IRIN Africa | FOOD: Power to the people!

Girl digs for water in Jamam refugee camp, South Sudan

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) launched its first Africa Human Development Report this week, stressing food security as a means to a better quality of life for all.

Report Highlights

  • Sub-Saharan Africa’s population, 856 million in 2010, is projected to exceed 2 billion shortly after 2050.
  • More than one in four Africans – close to 218 million people – is undernourished.
  • Two major biases – towards towns rather than rural areas and towards men, not women – have been principal factors in explaining Africa’s food insecurity.
  • African governments spend between 5-10% of their budgets on agriculture, well below the 20% average that Asian governments devoted to the sector during the green revolution there.
  • Women are significant food producers, but their control of land in sub-Saharan Africa is less than in any other region.

The argument is straightforward: Most people in Africa depend on agriculture, and better nutrition is good for human development. More food production means more food and income in people’s pockets, which has spin-offs which are beneficial for health and education.

The report is not another exhortation to farmers to grow more food. Pedro Conceicao, chief economist with the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, explained that exclusively looking at linkages between small-scale farmers and agriculture or gender empowerment and agriculture were “piecemeal approaches” and not helpful. “We have to move beyond silver bullet obsessions [such as agricultural subsidies] or attention-grabbing headlines.”

He reasoned that high economic growth rates in Africa had not necessarily resulted in a reduction in poverty and food insecurity – which points to accessibility to food and purchasing power as key factors. The report emphasizes “empowerment” and participation as important levers for change.

It argues that countries need to implement a more strategic vision of food security. An approach to emulate would be what Ethiopia had done to beef up its agriculture sector by setting up a separate Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) right next to the prime minister’s office. It is modelled on similar initiatives in Asia which helped accelerate economic growth in South Korea and Malaysia, for instance. ATA addresses bottlenecks in areas such as soil management, research and extension services.

''Damning judgments are made about African countries after less than 10 years of sustained and high economic growth''

The report calls for new approaches covering multiple sectors – from rural infrastructure to health services, to new forms of social protection and empowering local communities. It calls for action in four critical areas:

Increasing agricultural production: It acknowledges that boosting production would be integral to any approach to becoming food secure, and calls for investment in research, infrastructure and inputs and a Green Revolution in Africa;

More effective nutrition: Develop coordinated interventions which boost nutrition while expanding access to health services, education, sanitation, and clean water;

Building resilience: Investment in crop insurance, employment guarantee schemes, and cash transfers to shield people from risks and make them less vulnerable to shocks;

Empowerment and social justice: Gender empowerment, access to land, technology and information are important to make people food secure.

Girl digs for water in Jamam refugee camp, South Sudan

Girl digs for water in Jamam refugee camp, South Sudan [IRIN]

IRIN interviewed two leading experts on the issues.

Steven Wiggins, research fellow with the UK’s Overseas Development Institute, who has been studying agriculture and rural development in Africa since 1972:

Africa is not one unitary entity: “There are 56 countries in Africa… When Africa is considered as a single unit, there is a great danger that it is compared to other similar units, above all Asia, leading to analyses that suggest that if only Africa were more like Asia, then things would improve. Well, I’m not sure that Botswana has very much to learn from, say, Afghanistan, thank you very much. Hyperbole aside, the point is this: in Africa we have several, if not many, cases of admirable progress in food and nutrition security, but we overlook this.”

Real progress takes time: “A longstanding issue in African policy debates is the search not only for growth, but for growth that is `transformative’. Even when an African economy grows, the pessimists say `yes, but where is the transformation?’ usually noting that in Asia growth is transformative. Well, yes, where that has apparently happened in Asia… it is the result of 30 or 40 years of sustained progress. Yet damning judgments are made about African countries after less than 10 years of sustained and high economic growth.”

Too complicated and demanding: It would have been better had it [the overview [of the report] stuck to a few fundamental propositions that are well supported by the evidence, namely: smallholder development plus primary health plus clean water will almost always reduce child malnutrition. Yes, let’s add girls in secondary school to the list: that will strengthen these links. But it’s that simple.

