Category Archives: Africa

‘It’s radical’: the Ugandan city built on solar, shea butter and people power

Members of the Okere City community.
Members of the Okere City community. Photograph: Katumba Badru Sultan/The Guardian

Ojok Okello is transforming his destroyed village into a green town where social enterprises responsibly harness the shea treeGlobal development is supported by

The village of Okere Mom-Kok was in ruins by the end of more than a decade of war in northern Uganda.

Now, just outside Ojok Okello’s living-room door, final-year pupils at the early childhood centre are noisily breaking for recess and a market is clattering into life, as is the local craft brewery, as what has become Okere City begins a new day.

“I think what I’m doing here is radical,” says Okello, who is behind an ambitious project to transform the destroyed village of 4,000 people into a thriving and sustainable town.

Okere City began in January 2019. Its 200 hectares (500 acres) feature a school, a health clinic, a village bank and a community hall that also serves as a cinema, a church and a nightclub.

Electricity is available to all, generated from solar energy – a rarity in the region – and far from the many outbreaks of cholera which were rampant years ago, there is now clean water from a borehole.

Pupils at the school pay half their fees in cash, and the rest in maize, beans, sugar and firewood. The clinic lets people pay their bills in instalments. The local security man wields a spear, an unusual sight in an area where many men idle around as women shoulder most of the paid and unpaid work.

Okello is funding the project from his own pocket. Last year, it cost 200 million Ugandan shillings (about £39,000). The London School of Economics graduate and development expert had worked for several international charities and NGOs but grew disillusioned seeing projects fail because, he says, communities were not involved in decisions about their own future.

When he returned a few years ago to Okere Mom-Kok, hoping to meet extended family in the village he had left as a baby when his civil servant father was killed in the bush wars of the 1980s, he decided to put what he had learned into action. He wanted to create a project that was truly led by the people who lived there.

Okere now generates revenue. Every project, from the school to the local bar, can fund itself, something that has been possible because the project is being built not as a charity, but as a social enterprise, Okello says.

“I don’t want this project to be at the mercy of some white people,” he says. “I want us to have business conversations with partners. I want us to be responsible for shaping the destiny and the future of the project.”

Translated from Lango, Okere Mom-Kok means, “a baby should not cry” and the logo for the project has a smiling baby’s face. But Okello quips that building the town has been far from all smiles.

While comparisons could be made to Akon City, the futuristic smart city with its own currency being built by R&B star Akon in Senegal, Okere is, in essence, the opposite, according to Amina Yasin, an expert in city planning, who works in Vancouver, Canada.

“Akon City is going to be a walled city for the wealthy,” she says. “It sounds like a capitalist endeavour on the African continent. It is to benefit mostly non-indigenous Africans, unfortunately.”

Okere City will pioneer green energy, but its unique selling point is its shea trees. Okello says the inspiration came to him via the Marvel blockbuster movie Black Panther, as he sat under a shea tree outside his house one afternoon in early 2020.

“I looked at [the shea tree] and realised that we have this important natural resource and we were not harnessing it,” Okello says. “And I thought about Wakanda and Black Panther, they had vibranium, this shea tree could be our vibranium.”

“So I am like: ‘Damn, I’m going to invest everything within my means to tap this resource, to protect [it], and to use it to emancipate my community.”

In August, Okere Shea Butter arrived on the market. The whole city smells of shea butter, and Okello has advocated for the protection and regeneration of shea trees, classed as an endangered species threatened by extinction.

Once a week an investment club meets in the community hall. As the sun starts to set over the city, the members assemble in a circle. The majority of the more than 100 members are women, mostly farmers, but some also run small businesses.

“I got a loan from the club to buy shea seeds, which I sold at a profit,” says member Acen Olga.

Members’ financial contributions are carefully recorded before being redistributed as loans to members who need them. When borrowers repay the loan, the cycle continues.

This style of banking is particularly important because it’s original to Africans, Yasin says.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/mar/03/its-radical-the-ugandan-city-built-on-solar-shea-butter-and-people-power

Africans slam rich nations for blocking access to generic COVID vaccines

A health worker receives the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine under the COVAX scheme against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya March 5, 2021. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

NAIROBI, – Charities in Africa slammed rich nations on Thursday for blocking efforts to waive patents for COVID-19 vaccines, saying this would prolong the pandemic for years in poorer nations and push millions across the continent deeper into poverty.

More than 40 charities, including Amnesty International and Christian Aid, said Wednesday’s move by Western nations to prevent generic or other manufacturers making more vaccines in poorer nations was “an affront on people’s right to healthcare.”

Peter Kamalingin, Oxfam International’s Africa director, said sub-Saharan Africa – 14% of the global population – had received only 0.2% of 300 million vaccine doses administered worldwide.

