Category Archives: International Relations, Law & Development

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.

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

Register now to attend the Times Higher Education Africa Universities Summit

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.


 

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.


 

 

 

 

Hydroelectric power sustainable development in Laos needs to focus on environmental, social impacts

VIENTIANE, March 7 (Xinhua) — An official from International Finance Corporation (IFC) urged Lao government to better understand cumulative river and ecosystem-wide impacts, which was of vital importance to achieving sustainable hydropower projects.

Kate Lazarus, team leader for the Mekong Sustainable Hydropower Program at IFC told Xinhua that the government of Laos has identified hydropower as an important source of income while contributing to poverty reduction and graduation from least developed country status.

“Hydropower investments require lengthy and thorough study to determine project feasibility and impact. The environmental and social impacts from hydropower projects need to be understand and managed. Government policy needs to be continually updated,” Lazarus said.

“With abundant water resources, hydropower, if developed and managed well, hydropower can be shared regionally through wider connectivity of the grid, benefitting neighboring countries,” she added.

The Mekong-side country is expected to have more than 60 generation projects online by 2020 up from the current 38, bringing electrification to 98 percent of the country’s households up from the current 85 percent, according to the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines.

According to the Ministry’s Vision 2030 presented to January’s five-yearly 10th Congress of the ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, the country’s installed hydropower capacity by 2030 will be 17,000 megawatts (MW) of which 10,000 are expected to be exported, providing a significant economic and fiscal contribution in the highly import-dependent country.


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


 

 

Regional Workshop Held On Sustainable Oil Palm Production

Source: News Ghana 2016
Source: News Ghana 2016

Organised by Proforest, which is leading the Initiative on behalf of Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) 2020, the workshop was held in collaboration with the Government through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

wpid-palm-oil-fruit.jpgThe workshop, the first of its kind would help plan the regional initiative process leading towards signing a regional Accord at the Ministerial level on responsible palm oil production later in 2016.

The TFA 2020 is a public–private partnership bringing together companies, governments and civil society with a shared goal of reducing tropical deforestation across the globe.

Its focus is on agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, pulp and paper, and beef products, which drive more than 50 per cent of such deforestation.

Speaking at the opening session, Dr Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, said the TAF 2020 was part of the important process of ensuring that oil palm was produced in a way that protects the environment, bring benefits to communities, provide a conducive atmosphere for industry and businesses to grow, while contributing to Ghana’s growing economy.

He said it was the belief of the Government that the development of oil palm could be done in a more sustainable manner to help reduce the negative impacts.

Dr Alhassan said it was important that palm oil refiners, manufacturers and other actors who influenced the sector directly and indirectly come together to find ways of reducing the likely negative impacts and increase its benefits.

“We believe this can be done by joining forces with allies who share the same vision and who are ready to forge strategic, mutually beneficial partnerships to work towards set goals,” he said.

Oil Palm is known to have originated in Africa. Its cultivation has hitherto been on a small scale – primarily as village low-yield multi-crop stands.

According to the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) smallholders account for 70–90% of oil palm producers in Africa.

“As we learn from ourselves and share ideas, it is my hope that we not only develop but find constructive ways of supporting the implementation of a set of regional principles for responsible oil palm development that take account of the development plans of our respective countries and Africa as a whole,” Dr Alhassan said.

“Oil palm development is about our people, our livelihood, heritage, our economy and ultimately our legacy. We don’t owe its sustainable growth only to the over six million people whose livelihood depends on it, or the consumers all over the world whose lives a better because of the oil palm but to posterity,” he added.

He said closing the gaps in the sector and producing oil palm sustainably would require concerted efforts from governments, regional bodies, research institutions, private financiers, investors, and technocrats, to ensure the proper understanding and utilization of oil palm.

Mr Abraham Baffoe, Africa Regional Director Proforest, said the workshop sought to build a shared understanding of TFA 2020 and the Africa Palm Oil Initiative and share ideas and experiences on promoting deforestation-free supply chains as a vital element of better economic growth and making progress towards the Global Goals.

