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Thursday, May 31, 2012

AfDB Launches Initiative to Invest in Agribusiness in Africa


This initiative has the potential to catalyze unprecedented levels of investments into the agribusiness sector throughout the African continent


Press Release

ARUSHA, Tanzania, May 30, 2012/ -- The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) (http://www.afdb.org) launched today, at the AfDB Annual General Meetings, a Fund of Funds focused on agribusiness investments on the African continent. This transformative initiative will address growing food security concerns and unleash the largely untapped potential of the African agriculture and agribusiness sectors.

The launch of the initiative comes as African agriculture and food security gain increasing prominence on the global agenda, with the recent G8 Summit in Camp David pledging to promote investments in sustainable agriculture on the continent. Speaking from Camp David, AfDB President Donald Kaberuka stated: “There was broad consensus that it is the right thing to do, it is doable and it’s good for the world. The Summit was about growth, and growth in Africa begins with agriculture.”

“This initiative has the potential to catalyze unprecedented levels of investments into the agribusiness sector throughout the African continent. The potential will of course only materialize through efficient and responsive implementation.

I have no doubt that with the combined experience of the international fund manager, its local African banking partner, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)as environmental advisor, and AfDB's oversight as sponsor, this transformative goal will be achieved in the medium term,” says Mouhamadou Niang, Manager at AfDB’s Private Sector Department.

The Fund of Funds will be in compliance with a state-of-the-art environmental and social management system, currently being developed by AfDB in cooperation with the WWF. The initiative is in line with AfDB’s strategy to support private sector development on the continent.

It is complementary to current efforts undertaken by AfDB’s in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in the context of the African Agribusiness and Agro-industries Development Initiative (3ADI).

As the first initiative of this nature on the continent, this Fund of funds will catalyze investment into the agribusiness sector with the ultimate goal of inclusive job creation and promoting innovative, environmentally sustainable approaches throughout the agribusiness value chain.


Distributed by the African Press Organization on behalf of the African Development Bank.


Contact:

Technical:
Carlotta Saporito
Tel: +216 7110 3223

Media:
Onike Nicol Houira
Tel: +216 7110 3227

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Measles Epidemic in Uganda


By Esther Nakkazi

For the past eight years, at the Stanfield 1A building, the children’s ward at Uganda Mulago Referral hospital, the measles ward was not busy. Half way through this period it was closed. There were no measles patients.

Now, at least one patient dies every other day at the measles ward as the country handles an epidemic that started last year in October. 

Measles, a vaccine preventable disease, which was almost wiped out in Uganda in 2009, with 95 percent reduced measles cases, is back and also spreading through porous borders to southern Sudan, northern Kenya and the DR Congo.

Dr. Sabrina Bakeera-Kitaka a pediatrician at Mulago hospital says the biggest problem is that parents forgot to take their children for immunization. ‘There was a general state of laxity by all the players.’

After the long spell of containing measles in the communities and nationwide, parents and health workers relaxed and put other priorities ahead of them. Children admission numbers to this measles ward have now soured recording 183, 206 and 363 cases in the months of February, March and April this year and the severity of the cases has increased.

Deaths statistics have increased in tandem at the ward from an average 0.8 to 1.8 percent to 2.4 to 3.4 percent mortality per month.

According to Caroline Namukwaya, the Sister in Charge at Stanfield ward, most of the patients come in very sick with measles and malnutrition. She blamed cultural inhibitions for fuelling the risks as parents deny children proteins in their diets with the hope that they will feel better without them.

Culturally, while infected with measles, children are not fed on meat or milk. They are stuffed with small fish with no salt and smeared with squashed ripe bananas and sheep’s ghee but this only increases their state of malnourishment in a suppressed immunity.

“When a child gets measles they need all the proteins to keep them healthy. Measles is severe, fatal and patients should not be made to lack any nutrients or kept at home,” said Dr. Bakeera-Kitaka.

Measles presents as an acute viral respiratory disease that affects the largest organ of the body, the skin, and all other organs. It also presents itself especially in children with high fever, rashes and vomiting.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says about 777,000 childhood deaths occur every year worldwide, with more than half occurring in Africa.

Dr. Richard Nduhura the state minister for Health says there are 5,211 confirmed measles cases in 46 districts. He said the government is planning to respond through a mass measles immunization campaign this week starting on Saturday.

Children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years will be vaccinated in the mass campaign in a move aimed at creating herd immunity, up to 90 percent coverage, in the hope that it will reverse the epidemic.

Of concern now is the falling vaccination national average rates in Uganda, which stand at 67 percent, combined with the fact that immunogenicity wears off after every five years. But there are worries that parents may still not take their children for immunization based on their perceptions about risk.

“I remember in 2002 during a mass measles immunization exercise, we brought our own children to Mulago to how the public that it was not dangerous,” said Dr. Bakeera-Kitaka.

Although health experts have emphasized that vaccinating carries fewer risks than not vaccinating, many parents in the developing world still view vaccination as doing something dangerous to their children.

Vaccines are considered one of public health’s ‘best buys’. A measles vaccine costs less than half a dollar, 0.38 cents. It is also a significant contributor to the Millennium Development Goals, particularly MDG 4—a two-thirds reduction in child mortality by 2015.



