Monday, January 24, 2011

from cradle to grave votes

Nearly one-third of Zimbabwe's registered voters are dead, and others appear to be babies or up to 120 years old, the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network's report said.

The group found some 2,344 voters between the ages of 101 and 110 still on Zimbabwe's voting rolls , a dubious figure in a country where the average life expectancy is a mere 44 years. t also revealed nine people born between 1890 and 1900 aged between 111 and 120 years old. The report also cited a lawmaker who found that more than 500 dead voters had all been given the same birth date — January 1, 1901. It found that electoral officials had not made efforts to update the lists by deleting the dead and eliminating duplications.

There were 93 children below one year old.

The election network said that its researchers had found more than 185,000 cases of the same voters being listed in two or more voting constituencies during Zimbabwe's last vote.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

For Ourselves

The deadline for the world to meet its millennium development goals is now only four years away, yet in sub-Saharan Africa, there are still 570 million people without adequate sanitation, and it will be another 200 years before just half of the population of this region have access to a safe, private toilet. In Nigeria sanitation coverage stands at just 32%. Children die at the rate of 4,000 a day. That's the equivalent of one child dying in the time it takes to read this paragraph. Building a latrine is only half the battle.

In many rural areas in west Africa, the practice of open-air defecation is ritualised and bound in tradition. Beyond individual differences, the members of a group or society are united by similar ways of thinking and behaving, and will react to situations in similar ways. Our research showed that reasons for resistance to using a latrine included beliefs that one might be possessed by demons, lose magical powers or live a shorter life. Some believe a toilet is meant only for wealthy people or that, if somebody feeds you, you should in turn defecate in their field. For many in so-called modern cultures who take the use of a safe, private toilet for granted, these reasons may sound funny, even ridiculous. However, it soon becomes sobering to think that each of these beliefs may be directly linked to disease, debilitation and death.

An approach known as community-led total sanitation (CLTS) was first conceived in Bangladesh and the concept has been sweeping across south Asia with impressive results, and many are hoping that it can bring similar results to Africa. It is based on an understanding that the people themselves have the solutions and are best able to determine which interventions will enable them to attain a self-defined, collective destiny.

Instead of focusing on the supply and installation of sanitation hardware to communities, CLTS focuses on changing attitudes and behaviour through community mobilisation to stop open defecation, and to build and use latrines. Participants have reported that they find the approach engaging, participatory and, most notably, empowering – putting them in control of their own destiny, in a context in which, more often than not, death by disease is accepted with fatalistic submission to the 'will of God' or the hex of an enemy or the local witch. Empowering local communities – especially women – with information that allows them to make decisions pertaining to their health and well-being ensures that they "own" the desired change. It is they who can be credited for the health benefits of safe sanitation and hygiene practices. It is they who commit to the necessary behaviour change, they who hold themselves and their peers accountable.

Help is not coming from outside, but from within - and people are in charge of their own destiny.


Friday, January 21, 2011

hot air

The Doha talks began in 2001, and was aimed at reducing barriers to market access throughout the world, with the development of poor countries at the heart of their agenda.“The length of time that the [Doha] negotiations have taken threatens to render aspects of the agenda obsolete." was the conclusion of the just-ended global poverty summit in Johannesburg

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, the assistant secretary-general of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and a leading Malaysian economist, said it had been extremely difficult to measure any socio-economic benefits of such access. He said studies in his country had shown that a paddy farmer’s child had better nutrition than the children of a rubber farmer who now had access to global markets.

Improving income levels did not automatically imply better lives for the poor in any country, as other factors such as the implementation of policies that benefit the poor within countries matter a lot more, said Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel prize-winning economist and chair of the Brooks World Poverty Institute. He cited the USA as an example of where gross domestic product had grown substantially but not filtered down to the poor, who were worse off than a decade ago. "It [high economic growth levels] had a trickle-up effect," said Stiglitz.

Over the past decade the Doha talks have failed to get developed countries to stop subsidizing their farmers and agricultural exports. the USA reintroduced subsidies for cotton farmers in 2008, severely affecting cotton farmers in West African countries like Benin, Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso. EU fishing industry subsidies encourage European fishing beyond Europe - something that adversely affects the millions of African fishermen, the World Bank's Hoekman said "If those subsidies are removed it will prevent overfishing, benefiting the poor fishing communities along the African coast and the environment."

Sundaram said sub-Saharan Africa did not stand to benefit from the Doha talks. He pointed out that many least developed countries (LDCs), most of them in Africa, lacked the capacity to compete in the global market.

The San - again

Socialist Banner has sympathetically and repeatedly reported on the manner that the San Bushmen are being treated by the Botswana government.

In the early 1980s, diamonds were discovered in the reserve. Soon after, government ministers went into the reserve to tell the Bushmen living there that they would have to leave because of the diamond finds. In three big clearances, in 1997, 2002 and 2005, virtually all the Bushmen were forced out. Their homes were dismantled, their school and health post were closed, their water supply was destroyed and the people were threatened and trucked away. They now live in resettlement camps outside the reserve. Rarely able to hunt, and arrested and beaten when they do, they are dependent on government handouts. They are now gripped by alcoholism, boredom, depression, and illnesses such as TB and HIV/AIDS.

