Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Death Toll if the US Cuts HIV Aid

Trump's plan to cut foreign aid supporting HIV/AIDS treatment could cost 9 million years of lost life in South Africa and Ivory Coast, according to a global study.

Trump's proposed budget for 2018, made public in May, envisions cuts to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program, a cornerstone of U.S. global health assistance, which supports HIV/AIDS treatment, testing and counselling for millions of people worldwide.

Should the cuts keep South Africans and Ivorians from receiving antiretroviral drugs, an additional 1.8 million HIV-infected people would die over the next 10 years, 11 researchers in America, Europe and Africa concluded, using mathematical models. The combined deaths amount to nearly 9 million years of life lost, the scientists calculated, in what they said was the first effort to put figures on the proposed cuts. 

The researchers measured expected savings over the next decade, whose small scale they said raised efficacy and ethical questions. In South Africa, it would amount to some $900 per year of life lost, compared to $600 to $900 in Ivory Coast. 

"We leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions about whether imposing such trade-offs on vulnerable populations accurately reflects how donor countries value life in recipient nations," the researchers wrote in Annals of Internal Medicine. 

Savings would eventually dry up over the decade, they found, due to higher costs tied to the spread of HIV amid scaled back screening and care. 

"Would the relatively small savings realised by currently proposed budget reductions be worth these large humanitarian costs?" said lead author Rochelle Walensky, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Out of sight, out of mind

Seven African and European leaders have met in Paris to try cutting migration into Europe from northern Africa in return for aid.  France, Germany, Italy and Spain agreed to help Chad and Niger with border control to stem the flow of migrants through Libya and across the Mediterranean.

The mini-summit in Paris provided a chance for the major European powers to coordinate their Libyan policy after individual countries, especially France and Italy, started to mount separate initiatives.

The decline in numbers reaching Europe may lead to tens of thousands becoming stranded in camps in north Africa, with little oversight by the weak Libyan government.

Idriss Déby Itno, the president of Chad, said “poverty and a lack of education” were the main drivers of migration to Europe. “These have to be taken into account by all the European Union and African Union countries.” 

Forced Evictions, Rights Abuses of Maasai People in Tanzania

Indigenous Maasai people in Loliondo region,Tanzania have been facing new cases of forced evictions and human rights violations, a major international organisation supporting indigenous peoples’ struggle for human rights and self-determination warned.

“Forced and illegal evictions of Maasai pastoralists and serious human rights violations are right now happening in Tanzania,” the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) has alerted quoting “reliable information.”

The reported violations have been taking place on registered village land in Loliondo Division of Ngorongoro District, Arusha Region, IWGIA informs in an “evidence-based urgent alert.”

“Maasai pastoralists in Loliondo are at the moment being subjected to serious human rights violations including forced evictions, burning of houses, loss of property and livestock and serious harassment,” Marianne Wiben Jensen, IWGIA’ senior advisor on Land Rights (Africa), confirmed to IPS.

“They find themselves in a very serious situation with food insecurity and impoverishment and many are suffering from psychological trauma,” she added.

Asked if it is about an unprecedented case, Wiben Jensen told IPS “The Maasai pastoralists in Loliondo have been subjected to similar forced evictions and human rights violations previously, such as in 2009.”

It is very important to find “a long lasting solution that will guarantee that no further evictions will take place and that the rights of the pastoralists to their legally registered village lands are secured,” she stressed.

A lot of evictions and human rights violations toward pastoralists have reportedly taken place over the years in Tanzania, as documented in IWGIA’s report: Tanzania Pastoralists threatened: eviction, human rights violations and loss of livelihood.

The report explores the evictions of pastoralists and other conflicts over pastoralists’ land in Tanzania, with focus on the past decade. “Although most of these evictions and land based conflicts have been documented, the associated human and legal rights violations have increasingly lead to concern” amongst civil society.
 “According to community testimonies provided in field work, it was found that not only are pastoralists losing their legitimate village land through government endorsed evictions and land encroachments, but these eviction processes and conflicts lead to loss of livelihood and loss of property.”

It was further alleged that serious human and legal rights violations are committed during eviction processes, none of which have been addressed, warns the study.

“Reports indicate that Maasai houses/bomas have been burned down, livestock have been lost, people have been forced to pay fines, and have been harassed and threatened,” IWGIA informed in its latest alert, adding that it has been reported that there is lack of water and food and that men, women, children and the elderly have to sleep out with no shelter.

“Families are being separated, and many people are now suffering from psychological trauma because of the evictions and harassment.” The evictions are creating food insecurity and lead to impoverishment.

The Copenhagen-based international human rights organisation supporting indigenous peoples right to territory, control of land and resources, cultural integrity, and the right to development, also informs that precise data at this time is not available, but according to the information received the following violations have taken place:

— On the 13 and 14 August 2017, an estimated 185 Maasai bomas (homesteads) were burned down by Serengeti National Park (SENAPA) and Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) rangers, supported by police from Loliondo.

As a result, it is estimated that approximately 6.800 people have been rendered homeless, had most of their property destroyed and been left without any shelter, food or water. The number is  still increasing since the violent eviction is still going on.

People’s livestock are also unprotected and many have scattered into the surrounding areas.

