Category: General

80 % of countries in need of food aid from Africa FAO

Thirty-four countries, including 27 from Africa, are currently in need of external food assistance, according to a new report by Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

The report titled, “Crop Prospects and Food situation,” released last week in Rome, was published by the Trade and Markets Division of FAO under the Global Information and Early Warning System.

The shortage is due to civil conflicts continuing to severely affect the food security of many countries, while adverse weather in some cases linked to El Niño (drought, flooding) curbed production in others, constraining food access and pushing consumer prices up, the report says .

It highlights that drought associated with El Niño has sharply reduced 2016 crop production prospects in Southern Africa, while expectations for the harvest in Morocco and Algeria have been lowered due to ongoing dry conditions.

The figure has grown from 33 last December, after the addition of Swaziland. Rwanda is not among the 34 countries listed in the report.

Other countries on the list include Zimbabwe, Niger, Liberia, Guinea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Congo, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Nepal.

In several countries already in need of external food assistance, conditions generally worsened in the past three months, mainly in the southern Africa sub-region, where food prices have reached record highs.

Across Africa, adverse weather reduced 2015 cereal output.

Also in areas of Central America and the Caribbean, ongoing dry conditions linked to El Niño may affect sowings of seasonal crops for the third consecutive year.

The report adds that persistent conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Central African Republic have impacted on the agricultural sector, further worsening the humanitarian crisis in those countries.

The report also warned that last year’s reduced production would affect the food security situation in North Korea, where most households were already estimated to have poor food consumption.

It also forecasts that global wheat production in 2016 points to a small decrease, with lower outputs expected in Europe and the US.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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Khartoum’s New Green Belt, History Repeats Itself Nicer

Khartoum’s New Green Belt, History Repeats Itself Nicer

KHARTOUM  – The main objective of the First Environmental Conference, currently in session here, is to assess the impact of the various environmental challenges that made Khartoum, Sudan’s national capital, a dusty town though it lies between the two rivers, the Blue Nile and the White Nile.
Falling in the area with scarce rainfall of between 139-159 mm/year, the town falls in the desert and semi desert area, with sandy and sandy desertified soil and clay, but with abundant underground water originating in the Nubian sandy stone basic which is characterized by water accessibility in reasonable quantities, according to a study by the Khartoum State’s Higher Council for Environment. Its temperature in summer rises above 40 degrees centigrade and decreases below 11 degrees in winter with a persistent wind raising dust in winter and autumn with dust suspended overhead for nearly six months each year.
In the past Khartoum had built a green belt stretching south of the city, 10 km away from the southern-most residential quarters of Khartoum. It was planted in 1966 on an area of 7035 feddans (acres). It had helped in protecting the city against the sand encroachment,  windstorms and mitigated the wind speed and it had been used as a green area for scientific research and recreation. Regrettably, that belt was leveled in 1991 under the pretext that it was not legally registered among the agricultural lands. Its land was distributed in residential quarters which are now known as Azhary, Salamah and Jabrah South. Irrigated with sewage water, the belt used to absorb large quantities of this water which now became a burden on the environment added to the list of the city’s pollutants.
Inspired by this experience, Khartoum State has drawn a plan to build a similar belt which half-encircles the capital for 285 kms long and a width of 200 meters covering an area of 13,571 feddans (acres), with a total cost of about 13 million US dollars.
Chairman of the Higher Council for Environment and Promotion of Urban and Rural Development Major General Omar Nimir said the belt consist of at least 40 rows of acacia trees originally adopted to the site as they are fit for to sop the encroachment of sands.
About one-half of the area of the greenbelt covers Omdurman, the most affected city by the winds and the desert encroachment in north Sudan. The trees of the greenbelt stretch over 140 square km of the length of the belt and over 6,667 feddans (acres) of the three-town Sudanese capital.
Nimir told Sudanow that studies and research on the greenbelt began more than six years ago and the recent Paris climate summit found wide opportunities for provision of funds for planting this greenbelt. It will be executed in four years’ time in four phases and benefit 29 villages, including 10 villages in Omdurman and nine villages in Khartoum North and Eastern Nile Locality.
Nimir said the goals of the greenbelt include increasing the green areas, preventing desert encroachment, stopping movement of the sands, raising the environmental awareness, mollifying the atmosphere, standing against the climatic changes, help with carbon absorption, conserving the environmental equilibrium and lowering the temperatures. All this comes in addition to the urban goals which include provision of the basic services to the inhabitants and the villages by which the greenbelt passes and assistance in achieving the food security in Khartoum State plus services of training, scientific research, experiments by researchers and students beside entertainment.
The Minister said the project is composed of several activities, including woods, fruit-bearing trees, livestock breeding, poultries, apiaries and mixed farms. All those projects will be run by solar and biological energies.