Peter Gubbels, the West Africa co-coordinator for Groundswell International, a global partnership of local farming communities, has 30 years of experience in rural development, including 20 years living and working in West Africa. He is based in Ghana. He says:

Move beyond the Green Revolution: “The report… seems to embrace the Green Revolution approach to agricultural improvement, citing… the results… in Asia, and seeking to now apply those lessons to Africa. The report suggests implicitly, that one reason Africa still has hunger is because Africa has not benefited from `science-based, input-intensive’ support. This is highly misleading. There have been many efforts to promote Green Revolution in Africa. Almost all have failed.”

Missing bits: “There is no mention of Conservation Agriculture, or of the Brown Revolution [to promote soil fertility and conserve water].”

Under-funding in agricultural research: “This is true but is also misleading. There has been a great amount of funding in the CGIAR [Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research] system in Africa, including IITA [International Institute of Tropical Agriculture] in Nigeria, from the 1970s onwards. One reason donors reduced funding in the 1990s was because it was not generating good production results.

“But this report seems to assume that investing in new seeds, fertilizers, tractors, irrigation and training is what is needed… And how many very poor small-scale farmers can afford tractors?”
Understanding resilience: “Equally disturbing is the suggestion that long-term resilience measures can enable risk averse, poor small-scale farmers to adopt riskier, but more productive, agricultural technologies. This is twisting my understanding of resilience. The aim is to reduce (or at least manage risk), using low external inputs and local ecological systems, not to increase risk by creating dependence on external expensive inputs (insurance, etc) for poor, vulnerable farm families working in marginal conditions. The way forward would be to develop crops and technologies that both increase food production and reduce risk by conservation agricultural techniques.”

“Subsuming” nutrition into food security: “There is not just food insecurity in Africa. There is both food insecurity and nutrition insecurity. Currently in the Sahel, there is both a food crisis and a nutrition crisis. They may be linked, but the causes are quite different, and the solutions that are [rooted] in food security are almost always inadequate.

“Just as we need to change the strong association of agriculture with food security, we also need to move nutrition out of the confines of food security. There is still a very strong tendency to believe that food aid, and increasing food production, solves most of malnutrition. It does not. It only helps prevent major spikes in the already existing emergency level of chronic and acute malnutrition.”

Controversial issues side-stepped: “The report also almost completely sidesteps… genetically modified seeds… the role of agribusiness in land-grabbing, control of seeds, pushing pesticides and herbicides.”

IRIN Africa


3 Settlements in #WestBank Ordered Demolished

Israeli West-Bank barrier near Ramallah with t...

Israeli West-Bank barrier near Ramallah (Photo: Wikipedia)

The European Union this week continued the international condemnation of Israel’s policy of building settlements in largely Palestinian areas.

The enclaves are a stumbling block to restarting peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. But in a minor win for Palestinians, an Israeli court has ordered three small West Bank settlements to be demolished after ruling they were illegal.

The houses of Ulpana overlook Beit El, an Israeli settlement of 7,000 people not far from the major Palestinian city of Ramallah. The Israeli High Court has ruled that five of Ulpana’s 14 buildings are on land belonging to a Palestinian man. It has ordered Israel’s government to demolish them and evict the 30 young families living there.

Palestinians and much of the international community consider all Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal. But the case regarding Ulpana is much narrower, and the ruling could pose a challenge for Israel’s new unity government.

Residents here say they bought the land legally although the sale was never registered. The Israeli administrator for the area, Danny Dayon, says the houses were built with government loans.

“Is demolishing and expelling people from their homes bought with complete sincerity, is that the just solution? No. The just solution in a dispute of that kind, no doubt, is monetary,” Dayon said.

Yesh Din, the Israeli human rights group that backed the Palestinian owner’s legal case, says the government is required by law to carry out the court’s decision.

“What will happen if the Israeli government is not going to fulfill the High Court decision? I think it will be a tragedy for the Israeli society and the Israeli democracy and for the rule of law in Israel,” said Yesh Din director Haim Erlich.