The forced relocation of indigenous tribespeople by the Botswanan government was condemned by US diplomats as a "special tragedy", leaked US state department cables reveal. After visiting New Xade in 2005, ambassador Huggins condemned the manner of the relocation, saying it was "clear that people have been dumped in economically absolutely unviable situations without forethought, and without follow-up support. The lack of imagination displayed on the part of the [Botswanan government] is breathtaking." He added that "the special tragedy of New Xade's dependent population is that it could have been avoided."

In 2006, Botswanan courts ruled the San could return to their land, but also decided the government did not have to provide certain key services. The San still have no access to the borehole. A hearing was held in June 2010 but the judge dismissed their application. They are now appealing against this decision.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

F for failure

Educational standards in Africa’s biggest and most advanced economy remain generally dire. Seventeen years after the end of apartheid, black pupils still generally fare much worse than their white counterparts. Barely one in ten South African pupils qualifies for university, and only 5% end up with a degree. South Africa does particularly badly in maths and science, coming last (out of 48 countries) in a report published in 2003 by a Dutch institute called “Trends in International Maths and Science”, a study of Grade 9 pupils (aged 15). It withdrew from the 2007 series.

In 2009 just over half of black matric candidates passed, compared with 99% of whites, 92% of Indians and 76% of coloureds (people of mixed race). Though blacks now account for nearly half of all university students (and 80% of the whole population), less than one in 20 of the relevant black age group, still facing harsh economic and social disadvantages, ends up with a degree, compared with almost half of all whites.

Even though public schooling was desegregated in 1994, the vast majority of poor black children continue to go to severely deprived, overwhelmingly black schools. Two-thirds of state schools have no library or computer; 90% have no science laboratory; more than half of all pupils either have no text books or have to share them. Whites, by contrast, together with a small but growing contingent from the black middle class, send their children to the former all-white “Model C” state schools, with their far superior facilities, or, increasingly, to a private school. Since 1994 the number of pupils attending independent schools has more than doubled to around 500,000 (4% of the total school population); six out of ten are black. Tuition fees, over a quarter subsidised by the state, range from a modest 1,600 rand ($230) to a hefty 80,000 rand a year. Many parents think it worth it. Class sizes are generally half those in state schools, the teachers are better qualified and the success rate a lot higher. More than 90% of private-school pupils can expect to get their matric, compared with just 30% of state-school pupils. The former Model C schools boast a similar success rate.

Angie Motshekga, the schools minister, admits that the system is largely “in crisis” and will take 20 years to fix. Others fear it may need longer.

from here

nigerian poverty grows

About 70 percent of Nigeria’s 150 million people live below the poverty line, the Daily Trust reported, citing Lamido Sanusi, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The figure rose from 54 percent previously.

"There is little reason to believe that this wider diversion can be narrowed without much intensive effort." he said.

It is estimated that 12 million out of the 150 million Nigerians are unemployed. 49.9 percent of youth within the age of 15 and 24 years residing in the urban areas have no job while 39.6 percent of their counterparts in rural areas are also not employed. Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics put the number of unemployed women in the urban areas at 22 per cent and those in the rural areas at 24 per cent.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

BEE - Black Elite Enrichment

"Most African politicians play the ethnic card to stay in power. And unfortunately the masses don’t realise that they are being duped – they don’t understand that their interest are different from those of the elite even if they happen to come from the same tribe. Why? The masses have no sense of its own identity and are not politically consciousness of its own interests. It is only when that consciousness develops that this group would be transformed from being a class ‘in itself’ to a class ‘for itself’. Now because of the under-developed nature of our society, sociologically speaking that is, most of our people think that the main problem confronting them are ethnic in nature forgetting the central issue which is the daily struggle for economic survival. So, it’s important that we bring the issue of class and class struggle back in our discussion...
...why after a good 21 years into our independence all we are seeing is the yawning inequality in the Namibian society leading to a sharply divided nation of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. This is not what we promised our people. What we promised our people was to imagine a country with no poverty. With no one who sleeps under bridges, no one looking through garbage for food. On the contrary: everyone would have what you or I would call a decent home and a decent standard of living...But when independence came, they made a total u-turn and adopted and accepted the capitalist agenda in toto...
....The masses should now wake up from their deep slumber and wage a new struggle for their own liberation."

Quoted from T Kaure in The Namibian

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Feeding Ourselves 2

The wild African black plum (vitex doniana) has great potential as a by-product of a revered—and useful—native tree. The greatest economic potential of the vitex trees probably lies in the wood and leaves. But black plums support diets and incomes throughout the life of the tree. Black plums are common across tropical sub-Saharan Africa’s coastal savannas and savanna woodlands. The black plum tree is not domesticated, but it is widely utilized and protected and is often found at the center of West African villages.

The olive-shaped fruit has a sweet, prune-like taste with a hint of chocolate. It is believed to have high levels of vitamins A & B. The fruit makes good quality jellies and jams as well as a black molasses. A beverage similar in flavor to coffee is also made from roasted fruits. Young, leafy shoots from the tree are picked, boiled, seasoned, and eaten like spinach.

The tree is used for a variety of medicinal purposes as well. The edible parts of the tree are traditionally prescribed for anemia, due to high iron and potassium content. Leaves are also eaten to treat dysentery. Bark extracts are believed to be useful treatments for jaundice, toothaches, leprosy, and other skin ailments. Some traditions use the bark to improve fertility in women.

In addition to its edibility, the leaves, pods, and seeds make excellent fodder for goats, sheep, and cattle. The trees are especially utilized for livestock fodder during dry seasons and drought. Its long roots can reach deep groundwater pockets, which keeps its leaves green much longer than the grasses that livestock usually depends on. Beekeepers value the tree as a base for their beehives. Abundant white flowers attract bees, and beekeepers like to hang hives in the branches or in a hollowed out trunk of a black plum tree.

