Category Archives: Education

Give up or carry on? Being an academic in South Sudan

Source: iStock Road block in South Sudan
Source: iStock
Road block in South Sudan

Written by:  David Malual W. Kuany. Posted on: March 21, 2016


David Malual W. Kuany discusses the difficulties encountered by universities in the world’s newest country

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When South Sudan became independent in 2011, there were hopes that higher education, and education in general, would top the national spending priority list. The country has six universities, five of which are public and one of which is private, with the number of students in the country estimated at between 25,000 and 30,000.

Since 2011, however, budgets have been reduced as part of national austerity measures. To make matters worse (to say the very least), when the country entered into what I personally call a war of insanity in December 2013, public universities were badly affected, with students, faculty and staff displaced, and assets destroyed. Now, at certain times, university administrators are challenged with the question of whether to close universities or keep them open. It is hoped that the recent peace deal between the government and rebels will be sustainable and provide tangible solutions, but higher education institutions in South Sudan still face basic challenges.

Violence and insecurity

The most important challenge to higher education in South Sudan is the vicious circle of insecurity in both the periphery and the centre of the country. Four of the five public universities are located in states prone to be attacked either by the rebels fighting the government, or by local communities in conflict with each other. As a result, many highly skilled foreign academics have left the universities and returned to their countries, or sought jobs with international non-governmental organisations. Because of insecurity and interruptions in the learning and academic cycles, many students have left the country to enrol in universities in neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia or Sudan. Some students and staff, traumatised by the murderous attacks, are too scared to return to the campuses and thus they interrupt their studies or drop out altogether. However, the recent peace deal signed in Juba might help overcome this fear of insecurity.

Brain drain and public financing

A number of outstanding home-grown faculty have left South Sudan to seek refuge elsewhere, in search of greener pastures. Before July 2015, academics in South Sudan were receiving 35 per cent less in salary than their counterparts in East Africa. This led to brain drain. The incentive of state education is that beneficiaries should pay back to the state by way of serving the community in their respective specialties. This is compromised if these individuals prefer to work elsewhere. The implication is the insufficient number of faculty at public universities, hence the huge student-to-faculty ratio. The national government pays the salaries of staff and faculty at public universities, but little else. There is no funding available for construction or maintenance of infrastructure, for research, holding examinations or student accommodations. With these realities, universities are faced with the challenge of having to shut down. So far no university has done so, but extended holidays are not uncommon and severely disrupt academic life. The delays provoke frustration and exacerbate the need to improve working conditions.

Technology and labour market needs

As in other developing countries, the demands of students enrolled nowadays in universities in South Sudan present a formidable challenge for university academics and administrators. Students need lecture theatres equipped with modern pedagogical equipment, air conditioning, stable electricity and the means to commute to and from the university. Students are easily annoyed when lacking favourable conditions for learning. The faculty also face major challenges, lacking both standard equipment as well as knowledge on how to use digital resources. The central purpose of education is to foster skills and values for individuals to successfully fit into society and engage in productive activity to earn a living. The current labour market requires a thorough understanding of modern technology, flexibility and creativity, and social intelligence. As observed above, insufficient technological tools might compromise the opportunity for university students to learn needed skills for the labour market, resulting in a mismatch of competencies and unemployment.

Foreign universities and transnational education

The increasing number of private institutions of post-secondary education in neighboring Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Sudan reflects an enormous competition for students in the region. The attraction of South Sudanese to foreign universities is probably caused by better learning environments, course duration, curriculum, level of technology, higher standard of living at low cost, integrated student support mechanisms and the diversity of the student population, which provides unique opportunities for international exchanges. These conditions prompt students to cross borders in search of better educational conditions. Students tend to leave for foreign universities where they are certain of graduating within a specified period of time, and with better standards as compared to domestic universities.

Although higher education in South Sudan faces enormous challenges, it is moving in the right direction. Since 2013, more South Sudanese academics and staff have joined foreign universities for capacity building. If they return to the country, they will provide the much needed know-how to improve the quality of education. The recent peace deal, if it is sustained, will provide avenues for international inter-university exchanges, improvement in learning facilities, an increase in student enrollment, especially women, and resources might be invested in education.

David Malual W. Kuany is dean of the college of education at Dr John Garang Memorial University of Science and Technology, South Sudan. He recently completed a Mandela Washington fellowship at Cambridge College, Massachusetts, and Florida International University. This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in thespring edition of International Higher Education.

Times Higher Education’s second Africa Universities Summit will take place at the University of Ghana in Accra from 27 to 29 April 2016.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published at Times Higher Education and was retrieved on March 21, 2016 and posted at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The views and materials contained in the post remains those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

Dubai wants to be ‘world’s happiest city’

 The desert city of Dubai launched its own ‘happiness index’ in 2014. Photograph: John Harper/Corbis
The desert city of Dubai launched its own ‘happiness index’ in 2014. Photograph: John Harper/Corbis

Written by: . Posted on Wednesday, March 16, 2016


The United Arab Emirates recently appointed its first ‘minister for happiness’, underlining Dubai’s ambitious plan to become the happiest city on the planet. But a new report suggests there is still much work to be done.


Dubai’s ambition to become the “world’s happiest city” by the end of the decade has suffered a blow with the publication of the latest annual World Happiness Report, which sees the United Arab Emirates slip down the rankings from 20th to 28th place.

The new report, which ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels, also states that “happiness inequality” has increased significantly “in most countries, in almost all global regions, and for the population of the world as a whole.”

