Archive for February, 2017

February 24, 2017

Cape Verde: Greenpeace Raises Awareness on the State Of Fisheries in West Africa

Water Journalists Africa
February 24, 2017

My Esperanza - the Greenpeace ship

My Esperanza – the Greenpeace ship

The Greenpeace ship – My Esperanza has today docked at the port of Praia in Cape Verde. For eleven weeks the Esperanza will sail the waters of six West Africa States – Cape Verde, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Senegal to raise awareness on the state of fisheries through political events, public engagement and consultations with the West-African science community.

The ship tour named “The West Africa tour of hope” will provide an opportunity to make these countries’ voice on protecting their own sea and marine resources heard internationally.

“By bringing the ship to West Africa, Greenpeace seeks once again to reiterate its ultimate commitment in working with local communities and governments in addressing issues of overfishing and illegal fishing that have plagued the region for decades” says the Greenpeace Africa Executive Director Njeri Kabeberi.

The West African waters are among the richest in the world. Millions of people and local communities depend on them to survive. However, the population in West Africa is growing and the fish stocks are declining as a result of fishing, climate change, pollution and destruction of critical habitats.

This situation is exacerbated by the lack of efficient fisheries management in the region, illegal, unregulated and undeclared fishing activities (IUU fishing) and the weakness of surveillance systems in most of the countries.

“Overfishing and illegal fishing in West African waters is a threat to food security, fish stocks and a healthy ocean. It is critical that the collaboration between states be reinforced to support a regional approach to better management of fisheries in West Africa”, says Ibrahima Cissé, Greenpeace Africa Senior Oceans Campaign Manager.

In the last fifteen years, Greenpeace has documented and exposed how distant water fleets and illegal vessels have moved their fleets to West Africa after overexploiting fish stocks in their own waters. Chinese, Russian and European fleets are among the most prominent in West Africa waters.

Their activities have and continue to compromise the food security and livelihoods of coastal communities who largely depend on artisanal fishing. More recently, the rapid growth of artisanal and industrial fishery without regulation or planning of their capacity has added to the problem.

“West Africa States will have to work together and act with a unified voice to safeguard their waters. A sustainable common management of resources, especially the small pelagic is a first step to guarantee fish stock for present and future generations” added Dr Cissé.

In the next two months, the Greenpeace vessel My Esperanza will work closely with local authorities to increase the sense of urgency required to deal with the current unsustainable approach to fisheries management and call for a strong Regional fisheries management system.

February 24, 2017

Zambia: New Water Project Launched

JULIUS PHIRI
February 24, 2017

NYIMBA Member of Parliament (MP) Olipa Mwansa has commended Eastern Water and Sewerage Company (EWSC) and Devolution Trust Frund (DTF) for remaining committed to improve the lives of the people through the provision of quality water.

Ms Mwansa was launching the K2.5 million water supply project financed by the DTF in Nyimba. She noted that lack of access to clean water supply and sanitation services has a negative social and health impact on the Zambian population.

She said water supply and sanitation was not only a necessity but also a human right that if neglected could lead to loss of the lives.

“It is for this reason that the supply of quality water services to the people of Eastern Province is of great importance to Eastern Water and Sewerage Company Limited,” she said.

Ms Mwansa said the Government has continued to improve the water accessibility to all Zambians through the engagement of external donors to invest in the water supply and sanitation Infrastructure
development programmes in the country.

She said Government through the ministry of water, sanitation and environmental protection was overwhelmed by the demands for safe water in Nyimba district.

The World Health Organisation specifies 50 liters of water per person per day as the recommended ‘intermediate’ quantity needed to maintain health, hygiene and for all domestic uses

The World Health Organisation specifies 50 liters of water per person per day as the recommended ‘intermediate’ quantity needed to maintain health, hygiene and for all domestic uses

She said according to the National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) annual report of 2015, a total of population of 83.8 percent in urban areas were being served with urban water supply while 60.7 percent were being served with adequate sanitation at national level.

Ms Mwansa noted that the figures were low stating that there was need to improve water supply and sanitation services in the country in order to achieve the vision 2030 of universal coverage.