It is nitrogen fixing, meaning it adds nitrogen to the soils it grows in. Whether the tree is growing throughout the field or along boundaries, crops can benefit from natural soil nutrients. Shade from the tree can protect from over-exposure to the tropical sun. Leaves from the tree are also used as nutrient-rich mulch. Its nitrogen fixing abilities encourage soil health and its deep roots protect soils from erosion, benefitting other plant life. In this way, it could be utilized for rebuilding degraded native ecosystems. Timber harvested from black plum trees is medium hard and is similar to teak. It is termite resistant, making it favored as a building material. It is known to be used for making furniture, boats, chairs, and drums and is good for carving. It also makes quality firewood and charcoal.

Native to the humid, tropical forests of West and Central Africa, safou (Dacryodes edulis) is also known as the “butterfruit” for its rich, oily pulp. Safou is still not widely domesticated.

People in West and Central Africa have been eating safou for centuries as a fresh fruit between meals and cooked as a main course. When roasted or quickly boiled in salted water, the pulp separates from the skin and seed and takes on a buttery texture. In Nigeria, cooked pulp is combined with starchy foods like maize to make a main course. And if cooked for even longer, a healthy oil, primarily made up of unsaturated fats, can be extracted from the pulp and seed. Like its name-sake, butter, safou is high in fats and very calorie-dense. But unlike butter, safou is also high in amino acids, the chemical building blocks of proteins. Concentrations of some its essential amino acids, such as lysine and leucine, are comparable to concentrations found in eggs and meat. Plus, the fruit is also high in micronutrients and minerals, particularly potassium, calcium, and magnesium, making safou a super food with the potential to help alleviate hunger and malnutrition.

Its wood is stiff and elastic, making it useful for tool handles. The bark produces a resin that makes both a glue for mending pottery and topical treatment for jiggers, a parasitic flea that embeds itself in the skin. And the leaves and roots are also found in a variety of traditional medicines used to treat everything from dysentery to joint pain.

Monkey oranges have all the characteristics of a successful crop–high productivity, extended shelf life, pest resistance, delicious flavor, and high demand. But , the fruit remains undomesticated and has rarely undergone organized cultivation. Monkey orange trees are similar in shape and size to apple, pear, and orange trees.The grapefruit-sized fruit tends to be yellow, orange, or brown, and emits a sweet scent with a touch of clove. They are known for their delicious sweet and sour flavor and are rich in vitamin C and in B vitamins. It is traditionally eaten raw, or made into jam, juice, or fruit wine. A mature tree can bear 300 to 400 fruits per year. Indigenous to tropical and subtropical Africa, they are capable of growing in arid and semi-arid areas and in poor and rocky soils. Their tough outer shells make them resistant to fungi and fruit flies and protect them from being easily damaged in transport and storage. They have an exceptional ability to remain edible in tropical heat for months after fruit maturity. Monkey oranges could be used to produce juices and dry fruit roll. They are a source of shade and erosion protection, and the wood is commonly used for firewood, tool handles, and building poles.

The locust bean is indigenous to the savannah regions of Africa, and most commonly found in the band stretching from Senegal to Uganda. The fruit pulp and seed extracts provide nutritious ingredients for traditional soups, sweetmeats and condiments across West Africa. The locust bean is also extremely hardy; it is well suited to a wide range of soils, it survives fires, thrives in semiarid tropical climates, and has a low susceptibility to pests and diseases. The tree has a wide-reaching crown and can grow more than 20 meters tall.

The sugary pulp can be eaten raw, used in traditional sweetmeats or mixed with water to make a refreshing drink. While the pulp makes for a good energy snack, the seeds are the plant’s most sought after product. Rich in protein, starch, fiber, sugar, and fat, as well as vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and iron, the seeds are about as nutritionally balanced a food as you can find. Because the pods mature during “the hunger season,” when most other vegetation has dried, the locust bean is a true lifesaver – it can be a source of emergency food with a high nutritional value.The seeds are famous for their greasy extract, which is fermented and pressed into cakes or balls, known in West Africa as dawadawa. It has a pungent odor, often compared to that of aged cheese, and is used as a condiment or an ingredient for soup.

Its leaves are so rich in nitrogen and other minerals, that they are often collected as manure for soil improvement.

Referred to as a “supermarket on a trunk,moringa is potentially one of the planet’s most valuable plants. Serving not only as a reliable source of diverse foods, moringa also provides lamp oil, wood, paper, liquid fuel, skin treatments, and the means to help purify water.

The moringa tree comprises 4 different edible parts: pods, leaves, seeds, and roots. The green-bean looking pods are the most sought-after parts, not only because of their taste – similar to asparagus – but also because they are highly nutritious. They provide a good balance of amino acids and minerals and possess one of the highest vitamin C levels of any tropical vegetable. The moringa leaves are also an excellent source of nutrition. People commonly boil the tiny leaflets and eat them like spinach. Like the pods, the leaves contain vitamins A and C as well as more calcium than most other greens. These leaves also contain such high levels of iron that doctors frequently prescribe them for anemic patients. Before fully mature, pods can also be picked for their soft seeds. The seeds can be boiled and eaten like fresh peas, or fried to taste more like peanuts. Seeds can also be pressed for oil that can be used for cooking, medicinal ointments, lamp fuel, or even as an ingredient in soap. The thick, soft roots are another important food resource, and are usually used to make a condiment similar to horseradish. Boiling roots and shoot tips is also common because of their high-protein content.

