Category Archives: People, Places & Cultures

Guns, Violence and Roses in America: The Seven Years of the Obama’s Administration

Americans, we’ve come a long way. We have passed through stages and decades of exploitation, physical violence, annihilation, war, racial slavery, hate, racial segregation, power and control, military industrial complex, divide and conquer, The Industrial Revolution, exceptionalism, isolationalism, The Wall Street, NRA, Tea Party, Republican, Democrat, Federalist, Constitutionalist, The Bush’s Wars, The Clinton’s mayhem, The Occupy Movement, Police Violence, and now Trumphism. Americans are good people and we should not forget that. Some would correctly argue that we are still dancing to the drums of some of those periods or events listed above. But as a nation, we’ve come a long way and yet to make this nation great.

Yet, there are those among us willing to do significant harm to others and I don’t think religion is fundamental to that process unless we are spoon-fed with information by the media powered by political motives and selective bias in news reporting to influence us to think how “they” want us to think, act and behave. Humans by nature like to cast blames on others for their errors. If you are a christian we see that from the very genesis of the biblical account of our origin.

We create the images of the violence we see in our streets and in our neighborhoods of our towns and cities each day. A society breeds what we put into it just like a computer processes what we input into the system. If we input trash, we get trash out. Violence breeds violence!! Hate breeds hate. Yet, we can conquer violence with non-violent acts.  Society shapes us and we also shape society.

Today, we have more guns in America than any other time in our history and on planet earth. Guns are now cheaper than food and now proponents see guns as a fundamental human rights contextually contradicting the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Are we “more Americans” with a gun? Or should I say, do we feel more safe with a gun?” Certainly, gun does not make us more American or any safer either. The more guns we have the more it is likely for gun-related crimes to be committed. Guns by itself do not kill people, but people use guns to commit crimes. You could say well I possess gun not to kill anyone except someone who traspasses on my property or someone who breaks into my home, etc and I am within my legal right to defend myself, my family and property. That is a valid point. However, with the number legally own guns and those that are unknown out there our society is doom to see guns-related crimes each and every day!

Guns are now available everywhere and even a little toddler can easily access one from his or her parents. Our obsession with guns and violence are reinforced by video games, movies and the violence that we see in the streets of our cities and towns. Today, we think we are safer when we have guns. Guns don’t make people safe. It is people who make people safe.

More guns mean someone will be shot and killed. More guns means more violence and more violence means insecurity, mayhem, total anarchy, deaths, and injuries, which has physical, economic, social, health, and emotional consequences.

Today in America, mass shooting has become the new normal. We hear about it almost each month somewhere in this country. America is the only industrial country in the global north and east where the obsession with guns breed violence, more violence begets deaths and deaths beget pain and pain begets sorrow, while sorrow begets anxiety of individuals and society. Today, society has become immune to guns, violence and deaths using each to justify the other. Whether guns breed violence or violence is a consequence of our obsession with guns is yet to be answered. However, we need to change this paradigm.

As the news of mass shootings flood the various media outlets in this country both offline and online, one thing is assure….individual and public fear, total trepidation, nervousness, unease, fright, disquiet, dismay, consternation, anxiety, and the most effective emotional state of all “ALARM.” The media in a way reinforce all these aspects and yet waiting for the next hot spot for another mass shooting coverages of all sort.

Right on all of that, we have a very ineffective political system that is bought by lobbyists of all sorts who drag their feet to make decisions on guns control.

We cannot make America great again by allowing our children to be killed. It is our right to defend our country and home and that is why we have military experts for that. Today, one-in-nine Americans has anything between 2-3 guns at home. This excludes illegal guns possessions.

Regretfully and somewhat appreciated for the sake of victims of mass shootings, the President of this country has spend more time giving speeches after the event of a mass shooting than any other issue. It now looks certain that Obama or any other president after the November 2016 election will give some sort of funeral-related speech of a mass shooting or visit those affected areas and families, which is a good thing. However, the frequencies of these trips and speeches seem to be the new normal from the White House.  What we need is not an emotional 30 second tear from a President and the so-called moments of silence for the victims, but action on guns control and an end to it!!! It almost appears certain that our president is ready to give another speech each month as mass shootings become “normalized.”

