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Archive for October, 2013

India: Formulating a law to eradicate the social evil of sale of woman and children

Posted by African Press International on October 31, 2013

African Press International (API)

The kerala high court held that the recommendations of the law commission of India for formulating a law to eradicate the social evil of sale of woman and children deserves immediate attention by all stake holders who are interested in the welfare of women and children.

The court made it clear that sale of children should be termed as an offence by incorporating a penal provision after bringing in suitable amendment to the Indian penal code.Justice S.S Satheesh chandran made the observation while granting bail to prima of kasaragod,an accused in a case related to the selling of her two children when they were three months and six months old.

The allegation was that two tender children were sold by first accused Ratheesh with the support of the second accused prema.The first child was sold for a sum of 50000 rupees while the second child for 1 lakh. The court…

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ICC sets a new date for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s trial

Posted by African Press International on October 31, 2013

The International Criminal Court‘s Trial Chamber V(b) has set the trial’s commencement in the case against President Uhuru Kenyatta to February 5th, 2014. The case was to start on the 12th November 2013.

The trial judges noted that the Defence and the Prosecutor were in agreement on postponing the date.

Mr Kenyatta’s defence team had, on 24th October 2013 requested the Chamber to vacate the initial date which was the 12th November 2013. The Prosecution accepted the date saying that certain factual matters that the defence has raised makes sense and merited further investigation.

While postponing the date, the court expressed deep regret that repeated adjournments of the trial delays justice for all parties involved. The court has urged the parties to speed preparations so that no further postponement are necessitated.

 

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Donors react: Government corruption killing development in Malawi

Posted by African Press International on October 30, 2013

LILONGWE, – Extensive looting of public funds by government officials in Malawi has dangerously undermined the country’s public health sector, with hundreds of public health workers striking in recent weeks to protest late payments of their September salaries.

The delays were the result of a financial scandal involving government officials who exploited loopholes in a government payment system to make fraudulent deposits into the accounts of companies that did not have government contracts. Up to 20 billion kwacha (US$5.3 million) was siphoned from public funds, according to the Financial Intelligence Unit, a government organ.

The health worker strike, which started in early October, crippled operations at public hospitals, which are also experiencing depleted budgets for essential medical equipment and drugs.

“My three-year-old daughter had a fever, and I went to our district hospital to seek medical attention, but I came back without any. I found the staff at the hospital just lying around,” said Laurine Mwangupili of Karonga District, in Malawi’s Northern Region. “They told us that they could not attend to patients because they had not been paid their salaries.”

A health worker at the hospital, who did not wish to be named, said all the facility’s technical staff – including nurses, clinical officers and medical assistants – participated in the strike.

Workers at the country’s two largest referral hospitals – Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe and Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre – and at Dedza and Salima district hospitals also went on strike after the salary delays. They said they would be willing to strike again if this month’s salaries are delayed.

Striking workers who IRIN spoke to said that they had been threatened with eviction from their homes because they could not pay their rent. Some teachers also experienced delays in their September salaries as a result of the scandal.

“Crippled” because of corruption

Martha Kwataine, executive director of the NGO Malawi Health Equity Network, raised the alarm over the effect of corruption on the already underfunded health sector earlier this year.

“We have been saying that the health sector in this country is being crippled because of corruption,” Kwataine told IRIN. “As a country, we cannot retain specialist medical personnel because we lose our money this way. As a result, we keep sending patients to countries like Tanzania to receive specialized treatment” for diseases like cancer.

She added that the issue of corruption went beyond the late payment of salaries, and that it was exacerbating shortages of essential medical supplies, including drugs, which are “currently lacking in a number of hospitals.”

The Medical Doctors Union of Malawi also protested the looting in a statement, noting: “It is disheartening and utterly frustrating that while government is struggling to ensure constant availability of essential medicines and supplies in public hospitals, largely due to inadequate funds, some individuals within the same public service are finding it so easy to access the same inadequate funds for their own personal benefits.”