Researchers have found that mixing crushed moringa seeds with polluted water help settle silt and other contaminants. This is highly cost effective because the seeds can replace the expensive imported material usually used for water purification in rural areas. The seed filtered water still needs a final filtration before it is completely drinkable, but the seeds make the process easier and help other water filters last longer.While smoke from household fires can pollute the air, the soft, spongy moringa wood burns cleanly with little smoke or smell, making it a more healthy source of fuel.

Indigenous to West Africa, a Dika tree can grow to be as tall as 40 meters and produces a small green and yellow fruit that looks, at first glance, like a small mango.

Its fruit ranges in taste from sweet to bitter and can be enjoyed—especially the sweeter varieties—fresh off the tree, or made into jelly, jam or “African-mango juice.”But while the fruit is a delicious treat, the seeds are where the real value can be found. Resembling smooth walnuts, Dika seeds are cracked open by harvesters to collect the edible kernel contained inside. These kernals can be eaten raw or roasted, but most are processed and pounded into Dika butter or compacted into bars or pressed to produce a cooking oil. The seeds also produce a unique flavor when crushed and are combined with the other spices to make “ogbono soup,” a common dish.

Teff is an indigenous grain grown on the dry plateaus of Ethiopia. Teff grows very well under difficult conditions such as unpredictable rainfall and is usually left alone by pests and disease.

Teff is rich in nutrients, providing all eight essential amino acid, and is a great source of carbohydrates and fiber. It is also high in the nutritionally important minerals calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, aluminum, iron, copper, zinc, boron, barium, and thiamin. In Ethiopia, teff is commonly consumed as a homemade fermented beverage, as a gruel called muk, and as a sweet and dry unleavened bread called kita. It is also made into flour and cooked into injera, a flat, spongy, slightly sour bread that is consumed with most meals.

Not only is teff good for eating, it is also a common construction material, with the straw being used to reinforce houses made from mud and plaster. It also is given to livestock as fodder, and farmers in Eritrea and Ethiopia say that cattle prefer it to other types of fodder.

The pigeonpea is grown by subsistence farmers in warm semi-arid and sub-humid tropics, often in poor soils with little to no chemical inputs thanks to its hardiness and drought-tolerance.the food is a staple for diets in India, southern and eastern Africa, and Central America. It’s also used extensively as a cover crop, to create a hedge or windbreak, or as green manure in many sustainable farming systems and home gardens in the tropics and subtropics because of its ability to grow in warm temperatures.

The pigeonpea can help improve food security because it requires minimal water or inputs, can cope with poor soil and little water, yet still produces yields of grain that contain more than 20 percent protein, which is especially important for countries facing hunger and malnutrition.In addition to its nutritious and hardy benefits, the cowpea is also is a nitrogen-fixing legume which gives it great potential to improve soil quality and–when grown together with other pasture plants–to create a highly fertile, productive and sustainable livestock feeding system. The leaves, flowers, seed pods and peas all provide a nutritious animal fodder, not to mention attracting bees that help it to self-propagate. When planted around young fruit trees they provide shelter without over-shading and the trimmings can be used as mulch with the nitrogen from its root nodules nourishing the tree.

Amaranth is a small vegetable indigenous to Africa, mchicha in Swahili. In lowland areas of West African countries such as Nigeria, Amaranth greens are commonly eaten boiled. Its mild flavor and tender texture complements many starchy dishes well. Young plants can be eaten whole, and young leaves can be harvested continuously from mature plants. A nutritious vegetable, amaranth leaves are high in vitamins A, K, B6, C, riboflavin and folate; and essential minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese. Due to its high iron content, it is recommended for those at risk for anemia. It is also an important source of protein. Some African populations rely on amaranth leaves for as much as 25 percent of their daily protein intake during its growing season.

With a toasted flavor similar to popcorn when cooked, amaranth seeds are small in size but a good source of carbohydrate and protein (15-17 percent by weight). It is rich in the amino acids methionine, cycteine and has the highest content of lysine compare with all grains. It also has three times the fiber of wheat. Often milled into flour, bread made from amaranth seeds is gluten free and has a rich, nutty flavor.

Amaranth has been demonstrated in various studies to contain blood pressure and cholesterol lowering properties. Consuming amaranth leaf, seed or oil may prove beneficial for those with hypertension or cardiovascular disease.

Amaranth, especially the Elephant Head variety, displays useful properties as a companion plant for crops including bell peppers, corn, onion and potato—It helps loosen hard soil, acts as a trap for pests such as leaf miners, and provides sheltering for beetles, predators of insects pests.

The eggplant most commonly found across sub-Saharan Africa is Solanum aethiopicum. This variety has a brilliant red exterior, and is about the size and shape of an egg—giving it the name, garden egg. It is also known as mock tomato, ngogwe and nyanya chungu. hough technically a fruit, it is usually picked when it is green and is eaten as a vegetable; cooked into stews and sauces or even consumed raw. If picked after it is ripe, it can be enjoyed as a fruit—though some varieties are more sour than others. And, even the nutrient-rich leaves have come to be a popular meal. And even though the fruit is not well known for its nutritional content—it is 92 percent water—it also provides vitamin B, beta-carotene and vitamin C in addition to calcium, iron and potassium.