In an effort to counter this trend, in 2014 Dubai – one of seven emirates that make up the UAE – launched its own “happiness index”, aimed at collecting data on how government services impacted happiness. Smart devices were distributed around the city – 23 touch-screen terminals positioned in public buildings and linked to government centres – and individuals were encouraged to give feedback by choosing one of three options to register satisfaction or otherwise with their experience.

“Creating happiness is the final result of the smart city agenda,” Ahmed Bin Byat, CEO of the investment group Dubai Holding, told a government summit last year. “Once we are able to manage and meet people’s experiences, we will be able to rise on the happiness index. It is vital because if people are not happy, they don’t stick around in the city; they leave.”

 As part of its bid to be a happier city, Dubai is spending billions generating clean energy. Photograph: Ashraf Mohammad Mohammad Alamra/Reuters
As part of its bid to be a happier city, Dubai is spending billions generating clean energy. Photograph: Ashraf Mohammad Mohammad Alamra/Reuters

Last month, the UAE’s prime minister and Emir of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced via Twitter that his new cabinet included its first “minister of state for happiness”, Ohood Al Roumi. He insisted this was more than a fuzzy feelgood move, and that the initiative would be propelled by “plans, projects, programmes [and] indices”.

One supporter of Dubai’s efforts is Scott Cain, chief business officer at the UK government-funded organisation Future Cities Catapult (FCC), which aims to “accelerate urban ideas to market, to grow the economy and make cities better”.Recently Cain wrote: “Happiness is something Emiratis take very seriously. Following the recent appointment of the UAE’s first minister for happiness and the declaration that Dubai is to be the happiest city in the world by 2019, Future Cities Catapult has been supporting the city in realising its ambition.

“I was recently invited to present the catapult’s view on happiness and wellbeing in the city, and addressed some issues that will be challenging in the UAE environment. It seems they weren’t discouraged as they presented me with an award, which was as unexpected as it was rewarding.”

Cain will be in Dubai later this week for the fourth annual International Day of Happiness on 20 March, which the desert city will celebrate with a series of events. “The highlight will be meeting the Minister for Happiness herself,” Cain says, “and hearing what other cities in the UK and beyond can learn from Dubai’s efforts.”

Some observers have raised eyebrows at the UAE’s “happiness project”, coming as it does amid ongoing human rights concernsAccording to Human Rights Watch (HRW): “The United Arab Emirate often uses its affluence to mask the government’s serious human rights problems. The government arbitrarily detains, and in some cases forcibly disappears, individuals who criticised the authorities, and its security forces face allegations of torturing detainees.”

HRW highlights a new anti-discrimination law which “further jeopardises free speech”, and raises concerns about migrant construction workers “facing serious exploitation” and female domestic workers who are “excluded from regulations that apply to workers in other sectors”.

According to Cain: “In many ways Dubai is much more progressive than its near neighbours; many of its senior officials are women including the minister for happiness.” He adds that FCC is “not a public policy advisory group; we follow the lead of UK government”.

While Dubai and the UAE strive for greater happiness, the top of the world happiness league continues to be dominated by northern Europe. Denmark has regained first place, followed closely by Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland. The US is ranked 13th in the new report, two places higher than last year.

The report is produced by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Its co-editor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, says: “Measuring self-reported happiness and achieving well-being should be on every nation’s agenda as they begin to pursue the Sustainable Development Goals … Rather than taking a narrow approach focused solely on economic growth, we should promote societies that are prosperous, just and environmentally sustainable.”

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Article Disclaimer: This article was published by The Guardian and was retrieved on March 16, 2016 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views, contents and thoughts expressed in the article remains those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

 

 

 

The environment gets its day in court

When an oil palm company was taken to court for lighting fires, people took notice. Aulia Erlangga
When an oil palm company was taken to court for lighting fires, people took notice. Aulia Erlangga

Written by: . Posted on: March 14, 2016


The message was clear: Don’t think you can get away with it.

In 2012 Indonesian palm oil company PT Kallista Alam sent 1000 hectares of Sumatran peat forest up in flames so they could use the land for agriculture.

The fires in Aceh’s Tripa forest threatened wildlife and human health, and sent vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere. They were also illegal.

Although the Acehnese provincial government had issued the company a permit, the area should have been covered by Indonesia’s national moratorium on new concessions. In addition, the Tripa forests are part of the Leuser ecosystem – a globally important biodiversity hotspot, and the last area worldwide where orang-utans, tigers, elephants and rhinos coexist in the wild.

Still, companies had done worse before with few consequences.

This time, it was different.

Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment sued Kallista Alam for the harms it had caused the environment, and in September last year, the country’s Supreme Courtupheld an earlier verdict ordering the company to pay Rp. 366 billion (US$ 27 million) in fines and compensation for the damage.

It was a precedent-setting ruling that caught the attention of researchers from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Environmental Law Institute (ELI).

The decision was potentially a game-changer, adding natural resource liability to the portfolio of tools the Indonesian government can use to address deforestation.

How widely was this tool used across the tropics, the researchers wondered.

ON THE BOOKS

In a new paper, they explore the status of natural resource liability law and its implementation in Indonesia and in other countries that struggle with deforestation.

“Environmental liability law is well established in the United States and the EU for things like oil spills and hazardous waste accidents, but is it being used for the environmental harms that tropical countries confront, such as deforestation and wildlife trafficking?” asked lead author Carol Adaire Jones from ELI, based in Washington, D.C.

Jones and colleagues looked at Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Mexico and the Philippines, and found that all but Nigeria had established a statutory right to bring cases for damage for resources in the public domain.

They were surprised to find that in two ways, the law makes it easier to sue for damage to the environment in the tropical countries than in the US and the EU.

Firstly, in the US and EU only the government has the authority to file suits. But in many of the tropical countries, civil society can also bring cases.