“Ensuring every African can get a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine … is the most effective way to save lives and livelihoods, keep our children in school, reduce unemployment rates and re-open our economies,” he told a news conference.

“Without it, gains made by African countries on issues of food security, democratic governance, gender justice and women’s rights will be reversed completely.”

Richer members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) blocked a push by some 80 developing countries – led by India and South Africa – to waive its Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement rules on patents.

The move sent a message that African lives were less important than those of people in rich nations, Kamalingin said.

Countries such as the United States and Britain argue that protecting intellectual property rights encourages research and innovation, and that suspending those rights would not result in a sudden surge of vaccine supply.

Africa’s confirmed coronavirus caseload is almost 4 million, with more than 100,000 deaths, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

While Africa accounts for less than 4% of the 118 million cases and 2.6 million deaths recorded globally, health experts say a lack of testing and reliable data from many African nations means the true figures may be far higher.

The World Bank estimates that the new coronavirus crisis has already pushed 40 million people in sub-Saharan economies into extreme poverty, that is, living on less than $1.90 a day.

Africa needs equitable access to vaccines to prevent further lockdowns, job losses and school closures, said the charities, which included the Pan-African Fight Inequality Alliance and the East Africa Tax and Governance Network.

“Without the vaccine, the pandemic will be prolonged on the continent. Africa will be in a pandemic state for the next four or five years,” warned Mwanahamisi Singano, programme manager from the African Women’s Development and Communication Network.

“If we don’t have the vaccine, we are extending the pandemic phase and all the evil that we have seen come with it.”

Western nations have celebrated the COVAX facility – a World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine-sharing programme to aid developing nations – which has so far delivered approximately 2 million doses to a handful of African countries.

But the charities said COVAX was far from an acceptable solution as it would only result in 20% of the population in those countries being vaccinated by the end of the year.

https://news.trust.org/item/20210311152316-1wx8m/

Nigerian farming communities win landmark court ruling against Shell

Oil spill damage in the Niger Delta region, April 6, 2010 (Flickr/Sosialistisk Ungdom)
Oil spill damage in the Niger Delta region, April 6, 2010 (Flickr/Sosialistisk Ungdom)

Simon Ayafa has witnessed oil pollution in the Niger Delta region since he was 15. Now, at 35, he feels the region has been made uninhabitable by decades of oil spills.

“You to go the stream to fetch water and you get oil,” said Ayafa, who is a parishioner at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Bodo, a fishing village that has suffered from massive oil spills. “You go to the farm and the crops are damaged and cannot produce because of pollution. That is our fate here.”

A series of pipeline spills between 2008 and 2009 left the entire area flowing in oil. With support from Amnesty International, the community took legal action against Royal Dutch Shell. The case was settled out of court in 2015 for the equivalent of about $36.6 million, with part going to the community and the rest divided among the community’s residents.

Now a handful of farmers from two other communities, who stood up to the oil giant over spills that occurred between 2004 and 2007, has won another landmark case.

On Jan. 20, a Dutch court ruled that Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) was liable for oil pollution in several farming and fishing communities in the Niger Delta region where many families are Catholic.

“This is a victory for the people and for a region which has been so badly affected by pollution,” said Fr. Paul Nsoka, a priest of the Portharcourt Diocese, which has over 1 million Catholics.

“The water, farmlands and other sources of livelihood of the people have been largely affected because of some cheap gains, and the government over the years has been paying lip-service to issues of pollution by multinational oil companies affecting its citizens,” he added.

Nsoka said that despite the cost and damage in the region, the ruling constituted “environmental justice.”

Besides holding the Nigerian subsidiary responsible, the Court of Appeals in The Hague ruled that Shell, which is based in Holland, had breached its “duty of care” in its operations abroad. It ordered the subsidiary to pay compensation to the farmers and begin cleanup of the polluted areas.

Now another lawsuit looms. On Feb. 12, the British Supreme Court ruled that a group of Nigerian farmers and fishermen can sue Shell in English courts, overturning lower court rulings that had blocked such suits.

The two villages covered by the Dutch court ruling, Oruma and Goi, in the Nigerian state of Rivers, have suffered for years from the environmental impact of the pollution. Shell claimed that the spills were caused by sabotage, but the court rejected that argument, saying the company had not provided enough evidence to support its claim.

A ruling in a third case involving an oil well in the village of Ikot Ada Udo is pending. In that case, the spill was caused by sabotage, but the court has not determined whether Shell can be held liable and has requested clarification about the extent of the pollution caused by the spill.

Details of the compensation in the cases of Oruma and Goi were not disclosed.