“We shouldn’t kill people who killed people to tell them that killing people is wrong.”

President Obama has had hard time trying to nail a deal with congressional leaders and those of the house to put some very “tight jeans” on guns.

During the first seven years of the Obama’s administration, we have had 22 violent mass shootings events accomplished cross 14 US States, which include Washington D.C. During this period, we had 240 confirmed deceased (including the perpetrators) with 280 injured.

Understanding this simple principle and rule of life promotes a peaceful world, love and stability. Violence can be defeated by love and love overcomes violence. Love breeds love and not hate. Violence is a product of hate and other bunch of stuff.

Frankly, the violence we see today are not so much about guns control as much as those violence are indications that we as a nation have to come together and really heal our wounds.

Figure 1: Location or Place of Mass Shootings

Figure 2: US States in which Mass Shootings Occurred in the current 7-years of Obama’s Administration

Figure 3: Mass Shootings by States [including D.C.]

Figure 4: Mass Shootings by US Cities

Go Fund: Ekxang Community Resource Center

Site A plots and beds a go!!
Site A plots and beds a go!!

Jenkins M Photo Credit: Hansila S.

 

You can fund this project by making your kind donation at:

Ekxang Community Resource Center

Introduction

In 2013, I (Jenkins Macedo) was privileged to have won a research grant from the Center of Global Food Security at Purdue University  to undertake a field research project in Laos in collaboration with the International Water Management Institute  in Vientiane, Laos.

In the photo: Georeferencing one of the sites of the project located 100 meters from the school site. In the photo is the Ekxang village Chief in the army fatigue, Mr. Tom and his daughter, one of our project farming family with the Hawaiian shirt, Ms. Khandala [to my right] Faculty member of the Department of Water Resource Engineering at the National University of Laos, Ms. Chantha [to my left] District Agricultural Extension Officer. Photo Credit: Hansila S. IWMI’s Staff

The awarded grant was used to facilitate the implementation of my field research project in Laos towards the Master of Science degree at Clark University in Environmental Science and Policy . Thus, this fundraiser is intended to contribution back to the community in the form of a development project of some of their most urgent needs.

If you are interested in some of my works and those completed in Laos during my time there, please visit my website at INDESEEM and select “Field Trips” from the Category dropdown menu.

Jenkins conducting visual soil testing with Ms. Khandala and the farmers.Photo Credit: Mixay S. NUOL

During my work in Laos from December 2013 through July 2014, I was fortunate to work with farmers and other local stakeholders in Ekxang Village located 62 kilometers from Vientiane capital. The village has about 2000 people mostly from Hmong ethnic group who were settled there about 100 years ago. Ekxang is situated in the Vientiane Province, which is mostly lowlands where paddy rice farming is the main source of income and livelihoods support system. The village neighbors about six other villages in the Phonhong administrative district.

Welcome to Vientiane Province. Photo Credit: Jenkins M.

Ekxang village as many villages in Laos has few public facilities and infrastructures, such as a government-funded primary school, which is poorly furnish, a community health center with one paid nurse who is rarely accessible by the villagers, no library and educational materials for students and teachers are scarce if even available. Access to educational materials is a major challenge for both teachers and students. Teachers, students and their parents struggle to acquire the necessary local specific educational materials and supplies.

Newly constructed 6 classroom school building. Photo Credit: Bournmee M. IWMI’s staff.

Parents who are mostly farmers have to struggle between providing school fees and educational supplies for their children against the decision to buy farm supplies for the next farming season. With the risk of farming pose by climate change in the forms of severe droughts, flooding and poor yield, parents and farmers at Ekxang and nearby villages are face with the same struggle each day.

A panoramic view of Ekxang village market. Photo Credit: Mixay S. NUOL

It was always great buying and selling locally. Photo Credit: Jenkins M.

