Friday, October 11, 2013

NEPAD: Africa needs ‘informed citizens’

Ochieng’ Ogodo


[NAIROBI] Well informed citizens of Africa will bring about positive developmental transformations needed in the continent. The media has, therefore, been urged to partner with development institutions such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) to help achieve that.
Speaking to media managers at a breakfast meeting in Johannesburg today, the Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD, Ibrahim Mayaki, said it was important for development issues to be well articulated and understood, so that Africa’s citizens can take part and support processes that leads to the development of their societies.
Mayaki, who is the former Prime Minister of Niger, says that NEPAD has achieved great strides in the implementation of its various projects, but there is now a need for Africa to tap into its own resources to finance its development goals.
He adds that that there is need for stronger collaboration between the public and private sector.
The event was attended by senior editors among them Essop Pahad, editor of The Thinker Publication and a former Minister in President Thabo Mbeki’s Administration and others from local and international media.
The NEPAD CEO cautions that despite six of the ten fastest growing economies being in Africa, seven out of ten of the most unequal economies are also in Africa.
“If we want to address social inequalities and create wealth for Africa, the issue we need to look at is Governance. The way we govern has to reflect the realistic needs of our people, many youth, who make up a vast percentage of Africa’s population,” says Mayaki.
He cites Tunisia saying that despite high literacy levels, infrastructure development and agricultural-led growth, youth unemployment was one of the main triggers of the Arab revolution.
"We need to make sure that governance is no longer a top-down process. We need to re-think governance, bearing in mind that Africa has the most youthful population in the world.  Africa cannot be managed like Europe, where the average age is 49, in Africa it is 19,” he says.
“African leaders are obliged to tackle the issue of illicit money flows out of the Continent,” he says. This would cost the continent US$40 billion every year and help reduce Africa’s dependency on aid, which currently stands at US$20 billion of Official Development Assistance (ODA) annually.
Responding to media on what NEPAD is doing to create youth employment, attract private sector investment and accelerate sustainable economic growth on the continent; Mayaki said that, “As the African Union’s technical body, NEPAD’s role is to be a vehicle that will boost regional integration through continental programmes such as the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).”
He also notes that the upcoming Dakar Financing Summit in December, which NEPAD is co-hosting with the Government of Senegal, will bring together Africa’s most influential leaders from government, industry and finance to accelerate investment into infrastructure.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

New European association for lung cancer patients launched

By Ochieng' Ogodo


[NAIROBI] A new European association for lung cancer patients has been formed.  Lung Cancer Europe (LuCE) was established on 27 September to bring about improvements in lung cancer outcomes for all European patients and to help improve the quality of life for the many thousands of patients and survivors living with lung cancer in Europe today.
For the first time lung cancer patients, survivors and their families will have a voice at a European level which will enable them to influence policy decisions that impact on European lung cancer outcomes.  This is critically important because there are significant problems with lung cancer outcomes across Europe. Lung cancer accounts for one fifth of all cancer deaths in Europe today.  It is the commonest cause of death from cancer in European men and is the third most common cause of death in women. Nearly every minute a European citizen is told that they have lung cancer and every hour 40 Europeans die of this terrible disease. Moreover, there is evidence to show worrying inequalities in lung cancer control between EU Member States with data showing that the lung cancer mortality rate in men is over three times as high in the worst performing Member State as compared with the best.
LuCE has a mission to improve lung cancer outcomes and address the unacceptable inequities in lung cancer survival across Europe.  “With LuCE we want to create a European platform that gives a strong voice to lung cancer patient organisations in Europe – and we want to support the establishment of national patient groups in countries, where such groups do not yet exist. We wish to raise awareness about inequities regarding the access to lung cancer treatment and care in Europe. And we will work for improving European policies and increasing funding allocated to lung cancer research. Last but not least, we hope that the association can help to reduce the stigmatisation of lung cancer patients," Mogens Ekelund, representative of the LuCE Steering Committee explains.
LuCE is a non-profit association that has been established with support from the European Thoracic Oncology Platform and the European School of Oncology.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

FAO Launches World Food Day Media Award in Kenya

The award aims at recognising outstanding contributions to food security by the Kenyan media