The plant itself can grow in “agricultural wastelands,” are somewhat drought resistant, and have the ability to grow in humid areas. The garden eggs have even proven to be resistant to molds, mildews and certain soil-borne plant-pathogens. They can also be grown alongside other crops or in small pots providing a high yield of fruit from a small area. The farmer will typically first harvest the fruit after 70 to 90 days when it is still immature and after that, 8 to 10 weekly harvests can be reaped. Once harvested, the eggplant can be stored for up to three months and some consumers dry the fruit to eat later in the year.

From humid lowlands to dry highlands, the lablab is easy to plant and even easier to care for. It stays green and productive throughout the dry season when food is generally hard to come by.

The pods, seeds, and leaves of the lablab are all edible and utilized in a variety of different meals–though its raw, dry seeds can be poisonous if not prepared correctly. The young pods are most often picked from the stalk and eaten like green beans or snow peas, but they can also be cooked and added to soups and stews. The leaves can be eaten whole or made into a seasoning herb for other dishes.

While the pods and leaves look similar to those of other legume varieties, they have much higher protein content and are an excellent source of iron. They also contain a good balance of amino acids, making lablab pods a good complement for cereal-based diets.

In India, dried seeds are split like lentils and used in making stews and soups. They are also sprouted, soaked in water, shelled, boiled, and smashed into a paste, which is fried with spices and used as a condiment. In Africa, lablab seeds are often boiled with maize, ground and fried, or added to soups as well. They are also included in traditional dish that is a mixture of maize, beans, bananas, potatoes, and green vegetables, all boiled down into a protein-rich paste.

In addition to being used as a source of food, lablab grows quickly and provides high yields, making it ideal for grazing for cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. It can also easily be intercropped, restoring nitrogen to soils and helping repair degraded farm land. It is considered a good cover crop in coffee and coconut plantations and is often planted as a second recovery crop in rice fields after the harvest. Lablab plants are also used to form hedges in urban settings. In Guyana, the government has encouraged city dwellers to grow ornamental varieties along fence lines to both provide protein for households and decoration for yards and along the street.

The cowpea, or kunde as it is called in Swahili (also known as blackeyed pea throughout the Americas), originates in the center of Africa and is one of the oldest crops known on the continent. Cowpea is extremely drought resistant and adapted to poor soil—making it a useful staple crop for farmers in areas facing increasingly extreme water scarcity and hot temperatures due to climate change. It is estimated that over 200 million people in Africa subsist on a diet consisting mainly of the crop.

Cowpea is an important source of protein and other nutrients. A member of the grain legume family, cowpea improves the body’s absorption and breakdown of other main foods like rice, maize, and cassava. Cowpea is also rich in oil and digestible carbohydrate.

Eaten at different stages throughout its development, cowpea forms the basis of a wide variety of meals. The leaves and young pods can be eaten like vegetables while the seeds are eaten as a side dish, or made into sauces or dry grain. The seeds are also ground into flour that can be pressed into deep fried cakes called akara balls or steamed cakes known as moin-moin. Cowpea meal is used to make puddings, porridges, and soups.

During especially dry years, when stockfeed is low, the stems and leaves of cowpea are used to feed livestock. The stems and leaves can also be dried and stored for the off season when fodder for livestock is scarce.

Not only good for those who cultivate and eat it, the cowpea is also beneficial to the soil in which it grows. It’s deep tap root—the part that makes it so tolerant to dry growing conditions—helps to stabilize soil, while its shade and dense cover help preserve moisture. Like all legumes, cowpea helps to fix nitrogen in the soil, making anywhere it grows more hospitable to other vegetables and staple crops. An annual crop, the cowpea’s seeds remain viable for several years and it is generally grown intercropped or in relay with maize, cassava, groundnuts, sorghum or pearl millet.

While the process of baking bread may vary from culture to culture, there are a few essential ingredients utilized by bread makers the world over. They include: flour, yeast, water, and salt. Researchers at the Food Technology Institute of Dakar, Senegal, however, have decided to break with tradition by adding a rather unconventional ingredient to their bread batter—black-eyed peas. Without sacrificing taste, bread made by substituting 15 percent of the wheat flour for black-eyed pea flour, is 40 percent cheaper than its all-wheat equivalent—and more nutritious. Imported rice and wheat have overshadowed this nutritious crop that is rich in both potassium and vitamins A and C.

Feeding ourselves

Nearly a half-century after the Green Revolution, a large share of the human family is still chronically hungry.

"The international community has been neglecting entire segments of the food system in its efforts to reduce hunger and poverty," said Danielle Nierenberg, co-director of Worldwatch's Nourishing the Planet project. "The solutions won't necessarily come from producing more food, but from changing what children eat in schools, how foods are processed..."

Serving locally raised crops to school children, for example, has proven to be an effective hunger- and poverty-reducing strategy in many African nations.
Roughly 40 percent of the food currently produced worldwide is wasted before it is consumed.

In 2007, some 6,000 women in The Gambia organized into the TRY Women's Oyster Harvesting producer association creating a sustainable co-management plan for the local oyster fishery to prevent overharvesting and exploitation. Oysters and fish are an important, low-cost source of protein for the population, but current production levels have led to environmental degradation and to changes in land use over the last 30 years.