Ms Mwansa said Government has continued going into partnership with cooperating partners on opening the doors for the rapids spread of improved water supply in both rural and peri-urban areas.

Currently the company has a customer base of 700 households adding that the 400 households were expected to benefit from the project.

Ms Mwansa however said there was still a shortfall of 600 households in areas such as Kacholola and Chipembe.

She pledged to lobby for more funds to cater for the remaining population so that they could access to clean water and sanitation services.

Speaking earlier, EWSC Managing Director Lytone Kanowa said the launch of the project was a Big milestone to the people of Nyimba.

Mr Kanowa said his company was currently providing water in seven districts of Eastern Province a well as Chama district in Muchinga Province.

He said he was happy that the company had the capacity of providing treated water to its customers.
Mr Kanowa said it was disheartening that some people had not yet utilised the services the company by connecting water to their houses.

The managing director said today his company had no districts physical presence in Sinda and Vubwi due to lack of water supply network.

And Chief Ndake of the Nsenga People of Nyimba urged all beneficiaries to pay their bills on time so that the company continue supplying quality water services.

He said the connection of water was a dream come true to the people of Nyimba district.

February 18, 2017

Somalia: UN Warns of Famine Danger as Drought Intensifies

Water Journalists Africa
February 18, 2017

Map of Puntland

Map of Puntland

As a devastating drought grips Somalia, UNICEF and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are warning that only a massive and immediate scale-up of humanitarian assistance can help the country avoid falling into another catastrophe.

The drought that the northern regions have struggled with for the last year has now spread throughout Somalia, threatening an already fragile population battered by decades of conflict. Almost half the country’s population, or 6.2 million people, are either severely food insecure or in need of livelihood support. It is expected that 944,000 children will be acutely malnourished this year, including 185,000 who will be severely malnourished and in need of urgent lifesaving support. It is very likely that this projected number of severely malnourished children could increase 50 percent to 270,000 over the coming months.

The UNICEF and WFP representatives this week have been visiting some of the worst-affected areas in the northern Puntland region, where the two agencies are delivering much-needed assistance.

“Huge numbers of Somalis have come to the end of all their possible resources and are living hand-to-mouth,” said Steven Lauwerier, the UNICEF Somalia Representative. “We have a small window of opportunity to avert this looming catastrophe and save children’s lives and we are determined to work with all partners and stakeholders to succeed.”

The UNICEF and WFP representatives this week have been visiting some of the worst-affected areas in the northern Puntland region

The ongoing drought and other shocks have left communities with little to no resources to fall back on. Whole villages have lost their crops or seen their livestock die. The prices of water and locally produced food have risen dramatically, and thousands of people are on the move in search of food and water. The drought has also led to an increase in waterborne diseases with more than 4,000 cases of Acute Watery Diarrhoea/Cholera this year.

“Humanitarian assistance has saved lives in the drought-affected north over the past year, but as the crisis spreads we have no time to lose,” said WFP Country Director Laurent Bukera. “Together with UNICEF and other partners, we are moving as quickly as possible to reach many more people with lifesaving support using every option we have, including cash-based transfers, specialized nutrition support and airlifting of relief goods.”

The agencies noted that humanitarian access remains worryingly limited in some drought-affected areas of the south, but that WFP and UNICEF are reinforcing their joint efforts to scale up the response in areas that are accessible, where millions of lives are at risk.

The agencies are responding together to the drought by providing food and water vouchers to hundreds of thousands across the most affected areas of Somalia as well as nutrition assistance. As additional resources are mobilised, this joint response will continue to expand in the most vulnerable regions.

Funds have been generously provided by international donors from Europe, Asia, North America and the UN system for life-saving services in nutrition, food security, health, education, water and sanitation.

With the growing needs, UNICEF and WFP together still require more than US$450 million to be able to provide urgent assistance required in the coming months.

February 18, 2017

Somalia: Norway scales Up Efforts to End Famine caused by Severe Drought in Somalia

WaterSan Perspective
February 18, 2017

Somalia has once again been hit by a severe drought, which could quickly develop into a famine. “A large proportion of the population is affected by the drought, and over six million people are in need of food aid. Norway is now increasing its support for humanitarian efforts in the country by NOK 64 million, in an effort to prevent the situation from developing into a new, large-scale famine,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

Just a few years after the major famine of 2011, Somalia has again been hit by drought. This time, the drought is affecting almost the whole country, and therefore threatening larger numbers of people and animals than six years ago. Over the last few months, there has been a dramatic deterioration in the humanitarian situation. Some 6.2 million people do not have enough food, and the situation is critical for around half of them, according to the UN.