— It is yet to be established how many livestock have been lost. However, it is reported that more than 2000 livestock have been lost in Ololosokwa village alone.

The eviction operation started on the 13 August in Ololosokwan village, and on 14  August the operation reportedly continued in several other areas: Oloosek, Illoibor Ariak, Endashata areas in Ololosokwan village, Oleng’usa area in Kirtalo village, Oloorkiku area in Oloipiri village and Loopilukuny area in Oloirien village.

“All the affected areas are classified as legally registered village land as per the Village Land Act no. 5 of 1999 under the formal administration of their respective village governments as per the Local Government Act, adds IWGIA.

Although accurate figures are hard to arrive at since ethnic groups are not included in the population census, the estimated number of Maasai in Tanzania is around 430,000.

The evictions take place at a point of time where pastoralists are trying to cope with a serious drought in the area, which has diminished the quantity and quality of pastures for their livestock, IWGIA adds.

There are reported incidents of pastoralists grazing their livestock within the Serengeti National Park, and having to pay massive fines to the [Serengeti National Park] SENAPA rangers, the organisation warns.

“It is reported that even pastoralists grazing their cattle outside the park boundaries have been fined. In conjunction with this, it is also reported that at least one young man from Olosokwan village has been shot and seriously injured by SENAPA rangers outside Serengeti National Park.”

“Now the on-going evictions and harassment, coupled as it is with the drought, make the local peoples’ situation even more desperate.”

It is not entirely clear who ordered the eviction. Reportedly there was no consultation at either District Council or Village Government level, nor with the people directly affected, which means there was no agreement on the evictions either.

There was no warning given.

“The evictions and human rights violations are carried out by armed SENAPA and [Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority] NCAA rangers supported by Loliondo police officers.”

It is also not clear why the evictions are happening and no official reason has so far been given, adds IWGIA. “It will be important to clearly establish who ordered the evictions and why such that these relevant authorities can be held responsible.”

The latest development is that a press statement released by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism stated that the purpose of the operation is to remove livestock and housing from Serengeti National Park and also from the boundary areas, which are legally registered village land, and it is clear from the press release that houses/bomas are being burned on village land, warns IWGIA.

The evictions, harassment and human rights violations take place within an area of where several other attempts of forced evictions have taken place over the years (such as in 2009, 2010 and 2015 where thousands of people lost their homes and properties), the organisation reports.

“Local leaders say that the on-going eviction is an operation organised to ensure that there will be no more people or livestock living in the villages of the area. This area, which is legally registered village land encompassing 8 villages, covers 1.500 km2 and has long been leased by the Government of Tanzania as the key hunting block in the Loliondo Game Controlled Area.”

Taken from a report by Baher Kamel here.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Africa's health

HIV/Aids is no longer the leading cause of death for people in Africa, new statistics reveal. The World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) most recent data show that the crippling illness is now the second killer in Africans. There were an estimated 760 000 deaths from HIV/Aids in 2015, showing a marked drop from the 1 million deaths in 2010. Although fewer people are dying from the disease, experts say the number is still too high considering preventive methods and education efforts have improved.
Lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, are now the most deadly disease on the continent.
Third on the list are diarrhoeal diseases, which are caused by viral, bacterial or parasitic infections in the bowels. This is also the second leading cause of death in children under the age of five worldwide as well as in Africa, according to the WHO. These infections are caused by dirty and unsafe water, poor hygiene and bad sanitation in areas where people live and eat.
Fourth on the list are strokes. The number of people dying from a stroke has increased since 2010.
Heart attacks are fifth on the list and have pushed malaria out of the top five for the first time in years.
Most of the above-mentioned diseases are preventable with sufficient funding and access to better care. Countries in Africa, though, continue to be plagued by poverty, which has affected people’s ability to get the care needed to treat these diseases.

South Africa's Poverty

 Pali Lehohla, South Africa's Statistician General, said that absolute poverty is on the rise in South Africa and that children are suffering more than any other group.  Each passing day, more South Africans slip into poverty, more children fall into deprivation. 

More than half of the country lives in poverty. 
One in four South Africans cannot afford to feed themselves adequately, let alone any other necessities. 
StatsSA’s Poverty Trends in South Africa report reveals that between 2011 and 2015, the proportion of people living in poverty (below the poverty line of R1138 per person per month in 2017 prices) increased from 53.2% to 55.5%, equating to 30.4 million people. 

Of these, 13.8 million people (up from 11 million in 2011) live in extreme poverty (below the food poverty line of R531 per person per month), lacking adequate nutrition.
And of course, the burden of poverty is almost entirely borne by black people, courtesy of an unjust apartheid past and the failings of a callous, corrupt ANC government. There are more people receiving social grants (17 million) than people with jobs (16 million) in South Africa.
 67% - two in three - of South Africa’s children live in poverty – a much higher proportion than for any other age group. Over 13 million children, almost all of them black, are growing up in poverty, their early childhood development compromised and their life chances stunted. Millions of children go to sleep on an empty stomach and sleep badly as a result; they go to school on an empty stomach and perform badly as a result. Some 15 000 children per year are admitted to hospital for severe acute malnutrition, of whom around 1 500 die from it. South Africa will never flourish while so many of our children are caught in this cruel poverty trap.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sharing the water

Better access to irrigation for farmers is key for climate change adaptation. Only 4 to 7 percent of arable land is irrigated in Sub-Saharan Africa, the lowest ratio across the worldUntil recently, irrigation had never taken off in Africa for multiple reasons from poor maintenance planning to lack of inputs and market access. Many donor and government-funded large and small-scale irrigation schemes lay dry after a few years of exploitation.

