Archive for September, 2011

September 26, 2011

Kenya: UNEP pays tribute to Prof. Wangari Maathai

26 September 2011

Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement and patron of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has died in Nairobi. She was 71 years old.

Professor Maathai was one of Africa’s foremost environmental campaigners, internationally recognized for her commitment to democracy, human rights and conservation.

Late Wangari Maathai

She founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, encouraging women in rural Kenya to plant trees as a means of improving their livelihoods through better access to clean water, firewood for cooking and other resources. Since then, the Green Belt Movement has planted over 30 million trees in Africa and assisted nearly 900,000 women to establish tree nurseries and plant trees to reverse the effects of deforestation.

“Her departure is untimely and a very great loss to all of us who knew her, as a mother, relative, co-worker, colleague, role model, and heroine or those who admired her determination to make the world a peaceful, healthy and better place for all of us”, said the Green Belt Movement in a statement.

In 2004, the Nobel Prize Committee recognized Professor Maathai’s lifelong commitment to environmental sustainability and the empowerment of women by awarding her the Nobel Peace Prize. She was the first environmentalist and the first African woman to receive the honour.
In announcing the award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said that Professor Maathai was “at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa.”

Professor Maathai was the inspiration behind UNEP’s Billion Tree Campaign, which was launched in 2006. She became a patron of the campaign, inspiring thousands of people across the world to plant trees for the benefit of their communities. To date, over 11 billion trees have been planted as part of the campaign.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “Wangari Maathai was a force of nature. While others deployed their power and life force to damage, degrade and extract short term profit from the environment, she used hers to stand in their way, mobilize communities and to argue for conservation and sustainable development over destruction.”

“She was, like the acacias and the Prunus Africanatrees Wangari fought so nobly and assiduously to conserve, strong in character and able to survive sometimes the harshest of conditions. She was also immovable in the face of ignorance, political gamesmanship and wanton environmental destruction,” he said.

“Indeed she risked her life and limb on several occasions to campaign and coordinate women and young people through her work in the Green Belt Movement taking her messages, her charm, her unflagging humour and optimism, conviction, honesty and intellect from her native Kenya to the highest international debates on climate change to biodiversity loss,” continued Mr. Steiner.

“In winning the Nobel Peace Prize, the world caught up with the essence and life-time understanding of this special person: namely that environmental stability and sustainability will increasingly be crucial for a peaceful world and for over turning poverty, inequality and meeting the rights of women,” he added.

“I am pleased that in some of the dark days of her campaigning, when not everyone welcomed her stance and commitment, Wangari was able to turn to UNEP for safety and sanctuary. She returned that support in so many ways by backing and batting for UNEP at home and abroad and by, for example, being a co-patron of our Billion Tree Campaign,” said the UNEP Executive Director.

“UNEP has lost a real friend and an icon of the environmental movement. But her work and her vision will live on in the millions upon millions of people—young and old—who heard Wangari’s voice, resonated with her aims and ideals and, like her, rolled up their sleeves to design and define a better future for all,” he concluded.

Professor Maathai’s unflinching commitment to human rights and democracy led to her appointment as a United Nations Messenger of Peace by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2009.

Testament to her ability to reach communities around the world with her advocacy, Professor Maathai was the recipient of numerous awards from governments and international institutions. She received France’s Légion d’Honneur in 2006, the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights in 2007 and Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun in 2009. She received honorary doctorates from several universities.
Born near Nyeri in Kenya’s Central Highlands in 1940, Wangari Maathai received her education in Kenya and the USA, from where she earned a Bachelor from Mount St. Scholastica College and a Masters from the University of Pittsburgh.

She was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, obtaining it from the University of Nairobi in 1971.

In December 2002, Professor Maathai was elected to Kenya’s parliament and appointed Assistant Minister for environment and natural resources.

Professor Maathai is survived by her three children, Waweru, Wanjira and Muta, and her granddaughter, Ruth Wangari.

September 23, 2011

The Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene 2011, 9-14 October, Mumbai, India

Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
September 23, 2011

In less than three weeks, hundreds of sanitation and hygiene professionals will gather for the Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene ( The timing could not be more critical: 2.6 billion people still do not have safe sanitation, and the sanitation target is the most off-track Millennium Development Goal target.

The Global Forum hopes to help change that by accelerating progress through a unique focus on leadership, behavior change, equity and practitioner-focused communities of practice.