It will also update stakeholders on progress made in the initial focal countries and develop a framework for a set of regional principles for sustainable palm oil in Africa, including a timeline for reaching a regional agreement.

Six leading palm oil producing countries in Africa including Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria and Ghana are engaged in the Initiative.

Other producer countries are expected to join this first regional workshop, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by News Ghana and retrieved on March 8, 2016 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The contents in the article remains those of the author only. Please cite the original source accordingly.


 

 

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.


Where the Governors Got it Wrong: Resettling Syrian Refugees in the United States

Source: Jakarta Post

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”

Overview

In the last few days, the world witness one of the horrible terror attacks against humanity – the terrorists attack in Paris, which led to 129 people dead. Terror has no place in this world and now it is the time for us to unite to fight terror to the end. Those killed in Paris and other parts of the world were killed because they were free people. People who believe in freedom, liberty, justice, and free will.

The terror attack in Paris unearth issues that need to be addressed diplomatically to bring to an end the Syrian crisis. It is now time to unite our forces and energies against this terror, which means focusing our strategies, tactics, resources, and man power as a united force against IS.

Nevertheless, in the midst of all this people are victims and Syrians and those of North Africa are the primary victims of terrorism. Syrians in particular had to go through all the hardships to escape terror at the front of their homes.

They walked thousands of miles, starve in most instances for days, weeks and months just to survive this terror. Many could not make the journey as they involuntarily fled from their homes. No one really wants to leave the place they consider home and everyone who is a refugee knows that that is a fact even if they are resettled to heaven. Home will always be home and nothing earthly can replace it. The meaning attached to home are not easily transfer to places refugees eventually seek refuge. It takes time to call a new place home.

Source: Rescue

It is not the time for us to turn away from those who fled violence and terror in their home country. The moment we stop helping others is the moment we deny our humanity and undermine our values, principles and all that we are and so dearly believe in. Today, they are refugees and seeking our help – tomorrow we could be in need of something else and we might seek help from others.

The United States is a great nation not because we have powerful weapons and large guns. We are great as a people because of the values, principles and believes that we stand and live for. I do believe that we can do this. We can shelter, provide medicine, food, clothes and peace of mind for Syrian refugees that need our help.

The United States refugee resettlement program is one of the rigorous resettlement programs in the world as far as I know and experienced. I had conducted over 10 different presentations across this country creating awareness of refugees’ issues and also about how the US Refugee Resettlement process works. If you are interested, please click below.

The US Refugee Resettlement Program

Refugees are not just taken out of a refugee camp and displaced setting and resettled to a third country. The process of resettlement takes between 1-2 years and even longer depending on several factors. The processes listed as “durable solution” to end “refugeeness” are a). local integration (in the primary host country), b). repatriation (going back home) and resettlement (relocated to a third country.

Resettlement is the last resort of all three durable solutions and the most preferred of all the three options. Thus, before discussing how the US Resettlement Program works for the benefits of Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and his colleagues from other states across the political divide and for those at the senate who plans or are planning to pass a legislature to restrict or block the resettlement of Syrian refugees to the United States.

IT SHOULD BE KNOWN THAT STATES DO NOT HAVE ANY LEGAL OR LEGISLATIVE SIGNIFICANCE TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT REFUGEES CAN BE ADMITTED TO THE UNITED STATES AND FOR THAT MATTER IN THEIR RESPECTIVE STATES. The admissions of refugees in the United States is the sole responsibility of the Federal Government of the United States.

a. Local Integration

When refugees flee from their home country and enters another country in most cases bordering their home country. They are in most instances welcomed and registered by the appropriate refugee agency of the country.

Usually, this prior registration process is jointly implemented by the government of the host country and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Thus, the point here is that, if well coordinated, each refugee is registered and provided with some sort of identification. At that point, they officially gain refugee status. The process of local integration in the primary host country is a long process and also depends on the state hosting the refugee population and thee refugee themselves.