In September, IRIN witnessed patients at Nkhata Bay District Hospital being served a thin porridge instead of the usual meals of ‘nsima’ (a thick maize-meal porridge) or rice. Hospital authorities said the change was a result of poor funding to the facility, which had worsened since August.

Donors react

The impacts of the high-level fraud, which local media are calling “Cashgate”, are likely to be felt for months to come as international donors, who make up 40 percent of Malawi’s national budget and are particularly important to the health sector, threaten to pull out of the country.

Norway has already suspended its aid, while Germany has urged the government to track down those responsible, and the European Union (EU) has threatened to withhold $39 million of aid in December unless the corruption allegations are dealt with. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced on Monday that it is withholding $20 million in extended credit facility to Malawi until December.

Since Malawi’s Anti- Corruption Bureau uncovered the scam in early September, the government has shut down the payment system used to carry out the fraud, and 10 government officials have been arrested on charges of money laundering. On 10 October, President Joyce Banda dissolved her entire cabinet. Most of her 32-member cabinet was reappointed, with the exception of the ministers of finance, justice, and industry and trade.

History of corruption

Corruption has been a chronic problem in Malawi, with each of the country’s previous presidents pledging to root it out only to be connected to corruption after leaving office.

The first president elected in multiparty polls in 1994, Bakili Muluzi, is currently answering charges of diverting 1.7 billion kwacha ($4.5 million) of donor money into his own pocket. His successor, Bingu wa Mutharika, has been posthumously accused of building a 61 billion kwacha ($163 million) estate during the eight years he ruled the country. Most of that money is suspected to have been looted from state coffers, as he declared just 136 million kwacha ($363,000) in assets when he assumed office in 2004.

Under Mutharika, Malawi also had an uneasy relationship with its donors. In 2011, the UK froze its aid to the country after a diplomatic spat.

Since assuming office in April 2012, Banda has worked hard to mend relations with donors, but these gains may now have been lost.

sm/ks/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Video Interviews with Kenyan Leaders and coverage of ICC case

Posted by African Press International on October 29, 2013

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Aid unlikely to return to 2010 high any time soon

Posted by African Press International on October 29, 2013

Aid unlikely to return to 2010 high any time soon

DAKAR, – Aid from the top 15 global donors – all from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) – is estimated to reach US$127 billion by the end of 2013, reversing the aid declines of the last two years, according to projections from the Australian National University’s Development Policy Centre.

This represents a less than 1 percent increase over 2012, and is mainly due to some donors pursuing the commitment to give 0.7 percent of national income to development aid by 2015, a promise made by 15 European governments in 2005. The UK has promised to stick to this commitment, agreeing to raise aid from 0.56 percent to 0.7 percent of GNI, representing an increase of $3.7 billion.

“One can only speculate [as to why], but… the predominate theory is that [UK Prime Minister] David Cameron’s commitment to overseas aid is part and parcel of fashioning a new, compassionate brand of conservatism,” said Robin Davies, associate director of the Development Policy Centre and co-author of the report. “There is, at present, no reason to doubt that they [the UK] will meet its spending target,” he continued, “but programming an additional $3.7 billion in a single year is no mean feat.”

Without this hike from the UK, global aid would probably have fallen by 3 percent over the course of 2013, as most DAC donors reduced their aid, with a few exceptions, including Switzerland, Sweden and Italy.

The US, for example, is expected to have reduced its global aid spending by $1.7 billion in 2013, and the Netherlands by $1.23 billion, following austerity cuts at the end of 2012.

Researchers based their aid predictions on what the 15 largest DAC donors have pledged to spend this year, compared to their spending intentions at the same time last year. These top donors account for around 95 percent of official development assistance.