In Kibera, Nairobi, the largest slum in Kenya, more than 1,000 women farmers are growing "vertical" gardens in sacks full of dirt poked with holes, feeding their families and communities. These sacks have the potential to feed thousands of city dwellers while also providing a sustainable and easy-to-maintain source of income for urban farmers. With more than 60 percent of Africa's population projected to live in urban areas by 2050, such methods may be crucial to creating future food security. Currently, some 33 percent of Africans live in cities, and 14 million more migrate to urban areas each year. Worldwide, some 800 million people engage in urban agriculture, producing 15–20 percent of all food.

Pastoralists in South Africa and Kenya are preserving indigenous varieties of livestock that are adapted to the heat and drought of local conditions--traits that will be crucial as climate extremes on the continent worsen. Africa has the world's largest area of permanent pasture and the largest number of pastoralists, with 15–25 million people dependent on livestock.

The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) is using interactive community plays to engage women farmers, community leaders, and policymakers in an open dialogue about gender equity, food security, land tenure, and access to resources. Women in sub-Saharan Africa make up at least 75 percent of agricultural workers and provide 60–80 percent of the labor to produce food for household consumption and sale, so it is crucial that they have opportunities to express their needs in local governance and decision-making.

Uganda's Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) program is integrating indigenous vegetable gardens, nutrition information, and food preparation into school curriculums to teach children how to grow local crop varieties that will help combat food shortages and revitalize the country's culinary traditions. An estimated 33 percent of African children currently face hunger and malnutrition, which could affect some 42 million children by 2025. School nutrition programs that don't simply feed children, but also inspire and teach them to become the farmers of the future, are a huge step toward improving food security.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

climate change

Africa's oldest and deepest lake has experienced unprecedented warming during the past century, a trend that scientists say threatens fish stocks that feed millions of people. The surface of finger-shaped Lake Tanganyika, which stretches 420 miles along the Great Rift Valley, is 26 degrees Celsius -- its warmest temperature in 1,500 years. The lake surface experienced its biggest temperature jump -- 2 degrees Celsius -- during the past 90 years, a period corresponding with increased combustion of fossil fuels and emissions of heat-trapping gases.

"A lot of that increase has happened in the last 50 years, so we do believe man-made global warming is responsible," lead scientist Jessica Tierney explained.

A 2006 report from the U.N. Environment Programme estimated that roughly 200,000 tons of fish were harvested annually from the lake, which borders the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia. The report estimated that the lake's drainage basin is home to about 10 million people; most of the rural population fishes or farms for a living. The lake supports Africa's largest freshwater fishery.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

food basket

Over the past 30 years, the world’s population has grown by more than 50 per cent to over 6 billion, and is expected to increase by the same proportion again by 2050. Yet the world’s food supplies are failing to keep up. Many of the farms in developing countries produce small yields, and need help and more modern farming equipment to help them produce larger amounts of crops. And there is still plenty of unused land around the world, suitable for agricultural expansion.

Nigeria has the potential not only to meet its growing food needs but also to become one of the leading food producing countries in the sub-region and the world at large. Nigeria has about 79 million hectares of arable land (less than half of which is under cultivation); and is blessed with highly diversified ecological conditions suitable for the production of a wide range of agricultural products. The country has 267 billion cubic meters of surface water; 57.9 billion cubic meters of underground water; an annual rainfall range of 300 mm to 400 mm; and potential irrigable area of 3.14 million hectares (seven per cent of which is utilised).

Yet it cannot feed itself. Why?

Monday, January 10, 2011


Poverty and hunger used to be confined to rural areas, but the poverty level in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan and Kaduna cries to high heavens. Graduate prostitutes are all over the metropolitan cities of Nigeria while common beggars are a familiar sight in every nook and corner of the country. But men and women who have got muscles and have acquired university education, and have been jobless for upwards of 10 years or more have decided to take laws into their own hands. They no longer can stomach the hunger that has flattened their stomachs. They are very hungry. They are angry. Very angry. And they have therefore resolved to inflict maximum anguish on the society.

What we have on our hands is class war in its crudest form. And it is just beginning. No society can consider itself safe if more than 90 percent of its population live in abject poverty while about 10 percent live in nauseating opulence. Unemployed graduates roaming the streets of Abuja and Lagos watch in helpless disbelief the way and manner politicians throw away raw cash at social functions. They are awed at the infuriating daily dose of ugly news of wanton theft in high places. They pass by the mansions of the noveau riche and ask themselves what offence they committed against God to merit the sorry fate allotted to them.

Nigerians are angry. Then youth of this country are up in arms. Any graduate of chemistry can produce the bomb. Any educated young man can access the process and procedure of making bombs on the Internet. We are sitting on a keg of gunpowder.

Extracted from here

chief mischief

Senior chief Bright Nalubamba of Namwala says people in rural areas should put pressure on their traditional leaders to ensure that they speak on behalf of the poor. In an interview, chief Nalubamba said it was disappointing that some traditional leaders were not representing their subjects but their personal egos.
“There is too much poverty in this nation especially in rural areas. It is painful to see some chiefs defend wrong things instead of helping the voices of their will be foolish for a chief to ignore the fact that poverty is rife on the ground. It will be foolish of a chief to choose to ignore the fact that his subjects are living in abject poverty...You will be foolish to ignore people’s concerns about poverty, their health, bad and dilapidated infrastructure” chief Nalubamba said.

In the accompanying newspaper article we read that the prosperity of chiefs has always been tied to that of their subjects. And since chiefs were traditionally not fending for themselves, what they ate, what they wore and all their glory emanated from what their subjects were able to bring or do for them.