For the past 13 years, four Nigerian farmers who have become environmental activists from the region have been representing the affected communities and leading efforts to get justice for those affected by the pollution. With support from the nonprofit environmental group Friends of the Earth Netherlands, the four launched their lawsuit against Shell in 2008.

The four have sought compensation for damage and loss of livelihoods that they say they suffered from spills of crude oil from a well and pipelines. They demanded that Shell clean up the contamination more thoroughly and take measures to prevent a recurrence. The court also ordered Shell to build a better warning system in the affected villages to alert residents to possible leaks.

“Finally, there is some justice for the Nigerian people suffering the consequences of Shell’s oil,” Eric Dooh of Goi, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement from Friends of the Earth Netherlands. “It is a bittersweet victory, since two of the plaintiffs, including my father, did not live to see the end of this trial. But this verdict brings hope for the future of the people in the Niger Delta.”

In the same statement, Rachel Kennerley, climate campaign manager at Friends of the Earth Netherlands, called the court ruling “a fantastic victory.”

“For too long, companies like Shell have been shirking their responsibility for the impact of the dirty industry they push on communities around the world,” she said. “Thirteen years of fighting for justice has finally turned this around, and today’s judgment is a wakeup call for polluting companies and governments everywhere.”

She also called for the British government to end its investment in fossil fuel projects overseas “unless it wants to face legal challenges.”

Pollution from oil operations in the Niger Delta has been affecting local farmers since commercial production for export began in 1956. Contamination left multinational by oil companies and their subsidiaries — including U.S.-based Chevron Corp, Italy’s Agip and the Nigerian subsidiary of France’s Elf Aquitaine, now TotalFinaElf, as well as Shell — has fouled the waterways and destroyed farmlands of local communities that largely depend on fishing and small-scale farming and trading.

The decades of pollution have led to growing protests and the rise of militant groups opposing oil companies in the region. This has resulted in a series of abductions of foreign oil workers for ransom and bloody clashes with security forces. Indigenous communities, landless farmers, women, trade unions and fishers whose livelihood has been affected have often joined the protests.

The court ruling could mark a turning point. Catholics in the affected communities who spoke with EarthBeat welcomed the decision, but they said much must be done to clean up the pollution in the region.

Nnamdi Amaechi, who lives in Oruma, said residents often track oily residue into their homes after walking outdoors.

“This has been a natural injustice the people are facing, but with this [court ruling], the people will find some form of compensation to fall back on,” he said. “Our community has been rejoicing because of the outcomes.”

A U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) report commissioned by the Nigerian government found that pollution was deeper and more extensive than previously thought after an agency team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometers of pipeline rights-of-way, analyzed 4,000 soil and water samples, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and held community meetings attended by more than 23,000 people.

The report, which took 14 months to complete and was released in August 2011, proposed a project that would involve cleaning up the contaminated water, wells, soil and mangrove swamps, and establishing a soil management center with hundreds of mini-centers that would treat contaminated soil, creating hundreds of jobs.

The report projected that a thorough cleanup would take 25 to 30 years and proposed that Shell and the Nigerian government share the cost, which was estimated at some $1 billion for the first five years.

In 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the government planned to begin the cleanup recommended by the UNEP report. Work was started that year in the village of Bodo, but progress has been slow. The agency overseeing the cleanup, the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project, says it has received only $180 million of the $1 billion supposedly earmarked for the cleanup.

Residents of the affected communities say they doubt that the government will ensure that the cleanup is completed. Questions have been raised about the qualifications of the coordinating agency’s subcontractors, and civil society groups have accused the agency of corruption and contract scams.

“Everyone thinks the government is not serious with this [clean-up] and only doing this for political gains,” Nsoka said. “It’s been about five years now since they started, and we are yet to see the impact.”

Meanwhile, oil pollution continues in the Niger Delta region, leaving much of the region uninhabitable. This has led to small-scale migration, as residents of affected communities have left their homes and livelihoods and moved to other areas with less impact.

“It will take a very long time before the region becomes the way it has been before oil exploration and, of course, pollution started taking place here,” Takai Dome, an environmental activist who has been following the court cases and developments in the region, told EarthBeat. “The impact will still be there and on the way people in affected communities lead their lives.”

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/nigerian-farming-communities-win-landmark-court-ruling-against-shell

DRC: Dozens killed, hundreds missing in Congo River boat disaster

Survivors of the boat accident [Courtesy Nestor Wale/Al Jazeera]

Kinshasa, DRC – At least 60 people have died and hundreds are missing after a boat capsized in the Congo River in western Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to a government official.

Steve Mbikayi, minister for humanitarian action, told Al Jazeera on Monday 700 people were on board the vessel that sunk near the village of Longola Ekoti, in Mai-Ndombe province, the previous night.