Climate change as a result of global warming continues to cause havoc in various parts of the world, drying up farmlands that livestock used to depend on.

Climate change as a result of global warming continues to cause havoc in various parts of the world, drying up farmlands that livestock used to depend on.

“The crisis is escalating fast. There are worrying reports that a growing number of people are facing food and water shortages, that the major rivers are drying up and that cattle and other animals are dying,” said Mr Brende.

The additional funds from Norway will be channeled through the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Norwegian humanitarian organisations that have many years’ experience of working in Somalia.

“I am pleased that Somalia’s newly elected president, Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ Mohamed, has said that providing support for those affected by the drought is his number one priority. It is vital to ensure that people in need of assistance actually have access to aid. The unstable security situation and the armed conflict are still causing considerable problems, not least in the hardest hit areas that are also most in need of aid,”said Mr Brende.

One of the lessons learnt from the famine of 2011 was that it is crucial to provide humanitarian assistance as quickly as possible to prevent illness, suffering, and death from starvation. It is estimated that 260 000 people died of starvation in 2011. The crisis forced several hundred thousand people to flee their homes, and further exacerbated the refugee crisis in Somalia’s neighbouring countries, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Last year, Norway provided almost NOK 400 million in aid to Somalia. This included support for efforts to promote food security through the World Food Programme and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Norway is also providing funding through the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which has allocated NOK 150 million to Somalia for 2017.

February 17, 2017

Zambia: A Water Project to Benefit Parts of Zambia and Malawi Launched

February 17, 2017
JULIUS PHIRI

Eastern Province Acting Permanent Secretary Patrick Mwanawasa and Malawian Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Erica Maganga during the K15 million project launch for the construction of the water and sanitation schemes for border posts of Chanida, Mwami and Mchinji at Mwami Border in Chipata .Picture By JULIUS PHIRI

Eastern Province Acting Permanent Secretary Patrick Mwanawasa and Malawian Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Erica Maganga during the K15 million project launch for the construction of the water and sanitation schemes for border posts of Chanida, Mwami and Mchinji at Mwami Border in Chipata. Picture By JULIUS PHIRI

The Zambia and Malawi have launched a K15 million project for the construction of the water and sanitation schemes for border posts of Chanida, Mwami and Mchinji.

The project is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), Climate Resilient Infrastructure Development Facility (CRIDF) on three border areas of which two are on the Zambian side while one was on the Malawian side.

The Zambia’s Eastern Province Minister Makebi Zulu said during the launch of water and sanitation schemes held in January at Mwami Border in Chipata District of Eastern Zambia that the availability of water and good sanitation today were human rights.

The Minister said through acting Permanent Secretary Patrick Mwanawasa that his Government would endeavour to provide the services through commercial utilities like Eastern Water and Sewerage Company (EWSC).

He said the company together with Central Regional Water Board through CRIDF and the British Government have worked on the commencement works of the water reticulations at the border towns.

Mr Zulu said the project involves the construction of a water supply system and an ablution block in Mwami and Mchinji as well as the rehabilitation of the existing ablution block at Chanida border.

“This project is targeting the border areas taking into consideration the travelling public and also the residents. Over 6,000 travellers and 1,500 households are expected to benefit from this project,” he
said.

He said the water reticulation for the three border areas would promote good health and bring dignity to the residents and travelling public.

With the present situation in the three border areas, the minister said residents and travelling public especially truck drivers who were marooned for days at the borders would get good drinking water and sanitary services.

Mr Zulu said he was aware that lack of good sanitation obstructs the right to life and health.

He commended the chiefs for giving permission to EWSC and CRWB to put up the facilities in the border areas.

He appealed to the travelling public and the residents to protect the facilities which would contribute to good sanitation and lead to a reduction of water borne disease in the three border areas.