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


[NAIROBI] The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has launched the World Food Day Media Award. It was launched in Kenya on 9 August.
The award is aimed at creating and encouraging the highest standards of excellence in agricultural reporting focusing on food and agricultural issues and honour Kenyan journalists under 30 for their exceptional journalistic work in covering the area.
The award will be will be one of the build-up activities towards this year’s World Food Day to be commemorated on 16 October.
The official World Food Day theme this year is “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition”.
About 870 million people worldwide are chronically undernourished and unsustainable models of development are degrading services providing natural environment. This is threatening ecosystems and biodiversity needed for our future food supply. There have been numerous calls for radical shift in our agriculture and food systems.
World Food Day offers an opportunity to explore and reflect on how to bring about the future we want.
It is against this backdrop that FAO in Kenya has decided to recognise outstanding contributions made by the media in Kenya.
Journalists have a vital role to play in promoting understanding of food and agricultural issues among the public, especially on challenges related to food security.
“They can help by educating their communities, so that their audiences are aware of the issues affecting food security,” says Robert Allport, FAO Representative in Kenya.
The World Food Day Media Award in Kenya is open to those under 30 years, and is designed to elevate the standards of excellence in print media and offer winners a boost in marketing and exposure.
The award places a premium on compelling stories occurring in Kenya that report problems and solutions related to food security.
FAO says online applications are now open for submission and will close on 30 September midnight, East African time. There will be several prizes.

 For more on World Food Day 2013 visit

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Better healthcare and community mobilisation saves mothers and newborns

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


[NAIROBI] A combination of better healthcare and community mobilisation can improve the quality of care for mothers and newborns and also reduce newborn mortality, says a new study
The five-year programme conducted in Malawi to improve the quality of care for mothers and newborns found that it reduced newborn mortality by 30 percent and saved at least 1,000 newborn lives in rural area.
Carried out in three rural districts in Malawi with a combined population of more than two million, the study was designed to test whether a combined effort to increase both community awareness and strategies for perinatal care and to improve the quality of healthcare would be more effective than either one

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Africa, China in new partnership for health

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


[GABORONE, BOTSWANA] Chinese and African leaders meeting at the high level 4th International Roundtable on China-Africa Health Cooperation on May 6 and 7 emphasised the need for close cooperation in a new partnerships aimed at addressing some of the most pressing health challenges facing Africa.
They also called for strong innovative health partnership based on south-south cooperation.
“Indeed, China and Africa have a long history of collaborating on health, built on shared challenges, experiences and addressing similar issues,” said Hon. Rev. Dr. John G. N. Seakgosing, Botswana’s Minister of Health. “China has a unique role in supporting African health progress. And with this roundtable, we look forward to deepening our partnership to benefit the health of our citizens.”
“Africa’s future is closely linked with our own and improving health is a critical building block towards a common prosperity,” said Dr. Ren Minghui, Director General of the Department of International Cooperation at China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission. “African countries have made tremendous gains to improve the health of their citizens. With China and Africa working hand-in-hand on health, we can have even greater impact.”
The Botswana roundtable was the first to take place on the African continent and focused on promoting sustainable health solutions that meet the needs and priorities of African countries, and draw on China’s experience.
The meeting explored how China and African countries can jointly tackle critical issues such as AIDS, malaria, schistosomiasis, reproductive health, access to lifesaving vaccines and non-communicable diseases.
This roundtable came as China and Africa marked the 50th anniversary of China providing medical teams to Africa, and also supporting African health personnel, infrastructure, malaria control and other programs such as scholarships for training health experts.
At this year’s roundtable, officials have discussed how to shape health cooperation between China and Africa and help achieve long-term, sustainable gains, such as strengthening health systems and addressing the shortage of healthcare workers.
African countries are disproportionately affected by these health issues that have also been a major health challenges for China.
The key theme of the roundtable was on how African and Chinese officials can create win-win scenarios that will benefit all partners. One of the major areas that China’s health assistance investment will go to is expanding African capacity, strengthening the continent’s self-sufficiency and economic development.
China, according to Minghui, has a unique role in supporting Africa’s health progress, drawing from its investments in health research and development and its experience improving the health of its own citizens, such as its current health reform effort, which is the largest expansion of healthcare coverage in history.
African countries, the meeting heard, can work with Chinese scientists and pharmaceutical manufacturers to increase access to high-quality, low-cost health technologies, while ensuring products are safe and meet international quality standards.
Participants explored how China can help support Africa’s local production of health products. At the same time, African leaders will share expertise on areas where China can learn from Africa, such as around AIDS prevention and treatment, to help improve China’s efforts at home. Africa has been very successful in scaling up HIV treatment as well as prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs.
“South-South cooperation facilitates optimisation of resources, both human and material. This creates opportunities to share knowledge and experience, which contributes to sustainable health solutions,” said Dr. Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, Commissioner of Social Affairs of the African Union. “China-Africa health partnership is based on a sense of shared responsibility and global solidarity in responding to health challenges.”
China and other emerging economies are bringing new resources and approaches to improve the health of people around the world. “The global health landscape is changing, with more partners than ever joining these efforts,” said Dr. Luiz Loures, Deputy Executive Director of Programme of UNAIDS. “The AIDS response and other experiences paved the way for transformative progress on health and can help China and Africa engage on a whole new level and innovate on a broad range of health issues.”
“China has tremendous potential to support Africa’s long-term development by leveraging innovation. The roundtable is an opportunity to define a path for China and Africa to make a positive impact together on health,” Dr. Ray Yip, Director of the China Program of the Gates Foundation told the meeting.
One aim of the roundtable was to develop joint recommendations that could lay the groundwork for a long-term strategic plan for China-Africa health cooperation, which could be considered at the Ministerial Forum of China-Africa Health Development, part of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which will take place in August in Beijing.
This year’s roundtable organised by the Institute for Global Health and the China Institute of International Studies, is a series in what began in 2009 as part of a China-led initiative to evaluate and improve its foreign assistance.