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Monday, May 21, 2012

NITA-Uganda to hire firm to manage the national fibre optic cable


By Esther Nakkazi
Uganda is in the final stages of contracting a firm to manage the National data transmission and e-government infrastructure project after a forensic technical audit by the Kenya based East Africa Telecoms Infrastructure Limited.

The National Information Technology Authority-Uganda (NITA-U), which is in charge of the project said the contracted firm will manage and maintain the fibre optic cable infrastructure on behalf of government after a verification drive for userbility is completed.

According to Charlotte Ampaire, the spokesperson of NITA-U, the procurement process will be complete by June this year. But stakeholders say NITA-U could be presenting limping infrastructure to a commercial manager, which NITA-U has refuted vehemently.

The government conceived the NBI/EGI project to facilitate e-Governance and to extend connectivity to submarine cables at the border with Kenya as well as provide access to cheap Internet across the entire country to spur job creation.

NITA-U has carried out verification to ensure that all defects have been addressed and a report to that effect has been submitted to our management to review and approve the works before closure of the forensic technical audit said Ampaire.

A Chinese leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider, Huawei, was contracted by the Uganda government five years ago to lay a fibre optic cable in a $106 million NBI/EGI project to areas that were not seen as commercial for the private sector.

However, the work done by the Chinese firm was found to be substandard prompting a forensic technical audit in 2010, which found mishaps like the cable depth was too shallow at 0.9m instead of 1.2m exposing it to vandalism and accidental damage caused by road contractors to plus it had no thunder lines and some of it was suspended through septic tanks without protection.

“Huawei acknowledged these mishaps and committed to fixing them at their own cost,” said Edward Baliddawa, a member of Parliament on the ICT committee of Uganda parliament.

The audit also found that the cable posed cyber insecurity, as almost all routers did not have console password protection, meaning anyone could login into the router and access information.

And the network design was also found to be faulty at some sites with a couple of spur sites, meaning they have no self healing when damage is inflicted which increases downtimes as a result of fiber cuts or card failures.

The forensic audit team carried out random spot checks of the fibre and preferential checks to features such as bridges, manholes, drainages and road crossings.

The audit was meant to ensure that all installations, equipment and construction carried out by Huawei, was in conformity to the agreed designs, whether there was value for money and to identity the impact of the project on the environment.

Fortunately, the team did not observe any significant impacts that the installation of the cable made on the environment and no major pollution was witnessed and recorded, says the report.

NITA-U officials acknowledge that most of the issues found by the audit was with the quality of the outside plant works. But from the forensic audit “the general conclusion is that the cable was laid as per contractual design and specifications, the equipment was installed and is in good condition,” said Ampaire.

While stakeholders say with poor supervision to the contractor, the badly laid fibre optic cable is now limping suffering multiple cuts everyday by ignorant, mistaken and malicious locals and from uncoordinated activities with the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) repairing roads.

“One of the most outstanding observation we made out of this excise is that in the 1st phase of the NBI, there was no independent supervisor. The Ministry of ICT depended on what the contractor told them and this was very unfortunate,” said Baliddawa.

Some firms that were sub-contracted by Huawei to work on the project are also unhappy that they have never been paid by the Chinese, which has reduced their operations due to limited capital while others closed shop altogether complaining about delay in payment.

Our operations have stalled, suppliers are not forth coming and interest is amassing in the bank because Huawei has failed to us, said one of the subcontractors.

“We have been repairing this cable over and over again. We did our part but Huawei says if they do not get their Provisional Acceptance Certificate (PAC) from the government, they cannot pay us but this is unfair,” said another sub-contractor.
Another sub-contractor said they are suffering due to government’s inefficiency, which failed to supervise the contractor now they are lumping their problems on them- the small firms.

“All notwithstanding, our focus should be on ensuring that the NBI is commercialized, the third phase is embarked on very soon and that NITA should now embark on making strategies for providing the last mile connectivity solutions off the NBI to most of the rural areas,” said Baliddawa.

The NBI/EGI project is to be implemented in four phases; phase I estimated to have 168 Kilometer of fibre optic cable to link five towns including Mukono, Bombo, Entebbe and Jinja to Kampala completed in 2007 while phase II estimated to involve the laying of approximately 1477 kilometers of Optical Fiber Cable across the country to extend the national backbone to all parts of the Country is nearing completion.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hope for fertilizer response for African farmers

By Esther Nakkazi

Plants get their water and nutrients from the soil. Sometimes they obtain nutrients from fertilizers added to the soil. We get nutrients from plants. In Africa, however, there is limited knowledge on the type of soils, which soils respond to which fertilizer and what nutrients can be added to boost crop production for food security.

Soil field trials across Africa, however, to investigate the responsiveness or the lack of it, by her soils to fertilizers are going on by the Nairobi based World Agroforestry centre (ICRAF) in partnership with the Globally Integrated Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) project.

“We are hoping to get a fertilizer response for African farmers,” said Mercy Nyambura a researcher, at the soil-plant spectral diagnostics laboratory at ICRAF. “African farmers have been using fertilizers with no changes in crop yields, we hope this can encourage them to use more and the right fertilizers.”

