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WINDHOEK, (Xinhua) -- Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba shakes hands with visiting Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong during their meeting in Windhoek, Namibia, Nov. 30, 2011. Xinhua PHOTO: Li Ping


Crash kills 18 people in South Africa

A minibus taxi crashed into a truck

DURBAN, South Africa, (Xinhua) -- A minibus taxi crashed into a truck outside Belfast in Mpumalanga on Thursday, killing 18 people, including a toddler, authorities said.

Kenya’s parliament orders probe into use of funds for All Africa Games

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenyan Parliament on Thursday ordered the sports ministry to be probed over the handling of All Africa Games bronze winner, Sarah Njoki, as the docket’ s minister, Paul Otuoma found himself under fire on Thursday.
Otuoma, who was presenting his report on how the government utilised funds for the September Pan African Games in Parliament was at pains to fend off claims of financial impropriety as well as charges that joy riders made the Maputo trip at the expense of deserving competitors.
Rising on a point of order, the chairman of the Parliamentary Account Committee and Ikolomani, Dr. Bonny Khalwale, asked the minister to explain how Njoki and team mate Patroba Ojwang travelled five days by bus to Mozambique.
“They were denied a chance to fly to Maputo and Sarah Njoki won a gold medal and she was denied her entitlement of the 1,100 U.S. dollars Presidential Award. Could this minister tell us what is going on in this ministry,” Khalwale added.
In his defence, Otuoma said only the names of the 396 he tabled to Parliament made up the official list of the Kenyan delegation to Maputo as he insisted there were no joy riders in the All Africa Games party.
“As far as I have interrogated this list, these are the people who travelled to Maputo. All these travelled by air but the two travelled on private capacity, they were not part and parcel of the delegation,” Khalwale said.
“It came to my attention that the two were not accredited through the Chef de Mission. We did not recognise the bronze medal as part of our official tally and that is why it was not factored in the presidential award,” Otuoma told a charged Parliament amid mild heckling from backbenchers.
The minister apportioned the blame for the spat on Kenya Tae Kwon Do Association (KTA) who declined to lodge Njoki and Ochieng as competitors with the Chef de Mission, Charles Nyaberi.
In Maputo, Njoki defied orders from Nyaberi to return home and ended up with a bronze medal in her lightweight category having been locked out from the Abuja (2003) and Algiers (2007) editions by the KTA.
As a bronze winner, she was due to receive 1,100 dollars under the Presidential Award Scheme but during the presentation presided by President Mwai Kibaki in October; her name was not on the roll.
Temporary Speaker, Gitobu Imanyara directed the matter to be taken to the Parliamentary Committee on Labour and Social Affairs to probe the matter and present the findings to the house within a month.
Khalwale also claimed that some in the Kenyan competing delegation slept on floors, toilets and shared accommodation in Maputo as he sought the minister to explain how the 511,000 dollars spent on boarding and lodging was utilised.
However, supporting documents the Ikolomani legislator presented in parliament were withdrawn after they were found to be unsigned.
In his disclosure, Otuoma said the government spent 1.1 million dollars against a budget of 1.15 million dollars in allowances, 467,000 dollars in accommodation and a further 374,000 dollars on air tickets for the 396-strong delegation.

Kenya urges UN security council to seek ways of stabilizing Somalia

BUJUMBURA, (Xinhua) -- Kenyan President and Chairperson of East African Community (EAC) heads of state summit Mwai Kibaki on Wednesday called on the United Nations (UN) Security Council to “quickly” seek ways of stabilizing Somalia.
Kibaki made the call at the 13th ordinary summit of the EAC in the Burundian capital Bujumbura, saying the solution to the stabilization of Somalia is urgent.
Participants include African Union (AU) Commission Chairman Jean Ping, diplomats, development partners, officials from EAC partner states, officials at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and officials of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
“Instability in Somalia continues to spill over inside Somalia and to neighboring countries. Insecurity in Somalia is an international issue. The UN Security Council should do all its best to stabilize Somalia,” said President Kibaki.
Kibaki also called on the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) states in the region “to involve themselves to restore security and stability in Somalia.”
The Kenyan president and chairperson of the summit commended member states for backing the support of Kenya to Somalia’s transitional government in the combat against Al-Shabaab insurgents.
Kibaki said, “We (Kenya) highly appreciate the EAC member states’ support for our pursuit of Al-Shabaab insurgents who make incursions in Kenya.”
Since Oct. 16, Kenya has been pursuing Al-Shabaab insurgents who are held responsible for a string of kidnapping inside Kenya, undermining its pillar industry tourism.
During the summit, the Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza and outgoing chairperson of the EAC summit, handed over the chairmanship to Kenyan President Kibaki.