The transfer of irrigation management from public institutions to local water user associations since the 1980s in Africa has always been difficult as the transfer has rarely translated into ownership. No clear boundaries of plots, under-representation of marginalized groups in irrigation groups, for instance women, means there is uneven distribution of water and benefits. Conflicts of interests often occur, collection of maintenance fees trickle down after a while and many schemes are now obsolete. Many irrigation systems were not built with smallholdings in mind, but more as small-scale models of large public schemes. Technically they are often too advanced (80% of smallholder irrigation devices are manual) and once a piece is broken, e.g an electrical motor pump, user groups have no way to fix the whole system. Another example of mismanagement of water is when water is distributed on a weekly roster, it leads to overwatering the fields, and loss of much of the fertilizers,  as farmers will irrigate their crops whether it is required or not.
In the 450 hectares Silalatshani Irrigation Scheme, one of the oldest in Zimbabwe, farmers have learned how to use the Chameleon, a low cost tool to measure soil water moisture availability for the crops through a color code, easy to recognize even for illiterate farmers.  Another device, the Full stop, has helped farmers understand when fertilizers are washed away by excessive irrigation. Farmers began to only use water when crops really needed it (every two to three days instead of daily) and realized this saved a lot of water. This ultimately reduced water conflicts between water users.
More important than looking for ‘technological interventions’ to boost water and farming efficiency, irrigation interventions should focus on investing in building inclusive institutions like Silalatshani and Magozi innovation platforms where members learn step by step to use water more efficiently, earn more per drop and build skills and social connections to become more resilient and prosperous.
 For instance, in the Magozi scheme in Iringa district, Tanzania, only 750 hectares out of a potential of 1,300 ha are irrigated, where farmers produce a meagre one to two tons of rice per hectare. Rice farmers complained about the low prices of their rice harvests and came up with the idea of organizing themselves to collectively sell the rice, invest in storage to be able to later sell when prices are more attractive, and grow varieties that are in higher demand.

Contested election results in Africa

The Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland came to Zambia on 6 August. During her brief visit, she was granted permission by President Lungu to visit the incarcerated UPNI Leader Ilakahinde Hichilema at Mukobeko maximum security prison.

Mrs. Scotland is the second foreign dignitary allowed to visit Hichilema. The first was the former President of Nigeria, Mr. Obasanjo. It may seem that outside pressure has succeeded to soften the hard stance taken by President Lungu against those advocating a political reconciliation between PF and UPND. During her brief visit Mrs. Scotland, reaffirmed the Commonwealth position on the result of the August 2016 presidential elections — in the sense that President Lungu had won.
Indeed both the European Union and SADC election observers had pronounced the elections free and fair. The UPNI leader Hichilema had disputed the elections and resolved that the UPNI had won despite the lack of credible evidence to support his claims. Though it is too early what was discussed between Hichilema and Mrs. Scotland. In any event, Hichilema was released soon after her visit. Hichilema and five others had been facing treason charges arising from an offence committed in April this year when they tried to stop President Lungu's motorcade on its way to Western province. The action could have resulted in a fatal road accident.

Mrs. Scotland visit to Zambia took place at the height of the Kenya presidential elections where they incumbent president Uhuru Kenyata once again defeated Railla Odinga, by a margin of 10 percent. Odinga has disputed the elections results citing irregularities in the counting of votes. It may come to pass that disputing elections results has become a political culture especially in African countries where parliamentary democracy gives room for manipulating elections. Parliamentary democracy, to differentiate it from single party political systems, has proved to be a recipe for ethnic and tribal animosities.

Politics in Zambia are more or less infused with traditional and cultural prejudices in the sense that most people can only vote for a person with whom they have close ethnic and tribal affinities. Thus winning an election in Zambia depends upon manipulating the relative population densities regardless of the political and intellectual credibilities of a given leader. Political opposition parties can only win the sympathy during periods of unemployment and arising cost of living which translates into rising fuel and mealie meal prices. Social economic development in Zambia is always associated with the prices of copper exports otherwise than with micro-economic policies which may be framed by the ruling government. Thus the fortunes of political parties are dictated by the price of copper and nothing else.

Zambia's economic underdevelopment is tied to its cultural and traditional mentality in the sense that the ruling political elites refuse to acknowledge that capitalism cannot work in the interest of the marginalized workers and peasants. It is impossible to achieve any semblance to economic developments without exploiting the working class. Inflation and unemployment shall never be outlawed from capitalist society and the current political scenario in Zambia must be understood from the overriding cultural and traditional standards prevailing in African countries. The freedom to criticize is everywhere frowned upon and every opposition party is subjected to political molestation that defeats the onus or political pluralism. It becomes a matter of political conjecture to believe that the opposition stands to derail the economic policies introduced by the president Lungu. Due to their lack of class consciousness, it can be predicted that the way people vote is determined by ethnic and tribal prejudices regardless of the fall of mealie meal and fuel prices.