Studies show that fertilizer use in Africa is by far the lowest in the world. On average, African farmers apply about 9 kg per hectare of fertilizer compared to 86 kg per hectare in Latin America and 142 kg per hectare in Southeast Asia.

African farmers also do not know the mineralogy and the micro nutrient value of the soils they are dealing with, so the commonly used ammonia, phosphorus, and organic fixing fertilizers have not been responsive to crop yields.

“We need to be better informed. Most of the fertilizers used are generalized. WE shall create fertilizer formulas and combinations that are specific for certain soils for Africa,” said Nyambura.

The information generated will benefit African farmers, extension workers, agricultural institutes, the private sector dealing in fertilizers and others to use and sell the most appropriate type of fertilizer or treatment for their specific soil type.

“This information will allow farmers to set realistic yield targets and inform them of the inputs required to achieve them,” said Dr Jeroen Huising, a senior scientist at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) who is leading this effort with other national research organizations.

ICRAF officials said this would boost Africa’s agricultural productivity and greatly increase the efficiency of resource use, ensuring that money is not lost on inappropriate fertilizer type.

So far, this is one of the focused, practical, evidence-based solutions that will deal with Africa’s food insecurity, hunger, malnutrition and soil degradation. Africa’s agricultural yields and farm incomes have been stagnant for the last four decades according to research.

How it is being done:

The project is doing this by gathering soil samples from all over Africa. At least 16,000 soil samples will be examined and analyzed, with 320 different soils from the 54 countries across Africa.

The analysis will seek to come up with some common patterns in crop responses to fertilizer application and to degradation processes; to classify responsive soils — those showing a significant response to fertilizer applications — and those that only show a marginal response to fertilizer application.

Ultimately, an African soil profiles database will be available at ICRAF under the AfSIS project, with 14,000–20,000 profile records by the end of 2012. So far the Database has over 12,000 soil profile records for 37 countries, with some of this data collected over the years by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other organisations.

The soil data available by the end of this year at ICRAF will also be standardized, in digital form, up-to-date, more accurate with soils’ properties to provide knowledge about the condition and trend of African soils and their ability to support agriculture in Africa, said Elvis Weullow, a senior laboratory technician at ICRAF.

The AfSIS project is part of a wider, global initiative to digitally map the World’s soil resources, by a team of scientists at ISRIC - World Soil Information, which contributes to the project as part of the global digital soil map consortium – GlobalSoilMap.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Support Initiative for People with atypical Sex Development


Press Release; Uganda Health and Science Press Association

Two human rights groups in Uganda have this morning launched a documentary: She is My Son- The Pain of being an Intersex person in Uganda, with a call on government to protect intersex people by availing families with information on intersexuality.

The two organizations, Support Initiative for People with atypical Sex Development (Sipd Uganda) and Uganda Health and Science Press Association noted with concern that many intersex people are denied their full potential in life for simply being who they are.

The documentary has also been posted on you tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMfRrc64rl4&feature=share. Mr. Julius Kaggwa, the SIPD Uganda Executive Director said while launching the documentary that intersex people face discrimination, isolation and stigma based on their genital make up and other conditions that not necessarily lead to ambigious genitalia.

“The current approach in treatment is that health workers and families are using the concealment oriented approach. They undertake surgery without the express consent of the intersex individual,” Mr Kaggwa said.

He also noted with concern that the tests which are undertaken before surgery are in many cases especially for young children are disputable. “For example an estrogen test may be taken on a child and a decision is reached for surgery, yet at puberty for example, a similar test would determine which genital is predominant,” he said.

There are also legal challenges in Uganda, where there is no third gender, yet some intersex would want to be counted among “the other.” “In some case female hormones are not enough to make a particular person a woman, neither are the male hormones. How then do you legally characterize such a person without traumatizing them. This calls for information availability to the public, but also for the legal and policy makers in this country,” Mr. Kaggwa added.

“This is a volunteer documentary, a first to highlight the plight of intersex people to the wider global community,” Mr. Kikonyogo Kivumbi, the Uhspa Uganda Executive Director said at the launch in Kampala.

He called on government to promote the intersex people’s rights to health and education as Ugandans. “I also appeal to the Uganda Pediatric Association, a consortium of pediatric experts to come out and senstise people on intersex. Many people wrongly think that all intersex are homosexuals. Certainly the children doctors can clarify this to end stigma.” Kikonyogo added

Media contacts:

Julius Kaggwa : +256784251819, sipd.uganda@gmail.com

Tom Makumbi: +256773231066, makumbisipd@gmail.com

Kikonyogo Kivumbi: +256752628406, kikonyogo.k@gmail.com ( for Kiswahili)
                      


Friday, May 11, 2012

Leaders Rally Private Sector Investment to Accelerate Agricultural Transformation


Press Release; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 10 May 2012 – African agriculture is undergoing a transformation, creating a new era of opportunity for both farmers and investors, according to African and global leaders at the World Economic Forum on Africa.

The Grow Africa Investment Forum, convened jointly by the African Union, NEPAD and the World Economic Forum, engaged over 270 leaders including heads of state and government from Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania, as well as leaders of African and global business, international and donor agencies and farmer organizations.