Banner for the Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene

The Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene is a prime opportunity to share ideas that can improve the lives of those 2.6 billion people. The Forum will not be a talk shop. Instead, it will facilitate learning and sharing between practitioners, policymakers and other experts inside and outside of the sanitation sector, and it will energize professional communities by focusing exclusively on sanitation and hygiene. It will also showcase knowledge, investment, communications, advocacy, partnership and networking approaches, as well as strengthen national, regional, South-South, and global dialogue and collaboration.

The week’s deep and diverse programme includes the following plenary, break-out and workshop sessions, each with dynamic speakers and presentations:
• Plenary sessions: Inspire to Act; Breaking the Mould; What Changes Behaviour; Getting from Small to Big; Looking at Sanitation from the Lens of the Vulnerable; What Success Would Look Like with an Equity Lens; Sharing Across the Regional Sanitation Conferences; Regional Reports on Key Actions; Closing Plenary: Where Do We Go From Here?
• Break-out sessions: Exploring Private Sector Partnerships in Behaviour Change; Rewards, Sanctions and Benchmarking as Tools for Behaviour Change; WASH Advocacy: How to Win Minds and Hearts; Total Sanitation: Reaching Many Millions; The CLTS Debate; Communications for Change; Urban Sanitation at Scale; Designing for the Human Life Cycle; Governance for Equity; Monitoring for Equity; Financing for Equity; Knowledge and Network Partnerships
• Training sessions: Communications for Behavioural Impact (COMBI); CLTS 101: An Introduction; Sanitation Marketing; Equitable Service Delivery; Using Dev Info to Monitor Equity in Human Development; Monitoring Behaviour Change
• Field visits: Urban and rural sanitation field visits
• Events: WSSCC Membership; The Latest on Handwashing: Who, When and How?

The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) is the conference host and organizer, and has been busy together with a number of partners putting the final touches on the programme, adding new sessions, confirming speakers, developing a WASH Fair, and much more.

September 23, 2011

Uganda:Over 72, 000 Affected by Floods

Water Journalists Africa
September 23, 2011

Up to 72, 254 people have been affected by the ongoing disasters mainly in Eastern, Central and Western Uganda as well as West Nile. The disasters ranging from landslides, floods, hailstorms to fire outbreaks occurred between August 29th, 2011 to date.

According to a Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) Disaster Response Operation report of September 21st, 2011, the most affected population of 35, 125 is in Bulambuli District, Eastern Uganda. The communities have been affected by both landslides and floods. The Sub Counties affected are Sisiyi, Lusha, Namisuni, Nabbongo, Bukhalu, Bwikhonge, Bunambutye, Bulambuti, Muyembe and Buluganya.

Floods as a result of torrential rains and rivers bursting their banks have devastated several areas in the country such as the above area in Lira district in northern Uganda

In Bukise, Butandiga, Bukhulo Sub Counties and Sironko Town Council, Sironko District, 9, 292 people have been affected by floods. In Ngenge Sub County, Kween District, 1, 320 people have been affected by floods. In Namasaba Sub County, Mbale District, floods affected 225 people.

Floods affected 3, 354 people in Mazimasa and Himuntu Sub Counties in Butalejja District while 640 people have been affected by floods in Bukedea and 1, 940 in Nakapiripit. 1, 750 people in Docha Sub County, Pallisa District also experienced a hailstorm.

In Central region, hailstorms affected 1, 086 people in Masaka; 1, 962 in Rwengo and 492 in Mpigi. In Western Uganda, hailstorms affected 951 people in Mitooma and Buhwenju. In West Nile, floods affected 2, 570 people in Moyo district and 2, 040 in Nebbi. Floods also affected 1, 820 in Ntoroko while 1, 011 and 90 people in Kisoro and Buhweju were recently hit by landslides.

The Uganda Red Cross Society has distributed relief items to 21, 470 of the affected communities in Bulambuli, Sironko, Bukedea, Butalejja, Mbale, Buhweju, Kasese, Rukungiri, Moyo, Ntoroko, Kibaale, Sironko and Kampala (Bwaise). The relief items have consisted of essential household items like blankets, tarpaulin, saucepans, jerrycans, basin, soap, cups, plates, mosquito nets and food provided by Government through the Office of Prime Minister.

According to the Secretary General Michael Richard Nataka, URCS is working with Office of Prime Minister, respective district leadership and other humanitarian agencies like UNICEF, STAR E, World Vision to alleviate the suffering of the affected.

He said URCS’ assessments recommend relocation of people in Sisiyi, Buluganya, Lusha and Namisuni in Bulambuli from high risk areas to safer place.

