Archive for February, 2012

February 21, 2012

Malawi: River Lichenya salvages Bondo

George Mhango
February 21, 2012

Today, several rivers and streams in Africa are playing a vital role not only in water supply but also power generation, although there are pros and cons as far as local ecosystems are concerned. One of such rivers is Lichenya in Malawi.

As George Mhango reports, waters of river Lichenyi could help to end deforestation; poor health and promote businesses in Bando.

Leticia Namwendo, 48, walks a distance of eight kilometers to have her maize grounded so she has food for her husband and six children and grandchildren.

The walking issue aside, Namwendo has to spend time fetching firewood in the prohibitive Mulanje Mountain due to conservation rules or being forced to buy, source money to buy paraffin and candles so her children can study 24/7.

“I occasionally have no money for firewood to meet cooking needs or even buy paraffin and candles so my children can study. The situation is unbearable,” she says.

Namwendo further says for a woman in Bondo, sewing and other activities by candlelight or kerosene lamps is the common reality after daylight hours,” she observes.

Some of the women carrying sand from the river and heaping at the central place where a tractor collects for construction works at the scheme

Continued use of candles and kerosene is also, contrary to the World Bank in 2008 which says kerosene lamps not only offers poor light but are also known to be the cause of a host of health problems in women and children. The report further says kerosene is a highly flammable dangerous fossil fuel that emits vapors. “If kerosene is accidentally ingested, the vapors can cause coughing, dizziness, headaches, sore throat, unconsciousness and respiratory problems,” it says.
Loveness Phamba, 42, a mother of five also says women face problems each time staff at Bondo health centre refer them to Mulanje District Hospital because either the equipment need electricity or there is no medical expert.

“The nearby health centre is also affected because most of the medical equipment needs electricity. Even preserving guava, pineapples, and oranges for business purposes to sustain our daily life cannot work,” Phamba states.

She notes that the area of Bondo is rich in a pineapple and banana and other perishable crops which if well preserved could boost one’s lifestyle people and become self reliant.

Phamba explains that most people grow a lot of fruits which should have been processed right there only if commercial farmers and communities were connected.

“We are losing a lot in terms of gaining cash from what we grow such as bananas, sugarcanes, avoid pears pineapples, tomatoes and more citrus fruits,” she says.

Namwendo and Phamba are among thousands of people who are not yet connected to the national power grid by the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) or the Rural Electrification Programme currently in the sixth phase, according to the authorities.

Lack of power in Bondo and many other villages in senior chief Mabuka translates into complete darkness at night or limited light generated by candles or kerosene lamps.

Problems that communities face vindicate that only 8% of the country’s 13 million people are connected to the national power grid, a source of power that has become increasingly unreliable due to power blackouts.

However, such power related hiccups would be history following the construction of a micro hydro power project by Mulanje Renewable Energy Agency as an implementing institution on behalf of Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT).

Construction of machine foundation in the Power House underway at the Power House

Most people feel this would bring sigh of relief because the project is likely to generate 88 megawatts for use by 4000 families in the area where communities did not even dream of being connected to the national grid any time sooner.

The project pegged at K60 million funding from the European Union (EU) will generate 75 kilowatts of power using Lichenya River whose source is Mulanje Mountain. The power will be provided to direct and indirect beneficiaries by March, 2012.

MuREA Projects coordinator, Vincent Gondwe says that the amount caters for salaries and buying of power generation equipment and construction.

“Almost 4000 households and business enterprises are to be connected in the first phase. Community assets such as Kabichi Primary, Malowa CDSS and Bondo Health Centre should have power during the first phase,” he said.

Gondwe added that currently, canals have been completed, power house of electricity adding that the necessary equipment for generation of electricity is available.

“Currently, we are working on transmission lines. We have requested the Department of Forestry in Mulanje to provide us with poles after we discovered that metal poles were costly. Imagine, one metal pole costs K 45 000,” Gondwe said.

The steering committee says that those with no cash but have agricultural produce will do the barter system to ensure more communities are connected.

“While we want to deal with deforestation, our major priority is also to bring electricity to the health centre, schools and business entities. At the same time we shall encourage households to use stoves that consume less firewood and charcoal,” Gondwe stated.

He said there is a small provision of money for business centres to buy electrical appliances such as refrigerators and entertainment sets for their business to improve.

“Not all will benefit from the small provision of money because some of them are well to do due to the growth of bananas, tea and other agricultural products,” Gondwe hinted.

MuREA Project officer, Horace Lumbe also said the power project seeks to restrain people from cutting down trees in the tourist destination district in the name of searching for firewood.