For the state, aspects that are considered include, but are not limited to the population, economy, national security, the refugee population itself, etc. For effective refugee management, the moment refugees are admitted, the process to find a durable solution should start immediately, because you want people to settle and live freely.

However, local integration in the host country should be encourage since refugees can easily transition back home once the situation, which caused them to flee cease to exist in their country of origin.

Also, one reason while local integration should be encouraged is because in most instances the primary host country shares similar cultural and ethnic diversity of the seeking refuge. This is not to say that the relationship is perfect, but people relationships cross national borders.

However, one reason why most refugees don’t seem to choose local integration as a durable solution is that, they are easily targeted due to cross borders attacks. I am not very sure if they might be the case in Libya and Syria, but in West Africa for example, rebels from Liberia were accused of staging attacks of refugee camps in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Similar incidence were reported in the Great Lakes Region in Eastern Africa. If well planned, local integration in the primary country of refuge can be an effective solution to cease refugee status.

b). Repatriation

Unlike local integration, repatriation is done when a refugee decides to return to his or her home country when the condition of fear, which causes the refugee situation cease to exist back home. Again, like local integration, voluntary repatriation is done at the free will of the refugee.

However, if the conditions back in their home country for which they fled cease to exist and refugee population still refuse to return home voluntarily and local integration is rejected by the refugee population and the resettlement isn’t possible, their refugee status can terminated because cessation clause in the host country’s refugee policy specifies that “once the condition of fear for which the refugee fled his or her country cease to exist” their refugee status can be terminated by the government of the host country.

The good thing about voluntary repatriation is that, if well planned, returnees (i.e. former refugees) can be relocated back to their communities and start the rehabilitation, reintegration and reconstruction process back in their country. In most cases in the event of a voluntary repatriation, refugees returning home are provided with some assistance (financial or logistical) to help facilitate transition when they return.

c). Resettlement

Within the refugee cycle, resettlement is the optimal choice, but the most difficult stage of the durable solution to the refugee crisis. Usually, the initial determination to resettle a refugee family is a product of several processes. First, in the traditional sense; that is, resettlement that is initiated from the UNHCR is conducted after several interviews (aka counseling sections with a refugee/a refugee family) and a UNHCR Case Worker.

When it is determined by the UNHCR staff that a refugee or a refugee family life is at stake in the host country and the prospect of returning home is unlikely, that individual and his family are recommended to the consulate of a refugee resettlement country. Once that process gets started, the consulate in question takes over the process and all files relating to that individual and his/her family members are turned over to the consulate office responsible for resettlement processing. This process according to the US Refugee Resettlement Program is known as Priority I.

Secondly, for humanitarian reasons, refugees can be resettled to a third country. That is, special humanitarian concerns could warrant the US to issue the admission of refugees in the United States. The current humanitarian crisis of Syrian refugees falls into this bracket of the US Refugee Resettlement program known as Priority II.

Thirdly, another way a refugee is resettled to a third country (third country in this narrative means resettlement country and usually means a developed country that can provide the needs of the refugee family that is consider for resettlement) at least for the case of the US Refugee Resettlement Program is through Family Reunification, which is Priority III.

In this refugee resettlement program,refugees are admitted to the United States through a family member (parents), spouse and unmarried child under 21 years of age, who was a refugee themselves and are either a permanent resident or citizen of the United States. Even given that, the person being applied for by his relative in the US has to demonstrate refugee status in the country where the application is sent to the US Consulate for processing.

Thus, now that we know that refugees are not just resettled once they leave their country, even though the case of Syrian refugees could challenge this convention, because we have thousands of people landing on the shores of Europe. It is paramount for countries that are interested in resettling Syrian refugees to coordinate their efforts and also work with those countries like Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, etc to see how those already undergoing some sort of biometric processing could be resettled.