By Mohamed Osman Adam –Sudanow, 4 hours 55 minutes ago 

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Blood in the fields as big business eats up Ethiopia

AS AN orchestra of mosquitoes and crickets greet the dusk, Bedlu Abera looks out over fields of rice stretching across the Ethiopian lowlands.

A flicker of contentment crosses his face. “It’s satisfying,” he says. “We are making progress.”

Bedlu is overseeing Saudi Star Agricultural Development’s first substantial harvest, and there is an urgency to his work. The land must be cleared and planted swiftly before the rains return.

This remote spot is a frontier in a contest for land that stretches from Myanmar to Saskatchewan. Investors are betting billions on an asset that is both more abundant and more fiercely contested than any other. The struggle playing out in the Ethiopian lowlands is a glimpse of others to come in a crowded, warming world.

Bedlu took over as Saudi Star’s farm operations manager in 2014. The company’s proprietor, Saudi-Ethiopian tycoon Mohammed al-Amoudi, has spent more than $200m turning a swathe of bush into a farm the size of 20,000 soccer pitches. That puts the sheikh, as he is known, in the vanguard of a global land rush.

AS THE populations of better-off countries move to cities in greater numbers, the gap between the amount they grow and the amount they eat widens. Agricultural trade has long filled this gap.

But a price shock in 2007, when rates for staple crops doubled in months, showed that global markets for food can break down. When the financial crisis created demand for safer investments, governments, multinational companies and institutional funds started to pour billions into other countries’ land.

From Southeast Asia to Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, investors are seeking to profit not simply by trading the fruits of the earth, but by controlling the land itself. Few countries have attracted such attention as Ethiopia.

Saudi Star’s harvest was long overdue. In 2009, the firm took a 50-year lease on 10,000 hectares in the poor region of Gambella. Later, it added another 4,000 hectares by buying an adjacent farm.

The deal was one of the most high-profile transactions of an investment drive in which Ethiopia’s government leased 2.5-million hectares, an area slightly smaller than Belgium.

More than the same is again on offer now. The government’s stated goal is to bring in modern farming technology to generate exports that would help a serious balance-of-trade problem. Doing this, some say, would also cement the ruling elite’s control over Ethiopia’s lowlands.

November’s harvest was initially forecast to yield 10,000 tonnes of rice. But Saudi Star halved the outlook after poor rains. The company plans to spend another $100m by 2018 on more irrigation canals and machinery.

IF ITS engineers succeed, the farm’s yield will double, allowing annual production of 140,000 tonnes. That would be more than enough to supply the entire Ethiopian market. Beyond that lie lucrative markets in Saudi Arabia, the Arab emirates and East Africa.

Bedlu was part of a team Amoudi installed in 2014. The 4,000-strong staff includes 1,300 locals: 300 on permanent contracts and 1,000 seasonal labourers.

Saudi Star’s management has brought in commercial farming expertise and is trying to improve community relations. Bedlu is learning the language of the Anuak, the main ethnic group in the area.

But armed guards on the perimeter are a reminder of what happened in April 2012, when decades of lowlander grievances were unleashed on the sheikh’s farm. A group of gunmen, widely held to have been Anuak militants, opened fire at the company’s compound, killing at least five employees before fleeing.

Reprisals followed. According to Human Rights Watch, the military rounded up villagers, beating the men and raping the women.

The attack was a lesson for the new lords of the land. They can come with the promise of jobs and progress, but land is like the lion that prowls near Saudi Star’s farm: hard to tame.

ETHIOPIA is a nation of smallholders: 85% of employment is in agriculture and 95% of all agricultural produce comes from small farms. Of that, 80% is consumed by the farmers; only 20% is sold. A mere 5% of agricultural output comes from big commercial farms. Yet they are central to the government’s strategy.

Official figures show more than a decade of double-digit growth, with strong exports of coffee, livestock and cut flowers. Some question the numbers, but there is evidence of advancement too: new roads, telecoms infrastructure and dams.