“People will have to use electricity in their homes, business premises and public facilities such as schools and health centres. Previously, tree conservation in Mulanje mountain was a problem hence the idea by MMCT to have the project,” Lumbe said.

“We are busy with excavation of pits in all the seven villages where poles will be erected. So far poles have been treated so as to increase their lifespan,” he stated.

Communities and public officials are now urged to contract recognised electrical companies to wire their houses, offices and business premises before any connection.

The micro-hydro power project is one of the sixteen schemes that will be implemented in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Malawi will have another such scheme once the pilot phase of connecting 400 families in senior chief Mabuka is finished.

Gondwe said those who are part of the construction committee have since left for Zimbabwe where similar initiatives are in progress just to exchange ideas on the project.

The micro hydro power project is just in line with the continued Presidential directive made during the launch of the forestry season for generation of electricity in rural areas to counter issues of climate change, land and environmental degradation.

Most communities in the area have spoken in praise of the micro-hydro power project saying besides improved business opportunities, women will not have difficulties when attending to maternal services at a Bondo health centre in the area.
Nearly 95% of the country’s electricity supply is provided by hydropower from a cascading group of interconnected hydroelectric power plants located on the middle part of the Shire River, which flows through the Mwabvi Wildlife reserve in the south, and a mini-hydro in the northern region on the Wovwe River.

February 13, 2012

Lusaka: Goodbye my Shallow Well

February 13, 2012
VIOLET MENGO

WITH smile on his face Austin Goma, 40 opens a tap at one of the newly constructed water kiosks in Mtendere East. The flow of water is a clear demonstration of the residents’ farewell to the challenges of water supply experienced for many years.

Goma’s joy and that of his community comes as a sense of fulfilment that they will no longer spend hours looking for water, nor will they have to depend on shallow wells anymore.

“The provision of water to Mtendere East means reduction in water and sanitation related illness for our community especially children, it is a dream come true,” he says.

Goma smiling as he helps the women in his community draw water from one of ther constructed water kiosks. Here community members pay K100, for a 20 litre and one can draw as much as they want in a day

Goma, a father of four says his family has been among the most affected in the community as they did not have access to water supply. They would buy and also use shallow well water which was a common practice in the area.

He says with the water kiosks, one is able to pay K100, per 20 litre container unlike in the past where they would pay K200 per container from individual connections. Although he says it is manageable, some members of the community still feel it is expensive.

Apart from serving money, the community which is involved in informal type of work will have more time to be productive and also school going children will no longer miss class because they have to help their parents draw water.

For Mtendere East, having sustainable water supply is in itself is a success story as the area has for many years not known what it means to have access to safe drinking water. For those that dug shallow well, diarrhoea diseases were common while those with individual connections overpriced their neighbours.

The incidence of water and sanitation related diseases remains high and this is worsened by the high poverty level as most people work in informal sector. Among the common diseases that were prone to the area include dysentery, Cholera and Typhoid.

Mtendere East is one of the poorest settlements in Lusaka with a population of 78 000 which adds up to the 65 percent of people living in Lusaka’s peri urban areas. 56 percent do not have access to acceptable quality water supply.

Today, many people can no longer go to fetch water from shallow wells nor will any individual exploit the other. Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) has provided them water for the improvement of their living standards.

Goma who is also the Community Board Water Trust Chairman says residents are excited with the provision of water and have already started seeing the benefits of clean supply of water.

“Water enhances people’s lives, in a more positive way- less disease outbreak, more productivity and general health people,” he says.

LWSC through a partnership with Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), CARE Zambia, the Australian government development agency and the members of the community have seen the successful implementation of the K8.7 billion water, sanitation and hygiene promotion project.

Two boreholes have been drilled, a ground water distribution tank, and 15 kiosks to service approximately over 30 000 people.

The water supply system design has the potential to reach the whole of Mtendere east, Kalikiliki and the surrounding areas to a grand total of 150 000 people.

The beauty about the project is that it is participatory focusing on community participation and capacity building of all stakeholders as an integral part to ensure its sustainability.

“Water vendors have been trained to operate and maintain kiosks, while water trust personnel have been trained in operation, maintenance and management of community based water supply and sanitation schemes,” LWSC Public Relations Manager Topsy Sikainda says.

Sikainda says the community water trust looks at the day to day running of the operations of the project on behalf of LWSC. This is one way of allowing the community members to own the project and ensure its sustainability.

He added that community members have so far appreciated the provision of water and have taken ownership by ensuring that the facilities are well maintained.