This provision can help move cases forward faster, says co-author John Pendergrass.

“It may not be a priority for government prosecutors, either because they’re overworked or because they’re corrupt. If civil society is allowed to bring the case, it can get around both of those issues,” he says.


“You have to be able to monitor and detect violations, identify who the responsible parties are, and document the injuries to the environment” Carol Adaire Jones


Secondly, in the US liability laws only apply to hazardous activities, such as oil spills and toxic discharges; to protected places like national parks; or to protected species, such as migratory birds and endangered wildlife.

In many of the study countries, however, the laws cover the loss of any resources in the public domain – from deforestation as in the Kallista Alam case, to wetland destruction, illegal logging, and mining pollution.

So the laws are on the books – but they’re not always implemented consistently, the authors say.

“We have to acknowledge there are issues with rule of law, sometimes due to civil war and insurgencies, other times due to corruption or weak institutions,” Jones says.

“Promoting rule of law is important, by establishing laws and regulations that are clear, strengthening institutions, and promoting accountability through transparency.”

“But it’s also a question of capacity, in terms of using data and science to successfully bring a case to court,” Jones says. “You have to be able to monitor and detect violations, identify who the responsible parties are, and document the injuries to the environment.”

LAW SCHOOL

Judges and prosecutors need environmental training, too – something that is already happening in Indonesia. The country’s Supreme Court has established a ‘Green Bench’, training and certifying judges to deal with environmental legislation.

Foresters and inspectors – the people on the ground – also need training, adds Pendergrass.

“This needs to be something that’s a regular part of what professional foresters cover,” he says.

“So they understand there’s the possibility to restore the damaged area, and how much that’s going to cost, and understand all the reasons why this is important, so that they can be the advocate for bringing the case to the court.”

And once that happens, courts also need to value the harms to the environment correctly.

Jones highlights a 2014 case in the DRC where two mining companies dumped toxic waste (including arsenic and cyanide) into a river. It killed fish, contaminated drinking water and destroyed agriculture along a 200 kilometre stretch – and the companies were fined only US$ 6000 in damages.

“It had tremendous impact on people’s livelihoods over an extended period – so obviously $6000 is not the right amount,” Jones says. “Calculating the value of harms could definitely be improved across the study countries.”

Where the money goes once it’s collected also matters, the authors say.

In the US and many other countries, fines are placed in a specialised fund used to restore the damage to the environment, but in two of the study countries, Indonesia and the Philippines, the money goes straight into the Treasury.

That means there’s a risk that in cases like Kallista Alam, the $US27 million paid by the company might not get spent on restoring the damaged ecosystem – a huge task involving not just planting, but reviving the watershed that keeps peat damp.

“If the money goes to the Treasury it can get spent on anything,” Pendergrass says.

“If it doesn’t go to restoration, then you may still have a deterrent effect, but it also looks a lot like a revenue-raising scheme for the government – and I would expect there could be backlash from the responsible parties.”

Ultimately, Jones says, the power to bring cases like these is just part of the set of tools governments can use to stop deforestation.  Good policy – the rules of the game – is a key starting point.

“But if people fail to abide by those rules, or the rules are implemented in a very inconsistent way, then you have to bring enforcement actions.

“And then liability can be a very powerful tool.”


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by Forest News an initiative of CIFOR and was retrieved and posted at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only.The views and contents of the article remains those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

 

 

 

India Looks to Battery Storage to Supplement Its Solar Boom

 

Image Source: Green Tech Media
Image Source: Green Tech Media

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Written by: Mike Stone. Posted on: March 14, 2016


For the first time ever, India is putting out the call for energy storage developers.

The state-run Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) is seeking bids for a 750-megawatt solar park at Ananthapuramu in Andhra Pradesh. In order to supplement the massive series of projects, SECI is looking to procure 100 megawatts of storage capacity.

It’s a small step for solar storage in a country that currently has little capacity. But if batteries are regularly added to future tenders, it could add up to a large market, given India’s ambitious solar targets.

The government is planning 20 gigawatts of solar installations over the next few years and 100 gigawatts by 2020 or 2022 — amounting to a $100 billion opportunity for solar, according to Ernst & Young’s renewable energy attractiveness index.

Madhavan Nampoothiri, founder of RESolve Energy Consultants, thinks solar-plus-storage will benefit.

“The opportunity is huge in India, mainly in the rooftop/off-grid space,” he said. “Power outages are rampant in India, and energy storage can help reduce the outages. On the utility-scale projects side, grid balancing and grid integration become increasingly important in order to counter the [intermittent] nature of solar.”

Large companies are preparing to do business in the sector. General Electric recently announced that its energy consulting business was chosen by IL&FS, one of India’s leading infrastructure developers and financiers, to examine the feasibility of integrated wind, solar and energy storage projects at sites in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

“Energy storage can be particularly helpful for integrating variable renewable generation in India since the technical infrastructure and market mechanisms available at the disposal of many other power grids are not yet available in the country,” said Sundar Venkataraman, GE Energy Consulting’s technical director. “As the costs start to come down, energy storage will become an integral part of India’s grid.”

IL&FS, also one of the biggest independent wind power producers in India, last year secured funding from the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to look into utility-scale integration of wind, solar and storage in India. The grant is part of $2 billion in trade investment that USTDA has earmarked for renewable energy projects in India.

GE’s contribution to the research will include designing a power plant combining wind, solar, energy storage and controls. The company will then look at the costs incurred and build a business plan in order to make the project commercially viable.

At this stage, it is unclear what battery chemistries will dominate in India’s market. It will likely be lithium-ion; however, according to Madhavan Nampoothiri, there will be a place for vanadium redox flow batteries in the longer term.