Cephas Mulenga Chimwemwe,
 Kitwe, Zambia 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Angola's Election - Dos Santos does not bow out

Angola’s civil war lasted more than 25 years, ending in 2002, leaving the country devastated. The People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita)  are no longer warring over trenches, airstrips and dusty roads through scrubby forests, but fighting for the backing of 9 million voters as Angola goes to the polls on Wednesday to elect a new president.  Unita won just 18% in the last election, in 2012, against the MPLA’s 72%.

 José Eduardo dos Santos is to step down after electionshaving ruled for more than four decades. He has been guilty of nepotism, cronyism and corruption. 

“It would be extremely surprising if the MPLA loses power, but this is the first time in the past 40 years where there is uncertainty over what happens next,” said Søren Kirk Jensen, an expert on Angola at the independent policy institute Chatham House.  “There won’t be a revolution,” But Jensen added. “Lourenço is coming with a mandate to do things differently.

Dos Santos was Africa’s longest-serving president after Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Unless Unita can win the poll, dos Santos’s place will be taken by 63-year-old João Lourenço, the defence minister.

Dos Santos, will remain president of the MPLA , retaining significant powers and his family will  maintain its hold on a huge business empire. Dos Santos’ daughter Isabel runs the enormous state oil company and is Africa’s richest womanIn one recent poll, nearly 90% said the MPLA leadership acts in its own interest, and not in that of the state or the Angolan people.

There is widespread concern about the fairness of the electoral process. The government has deployed state resources on a huge scale and has consistently repressed critics, moving on 12 August to ban protests and demonstrations by groups not running in the polls. A new law has given regulatory control of all media to a body controlled by the government and the ruling party. Human Rights Watch said the election will be “marred by severe restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, and limited access to information due to government repression and censorship”.

The MPLA  has failed to manage Angola’s economy.  Africa’s second-biggest producer of crude oil, has been hit hard by the global fall in oil prices, with revenues crashing from $60bn three years ago to $27bn in 2016. After years of surging growth, Angola has slipped into recession. One recent symptom of the poverty that 15 years of inefficient and expensive investment have failed to eradicate was an outbreak of yellow fever, among the world’s worst in decades, though the disease can be prevented by a single inoculation.

Poor people, many of them still living in shanty towns visible from the glittering office blocks and luxury hotels that line Luanda’s corniche, have been hit by inflation that peaked at 42% last year, steeply increasing the cost of rent and basic foodstuffs.

The income of the new "middle classes" – including vast numbers of civil servants, soldiers and teachers on the state payroll – has dropped steeply in real terms as salaries have remained unchanged. 

Even the elite have suffered too. Sales of hugely expensive European-made luxury cars have plummeted, dealers in Luanda say.

The economic crisis also undermines the system of political patronage that underpins MPLA rule, said Francisco Miguel Paulo, an economist at the Catholic University of Angola, because it reduces the government’s ability to invest in projects that “benefit the lives of people and bring it popularity. There was a time when Angola had a lot of money and the government had the chance to make a difference. That opportunity was missed,” Paulo said.

Do as I say, not what I do

The presidents of Nigeria, Angola, Zimbabwe, Benin and Algeria all have something in common - an apparent lack of trust in their nations' health systems. They are leaving behind poorly funded and neglected health services, which most of their citizens have to rely on and seeking expensive medical treatments abroad. Unsurprisingly, no presidential spokesman has come out to say that it is because the health service in general is better overseas.

In 2010, the average amount spent on health in African countries per person was $135 (£100) compared to $3,150 in high-income countries, the UN's World Health Organization said. In many African countries, good private healthcare is available to those with money.

In Mugabe's Zimbabwe, for example, state-run hospitals and clinics often run out of basic medicines like painkillers and antibiotics, according to health watchdog Citizens Health Watch. It says that the public health care system "continues to deteriorate at alarming levels" with lack of money being the main problem. Mugabe makes frequent hospital visits to Singapore.

Nigeria's public health system is "terrible" because of poor funding, says BBC Abuja editor Naziru MikailuA health insurance scheme for government workers and some private employees has given some people access to private medicine, but most people have to rely on government-funded services.  Nigerian doctor Osahon Enabulele says that the example set by political leaders costs countries millions of dollars. In 2013 he estimated that Nigerians were spending $1bn (£770m) abroad on medical treatment and reckons that figure could have doubled by now. By comparison, the federal government's health budget for 2016 came to $800m. Dr Enabulele, who is vice-president of the Commonwealth Medical Association, says that the money taken out of Nigeria could be invested in the health system at home. "The whole ambition to have state-of-the-art facilities will remain a mirage if people keep going abroad for medical reasons." On top of that, he says, top Nigerian doctors are then enticed abroad looking for the best conditions, exacerbating the situation.

The Angolan government revealed in May that Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has been president for the last 38 years, had travelled to Spain for health reasons.

Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika travels to a hospital in France for what the government calls "periodic" medical checks.