Non-DAC buffer

Even if the UK does not reach its global aid goal, Davies said the overall drop in global aid would be quite small. It is likely an increase in aid from non-DAC emerging donors and NGOs, as well as contributions from multilateral sources, which often take a while to “filter through the system,” would all act as a buffer against any drastic decreases in global aid.

Aid from non-DAC sources, including emerging donors and NGOs, has risen by several billions of dollars each year on average, reaching $43 billion in 2011 (compared to $133.9 billion from DAC donors). However, these figures are just estimates – many emerging or private donors do not officially report their aid.

Between 2000 and 2010, the amount of global aid from all DAC donors grew by more than 60 percent. According to Davies, this was linked to the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which led to “a much more effective narrative about the aims and achievements of aid.” This growth was also linked to the relative prosperity that prevailed in most of the OECD countries prior to the global financial crisis, which provided fertile ground for effective social campaigns in favour of aid, and to the terrorist attacks of September 11, which “led to a renewed focus on the geostrategic importance of aid”, he said.

As for the future, however, the Development Policy Centre says that it normally takes up to a decade for a country to recover from an economic crisis. This means that it is doubtful that the world will see another increase in global in the next few years.

“It appears likely aid will resume its downward trend in 2014, falling by perhaps a few percent per annum for several years,” Davies said.

Aid is not expected to return to its 2010 peak level until well after 2014.

If this happens, it is likely the level of funding allocated for short-term, discretionary purposes, such as emergency response, will fall, Davies said.

jl/aj/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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Humanitarian access in Blue Nile State has long been difficult

Posted by African Press International on October 29, 2013

Humanitarian access in Blue Nile State has long been difficult

LONDON, – Gaining humanitarian access to places like South Kordofan and Blue Nile states or Darfur in Sudan has long been a tricky business, but things may well be getting even tougher for many of today’s larger and more risk-averse international NGOs, say aid experts.

As the UN issues urgent appeals for access to mount a large-scale polio immunization campaign in southern parts of Sudan, two new publications from the UK’s Overseas Development Institute set out the story of how people in parts of Sudan have ended up cut off from virtually all humanitarian help.

It has not always been like that. During Darfur’s long-running conflict, there have been times when it was possible to work on both sides of the lines. The paper on Darfur describes what author Jonathan Loeb calls “a golden age”, between 2004 and 2006, when the government of Sudan was for a time prepared to allow access, and when there were channels to negotiate safe passage with Darfuri rebel groups.

Loeb sets out in detail how this was done. Peace talks outside the country allowed donors and UN agencies to meet the rebel leadership, which then appointed a humanitarian coordinator to act as a contact point with international agencies. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) took the lead in negotiating access, working closely with the UN’s own security department, whose officers built up a strong network of contacts among rebel commanders.

The paper details the way agencies picked their way through a minefield of moral dilemmas. Should a UN agency like OCHA sign an access agreement with armed non-state actors? (They did.) Should they allow those groups to issue access permits – effectively visas – for their territory? (This was a step too far, and the rebels backed down.) And, trickiest of all, should the rebels, fearing some staff were spying for the government, be allowed to pick and choose, on an individual or tribal basis, which staff worked in their areas.

This is a vexed question in Sudan to the present day, and although it might be against normal humanitarian practice, NGOs were not totally unsympathetic. “This sympathy and understanding,” says Loeb in his paper, “largely stemmed from international NGOs’ observation of the HAC (Sudan’s official Humanitarian Aid Commission) and its attempts to control which Sudanese nationals were hired by UN agencies and NGOs; many aid agency staff had been personally pressured by HAC officials to hire particular staff who had close ties to the government.” Agencies negotiated their way round the demands as best they could.

But all these careful arrangements deteriorated after 2006 as the rebel groups fragmented, and collapsed altogether after 2009, when President Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court, and retaliated by expelling NGOs, targeting those organizations which had worked across the lines in rebel areas. Those which remained became unwilling to risk their work with the much larger populations in government zones. The UN retreated. By the end of last year only two NGOs, the Danish Refugee Council and Médecins Sans Frontières Spain were even trying to provide help in the rebel stronghold of the Jebel Marra (Darfur) – and that only on a very limited scale.