For example, SunEdison ordered 1,000 vanadium storage systems from Imergy last year for use in solar-powered microgrids in rural India.

Despite its bold plans, India doesn’t have much solar to speak of yet. At the moment, its 3 gigawatts of installed solar account for only 1 percent of the country’s total generating capacity. To put that into perspective, China and Germany already have roughly 40 gigawatts each.

India’s storage sector may depend on how quickly solar scales up in the country.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published at Green Tech Media and was retrieved on March 16, 2016 and posted here at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the post remains those of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

 

The Indispensable Escapes: The Experiences of a Refugee

Photo Credit: Maria Runggeary, 2012
Photo Credit: Maria Runggeary, 2012

You are reading this brief disclosure because of your interests in refugees and displaced persons. No one wants to be a refugee! It is a very painful life mostly fill with lots of sufferings. So, we should continue to embrace those who are refugees and other displaced population not because we feel sorry for them, but because they are humans like ourselves with emotions, hearts, souls and spirits, desires of belonging and to call a place “home.”  Thus, we should continue to give our best to those in need, because the moment we stop doing that we miss the meaning  of humanity. It is our responsibility (believe it or not) to take care of each other in times of needs, wars and conflicts.

It is my desire and goal to keep creating awareness and education of refugees’ issues globally, but local first. In this process, it takes me great pleasure to announce today that I am almost done with the manuscript of a book based on my experiences as a refugee and those of my siblings as I reflect and recapture the many episodes of escapes from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast and eventually settling in the United States.

I have tried on several occasions to avoid reflecting on my experiences and those of my siblings as we escaped together, but the desire to narrate this story with the goal of helping others learn from what we went through to help with their own stories of whatever they are going through in their own lives continue to upset me why I have delay this for so long. I started writing few months ago, sometimes staying up too late to make sure that this book is ready to come out in later part of 2017.

It is with great pleasure that I would like to announced that the table of contents, which I think best described every segment of the text is now out published here. I hope in the next few months that the remaining chapters can be completed and release to potential individuals who have contacted me with interest to help proof read the initial manuscript.

If you are interested to be one of the reviewers (which is voluntary by the way), please feel free to contact me and I will include you on my send list when the final manuscript is ready for reviewers to read and make their comments. All reviewers’ contribution to the final text will be duly acknowledged.

The Indispensable Escapes: The Experiences of a Refugee

Book Chapters

Table of Contents

Preface

Acknowledgement

Dedication

Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Prior to the War: The Days Before Christmas

Chapter 3. 1st Escape: The Beginning of Life on the Run

Chapter 4. The Flight from Cape Palmas, Maryland

Chapter 5. Life at 5th Street Sinkor, Monrovia

Chapter 6. 2nd Escape: Monrovia – The Ball of Fire

Chapter 7. 3rd Escape: Providence & the Ghost of Bodies

Chapter 8. 4th Escape: The Thousands Unforgotten Steps

Chapter 9. Bomi Hills: Life in a Rebel-held Zone

Chapter 10. 5th Escape: Almost Dead at Midnight

Chapter 11. 6th Escape: The Bravery of a Sister

Chapter 12. 7th Escape: Exit from Bo to Kenema, Sierra Leone

Chapter 13. 8th Escape: The Frozen Exit from Sierra Leone

Chapter 14. The Tai Massacre: Neighbor Became Executional

Chapter 15. 9th Escape: The Light of Ghana

Chapter 16. Life at the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana

Chapter 17. Resettlement to the United States of America

Sanitation is Namibia’s neglected stepchild

Source: Southern Times
Source: Southern Times

Written by:   Lahja Nashuuta. March 10, 2016


Windhoek, Namibia – Every year on November 19, the global community observes the World Toilet Day, an event designated by the United Nations (UN) to raise awareness about the people in the world who don’t have access to proper toilets, despite the fact that it is a human right to have clean water and sanitation.

According to UN Water, an agency that coordinates the UN’s work on freshwater and sanitation, the World Toilet Day is about the 2.4 billion people who lack access to improved sanitation. It is about the nearly 1 billion people who have to defecate in the open.

The UN says the state of sanitation remains a powerful indicator of the state of human development in any community. It said that improved sanitation also brings advantages for public health, livelihoods and dignity-advantages that extend beyond households to entire communities.

In his statement to observe last year’s World Toilet Day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon noted that sanitation is central to human and environmental health as well as to individual opportunity, development and dignity.  But he registered his disappointment that to date, one in every three people lacks improved sanitation, and one in every eight practices open defecation, worldwide.

The Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) 7, target 3, outlined the global ambition to the proportion of people without access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

But up to the end of last year, there has been no tangible progress by the global community, especially in developing countries like in Africa to provide proper sanitations facilities, which the UN has warned is having negative effects on people’s health, safety, and dignity.

A 2014 progress report by the WaterAid has revealed that majority of governments in Southern African region, like the rest of the continent have failed to deliver on their promises on water and sanitation.

This left over 40 million people in the region without access to safe drinking water and 73 million without sanitation. Botswana and Angola have been rounded for their efforts to half the number of people without access to clean drinking water and sanitation during the implementations of the MDGs.

Justine Eilonga, a resident of Havana informal settlement in Windhoek is one of thousands of Namibians who were let down by their own government, which failed to provide them with basic sanitation facilities.

Although Namibia has met the target for water provision with over 87 percent of the households in the country have access to improved water supply, the target for sanitation was missed dismally.