Participants noted that African agriculture offers tremendous growth potential to investors which can strengthen food security and economic opportunity on the continent. Greater private-sector investment and improvements to the business enabling environment are needed to capture that potential.

Leaders noted that much of agriculture’s potential remains untapped. Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, said “we have scratched the surface, but we haven’t yet broken the mould. When we do that, you will see the explosion of development in Africa.”

Seven countries showcased specific investment and partnership opportunities aligned to their national priorities for agricultural transformation. Jakaya Kikwete, President of Tanzania, said: “We are ready to do business, that’s why we came to this meeting.” 



He noted that Tanzania’s agriculture investment strategy prioritizes groups that can most benefit from new market opportunities. “When we bring in the private sector, it is to benefit the smallholder farmers. We need to modernize agriculture and make it more attractive to youth.” Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, noted that “we can mobilize farmers into an entrepreneurial mindset and create new opportunities for women, youth and rural entrepreneurs.”

The Grow Africa partnership has developed significant momentum since it was catalysed by African and global leaders at the 2011 World Economic Forum on Africa. Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union, said “the Grow Africa platform is open to all countries, and can accelerate the implementation of national investment plans developed through the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP).”

The potential seen in African agriculture presents a transformational opportunity, according to Josette Sheeran, Vice-Chairman of the World Economic Forum. “We’re at a tipping point,” she said. “Working together, we can ensure that when we meet in 10 years, it will be in an Africa that is not only feeding itself, but helping to feed the world.”

A total of 116 companies participated in the Grow Africa Investment Forum, including 49 African and 47 multinational companies, plus 20 from other regions such as Asia and the Middle East. Jean-Louis Ekra, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors, African Export-Import Bank, said “much of the investment in Africa can come from Africa if we provide the right financing mechanisms and policy environment.”

Frank Braeken, Executive Vice-President, Unilever, said “African leaders are defining new ways to leverage the agriculture sector as a driver of inclusive and sustainable growth. This offers new agribusiness opportunities that are increasingly attractive to investors.”

Participants agreed that empowering African farmers will be central to success. “Smallholder farmers are a sleeping giant in Africa. That sleeping giant needs to be mobilized into collective action groups,” said Dyborn Chibonga, Chief Executive Officer of the National Smallholder Farmers' Association of Malawi.

The Grow Africa partnership is coordinated by the African Union, NEPAD and the World Economic Forum with a goal of galvanizing sustainable investment into African agriculture, based on country-led priorities. Grow Africa builds upon the CAADP, which works to boost African agricultural productivity through sector development plans. Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia are the first countries to engage with Grow Africa.

At the World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa, which followed the Grow Africa Investment Forum, Prime Minister Zenawi said Africa has a key role to play in meeting world food demand. The way to realize this is through a transformation of small-scale farming on the continent. Increasing the productivity of small farmers and having them well organized and collaborative, to take advantage of supply chains and investments, will bring the best results, said Zenawi. 



Ethiopia has achieved commendable gains in agricultural productivity using this model in recent years, setting aside 16% of its national budget to agriculture – well above the 10% to which all African governments have committed themselves.

President Kikwete added that governments have an important role to play in providing support in areas of irrigation, inputs and building commodity markets. However, private sector investment is also essential to avoid over-dependence on subsidies.


For more information about Grow Africa:


Contact: e-mail: info@growafrica.com, telephone: +271 10 838 360, Twitter: @growafricaforum

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Global Fund Forecasts $1.6 Billion in "Additional Funding" for New Grants

Global Fund Newsletter

Amount includes up to $616 million for the TFM

Consultations will be held on how to invest the remaining $1 billion

The Global Fund forecasts that $1.6 billion will be available for new grants for the period 2012-2014. The statement was made in a press release issued on the eve of the Board meeting that starts today in Geneva. In a separate press release welcoming the Global Fund announcement, Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS said, "This ushers in a new era for the Global Fund."
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the $1.6 billion figure includes $616 million for the Transitional Funding Mechanism (TFM). The $616 million amount constitutes the total demand from applications received for the TFM. The total may fluctuate following clarifications from applicants and review of the proposals by the Technical Review Panel. The final total will likely be less than $616 million.
The $1.6 billion forecast is over and above $500 million that has been set aside for "contingency" in case there are shortfalls in expected donations, exchange-rate losses and other unanticipated expenditures.
In its press release, the Global Fund said that the new forecast "is a result of strategic decisions made by the Board, freeing up funds that can be invested in countries where there is the most pressing demand, and adopting a plan to transform the Global Fund... Like any forecast, it is subject to fluctuation and change in coming months."
"This forecast is better than expected, and it comes from the fantastic response we are getting to our transformation," said General Manager Gabriel Jaramillo.
According to the Fund's press release, renewed confidence in the effectiveness of the Global Fund has led to new donations from some countries, and accelerated donations from others. The Fund said that some recipient countries "have volunteered to forgo some funds in favor of less fortunate nations that have more pressing needs." An article in Reuters quotes Mr Jaramillo as identifying China as one of the countries that is forgoing funds.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the US is one of the donors that will deliver some contributions earlier. Quoting people "familiar with the new fund forecast," the newspaper says that the US has told the fund it will speed up some disbursements to get $226 million more into the fund's hands within the 2012-2014 time period. The US has pledged $4 billion over US fiscal years 2011 through 2013, subject to approval from Congress.
The Global Fund said that "a first portion of the available funding can be put to work" as soon as the TFM proposals have been reviewed and those recommended for funding have been approved. "Investing the additional $1 billion most effectively will be the subject of consultations with countries and partners."
"By getting ourselves onto a sound financial footing and transforming the way we do business, we can now accelerate funding and we can make significant progress towards the Millennium Development Goals," said Simon Bland, Board Chair.
The revenue forecast and the timing and nature of the next funding opportunity are expected to be the subject of much discussion at this Board meeting, both at the table and in the corridors.
Information for this article was taken from a Global Fund press release, an article by Reuters, and an article in the Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fly it to the toilet