Too risk-averse?

The problems further south in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan provinces spring from more recent conflicts, which flared after the Southern vote for independence. By then, agencies had already become what Irina Mosel and Ashley Jackson in their paper on these areas call “very risk averse and anxious about their relationship with the government”. In addition, opposition movements are now suspicious and hostile towards the UN because of the failure of their peacekeeping forces to prioritize the protection of civilians. In these conflicts there has never been a “golden age” for access.

Nicola Bennett, OCHA’s humanitarian policy adviser in South Sudan, says she is hearing calls for a stronger push to get OCHA and other UN actors involved. “In part”, she says, “it’s perhaps to pave the way, or shield NGOs from some of these difficult positions they feel they are in, if they are sticking out their neck above the rest. It does mean working more closely with the security part of the UN… whether that’s through having humanitarian actors as part of risk assessments [and even that’s a challenge] or having, where possible, security officers who are dedicated to this, and really have a focus on supporting humanitarian actors. The majority tend to work for the peacekeeping mission and so their view of what security management looks like and who their major client is, is going to be completely different.”

“Swashbuckling” aid workers

Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan could be reached across the border from South Sudan or – in the case of Blue Nile – from Ethiopia, with or without Sudanese government consent. Twenty years ago, during the Sudanese civil war, a small number of aid agencies and churches were able to reach these states. Peter Moszynski, a journalist and activist who was there during that period, says attitudes have since changed.

“It got a lot worse,” he told IRIN, “in the context of Darfur, because of the expulsions. Some organizations used to do things which they might not admit to and certainly wouldn’t do now. It was quite a swashbuckling generation of aid workers. Now they have the mindset, ‘We won’t do anything to compromise our other operations.’ You have now got this whole `professionalism’ thing; people are doing it as a career path. The aid agency world has changed.”

Such help as these areas do get is from tiny, more or less freelance operations, and is certainly not enough to mount a full vaccination campaign. But, says Moszynski, “You really have to argue the merits of getting small amounts of aid in, versus getting things sorted out properly.”

Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile are also victims of the geographical position and their relatively small populations. For aid agencies they are a lower priority than Darfur; for diplomats a lower priority than ensuring war does not break out along the Sudan/South Sudan border.

Irina Mosel says this cannot go on for ever. “We have to continue engaging, but one of the key issues is, until when? Many actors felt that there has to be some timeline set, and if we continue to say there’s an agreement and then it isn’t implemented, when do we have to look at other alternatives? And that of course is very much determined by the level of need… There is more and more information that the humanitarian situation is severe, and that should be an indication to us that there has to be a certain end to this timeline.”

eb/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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India: Abortions in the rise

Posted by African Press International on October 28, 2013

There has been a rise in the number of abortions cases amongst tribal women in the Attapadi settlements in Palakkad. During the last 20 days, 10 abortion cases were reported among tribal women in Attapadi. All together 26 cases of abortion has been reported in Attapadi.

More than half the abortion cases here is of mothers in their second delivery.The alarming increase in abortion cases shows that the measures exerted by the government to identify high risk mothers and provide them medical care and nutritious food has failed.

Moreover the UNICEF directive for improved surveillance to prevent recurrence of infant deaths has not been implemented yet. The UNICEF had suggested community based integrated maternal and new-born child illness scheme and improved dietary practices for pregnant women and lactating mother.

 

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The Global Gender Gap Report 2013 finds 86 out of 133 countries improved their global gender gap between 2012 and 2013

Posted by African Press International on October 28, 2013

  • The Global Gender Gap Report 2013 finds 86 out of 133 countries improved their global gender gap between 2012 and 2013, with the area of political participation seeing the greatest progress
  • Iceland has the narrowest gender gap in the world, followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden.
  • Data indicates overall slight gains in gender parity mask the emergence of twin-track paths towards economic equality in many countries and regions.
  • Download the full report, covering 136 economies including rankings, video and an interactive map.