While most of their country men and women are line-up in banks or in the shops to pay for their goods and services, Eilonga and other residents of Havana in the periphery of Namibia’s main city, Windhoek are queueing up and impatiently waiting for their turns to make use of a single toilet that serves close to a thousand people, irrespective of gender and age.

“We are sharing this one toilet with many people,” she said while pointing to a solitary toilet that was erected by the Windhoek Municipality.

“It’s just unhygienic and unbelievable that people from other informal settlements also track long distances to come use this toilet. I cannot blame them because I am aware that there is not a single toilet there but it is the municipality responsibility to ensure that the inhabitants have access to portable water and toilet facilities,” she said

Eilonga said the situation forces many people to relieve themselves in open, and at night especially women and children are forced to use baskets, which they dispose in the river beds the next morning, a situation which she distribute as undignified. Others especially those that are living in the new informal settlements dig their own traditional latrines.

Helodia Amadhila, also the resident of Havana, who is concerned about using public toilet at night due to especially with regard to security and health issues.

“I suffer a lot when nature calls during the night time because the only available toilet is very far and there are lots of bad people in the area. Although I stay with my two sons, some time they are not in the house and there is no one to escort me, leaving me with no choice but to use a basket which is very unhygienic,” she said.

Simon Nghindini, also a resident of Havana and whose shack is over a kilometer from the nearest public toilet relate a similar story to that of Amadhila, Eilonga and thousands of other Namibians without proper sanitation facilities.

“Most of the time the toilets are not working. This can be explained by a large number of people using the toilets, and municipal officials take their time to come fix them,” he said about a block of 12 toilets that were built by the City of Windhoek to serve the community of Havana.

“We decided to dig our own toilet because there is nowhere to relieve ourselves. This place is overcrowded and open space are scares. It’s a terrible situation we are living in,” Losivite Tuyeni, a resident of Gereagob, while pointing at family toilet her boyfriend has dug for them, a few meters from their corrugated irons house.

Namibia Demographic and Health Survey of 2013 indicated that only 34 percent of the population having access to improved sanitation which is against a target to have reached 66 percent of the population by 2015 as set out in the National Sanitation Strategy.

During the 9th Water and Sanitation Sector Joint Annual Review on February 2, in Windhoek by the government ministries and stakeholders in water and sanitation sector  including the European Union, as development partner, the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa has acknowledged the country’s failure to provide proper sanitation to the majority of the population.

“Access to water has increased overally, even if sanitation remains – despite our genuine efforts – the neglected stepchild of this country.  The challenge now lies with lack of progress on sanitation with only 34 percent of the population having access to improved sanitation,” he said.

“However, the victims affected by inadequate access to sanitation are as usual are primarily the poor.  The problem of poor access to sanitation is particularly acute in the rural areas where only 17 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities with an alarming rate as high as 46.5 percent of open defecation.   Also equally affected are the informal settlements. The low access to improved sanitation constitutes a serious public-health problem”.

Minister Mutorwa also blamed the poor sanitation standard in urban centers such as Windhoek on the rapid increase in rural to urban migration, saying that the country needed to find urgent solution to the low access of sanitation in informal settlements.

“The disparity of water and sanitation service coverage between urban and rural is cause for concern. We cannot also ignore the rapid rural to urban migration that is going on at an estimated alarming rate of 3.5 percent per annum. This has a major impact on water and sanitation service delivery particularly in urban areas,” said the minister.

Having failed to deliver better sanitation facilities during the past 15 years, Namibia has now set herself a mammoth task to improve access to sanitation from the current 34 percent to 70 percent by 2017.

According to the Sanitation Strategic Plan, a total required budget to implement all initiatives in the plan was N$1.579 billion over the five year period from 2010/11-2014/15, with an average of N$316 million per annum. However, media reports indicate that the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has been sitting on the funds that were a solution to the problem of poor sanitation in the country.

The ministry’s Director of Water Supply and Sanitation Coordination, Theopolina Nantanga gave a lame excuses in an interview with The Villager newspaper in June 2015 that the sanitation project failed to get off the off the ground because of numerous challenges including public education.

Nantanga however explained that the  water  and  sanitation  situation  currently prevailing in  the  country  is  characterised  by  scarce  water resources, poor access to running water in rural areas and a large percentage of the population living in vulnerable conditions in informal settlements.

The City of Windhoek manager for corporate communications, Joshua Amukugo said water and sanitation provisions one of the top priorities issues at the municipality.

“The City of Windhoek sees access to water and improved sanitation as one of the key challenges to the general upliftment of our society, in particular the more vulnerable portion thereof. In this regard the city has expended millions in the provision of water and sanitation facilities throughout the city to those in need and will continue to do so as the organization is fully aware of its social responsibility and is making a real, concerted effort to address all issues at hand,” Amukugo said.

The city official pointed the maintenance of facilities and water shortages as the most pressing challenges. “The maintenance of established sanitation facilities is proving to be by far the biggest challenge. Technical solutions exist in a variety of forms and even funding can be sourced, but sustaining the facility in working order has failed in many instances.

“Given the nature of a sanitation installation and the fact that these toilets are not under care of a single individual or household in many instances lead to these installations being subjected to vandalism, unhygienic usage and even the theft of water.

“The provision of adequate sanitation is a major challenge on its own, however maintaining this has proven almost impossible under the current model.

This is also one of the primary reasons the City of Windhoek has embarked on an extensive process to review the current model of providing sanitation throughout the spectrum of service provision under the mandate of the organization.

“A second and equally important issue that has become overdue and need to be urgently addressed is the ever increasing shortage of water in the central areas of Namibia.

This situation is seriously straining development and impacting on the ability of the City of Windhoek to expand service delivery to all residents.