By Esther Nakkazi

Walk through any slum late at night in Kampala, you’ll smell and may be hit by what is ordinary in Africa’s slums; flying toilets.

Flying toilets are common among people who live in slums, near the lake and on the street. Users poo in polythene bags and hurl the waste onto roof tops, into the lake and in streets’ flower gardens. If you are a first time visitor to such places you find it odd, but to regulars it is a way of life.

Jessica Nankinga lives in one of the Kampala, slums in Kisenyi. The 26 year old, who sells fried cassava and mandazi by the roadside shares a latrine with seven other families.

On a typical rainy day, Nankinga says it is almost impossible to go to the toilet. On such days she also tries to keep her two children, Alex Mubiru, 8 years and Linda Nansubuga 3 years, indoors after school.

Jessica shares with her children a single roomed house, one among a line of 8 other such houses that look alike; dilapidated, leaking roof, faded paint on the walls scratched all over by kids learning to write and all share one latrine.

“When it rains you cannot go to the toilet. It is muddy and dirty,” she said with a sneer. The drainage trench near her house contains a lot of trash and sometimes poo. When it rains it floods to bring a stinking smell that makes her want to ‘vomit’.

The family urinates in a small bucket at night, which is poured in the same stinking drainage every morning. Linda's poo is poured three too, sometimes, with no adult watchful eyes.

Linda being young, has a small potty, but has almost outgrown it. In future she will have to be escorted by her mother or brother to the latrine. It is also a rubbish pit, a grave- women who have illegal abortions throw in their fetuses and unwanted newborn babies cry out from down below and if loud enough to be heard are rescued by police.

“When it rains we resort to flying toilets especially for the children,” Jessica says shyly smiling. But only for the children she emphasizes. The husband left her for another woman, a year ago, she laments.

Sanitation experts from WaterAid say absolute poverty in some urban slum areas and the absence of property and land tenure rights further hinder investments from the landlords in sanitation facilities.

Official statistics suggest that about 60 percent of Uganda’s residents have no access to adequate sanitation, with no safe, reliable toilet or latrine and Uganda may never hit the MDG sanitation target.

Reducing by half the number of people who don’t have access to basic sanitation is a key target of the United Nations’ 2015 Millennium Development Goals.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) unsafe methods to capture and store waste leads to serious health problems and death. Disease caused by unsafe sanitation accounts for roughly half of all hospitalizations in the developing world says WHO.

Access to safe sanitation reduces child diarrhea by 30 percent and significantly increases school attendance, which is especially true of women and girls, who often miss work or school when they are menstruating and risk sexual assault when they are forced to defecate in the open or use public restrooms.

History of toilets in Uganda:

During the colonial days, in the 1950’s, every household had a toilet, latrine coverage was 100 percent, and sanitation was promoted by colonialists and chiefs enforced pit latrines construction.

As a way to promote hygiene and sanitation, each household had a dish rack for drying the household cutlery, a bathing shelter for a bathroom, a pit latrine and a granary for storing food.

All the materials used in the household hygiene and sanitation system were locally available. Particularly, a shrub with soft, wide, sweet smelling leaves was planted near the pit latrine to be used as toilet tissue. Some households still use it to date.

The pit latrine, built 15-20 metres deep and 30 metres away from the home was used by at least 10 members of a household and would last for about 15-20 years.

But now with population pressure, there is not much space to even build the latrines away from the households or build them at all. Among the worst institutions are police stations and islands some with no toilets. For instance, a single Island on Lake Victoria with 7,000 residents has one toilet, forcing most people to open defecation or flying toilets.

John Kibenge based in Kampala, a latrilologist, (person who builds latrines) says they are not following those standards (mentioned above) anymore because of overcrowding, poverty and low enforcement of the law.

Latrine construction on islands is also difficult because the ground is rocky and soils are sandy, says Kibenge. But even if they were built most fisherfolks have taboos that limit them from defecating in toilets. EcoSan toilets where they add ash are suitable for rocky and sandy areas or where people cannot excavate a pit, where there are loose soils, where the water table is low and in highly populated areas but they are still not so popular.

Toilet laws in Uganda;

The Public Health Act of 1964, with various sanitation and waste related ordinances or by-laws prepared by local government were formulated after Uganda attained independence in the same year.

Now sanitation is not a priority, inspite of the population growth and rural-urban migration. A World Bank study, ‘Scaling up sanitation and hygiene in Uganda 2007’, shows a declining trend in latrine coverage with 98% coverage in 1960’s and going down to 45% and 20% in the1970’s and 1980’s respectively due to political turmoil.