Geneva, Switzerland, 25 October 2013 – The world’s gender gaps narrowed slightly in 2013 on the back of definite if not universal improvements in economic equality and political participation between the sexes, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2013, which is published today.

The eighth annual edition of the Report ranks 136 countries on their ability to close the gender gap in four key areas: economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, health and survival, educational attainment, political participation and economic equality. Of the 133 countries that were measured in  both 2012 and 2013, 86 actually improved their gender gap during this time. Overall, the Report finds Iceland the most advanced country in the world in terms of gender equality for the fifth year running. It, along with Finland (2nd), Norway (3rd) and Sweden (4th), has now closed over 80% of its gender gap. These countries are joined in the top 10 by the Philippines, which enters the top five for the first time, Ireland (6th), New Zealand (7th), Denmark (8th), Switzerland (9th) and Nicaragua (10th).

Elsewhere, in 14th place Germany is the highest-placed individual G20 economy, although it falls one place from 2012. Next is South Africa (17th, down one), the United Kingdom (level on 18th) and Canada (up one to 20th). The United States comes 23rd, also down one place since 2012. After South Africa, the next highest BRICS nation is Russia (61st), followed by Brazil (62nd), China (69th) and India (101st). At the bottom of the ranking are Chad (134th), Pakistan (135th) and Yemen (136th).

At the global level, the Report finds that in 2013, 96% of the health and survival gender gap has now been closed. It is the only one of the four pillars that has widened since the Report was first compiled in 2006. In terms of education, the global gender gap stands at 93%, with 25 countries having closed their gaps completely. The gender gaps for economic equality and political participation are only 60% and 21% closed respectively, although progress is being made in these areas, with political participation narrowing by almost 2% over the last year. In both developing and developed countries alike, relative to the numbers of women in tertiary education and in the workforce overall, women’s presence in economic leadership positions is limited.

Regional Analysis

Europe’s progress towards eliminating its gender gap is polarized, with countries from Northern and Western Europe presenting a stark contrast to those from the South and East. Spain comes in 30th, having closed 72% of its gender gap, France ranks 45th (70% closed) while Italy ranks 71st.

The Philippines is the highest ranking country in Asia, primarily due to success in health, education and economic participation. China stays in the same position as last year. India remains the lowest-ranked of the BRICS economies, even after gaining four places. Japan (105th) slips four places despite some improvements in the economic participation and opportunity subindex score. Japan is followed in the region by the Republic of Korea (111th).

Latin America’s leading nation when it comes to closing the gender gap is Nicaragua. At 10, it has now ranked in the top 10 for two years, largely on the back of a strong performance in terms of political empowerment. Cuba is next (15th), followed by Ecuador (25th). Mexico climbs 16 places to 68, due to increases in the number of female parliamentarians and the number of women in professional roles. Brazil holds firm at 62 despite a slight improvement in its overall score.

The Middle East and North Africa is the only region not to have improved its overall standing in 2013. The highest placed country in the region is the United Arab Emirates (109th), which has achieved parity in education. Nevertheless most countries in the region, including Bahrain (112th), Qatar (115th) and others are still failing to adequately capitalize on the investments in education through greater economic and political contributions from women.

A number of countries in Africa fare relatively well in this year’s Report, with Lesotho (16th), South Africa (17th), Burundi (22nd) and Mozambique (26th) all in the top 30. This is largely due to the participation of women in the workforce. Through this economic activity, women have greater access to income and economic decision-making, but are often present in low-skilled and low-paid sectors of the economy.