Friday, May 03, 2013

CPJ calls on African Union to uphold press freedom

New York, May 2, 2013-The Committee to Protect Journalists asks Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairperson of the African Union, to uphold press freedom by calling for justice in journalist murders in Africa and for the release of all imprisoned journalists.

May 2, 2013
H.E. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma
Chairperson of the African Union
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Dear Chairperson Zuma:

We ask that you mark World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 2013, by calling for the release of all journalists imprisoned in Africa and appealing for justice in the murders of journalists killed in the line of duty.
At least 41 African journalists will spend World Press Freedom Day imprisoned in direct reprisal for their work, according to CPJ research. It is particularly disturbing that Ethiopia and the Gambia, which host offices of the African Union, are among the nations holding journalists in jail. These imprisonments have silenced important voices, often in contravention of regional and international rulings.
Among the seven journalists imprisoned in Ethiopia is Reeyot Alemu, who is serving a five-year term at Kality Prison on baseless terrorism charges lodged after she wrote columns critical of the government. Reeyot was honored in 2013 with the UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize, and in 2012 with the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women's Media Foundation. The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, among other international institutions, have censured Ethiopia for the imprisonment of Reeyot and other journalists under the country's overly broad anti-terrorism law. Eskinder Nega, a 2012 laureate of PEN American Center's Freedom to Write Award, has been imprisoned since September 2011 on fabricated terrorism charges after writing columns discussing the domestic implications of the Arab Spring. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that Ethiopia has violated international law by imprisoning Eskinder for the "peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression." He is serving an 18-year term in prison. The Gambia, home to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, is in violation of rulings by the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States and the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in connection with the 2007 arrest of journalist Ebrima "Chief" Manneh. These entities found Manneh's detention to be unlawful, and they called for his immediate release. Alarmingly, Gambian authorities cannot account for Manneh's whereabouts, and over the years have given evasive and inconsistent responses to regional and international inquiries.
More than 80 journalist murders have gone unsolved in Africa since 1992, according to CPJ research. Nigeria and Somalia are among the worst nations in the world in combating deadly, anti-press violence, our 2013 Impunity Index has found. Five journalists have been killed with impunity in Nigeria since 2009. In Somalia, more than 20 murders have gone unsolved over the past decade. These killings are often politically motivated.
Madame chair, critical journalists are not criminals, traitors, or terrorists. Beyond supporting African journalists with training, the African Union should create an open political space that allows news media to report on issues of public interest. Vibrant, independent media that hold government leaders to account are a valuable ally in the pursuit of development and good governance. We urge you to use your office to persuade member states to comply with the letter and spirit of conventions they have signed that uphold press freedom.