In 1974 the government enacted a new law that required each household to construct a pit latrine - 30 metres away from the house and 15 meters deep. Even if the law was tough then with a fine of Shs. 20 (less than a $ cent today) or the head of the household getting arrested and tried by the village courts, many households defaulted on having pit latrines.

Increasingly in the rural areas now, people get arrested and publicly embarrassed for not having latrines. Some districts have by-laws that require each household to have a latrine.

According to the World Bank, latrine coverage in Uganda today has stagnated at 60 percent since 2002. Studies also show that 75 percent of Uganda’s disease burden is preventable and linked to poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation facilities and practices.

The provision of sanitation is a key development intervention, which also improves an individual’s health, well-being and economic productivity. More than a billion people defecate in the open and there has been no toilet innovation in the past 200 years

During an AfricaSan conference held in Kigali 2011, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the launch of a strategy to help bring safe, clean sanitation services to millions of poor people in the developing world.

The Gates Foundation announced $42 million in new sanitation grants- that must cost no more than 5 cents per person per day and be easy to install, use, and maintain- for innovations in the capture and storage of waste, as well as its processing into reusable energy, fertilizer, and fresh water.

A five year challenge to reinvent the toilet was also announced; with $3 million, put up to support eight universities across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America to reinvent the toilet as a stand-alone unit without piped-in water, a sewer connection, or outside electricity—all for less than 5 cents a day.

$17 million was put up by WASH for Life, a collaboration with USAID and the Gates Foundation to identify, test, and help scale evidence-based approaches to delivering water, sanitation, and hygiene services to the poor.

The African Water Facility looped in $12 million from the Africa Development Bank in funding for the development of sanitation pilot projects that may include fecal sludge management services in sub-Saharan Africa.

Water Services Trust Fund and German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), in a project co-funded by the German and Kenyan governments, the foundation is provided $10 million to support efforts to scale up sustainable water and sanitation services in Kenya.

With these efforts, Sanitation may be back on the priority lists of some African countries. For now, Uganda is dogged with sector fragmentation and sanitation is still not a priority.

Ends.

Study in Rwanda Finds Influx of HIV/AIDS Funding Does Not Undermine Health Care Services for Other Diseases

Press Release

While the battle against HIV/AIDS attracts more donor funding globally than all other diseases combined, it has not diverted attention from fighting unrelated afflictions -- such as malaria, measles and malnutrition -- and may be improving health services overall in targeted countries, according to a study on Rwanda published today in the May 2012 edition of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

A six-year investigation of health clinics in Rwanda by researchers at Brandeis University infuses fresh evidence into a long-standing debate about whether the intensive focus on HIV/AIDS, which in 2010 alone killed 1.8 million people, is undermining other health services, particularly in African countries that are at the epicenter of the pandemic. For example, between 2002 and 2006, one-third of funds from wealthy countries earmarked for health and population programs abroad were committed to fighting HIV/AIDS.

“We found that when health clinics in Rwanda expanded AIDS services, these efforts had no adverse effects on other types of health care,” said Donald S. Shepard, PhD, a professor at Brandeis’ Schneider Institute for Health Policy and the study’s lead author. “There is even evidence that clinics that have received funding for HIV/AIDS services provide better care for all patients, including superior prevention services, than do clinics without AIDS programs.”

Shepard and his colleagues note that their study differs from past efforts to analyze the issue because their investigation focused on the actual performance of health centers rather than on “inputs” such as overall spending on facilities or staff. For example, for the Rwanda study, the researchers collected data on the number of vaccines administered, visits for child growth monitoring, and non-HIV/AIDS hospitalizations.

They concluded that “for most indicators examined, there were neither prominent diversions nor enhancement effects” after AIDS services were inaugurated in the health centers. However, there was evidence that the health centers that offered AIDS services provided better preventive care than those that did not, including superior delivery of childhood vaccinations.

For several years advocates for childhood immunization, tuberculosis control and those seeking a general improvement in health services in poor countries have expressed concern that HIV/AIDS prevention and care activities are crowding out other deserving public health programs. Meanwhile, on the opposite side are advocates who argue that the sharp increase in HIV/AIDS funding is a rising tide that lifts all boats, bringing improvements in such areas as laboratories, disease surveillance, human resources, and information systems that generate broad benefits across the health care system.

The authors noted that this study was designed to answer concerns, such as in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization in 2006 about HIV funding “crowding out resources,” for the many other health issues in the world’s poorest people. The debate has become more heated since 2008 when the economic crisis squeezed public spending in industrialized countries, thus intensifying competition for international aid among a number of worthy causes.

Shepard and his colleagues, including researchers from the public policy consulting firm Abt Associates, explored the issue by comparing the state of treatment and prevention services at 25 rural health centers in Rwanda that launched comprehensive HIV/AIDS interventions between 2002 and 2006 to 25 centers that did not engage in these activities.

They noted that Rwanda is a particularly good location to consider the impact of HIV/AIDS funding on health services because the country has received a substantial investment from international donors to address the disease, and its experience has been used to support both sides of the debate regarding the impact of AIDS spending. In 1996, the HIV infection rate in Rwanda was 6.9 percent among the rural population; the latest data show a 2.3 percent prevalence of disease in rural populations and 95 percent coverage of anti-retroviral treatment.