Also, the massive influx of refugees in Europe is also creating a humanitarian crisis and in this case, the UNHCR and other agencies needs to work with the governments of resettlement countries to start processing refugees for resettlement, but first addressing their immediate needs.

Now, with a clear picture of what resettlement is like and the various types of resettlement listed in the US Resettlement Program, I will now focus on more specifically how the resettlement process, irrespective of which type works.

Source: US Department of State

Step # 1. Overseas Processing Entity (OPE)/UNHCR

US Refugees resettlement is a tough process. The resettlement process starts with initial interview of the refugee applicant by a UNHCR staff or a staff member of an Overseas Processing Entity (OPE), a contracting firm of either the UN Refugee agency or the Department of State or the country initiating the resettlement process.

The goal of the interview with OPE or UNHCR staff is to work with the refugee seeking to be resettled to make sure that their records are right and to also determine if their case merits resettlement. This is usually called pre-screening. Some refugees get denial letters from this process if they failed to justify why they need to be resettled or denial could be if their names are red flag or had prior criminal records that could serve as a ground to deny resettlement.

All along the resettlement process, prospective refugees to be resettled get letters of approval after each stage of the resettlement process. However, the three most important stages are during the pre-screening, interview with the US Immigration staff and after the results of medical examination. Now a days, refugees don’t get deny because of their prior medical conditions. This used to be the case in the past in the early 1980s, 1990s and early part of 2000, but things change after 2003.

That is, refugee application for resettlement has to justify why resettlement is the optimal choice over local integration and repatriation. Simply put why can’t you integrate in your current host country and why can’t you return home? If the responses to these two questions along with other questions that may be asked by the interviewer are not satisfactory or there are misleading information in the story-line, they can be denied resettlement and their case will remain at that level…done!!

However, if they have a solid reason why resettlement is the optimal choice over other options, than a staff of the OPE will schedule a second interview. This time to prepare and finalize paperwork after which it will be forwarded to the US Consulate and a State Department or Department of Homeland Security staff will schedule an immigration interview, we is thorough and comprehensive and scary, at least to the refugee applicants.

Step # 2. Interview with USCIS Staff

Typically, the wait time between the last interview at OPE to the interview held by member of United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) staff from the US Consulate usually takes between 3-4 months interval. This off-course depends on the case load available.

This time doesn’t account for relatively 6-7 months wait period going through the OPE Pre-screening processes. Prior to meeting with the USCIS/State Department staff, name checks are conducted to make sure that the individual is not flag in anyways and has no prior arrest warrant or anything that could cause national security concerns once admitted in the United States. Once that is done, the staff of the US Consulate conducts a face-to-face interview only with the individual and or his family and member and a decision of their refugee resettlement application are verbally announced at the end of the interview follow by a letter.

Once it is determined that they have legitimate reasons of fear for which resettling in the United States surpass local integration in the primary country of refuge and repatriation is not possible, their case are approved at the scene or few days letter and an admissions letter issued by the US Consulate. If their stories are inconsistent or information became available is security concerns, the staff more reason to have their resettlement application in the US denied.

The result of such process is made know in a letter signed by the US Department of State official who conducted the interview for which you were under oath. Not every refugee is interview by the FBI and or CIA. The determination as to whether or not an individual refugee applicant seeking resettlement in the United States will be interview by one or either agency is based on the national origin and the high risk country outlined by the US Department of State and the US Department of Homeland Security (USDHS).

Step # 3. Medical Examination and Screening

This stage is where all the medical conditions for resettlement in the US are met. It is a comprehensive medical examination, which involves physical, blood works, malaria treatment (if the refugee is originating from a malaria-induced eco-region), etc. About 15-30 years ago, refugees applicants used to be denied due to HIV + status, but now with the advancement in medicine against the fight with HIV, the conditions for denial based on HIV + status is no longer effective and outdated and those refugees who are HIV positive are provided treatment starting in the country of host until to arrive in the US.