Yours sincerely,
Joel Simon
Executive Director

 CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Urgent action needed to ‘arrest’ land degradation

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


[NAIROBI] Land degradation is major cost leading to loss of some USD490 billion per year to the international community. This is way higher than the cost of action to prevent it according to the conclusion of a scientific conference that took place in took place from 9-12 April in Bonn, Germany.
According to the meeting, sustainable land management, one of the most affordable tools to prevent land degradation and to restore degraded land, can help reduce poverty that comes with ecosystem service benefits for the wider society.
These were some of the conclusions from the UNCCD 2nd Scientific Conference on the economic assessment of desertification, sustainable land management and resilience of arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, which took place from 9-12 April.
“Desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) is also an issue of market failure. The lack of economic market valuation has led to land being perceived as a cheap resource. But an investment in sustainable land management is a smart investment and many farmers worldwide are taking practical steps to address desertification and land degradation, and to adapt to drought, when they notice a change in their land productivity,” said Luc Gnacadja, UNCCD Executive Secretary, in his closing remarks.
 Pics: UNCCD
He said the meetings outcomes should be put into practice and those in attendance need to go back and run them. “The evidence that was collected needs to be a source of change at political, private sector and community level. So we need to take the outcomes and change the season through committed outreach and advocacy using these findings,” he added.
Scientists, experts, civil society organizations and media from every region of the world discussed the economic and social costs of desertification, land degradation and drought, and the costs of inaction, based on a study titled, “The Economics of Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought: Methodologies and Analysis for Decision-Making.”
The four-day meeting was the first global valuation of these phenomena using a cost-benefit analysis, and the first economic assessment in over two decades. The study was called for in 2011 by the UNCCD’s Conference of the Parties (COP).
Walter Amman, President of Global Risk Forum GRF Davos, the organization that led the study, said sustainable management of natural resources is today more critical than ever to human survival. The conference, he said, relentlessly showed the importance of fertile land, undermining the fact that the cost of inactivity in combatting DLDD is much higher than to take appropriate actions now. “The question is, can we take a bold step towards zero net land degradation and sustainable development? I am convinced we can! Scientific knowledge and technology is the key to sustainable land management,” he said.
Antonio Rocha Magalhães, the current Chair of the Convention’s Committee on Science and Technology that was mandated by the Parties to commission the study to a consortium of independent scientific organizations, will present the results to the COP meeting in the latter half of the year.
“This conference was an important benchmark in bringing more science to support actions relating to the Convention. We know that desertification, land degradation and drought are serious global problem, and the Rio + 20 Conference called for a land degradation neutral world. But decision makers act on objective information, and so far we lack good and well organized information on the economics of DLDD,” Magalhães said.
 However, he said, the conference showed that the social and economic impacts of DLDD are very high and tend to increase, and the costs of inaction will be higher than the costs of action. He called for strong action on DLDD.
 “We will bring this information to the parties during the next COP 11 because strengthening the role of science in the UNCCD process will be key to improving the effectiveness of policies to combat DLDD in the world,” Magalhães stated.
The CST, he said, has identified Scientific and Traditional Knowledge for Sustainable Development (SCK4SD) as the consortium to organize the UNCCD 3rd Scientific Conference, with Agropolis International from France as the lead organization. This was in line with the mandate given by the last COP in 2011,
The theme of the 3rd Scientific Conference, as agreed by the Parties is ‘Combatting desertification, land degradation and drought for poverty reduction and sustainable development: the contribution of science, technology, traditional knowledge and practices’. The next COP is expected to agree on venue and dates of the next Scientific Conference.

Ochieng’ Ogodo is a Nairobi based journalist whose works have been published in various parts of the world including Africa, the US and Europe. He is the English-speaking Africa and Middle East region winner for the 2008 Reuters-IUCN Media Awards for Excellence in Environmental Reporting. He is the chairman of the Kenya Environment and Science Journalists Association. He can be reached at, or

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A fresh offensive against tuberculosis launched in Africa