Speaking earlier, Malawian Principal Secretary in the ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Erica Maganga said the scope of the project on the Malawian side shall include drilling and equipping of three boreholes, laying of transmission and distribution pipeline network and construction of a water tank, an ablution block and two communal water points.

Mrs Maganga said this would serve cross-border travellers, the local community as well as the general public at the border town with sanitary and health facilities.

“Individuals that can afford individual household water connections shall also be served. It is believed that, with the installation of the water supply system here, this border town will quickly transform because other investors are likely come in with different services, “she said.

Mrs Maganga said development of such social amenities in towns and market centres was integral to socio-economic development of the concerned towns.

She paid sincere appreciation to all the people and institutions which have she commendable EWSC and CRWB for twinning so that the sphere of co-operation could be stretched played various roles towards realisation of the project.

And EWSC Managing Director Lytone Kanowa said he was happy that the project was taking off.

African Brothers Limited, a Chinese contractor is engaged to carry out the project for 112 days.

February 15, 2017

Ethiopia: Experts Warn of Dire Consequences as Lake Turkana’s Water Levels Fall

WaterSan Perspective
February 15, 2017

Dropping water levels in Kenya’s Lake Turkana following the development of dams and plantations in Ethiopia’s lower Omo Valley threaten the livelihoods of half a million indigenous people in Ethiopia and Kenya according to the Human Rights Watch.

Based on publicly available data from the United States Department of Agriculture, Lake Turkana’s water levels have dropped by approximately 1.5 meters since January 2015, and further reduction is likely without urgent efforts to mitigate the impact of Ethiopia’s actions.

Human Rights Watch research based on satellite imagery shows that the drop is already affecting the shoreline of the lake, which has receded as much as 1.7 kilometers in Ferguson Gulf since November 2014.

The Gulf is a critical fish breeding area, and a key fishing ground for the indigenous Turkana people.

“The predicted drop in the lake levels will seriously affect food supplies in the Omo Valley and Lake Turkana, which provide the livelihoods for half a million people in both Kenya and Ethiopia,” says Felix Horne, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“The Ethiopian government’s moves to develop its resources should not endanger the survival of indigenous people living downstream.”

In 2015, the reservoir behind the new Gibe III dam in Ethiopia began filling. Water that previously flowed unimpeded into Lake Turkana, replenishing seasonal drops in lake levels, has since been held behind the Gibe III dam. In 2015 the annual July-November flood from the Omo River into Lake Turkana did not occur, resulting in a drop of water levels of 1.3 meters from November 2014. The very limited artificial release of water from Gibe III in 2016 was not enough to replenish water levels in Lake Turkana.

As of January 30, 2017, lake levels were approximately 1.5 meters lower than they were two years earlier according to the data.Lack of safe drinking water is one of the world's leading problems affecting more than 1.1 billion people globally. Most of these live in Africa.

Lack of safe drinking water is one of the world’s leading problems affecting more than 1.1 billion people globally. Most of these live in Africa.

People living in fishing communities along Lake Turkana who spoke to Human Rights Watch in August 2016, were generally aware of the risks posed by Gibe III but largely uninformed about the plantations and the devastating impact they could have on their livelihoods.

When Human Rights Watch visited communities around Ferguson Gulf on the western lake shores that month, local residents had noticed changes from previous years in the lake levels.

People who depend on fishing for their livelihood said that their daily catch has been reduced. One 50-year-old woman living near Lake Turkana told Human Rights Watch in August 2016: “It has been difficult these days…the main issue has been hunger. There is reduced water in the lake.”

While multiple factors contribute to the decline, including overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices, a further drop in lake levels will most likely reduce catches even further.

The Kenyan government has done little to address the impact from Ethiopia’s Omo Valley development, or to press Ethiopia to take steps to mitigate the damage and to consult with and inform affected communities about the impact of the project.

The governments of Kenya and Ethiopia should urgently work with these communities to ensure upstream industrial works does not devastate their livelihoods, Human Rights Watch said.

In addition to the industrial developments in lower Omo, climate change is exacerbating the already significant problems the Turkana people face in getting sufficient food and water, and maintaining their health and security.