“So far the rescue team has recovered 60 lifeless bodies and 300 survivors. There are still several missing after this shipwreck,” Mbikayi said.

The vessel had departed from the capital, Kinshasa, and was heading to Equator province.

“The main cause of the sinking remains the overload of goods and the excess number of passengers in the whaling boat,” the minister said, adding “that night navigation also played a role in the sinking”.

Boat accidents are common in the vast mineral-rich country because vessels are often overloaded with passengers and cargo. Most of the passengers travelling on vessels also often do not wear life jackets.

Last month, at least three people, two children and one woman, drowned after a passenger boat sank in Lake Kivu.

In May 2020, 10 people, including an eight-year-old girl, died after the leisure boat they were travelling on capsized in Lake Kivu. In July 2010, more than 135 people died after a boat capsized in the western province of Bandundu.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/15/scores-killed-in-dr-congo-boat-accident

Eliminating violence against women begins in child upbringing

A mother and children in Nigeria: Through their privileged position in child upbringing, women have the power to contribute to eradicating victimization and injustice against themselves. (Caroline Mbonu)
A mother and children in Nigeria: Through their privileged position in child upbringing, women have the power to contribute to eradicating victimization and injustice against themselves. (Caroline Mbonu

I had the privilege of participating in this year’s annual World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO) Day celebration on Oct. 13 at the Corpus et Sanguis Christi Cathedral, Port Harcourt, Nigeria. The president of the parish Catholic Women’s Organization asked me to share with the women of there the WUCWO celebration theme, “Let us eliminate discrimination and violence against women.”

Founded 110 years ago, in 1910, WUCWO now represents nearly 60 Catholic women’s organizations worldwide and is active in around 60 countries, representing around 8 million Catholic women. The size and diversity of membership provides enough space from which to discern and fight the various kinds of injustice against women.

Rather than bemoaning obvious problematic gender-based violence and discrimination, I took the long view in my presentation by exploring women’s vantage point at the grassroots, the household. What informs the long view approach is the privileged position of women in child upbringing.

Addressing violence against women from the cradle would go a long way to reset the chauvinist mindset acquired from a tender age. Because gender sensitivity may not be consciously promoted during the first few years of a child’s life, women in some way are implicated — inadvertently — in their own discrimination.

If we must work against structures and cultural texts that dehumanize women, we must rethink the various methods of child rearing, and include a gender-based child upbringing. In other words, women have the power to contribute to eradicating victimization and injustice against themselves.

Thinking about this, I employed the Gospel of Luke 11:27 as a guide: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breast that nursed you!”

The context of this passage is during one of Jesus’ public preaching episodes, where according to the evangelist, an unnamed woman in the crowd raised her voice, blessing Jesus’ mother; the expression “the womb that bore you and breast that nursed you” is another way of showering praise on his upbringing. Such warm expressions about mothers are not uncommon among African people.

Among the Nigerian Igbo, for example, a well-mannered child is said to have had an abundance of breast milk (o nujuru mmiri-ara afo). The idea is that blessing a mother validates the decency of the child and confirms a proper upbringing. This is a recognition of the “feminine genius,” which brought forth a sensitive individual, fully alive to his environment and the needs of the people around him.

The outburst of the unnamed woman — who could be anyone — draws attention to two significant points. First, the earthy quality of motherhood, and second, child upbringing. Of course, motherhood goes beyond having biological offspring. Every woman bears within her the seed of motherhood — a seed that sprouts, blossoms and fruits in different ways. Motherhood is a call to self-giving and sacrificial love.

We remember that the Blessed Mother was chosen as a model of Catholic motherhood, a woman of whom Dante Alighieri wrote: “Mercy, might, compassion / Grace thy womanhood.” To eliminate the prejudices against women, therefore, challenges us all to take a journey inward to rediscover the feminine genius within and work hard to reawaken it. From within is the domain of the womb and the source of breast milk that nourishes a child’s love.

We cannot deny that persons involved in the discrimination and violence against women are also products of women’s tendering and nurturing. And if it is true that women actually beget their own oppressors, they can surely redesign the grassroots of the system that produced such undesirable behavior in children.

Women can change those processes that tend to instill oppressive tendencies in a child, male or female. William Ross Wallace’s 1865 poem “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Is the Hand That Rules the World” captures the unique power for change exclusive to women, the possessors of the cradle. Undoubtedly, Wallace points to the feminine genius as an instrument of construction of a more humane world, with child upbringing as the building block. Where that fails, the ills of unredeemed patriarchy would continue to hold sway.

Furthermore, other considerations of child upbringing demand attention for the benefit of humankind. Humankind continues to make positive advances in science and technology, as well as in other fields of human endeavor. Numerous developments enable us to create new ways to make certain tasks easier, and to correct errors in others.