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


[NAIROBI] A fresh offensive against tuberculosis (TB), including TB among people living with HIV, has been launched by health leaders from Africa and international agencies to help stem down the scourge.
The move saw leaders sign the Swaziland Statement on March 21, committing them to speed up progress against the two diseases in the next 1000 days and work with Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries to achieve the international targets of cutting deaths from TB and HIV-associated TB by half by 2015, compared to 1990 levels.
They declared a package of new investments and initiatives worth more than US $120 million.
“We did not gather here today (March 21) to underline the problem – we know the problem very well,” said Benedict Xaba, Minister of Health of Swaziland. “TB and HIV have combined together in the SADC region in a perfect storm and what we need to mobilise is an emergency response to this storm.”
Africa is not currently on track to achieve the international TB and HIV-associated TB mortality targets by 2015. According to the latest World Health Organisation data, around 600 000 people died from TB in Africa in 2011, accounting for 40 per cent of the global toll.
This means that Africa has now overtaken Asia – with its much higher population and number of TB cases – as the region with the greatest number of TB deaths. SADC countries are at the epicenter of the epidemic.
A major stumbling block to progress is the extremely high TB/HIV co-infection rate in Africa. In 2011, 80 per cent of the people living with HIV who fell ill with TB were in Africa. TB associated with the mining industry is also fueling the regional co-epidemic.
The proportion of people getting sick with TB is at least two and half times higher among miners than in the general population in South Africa and up to 20 times higher than the global average.
“TB remains a major cause of death in our sub-region and we will not defeat HIV without a concerted offensive against TB,” said Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health of South Africa. “If HIV/AIDS and TB was a snake, I can assure you the head would be in here South Africa. And I’m repeating this to the mining sector – because mineworkers come from the whole sub-region; they come here to our mines to catch TB and HIV and take it back home.”
He said they must prioritise hot spots for action, and one of the hottest of these is TB in the mining industry adding that the partnerships witnessing witnessed during the Swaziland meeting today between government, the corporate sector, and global agencies can and must drive the renewed effort in the next 1000 days.
Dr Mphu Ramatlapeng, Vice-Chair of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced that the Global Fund will commit US $102 million of new funding to TB programmes in SADC countries. The Global Fund is the largest international funding stream for TB, accounting for the great majority of 2011 donor funding for TB.
The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, said that UNAIDS would make a bold call to action for Zero tolerance of parallel systems for delivery of HIV and TB services. “UNAIDS will support countries to ensure that every person is aware of their HIV status and is also tested for TB, and that all people co-infected with TB and HIV initiate TB and HIV treatment,” said Sidibe
He added that UNAIDS will advocate to close the financial gap and mobilise donors, partners and countries to secure resources and meet the TB/HIV target of halving the number of TB deaths in people living with HIV by 2015.
UNAIDS will provide focused support to the 10 countries most affected by TB and HIV, and work to overcome the stigma and discrimination that prevent people from getting tested and staying on treatment.
In addition, the Global Fund has committed US $741 million for HIV programmes in SADC countries. This funding will support TB-HIV activities such as providing antiretroviral therapy to TB patients who are HIV positive.
According to Sarah Dunn, DfID Head for Southern Africa, DfID will provide US $220 000 for catalytic, short term programme management support to be provided as matched funds for a similar or larger contribution from the private mining sector and other partners. 

 Ochieng’ Ogodo is a Nairobi based journalist whose works have been published in various parts of the world including Africa, the US and Europe. He is the English-speaking Africa and Middle East region winner for the 2008 Reuters-IUCN Media Awards for Excellence in Environmental Reporting. He is the chairman of the Kenya Environment and Science Journalists Association. He can be reached at, or

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Make water and sanitation for all in Africa a reality by 2030, leaders urged