“The Ethiopian government has shown scant regard for the lives and livelihoods of already marginalized communities who are reliant on the Omo River and Lake Turkana for their livelihoods,” Horne said. “In its rush to develop its resources it has not developed strategies to minimize the impact on those living downstream.”

Ethiopia’s Gibe III dam, which opened on December 17, 2016, is a key component of a massive industrial project in the lower Omo Valley that includes a cascade of water-intensive mega dams, and sugar and cotton plantations. The sugar plantations have been under development in the Omo Valley since 2011.

Based on Human Rights Watch estimates derived from satellite imagery, approximately 19,500 hectares of land has been cleared on the east bank of the river for sugar plantation development. An additional 10,500 hectares has been prepared for irrigation on the west bank.

The sugar plantations are planned to be 100,000 hectares. According to the Ethiopian Sugar Corporation, the first of the four sugar processing factories should be ready to begin production in early 2017.

In Ethiopia, livelihoods of those living in the Omo Valley depend on cattle grazing and planting crops in the rich alluvial soil along the banks of the Omo River. This alluvial soil is replenished by the annual flood, which deposits water and nutrient rich sediment along the banks. A lack of floods in 2015 and an inadequate artificial flood in 2016 are making it more difficult to grow food along the Omo River.

Some communities have also reported restricted access to the Omo River and food shortages in 2016. Furthermore, the plantations necessitate clearing of land used by agro-pastoral indigenous groups including the Bodi and the Mursi. The Bodi have been the most heavily affected, with a significant area of their land cleared.

“The projections of the water drawdown on Lake Turkana, routinely rubbished by Ethiopia’s government, are coming true and lake levels have started dropping,” Horne said. “This should serve as a warning about what could happen if the Ethiopian government continues to ignore the needs of downstream communities in its rush to develop its resources.”

February 7, 2017

Nile Basin Water Journalists, Researchers Excited By a UNESCO-IHE Project Targeting Bringing Them Together

Fredrick Mugira
February 07, 2017

Dr. Emanuele Fantini, the Project Manager, Open Water Diplomacy Lab in the middle with officials from project partner organisations

Dr. Emanuele Fantini, the Project Manager, Open Water Diplomacy Lab in the middle with officials from project partner organisations

For over 20 years Ishraga Abbas has practiced professional journalism in Sudan – one of the most water-stressed countries on the earth – she has had an ambiguous relationship with water researchers.

She actually does not remember teaming up with any water researcher to work on a water story based on the researcher’s findings. In the answer to the obvious question – why hasn’t she been collaborating with water researchers? She says: “Some researchers shy away from journalists. They prefer communicating their findings to their fellow researchers only.”

This ambiguous relationship can perhaps even trace its roots back to journalists. Some journalists misrepresent the researchers’ facts; lack exposure to water issues or simply are not interested in covering the multifaceted water issues.

This subsequently manifests itself, as neglected coverage of water stories. But, a new project –Open Water Diplomacy Lab – has kicked off targeting bringing journalists, water scientists and researchers together.

Among others, Open Water Diplomacy Lab addresses the needs and demands of water journalists in terms of facilitated access to potential sources of information – getting scientific research on water communicated in an accessible and ready to use, meeting and working with water researchers and water diplomats – and opportunities to support and promote media coverage on water issues. The project focuses on the Nile basin and it is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs “Global Partnership for water and development”.

“First, we are going to study how Nile issues are communicated in both mainstream and social media in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Building on the research findings we will develop join training activities for journalists and scientists coming from the Nile countries. Finally, they will be pulled together to work at original projects to promoted shared narratives about the Nile, overcoming the mainstream national interest perspective” explains Emanuele Fantini, Senior Researcher at UNESCO-IHE and project coordinator.

He was speaking at the kick-off workshop “Mapping Nile controversies: media, science and water diplomacy” held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2017.

Now, journalists like Ishgara – who actually attended this workshop – say this project will boost the quality of water journalism in the Nile basin.

Likewise, Dagim Terefe, an Ethiopian journalist and documentary maker states that Open Water Diplomacy Lab project will help to give birth to a generation of journalists that specifically concentrate on investigating River Nile issues.