The Namibian Government should realise the challenge posed by this and ensure that this is resolved sooner rather than later,” he said.

Meanwhile, countries in Southern Africa like Namibia still have a chance to deliver on renewed promises following the adoption by the world leaders of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015.

This agenda includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030. The SDGs are built on the MDGs that ended last year. And the universal access to clean drinking water and sanitation is one Sustainable Development Goals.

However it is going to be costly to achieve universal access to water and sanitation by 2030, according to Jean-Philippe Bayon, the coordinator for the UNDP-Global Water Solidarity. In blog post on the UNDP official website, Bayon noted US$ 27 billion are needed annually to provide clean water and sanitation by 2030. He said official development assistance (ODA) may covers approximately one third of the target but 17 billion are still missing.

He believes that local and regional authorities like the City of Windhoek, “can contribute to filling the endemic resource gap that cripples water interventions.

I believe local to local cooperation is an important part of the solution but to make it fully effective we need to improve its modus operandi”.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the Southern Times and was retrieved on March 10, 2016 and posted at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The views, thoughts and contents of the article remains those of the author. Please cite the originally source accordingly.

 

Poisoned, Marginalised, Bankrupt and Dead


Written by: COLIN TODHUNTER


It is becoming increasingly apparent that food and agriculture across the world is in crisis. Food is becoming denutrified, unhealthy and poisoned with chemicals and diets are becoming less diverse. There is a loss of plant and insect diversity, which threatens food security, soils are being degraded, water tables polluted and depleted and smallholder farmers, so vital to global food production, are being squeezed off their land and out of farming. A minority of the global population has access to so much food than it can afford to waste much of it, while food poverty and inequality have become a fact of life for hundreds of millions.

This crisis stems from food and agriculture being wedded to power structures that serve the interests of the powerful agribusiness corporations in the Western countries, especially the US. Over the last 60 years or so, Washington’s plan has been to restructure indigenous agriculture across the world. And this plan has been geopolitical in nature: subjugating nations by getting them to rely more on US imports rather and grow less of their own food. What happened in Mexico under the banner of ‘free trade’ is outlined further on in this article.

Agriculture and food production and distribution have become globalised and tied to an international system of trade based on export-oriented mono-cropping, commodity production for the international market, indebtedness to international financial institutions (IMF/World Bank) and the need for nations to boost foreign exchange (US dollar) reserves to repay debt (which neatly boosts demand for the dollar, the lynch pin of US global dominance). This has resulted in food surplus and food deficit areas, of which the latter have become dependent on (US) agricultural imports and strings-attached aid. Food deficits in the global South mirror food surpluses in the West.

Whether through IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programmes related to debt repayment, as occurred in Africa, bilateral trade agreements like NAFTA and its impact on Mexico or, more generally, deregulated global trade rules, the outcome has been similar: the devastation of traditional, indigenous agriculture.

Integral to all of this has been the imposition of the green revolution. Farmers were encouraged to purchase seeds from corporations that were dependent on petrochemical fertilisers and pesticides to boost yields. They required loans to purchase these corporate inputs and governments borrowed to finance irrigation and dam building projects for what was a water-intensive model.

While the green revolution was sold to governments and farmers on the basis it would increase productivity and earnings and would be more efficient, we are now in a position to see that it served to incorporate nations and farmers into a system of international capitalism based on dependency, deregulated and manipulated commodity markets, unfair subsidies and inherent food insecurity.

As part of a wider ‘development’ plan for the global South, millions of farmers have been forced out of agriculture to become cheap factory labour (for outsourced units from the West) or, as is increasingly the case, unemployed or underemployed slum dwellers. And many of those who remain in agriculture find themselves being steadily squeezed out as farming becomes increasingly financially non-viable due to falling incomes, the impact cheap subsidised imports and policies deliberately designed to run down smallholder agriculture.

Aside from the geopolitical shift in favour of the Western nations resulting from the programmed destruction of traditional agriculture, the corporate-controlled, chemical-laden green revolution has adversely impacted the nature of food, soil, human health and the environment. Sold on the promise of increased yields, this has been overstated. And the often stated ‘humanitarian’ intent and outcome (‘millions of lives saved’) has had more to do with PR rather than the reality of cold commercial interest.

Moreover, if internationally farmers found themselves beholden to a US centric system of trade and agriculture, at home they were also having to cater to the needs of a distant and expanding urban population whose food needs were different to local rural-based communities. In addition to a focus on export oriented farming, crops were being grown for the urban market, regardless of farmers’ needs or the dietary requirements of local rural markets.

Impacts of the green revolution on the farm

In an open letter written in 2006 to policy makers in India, farmer and campaigner Bhaskar Save summarised some of the impacts of green revolution farming in India. He argued that the actual reason for pushing the green revolution was the much narrower goal of increasing marketable surplus of a few relatively less perishable cereals to fuel the urban-industrial expansion favoured by the government and a few industries at the expense of a more diverse and nutrient-sufficient agriculture, which rural folk – who make up the bulk of India’s population – had long benefited from.

Before, Indian farmers had been largely self-sufficient and even produced surpluses, though generally smaller quantities of many more items. These, particularly perishables, were tougher to supply urban markets. And so the nation’s farmers were steered to grow chemically cultivated monocultures of a few cash-crops like wheat, rice, or sugar, rather than their traditional polycultures that needed no purchased inputs.