It appears that not much is done to develop new patterns of child upbringing that take gender sensitivity into consideration. Ways of child upbringing that reinforce gender discrimination continue to be taught as the norm, even after the structures that such arrangements serve have changed.

Assignment of household chores, choice of careers, and even marriage can be degendered. Even apparently harmless acts like name designation in families that have mostly female children convey a profound sense of discrimination and violence.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/social-justice/column/eliminating-violence-against-women-begins-child-upbringing

In Africa, sisters lead the way to replace orphanages with family care

Sr. Caroline Ngatia of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Sisters of Eldoret shares breakfast with the street families in Nairobi, Kenya. (Doreen Ajiambo)
Sr. Caroline Ngatia of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Sisters of Eldoret shares breakfast with the street families in Nairobi, Kenya. Her center, Kwetu Home of Peace, accommodates homeless boys ages 8 to 14 who are rescued from the streets and slums in Nairobi and inducted into a process of reintegration. (Doreen Ajiambo)

The goal is as simple as it is complicated to achieve: Shift the care of children from institutions like orphanages to a family or family-like environment.

Catholic sisters in three African nations — Uganda, Zambia and Kenya — are leading the way in creating new models for caring for children. Their efforts are the core of the recent launch of Catholic Care for Children International (CCCI) under the auspices of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) — one of many faith groups leading policy reform and family-based alternatives to institutional care.

In traditional African culture, children were raised by their clan and extended family relations who nurtured them into responsible adults, but various socio-economic factors contributed to a break-up of such family ties. That has led to the formation of large childcare institutions which generally lack the necessary environment for children to thrive and develop.

Decades of research has shown that children living in institutional care are extremely exposed to neglect, physical and sexual abuse. A lack of a stable relationships and interactions among children in institutions affect their foundations for brain development, resulting in poor mental health, academic failure, and increased chances of behavioral problems later in life, studies show.

Most African countries, including Uganda, Zambia and Kenya, have endorsed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which recognizes that children should be raised in a safe and loving family or within a community to realize their full potential.

That’s a key reason the international sisters’ group UISG is encouraging congregations to end the placement of children in large institutions and instead support community-based, family-like alternatives.

During the launch of this global initiative Oct. 2, which was streamed online, religious orders of women and men were urged to join the initiative. “We understand that the family is the best place for a child to grow holistically,” Sri Lankan Good Shepherd Sr. Niluka Perera, coordinator of Catholic Care for Children International, told participants. “Therefore, it is the responsibility of us who are committed to the care of vulnerable children to give the best place and environment for a child to grow.”

Loreto Sr. Patricia Murray, executive secretary of the UISG, noted that there are at least 9,000 Catholic residential institutions or orphanages worldwide serving almost 5.5 million children. She urged religious institutions to learn from what others are doing in different countries to provide the best possible care for the vulnerable children.

“Catholic Care for Children functions well in three countries — Zambia, Uganda and Kenya. It’s associated very closely with the conference of religious in each country, and we see that as a very good model,” said Murray in an interview with Global Sisters report. “We can move our focus to supporting family life because we know that 80% of children are not orphans but have a living parent or a family structure, and that family structure can be helped to keep the child at home.” UISG is carefully considering other countries where the model can be implemented, she said.

Poverty and family breakdown have contributed to the growth of institutional care, said Kathleen Mahoney, a program officer of GHR Foundation, which has “Children in Families” as one of its program areas. Through the respective religious associations, GHR has been providing funding in the three countries for the training of sisters in social work, case management and child care programs, and assisting in the transition from institutional to family care.

“GHR has a long history of working with Catholic sisters around the globe, and we really see them as tremendous spiritual and social asset for the world,” she said. The social and spiritual aspects came together in Zambia and Uganda and recently in Kenya where “we really see sisters at the helm,” she said. “Catholic Care for Children is a sister-led, charism-driven movement to improve care for children. We see real potential for this to grow.”

Global Sisters Report reported from Uganda, Zambia and Kenya on the program models and how UISG is aiming to play a role in expanding these models to elsewhere in the world and trying to de-emphasize institutional care.

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/world/ministry/sisters-expand-program-places-children-families-instead-institutions

Storm damage worsens in a warming world, hiking pressure to adapt

Residents of the Praia Nova neighbourhood seek shelter from Tropical Cyclone Eloise, in Beira, Mozambique, January 23, 2021. UNICEF/Franco/Handout via REUTER

BARCELONA, – More powerful storms are battering people and economies harder, with the poor suffering the worst losses, an annual climate risk index showed, as leaders were urged to ramp up their response to climate change impacts at a global adaptation summit on Monday.