Nataka further notes that the Bulambuli District Disaster Management Committee resolved that NGOs and humanitarian agencies plan for three months interventions. The URCS assessments further recommend the distribution of food for three months in the sub counties of Bunambutye and Bwikhonge in Bulambuli because the two sub counties were experiencing food shortage before the floods and landslides.

With support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), URCS plans to support another 59, 090 beneficiaries with relief items. In addition, URCS is conducting health education and hygiene awareness assessments and gathering of health information including disease surveillance to improve health status, health awareness and reduce incidences of water borne and vector transmitted diseases.

Tracing and psychosocial services are also being provided to those that have lost contacts with their loved ones and those traumatised.

URCS’ long term recommendations for disasters include installation of early warning systems through community disaster risk reduction approach, speeding up the relocation of people in high risk areas, senstisation of communities on proper methods of farming, massive tree planting on the hills and mountains across the country.

September 10, 2011

Rome: Governments Urged to control E-Wastes

WJA reporter
September 10, 2011

The first Green Standards Week organized by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) closed Friday with a call on international bodies, NGOs, standards bodies, governments, regulators, industry and academia to collaborate more closely on the application and development of information and communication technologies (ICT) standards to help combat climate change.

Particular emphasis was placed on a globalized methodology to assess the environmental impact of ICTs, reducing e-waste, and the use of submarine cables for climate monitoring and disaster warning.

Experts say e-waste is the fastest-growing component of the municipal waste stream worldwide.

Recycling old electronics such as these phones keeps toxic components from contaminating the environment

ITU has been working with industry and government members aiming to achieve agreement on an
internationally recognized set of methodologies to be approved by the end of the year. Included is a methodology which ICT companies can use to measure their own carbon footprint, as well as a way to estimate the considerable savings in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy that can be achieved in other sectors through the use of ICTs.

A single global methodology will give credibility to the various claims currently being made about the benefits of ICTs in addressing climate change and energy issues.

ITU Secretary General Dr Hamadoun Touré: “By adopting globally agreed standards – green standards – we will help to create a smarter, greener, planet; a planet which will be full of opportunity and potential and which will help the next generation reap tremendous rewards.”

Most of the people using these old devices might not know the dangers they pose to their health and environment.

The increase in e-waste generated by the expanding use of ICT, and the decreasing life span of equipment, was highlighted by participants as an area of great concern, as was the export of e-waste to developing countries.

Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB): “Production of ICT equipment must minimize the use of toxic material, and be designed to have a longer life span.

Standardization is important in achieving this. ITU’s universal charger is an excellent example of what can be achieved with international cooperation. E-waste that cannot be avoided must be recycled in an environmentally sound manner to extract valuable secondary raw materials.”

ITU is working with its membership and others including United Nations University, UNEP, the Basel Convention, CEDARE and StEP on this issue.

September 2, 2011

Crying for Water in Chad River Basin

Aaron Kaah
September 2, 2011

In this story, our network member takes on the role of a citizen journalist with an aim of bringing you unrestricted grassroot information about what is happening to Lake Chad – one of the largest Lakes in Africa that provides water to more than 30 million people.

As the Cameroon-based Aaron Kaah reports, climate change and overuse of this lake’s waters are rapidly leading to the disappearance of this great lake. This is putting the lives of people there at stake.

The Chad Lake basin has a surface area of 1 million square miles around it, including the far north region of Cameroon.

The Chad Lake basin

Since this once might inland sea shrunk by 90% in the 1970’s this region has become one of the poorest regions of the world. Yet even as the Lake Chad shrunk, the population of the region grew.

An estimated 37 million people now live here, many of whom migrated recently from the Sahel region just to the north where arid land is turning into a desert.

The combination of disappearing resources and the increasing demand is making an already fragile poor region even poorer. Crop production has fallen as water becomes very increasingly scarce.

The Lake Chad Basin is occupied by Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Congo and Central African Republic.

The Basic Resources
In the far north region of Cameroon all the river beds have dried up and the food crops on the farm fields have turned into dry sticks in the sand dunes. As families try to make the most of the scanty resources women and children trek long distances crying for water.

Dried up Part of Chad Lake Basin

The grazing of livestock and the destruction of the forest for fuel wood advances the encroachment of the desert. This year the dry season has extended to seven months and only three bags of grain and millet can be a family’s source of primary income and three square meals in a year.