 Benin's President Patrice Talon, 59, travelled to France in June for two operations, one on his prostate and one on his digestive system.
Sudan President Omar al-Bashir had  "an exploratory cardiac catheterisation" at a hospital in the capital, Khartoum. It was, however, a private hospital, not a state one.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

When mountains tumble down

Floods and mudslides that left more than 400 people are believed to have been man made. and could have been avoided, according to Joseph Randall, executive director of Green Scenery, a leading environmentalist.

"When you look at the, Sugar Loaf, which is one of the highest mountains in Freetown, there have been a lot of human activities there in terms of removing the forest cover and constructing houses. People fail to realize that those parts of the city are not sitting on firm rocks. They are sitting on red earth (soil) which becomes easily saturated with water. And when that happens, it means then that there are possibilities that it can cleave off. So, that must have been the cause. For me however, the cause has been a long-term effect because human beings are constantly working on construction. They have been interfering into the structure of that hill, to the extend that the soil must have given way gradually until now when  there has been this rain pour and the soil can no longer hold and erosion is taking place. The other issue of flooding is, we have done so much deforestation. So now what happens is - when it rains the water just slides down and finds it way into a bigger mass. We see the effects of it all around the city. This is because of the construction of houses, settlements have expanded to such an extent that we are now close to two million people in the city. But above all our drainage system is also very poor."

Friday, August 18, 2017

Big Game Hunting or Survival

More than 100 Maasai huts in Tanzania have been allegedly burned down by game reserve authorities near the Serengeti National Park. Hundreds of people have reportedly been left homeless by the evacuation of local pastoral communities. One young Maasai is said to have been shot and critically injured. It's the latest example in East Africa of the growing tensions between wildlife conservation, which attracts tourists, and the need for locals to have pastoral land, especially during droughts.
The chairman of Ololosokwani village, Kerry Dukunyi, has told the BBC that villagers have lost property in the latest incident. "A large percentage of our food has been destroyed. We've lost a lot of food," he said. "A lot of our livestock are also missing."
It is part of a longstanding border dispute between local Maasai people and authorities who operate exclusive hunting experiences for tourists. The Tanzanian government had plans to establish a 1,500sq km (579sq mile) wildlife corridor around the national park for a Dubai-based company which offers hunting packages for wealthy tourists from the UAE. The plan would have displaced about 30,000 people, and caused ecological problems for the Maasai community, which depends on the seasonal grasses there to rear livestock.But the country's president tweeted in 2014 that an eviction would not take place, after more than two million people signed a petition against the action. However reported incidents of destruction of Maasai sites persisted.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The "other" refugee crisis

On Thursday, the number of people fleeing across the border from South Sudan to Uganda passed a million, the UN’s refugee agency said. Another million have fled into Ethiopia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Most were women and children escaping “barbaric violence”, according to the UNHCR.

Over the past year, an average of 1,800 South Sudanese have arrived in Uganda every day. At the reception centre in Imvepi, 30 miles from the border, officials have logged 1,400 children who have arrived unaccompanied, and 5,400 separated from their families. They include a 14-year-old who had led five younger children across war-torn forest and fields for weeks, a seven-year-old who made it entirely alone, and an abandoned three-year-old who has yet to be identified because he cannot describe his family.

Uganda has a generous policy toward refugees, allowing them to work and travel. Families get a 50 by 50-metre plot of land to farm and build a home.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Congolese Silent Tsunami

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)  has enough land to feed at least 1 billion people - roughly the population of Africa - and is wealthy in minerals. But grinding poverty and years of conflict have left many of its people chronically hungry.

Hunger in the DRC has soared in the last year, leaving 7.7 million people in urgent need of food aid and pushing the country closer to famine than it has been in a decade, food security experts said. Much of the rise in hunger - 1.8 million new people were added to the list - stems from escalating violence in the Kasai and Tanganyika regions, which in Kasai alone has forced 1.4 million people to flee their homes in the past year. Congo now has 3.8 million people displaced within the country, in addition to a steady flow of refugees from neighbouring Burundi, Central African Republic and South Sudan. The displaced - many of them women - need seeds and farming tools to become self-sufficient, ease pressure on the communities hosting them, and reduce tensions.

More than 1.5 million people are now facing "emergency" hunger levels. "Emergency" means people are forced to sell possessions and skip or reduce their meals. It is one level below a classification of famine in the IPC's internationally-recognised five stages of hunger.

Alexis Bonte, FAO's interim representative in Congo. said, "It's a humanitarian tsunami, but it's a silent tsunami, that's the problem." Bonte explained "It has been hidden by other crises.", referring to South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen. 
The crisis has worsened with the advance of fall armyworm, a crop-eating caterpillar that has spread to many parts of the country, including Kasai and Tanganyika, as well as by outbreaks of cholera and measles.
"I think the donors are really tired of funding the crisis in Congo," Bonte said, "We cannot hope to make change if we abandon the people. These people deserve to live in dignity. They have suffered enough," he said.
When local NGOs in Chikapa, a town in Kasai region, provided farmland for some 2,000 families who had fled their homes earlier this year, and FAO gave farming equipment, they were able to harvest vegetables to eat and sell within weeks. "Normally in a development project, it would take a year to do this. This was just a few weeks, because the ladies were desperate to do something ... to escape the trauma they had suffered and ... go back to dignity," Bonte said.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Who will be the winners in South Africa? (1994)

From the April 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard 

It was in 1652 that Dutch settlers first went to the Cape of Good Hope. This began as a supply station to service the ships of the Dutch East India Company. It also began 350 years of conflict which has now produced a very different beginning. In April, new constitutional arrangements will start with all adult South Africans having the vote and the election of a transitional government.