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


 [NAIROBI] Leaders should support the ambitious target of providing access to water, sanitation and hygiene for all in Africa by 2030.
In a press statement of March 21 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of World Water Day, WaterAid, an international non governmental organisation, says that the lack of progress in improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene is acting as a brake on progress in economic and human development, particularly in child health, nutrition and education in Africa.
The WaterAid’s report ‘Everyone Everywhere’ that was  launched by President Johnson Sirleaf on March 21 at a UN event on water in the Hague, in the Netherlands, sets out a vision for making safe water and sanitation available to all and reviews the progress that has been made to date in tackling water and sanitation poverty.
 It finds that, lack of progress in improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene was a great impediment to economic and human development.
The global NGO with a mission to transform lives by improving access to safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation in the world's poorest communities, cites World Health Organisation figures showing economic gains that Africa could make if everyone on the continent having access to water and sanitation.
The continent could gain $33 billion every year from everyone with access to water and sanitation. Out of this US$4.5 billion would come from reduced healthcare costs; $7.2 billion gained from reduced mortality; $2 billion from less time taken off from work; and a staggering $19.5 billion in general time saved.
Benefits of lives saved from everyone having access to water and sanitation on the continent could be significant.  The Institute of Health Metrics estimates that that around 550,000 people die from diarrhoea diseases every year in Sub-Saharan Africa, 88 per cent of whom, according to the WHO, can be attributed to a lack of water, sanitation and hygiene that is equivalent to 480,000 deaths due to a lack of these services on the continent.
The WaterAid call came as over 50,000 people took part in more than 30 mass walking events on the day across Africa to call on their governments to keep their promises on access to clean water and safe sanitation.
 In the new report by WaterAid today, President Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia says, “Addressing the global water and sanitation crisis is not about charity, but opportunity.  According to the WHO, every $1 invested in water and sanitation produces an average of $4 in increased productivity.  It enables sustainable and equitable economic growth.”
WaterAid Pan-Africa Programme Manager, Nelson Gomonda, says in the report thatNothing could better demonstrate that our continent has truly begun to realise its potential and is coming true on its promise of progress and development, than achieving the fundamental goal of every African having safe drinking water.”
He says more than 330 million Africans today live without access to clean water, so the road to travel is long, but the end is in sight. 
“With more than 1,000 African children under the age of five dying every day from diseases brought about from a lack of water and sanitation, Africans will not accept failure. We have to reach this target,” he says.
Currently, in Sub-Sahara Africa, 334 million people that is 39 percent of the population, lack access to clean drinking water, while under 600 million (70 per cent) lack access to sanitation.
WaterAid is calling on international leaders to: 
  • Recognise the need for the framework that replaces the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 to reflect the contribution of water, sanitation and hygiene to other areas of poverty reduction, including health, education, gender equality, economic growth and sustainability. 
  • For the UN to set a new global target to achieve universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030.
  • Identify ways of accelerating future rates of progress on sanitation if the goal of universal access is to be met by 2030
The report link:

Ochieng’ Ogodo is a Nairobi based journalist whose works have been published in various parts of the world including Africa, the US and Europe. He is the English-speaking Africa and Middle East region winner for the 2008 Reuters-IUCN Media Awards for Excellence in Environmental Reporting. He is the chairman of the Kenya Environment and Science Journalists Association. He can be reached at, or

Friday, March 22, 2013

'Africa supports' post 2015 goal on water security

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


[NAIROBI] The African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) has restated its support for Africa's adoption of a distinct water goal in the post 2015 development agenda.
In a press release on the occasion of the World Water Day, AMCOW said that access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene; for food and energy security; and for peace and cooperation in trans-boundary and coastal waters management was an imperative for Africa.
Tunis Post 2015 Africa Wide Water Consultations Participants
Speaking on the Africa position at a High Level Forum hosted by the Government of Netherlands to mark the global celebration of the World Water Day, AMCOW Executive Secretary, Bai Mass Taal, stressed the need to guarantee water security for universal access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene; for food and energy security; and for peace and cooperation in trans boundary and coastal waters management.
An Africa Wide Stakeholders Forum on Water on the Post 2015 development agenda which met in Tunis on March 1st 2015 proposed the adoption of Water Secure World for All by 2030.
The proposal was endorsed at the African Union led Africa Post 2015 Dialogue that was convened in conjunction with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) from March 11 – 12 2013 in Tunis.
The participants at the African wide stakeholders’ forum on water gave some reasons why the agenda should prioritize water to include:
  • Access to clean water and sanitation is prerequisite for healthy human living and has direct impact on the well-being and productivity of the population as well as sustaining freshwater ecosystems.
  • Sustainable and equitable economic development and poverty reduction have water as a pre-requisite.
  • Water and sanitation are human rights and increasingly widely recognised as such.
  • Water is essential for ensuring food and energy security, which in turn can only be achieved if the cross sectorial inter linkages are taken into account.
  • Water resources management is a key instrument for mitigating the impacts of the currently Climate Change and Variability.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

African policymakers 'lack environmental data'


Ochieng' Ogodo
25 February 2013 | EN

African countries should work together to gather and share environmental data, says a report
Flickr_nerissa's ring
[NAIROBI] Environmental policies in Africa are being hindered by a lack of adequate and accessible data and poor coordination between countries, according to experts who were speaking at the launch of 'Africa Environment Outlook 3, Summary Report for Policy Makers'.

For policies to work, there is a need for "clear implementation [of] roadmaps with realistic targets and funding mechanisms" and for "institutional mechanisms to ensure alignment and collaboration", says the report.

The report was commissioned by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) and launched at the First Universal Session of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council in Nairobi, Kenya, last week (21 February).