This bad situation is becoming precarious as the farmers plant too much food crops and too densely on the same pieces of land. This is killing and exhausting the soils. The sad story is that agricultural output has fallen in the Lake Chad river basin even as the climate changes put an already fragile situation to a mess.

The story of the Lake Chad basin is exactly what scientists have been echoing worldwide. This is a simple eulogy in response to the climate changes, the unsustainable land use systems, lack of water and forest destruction.

As one tour the far north region of Cameroon, the land is fast turning in to a desert as the inhabitance live in near famine conditions

The Evidence
Change in the Lake Chad basin is constant and the people who made their homes are learning to make the most of this with the available resources around. They farm and harvest their crops in the extreme conditions, sometimes following the rainy season which is always uncertain.

This year the rainy season has skipped for about seven months from November to June with a dry and very dusty weather.

According to the farmers in the far north region of Cameroon, Lake Chad basin flooded regularly in history providing fertile soils for the subsistent farmers in the area. But because of it extreme shallow nature the Lake fluctuated dramatically making the farming activities in the basin and area uncertain.

The Global International Waters Assessment, in a study of the region published by the United Nations, says the Lake changed from short and back again to its original size. The fishermen off the shores chased this shifting pattern.

As time is passing, this irregular pattern has witnessed another story. The Sahel region which covers the basin right up to the north of Sahara is drying up and in the last 30 years the UN, in a report, said the Lake Chad basin area has attracted “the most substantial and sustained decline in rainfall measured anywhere in the world today.” This is blamed on the rising ocean temperatures leading to global warming.

Local Peoples’ in dilemma
As the Sahel dries up, many of the people who are nomads are chasing the south of the basin in search of arid land. But as the lake shrinks the rainy season is fading out as well.

As the population in the basin grows and its climate changes, the locals are striving to make the most of the limited resources available in the region and to control the disappearing resources.
The normal life out there is not ease as the farmers struggle to adjust with the shifting river beds.

Lake Chad once occupied this area.

When the lake flooded large scale of agricultural production took place in the area but today sand dunes have taken over the farm fields. Some projects to irrigate farm land instead drain away fertile wetlands.

As the streams were diverted, farming along the basin diminished. Without the plant cover, the temperatures in the soils raised and water in soils evaporated swiftly.

As the mismanagement of the land by the desperate poor is increasing, the vegetation is also lost

As one tours the region farm land and roads are buried under sand dunes and as the people strive for more in nothing, the basin is prone to violence.Many villagers tussle for water resources and grazing fields. And for many people daily life is changing as violence is also encroaching.

In the Nigerian section of the Lake, some villages are buried under sand dunes as the desert extends south wards and many people are becoming “environmental refugees”.

In the nearby Sudan’s region of Darfur, this situation has reached crisis proportions as at least 200,000 died since civil war broke out there in 2003. The United Nations secretary general Koffi Anan called it “no accident|” that the violent in Darfur erupted during the drought in the Sahel where precipitation has declined 40% since the 1980’s. He also attributed strife in Burkina Faso, Somalia and the Ivory Coast to a “similar volatile mix of and water insecurity”.

A development organization -Heifer International Cameroon is helping the villages in the far north region of Cameroon to make the most of the resources on the ground. Farmers under various organizations are taught simple ways of pasture establishment, animal management and other ways of improving nutrition and hygiene in their homes.

The knowledge, most of these groups are earning is key to the development of their lives and homes.

One of the beneficiaries- Mama Bitang has awakened her life and that of her family with 9 dependents. This widow has fought poverty too well with Heifer donated animals (sheep) and mentoring through her Femmes Ambiteuses common initiative group.

Unfortunately this stitch in time is not enough as the means is limited. People who live in this basin are seeing little or no benefits from international efforts to help them. In 2008 an international organization Global Environment Facility mapped out a 20 year plan as a start to a revolution to reforests the land and change water diversion policies in the area but the task has been too slow.

According to Heifer International Cameroon only 3% of household in the far north region of Cameroon with 6 million people have access to potable water.

AS an urgent remedy is sort, the efforts to institute broad base policies is not helping at all, because the basin is fragmented by controversial policies laid down by the different governments around the Lake basin and the unnecessary numerous tribal conflicts.

With limited means or infrastructures, information dissemination is poor, making it a challenging task to educate people on the issues at stake and to introduce broad base policies.

And despite the best efforts of a community that depends on one another, it remains difficult to overcome the stultifying effects of the droughts. And who doubts that Violence erupts where resources are scanty.

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