The index shows four broad groups emerging. The first group comprises those that have made investments in women’s health and education and are now seeing a return in terms of economic and political participation. In a second group are countries that are investing in these areas yet failing to exploit their additional talent pool due to prevailing social and institutional barriers. In the third group are countries where significant education and health gaps are preventing women from achieving their full potential even though they fulfill an important role in the workforce, often in low-skilled labour. The last group comprises countries that have large education, economic and political gaps.

“Countries will need to start thinking of human capital very differently – including how they integrate women into leadership roles. This shift in mindset and practice is not a goal for the future, it is an imperative today,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

“Both within countries and between countries are two distinct tracks to economic gender equality, with education serving as the accelerator. For countries that provide this basic investment, women’s integration in the workforce is the next frontier of change. For those that haven’t invested in women’s education, addressing this obstacle is critical to women’s lives as well as the strength of economies,” said Saadia Zahidi, co-author of the Report and Head of the Women Leaders and Gender Parity Programme.

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The Global Gender Gap Report’s index assesses 136 countries, representing more than 93% of the world’s population, on how well resources and opportunities are divided among male and female populations. The Report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four areas:

  • Economic participation and opportunity – salaries, participation and highly skilled employment
  • Educational attainment – access to basic and higher levels of education
  • Political empowerment – representation in decision-making structures
  • Health and survival – life expectancy and sex ratio

Index scores can be interpreted as the percentage of the gap that has been closed between women and men. Of these, 110 have been covered since the first edition of the Report in 2006. Of the 14 variables used to create the index, 13 are from publicly available hard data indicators from international organizations such as the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organization.

The magnitude and particulars of gender gaps in countries around the world are the combined result of various socio-economic and cultural variables. The closure or continuation of these gaps is intrinsically connected to the framework of national policies in place. For the third consecutive year, the Report includes new data from a survey of various national ministries analysing the use of policies designed to facilitate female workforce participation in 87 countries.

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Source weforum.org

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India: Kerala Police honoured

Posted by African Press International on October 28, 2013

Kerala police has been selected for the Asia-Pacific information security leadership Achievement award 2013 for its innovative and timely initiatives in ensuring cyber security.

The award will be handed over to state police chief K S Balasubramaniyam at Trivandapuram. The award was meant for the initiative of the police to spread awareness on cyber security, investing their time and energy to monitor and educate the people of different segments of the society.

 

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Video Interviews with Kenyan Leaders and coverage of ICC case

Posted by African Press International on October 27, 2013

 

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India: Formulating a law to eradicate the social evil of sale of woman and children

Posted by African Press International on October 27, 2013

The kerala high court held that the recommendations of the law commission of India for formulating a law to eradicate the social evil of sale of woman and children deserves immediate attention by all stake holders who are interested in the welfare of women and children.

The court made it clear that sale of children should be termed as an offence by incorporating a penal provision after bringing in suitable amendment to the Indian penal code.Justice S.S Satheesh chandran made the observation while granting bail to prima of kasaragod,an accused in a case related to the selling of her two children when they were three months and six months old.

The allegation was that two tender children were sold by first accused Ratheesh with the support of the second accused prema.The first child was sold for a sum of 50000 rupees while the second child for 1 lakh. The court observed that the incident of parent selling two infants after receiving money was shocking and revolting. The court held that the statutes contained no provision to penalise a person for sale of woman and children.

The law commission of India after taking in to account the social evils of sale of women and children had recommended penal provisions including punishment by amending the IPC. The recommendation is yet to be adopted and deserves immediate attention by all stake holders,the court mentioned.

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Robin Wanjiru Njenga, a Kenyan undegraduate student excels in Germany – embarks on masters studies

Posted by African Press International on October 26, 2013

Robin Wanjiru Njenga of class 2013 in Jacobs university in  Bremen Germany, whose father is a prominent lawyer in Kenya Mr Njenga Mwangi delivered an excellent valedictorian speech during her graduation. Ms Njenga has now joined the university of Heidelberg where she is taking her masters.

Watching her speak, one can see in her leadership qualities.