The provincial and district extension officers are doing their optimal best to reach out to local farmers with whatever limited resources that are available at their disposal to address some of the technical and non-technical issues farmers at Ekxang and other nearby villages continue to experience. During my work in Laos, I worked closely with the District Agricultural and Forestry Extension Officer (DAFOE).

Their centralized office located in the town KM52, in Phonhong district serves over thousands local farmers in villages and small towns. Their office has nothing, but wooden chairs, tables, empty closets with few stacks of papers, few postal boards of some of the common plants and farm animals diseases prevalent in the province. Anything beyond those has to be accessed from Vientiane, which takes several weeks or months to materialize.

We provided water for our neighbors, but that wasn’t enough.

One interesting experience and challenge working with our farmers at Ekxang village was also trying to gain the trust of their cattle. Most farmers own livestock, but not everyone has cattle. The monetary value of cattle far surpass those of small livestock and crop combine. Unfortunately, both of our project sites ( A and B) were directly on the route the cattle take each evening. As such, we had to be herdsmen ourselves why hoping our green fields in the middle of a totally dried landscape didn’t elevate the appetite of cattle.

Study site A usually surrounded by cattle late evenings.

We tried, but eventually failed  when one afternoon I got a call while in Vientiane from the farmer (Ms. Tamda) that the cattle grazed our field to the point only the shoots of the water spinach were left in the soil. At least with the shoots still in the soil, we trimmed the field and reinforced the fence and the regrowth was amazing.

Lesson? Never underestimate hungry cattle because they will do anything to get over the great wall of China to get fresh and green leaves, if they have to.

The Project Overview

Objective:

The main objective of this fundraiser is to help raise $80,000.00 dollars from now to July 2017, which will be used to build the Ekxang Community Resource Center in Vientiane Province at Ban (village) Ekxang for use by the villagers at Ekxang and their neighbors in the Phonhong administrative district.

It is against this background and from my conversations with all the stakeholders that were involved in the project in Laos. The establishment of the community resource center (first of its kind in the province) will not only contribute to their resilience to climate change, but also contribute towards providing opportunities for their children to be empowered with skills and knowledge essential to preserve their cultures, enhance their knowledge and to engage with others from other communities. The community resource center will be a shared facility, which provides multiple services to the people.

The Ekxang Community Resources Center would be equipped with a computer lab with access to the internet, a library which contains textbooks in Lao language and other local languages as necessary and a section  with English and French textbooks. A section of the facility would be the Farmers’ Seeds Bank, which will be managed by the local farmers’ group at Ekxang, which actively works with the agricultural extension officers. Initial plans is on the way to create a business model for the seeds bank. The seeds bank is very important because farmers at Ekxang and other villages always purchase seeds from agricultural stores in the cities. Most of the seeds purchased from these stores are imported from abroad and are very expensive, not tolerant to environmental stressors, such as high temperature and are mostly linked to low yield varieties.

If the farmers are provided with the needed training, skills and materials, they can produce their own seeds year round without spending a dime saving a significant amount of money that can be used for other household needs or as savings.

An office for the district agricultural extension services would be made available and equipped with a computer, a printer, and basic field tools to conduct on-site soil tests, temperature measurements, soil sampling and processing tools, georeferencing equipment and training, etc. for farmers in Ekxang and nearby villages. The office will be equipped with two microscopes and associated materials to enhance their work in the field while at the center.

The Ekxang Community Resource Center will also have at least two conference or meeting rooms each equipped with a media control system, which will include a projector, a computer, speakers, microphone and flat screen television sets for presentations and videoconferencing.

The facility will also have two office spaces for the local Lao Women’s Union and both offices will be fitted with office furnitures, computers, and a printer.

Lastly, the facility will include a playground for children. The primary school at Ekxang doesn’t have a playground. We are hoping to use part of the funds to develop the open field at the school with a football pitch, a basketball court and a playground fitted with fun games for children between the ages of 1-15 years old.