The residents of Ulpana have been living in uncertainty for months. Filmmaker Alex Traiman, a father of three, is one of them. “We’re individuals here that care about Western values. At the same time we want to be an organic part of this region. We want to be at peace with our neighbors, whether those neighbors are Palestinians, whether they’re Syrians, Egyptians. At the same time we care about the law,” he said.

Two other outposts are also slated to be removed. Some members of Israel’s coalition government want to pass a law legalizing such settlements despite the court rulings. Hebrew University Professor Gideon Rahat says this would be grave.

“This is problematic. The High Court in Israel is very important, the rule of law, democracy. This is a decision that they have to go with, even for the right wing,” Rahat said.

But Palestinians say no matter what Israeli courts do, all settlements are illegal under international law and need to be removed.

“We are asking now to stop all settlements construction,” said Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah.

That is a direction no Israeli government has been willing to take.

Source: VOA

OHCHR Universal Periodic Review 21 May -4 Jun 2012 Provisional Timetable


Provisional Timetable for the Universal Periodic Review Working Group 13th Session:

[Image: UN HRC]

Monday, 21 May

09h00 – 12h30         Review of Bahrain
14h30 – 18h00         Review of Ecuador

Tuesday, 22 May

09h00 – 12h30         Review of Tunisia
14h30 – 18h00         Review of Morocco

Wednesday, 23 May

09h00 – 12h30         Review of Indonesia
14h30 – 18h00         Review of Finland

Thursday, 24 May

09h00 – 12h30         Review of United Kingdom
14h30 – 18h00         Review of India

Friday, 25 May

09h00 – 12h30         Review of Brazil
15h00 – 18h00         Adoption of reports on Bahrain, Ecuador, Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia and Finland

Tuesday, 29 May

09h00 – 12h30         Review of Philippines
14h30 – 18h00         Review of Algeria

Wednesday, 30 May

10h00 – 11h30         Adoption of reports on United Kingdom, India and Brazil
14h00 – 18h00         Review of Poland

Thursday, 31 May

09h00 – 12h30         Review of the Netherlands
14h30 – 18h00         Review of South Africa

Friday, 1 June

15h00 – 16h30         Adoption of reports on Philippines, Algeria and Poland

Monday, 4 June

15h00 – 16h00         Adoption of reports on the Netherlands and South Africa

Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, including the reports for each country review can be located at the Universal Periodic Review webpage on the OHCHR website: 

Media contact
:  Rolando Gomez, Public Information Officer, OHCHR, + 41(0)22 917 9711,


#Nigeria Claims Over $12 Billion Lost to Pipeline Vandalism And Oil Theft


20 May 2012 UPDATE: Appears the announcement of losses below was a prelude to this announcement of deploying security forces.

Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin [Today’s Nigeria]

Losing over 180 million barrels of crude oil daily, Nigeria has inaugurated a joint military task force on crude oil theft, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshall Oluseyi Petinrin, told journalists on Saturday in Lagos, during a stakeholders’ meeting on security in the oil and gas industry.

Petinrin said the task force consisting of senior army personnel and other security agencies, would check the incessant oil theft and bring sanity to the industry.

“I quite agree with the collective decision of the stakeholders on ways to address oil theft in the country.

All the security agencies will ensure adequate monitoring of the country’s oil theft to logical conclusion,” he said.

He assured the nation that the security agencies that would be involved in the assignment of the task force would never compromise anything.

The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who confirmed that over 180 million barrels of crude oil were lost daily, said that the task force would include both indigenous and international oil chiefs.

The minister said that it had been observed that in the last six months, oil theft on Nigerian waters increased.

“This crude oil theft affects both our environment and economic values in Nigeria,” she said.

Source African Press Agency

Political map of the 36 States of Nigeria (Eng...

Political map of the 36 States of Nigeria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Nigerian government has said it has incurred losses of more than $12 billion to pipeline vandalism and oil theft in the last one year.

Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke, told a stakeholders meeting on the rising security in the oil sector in Lagos on Friday that $5 billion was spent in the last one year on pipeline repairs, while the amount lost to crude theft was valued at $7 billion.

