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Archive for April 6th, 2013

Aid drops as rich nations struggle

Posted by African Press International on April 6, 2013

NAIROBI,  – Official Development Assistance (ODA) has continued to fall as wealthy countries battle an ongoing global financial crisis and a struggling Eurozone, accordin g to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) latest report. Aid decreased by 4 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, which had already experienced a 2 percent decline on the previous year, the report found. 

This is the first time since 1996-1997 that aid has fallen in two successive years.

Most assistance – approximately US$125.6 billion in 2012 – still comes from members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), but emerging donors such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are becoming increasingly important to humanitarian aid.

Below are some of the key ODA trends from recent years:

Big donors still key – The G7 countries provided 70 percent of total net DAC ODA in 2012, with DAC-EU countries contributing 51 percent. ODA rose in nine countries, with the highest jumps coming from Australia, Austria, Iceland, Korea and Luxembourg. Fifteen countries recorded drops, with those worst-affected by the Eurozone crisis – Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal – making the biggest cuts.

The largest DAC donors were the US, the UK, Germany, France and Japan. A number of countries gave significant portions of their gross national income (GNI) as ODA, with Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands contributing over the “0.7 percent of GNI” target first committed by wealthy nations in 1970 and reaffirmed several times since. The UK recently confirmed that it would spend 0.7 percent of its new budget on international development. On average, however, in 2012 DAC countries spent 0.43 of their GNI on aid.

DAC countries feeling the pinch – A number of the world’s biggest donors are suffering internal economic crises that have affected their ODA spending; Japan, Spain and Greece saw negative growth while the US saw growth of under 2 percent in 2011, and the UK’s GDP rose by less than one percent.

Non-traditional donors on the rise – Contributions from emerging donor nations are becoming increasingly important to global aid, especially as traditional donors struggle with economic crises at home. In 2011, Saudi Arabia contributed over $5 billion, up from $1.5 billion in 2007, while Turkey more than doubled its ODA in the same period, reaching $1.27 billion in 2011. According to the OECD, development assistance from non-DAC countries exceeded individual DAC country contributions. For instance, in 2010, “Saudi Arabia provided $3.48 billion in gross ODA, exceeding the gross ODA volumes of 12 of the 23 DAC countries. In the same year, China provided an estimated $2 billion in gross ODA, and Turkey $967.4 million”.

Non-traditional donors offer an alternative source of development finance for poor countries, sometimes setting up their own development initiatives – such as the India-Brazil-South Africa Trilateral – separate from the OECD.

Increased humanitarian aid – Twenty years ago, contributions for humanitarian aid made up 3.3 percent of total bilateral commitments from DAC countries, with other commitments going to other forms of assistance, such as economic or administrative aid. Today, humanitarian aid makes up 8.6 percent of these commitments. The highest aid contributions by DAC countries are to social and administrative infrastructure such as education and healthcare – an estimated 39 percent – while economic infrastructure like transport, agriculture and mining received 16.2 percent of DAC ODA.

Different donors tend to prioritize different sectors – Luxembourg spent over 18 percent of its aid on humanitarian needs and 0.1 percent on economic infrastructure, compared to South Korea, which spent 1.3 percent on humanitarian aid and 42.8 percent on administrative infrastructure. The US and European Union institutions, meanwhile, spent over 6 percent of their total assistance on food aid.

OECD statistics show that aid for bilateral projects rose by 2 percent, while aid to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and UN agencies fell by 7.1 percent.

A geographical shift in aid – The past five years have seen a decrease in aid to sub-Saharan Africa – the world’s poorest region and traditionally the largest beneficiary of ODA – going from 47.8 percent of total DAC and multilateral aid in 2005/2006 to 41.8 percent in 2010/2011. Aid to South and Central Asia rose from 11.5 percent to 19.8 percent over the same period. The Middles East and North Africa also saw a drop of 9 percent between 2005/2006 and 2010/2011, while Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean all witnessed increases in aid.

kr/rz source

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Conservation and land

Posted by African Press International on April 6, 2013

LONDON,  – In the great plains of northern Tanzania, close to the world-famous Serengeti National Park, a bitter row has broken out over an attempt to designate 1,500sqkm of Loliondo District as a game-controlled area. 

The Maasai herdsmen in the area say their cattle cannot survive without access to traditional dry-season grazing in the area. The government says the land is needed as a wildlife corridor between the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Besides, the Minister for Natural Resources told the press, 2,500sqkm had already been, as he put it, “released to the local population”; the rest would be used for conservation purposes for the benefit of the nation.

Typical of recent land-grab controversies, this row involves the use of rangelands rather than farmlands. While farmers can show quite clearly that their lands are being used, semi-arid grasslands in areas like Loliondo cannot support animals year-round, so surveys often show the areas lying apparently empty.