Step # 4. Cultural Orientation

Cultural orientation is usually conducted by OPE or the appropriate agency contracted to educate newly “to be resettled” refugees to the United States. The cultural orientation class usually last for 14 days at the hourly duration of 7 hours daily. Trained educators go through every aspects of the American ways of life from accessing public transportation, to banking, how to dial 911, etc. A certificate of completion is awarded to each participant. Participation and completion of all classes/sections is mandatory to the resettlement process or you forfeit eligibility.

Step # 5. Travel Arrangements

This is one of the joyous stage as a refugee when you know that you are about to travel, but not just yet. At this stage, the airline ticket(s) are booked and you signed a promissory note to repay the money used to purchase the ticket on your behalf. Usually, repayments of the airline ticket is done through the resettlement agency in the US. However, each refugee can elect to send their checks or payment directly to the collection agency, which will most likely be the resettlement agency. Each refugee and or a refugee family is given about 12 months after arrival to start repayment. At least grace period is better than that of the student loan repayment. Lol!

Step # 6. The Resettlement Agency (US Based)

This stage is done without the prior consent of the refugee applicant. Resettlement agencies such as Catholic Charity, Church World Service, and Lutheran Immigrants and Refugees Service or Ascentria Care just to name a few are assigned refugees cases to facilitate the process of integration into American ways of life.

The resettlement agency prior to the arrival date of the refugee receives all the document on each family member per refugee family and start putting things together. Once the refugee and his family arrives, the agency helps with attaining SSN, State ID, process application for the Department of Homeland Security Work Authorization Card for the next three months, healthcare or health insurance, public library cards for those interested, schools and colleges, etc. Basically, it is expected that within 9-12 months, each resettled refugee family will be able to navigate the system and gradually start to face out of the resettlement agency. However, that is just talk as most refugees take more time to get adjusted to the system and be able to stand alone.

Step # 7. Departure to the United States

Once all of steps 1 to 6 are satisfied, it is that time that we can say good bye to friends on the refugee camp or displace center. It is usually a time of joy and sadness. Joy because as you look behind you once saw mayhem, but in front you finally see peace, peace of mind, love, happiness, and safety. Sadness because many of your friends and even family members are left behind at the refugee camp.

All departures transportation services are coordinated between the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNHCR, TSA, and USDHS. Usually, refugees admitted to the United States are transported on regular transport planes accompanied by a convoy from IOM and in some cases UNHCR.

Each refugee is given a white plastic bag, which contains all their relevant documents sealed for US Immigration Official to open and evaluate for screening and verification purposes at the port of entry (i.e. where they first land in the US). At the immigration desk, each arriving refugee are further screened by the immigration official, biometrics are taken including photos and the sealed brown envelop taken and the admissions letter stamped and an I-94 issued. The I-94 is a legal entry document, which can be used until a green card/permanent resident card is mailed and returned once the refugee becomes a US Citizen.

Step # 8. In the US

At the port of entry, resettled refugees are met by a case manager or staff from the refugee resettlement agency and a family member, if they have one. From there, the resettlement agency takes charge and helps the newly resettled refugee integrate into the American society, which can be a long process depending on the individual, the resources that are available and their willingness to work things out as quickly as possible. The rest now becomes the normal routine.

In these processes, we collect significant amount of data can I share some light on whether or not someone is an extremist. The US has one of the rigorous resettlement screening processes in the world. If we allow ourselves to be carried away by fear because of IS and other islamic extremist entities, we only undermine our strengthen, the values and principles we stand for.

The Syrians people do need our fullest support and this is not the time to turn away from our neighbors when they need our hand.

So, Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, while the decision to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States is out of your power. The federal government has put in place a system with years of credible work that can yet be used to provide Syrian refugees with the assistance they need to resettle in the US and also ensure the American people that their safety is at the alter-most center of the process. I have written this post because I was a product of the US Refugee Resettlement Process and I am not a Terrorist.