The struggle of mainly black workers against that bigoted, racist ideology, "apartheid" has been long and bitter. The struggle to get the vote has required determination and sacrifice. Socialists support that struggle. Without the power to capture control of the state by democratic means, socialism is impossible. This raises an important point. Getting the vote is not the end. Now that it has been won, how is it to be used?

Inevitably, in the first flush of the expected ANC victory in the election there is a lot of optimism amongst its supporters about what the ANC in power will do for them.

Great expectations
They foresee not just the end of race discrimination but the end of the grim poverty in which most of them have lived. They expect their living standards to rise on the basis of jobs and good wages for all. They expect decent housing, health care, education, pensions and other benefits. In fact, this will not happen.

This is not a question about the sincerity or good intentions of Nelson Mandela and his associates. It is about economic realities. The ANC leaders are now being fitted into the mould of reforming capitalist politicians and as such believe that when in power they will be able to do all sorts of good things for their supporters. They believe they are the right men and women for the needs of the hour. It has been a popular misconception that if only workers are able to get the right people into the right positions of power at the right time then everything will be alright. This false idea has led to failure and disillusion in almost every country throughout this century and it won’t be any different in South Africa. By now the reason should be obvious.

Committed capitalists
The ANC leaves no room for doubt that it is committed to running the capitalist system. For example, in the ANC "Freedom Charter" Nelson Mandela has written:
   "Under the Freedom Charier, nationalisation would take place in an economy based on private enterprise . . . [this] would open up fresh fields for a prosperous African population of all classes, including the middle class. The ANC has never at any period of its history advocated a revolutionary change . . . nor has it.. . ever condemned capitalist society " (page 179).
This means that in a South Africa run by an ANC government it’s going to be capitalist business as usual. Class differences, with a great gap between rich and poor, will continue. Black workers will still be exploited alongside whites. Through their labour they will continue to keep the wealthy and the privileged in a society which puts the profits enjoyed by a few before the needs of the whole community.

If a movement has at last managed to form a government to run capitalism, as Nelson Mandela says the ANC is going to do, it has no choice but to work within the economic limitations and class objectives of the market system. Particularly at this time of world slump most governments are in financial difficulties and this is the situation that the ANC will have to take on.

One of the first promises to go will be the promise of jobs for all black workers at good wages. No government can control the level of employment or wages; this is impossible. The promise to provide decent housing for everyone along with health care, education and pensions will also be forgotten.

What is also inevitable is that the ANC government will come into conflict with the trades unions. Despite the present links between the unions and the ANC, when in power the new government will be concerned to run and develop a profitable economy. The unions will be concerned with wage increases and better conditions.

Higher profits
The two objects of higher profits and higher wages will be in conflict with each other and as always, this will lead to disputes at places of work with the possibility of the ANC government using the state machinery to smash the workers’ strikes. The function of the state is to administer class society and enforce the exploitation of workers and this is the anti-working-class role that the ANC is about to embrace.

The policy of apartheid was never in the best interests of South African capitalists. The Nationalist government was kept in power by an eccentric alliance of Afrikaner fanning interests and white urban workers who. to their eternal discredit, imagined that it was in their interest to keep black workers out of the skilled labour force and to deny them the vote. Hence the support of white workers for the various job reservation Acts and other forms of discrimination against black workers.

Best interests
Capitalist interests would have been best served by a reform programme aimed at integrating the black population within a multi-racial system of exploitation. The old United Party formed by Smuts might have achieved this but it was obliterated by the success of the National Party which held power continuously after 1948. Latterly, capitalists like the Oppenheimers put money into a new reforming party, the Progressive Party, but this also failed.

For many years it seemed that the Afrikaner bigots of the National Party would be the last people on earth to change their ideas but they have at last caught up with economic realities. Confidence in the economy began to drain away as a result of poor investment returns, the collapse of the Rand and rising commercial and political risks coupled with stagnation. In February 1990 De Klerk told the South African Parliament that "a new South Africa is only possible if it is bolstered by a sound and growing economy, with particular emphasis on the creation of employment".

Before this, the ANC had already been in discussion with South African capitalists assuring them that their interests would be safeguarded under an ANC government. For their part, the capitalists were anxious to emphasise their own non-racist credentials. For example, in 1985, the Chairman of Anglo-American Corporation, one of the biggest in South Africa, told the ANC negotiators that::
  “what we are concerned with is not so much whether the following generation will be governed by black or white people, but that it will be a viable country and that it will not be destroyed by violence and strife" 
he added, 
   "they [by which he meant the ANC and South African business] shared a common interest in maintaining the profitability of the South African state".
At last it seemed that under the ANC a reforming regime could emerge to facilitate the maximum exploitation of South African workers without distinction of colour on the basis of a broad consensus between the main political forces. This leaves the question of whether the groups outside the consensus, Inkatha and the extreme Afrikaners, will be strong enough to disrupt the new arrangements.