The country is a self-styled “developmental state”: a nation, like China, Singapore or Rwanda, in which an authoritarian government sets a strict economic path.

The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) took power when it toppled the communist regime in 1991. Dominated by highlanders, as those from central and northern Ethiopia are known, it established a record for economic competence and intolerance of dissent.

For years, the EPRDF was opposed to the idea of commercial farms. That changed about a decade ago as donors encouraged foreign investment in agriculture. Since then, Ethiopia has been at the forefront of a global phenomenon.

Lorenzo Cotula, a senior researcher at the UK’s International Institute for Environment and Development, notes that population trends, climate change, urbanisation and other factors will keep piling pressure on valuable land.

“Land might be seen as an asset class by a fund manager,” he says, “but for many rural people, it is a foundation for social identity and food security.”

YET, OF the 2.5-million hectares leased in Ethiopia so far, only 35% has been developed. That is partly because of the difficulty of getting machinery and skilled manpower to remote corners of a landlocked country.

The government has cancelled seven leases after investors failed to deliver on their promises. Some domestic investors, who cumulatively have taken much more land than foreign ones, have simply stripped their plots for charcoal.

Abera Mulat, head of Ethiopia’s land investment agency, insists that no one with a rightful claim has been moved forcibly to make way for investors.

“There have been cases where people have come and said: ‘This is my land.’ If we are mistaken, then we will leave that land,” he says.

There have, however, been forced relocations under the government’s separate “villagisation” programme. This, the government says, is designed to group scattered communities into larger settlements to make it easier to deliver services.

Some Anuak have spoken to human rights activists about beatings and rapes by soldiers who enforced their resettlement.

Saudi Star CE Jemal Ahmed is resentful that, when a company such as Saudi Star tries to invest, it comes under attack from foreign activists. Saudi Star has tangled for years with activists from the Oakland Institute and Human Rights Watch, who have compiled reports on Ethiopia’s land investment programme and the heavy-handed ways in which, they allege, the government shifts locals out of the way.

Ahmed denies such claims. “No one was living in this area,” he says. He objects to attempts to portray Amoudi as “a man who came to take advantage of Ethiopia’s people, to take their ancestral land”.

FOR Ahmed, the land venture is part of a plan to drive Ethiopia into the 21st century. “All the indigenous groups have had a rough time. They need more investment. And better governance. And civilisation.”

In a cramped one-storey house in Nairobi, 14 Anuak men and women from Gambella gather. One after another, the refugees recall how they fled. Some arrived recently, driven by evictions linked to the villagisation programme.

Others, such as Omot Oluwoch, 37, came to the Kenyan capital after the pogroms of 2003, when mobs of highlanders attacked the Anuak. The Ethiopian military joined in, according to human rights groups. More than 400 died.

“The reason why we are being killed is because of the land,” Omot says. “The government looks down on us; they don’t want us to live there. It is like what happened under apartheid.”

Anuak leaders who opposed Addis Ababa were simply swept aside. The refugees rattle off names of Anuak intellectuals consigned to Addis Ababa’s jails. In some cases, the detentions appeared to be linked to criticism of the land deals.

One was a relative of Omot’s who worked as a translator for World Bank inspectors probing allegations of forced evictions in Gambella. He was arrested in March last year and faces what Human Rights Watch calls “spurious” charges of terrorism.

Okello Akway Ochalla, an Anuak former governor of Gambella who fled into exile in 2003, was detained and handed over to Ethiopian agents in 2014 during a trip to South Sudan, part of a tour to organise Anuak resistance to Addis Ababa.

He was flown back to Ethiopia and has been in jail there since. He faces charges under the counterterrorism law. The maximum penalty is death.

Akoth Adhom, a woman in her 60s, claims she knows of villages that have been relocated forcibly.

Asked who controls the land now, she says: “Al-Amoudi.”

THERE  is little evidence, even anecdotally, of evictions specifically to make way for investors. But the Anuak’s claim to their land is not based on titles to specific plots, explains Ojunni Ojulu Ochalla, a former nurse. “It does not mean that there is someone on every piece of land. Even in the bush, you have demarcated land: for hunting, conserving the forest, farming.

“The narrative is that this place is empty, (but) if you take the whole world, you are living only on a small part. That doesn’t mean someone can walk in and do what they want.”

A fault line of history — or, perhaps, of modernity — has opened up in Gambella. The forces of global markets have come up against the instinct to preserve a homeland.