Such tracts of land are often attractive for commercial agriculture – in Ethiopia, for instance, a number of controversial large-scale agricultural concessions have been granted along the Awash River. But the Loliondo dispute is not about commercial agriculture; it’s a so-called “green grab”, where access to land is lost for conservation purposes.

Here, one widely accepted good – the right of people to continue using their traditional lands – has collided with another – the need to conserve nature and biodiversity.

Many faces of conservation

The great majority of nations have signed the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, which sets as a target: “by 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial land and inland water and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.”

Neil Burgess of the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre said, “These targets, set by nearly every nation on the earth, are the most ambitious conservation plan out there. It’s a massive potential conservation plan – it’s a lot of land, a lot of sea. Depending on how it’s done, depending on how countries choose to do this, it could be a big land grab, it could be a big seas grab, or it could enhance community rights, it could give benefits to the communities – it could do a whole lot of different possible things.”

From 26-27 March, at a meeting on conservation and land grabbing organized in London by the International Institute for Environment and Development and other conservation groups, participants struggled with the question of how best to reconcile conservation, development and people’s rights to their way of life, and in particular what kind of land tenure arrangements achieve the best outcomes.

Some countries, like Chile, have gone down the route of extreme private ownership. Some of the country’s most important protected areas are in private parks and reserves, the largest of which – 630,000 hectares of Patagonia – belongs to a foreign national, the American businessman Doug Tompkins, founder of the North Face clothing company. The owners of these parks can and do use their private property rights to keep them clear of squatters and encroachment, but they can also, if they choose, abandon conservation and allow mining or logging on the land. The only recourse for indigenous communities looking to keep their traditional areas is to ask the government to buy the land on their behalf – and even the government cannot force an unwilling owner to sell.

“Kenya’s new constitution offers what is to be called ‘community land’ to any group formed on the basis of ethnicity, culture or shared interest. If the new form of tenure is a success, it could be the model for other African countries”

Other legal systems offer a more fluid approach to ownership and tenure. The Philippines, for example, has a bewildering array of instruments for holding land, such as designating it as “ancestral domain”. But these kind of conditional rights rarely have the strength of private ownership.

Jan van der Ploeg, of the University of Leiden, tried to help indigenous groups in the Philippines get formal tenure on their traditional lands in the hope it would help protect endangered species, but he came to the conclusion that it would not work. “In the end,” he said, “if you finally succeed in getting tenurial instruments for people, often conservation output is very limited. People still persist in clearing forest, and if a large company comes in, those legal rights simply don’t mean anything.”

Community ownership

Africa in general does not have a historical tradition of private ownership; land was more likely to be thought of as belonging to a community or tribe, with individuals having the right to use it rather than possess it completely. But very few African countries have formalized this idea into any kind of group ownership or collective tenure.

One that has is Kenya. In the late 1960s, Maasai living on the Kenyan side of the border with Tanzania were offered the chance to establish group ranches, defined as “a livestock production system or enterprise where a group of people jointly own freehold title to land… and herd their livestock collectively which they own individually.”

In practice, managing the communally owned land proved difficult, and one group ranch after another was subdivided into smaller, individually owned pieces. Eventually, many of the plots were sold for development.

But Kenya’s new constitution, adopted in 2010, is trying again. This time, it offers what is to be called “community land” to any group formed on the basis of ethnicity, culture or shared interest.

Stephen Moiko, of the International Livestock Research Institute, told IRIN that a key difference this time is that the initiative will come from the group. “It’s possible for communities to come up together and, through a legal process, obtain ownership of key resources which they depend on for their livelihoods, and it has legal mechanisms to protect that land from alienation. I think the nice thing about this new provision is that it recognizes the role of communities as owners and protectors and users of local resources.”

“If communities came together in groups to own resources jointly, it would be for their own benefit and this would enhance development,” Oliver Waindi, Kenya Land Alliance deputy coordinator, told IRIN. At present, “community ownership of resources is just on paper”, but a National Land Commission was inaugurated on 27 February of this year to raise awareness of the constitutional provision.

If the new form of tenure is a success, it could be the model for other African countries. Chris Bakuneeta, a lecturer in biological sciences in neighbouring Uganda, told IRIN, “In Uganda you can have a forest that belongs to the community, especially where people go in to worship, but they still don’t have any protection, because it is the community who know the boundaries, and they don’t have a title deed to that land. I would want to see the lawyers coming up with a legal mechanism to protect this forest so that the local people can own it and have a legal right over it.

“And that also applies to land that belongs to pastoral communities, large expanses of land where those communities go to graze their cattle – this land doesn’t have a land title. I would want a situation where communities can register a land title, and they can use that to get a loan, and everybody knows that if there is a benefit, it goes to these people.”

The impact of group tenure rights on conservation efforts remains to be seen.

eb/rk/rz source


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Ending cycle of hunger

Posted by African Press International on April 6, 2013

Agricultural transformation is part of Niger’s bid to end chronic food scarcity

NIAMEY, – Niger is seeking to end its chronic food shortages through an ambitious agricultural transformation plan – but the plan will have to meet the demands of a fast-growing population living in a mostly desert country that also faces threats to is security.