“Rwanda’s progress against HIV/AIDS has not come at the expense of addressing other health needs,” Shepard added. “While the differences between the health centers was not large, we did find indications that the AIDS funding may be having spill-over effect in terms of improving overall quality of care,” Shepard said. For example, Shepard and his colleagues speculate that by simultaneously providing AIDS services along with a variety of other family health care interventions, the clinics that offer AIDS treatment may have more encounters with children who would otherwise miss their vaccinations.

The researchers were not able to measure other ways in which the AIDS funding could have benefited health services overall by, for example, streamlining drug procurement or improving information systems. They also acknowledge that the central finding—that the AIDS funding did not have a negative effect on non-AIDS health services—could be attributed to the fact that Rwanda has done an exceptional job of integrating AIDS services into the national health system.

However, they note that the experience in Rwanda adds to a growing body of evidence from several countries that AIDS-related funding is not adversely affecting non-AIDS services. For example, a study from Ethiopia found that while the increase in AIDS funding might have encouraged health professionals from the public sector to take positions with non-governmental organizations, mortality rates nationwide nonetheless dropped, immunization rates increased, and pre-natal care improved.

“What is at the heart of this research is that the science community is unified by its commitment to improved health for all,” said James W. Kazura, MD, President of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, which publishes the journal, and Director of the Center for Global Health and Diseases at Case Western Reserve University. “To reach that goal, evaluating the effectiveness of all our disease control efforts will help policymakers to make appropriate, evidence-based decisions.”

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About the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
ASTMH, founded in 1903, is a worldwide organization of scientists, clinicians and program professionals whose mission is to promote global health through the prevention and control of infectious and other diseases that disproportionately afflict the global poor.

AGRA Launches Pan-African Support Centre for Farmer Organization in Africa

Press Release May, 2012: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) today launched the Farmer Organizations Support Centre in Africa (FOSCA), a new initiative meant to provide support to Farmer Organizations (FOs) in the country and Africa as a whole. The program is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Speaking at the launch, the acting Minister for Food and Agriculture, Mr. Mike Hammer said: “Agriculture plays a pivotal role in the attainment of food security, as well as the promotion of good health and environmental sustainability in almost all Sub-Saharan African economies. A viable and sustainable economic development can only be achieved through the transformation and modernization of the agricultural sector.”

“It is heart-warming that AGRA is also coming on board to support our efforts to develop farmer organizations. We are delighted that AGRA has provided seed money for 1,700 input dealers in the Northern and Ashanti Regions of Ghana and is collaborating with other partners to improve upon agricultural development in the Northern Region,” he added.

“The new initiative aims to strengthen the managerial, organizational and technical capacity of Farmer Organizations with the aim of transforming them to provide demand-driven and income enhancing services to their members,” said Dr. David Ameyaw, AGRA’s Director for Monitoring and Evaluation. “FOSCA’s strategic objective is to increase smallholder farmers’ incomes and thus improve their livelihoods through effective and efficient FOs that delivers on the needs of their members. “

Mr. Fadel Ndiame, Lead Coordinator of FOSCA said: “We want to better understand the needs of our members and be in a position to provide them with the best. It is with this mindset that FOSCA has now come into fruition as a supporting program in AGRA. We hope that Farmer Organizations all over the country and in Africa will support this initiative and be open as we need their support to make this initiative a success”.

“The potential of agriculture in this country and Africa has not been fully realized and we have the opportunity and capacity to reach its full potential. It is therefore necessary that we approach it with the right tools and resources,” he added.

FOSCA will work directly with communities to ensure that farmers are the direct beneficiaries. With most farming practices stemming from experience, FOSCA hopes to document the practises and build on the knowledge base of the Farmer Organizations thereby finding more efficient and better alternatives to them. The program hopes to reach 220,000 smallholder farmers with income and production improvements services to improve the capacities of at least 70 Farmer Organizations.

The event was attended by a cross-section of farmer organizations from across Africa including East Africa KENFAP, Sacau-South Africa, RDO and RWAARI-Rwanda, ROPPA, ZNFU from Zambia, Malawi, APFOG-Ghana, Swish Cooperation, African Development Bank, DANIDA, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, among others.
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For more information, please visit www.agra.org

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

2nd African Organic Conference discusses plan to expand organic farming


Press Release
Lusaka, Zambia, 2 May 2012 – Expanding Africa’s shift towards organic farming will be good for the continent’s nutritional needs, good for the environment, good for farmers’ incomes, and good for African markets and employment, UNCTAD’s Deputy Secretary-General said at a conference here today.

The 2nd African Organic Conference, which runs from 2 to 4 May, has the theme of “Mainstreaming organic agriculture into the African development agenda.”

UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Petko Draganov told the opening session, “Organic agriculture can offer an impressive array of food security, economic, environmental, and health benefits for developing countries, including in Africa.”

Mr. Draganov said UNCTAD strongly supports the growing use of organic farming practices on the continent – Africa already has more certified organic farms than any other continent – and noted that this form of agriculture comprehensively illustrates the central topic of UNCTAD’s just concluded quadrennial conference in Doha, Qatar: “Development-centred globalization: Towards inclusive and sustainable growth and development.”