If a global land rush is at hand, Gambella’s rift will not be the last.

Financial Times Limited 2016

Rural Ethiopia is in turmoil as large global investors, in line with a government strategy, take over tracts of land for commercial farming amid a growing interest in food security. Picture: SUPPLIED

Rural Ethiopia is in turmoil as large global investors, in line with a government strategy, take over tracts of land for commercial farming amid a growing interest in food security. Picture: SUPPLIED

AS AN orchestra of mosquitoes and crickets greet the dusk, Bedlu Abera looks out over fields of rice stretching across the Ethiopian lowlands.

A flicker of contentment crosses his face. “It’s satisfying,” he says. “We are making progress.”

Bedlu is overseeing Saudi Star Agricultural Development’s first substantial harvest, and there is an urgency to his work. The land must be cleared and planted swiftly before the rains return.

This remote spot is a frontier in a contest for land that stretches from Myanmar to Saskatchewan. Investors are betting billions on an asset that is both more abundant and more fiercely contested than any other. The struggle playing out in the Ethiopian lowlands is a glimpse of others to come in a crowded, warming world.

Bedlu took over as Saudi Star’s farm operations manager in 2014. The company’s proprietor, Saudi-Ethiopian tycoon Mohammed al-Amoudi, has spent more than $200m turning a swathe of bush into a farm the size of 20,000 soccer pitches. That puts the sheikh, as he is known, in the vanguard of a global land rush.

AS THE populations of better-off countries move to cities in greater numbers, the gap between the amount they grow and the amount they eat widens. Agricultural trade has long filled this gap.

But a price shock in 2007, when rates for staple crops doubled in months, showed that global markets for food can break down. When the financial crisis created demand for safer investments, governments, multinational companies and institutional funds started to pour billions into other countries’ land.

From Southeast Asia to Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, investors are seeking to profit not simply by trading the fruits of the earth, but by controlling the land itself. Few countries have attracted such attention as Ethiopia.

Saudi Star’s harvest was long overdue. In 2009, the firm took a 50-year lease on 10,000 hectares in the poor region of Gambella. Later, it added another 4,000 hectares by buying an adjacent farm.

The deal was one of the most high-profile transactions of an investment drive in which Ethiopia’s government leased 2.5-million hectares, an area slightly smaller than Belgium.

More than the same is again on offer now. The government’s stated goal is to bring in modern farming technology to generate exports that would help a serious balance-of-trade problem. Doing this, some say, would also cement the ruling elite’s control over Ethiopia’s lowlands.

November’s harvest was initially forecast to yield 10,000 tonnes of rice. But Saudi Star halved the outlook after poor rains. The company plans to spend another $100m by 2018 on more irrigation canals and machinery.

IF ITS engineers succeed, the farm’s yield will double, allowing annual production of 140,000 tonnes. That would be more than enough to supply the entire Ethiopian market. Beyond that lie lucrative markets in Saudi Arabia, the Arab emirates and East Africa.

Bedlu was part of a team Amoudi installed in 2014. The 4,000-strong staff includes 1,300 locals: 300 on permanent contracts and 1,000 seasonal labourers.

Saudi Star’s management has brought in commercial farming expertise and is trying to improve community relations. Bedlu is learning the language of the Anuak, the main ethnic group in the area.

But armed guards on the perimeter are a reminder of what happened in April 2012, when decades of lowlander grievances were unleashed on the sheikh’s farm. A group of gunmen, widely held to have been Anuak militants, opened fire at the company’s compound, killing at least five employees before fleeing.

Reprisals followed. According to Human Rights Watch, the military rounded up villagers, beating the men and raping the women.

The attack was a lesson for the new lords of the land. They can come with the promise of jobs and progress, but land is like the lion that prowls near Saudi Star’s farm: hard to tame.

ETHIOPIA is a nation of smallholders: 85% of employment is in agriculture and 95% of all agricultural produce comes from small farms. Of that, 80% is consumed by the farmers; only 20% is sold. A mere 5% of agricultural output comes from big commercial farms. Yet they are central to the government’s strategy.

Official figures show more than a decade of double-digit growth, with strong exports of coffee, livestock and cut flowers. Some question the numbers, but there is evidence of advancement too: new roads, telecoms infrastructure and dams.

The country is a self-styled “developmental state”: a nation, like China, Singapore or Rwanda, in which an authoritarian government sets a strict economic path.