Two generators will be purchased as a stand energy source.

The facility will also have a local staff office, kitchen, separate toilets for both gender, a community access room fitted with educational games and other resources. An office space will be provided for the local Chief at Ekxang to be used for his administrative work in the village, which will provide a form of security for the center.

Note. A complete breakdown for the budget will be provided shortly. 

I strongly believe that the Ekxang Community Resource Center, if funded and developed will bring more light to the farmers and their children and those of the neighboring communities. This will create an active environment, which foster engagement, learning and sharing.

Laotians are sharing, loving and hardworking people who believe in their national identity and diverse cultural heritage. The resource center, if funded and developed, will continue to add to these essential values.

The farmers at Ekxang village are amazing! I believe and trust that with your generous donations or contributions, and the eventual establishment of the resource center, that the people of Ekxang and the surrounding villages will be happy.

The full contributed amount would be used to acquire the needed construction materials and the equipment to furnish the building.

Land Acquisition Contribution

The local government would be able to provide land for the project.

Facility Leadership & Governance 

Ekxang Community Resource Center will be under the direct supervisory leadership of the local farmer’s group at Ekxang village, which will include team members from neighboring villages to form part of the supervisory team. The head supervisory role will be rotated annually by general consensus of team members.

Sustainability 

Sustainability is at the heart of this project A “Commons Access” fee will be designed base on consensus and with both the short and long term goals in mind.

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 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.

 

China Declares ‘People’s War’ on Pollution As Smog Envelops Beijing

A smokestack spews soot into the smoggy skyline of the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun, in file photo. Credit/AFP
A smokestack spews soot into the smoggy skyline of the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun, in file photo. Credit/AFP

Reported by: Yang Fan and Xin Lin for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie


As Beijing geared up for the annual session of the country’s parliament on Thursday amid a grey pall of smog, a top government adviser declared a “People’s War” on pollution, sparking widespread ridicule and criticism at the use of old Maoist jargon.
“The fight against smog is a long-running war,” Wang Guoqing, spokesman for the parliamentary advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) told reporters in Beijing as the authorities announced a yellow alert for pollution.

“It’s also a People’s War,” he said, calling for patience from the public, and warning that measures to tackle pollution “cannot be effective at once.”

As he spoke, the whole of northern China was under a yellow alert pollution warning, with readings of the smallest particulates, PM 2.5, hovering around 300 micrograms per cubic meter, according to the U.S.embassy in Beijing.

The embassy, which measures air quality independently of the Chinese government, described the air quality as “hazardous at 24-hour exposure to this level.” The World Health Organization (WHO)recommends levels of no more than 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

“Smog … has shrouded the country’s northern and eastern regions, including Beijing and Tianjin,” the official Xinhua news agency reported.

“Smog will blanket parts of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Jiangsu and Liaoning until Friday night,” it quoted state meteorologists as saying.

War talk mocked online

Online commentators hit out at Wang’s plea, however.

User @songtieping quipped: “Are we talking about the War of Resistance Against Japan (eight years) or the civil war (three years)? That’s the big question. We must have a timetable.”

“He is comparing anti-pollution measures to a long-running battle … but why can’t they fix the problem at its source?” user @weixianqianqianwanwanbian wrote.

Others wanted to know how it was that pollution became a “People’s War,” when the people had no share in the profits from it.

Beijing resident Liu Tianyi said there appears to have been a minor improvement in pollution levels in the capital since the governmentintroduced a slew of new anti-pollution measures last year.

“There is some fog today, but it’s not really bad; maybe medium to mild,” Liu said. “There’s a yellow alert, but it’s much better than the same time last year.”

“It comes in fits and starts … but I’m still not very happy; after all, the air that we breathe is a pretty major issue,” he said.

“It affects our health, and it affects our mood, when every day is so gloomy.”

He said many Beijing residents are highly suspicious of calls for patience, because the government has shown it is able to clear the city’s skies for major international events, a phenomenon that has been dubbed “APEC blue” after a gathering of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

“I think that this is really about profit … because a lot of the pollution is linked to heavily polluting industries in Hebei,” Liu said.

