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Archive for September 7th, 2013

Zimbabwe: Hunger looms

Posted by African Press International on September 7, 2013

MASVINGO,  – Revesai Moyo, 80, a smallholder farmer in Zimbabwe’s Zimuto District, is one of the 2.2 million people – a quarter of the rural population – expected t o lack sufficient food between October and the next harvest in March 2014, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

Year after year, Moyo plants maize, groundnuts and beans, and does “not harvest much even when the rains are good”.

“This last season was a total write-off as the rains stopped just before the maize was to mature,” she told IRIN. She lives in a region considered “unsuitable for crop production” due to poor soils and “highly erratic” rainfall.

In a 3 September statement, WFP Country Director Sory Ouane said, “Many districts, particularly in the south, harvested very little and people are already trying to stretch out their dwindling food stocks.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS), the aggregate cereal harvest in 2013 was about 27 percent below the average of the previous five years.

The WFP statement attributed the current high levels of food insecurity “to various factors including adverse weather conditions, the unavailability and high cost of agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, and projected high cereal prices due to the poor maize harvest.”

The reasons widespread hunger continues to be an almost annual problem in Zimbabwe are more complex.

Poverty, growing conditions

Zimbabwe has five natural regions, each with varying suitability for growing crops. The drought-prone provinces of the south and west, such as Masvingo and the South and North Matabeleland provinces, are ranked as the most unsuitable areas for crop production.

Matebeleland South and parts of Masvingo provinces experience food deficits on an almost annual basis and are among the poorest in the country.

But a May report by the University of Zimbabwe’s Institute of Environmental Studies – Understanding Poverty, Promoting Wellbeing and Sustainable Development – found that across the country 95 percent of the rural population was poor and, of that number, more than two-thirds were “very poor”.

Zimbabwe’s rural impoverishment was not helped by cuts in support to black farmers starting in the 1990s after the government agreed to rein in spending and introduced market-oriented reforms in line with the World Bank’s Structural Adjustment Programmes. According to the University of Zimbabwe report, poverty was further exacerbated by drought, food shortages, hyperinflation and the HIV epidemic, and then by a loss of donor support in the wake of the country’s 2000 fast-track land redistribution programme.

The land reform programme saw 11 million hectares of white-owned farmland – in prime agricultural regions – acquired for redistribution to the landless. A recent book, Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land, argues this redistribution improved the lives of thousands of smallholder farmers and their families, but those working redistributed land still lack title deeds and face a variety of challenges.

In areas such as Beit Bridge in Matabeleland South, which is prone to dry spells and drought, conditions remain grim. District Administrator Simon Muleya told IRIN rain-fed agriculture in the area “just won’t work.” He said the water table was high, which meant irrigation could potentially help farmers, but this required investment and the “money is just not there”.

On a national level, the amount of irrigated lands has fallen since the fast-track land reform programme, Conrade Zawe, of the Department of Irrigation, told The Herald, a state-owned daily. “Around 2000, we had 250,000 hectares of land under irrigation, and hectarage fell down drastically over the years, but through the rehabilitation processes that the government has introduced, about 135,000 hectares is [currently] being irrigated.”

Tastes dictate crops

Crops continue to fail in areas like Beit Bridge partly because of local people’s attachment to maize, despite its unsuitability to the climate. The government and donors have tried to change diets in marginal areas such as Beit Bridge, but have not made much headway.

Muleya said, “The Ministry of Agriculture has tried to encourage people to grow small grains [such as sorghum and millet] because we do not get enough rain, but there is resistance. People prefer maize meal over the traditional sorghum and millet and other small grains.”

FAO assistant representative David Mfote told IRIN that people had acquired a taste for maize – introduced to by Europeans in the 16th century – which is fashioned into ‘sadza’, a thick porridge. “They say it tastes better,” he said.

During the 2010/2011 season, the government and FAO launched a small grains pilot project in marginal areas, including Matabeleland South, that helped farmers grow the grains and linked them to the markets, but it was brought to an end in 2012 because of lack of donor support.

Grains such as sorghum were also favourites of quelea birds, which, according to Mfote, forced farmers to guard their fields the whole day.

A senior agricultural department official, who declined to be named, told IRIN that, in the absence of irrigation, the solution in the Beit Bridge region would be livestock farming. “Even if they [the local communities] change to sorghum or millet, rainfall is so erratic in places like Beit Bridge that even those small grains may not survive the heat, so they should focus on their cattle and goats which they can sell to buy food,” he said.

im/go/rz source http://www.irinnews,org


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Kenya: Nairobi County Government launches initiative to enhance information flow

Posted by African Press International on September 7, 2013


 Nairobi City Government has launched an initiative to build a sustained engagement with journalists and media outlets in an effort to enhance information flow to the public.

The initiative seeks to also build the capacity of journalists based in the County on understanding and reporting the implementation of devolution and the operations of the county government.

The initiative was formally launched at a training workshop which brought 40 journalists from different media outlets at a Nairobi hotel.

Speaking at the forum, George Millah from the Governor’s Press Service who coordinated the workshop said the Nairobi County government was committed to working closely with journalists and the media to disseminate information to residents of the county.

Officials from the City Government Public Relations and Communications Department Susan Muthoni and Mercy Muguthu said efforts were already in place to improve flow of information to the media and the public and to create opportunities for more interactions between journalists, the governor and other senior County Government officials

Kenya Correspondents Association Chairman William Oloo Janak, who made a presentation on “Understanding the current media landscape and Strategies for Effective engagement between the Media and the County Governments”, urged journalists to write well researched and balanced stories on devolution.

Janak said journalists should treat devolution stories with seriousness as the country and citizens relied on the media to help them make decisions.

“We are losing grip on the key issues and rationale for devolution as media people and we are now keen on amplifying the voices of a few leaders and in some cases, those who argue devolution cannot work,” said Janak.

He said devolution was to the social, economic and political transformation of the country which required a more balanced coverage to give hope to the millions of Kenyans who voted for it as a way of addressing socio-economic inequalities over the last 50 years of Kenya’s independence.

Janak said the Nairobi County and other county governments had the responsibility of working hard to make devolution successful through transparent and accountable management or resources, facilitation of public participation.

He said the county governments must work together with the media to enhance information dissemination to the public adding that the counties needed to streamline their communication channels for improved flow of information to the media and the public.

Journalists attending the workshop lauded the move by Nairobi City Government to launch the media training initiative adding that they looked forward to continued engagement with them and the rest of the media fraternity.


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Kenya: Kisumu Governor suspends six officer accusing them of Corruption and mismanagement

Posted by African Press International on September 7, 2013

By   Dickens   Wasonga , Kenya

Kisumu County Governor Jack Ranguma has suspended six senior city officers over alleged gross corruption and mismanagement of resources worth more than Sh1.2 billion.

Ranguma’s action comes following an audit report on the county’s assets and liabilities carried out by the Transition Authority in all the counties..

He is the first governor to act on the TA findings from an audit exercise on assets and liabilities that started on July 15.

The audit was to also look at debts carried forward to the counties by the defunct local authorities abolished on March 4 as per the constitution.

The audit is aimed at providing mechanisms that will secure assets and liabilities formerly held by the councils.

The senior officers sent packing are Adrian Ouma (Engineering Department), Absalom Ayany (Planning) and Peter Kayila (IT Computer programmer). Clerical officers implicated in the scandal are Bertha Odera, Maurice Matunga and Peter Ogada.

The officers are alleged to have taken advantage of the transition period by attempting to sell over 500 houses and council estates valued at over Sh1.1 billion to private developers without following the due process.



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