“Yet many of these deaths could have been prevented through the simple act of handwashing with soap,” she said.

Porter quoted the UNICEF’s global head of water, sanitation and hygiene Sanjay Wijesekera as saying that every year, 1.4 million children are dying from largely preventable diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea.

“These are staggering numbers, but they could be greatly reduced by working with children and families to adopt a very straightforward solution – handwashing. We know, for example, that handwashing with soap before meals and after using the toilet could reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal infections by 40 per cent,” Sanjay said.

In addition, NaijaAgroNet gathered that a recent survey conducted by UNICEF in Nigeria found that about 10 per cent of households did not know about the critical times to wash hands and could not demonstrate proper handwashing techniques.

The survey, Porter further said revealed that only 12 per cent of households have handwashing facilities with soap or ash located at their latrines.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE
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Friday, October 14, 2016

Africa: Bracing up for post AGOA period

Next time you pick up sporting gear or a pair of jeans in a U.S. mall, do check the label. It may have been made in Lesotho, a small, mountainous and land-locked country completely surrounded by South Africa, with a population of around two million

Lesotho is a beneficiary of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows over 6,400 products from eligible sub-Saharan African countries to enter the U.S. market duty-free. The country has made big strides in the garment industry with U.S. exports estimated at US$330 million in 2015, against US$140 million in 2000. Today, according to the Lesotho Textile Exporters Association, about 80% of Lesotho's textile and garment exports go to the U.S.   With 44,000 employees, the garment industry is the country’s largest private sector employer.

There are other ‘Made in Africa’ success stories that have emerged since AGOA was introduced in 2000 and extended by 10 years in September 2015.  According to the 2016 AGOA report released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative, non-oil exports to the United States under AGOA nearly tripled from $1.4 billion in 2001 to $4.1 billion in 2015. Automobiles from South Africa and apparel from Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, and Swaziland were the leading exports.

The gains from AGOA are undeniable, despite criticisms that the agreement favours petroleum products and that it excludes some agricultural products in which Africans have a comparative advantage. There have also been concerns that the export of Africa’s agricultural products to the United States is made even more difficult by complex health and food safety regulations. This, however, has not stopped bolder, export-ready, African countries from capturing shares in the U.S. market. In July, for instance, Namibia became the first African country to be eligible to export boneless (not ground) raw beef products to the US.

A key challenge for Africa will be to ensure that its industries that have thrived under AGOA do not collapse, that the thousands of jobs created in the automobile and automobile parts, apparel, fruit and nut, cocoa, footwear, and flower industries are sustained and continue to grow beyond 2025.

This will demand that Africa strengthens its skills base and capacity to compete. Failure to do so could see competitors such as Vietnam erode its growing market share in especially textiles and apparel should the United States ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.   The US textile and apparel market is estimated at US$350 billion. Africa, despite its large potential, supplies a paltry one per cent of this. A challenge for the continent is use the next nine years up the end of AGOA in 2025 to build competitive industries in the sector. A country that could emerge as key player is Ethiopia.

A 2015 McKinsey survey of 40 global chief procurement officers in the apparel industry, for the first time named Ethiopia as a possible global sourcing destination. Like with many other African countries, the challenge for Ethiopia is to shift from being of the world’s leading sourcing options to becoming a priority.

For responsive countries, AGOA has provided invaluable lessons that Africans can use to stimulate the growth of their export industries and seize market share elsewhere.  It has also helped enhance intra-African trade by enabling producers in different countries to create new value chains that deliver mutual benefit. Botswana, for instance, now exports leather to South Africa where it is processed into upholstery for luxury car exports to the United States.

Meanwhile, the AfDB will continue to play its part by building infrastructure to improve Africa’s competitiveness in U.S. markets. This will include promotion of regional integration that enhances trade and skills for greater global competitiveness.  Equally important, within Africa is the creation of solutions for export-oriented small and medium enterprise (SME) to help bridge the unmet demand for trade finance in Africa, currently estimated at US$ 120 billion.  Work in this direction is already well underway. Established in February 2013 the Bank’s Trade Finance Program (TFP) has already supported more than 85 domestic banks in 27 African countries, catalyzing approximately US$3.4 billion of trade in vital sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and construction and energy.  More than 60% of the transactions supported are on account of SMEs.   Furthermore, the Bank’s emphasis on regional value chains in its “Industrialize Africa” strategy recognizes the opportunities that anchor industries in one country can provide to industries in neighboring countries.

African governments are aware of the challenges. At the September 2016 Ministerial AGOA Forum, African trade ministers recognised the urgent need to plan ahead.  They committed to the creation of a task force to outline strategies for US-Africa trade and investment relations beyond 2025. This is a good start. Now, the clock is ticking and the bell signaling the end of AGOA privileges will soon resonate across Africa.  We must be ready when it rings.

*Moono Mupotola is the Director of the NEPAD Regional Integration and Trade Department at the African Development Bank (AfDB)
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