“We have blue skies for … a military parade, but once the political event is over, then the grey comes flooding back in again.”

Police harass environmentalists

Environmental activist Wu Lihong said the responsibility for the smog ultimately must remain with the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

“Of course it’s mostly the government, because it’s only the government who has the wherewithal to make laws, and to enforce them,” Wu said.

“If industry would respect the law, then the problem wouldn’t be as serious as it is now,” he said.

Giving the lie to the concept of a People’s War, Wu said he has frequently been targeted for police harassment because of his environmental activism.

“I have been detained on the streets of Beijing and escorted home by state security police from my hometown,” he said. “My work is on behalf of everyone, so why do they expend so many resources, so much time, money and energy [on suppressing me]?”

“They shouldn’t be doing that,” he said.

Shandong-based independent commentator Zhang Hengjia said pollution in China is closely bound up with the country’s political system.

“The smog in China basically stems from issues of power in China, because power doesn’t base itself on scientific evidence,” Zhang said.

“They know the law and they break it anyway; and [the government] does nothing to stop them,” he said. “Of course it’s mostly about official inaction.”

“There is no way to wipe out corruption; you can just pay a bit of money, pay the fine, give a few gifts and it all goes away. All this is totally normal,” Zhang said.

“And in an authoritarian regime such as that of the Chinese Communist Party, there is no way to make adjustments to the system, and so the smog just gets worse and worse.”

Last month, scientists published a report showing that air pollution kills more than 5.5 million people around the world each year, with some 1.6 million people dying of air pollution in China in 2013.

Researchers warned the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington that air pollution is the fourth-highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease.

In China, burning coal is the biggest contributor to poor air quality, causing 366,000 deaths in 2013, according to Qiao Ma, a Ph.D. student at prestigious Qinghua University in Beijing.

In February, Beijing and New Delhi typically see daily levels of PM 2.5 at or above 300 micrograms per cubic meter — 1,200 percent higher than WHO guidelines, researchers said.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by Radio Free Asia (RFA) on March 3, 2016 and was retrieved on March 4, 2016 and reposted here at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The contents, views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors only. Please cite the source appropriately.


 

 

Rushing to relieve Ethiopia’s shortage of maize and wheat seed

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 2.24.20 AM
Image Source: CIMMYT Press Releases

on Thursday, 03 March 2016. Posted in Press releases

Ethiopian organizations, USAID, and CIMMYT partner for rapid help to drought-hit farmers
ADDIS ABABA – As government and external agencies marshal food relief for millions facing hunger from Ethiopia’s worst drought in decades, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) is leading a major, one-year push to provide drought-hit maize and wheat farmers in Ethiopia with urgently-needed seed to save their next harvest.

With a $3.97 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, CIMMYT is rapidly procuring emergency supplies of maize and wheat seed for free distribution to more than 226,000 households in 67 drought-affected counties of Ethiopia, benefitting more than 1.35 million people who have lost their seed from the lack of rains.

Building on pre-existing efforts funded by USAID under the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future, and involving CIMMYT to strengthen maize and wheat seed production and distribution systems in Ethiopia, the project will obtain seed from areas favored by recent good harvests.

Needy farmers will receive enough seed to sow from ¼ to ½ hectare of land – a quarter or more of the typical farmer’s landholding – along with instructional materials about the varieties and best farming practices.

For maize, the project will distribute seed of high-yielding, broadly adapted, drought tolerant varieties developed by CIMMYT and partners in Ethiopia as part of another, long-running initiative whose seed production and marketing efforts are being massively scaled up with USAID support.

The wheat seed for distribution is of high-yielding varieties able to resist Ethiopia’s rapidly-evolving wheat disease strains. According to Bekele Abeyo, CIMMYT wheat breeder/pathologist for Sub-Saharan Africa, who is coordinating the seed relief initiative, procurement will benefit from recently-begun CIMMYT-led work, also with USAID support, to multiply and spread improved wheat seed.