Tall, indigenous varieties of grain provided more biomass, shaded the soil from the sun and protected against its erosion under heavy monsoon rains, but these very replaced with dwarf varieties, which led to more vigorous growth of weeds and were able to compete successfully with the new stunted crops for sunlight. As a result, the farmer had to spend more labour and money in weeding, or spraying herbicides. Moreover, straw growth with the dwarf grain crops fell and much less organic matter was locally available to recycle the fertility of the soil, leading to an artificial need for externally procured inputs. Inevitably, the farmers resorted to use more chemicals and soil degradation and erosion set in.

The exotic varieties, grown with chemical fertilisers, were more susceptible to ‘pests and diseases’, leading to yet more chemicals being poured. But the attacked insect species developed resistance and reproduced prolifically. Their predators – spiders, frogs, etc. – that fed on these insects and controlled their populations were exterminated. So were many beneficial species like the earthworms and bees.

Save noted that India, next to South America, receives the highest rainfall in the world. Where thick vegetation covers the ground, the soil is alive and porous and at least half of the rain is soaked and stored in the soil and sub-soil strata. A good amount then percolates deeper to recharge aquifers or groundwater tables. The living soil and its underlying aquifers thus serve as gigantic, ready-made reservoirs. Half a century ago, most parts of India had enough fresh water all year round, long after the rains had stopped and gone. But clear the forests, and the capacity of the earth to soak the rain, drops drastically. Streams and wells run dry.

While the recharge of groundwater has greatly reduced, its extraction has been mounting. India is presently mining over 20 times more groundwater each day than it did in 1950. But most of India’s people – living on hand-drawn or hand-pumped water in villages, and practising only rain-fed farming – continue to use the same amount of ground water per person, as they did generations ago.

More than 80% of India’s water consumption is for irrigation, with the largest share hogged by chemically cultivated cash crops. For example, one acre of chemically grown sugarcane requires as much water as would suffice 25 acres of jowar, bajra or maize. The sugar factories too consume huge quantities. From cultivation to processing, each kilo of refined sugar needs two to three tonnes of water. Save argued this could be used to grow, by the traditional, organic way, about 150 to 200 kg of nutritious jowar or bajra (native millets).

The colonisation of Mexico by US agribusiness 

If Bhaskar Save helped open people’s eyes to what has happened on the farm and to ecology as a result of the green revolution, a2015 report by GRAIN provides a wider overview of how US agribusiness has hijacked an entire nation’s food and agriculture under the banner of ‘free trade’ to the detriment of the environment, health and farmers.

In 2012, Mexico’s National Institute for Public Health released the results of a national survey of food security and nutrition. Between 1988 and 2012, the proportion of overweight women between the ages of 20 and 49 increased from 25 to 35% and the number of obese women in this age group increased from 9 to 37%. Some 29% of Mexican children between the ages of 5 and 11 were found to be overweight, as were 35% of the youngsters between 11 and 19, while one in 10 school age children suffered from anaemia. The Mexican Diabetes Federation says that more than 7% of the Mexican population has diabetes. Diabetes is now the third most common cause of death in Mexico, directly or indirectly.

The various free trade agreements that Mexico has signed over the past two decades have had a profound impact on the country’s food system and people’s health. After his mission to Mexico in 2012, the then Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, concluded that the trade policies in place favour greater reliance on heavily processed and refined foods with a long shelf life rather than on the consumption of fresh and more perishable foods, particularly fruit and vegetables.

He added that the overweight and obesity emergency that Mexico is facing could have been avoided, or largely mitigated, if the health concerns linked to shifting diets had been integrated into the design of those policies.

The North America Free Trade Agreement led to the direct investment in food processing and a change in the retail structure (notably the advent of supermarkets and convenience stores) as well as the emergence of global agribusiness and transnational food companies in Mexico. The country has witnessed an explosive growth of chain supermarkets, discounters and convenience stores. Local small-scale vendors have been replaced by corporate retailers that offer the processed food companies greater opportunities for sales and profits. Oxxo (owned by Coca-cola subsidiary Femsa) tripled its stores to 3,500 between 1999 and 2004. It was scheduled to open its 14 thousandth store sometime during 2015.

De Schutter believes a programme that deals effectively with hunger and malnutrition has to focus on Mexico’s small farmers and peasants. They constitute a substantial percentage of the country’s poor and are the ones that can best supply both rural and urban populations with nutritious foods. Mexico could recover its self-sufficiency in food if there were to be official support for peasant agriculture backed with amounts comparable to the support granted to the big corporations.

In Mexico, the loss of food sovereignty has induced catastrophic changes in the nation’s diet and has had dire consequences for agricultural workers who lost their jobs and for the nation in general. Those who have benefited include US food and agribusiness interests, drugcartels and US banks and arms manufacturers.

The writing is on the wall for other countries because what happened in Mexico is being played out across the world under the banner of ‘free trade’.

GMOs a bogus techno quick-fix to further benefit global agribusiness

Transnational agribusiness has lobbied for, directed and profited from the very policies that have caused the agrarian/food crisis. And what we now see is these corporations (and their supporters) espousing cynical and fake concern for the plight of the poor and hungry (and the environment which they have done so much to degrade), and offering more (second or third generation… we have lost count) chemicals and corporate-patented GM wonder seeds to supposedly ‘solve’ the problem of world hunger. GM represents the final stranglehold of transnational agribusiness over the control of seeds and food.

The misrepresentation of the plight of the indigenous edible oils sector in India encapsulates the duplicity at work surrounding GM. After trade rules and cheap imports conspired to destroy farmers and the jobs of people involved in local food processing activities for the benefit of global agribusiness, including commodity trading and food processer companies ADM and Cargill, the same companies are now leading a campaign to force GM into India on the basis that Indian agriculture is unproductive and thus the country has to rely on imports. This conveniently ignores the fact that prior to neoliberal trade rules in the mid-1990s, India was almost self-sufficient in edible oils.