The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) took power when it toppled the communist regime in 1991. Dominated by highlanders, as those from central and northern Ethiopia are known, it established a record for economic competence and intolerance of dissent.

For years, the EPRDF was opposed to the idea of commercial farms. That changed about a decade ago as donors encouraged foreign investment in agriculture. Since then, Ethiopia has been at the forefront of a global phenomenon.

Lorenzo Cotula, a senior researcher at the UK’s International Institute for Environment and Development, notes that population trends, climate change, urbanisation and other factors will keep piling pressure on valuable land.

“Land might be seen as an asset class by a fund manager,” he says, “but for many rural people, it is a foundation for social identity and food security.”

YET, OF the 2.5-million hectares leased in Ethiopia so far, only 35% has been developed. That is partly because of the difficulty of getting machinery and skilled manpower to remote corners of a landlocked country.

The government has cancelled seven leases after investors failed to deliver on their promises. Some domestic investors, who cumulatively have taken much more land than foreign ones, have simply stripped their plots for charcoal.

Abera Mulat, head of Ethiopia’s land investment agency, insists that no one with a rightful claim has been moved forcibly to make way for investors.

“There have been cases where people have come and said: ‘This is my land.’ If we are mistaken, then we will leave that land,” he says.

There have, however, been forced relocations under the government’s separate “villagisation” programme. This, the government says, is designed to group scattered communities into larger settlements to make it easier to deliver services.

Some Anuak have spoken to human rights activists about beatings and rapes by soldiers who enforced their resettlement.

Saudi Star CE Jemal Ahmed is resentful that, when a company such as Saudi Star tries to invest, it comes under attack from foreign activists. Saudi Star has tangled for years with activists from the Oakland Institute and Human Rights Watch, who have compiled reports on Ethiopia’s land investment programme and the heavy-handed ways in which, they allege, the government shifts locals out of the way.

Ahmed denies such claims. “No one was living in this area,” he says. He objects to attempts to portray Amoudi as “a man who came to take advantage of Ethiopia’s people, to take their ancestral land”.

FOR Ahmed, the land venture is part of a plan to drive Ethiopia into the 21st century. “All the indigenous groups have had a rough time. They need more investment. And better governance. And civilisation.”

In a cramped one-storey house in Nairobi, 14 Anuak men and women from Gambella gather. One after another, the refugees recall how they fled. Some arrived recently, driven by evictions linked to the villagisation programme.

Others, such as Omot Oluwoch, 37, came to the Kenyan capital after the pogroms of 2003, when mobs of highlanders attacked the Anuak. The Ethiopian military joined in, according to human rights groups. More than 400 died.

“The reason why we are being killed is because of the land,” Omot says. “The government looks down on us; they don’t want us to live there. It is like what happened under apartheid.”

Anuak leaders who opposed Addis Ababa were simply swept aside. The refugees rattle off names of Anuak intellectuals consigned to Addis Ababa’s jails. In some cases, the detentions appeared to be linked to criticism of the land deals.

One was a relative of Omot’s who worked as a translator for World Bank inspectors probing allegations of forced evictions in Gambella. He was arrested in March last year and faces what Human Rights Watch calls “spurious” charges of terrorism.

Okello Akway Ochalla, an Anuak former governor of Gambella who fled into exile in 2003, was detained and handed over to Ethiopian agents in 2014 during a trip to South Sudan, part of a tour to organise Anuak resistance to Addis Ababa.

He was flown back to Ethiopia and has been in jail there since. He faces charges under the counterterrorism law. The maximum penalty is death.

Akoth Adhom, a woman in her 60s, claims she knows of villages that have been relocated forcibly.

Asked who controls the land now, she says: “Al-Amoudi.”

THERE  is little evidence, even anecdotally, of evictions specifically to make way for investors. But the Anuak’s claim to their land is not based on titles to specific plots, explains Ojunni Ojulu Ochalla, a former nurse. “It does not mean that there is someone on every piece of land. Even in the bush, you have demarcated land: for hunting, conserving the forest, farming.

“The narrative is that this place is empty, (but) if you take the whole world, you are living only on a small part. That doesn’t mean someone can walk in and do what they want.”

A fault line of history — or, perhaps, of modernity — has opened up in Gambella. The forces of global markets have come up against the instinct to preserve a homeland.

If a global land rush is at hand, Gambella’s rift will not be the last.

Financial Times Limited 2016

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