“While addressing the pressing need to have seed before the spring rains, when many families sow, the work also promotes more widespread awareness and use of the latest improved varieties and farming practices,” said Abeyo, who added that all the varieties had been developed using conventional breeding and that most of the seed was being sourced from Ethiopian farmers and seed enterprises.

Wheat and maize to meet rising challenges and demand

Maize and wheat are strategic food crops in Ethiopia, grown on more than 3 million hectares by nearly 14 million households.

High-yielding, resilient wheat varieties from CIMMYT and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), along with supportive government policies and better cropping practices, have caused Ethiopia’s wheat production to more than double in just over a decade, rising from 1.6 million tons during 2003-04 to around 3.9 million tons over the last few years. “Food security has measurably improved in households that have taken up the improved wheat technologies,” according to Abeyo, who also cited rust resistance research led by Cornell University and involving CIMMYT, as instrumental in developing and spreading disease-resistant improved varieties in Ethiopia and in supporting the creation of a global wheat disease monitoring and rapid-response system.

Maize was originally a subsistence staple in Ethiopia, but government policies and research investments have propelled it to become the nation’s second most-widely cultivated crop and the most important source of calories in rural areas. Average national yield has doubled since the 1990s to surpass 3 tons per hectare, the second-highest level of productivity among nations in Sub-Saharan Africa. Having worked in Ethiopia since the 1970s, CIMMYT has contributed many improved varieties, including maize with enhanced protein quality that can increase height and weight growth rates in infants and young children. Seed of this maize will also be distributed through the relief initiative.

Seeding a food-secure future

“The partnership with USAID for future food security, livelihoods, and nutrition in Ethiopia perfectly fits CIMMYT’s mission and the aims of long and valued collaborations in the country,” said Martin Kropff, CIMMYT director general. “With partners’ help, we will monitor the uptake, use, and impact of the maize and wheat seed distributed through the initiative.”

“Through years of USAID support and most recently through the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with the government of Ethiopia and partners like CIMMYT to build the country’s capacity for lasting food security and resilience to recurring drought,” said Beth Dunford, Assistant to the Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Food Security and Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future. “As the current crisis outstrips Ethiopia’s ability to cope on its own, USAID is committed to helping the country meet immediate needs as well as protect hard-won development gains and speed recovery through efforts like this emergency seed support.”

Partners involved in the seed relief initiative include:

  • Amhara Seed Enterprise.
  • The Agricultural Transformation Agency, Ethiopia.
  • Regional Bureaus of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
  • Ethiopian Seed Enterprise.
  • Farmer cooperative unions.
  • Federal and regional research institutes.
  • Oromia Seed Enterprise.
  • Private seed companies.
  • Southern Seed Enterprise.

For more information

Mike Listman, CIMMYT communications, email at m.listman@cgiar.org, mobile at +52 1 595 1149 743. Geneviève Renard, head of CIMMYT communications, email at g.renard@cgiar.org, mobile at +52 1 595 114 9880.

About CIMMYT

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), is the global leader in research for development in wheat and maize and wheat- and maize-based farming systems. From its headquarters in Mexico and 14 global offices, CIMMYT works throughout the developing world with hundreds of partners to sustainably increase the productivity of maize and wheat systems, thus contributing to better food security and livelihoods. CIMMYT is a member of the 15-member CGIAR Consortium and leads the CGIAR Research Programs on Wheat and Maize. CIMMYT receives support from national governments, foundations, development banks and other public and private agencies.

About Feed the Future

Feed the Future is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. With a focus on smallholder farmers, particularly women, Feed the Future supports partner countries in developing their agriculture sectors to spur economic growth and trade that increase incomes and reduce hunger, poverty and under-nutrition. For more information, visit http://www.feedthefuture.gov.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) on March 3, 2016 and was retrieved on March 3, 2016 and reposted here at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The views and content of the post remains solely the intellectual property of the CIMMYT. Please cite the original source accordingly.