  • Policymakers in Africa say they lack access to the environmental data they need to make decisions
  • Good data is sometimes left to languish on shelves
  • A UNEP representative calls for national networks that can coordinate data sharing
Frank Turyatunga, regional coordinator for UNEP's Division of Early Warning and Assessment in Africa, says that policymakers need data and information on issues such as biological diversity, air quality, climate variability and marine resources, so they can make decisions on how they can be protected or used sustainably.

He adds that research is needed to generate this environmental data, and that scientists should transform it into a form that is easy to use in the decision-making processes.

"Policymakers need good information based on up-to-date scientifically credible and relevant data — not guesswork that is more likely to lead to mistakes in planning," says Turyatunga.

"For instance, the water sector in Kenya is responsible for researching and building data on water availability, its quality and distribution. But because they have financial and technical capacity challenges, this has not been done adequately," he adds.

Having environmental data will also help governments prioritise investment in many areas, including health, access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

Accessibility of data is also a problem, says Turyatunga. Policymakers have trouble accessing data in central African countries, but even in southern Africa, where good data is kept, it may not easy to get at.

"If you have data only kept on the shelves, it is not helpful. Policymakers work on behalf of the people and unless they are working from informed positions, they are not going to deliver a good service," says Turyatunga.

He wants to see the establishment of national networks to help various environmental agencies and countries exchange data.

Tanzania's environment minister, Terezya Huvisa, says that governments cannot make decisions or budget without data.

For example, data on environment-related health issues help to budget on the necessary healthcare, says Huvisa, who is also president of the AMCEN.

"We have difficulties in funding research, but we seriously need data to plan and implement policy programmes for the benefit of the people of Africa," she says.

Link to full report

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rice yield in SSA jumps to 30 per cent after rice crisis

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


[NAIROBI] Paddy rice production growth rate shot up from 3.2 per cent per year before the 2000–2007 rice crisis to 8.4 per cent per year after the rice crisis 2007–2012 in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) according to an analysis by Benin based Africa Rice Center .
The analysis also showed that rice yield in SSA jumped by about 30 per cent from 2007 on average to 2012 and that it is increasing at a faster rate than the global average.
“This is very encouraging news,” says AfricaRice Director General, Dr Papa Seck, who adds that “The surge in production and yield is a result of key investments made by farmers, governments, the private sector, the research community and donors to develop Africa’s rice sector.”
Seck says in après release that it is crucial to maintain this trend, since rice consumption continues to increase in SSA at an annual rate of 5 per cent.
High rice prices in late 2007 and 2008 sparked food riots in several African cities. Due to the “rice crisis,” African governments, assisted by the international donor community, undertook ambitious programmes to boost rice production capacity.
AfricaRice analysed trends in rice production across the African continent, placing particular emphasis on the periods before and after the 2007/2008 rice crisis to establish the domestic production responses to these measures.
Data were retrieved from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), accessed 7 February 2013).
“We were pleased to learn that paddy rice production in SSA increased by 2.8 million tonnes from 2000 to 2007, and then accelerated, increasing by 4.7 million tonnes in the period 2007–2012,” says  AfricaRice Deputy Director General, Dr. Marco Wopereis.
“But what’s more important, the analysis revealed that average rice yield in SSA increased by about 11 kg per ha per year from 1961 to 2007 and by a spectacular 108 kg per ha per year from 2007 to 2012, despite drought and floods in several African countries in 2011 and 2012.”
According to Wopereis such growth rates are comparable with cereal yield growth rates after the Second World War in the UK and the USA.
Global rice yield– driven by the Green Revolution in Asia – increased by 52 kg per ha per year over the period 1960–2010. 
“Currently, 71 per cent of the increase in paddy rice production in SSA can be explained by yield increase and 29 per cent by area expansion.
Before the rice crisis, only 24 per cent of production increase could be attributed to increases in yield and 76 per cent to increases in harvested area,” Wopereis adds.
“This is evidence of increased use of technological innovation, such as improved varieties and improved crop management in general.”

Ochieng’ Ogodo is a Nairobi based journalist whose works have been published in various parts of the world including Africa, the US and Europe. He is the English-speaking Africa and Middle East region winner for the 2008 Reuters-IUCN Media Awards for Excellence in Environmental Reporting. He is the chairman of the Kenya Environment and Science Journalists Association. He can be reached at, or