Today, a great majority of people, especially those in the rural areas where most of chiefs reside, are impoverished. This means that they have very little to give to their chiefs because one can only give that which one has. If a chief’s subjects have nothing, the chief will get nothing. And this is the case today. Chiefs are getting very little, if not nothing, from their subjects. The only ones who have something to give are those in control of government resources. And today, both the chiefs and their subjects are looking up to those in control of government resources to survive. Chiefs today don’t seem to be dependent on the contributions of their subjects. As such, their loyalty, faith and commitment lies elsewhere. And if chiefs have lost that commitment, that loyalty to their subjects, there is no way their subjects can also continue to be loyal to them. People have faith in those who have faith in them; people are loyal to those who are loyal to them. Today, the chiefs are more preoccupied with their own survival while their subjects also have to fend for themselves and worry about their own survival.

Greed and vanity set in. In the name of recognising the institution of chieftaincy, a system of corrupt patronage has become a normal part of politics. Some chiefs, especially those who are viewed as being favourably disposed towards the political party in power, are given all sorts of gifts and inducements to maintain their support. What this does is that these chiefs are now forced to toe the ruling party line and support whatever those in government want. When this happens, an important voice which would have served the needs of the voiceless is shut up and the people continue to wallow in poverty.

There are not many chiefs in the country today who speak candidly and fearlessly in defence of the interests of their people. Most of them, when they speak, it is only about their own welfare – their allowances, automobiles, palaces, personal medical attention and so on and so forth. The interests of their people are only talked about in passing if ever they happen to be talked about. The corruption of this important institution has left the people poorer, helpless and in despair. For many poor people, their chiefs are nothing but an extension of self-seeking opportunists who do nothing for public good.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Slavery and Wage Slavery

In August 2007 Mauritania’s National Assembly unanimously adopted a law criminalizing slavery (including debt bondage and forced marriage). The law says slaveholders could be given 10-year prison sentences and fines ranging from US$2,000 to $4,000. Anyone facilitating slavery can be imprisoned for two years. The law also provides for financial compensation to former victims. Nearly a fifth of Mauritania’s 3.1 million people were slaves as of 2009. No one has been prosecuted for keeping slaves. Authorities generally classify such cases simply as disputes between an employer and his or her employees. The deputy head of SOS Esclaves in Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Khalifa explained “The authorities themselves keep slaves,”

“My masters told me: ‘The slave depends on his owner and in order to go to paradise he must obey his owner. Otherwise he will go to hell’,” said Rabah who, with the help of the Mauritanian anti-slavery group Initiative pour la résurgence du mouvement abolitioniste, was liberated. “I knew no one but my masters. I belonged to them and that seemed normal to me. When I was young my owners beat me; when I got older they threatened to take me to the police if I disobeyed them.”

Many say the question of land is at the heart of Mauritania’s slavery problem. “The cultivatable lands are monopolised by the former masters. And yet it’s us who farm them,” said Yeslim Ould Warmit, a Haratine farmer in the village of Leuceïba. “Indeed for them: slaves we were born, slaves we will always be,” added Abdallahi Ould Mohamed Salem, another freed sleeve. “That will not change as long as the local administration backs the former masters.”
“This land question is crucial,” said Mamadou Sarr, executive secretary of the forum of national human rights’ organisations in Mauritania. “Because today, no one is playing the game. Not the mayors, not the prefects, not even the governors. They still obey the big landowners.”

Banning slavery have failed to improve living conditions for victims of slavery.

“I was born into a family of slaves in 1959. I was sold to a tribe in northern Mauritania where I worked as a full-time slave. I was the first one to wake up and the last to sleep. My main daily work was to look after my masters’ cattle." Mbareck Ould Mahmoude told IRIN "My masters told me that I was free in 1979. They starting paying me US$19 monthly and $11 each to my mother and sisters to work as domestic workers. My mother and sisters are still working now for the same people as during the times of open slavery. They are now paid $27 a month, but that is not enough to live on. Now, people do not call me a slave anymore because of the law. But in reality, I am still a slave and I will stay one as long as I am poor and uneducated like the rest of my family. I feel that I am not a normal human being. I have no voice, no importance in my community and this is likely to last unless I get better pay and basic education. New slavery is worse than that of the old days. Today, you get a negligible amount for heavy work. You have to support yourself and your family unlike the old days of slavery, when you were called a slave but at least your food and housing were paid for by your masters.”

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Biofuels are broadly defined as liquid, solid or gaseous fuels that are predominantly or exclusively produced from biomass. The main types of biofuels include biodiesel, ethanol, or purified biogas derived from crops, plant residues or wastes. All of these can be used as a substitute or supplement for the traditional fossil fuels used for transportation, domestic, and industrial uses.

Investors are targeting many areas of land which are perceived as being ‘unused’ or ‘marginal’ in terms of their productivity and agricultural potential. With interest in allocating such areas for biofuel increasing, the security of land tenure and access or use rights on the part of local resident communities across rural African landscapes is potentially at risk. Land tenure in rural Africa is often characterised by a high level of insecurity, as a result of the colonial legacy of centralised ownership of land by the state, coupled with weak mechanisms for accountability and enforcement of land rights. As the commercial potential of marginally productive rural lands increases across Africa due to growing interest in biofuels, the risk of large-scale dispossession of customary lands belonging to farmers and pastoralists may increase.In addition, expansion of biofuel production may lead to other negative impacts such as environmental damage, for example due to deforestation or industrial pollution, and indirect impacts from rising food prices where food crops are cultivated for biofuel production. As a result of these manifold factors, there is widespread concern about the adverse impacts of commercial biofuel production in rural Africa.