The minister, who decried the menace of oil theft, said that the meeting was convened in order to strengthen partnership with leadership of security agencies in curbing the problem.

“In the last six months the level of oil theft in the country has become alarming and has necessitated the need for this roundtable with all stakeholders. It will be very productive if we open up discussion to provide solution on the situation we have found ourselves,” she said.

Alison-Madueke said that the meeting would evolve a short, medium and long term solutions to tackle the issue as oil theft was taking its toll on the economy of the nation.

She thanked the service chiefs for the support and expressed optimism that the problem would finally be addressed with their support.

The minister stressed the need for urgent replacement of old pipelines and rehabilitate the infrastructure in the sector.

According to her, the government is exploring alternative sources of funding to fast track infrastructure development and ensure asset integrity in the sector.

The meeting was attended by Chief of Defense Staff, Air Marshall Oluseyi Petinrin, Chief of Army Staff, Azubuke Ihejrika and managing directors of international and indigenous oil companies.

Source African Press Agency

News from Iran – Week 20 – 2012


News of the Prisoners

A- Transfers

  • Javad Alikhani transferred to Modarres hospital for kidney stones problems.
  • Chair of Participation Front Mohsen Mirdamadi was transferred to hospital from Evin on Sunday.
  • Narges Mohammadi transferred to Evin clinic and then to Zanjan prison.
  • Sarir Sadeghi transferred from Pelak 100 to Shiraz prison.
  • Riaz Sobhani transferred from Rejaei Shahr handcuffed and shackled to a hospital in Tehran

B- Arrests/Incarcerations


  • Zahed Banafeshi arrested on May 1st in Sanandaj, released on bail from Intelligence detention center.
  • Babol University student activist Moein Ghamin has been released after 23 days in detention.
  • Shirkoo Kordi arrested on May 1st in Sanandaj, released on bail from Intelligence detention center.
  • Mohammad Latifi arrested on May 1st in Sanandaj, released on bail from Intelligence detention center.
  • Human Rights activist member of One Million Signatures Campaign and a member of the Cultural and Social Association of Women of Azarmehr in Kurdistan, Ronak Safarzadeh, an Iranian Kurd, released after 55 months
  • Hamid Tarimoradi arrested on May 1st in Sanandaj, released on bail from Intelligence detention center.
  • Iran Freedom Movement member Mohammad Tavasoli has been released on furlough.
  • After more than 2 years in prison, student activist Sina Zahiri was released from Rejaei Shahr prison.

D-Other News

  • Silent demonstration for saying condolence to ...

    Moussavi & Rahnavard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Activist Peyman Aref has been summoned to court once again.

  • Opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, under house arrest, met with his family.
  • Iran opposition leader Mir-Hossein Moussavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard, under house arrest, met with Rahnavard’s mother.
  • Imprisoned writer, democratic theorist Massoud Pedram on hunger strike.
  • Iran demolishes houses of activists in Ahwaz.
  • Relocating Evin prison is postponed for lack funds for prisons.
  • Isfahan prisons hold 3 times the number of prisoners for standard capacity of the prisons.
  • Imprisoned labour activists on hunger strike in Tabriz prison.

News of injustice in Iran

  • Sahar Beiram Abadi, Baha’i, sentenced to 2 years in prison + 1 year suspended.
  • Scientist Dr. Omid Kokabi is sentenced to 10 years for refusing to cooperate with IRGC.
  • Saman Ostevar, Baha’i, director of a pre-school in Bam, sentenced to 2 years in prison + 1 year suspended.
  • Mehdi Ramezani, father of Ramin, killed during Iran Election protests, sentenced to 3 years in prison.
  • Sirvan Saberi, Kurdish political activist, sentenced to 3 years in prison; he is in Sanandaj prison.
  • Nahale Shahidi Baha’i, sentenced to 2 years in prison + 1 year suspended.
  • 13 people were tried and convicted of espionage for Israel.
  • Majid Jamali Fashi who pleaded guilty for the murder of nuclear scientist Massoud Ali-Mohammadi will be executed on Tuesday May 15.
  • One execution in Zanjan on Wednesday.
  • One woman and 6 men hanged in Kermanshah, 3 men in Ardebil, and 16 persons in Yazd prison on Thursday, a total of 26 people in one day, of which 5 women and 5 Afghans.
  • 4 fingers of a convicted thief were amputated in Mashhad prison.