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Plant diseases are major threats to food security

Posted by African Press International on October 26, 2013

Photo: CABI
A plant health clinic in Machakos, Kenya

MUKONO,  – Using a sharp kitchen knife, “plant doctor” Daniel Lyazi sets to work dissecting a slime-covered cabbage at a farmers’ market in Mukono, central Uganda, where the devastating cassava brown streak disease was first identified in 2004.

“There’s a small caterpillar which is eating the cabbage and according to me it’s a diamond-back moth,” he tells the group of farmers who crowd around his table.

He advises the cabbage grower to switch to a different pesticide and in the next season inter-plant with onions (as an additional repellent to moths), and fills out a form with this prescription before turning to the next “patient”, an under-sized cassava tuber.

“Plant clinics” like this one, free of charge and open to all, were piloted in Mukono from 2006 and in the past year have been scaled out to 45 (out of 112) of Uganda’s local government districts, according to the UK-based Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience (CABI).

Plant doctor is not an official title; the term has been adopted by CABI for the 1,000 agricultural extension workers it has helped to train as part of its Plantwise programme. Since 2010 Plantwise has set up plant clinics in 24 countries, (three in West Africa and nine in East Africa). In August it opened 13 in Zambia.

Plant pests and diseases are major threats to food security and livelihoods in most developing countries. CABI cites research suggesting that worldwide, 40 percent of the value of plants for food is lost to pests and diseases – (15 percent to insects and 13 percent each to weeds and pathogens) – before they can be harvested by farmers.

That research dates from 1994 and did not cover some staple crops, such as cassava, for which the losses to brown streak disease alone have been 30-70 percent in the Great Lakes region, according to the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

Crop scientist Eric Boa, who pioneered plant clinics for CABI, says: “The variety of pests and diseases [in eastern and central Africa] is daunting. Clinic data reveal the farmers present problems on over 30 crops, and plant doctors have to consider over 60 different pests and diseases.”

Farmers’ need for advice was evident at Lyazi’s clinic in Mukono. During a three-hour session, consultations were non-stop and 17 farmers were given detailed recommendations, both verbally and on “prescription” sheets.

Asked if they had been benefiting from the clinics, Erifazi Mayanja, the head of a local farmers’ group, said: “Of course. That’s why we have come in great number today, because of the good advice we are getting.’

Plant clinics versus extension workers

The coordinator of the Plantwise programme in Uganda and Zambia, Joseph Mulema, says plant clinics are a far more effective model for getting advice to farmers than the traditional one where extension workers, in theory, visit farms.

“Plant clinics can help so many farmers in a short time,” he says. “In fact, more farmers are seen in a session, if good mobilization is done, than an extension officer can look at in an entire month. Even if the clinic only runs twice a month, with good mobilization you can see hundreds of farmers.”

Data collected by researchers in Uganda suggest that normally a plant clinic session provides written recommendations to about a dozen enquiries on average.

However, enquiries may not result in a written prescription, and evidence from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where extension services are hard to find, suggests plant clinics can attract up to 1,000 people per session.

There is also an “exponential” effect of farmers receiving advice at a clinic, passing on the information to neighbours with the same problem, says Misaki Okotel, Uganda coordinator for the international NGO Self Help Africa, a partner with CABI in the Plantwise programme.

There is wide agreement that extension services in countries like Uganda, which has only a few thousand extension officers – (4,300 in 1997, according to research by Nygard et al) needed a new approach to small farmers.

Plant diseases are major threats to food security

The government has a programme to empower farmers “to demand, pay for and benefit from extension”, but smallholders do not have this capacity, Okotel says.

Government crop protection officer Robert Karyeija suggests an additional reason why the extension services needed help from the Plantwise programme.

“We have thousands of extension workers, but previously farmers would not know where a “plant doctor” was, or whom they could ask for plant health advice,” he explained.