The index for 2019, from research group Germanwatch, showed that Mozambique and Zimbabwe were the two countries hardest-hit by extreme weather. Both were struck by Idai, the deadliest and costliest cyclone recorded in the southwest Indian Ocean.

Just this weekend, central Mozambique was hammered again by another tropical storm, Eloise, which wrecked thousands of buildings, ruined crops and displaced almost 7,000 people.

Storms and their effects – strong winds, heavy rainfall, floods and landslides – were the major cause of extreme weather damage in 2019, Germanwatch said. Of the 10 most-affected countries, six were pounded by tropical cyclones.

The Caribbean island nation of the Bahamas was the third worst-hit, due to devastation from Hurricane Dorian.

The United States was not included in the 2019 index due to data problems.

Recent research suggests the severity and the number of strong tropical cyclones will increase with every tenth of a degree in global average temperature rise, Germanwatch said.

In 2020 – one of the three hottest years on record – the global average temperature was about 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

David Eckstein, a Germanwatch policy advisor, said the climate risk index showed poor, vulnerable countries face particularly large challenges in dealing with the consequences of extreme weather events.

“They urgently need financial and technical assistance,” he said, noting they had yet to receive the full $100 billion a year in climate funding promised by wealthy countries.

Richer nations agreed to build up to providing that sum each year, starting in 2020, to help poorer countries adopt cleaner energy systems and adapt to the impacts of planetary warming.

Of the nearly $80 billion raised in 2018, the latest figures available, only about 20% was allocated for adaptation, despite repeated calls for that share to be raised to half.

The climate adaptation summit starting Monday “must address these problems”, Eckstein added.

Research out last week from international aid agency CARE suggested the actual amount of donor money going to adaptation could be even lower than reported.

Working with other organisations, CARE assessed 112 projects in Ghana, Uganda, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Nepal and Vietnam, representing 13% of total global adaptation finance between 2013 and 2017.

It found 42% of the money was spent on activities that did little to help communities build resilience to climate change, including a “friendship bridge” and an expressway in Vietnam and a post-earthquake housing reconstruction project in Nepal.

Report author John Nordbo from CARE Denmark said rich nations had not only failed to deliver enough adaptation finance, but had also tried to give the impression they are providing more than they do.

“This injustice must be corrected, and a clear plan must be presented to show how they intend to live up to their commitments with real money – and no reporting tricks,” he added in a statement.

FORECAST-BASED ACTION

Ahead of Monday’s summit, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) announced plans to at least double the size of a fund which it uses to support communities before climate disasters hit, to reduce losses.

IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said expanding the fund was part of a broader effort by the Red Cross to respond to an increasing case-load of emergencies caused by climate change.

The IFRC aims to grow the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund, now at 30 million Swiss francs ($34 million) a year, to 60 million a year in 2021 and 100 million by 2025.

In the past 30 years, Chapagain noted, the average number of climate and weather-related disasters per decade has increased nearly 35%. They accounted for 83% of all disasters in the past decade alone, killing 410,000 people and affecting 1.7 billion.

The IFRC’s new loss-prevention approach, now gaining ground among donors and aid agencies, is known as “forecast-based action” because it is triggered by weather predictions.

Under the approach, money is made available to people imminently at risk from a coming weather threat, to help them move their families, livestock and goods to safety or otherwise take measures to protect them, as well as recover afterwards.

The Red Cross used it six times in 2020 to protect at-risk communities in Bangladesh, Ecuador, Mongolia and Mozambique, through measures such as early evacuation or reinforcing homes.

“By doing this, we are definitely saving lives,” Chapagain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The Red Cross now aims to scale up forecast-based action in partnership with local governments, he added.

As climate threats accelerate, the Red Cross head urged vulnerable countries to implement laws that improve how they manage disasters, and put in place systems to provide early warning, evacuate people and reduce losses from extreme weather.

Chapagain urged leaders at the summit, hosted by the Netherlands, to acknowledge the need to take urgent steps to help communities cope with global warming impacts, while ramping up efforts to cut planet-heating emissions at the same time.

https://news.trust.org/item/20210125040002-dabkp/

Piped water boosts women’s health, happiness and income in rural Zambia

FILE PHOTO: A woman walks barefoot through a field in Chiyobola village, close to the town of Chikuni in the south of Zambia February 21, 2015. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

JOHANNESBURG, – From growing vegetables to spending more time with their children, women’s quality of life improved drastically after piped water was installed near their homes in rural Zambia, Stanford University researchers said on Thursday.

In a study involving 434 households in four Zambian villages, they found not having to walk to a communal water source saved each home about 200 hours per year on average – freeing up time for more productive activities.