Such journalists, as Dagim notes: “Will no longer write the story of the sharing of Nile waters with a nationalistic thinking as it is now but an informed broader context that caters for other countries where the Nile meanders.”

True. This is a responsibility journalists in the Nile basin cannot simply walk away from. It makes sense to believe that journalists have a crucial role to play in ending the Nile wars between countries that share this longest river on the planet.

Actually, Wondwosen Seide, a doctoral student at Lund University in Sweden, who has been researching on the River Nile issues for the last 10 years, believes that Nile wars are: “Mainly in the media landscape than on ground.”
According to Wondwosen, this project is: “Very crucial in bridging controversies and contradicting reporting among the riparian states.”

It is no surprise that this project, will lead to a more responsive relationship between journalists and water researchers. And as Prof. Dr. Yacob Arsano of Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia argues, this project will bring journalists and researchers together to identify the real issues in the Nile discourse.

Against such a background, Open Water Diplomacy Lab will truly breed journalists that can help researchers and agencies working on the Nile to disseminate the story of the Nile.

Having story of the Nile in the media, as Dr. Wubalem Fekade, the head of the Social Development and Communication Unit at the Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office (ENTRO) of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) based in Addis Ababa contends, would: “Help decision and policy makers in the Nile basin to make very enlightened and bold decisions that contribute to sustainable management of the river.”

It is easy to understand that water is a strategic resource for livelihoods. This is the reason why Atta el-Battahani, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Khartoum contends that: “It is important that we know about it so that we can manage it very well for the benefit of the people.”

February 6, 2017

Opinion Piece: The World without Beans

Dr. Robin Buruchara,
Director of the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA)

February 06, 2017

I, like millions of others in Africa, can’t imagine what it would be like to live without beans.
Venture onto any small farm in Uganda at meal time, and I can guarantee you that you will find beans on your plate.

Come to think of it, venture onto any smallholder farm, low income urban home or boarding school across Africa at meal time, and you are more likely than not to find beans or some kind of pulse on your plate.

And that’s despite the most severe drought that parts of the continent have seen in decades. Rains have been late or not come at all; water scarcity has devastated harvests, and incomes have been crippled.

Yet beans remain a staple in the African diet, for more reasons than one. They’re inexpensiveand easy to grow, with seeds sourced from neighbours or family members. They’re nutritious: high in protein, fibre, carbohydrates, folic acid, iron and zinc.

Beans remain a staple in the African diet

Beans remain a staple in the African diet

Our studies in Rwanda, for instance, show eating iron-fortified beans can actually reverse anemia and iron deficiency.

They come in many shapes, sizes, colors and tastes. In many countries they a good source of income as they are easy to sell. And farmers know beans are a good bet to plant, because if most of their harvest fails and they can’t sell anything – at least they have some food at home.

That’s why the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), works with national bean programs to strengthen cropping systems across 30 countries in Africa.

But growing more beans is not a panacea for tackling malnutrition, improving soil fertility and improving incomes. And, significant challenges block the road to improve production.

Despite the prominence of beans in the local diet and their versatility, the production and improvement of beans is not as high a priority in agricultural and nutritional policies as it ought to be. Their nutritional benefits are not incorporated into nutrition programs; their ability to combat climate change and make farmers’ fields more resilient are not spelled out in climate policy.

It’s unlikely that farmers throughout sub-Saharan Africa – where nitrogen is a commonly lacking crop nutrient – know that beans and other pulses can be used as an alternative or complementary source of nitrogen.They convert atmospheric nitrogen into nutrients the plant can use, by-passing problems associated with excessive fertilizer use – including water and air pollution, not to mention cost.

They might not know which beans can be sold for a good income twice a year at the local market – especially important for women, who traditionally control earnings from the crop. They might not know which varieties can tackle anemia, or improve soil health.

They probably don’t know that beans use less water and energy compared to most other protein sources, and that they are also relatively drought resilient compared with other crops.

This needs to change. These are vital factors for farmers in Africa, who must prepare for more drought, longer dry seasons and shorter spells of unpredictable rainfall. Until our agricultural systems become fully irrigated, our farmers need more resilient crops, and beans are an excellent case in point.