In terms of health and hygiene promotion, LWSC has deliberately targeted school going children and young mothers’ teaching them the benefits of hand washing and other good hygiene practices to help break the faecal oral route.

The nelwy constructed 300 cubic metres ground distribution water tank built in the heart of Mtendere East Township. It is expected to service the whole community

The minister of Local Government, Housing, Early Education and Environmental Protection Professor Nkandu Luo during the launch of the project last month, urged the residents to maintain the facilities so that the community has a steady supply of clean low cost water.

“Maintaining high standards of hygiene at household level and safe guarding communal water points will keep water related diseases at bay and save residents from unnecessary health related costs,” Prof Luo said.

National Water and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) Public Relations Officer Rose Tembo says the currently the National water coverage for urban and peri urban areas is at 75 percent.

She says water supply and sanitation has received low budgetary allocation of up three percent of the National budget, with most Commercial Utilities having challenges with infrastructure which are either run down or obsolete.

“It is gratifying that government has prioritized water and sanitation and we are hopeful that with government support, provision of water supply and sanitation would be accelerated,” Tembo says.

NWASCO, a water supply and sanitation regulator established in 2000 ensure that efficiency and sustainability of water and sanitation service provision.

Tembo says the bad culture of not paying for water has also adversely affected the operations of the Commercial Utilities.

She explained that NWASCO certifies that the quality of the service and the pricing is regulated to protect the consumer from exploitation.

“Providers left to themselves would want to operate in financially lucrative areas leaving out a large number of people without access to clean water and sanitation services,” she says.

With the involved of various stakeholders in the provision of water, especially the Mtendere project, Goma and his community will wear the smiles of their faces for a very long time.

February 13, 2012

West Africa: Electronic Wastes pose danger to the region

UNEP and Water Journalists Africa
12 February 2012

West Africa faces a rising tide of e-waste generated by domestic consumption of new and used electrical and electronic equipment, according to a new United Nations report.

Domestic consumption makes up the majority (up to 85 percent) of waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) produced in the region, according to the study, Where are WEEE in Africa?

The e-waste problem in West Africa is further exacerbated by an ongoing stream of used equipment from industrialised countries, significant volumes of which prove unsuitable for re-use and contribute further to the amount of e-waste generated locally.

Not so many people know that their old electronic devices could make them sick

In the five countries studied in the UN report (Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, and Nigeria), between 650,000 and 1,000,000 tonnes of domestic e-waste are generated each year, which need to be managed to protect human health and the environment in the region.

Where are WEEE in Africa? sheds light on current recycling practices and on socio-economic characteristics of the e-waste sector in West Africa. It also provides the quantitative data on the use, import and disposal of electronic and electrical equipment in the region.

The report draws on the findings of national e-waste assessments carried out in the five countries from 2009 to 2011.

“Effective management of the growing amount of e-waste generated in Africa and other parts of the world is an important part of the transition towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy”, said United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary General Achim Steiner.

“We can grow Africa’s economies, generate decent employment and safeguard the environment by supporting sustainable e-waste management and recovering the valuable metals and other resources locked inside products that end up as e-waste. In the run-up to Rio+20 in June, this report shows how measures such as improved collection strategies and establishing more formal recycling structures, can limit environmental damage and provide economic opportunities,” added Mr. Steiner.

Risks and Opportunities of E-Waste

The use of electrical and electronic equipment is still low in Africa compared to other regions of the world, but it is growing at a staggering pace. The penetration rate of personal computers in Africa, for example, has increased by a factor of 10 in the last decade, while the number of mobile phone subscribers has increased by a factor of 100.

Electrical and electronic equipment can contain hazardous substances (e.g. heavy metals such as mercury and lead, and endocrine disrupting substances such as brominated flame retardants).

Hazardous substances are released during various dismantling and disposal operations and are particularly severe during the burning of cables to liberate copper and of plastics to reduce waste volumes. Open burning of cables is a major source of dioxin emissions, a persistent organic pollutant that travels over long-distances that bio-accumulates in organisms up through the global food chain.

Electrical and electronic equipment also contains materials of strategic value such as indium and palladium and precious metals such as gold, copper and silver. These can be recovered and recycled, thereby serving as a valuable source of secondary raw materials, reducing pressure on scarce natural resources, as well as minimizing the overall environmental footprint.

The report, which was prepared by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention and partners, also documents the economic and environmental potential of building a sound resource recovery and waste management system for e-waste, along with the risks of continuing on the present course.