“Women and girls benefit the most from alleviation of domestic chores and from food production for nutrition and income generation,” said Barbara van Koppen, emeritus scientist at research organisation the International Water Management Institute.

“This study brings further unique proof that better water supplies enable more domestic and productive uses,” van Koppen, who was not involved in the study, said in emailed comments.

Globally, about 844 million people live without easily accessible water used for cleaning, cooking, drinking and farming, according to the study published in academic journal Social Science & Medicine.

With just 12% of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa having water piped to their home, villagers – mainly women and girls – have to carry containers averaging 40 pounds (18 kg) from communal water sources, the study found.

The four villages included in the research lie in Zambia’s southern province, two of which received piped water to their yard halfway through the study, meaning water was accessible 15 metres (49 feet) away.

The research showed women and girls with piped water supplies spent 80% less time fetching water, or four hours less each week, allowing them to garden, care for the children or sell goods instead.

Their households were four times more likely to grow vegetables either to sell or for their own consumption, and they also reported feeling happier, healthier and less anxious when they spent less time carrying heavy water containers.

“Addressing this problem provides the time and water for women and girls to invest in their household’s health and economic development, in whatever way they see fit,” said study author and Stanford researcher James Winter in a statement.

Despite the fact that previous studies have shown that piped water improves mental health and decreases the risk of infectious diseases, these installations have increased by only 2% in sub-Saharan Africa since 2007, the study found.

https://news.trust.org/item/20210114093811-s25t5/

In Nigeria, nun cares for abandoned children labeled as witches

Sr. Matilda Iyang poses outside at the Mother Charles Walker Children Home Oct. 7, at the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus convent in Uyo, Nigeria. (CNS/Valentine Iwenwanne)
Sr. Matilda Iyang poses outside at the Mother Charles Walker Children Home Oct. 7, at the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus convent in Uyo, Nigeria. Since opening the home in 2007, Iyang has cared for dozens of malnourished and homeless children from the streets of Uyo; many of them had family who believed they were witches. (CNS/Valentine Iwenwanne)

Uyo, Nigeria — Three years after taking in 2-year-old Inimffon Uwamobong and her younger brother, Sr. Matylda Iyang finally heard from the mother who had abandoned them.

“Their mother came back and told me that she (Inimffon) and her younger sibling are witches, asking me to throw them out of the convent,” said Iyang, who oversees the Mother Charles Walker Children Home at the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus convent.

Such an accusation is not new to Iyang.

Since opening the home in 2007, Iyang has cared for dozens of malnourished and homeless children from the streets of Uyo; many of them had family who believed they were witches.

The Uwamobong siblings became well and were able to enroll in school, but Iyang and other social service providers are faced with similar needs.

Health care and social workers say parents, guardians and religious leaders brand children as witches for different reasons. Children subject to such accusations are often abused, abandoned, trafficked or even murdered, according to UNICEF and Human Rights Watch.

Throughout Africa, a witch is culturally understood to be the epitome of evil and the cause of misfortune, disease and death. Consequently, the witch is the most hated person in African society and subject to punishment, torture and even death.

There have been reports of children — labeled as witches — having had nails driven into their heads and being forced to drink cement, set on fire, scarred by acid, poisoned and even buried alive.

In Nigeria, some Christian pastors have incorporated African witchcraft beliefs into their brand of Christianity, resulting in a campaign of violence against young people in some locales.

Residents of the state Akwa Ibom — including members of the Ibibio, Annang and the Oro ethnic groups — believe in the religious existence of spirits and witches.

Fr. Dominic Akpankpa, executive director of the Catholic Institute of Justice and Peace in the Diocese of Uyo, said the existence of witchcraft is a metaphysical phenomenon from those who do not know anything about theology.

“If you claim that somebody is a witch, you would have to prove it,” he said. He added that most of those accused of being witches could be suffering from psychological complications and “it is our duty to help these people with counseling to come out of that situation.”

Witch profiling and abandonment of children are common on the streets of Akwa Ibom.

If a man remarries, Iyang said, the new wife may be intolerant of the child’s attitude after being married to the widower, and as such, will throw the child out of the house.

“To achieve this, she would accuse him or her of being a witch,” Iyang said. “That’s why you’d find many children in the streets and when you ask them, they will say it’s their stepmother who drove them out of the house.”

She said poverty and teenage pregnancy also can force children into the street as well.

Nigeria’s criminal code prohibits accusing, or even threatening to accuse, someone of being a witch. The Child Rights Act of 2003 makes it a criminal offense to subject any child to physical or emotional torture or submit them to any inhuman or degrading treatment.

Akwa Ibom officials have incorporated the Child Rights Act in an attempt to reduce child abuse. In addition, the state adopted a law in 2008 that makes witch profiling punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years.