University  – Culture

  • The manager of Tehran book fair reported that 120 different books were collected from the fair for what he called a “violation of the fair’s regulations.”
  • 397 satellite receivers collected in Arak last week.
  • Wave of university professors forced to retire.
  • Khamenei’s fatwa (religious ruling) on the illegality of using anti-filtering was blocked.
  • Political Prisoner Mohsen Mirdamadi secretary general of Participation Front expelled from Tehran University.
  • Parviz Shahriari, major figure in Iranian education -jailed under both Shah and Islamic Republic, dies at 85.
  • Book documenting life of Supreme Leader Khamenei banned.


  • Last week a group of students from Marivan Azad University gathered in front of the governor’s office in protest to what they call “life dangers.”
  • Sugar cane and food industry workers in Shushtar gathered to protest low wages and a lack of transparent contracts.
  • Protests in Sistan-Baluchistan turn deadly.
  • Battle between armed forces and workers at the Art College in Karaj University.

Economy in Iran

  • Eram textile factory in Tehran which employed more than 200 workers has reduced the number of workers to 180.
  • 200 workers lost their jobs after “Nab” vegetable oil was closed.
  • USD 1 = 1593 tomans.
  • Iran, unable to sell oil, stores it on tankers.
  • US dollar jumps 7% (from 1580 tomans to 1695 tomans) overnight.
  • Statistics Center: Unemployment fell 1.2% to 12.3% in Iranian year ending March 19, 2012.
  • Sharp rise in Tehran rents.
  • Iran subsidy handouts to increase from 45,500 tomans ($27) to 73,000 tomans ($43) per person per month.
  • Iran to raise petrol prices to 700 -1200 tomans per liter with second phase of subsidy reform.
  • 325 fertilizer plants shut down in Iran / 15,000 workers laid off.
  • Two factories in Zanjan have laid off 140 workers, after not paying their salaries for five months.
  • Oil exports reportedly show 90 % fall in two weeks – sanctions held responsible.

Iran  abroad

  • Iran turns off tracking systems on tankers.
  • Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs departs for South Africa and Namibia.
  • Iran still shipping arms to Syria, UN report finds.
  • Islamic Republic of Iran threatens Google with lawsuit if they use a name other than “Persian Gulf”.
  • Japan bank freezes Iran accounts after court order.
  • Arab hackers launch cyber-attack against Iranian Oil Company.
  • Sri Lanka announces reduced purchases of Iranian oil.
  • Communications jamming, monitoring, and surveillance equipment, target for new sanctions on Iran.
  • Iran to host the 12th international mathematics conference on September 2-5.
  • Two Iranian pilgrims abducted in Syria were released and handed over to Turkish officials on the Turkey-Syria border.

Politics in Iran

  • Head of Iran’s Assembly of Experts: it is acceptable to issue a warning to the Supreme Leader.
  • Battle for the next Majlis speaker’s post: Haddad Adel vs. Larijani.
  • Rafsanjani: Iranian government must allow criticism of Iran’s Expediency Council leader; people must be allowed to make constructive criticism of the government
  • Iranian Azeris set up national council in Turkey, aspire for independence.
  • Majlis approves increase in subsidies in second stage of the Subsidy Reform Plan.
  • Iran’s parliament approves $462 billion budget.


  • EU force frees Iranian dhow from Somali pirates.
  • Remains of 57 Iranian soldiers killed during the war in the 1980s found in Faw peninsula in Iraq.
  • Health Ministry is concerned: Increasing alcohol consumption, alcoholism in Iran.
  • Air pollution alert issued in Tehran.
  • Another retired Sepah Commander dies of heart attack.