“E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream world-wide and a key waste stream under the Basel Convention. Dealing with electronic and electrical equipment properly presents a serious environmental and health challenge for many countries, yet also offers a potentially significant opportunity to create green businesses and green jobs,” said Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

Dangers of electronic waste cannot be ignored any longer

The report examined the flows of EEE and e-waste between Europe and West Africa. Among the major findings:
• In Ghana in 2009, investigators found that around 70% of all EEE imports were used EEE; 30% of second-hand imports were estimated to be non-functioning (therefore e-waste), producing about 40,000 tonnes of e-waste in 2010.
• Field investigations in Benin and Côte d’Ivoire have shown that about half of the imported used EEE is actually non-functional and non-repairable, thus defined as import of e-waste.
• An analysis of 176 containers of two categories of used electrical and electronic equipment imported into Nigeria, conducted from March to July 2010, revealed that more than 75% of all containers came from Europe, approximately 15% from Asia, 5% from African ports (mainly Morocco) and 5% from North America. A similar distribution could be observed in Ghana, where 85% of used EEE imports originated in Europe, 4% in Asia, 8% in North America, and 3% from other destinations.
• The UK is the dominant exporting country to Africa for both new and used EEE, followed with large gaps by France and Germany. Nigeria is the most dominant African importing country for new and used EEE, followed by Ghana.

Child Labour Concerns

The exposure to hazardous substances in and around dismantling sites causes manifold health and safety risks for collectors, recyclers and neighbouring communities. Children’s health in particular may be at risk. Child labour is common in West Africa’s scrap metal business, the report’s investigators found. Collection and dismantling activities are carried out by children from the age of 12, however younger children from the age of five are sometimes engaged in light work, including dismantling of small parts and sorting of materials.

In contrast to the informal recycling sector, where collection and recycling of e-waste is almost exclusively carried out by individuals largely consisting of migrant labourers who are often stigmatized in African societies as ‘scavengers’, refurbishment is viewed as a relatively attractive economic opportunity for an increasingly well-educated, semi-professional labour force. In Accra (Ghana) and Lagos (Nigeria), the refurbishing sector provides income to more than 30,000 people.

“Sustainable solutions for e-waste management in Africa require measures aimed at imports and exports control, collection and recycling, policy and legislation that incorporate extended producer responsibility, recognize the important role of the informal sector, promote awareness raising and education, as well as compliance monitoring and enforcement. Appropriate health and safety measures for those involved in recycling, as well as environmentally sound practices, should be ensured,” said Prof. Oladele Osibanjo, Director of Basel Convention Regional Coordinating Center for Africa, a co-author of the report.

The report was prepared by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention in cooperation with the Basel Convention Regional Coordinating Centre for the African Region (BCCC-Nigeria) based in Nigeria and the Basel Convention Regional Centre for French-speaking countries in Africa (BCRC-Senegal) based in Senegal, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA), the Institute for Applied Ecology (the Öko-Institut), the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL) and the governments of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

Copies of the report, Where are WEEE in Africa? Findings from the Basel Convention E-waste Africa Programme, can be downloaded from www.basel.int

February 10, 2012

Cameroon: 3000 inhabitants of Eyumojock Council Area Receive Pipe Borne Water

Lum Edith Achamukong
February 06 2012

A project to supply pipe borne water in the Eyumojock Council Area in Manyu Division of the South West Region has been completed and handed over to the local populations.

The project was realized thanks to financial assistance from the Council Support Fund for Mutual Assistance (FEICOM) to the tune of one hundred and seventy five million FCFA.

For a period of one year, stand taps were effectively constructed to serve the communities of Akak, Okoroba and Mbinda Tabo of the Obang clan and Otu village of the Ejagham Njemaya in Eyumokock sub division.

At a ceremony to receive the water projects, the Mayor of the Eyumokock Rural Council Mr. James Agbor Mbi said the project is his priority considering the water needs of the about three thousand people of his municipality. He thus called on them to protect the water sources and support the water management committee.

Prior to the project to supply water to the people using stand taps, the Eyumojock council had drilled some 20 wells and boreholes as a measure to alleviate the water crisis rocking the Council Area.

Sanitation around water sources is pivotal

The donation from FEICOM comes a few months after the launch of the Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Project to raise the potable water access rate from the current 33% to 60% in the South West Region and three other regions of Cameroon. It is expected to generate a change of attitude and behavior with respect to hygiene and health, within the beneficiary community, and the average prevalence rate for diseases associated with the lack of safe water and sanitation will decline by 30% from 19% to 13.5% during this period. Hence the project will meet the drinking needs of 668.000 inhabitants and prompt a change of behavior with regards to hygiene and health.