Akpankpa said criminalizing injustices toward children was a step in the right direction.

“A lot of children were labeled witches and victimized. We used to have baby factories where young women are kept; they give birth and their babies are taken and sold out for monetary gains,” he told CNS.

“Human trafficking was very alarming. A lot of baby factories were discovered, and the babies and their mothers were saved while the perpetrators were brought to justice,” he added.

At the Mother Charles Walker Children Home, where most of the children are sheltered and sent to school on scholarship, Iyang demonstrates the Catholic Church’s commitment to protecting child rights. She said most of the malnourished youngsters the order receives are those who lost their mother during childbirth “and their families bring them to us for care.”

For contact tracing and reunification, Iyang formed a partnership with Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare. The process begins with parental verification by gathering information about each child and their location prior to separation. With the information in hand, an investigator drives to the child’s home village to verify what has been learned.

The process involves community chiefs, elders and religious and traditional leaders to ensure that each child is properly integrated and accepted in the community. When that fails, a child will placed into the adoption protocol under government supervision.

Since opening the Mother Charles Walker Children Home in 2007, Iyang and the staff have cared for about 120 children. About 74 have been reunited with their families, she said.

“We have 46 now left with us,” she said, “hoping that their families will one day pick them up or they will have foster parents.”

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry/news/nigeria-nun-cares-abandoned-children-labeled-witches

An Untapped Gem of the African Family-Farming System

The African economy is still mostly rural-based and informal, driven by family-holders farmers; primarily women. The improvement of the African family- farmers system will achieve the dual targets of addressing some of the poverty reduction and gender imbalance questions in Africa. It is in this vein that AEFJN considers agricultural development as an essential agenda in the mapping of the future strategy of EU-Africa partnerships or any partnerships with the African nations.

The quest for the development of African family-farmers does not suggest the industrialisation of agriculture in Africa. The stakeholders must clearly understand this, or else their development initiatives will be counterproductive and bring untold setback to the ecosystem and the African socio-economic system, which constitutes the very fibre of its identity and existence.  In general, family farmers function within the ambit of the principles of agroecology and they present potentials for sustainable food production and agriculture. Family farming is not necessarily averse to big size farms. Instead, it is opposed to farms that function outside the ambit of the principles of sustainable agroecology. The development of family farmers in this context could mean a shift from the chemical-dependent agriculture to the fold of family farmers or increasing the size of the family farmers’ farms without compromising the agro-ecological principles.

In one sense, the development of Africa’s agriculture points in the direction of building on the local innovations that are already in existence within the continent. There are already local innovations in African communities that would transform African agriculture and ensure food security if they are scaled up. The shade net system in Nigeria, for example, is an adaption of the greenhouse system. The shade net system uses agro nets or other woven material to allow entry of required sunlight, moisture and air. It creates an appropriate climate for plant growth and is a cheaper and better alternative to the greenhouse system, based on some conducted sample surveys. The shade net system also has higher acceptability, because it is cost-effective, well-suited to the African climate, and easily controlled by adjusting the intensity of the shade net.

One of the significant challenges facing Africa’s rural family is having real value for their produce. It is sad to see that after the farmers have laboured to till the soil and produced good quality foodstuff, unfavourable market forces compelled them to sell their produce at giveaway prices. The stories are told about the African farmers that highlight agriculture as their endeared way of life, but that is less than the whole truth. African farmers want good life lives just like every other human and the actual value their produce entitle them to that much. They need not live poverty-stricken when they labour sustainably and yield products of great importance. Their counterparts in Europe and elsewhere are the envy of other economic sectors and are recognised for their real worth. Agriculture is the business through which they can improve their living conditions, and that makes accessing market to have worth for their produce becomes imperative.

Scaling up the activities of the family- farmers may be what they need to realise their profitability. That would necessarily include access to market to ensure adequate marginal returns on their investments and to reduce the food loss and wastage that occurs at the farm gate. In this vein, creating an aggregation that connects smallholder farmers to access to market to enhance value for the family farmers’ labour will be a turning point in the life of the African family farmers.  Knowing that what they produce is fully utilised in feeding the people while at the same getting the worth for their labour will inspire and excite the average African farmer the more and the teeming African young people to embrace farming as dignified trade. Scaling up the activities of African family farmers is an achievable response to the unabating and perilous crossing of the Mediterranean. One of the lures that Europe holds for young Africans is the promise of dignified returns for just labour. The development of the family-farming system has the promise of an alternative to the dangerous quest for a better life. The first step, in this direction, is to take a hard look at the economic resources of the African continent; the family-farming system has remained unexplored, undervalued and exploited.