When he came to power in 2011, President Issoufou Mahamadou said: “As evidenced in the last election, our people have gained political freedom; now it remains to attain freedom from hunger.” Some 6.4 million Nigeriens faced hunger during the 2011-2012 Sahel food crisis.

A year later, Mahamdou’s government launched the so-called 3N Initiative – Les Nigériens Nourissent les Nigériens [Nigeriens Feeding Nigeriens] – a broad strategy touching on food, the environment, energy and industrial transformation, estimated to cost $2 billion in the initial 2012-2015 phase of the project.

Humanitarian groups active in Niger point out the proactive approach taken by the new administration aims to combat both food insecurity and malnutrition, heralding it as an example to other crisis-prone Sahel countries.

Mahamadou’s predecessor, Mamadou Tandja, who was ousted in a February 2010 coup, had come under intense criticism over his handling of food crises in the 2000s. Some critics said he refused to accept that there were serious food shortages due to pride and a deep mistrust of NGOs.

“Niger faces drought once in every two years. Even in a good year, there is a part of the population that still remains vulnerable. Drought is the main threat to agriculture in our country. It’s responsible for 80 percent of losses in terms of agricultural output,” said Amadou Allahoury Diallo, the high commissioner of the 3N Initiative.

A tall order

Only 12 percent of Niger’s territory can sustain farming. But with a growth rate of 3.3 percent, it has one of the world’s fastest growing populations. The population doubled between 1988 and 2010, rising from around seven million to some 15 million, according to official statistics. Just 1 percent of the territory – in the extreme west – receives more than 600mm of rain per year.

“The output from the 3-4 months of the rainy season is what feeds the population for the 12 months of the year. This should change,” Diallo told IRIN. “Eighty percent of the population depends on agriculture. We have no choice but to develop agriculture.”

Some observers say it will be impossible for Niger to attain food security given the harsh climate, poverty and population pressure. The 3N Initiative’s to-do list ranges from introducing modern technology and equipping farmers with better seeds and implements to improving agricultural financing and market management.

The latest scheme is hardly unprecedented; previous Nigerien governments initiated self-sustenance strategies. However, Diallo argued that strong political will by Mahamadou’s administration and better government coordination set the 3N initiative apart from its precursors.

“In the past, food security was spearheaded by development partners rather than the ruling party, and each ministry worked with different partners. There was no centralized leadership,” he noted.

Niger fell from growing enough food, and even being an exporter of cereals, in the 1960s, to a state of chronic shortages due to recurrent droughts that became more frequent in the last decade.

Locust invasions, unstable food prices and political instability have also gnawed away at the country’s food security. In Niger – and across much of the Sahel – staple cereal prices are above the five-year average. Prices of millet, the staple for Nigerien households, is at 30 percent above the five-year average, said the Famine Early Warning System Network, attributing the rise to strong demand by institutions and other private buyers.

“Good harvests do not necessarily mean food security. There is the question of accessibility. Poor families spend much of their income on buying food, and when the prices go up they suffer a huge impact,” said Wim Fransen, the Niger head of office for the European Commission’s humanitarian aid arm (ECHO).

“There should be a diversification and improvement of food production, management of natural resources, especially water, and an improvement the market system for better food distribution,” said Vincenzo Galastro, the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s programme manager for West and Central Africa.

“The Niger government has made food security a priority. We think it’s a very positive step,” he added.


But Niger has also had to respond to the crisis in neighbouring Mali, sending troops there as part of a West African stabilization force and stepping up internal security – moves with budgetary repercussions on its food security strategy.

“The government had pledged to use most of the resources from uranium and oil [receipts] to finance the agricultural sector. Unfortunately, Niger also faces insecurity problems owing to the Mali crisis, which diverted some of the resources to security,” said Diallo. “Insecurity and food security are the government’s main priorities.”

As with Niger’s previous strategies, the 3N Initiative could last only as long as the regime that created it, but Diallo said the government was working on legislation to ensure the self-sustenance aims are spared the vagaries of politics.

“We are going to develop an agriculture policy to be adopted as a law that would be enforceable even after this government,” he said.

The Food and Agriculture Organization representative in Niger, Aboubakar Doualé Waïss, argued that food security is an unavoidable issue for any government in the Sahel, meaning Mahamdaou’s involvement in the 3N Initiative would not have to limit the programme to the duration of his administration.

“There must be a strong engagement at the highest level of government. Moreover, it’s one of the policies for which the president was elected. It’s natural that he be at the heart of his strategy,” Waïss told IRIN.

“We are convinced that this programme will continue under whatever name it will be given. In any Sahel country, food security is vital. Whoever comes to power, food and nutritional security will remain part of their problem.”

ob/rz  source

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