So, who will be the victors in this long struggle that has held the attention of the world since the end of Second World War? If the extreme elements are so foolish as to plunge the country into a civil war that will only add new chapters to a conflict in which the main sufferers, as always, will be the working class.

Given that the new arrangements work out on the other hand, we take it that black workers will enjoy greater freedom to organize in trades unions and benefit from the end of political censorship and repression.

We shall see. But the most immediate class beneficiaries of the constitutional changes will be the South African capitalists and those with high investment in the country.

As the Chairman of Anglo-American emphasised, when it comes to the human resources that it wishes to exploit, capital is completely free of racial prejudice.

We should ask whether these results will be worthy of the suffering, torture, imprisonment and deaths which have been the input of black workers into the struggle. It will be a very poor testament to the courage of that struggle, and all the sacrifices that have been made, if its gains are now thrown away in a betrayal in which the great majority continue to be exploited.

Surely, the least that struggle deserves is that those who have won the vote should think long and hard about how it should be used. Since all the main strands of South African history still intrude so forcibly into the present political situation it is useful for black workers to think back to their past. It is worth remembering that working for wages is very recent and that tribespeople had to be forced into it.

A colonial report entitled African Labour Efficiency Survey - 1949 was concerned with the problem of how to force the people of the Kikuyu in East Africa to become wage workers. It said this:
    "The East African comes from a tribal economy in which his human needs of sustenance can still very largely be met. He has not, to any significant degree, been de-tribalised. The East African has not been bent under the discipline of organised work . . .  In respect of the few working activities which in the past occupied him he was free and independent.
     Though the tasks he performed were prescribed by tribal law and custom, he could do them in his own way and at his own speed, for him time had no economic value. The work he did for others was not for wages, but was one of the duties arising from his relationship with his fellows. He gave satisfaction by his work and he derived a measure of contentment from it. In these circumstances he was willing to do what was required from him.
      To work steadily and continuously at the will of another was one of the hard lessons he had to learn when he began to work for Europeans."
This was how African people lived for countless centuries, not working for wages but co-operating to provide for the needs of the community.

Healthy society
Why should black workers embrace and continue the economic forces of capitalism that destroyed that way of life? If the traditional relationships of co-operation are extended to all other workers and are applied using modern technology, modern communications and fully democratic methods of organization, they are all we need to create a healthy society which can serve all our needs without distinction of race or sex.

Pieter Lawrence

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Ghost Safari-land

Scientists are warning that a mass species extinction is already underway. Agriculture is one of the most serious threats to the planet’s biodiversity, and the demand for food and agricultural land is only going to grow. 

Lions, elephants and hippos have vanished from Kilombero valley after UK- and US-funded projects helped turn a once-thriving habitat into farmland, teak, and sugar plantations. In Kilombero Valley the World Bank predicts that “the demand for agricultural land will almost double in the coming 20 years, with a large increase for rice and maize and a smaller increase for sugarcane”. 

Ryan Shallom was 16 the first time he saw the Kilombero valley, in 1990. “There were 600 lions in the valley back then,” recalls Shallom, whose family were professional hunters, running trips for tourists and rich Tanzanians. The light tree cover in the valley’s higher ground, the rivers, the abundance of food and water, meant that this was a haven not just for elephants, lions, and buffalos, but for all wildlife: a pocket Eden. “We used to see herds of 100 elephants or more, buffalo in all directions … There was the world’s largest population of puku antelope, about 60,000. I think 75% of the world’s population of puku were in Kilombero.”

But from the mid 90s, the wildlife began to disappear. In 1998, elephant numbers in the valley were over 5,000, according to data collected by the Tanzania WildlifeResearch Institute. Now elephants are rarely seen. The lions have gone too, although there are rumours that there is one male lion left. The puku are vanishing: Shallom estimates their numbers have fallen to just over a thousand. The crocodiles, hippos, and zebra, have all more or less vanished.

“The encroachment started in the mid 90s when the cattle started moving in,” says Shallom. Tanzania, like other African countries, was experiencing a rapid growth in livestock – a profitable, moveable way to store capital at a time when demand for meat, both on the continent and in the rest of the world, was beginning to explode. Pastoralist tribes in Tanzania – particularly the Sukuma – began to move into the valley in ever larger numbers, bringing large herds of their distinctive long-horned cattle.

A teak plantation followed, funded by British aid money in the form of the Commonwealth Development Company (now known as CDC). Over the next few years it would take over 28,000 hectares (69,189 acres), and become the largest teak farm in Africa.