A special TMF funded programme reveals some shocking findings which the villagers, who are the land owners faced some sort of being ‘conned’ through a hail of promises of employment creation, construction of schools and health centres that proved futile. Local politicians emphasisied that if the villagers wanted development in social services, and alleviate poverty, they should give the land to these investors. According to Athumani Mkambala the Chairman of Muhaga village Kisarawe district Coast region, the biofuel investors arrived in October 2006 and made a series of promises purporting to develop them in the forms of construction of deep well, building of hospital structures and schools and improvement of roads. The said promises have never been fulfilled even partially. The investor’s sites are different from the villagers’. This means that they have all better facilities that include clean water, medical facilities and good infrastructure – drivable roads.

Tanzania gave a green light to biofuel investors without formulating a proper policy framework to guide development of the sub-sector. In the absence of guidelines on how the investments should be established, the projects undertaken so far have resulted into more problems that it was expected. The Global Change Course Students of 2010 (Action aid Tanzania) who recently made a field research in the Kisarawe and Rufiji districts where a huge chunk of land has been grabbed by biofuel investors for producing biofuel have advised the government to stop allocating land for biofuel production without a policy that ensures food security and that is implemented.

Monday, January 03, 2011

poverty amid diamonds

Thousands of people dependent on diamond mining in the eastern regions of the Central African Republic earn pitiful wages and are continually harassed by local and foreign armed groups, says a new study by the International Crisis Group. Poverty and crime characterize the diamond business. Costs such as the hiring of equipment and licensing fees make for a hand-to-mouth existence, especially for those struggling to feed large families. According to the UN Children’s Fund, chronic malnutrition in Central African Republic stems from, among other things, loss of income in mining areas.

“Miners are mostly ignorant of a diamond’s real value and, even if they know it, they are obliged to sell at the price offered, sometimes by written contract to the collector who financed the work… A collector might buy a one-carat diamond from a miner at 80,000 CFA francs [US$160] and sell it to a buying office for 200,000-300,000 CFA francs [$400-$600],” said the report.

Armed groups such as the Convention des patriotes pour la justice et la paix (CPJP) and the Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR) remain active in the eastern diamond zone, making “the east a dangerous place to live and move around”, said the report, which noted that while diamond profits are not the only reason for rebel activity, they have contributed to making such rebellions harder to end it.
“The inability of artisanal miners to escape poverty holds back development in mining areas and increases the risk of young men and women joining rebel groups in the hope of better alternatives,” it said.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Tony Blair - the new Cecil Rhodes?

Tony Blair has defended his close personal and working relationship with one of Africa's most controversial leaders, Rwanda's Paul Kagame, even as foreign governments distance themselves over accusations of war crimes and the suppression of political opposition. A UN report that accused Kagame's forces of war crimes, including possibly genocide, in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo, and charges that the Rwandan government is increasingly authoritarian after the opposition was effectively barred from challenging Kagame in August's presidential election. The White House has criticised Kagame for the suppression of political activity and made clear that it does not regard Rwanda as democratic. The UN report in October accused Rwanda of war crimes in eastern Congo, including the wholesale massacres of Hutu civilians and the plunder of minerals which tarnished Kagame's image.
Kagame has denied the accusations but human rights groups have been documenting such crimes for years. His re-election in August was with 93% of the vote, after his main rivals were jailed and barred from running after being accused of stirring up ethnic hatred between Hutus and Tutsis after what Human Rights Watch called "persistent harassment and intimidation" of their parties by the government, and the curbing of criticism in the press including the banning of two newspapers. The deputy leader of a third opposition party was murdered in July.

Blair has described Rwanda's president as a "visionary leader" and a friend after making the central African country the focus of the work of his charity, the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI). The initiative includes placing officials hired by Blair in Rwanda's institutions such as the president's policy unit, the prime minister's office, the cabinet secretariat and the development board to assist with administration. Blair said allowances have to be made for the consequences of the 1994 genocide of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and suggested that Kagame's economic record outweighed other concerns. Blair told the Guardian: "I'm a believer in and a supporter of Paul Kagame. I don't ignore all those criticisms, having said that. But I do think you've got to recognise that Rwanda is an immensely special case because of the genocide. Secondly, you can't argue with the fact that Rwanda has gone on a remarkable path of development. Every time I visit Kigali and the surrounding areas you can just see the changes being made in the country."

AGI, a registered charity, launched its first project in Rwanda in 2008 and involves placing Blair's staff in high government offices, such as presidential policy units and cabinet secretariats, to build "effective governance" through "a combination of on-the-job coaching and support and formal and informal training".

"There is a clear sense by this generation of African leaders that the future of Africa is in their hands and they're not interested in a debate about the colonial past," he said. "They're very much eager to get their countries sorted out. They're perfectly willing to listen and learn from the outside. They're also keen on bringing in quality private sector investment and that is the way you build a country."

But the initiative is open to criticism for promoting a model that pressures African states to again surrender political and economic autonomy.

"You've got to make a judgment about this, and my judgment, rightly or wrongly, is that he [Kagame] is somebody who does want to do his best for his country, is doing his best for his country..." Blair stated.

Socialist Banner is fully aware of Blair's sense of good judgement and his avowed declarations of good intent - such as the invasion of Iraq !