The goal of the Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Project is to support Government efforts to increase access to drinking water and sanitation and strengthen the sector’s managerial capacity. It falls under the implementation of the Cameroon Government’s 2008-2015 action plan whose ultimate goal is to raise rural drinking water and sanitation access rates to 80% and 60% respectively.

The project covers four regions in Cameroon namely the West, North West South West and South Regions. The main expected outputs of this project are: the rehabilitation and construction of 88 drinking water supply networks, the construction of 285 six-compartment ventilated pit latrines in schools and health centers, 1332 single-compartment ventilated pit latrines on private plots and 2 gender sensitive toilet complexes in the South and North West Regions respectively, training and awareness raising for beneficiary communities on drinking water use, sanitation and hygiene and capacity building for sector management structures.

About 750.000 inhabitants (52% women) are expected to start using improved latrines. The institutional structures involved in project implementation namely the councils, National enterprises and consultancy firms, community interest groups and women’s associations will also benefit from the project. The project will create about 300 non permanent jobs during implementation and 154 permanent jobs at completion.

The African Development Fund will shoulder 87% of the financial responsibility while Cameroon will take charge of 13%.

February 1, 2012

East Africa Passes Bill on Transboundary Ecosystems

Anita Matsika
February 01, 2012

East African Legislative Assembly sitting in Kampala, Uganda has passed the East African Community Transboundary Ecosystems Bill 2010. The Bill which sailed through the 3rd Reading now moves an inch closer to becoming a law of the Community.

If signed into law by partner heads of state, it shall ensure sustainable utilization of shared resources.

Apart from Lake Victoria, the largest of all African Lakes which is also the second widest freshwater body in the world, other shared terrestrial ecosystems of East Africa include wetlands, forest ecosystems and protected wildlife ecosystems.

Satellite image of Lake Victoria, one of the shared terrestrial ecosystems of East Africa

The Bill whose debate was suspended last year received overwhelming support when it came up for debate on the floor of the House. The Council of Ministers had in September 2011 during the 1st Meeting of the 5th Session held in Kigali, Rwanda, requested more time to consult. The adjournment was further stayed in November 2011 during the subsequent 2nd Meeting of the 5th Session held in Bujumbura, Burundi.

Key among the concerns of the Council of Ministers was the need to clarify the mandate of the envisaged Commission for the management of transboundary ecosystems vis-a-vis existing institutions. At the same time, Council felt there was an imminent conflict on matters of land given the fact that such matters remain a preserve of the Partner States as stated in the Common Market Protocol.

The object of the Bill originally moved by Dr. George Francis Nangale is to provide for a legal framework to effectively streamline the management of trans-boundary eco-systems with a view to enhancing the quality of the environment and also ensure sustainable utilization of shared natural resources in the EAC. It seeks to provide for the management and regulation of transboundary ecosystems to establish a Commission managing ecosystems in the region and other related matters.

In his contribution Gervase Akhaabi noted that the passage of the Bill would protect the livelihoods and manage the resources while Hon Christopher Nakuleu termed the Bill timely for the region if the EAC was to protect its natural resources.

Dr. Aman Kabourou however stated the law would contradict national policies. “ While I am not against protecting our shared eco-systems including Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa basin, we have to be careful so as not to contradict existing policies and laws in the respective Partner States,” Kabourou remarked.

On his part, Augustine C.L Lotodo noted that the EAC Transboundary Ecosystems Bill clearly addressed matters of common interest in natural resources which EALA was duty bound to support. .

Lydia Wanyoto stated that the law would help the EAC harness its natural resources for posterity since it among other areas sought to manage future conflicts on the shared regional resources.

According to Sebalu the Bill is a well thought-out law that manages the transboundary ecosystem s for mutual benefit of the region. “It is important for Partner States to cede sovereignty so that expectations of the East African people are met”, Sebalu remarked stating the law fully acknowledged and complemented the national laws and institutions on issues of transboundary nature.

Other MPs who rose in support of the Bill were Catherine Kimura, Dr. Said Bilal, Dora Byamukama and Leonce Ndarubagiye. Dr. F.L Masha and Dr Kabourou recorded reservations in the interesting debate that lasted close to six hours.

The Bill shall now go through the succeeding stages of assent with the Speaker of the Assembly expected to submit the amended /Assent copies to the Heads of State for assent. Should it be assented (signed) to by the five Heads of State, then it shall become law.

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