“The conference emphasized the importance of food security, sustainable agriculture, and a transition towards a ‘green’ economy,” Mr. Draganov said. “Clearly the subject of this meeting – organic agriculture – can have an important role in achieving sustainable and inclusive development.”

The three-day Lusaka meeting is jointly organized by UNCTAD, the African Union, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia (OPPAZ) and Grow Organic Africa. The conference has among its objectives the development of an African Organic Action Plan intended to spur expansion of the organic farming sector, streamline certification and “organic equivalency” systems that allow more vigorous trade in organic goods, and add to the continent’s markets for organic produce.

It has been clear for some years that organic farming “fits” Africa . Organic agriculture does not use artificial fertilizers and other chemicals, which are expensive for the continent’s farmers, as 90 per cent of these inputs are imported. It preserves and enhances the soil in a region where land degradation and expanding deserts are a serious concern.

It relies primarily on locally available renewable resources, which shields farmers from price shocks associated with external farming inputs; it frequently increases farm yields by 100 per cent or more; and it brings higher prices to farmers, since organic produce sells at a premium. In addition, it helps create jobs in rural regions – as organic inputs are usually produced locally – and helps to stem the tide of migrants from rural areas to African cities.

Mr. Draganov told the meeting that UNCTAD’s forthcoming Trade and Environment Review 2012 “will highlight the need for policy-makers to be aware of the potential of organic agriculture, and identify the measures and policies needed to support its wider application. We should all work together to increase awareness about organic agriculture and develop supportive policies and programmes to help it spread.”

UNCTAD has worked with IFOAM, FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for the past 10 years on reducing technical barriers to trade in organic produce by facilitating harmonization and mutual recognition of organic standards, the Deputy Secretary-General noted. Among the fruits of this collaboration is the East African Organic Products Standard launched in 2007.

For more information on the conference please see www.africanorganicconference.com

Can Africa Reap the Demographic Dividend?

By Esther Nakkazi

At a time when Africa would be reaping from the demographic dividend that benefited East Asian economies, some countries are moving to make a difference by promoting higher education, partnerships and collaborations to improve the employability of African youth.

One such effort is taking shape between a top ranked US research institution, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and the government of Rwanda, in a collaboration CMU-R, to deliver graduate programs with an in-country presence and resident faculty.

The initiative, now provides scholarships, paying 50 percent of tuition fees for students from the East African region by the Rwanda government, to get US standards education that is focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

“We are hoping to attract brilliant minds to get a world class education that is adapted to the region’s needs,” said Michel Bézy an associate Director, Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda at the recent Science Technology and Innovation (ST&I) Forum in Nairobi, Kenya.

Dr. Donald Kaberuka, the president of Africa Development Bank (AfDB) at the same Forum reaffirmed Africa’s need to invest in higher education that would encourage new innovations, entrepreneurship and a skilled workforce.

“We need to ensure that the youth are educated; and that they have the skills they will need for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Kaberuka. Indeed, the AfDB invested $55 billion in infrastructure in 2011, but what are these billion dollar investments worth if Africa does not have skilled labor?

“When foreign investors open shop in Africa, they often find a shortage of key things like infrastructure, but the biggest impediment is that of skilled workers,” said Kaberuka.

But higher education could be one of the ways of reaping from the demographic dividend, however, currently in Africa, even for those that attain it; the skills produced do not match the needs of the labor market.

Studies have shown that, Africa is the most youthful continent with almost 200 million people aged between 15-24, and by 2030; one out of four young people in the world will be African. By then Africa will also have the largest workforce in the world, surpassing China and India.

However, although 40 percent of its working population is made up of youth, 60 percent of these some with higher education qualifications are under-employed, unemployed or unemployable, a factor attributed to a mismatch between Africa’s education and training systems and the world of work.


“We need to sort out the whole character of our Universities and sort out higher education,” said Naledi Pandor the Minister of Science and Technology from South Africa.

The mismatch that this has created is of young people looking for well-paid, productive jobs and employers looking for well-trained, productive workers.

“We can no longer afford this mismatch. Our universities and training institutes must step in to train today’s workers for today’s jobs and for tomorrow’s jobs as well, with new approaches,” said Kaberuka.

The 57 African ministers in charge of S, T&I, Finance and Planning, and Education that attended the Forum in Nairobi said they would insist that all their governments make resources available for higher education and they would create partnerships and collaborations.

Absent of such a radical approach it was deemed unlikely that Africa can produce the highly qualified, skilled and competent human resources needed to generate knowledge, innovations and to benefit from the demographic dividend.

Tanzania has one of the initiatives on the continent to train in higher education for skills to match the labor market. The Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science of Technology, started in 2011 now with 95 students funded by the Tanzanian government, based in Arusha has been dedicated to postgraduate studies in Science and Technology.

As well as the Pan African University – a network of five regional centres of excellence-which will be hosted by Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria and South Africa.

African ministers thought that with such initiatives, Africa has the ability to reap the demographic dividend like was the case with East and Southeast Asia, where the dividend contributed to 45 percent of the actual growth in the GDP per effective consumer in the period 1970 to 2000.
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