In too many places, new bean varieties and agronomic packages don’t reach farmers or advisory services. To inform farm-scale decision making and agricultural policy, we need to spread the word about the full set of impacts that can be felt by integrating pulses into cropping systems.

It’s true: we do need more research into which beans fit within specific cropping systems.

Agronomic management is a central pillar of pulse production that relies on developing options suited to local contexts. Yield and environmental benefits of pulse production vary widely across agro-ecological contexts.

But already we have evidence to show the yield increases farmers can expect in their fields; the extra income they put into their pockets, and the huge nutritional benefits they can gain from eating beans.

What remains to be seen is how the private sector and public sector can work together to make sure better beans get to more people. To make sure farmers growing them can make more money from them; or feed their families more nutritious diets with them.

We’re tackling these challenges head on. And raising awareness about how exactly beans contribute to our welfare this Global Pulse Day, is among the many routes we can take to beat them.

February 3, 2017

Access to Credit and Technology Can Improve Crop Yield among Smallholder Farmers: UN University Report Confirms

Dagim Terefe
February 3, 2017

Several farmers in Africa lack access to credit and technology

Several farmers in Africa lack access to credit and technology

A study supported by the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) confirmed that access to credit and technology can increase crop yield among smallholder farmers in Africa.

The research findings, reported in the Institute’s working paper entitled “Crop Yield Volatility among Smallholder Farmers” revealed that smallholder farmers who had access to credit obtained an increased yield of 35.5 percent per acre compared to their counterparts who did not have access to credit.

Similarly, the results showed that smallholder farmers who adopted farming technologies such as improved seeds and fertility-restoring technologies like organic manure, had about 65.7 percent increase in yields per acre than farmers who did not adopt any farming technology.

The research, led by Dr. James Atta Peprah, explored factors that influence crop yield volatility among rural and urban smallholder farmers in Ghana.

According to Dr. Peprah and the research team, the findings confirm the significant roles that credit and yield-raising technologies such as improved seed varieties, fertility-restoring and conservation technologies can play in improving the yield of rural smallholder farmers.

He noted that “the results back calls to make credit available to rural farmers to purchase farming inputs so as to increase their productivity”.

The study therefore calls on policy makers to strengthen existing agricultural policies to target reduction of the cost of credit for smallholder farmers so as to enhance their access to credit.

It also admonishes financial institutions to put in place special packages for farmers as well as measures to ensure that funds given out to farmers for agricultural activities are not diverted for other purposes.
In addition to access to credit, the paper calls for education and training of smallholder farmers, especially by Agriculture Extension Officers, on the use of technology.

More specifically, the study is advocating for farmers to be trained and advised to adopt yield-raising technologies such as organic manure, improved seeds suitable for local conditions, and modern agricultural machinery to facilitate their farming activities for poverty reduction.

February 3, 2017

Ethiopia: Why Conservation of Wetlands Makes Sense

Dagim Terefe
February 3, 2017

As the world celebrated the 2017 World Wetlands Day on Thursday, February 2 2017, the focus this time around was on the role played by wetlands in reducing the impact of natural disasters. Defined as land areas that are flooded with water, either seasonally or permanently, wetlands are said to be a natural buffer against disasters. However, no governmental and nongovernmental bodies have been observed in celebrating this year’s World Wetlands Day in Ethiopia.

According to Ramsar Convention Secretariat wetlands are defined as: “Areas of marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water, the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres.”

wetlands-day

It is obvious that Ethiopia exhibits a wide range of geologic formations and climatic conditions which create numerous wetland ecosystems including 12 rivers, eight major lakes, and many swamps and floodplains.

Natural resource researchers list a total of 77 wetlands in Ethiopia and the country of Eritrea, finding that Ethiopian wetlands span a 13,699 km2 area. Even though an exhaustive inventory of wetlands is not done yet, wetlands are estimated to cover about 2% of the country’s land coverage. Ethiopia is often referred to as the “water tower of Africa,” as Ethiopia spans an entire watershed area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Despite their small area coverage, wetlands in Ethiopia are among the most productive ecosystems, and have immense economic, social, and environmental benefits. However, there is little or no awareness of the current status, threats, or values of Ethiopian wetlands, or even the need for their conservation and sustainable utilization.