In 1998, the Tanzanian government sold the sugar plantation to Illovo, Africa’s biggest sugar company, now owned by the mega-corp Associated British Foods which continued an outgrower programme that was being tried out. There were already farmers moving into the area, but the outgrower system would turbo-charge the in-migration. The main plantation supported small-scale farmers by buying their crops at a set pre-agreed price: in some cases out-growers got training and support, and had a ready market for their crops. The model caught on fast and by 2002 there were about 3,300 outgrowers; by 2006 that number had swollen to nearly 6,000.
Finally buyers were found for the rice plantation; another international consortium involving Agrica, another British-based company. This too began an outgrower programme which was as popular as the one up the valley. Within a few years the plantation was dealing with 480 or more outgrowers.
In 2010, the then Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete went to the World Economic Forum to pitch his country for investment, positing a new model for sustainable agricultural development based on the Kilombero outgrower model; clusters of agribusiness which incorporated small-scale farmers. Sagcot – the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania – was born and the investors loved it. USAid promised $2m on the spot. Aid money and international funds came rolling in. A bewildering network of initiatives and partnerships between business and the international sector (Feed the future, the New Alliance, the New Vision for Agriculture Initiative, the Grow Africa Partnership) was either setting up or already in place and focusing on Africa, and Tanzania and Kilombero were perfect candidates. British and Norwegian aid money went to the rice plantation. World Bank money went to the teak plantation. USAid came in to rehabilitate roads, build bridges and generally slosh cash around. Thanks to the west, thanks to aid, it was boomtime in the valley. Today farms completely line the road that lies along the west of the valley. A brand new road is planned that will lead from Ifakara, in the centre, along down the east side beside the Selous. Everywhere you look, there are blackened stumps and cleared land, marking the new arrivals creating new farms. Forests that were here a year ago have disappeared. New farms have sprung up in their place.
The population, meanwhile, grew rapidly. All you needed to do to set up a farm, after all, was to get permission from the local village and pay them a small fee, and then clear an area and get cracking. Nearby were readymade markets for your produce. The valley was beautiful, the land welcoming and fertile. It is hardly surprising that between 1964 and 2015 the valley’s population rose from 56,000 to more than half a million. The valley was being radically transformed. Pressure on the wildlife was  coming from the rising population. “There has been a massive increase in smallholder farming (predominantly rice) and nomadic cattle herding,” says KVTC head Hans Lemm. “Pastoralists have entered the valley in significant numbers since the early 2000s.” The old tribes would eat fish, according to Father Klimakus Chahali, who grew up in the valley, and now runs the mission in the town of Itete. “They didn’t cut down trees.” Rumours abounded that some of the new arrivals in the valley had a less friendly attitude to wildlife, and were killing the lions in the valley to protect their livestock. “One year,” says Shallom, “I found 22 lion carcasses. They were poisoning them with pesticides.” Bushmeat consumption and poaching rose too. Anna Estes, a conservationist working in the north of the country, says: “The main threat to elephants overall is not big agriculture, but unofficial development from subsistence farmers. 80% of farming in Tanzania is small-scale subsistence farming. Because it is unplanned, this causes a lot of damage to elephant habitat. Aside from the immediate threat from poaching, habitat loss is the number one threat to elephants these days, and human-elephant conflict is an extension of that.” The outgrower programme – if inadvertently – magnified that effect tenfold.
The miombo forest, the open plains, were disappearing as the small farms and the big farms encroached. Every day more of the valley floor was covered with miles of sugar and rice plantation, or with the monocultural teak forests.  Miombo forest is a mixture of high trees, evergreens, shrubs, flowers, creepers and undergrowth. You can actually hear the density of life here; the low throb of bees, a whine of other insects, the calls of the doves and the shrikes. Teak is entirely different. The trees are slender, elegant, reaching up to 150ft when mature. The leaves are huge, simple, obtuse in shape with undivided blades; they are thick and slightly sandpapery to the touch. “When they fall on the ground,” Hinde says, “they kill undergrowth. You can’t grow anything beneath teak trees.” The empty ground beneath the trees, which grow in neat and unnerving lines, means that in this forest it is nearly silent. We spot a solitary buffalo spider, and a few butterflies.
Trevor Jones of the Southern Tanzania Elephant Program (Step) explains “It has been very sad to see all the overgrazing and conversion to farmland of wildlife habitat in the Kilombero valley over the last decade."
“I work more and more with the World Bank or the African Development Bank,” says scientist Holly Dublin, “and I see what their plans and what they are giving loans for to these governments. It is like there’s a total disconnect. So what you are going to see is that of course, elephants come last. In fact, anything to do with wildlife comes last.”
The World Bank did 320 pages of assessment on Sagcot  with a specific case study on Kilombero. They highlighted the “high risk from accelerated agribusiness investment” noting possible “increasing pressure on the forests and their biodiversity”.
 “There was some discontent at the World Bank around the project,” says Doug Hertzler of ActionAid, who has closely followed the impacts of the Tanzanian agricultural plans. “For a long time the funding was held up because of the concerns.” They hesitated and dragged their feet – but in the end the money went through.
 USAID noted in their own extensive report that “Kilombero Valley Floodplain is of global, national, regional and local importance in terms of its ecology and biodiversity” and added that “the most important direct threat to biodiversity comes in the form of the conversion, loss, degradation, and fragmentation of natural ecosystems”. But they went in nonetheless, and their work can be seen all over the valley – including the rehabilitation of a road that runs straight through the heart of the Ruipa wildlife corridor and which will, undoubtedly bring more traffic.
UK money went in too, in the form of a grant to the rice plantation and support for SAGCOT (they had also been key funders of the teak plantation).