“The extension workers were there, we have agricultural officers in each of Uganda’s 1,100 sub-counties, but the problem [was] they would be general agriculturalists who knew agronomy but didn’t know much about pests and diseases.”

Impact

Little research has been done on the effects of plant clinics. Perhaps the most detailed was a study in Bolivia, summarized in a paper which found clinics “can make large contributions to farmers’ earnings”.

The authors looked at changes in farmers’ incomes in the year after visiting a clinic, minus additional crop protection costs in that year. On the assumption that the difference was down to plant doctors’ advice plus any training, they found the average income gain in one year for those farmers who merely visited plant clinics was US$392, while for those who also had additional training the average gain was $991.

Those figures may overstate the potential income gains for the average farmer (given that visitors to plant clinics may have experienced above average losses to diseases) but they also leave out of account collective benefits from the disease surveillance and wider diffusion of knowledge encouraged by the system.

The authors acknowledge the “survey may lack the statistical certainty of a rigorous impact assessment” since there was no control group, and other factors could have accounted for some of the income gains.

Nevertheless, they conclude that “the clinics have a high positive impact,” one reason being that “the clients come to them, looking for a specific answer; thus they are especially receptive to the advice given.”

The most detailed study of plant clinics in Africa does not attempt to calculate income gains. Instead it looks at the quality of diagnoses and recommendations given by clinics at Mukono and two other locations.

The researchers had only the data on plant doctors’ prescriptions to go by, and were trying to judge its consistency. They assessed 82 percent of the recommendations as “partially effective” but only 10 percent as best practice and 8 percent as ineffective.

The researchers note that soil fertility problems seemed to be neglected by plant doctors and that they seldom mentioned biological remedies.

As for the diagnoses, they could “completely or partially validate” only 44 percent of these. This did not mean that 56 percent of plant doctors’ diagnoses were wrong, but most were ambiguous.

The authors say the results should caution against unrealistic expectations of plant doctors. They point out that very few samples were sent to laboratories, suggesting perhaps that plant doctors prefer not to admit to ignorance.

But given that the extension workers concerned had received only a three-day course from CABI before being labelled “plant doctors” the results can hardly be taken as invalidating the plant clinic initiative, they suggest.

Plantwise reports that so far its doctors have advised 200,000 farmers, and they aim to reach 800,000 in 31 countries by 2014.

In Uganda, Joseph Mulema told IRIN, donors spent about $290,000 on the programme last year, setting up clinics and links with universities. In the process coverage has expanded from 45 clinics in 18 local districts to 115 in 45 districts.

Local government in Uganda is keen to go ahead with plant clinic expansion, says Boa.

nl/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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MP Kajiado North constituency Hon. Manje Kajiado speaks to API on Kenya cases going on at the ICC

Posted by African Press International on October 25, 2013

The Member of Parliament for Kajiado North constituency Hon. Manje says he does not support immediate pull-out by Kenya from the Rome Statute that established the ICC. The Kenya Parliament is now ready with a bill that if passed and ascended to by the President will free Kenya from the claws of the ICC. This, however, will not take place immediately, but in a year’s time. Any pull-out will not affect the ongoing Kenya cases. He also says the ICC should be critical on the witnesses who are in court with suspect evidence with, most of it, hearsay!

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Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala speaks to API on Kenya cases going on at the ICC

Posted by African Press International on October 25, 2013

The Cabinet Secretary for mining Hon Najib Balala was at the ICC, Hague to give moral support to Deputy President William Ruto and Journalist Arap Sang who are on trial. API got up with him at the lunch break. President Uhuru Kenyatta es expected to stand trial at the ICC in the coming month of November.

It is, however, not known if the trial will be deferred by the United Nations. Deputy President Ruto got conditional excusal by the appeals court, meaning, it is not a blanket excussal. He has to apply at all times for excusal whenever an emergency necessitates it. He will, therefore has to be in attendance most of the time.

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