Although there are individuals in various organizations with various expertise and awareness, no coordination exists between these organizations for the conservation, management, and wise use of wetlands in Ethiopia. At another scale, the mandates of stakeholder institutions to address wetland issues are not clearly defined. As a result, there is no entry point for one to initiate any effective wetland undertaking at the moment.

According to Tadessse Amsalu (PhD), researcher, wetlands provide with various benefits to global ecosystems and local communities. They are vital sources of water and fodder, particularly during dry season and in times of drought, to both domestic and wild animals.

Wetlands also serve as important sources of food, construction and fuel wood, raw materials for making household furniture, fodder, and medicine to rural communities. Poor rural households, particularly women, rely on wetlands for additional income to their families. Hence, wetlands contribute significantly to efforts aimed at poverty reduction and food self-sufficiency. Growing number of people in Ethiopia, in both rural and urban areas, depend on wetland resources for their survival.

Many peasant farmers in the western parts of the country make their living from wetlands. Communities who live around the wetlands in the Rift Valley lakes, and Lake Tana benefit a lot from fishing and irrigation farming.

According to Amsalu (PhD), wetlands serve to slow down storm flood, trap sediments, protect property damage in downstream, and the siltation of dams. Studies also reveal that wetlands have a role in ameliorating adverse climatic variations. As scientific understanding of wetlands has increased, more subtle goods and services have become apparent. Wetlands have been described both as “the kidneys of the landscape”, because of the functions they can perform in the hydrological and chemical cycles, and as “biological supermarkets” because of the extensive food webs and rich biodiversity they support.

Notwithstanding their diverse services and values, the misconceptions on wetlands have led people to consider them as waste lands that are infested by malaria and other vectors, Amsalu stressed.

The loss of ecosystem services of wetlands can have both economic and environmental consequences. While rates of wetland loss are documented for the developed world, the limited study of these ecosystems in Ethiopia leaves majority with little to say.

Wetlands serve a variety of important ecological functions including recharging groundwater supplies and trapping floodwaters

Wetlands serve a variety of important ecological functions including recharging groundwater supplies and trapping floodwaters

Although wetlands provide wide ranging social, economic, and environmental benefits, because of mismanagement and inappropriate utilization, Amsalu(PhD) noted that, several of them have either disappeared or are on the verge of drying out globally. He mentioned out that recent total drying up of Lake Alemaya and the precarious existence of Lake Abijata as clear evidences of the looming danger on wetland ecosystem. Unless the necessary management and conservation strategy is in place, the disappearance of more wetlands appears to be unavoidable, he stressed.

Ethiopia’s economic growth and development put growing demands on the river system and the basin’s resources. Wetlands are key natural environmental assets providing crucial ecosystem services that support livelihoods and socio-economic development in the basin. Their role in mitigating climate change and supporting climate resilience as well as safeguarding water, food and energy security is currently threatened through their insufficient protection and management.

According to Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), the Nile Basin is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change owing to a multiplicity of factors. Basin communities have limited ability to cope with the negative impacts of climate variability. There is scientific consensus that the region can expect an increase in frequency and severity of extreme events like floods, droughts, and heat waves, and an intensification of natural variability.

The socio-economic consequences of climate change in the basin will be severe and exacerbate the impacts of existing challenges. These include, among others, negative impacts on agriculture, fisheries and livestock, with strong implications for food security and future economic growth. Hence, according to NBI’s Wetland Management Strategy, member states need to cooperate in order to tackle the existing threats and ensure sustainable socio-economic development is crucial.

On the other hand, recognizing the value of wetlands in the livelihood of local communities as well as in sustaining a productive ecosystem and biodiversity, Ethiopia is in the process of developing a protocol consistent with the Ramsar Convention and also has drafted a National Wetland Policy awaiting approval of the law makers. A number of National and Regional Wetland Awareness creation and consultative workshops have been carried out in Ethiopia to attract the attention and win the will of policy makers on wetlands management.

Therefore, organizations such as the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organization, the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change; various scholars from Universities and research institutions, the Ethiopian Wetland Research Programme (EWRP) and the Ethio-Wetlands and Natural Research Association (EWNRA) should keep their efforts to promote the importance of wetlands and.

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