In collusion with the Gates Foundation, these corporate interests are now seeking to secure full spectrum dominance throughout much of Africa as well. Western seed, fertiliser and pesticide manufacturers and dealers and food processing companies are in the process of securing changes to legislation and are building up logistics and infrastructure to allow them to recast food and farming in their own images.

Today, governments continue to collude with big agribusiness corporations, which seek to eradicate the small farmer and subject countries to the vagaries of rigged global markets. Agritech corporations are being allowed to shape government policy by being granted a strategic role in trade negotiations and are increasingly framing the policy/knowledge agenda by funding and determining the nature of research carried out in public universities and institutes.

Bhaskar Save:

“This country has more than 150 agricultural universities. But every year, each churns out several hundred ‘educated’ unemployables, trained only in misguiding farmers and spreading ecological degradation. In all the six years a student spends for an M.Sc. in agriculture, the only goal is short-term – and narrowly perceived – ‘productivity’. For this, the farmer is urged to do and buy a hundred things. But not a thought is spared to what a farmer must never do so that the land remains unharmed for future generations and other creatures. It is time our people and government wake up to the realisation that this industry-driven way of farming – promoted by our institutions – is inherently criminal and suicidal!”

At the end of the above quote, Save is referring to the near 300,000 farmer suicides that have taken place in India over the past two decades due to economic distress resulting from debt, a shift to (GM)cash crops and economic ‘liberalisation’(see this report about a peer-reviewed study, which directly links suicides to GM cotton).

The current global system of chemical-industrial agriculture, World Trade Organisation rules and bilateral trade agreements that agritech companies helped draw up for their benefit are a major cause of structural hunger, poverty, illness and environmental destruction. By its very design, the system is parasitical.

Agroecology as a credible force for change

Across the world, we are seeing farmers and communities continuing to resist the corporate takeover of seeds, soils, water and food. And we are also witnessing inspiring stories about the successes of agroecology: a model of agriculture based on traditional knowledge and modern agricultural research utilising elements of contemporary ecology, soil biology and the biological control of pests.

Reflecting what Bhaskar Save achieved on his farm in Gujarat, the system combines sound ecological management, including minimising the use of toxic inputs, by using on-farm renewable resources and privileging endogenous solutions to manage pests and disease, with an approach that upholds and secures farmers’ livelihoods.

Agroecology is based on scientific research grounded in the natural sciences but marries this with farmer-generated knowledge and grass-root participation that challenges top-down approaches to research and policy making. It can also involve moving beyond the  dynamics of the farm itself to become part of a wider agenda, which addresses the broader political and economic issues that impact farmers and agriculture (see this description of the various modes of thought that underpin agroecolgy).

Last year the Oakland Institute released a report on 33 case studies which highlighted the success of agroecological agriculture across Africa in the face of climate change, hunger and poverty. The studies provide facts and figures on how agricultural transformation can yield immense economic, social, and food security benefits while ensuring climate justice and restoring soils and the environment. The research highlight the multiple benefits of agroecology, including affordable and sustainable ways to boost agricultural yields while increasing farmers’ incomes, food security and resilience.

The report described how agroecology uses a wide variety of techniques and practices, including plant diversification, intercropping, the application of mulch, manure or compost for soil fertility, the natural management of pests and diseases, agroforestry and the construction of water management structures. There are many other examples of successful agroecology and of farmers abandoning green revolution thought and practices to embrace it (see this report about El Salvador and this from South India).

Various official reports have argued that to feed the hungry and secure food security in low income regions we need to support small farms and diverse, sustainable agro-ecological methods of farming and strengthen local food economies (see this report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and this (IAASTD) peer-reviewed report).

Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food:

“To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available. Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live especially in unfavorable environments.”

De Schutter’s report indicated that small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years in critical regions by using ecological methods. Based on an extensive review of the recent scientific literature, the study calls for a fundamental shift towards agroecology as a way to boost food production and improve the situation of the poorest. The report calls on states to implement a fundamental shift towards agroecology.

The success stories of agroecology indicate what can be achieved when development is placed firmly in the hands of farmers themselves. The expansion of agroecological practices can generate a rapid, fair and inclusive development that can be sustained for future generations. This model entails policies and activities that come from the bottom-up and which the state must invest in and facilitate.

Proponents of agroecology appreciate that a decentralised system of domestic food production with access to local rural markets supported by proper roads, storage and other infrastructure must take priority ahead of exploitative international markets dominated and designed to serve the needs of global capital. Small farms are per area more productive than large-scale industrial farms and create a more resilient, diverse food system. If policy makers were to prioritise this sector and promote agroecology to the extent ‘green revolution’ practices and technology have been pushed, many of the problems surrounding poverty, unemployment, rising population and urban migration could be solved.

While many argue in favour of agroecology and regard it as a strategy for radical social change, some are happier for it to bring certain benefits to farmers and local communities and see nothing wrong with it being integrated within a globalised system of capitalism that continues to centralise power and generally serve the interests of the global seed, food processing and retail players. And that is the danger: a model of agriculture with so much potential being incorporated into a corrupt system designed to suit the needs of these corporate interests.

But there is only so much that can be achieved at grass-root level by ordinary people, often facilitated by non-governmental agencies. As long as politicians at national and regional levels are co-opted by the US and its corporations, seeds will continue to be appropriated, lands taken, water diverted, legislation enacted, research institutes funded and policy devised to benefit global agribusiness.


Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.



Article Disclaimer: This article was published at Counter Punch and was retrieved on March 10, 2016 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views, comments and thoughts expressed in the article remains thoughts of the author. Please cite the original source accordingly.