Kenya pledges to work closely with South Sudan for stability

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya pledged to continue working together with the newly independent Republic of South Sudan to ensure that this neighbouring country lays a strong foundation for stability and progress, according to a statement of Kenya’s prime minister on Wednesday.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the vast South Sudan can learn from mistakes of pioneering African countries and does not have the luxury of experimenting with models before picking on what works.
“We shall continue to extend a brotherly hand and offer all forms of support, geared towards alleviating the hardship of your population and to the strengthening of the ties of friendship between our two nations,” he said in the statement issued from the PM’s office.
The Prime Minister stated that Kenya stood by South Sudan in her difficult days and has no reason whatsoever to withdraw that support.
Speaking on Tuesday evening when closing a retreat for Vice President, Cabinet ministers and deputy Ministers of the Republic of South Sudan, Odinga said that Kenya has factored her northern neighbour in the ambitious LAPSSET corridor project, which will comprise development of a railway line from the Lamu Port to Juba and Addis Ababa.
Odinga mentioned that a groundbreaking ceremony of the project, poised to be the largest investment in the East and Central Africa is on course. He reminded the leaders from South Sudan that independence was not an end but the beginning of any country.
He advised them to kill the dragon of ethnicity and remain united to be able to forge ahead and achieve the national aspirations.
“I urge you to take your religious, cultural and ethnic diversity as sources of strength rather than allowing them to split your people,” he said.
The PM said Africa has witnessed unprecedented clamour for change and accountability hence the need for transformational leadership where those in power must demonstrate commitment to produce results.
The Vice President of South Sudan Dr. Riek Machar Teny thanked Kenya for continuing to support his country and looked forward to enhanced co-operation between these two neighbours.
Machar said that his country looks forward to deepening good relationship with Kenya and other members of the East African Community for speedy socio-economic development of the region.
The VP said that his government would strive constantly to reduce poverty, disease and inequality, to provide education and good governance and uphold the rule of law.

Kenya plays down diplomatic spat with Sudan

By Chrispinus Omar and David Musyoka NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya on Tuesday played down the diplomatic spat after a high court ruling that Nairobi should arrest Sudan’s president if he was in the East African country.
A statement from Kenya’s Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said the current dispute would not undermine existing cordial relations between the two friendly nations. “The Government of Kenya therefore expresses its deep concern at the very unhelpful High Court ruling and will do everything within its powers to ensure that the ruling does not undermine in any way whatsoever the very cordial and fraternal relations that exist between Kenya and Sudan,” Wetangula said.
Khartoum on Monday ordered Kenyan Ambassador Robert Mutua Ngesu out of the country after Nairobi said it would arrest President Omar Al-Bashir if he was in the country and hand him over to the International Criminal Court to face genocide and war crime charges. “Kenya does not, therefore, contemplate any retaliatory action. Indeed, it is Kenya’s belief that such rushed action, while regrettable, may have been prompted by the Sudanese government’s displeasure with the High Court ruling,” the minister said.
Sudan’s Foreign Ministry had earlier said the court ruling was linked to Kenya’s domestic politics and would not affect bilateral relations.
Sudan does not recognize the authority of the world court, and the Sudanese leader has flouted the arrest warrants by repeatedly traveling abroad, though mostly to countries that are not ICC members.
A statement from Sudan’s Embassy in Kenya said on Tuesday it was disappointed by the high court ruling which sparked off the diplomatic spat with Khartoum.
The embassy said the ruling seriously damaged relations between the two countries, adding that Sudan said Kenya should abide by a ruling by African Union member countries not to cooperate with the ICC and arrest Al-Bashir if he visits other African countries. “This ruling has to do with the sovereignty of Sudan and it is very difficult for the Sudan government to accept the interference of an international NGO to hamper the relations between the two countries,” the embassy said in a statement.
The ICC in 2009 issued its first arrest warrant for Al-Bashir on five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes.
A second 2010 warrant added three additional counts of genocide. Kenya is party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC.
But Wetangula said the government will carefully study the judgment delivered on Monday by the high court judge with a view to requesting the attorney general to expeditiously prefer an appeal in the matter.
“Therefore as much as we respect the ruling of the High Court, we are aware that the Court does not operate in a vacuum. It is important that the country’s national interests as well as the wider interests of the region that we live in are taken into account in matters of this nature,” the minister said.
According to Wetangula, Kenya fully understands the anxiety created by the court ruling within Sudan, as it is a direct affront on the cardinal principle of sovereign immunity, as well as the collective African Union position on this matter.
He said the Assembly of the AU Heads of State and Government in February 2009 cautioned against the indictment of President Al- Bashir and requested the UN Security Council to defer the process initiated by the ICC in accordance with the provisions of Article 16 of the Rome Statute. “Kenya as a responsible and active member of the AU fully subscribes to the position taken by the AU Assembly on this matter and shall continue to support AU efforts in resolving the matter,” he said.
The minister said it was a matter of fact that it took overwhelming courage and commitment on the part of President Al- Bashir to overcome the difficult challenges of implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which was negotiated in Kenya under the auspices of the regional IGAD bloc. “Kenya still remains Chair of the IGAD Sub-Committee on Sudan and we therefore have a legitimate and strategic interest in ensuring that both peace and justice are achieved in Sudan,” Wetangula said.
The ICC has argued that Kenya is obligated as a member state to arrest the Sudanese president. Officials at the Hague-based court have said that if Kenya fails to comply with the ICC warrant, the court may report Kenya to the U.N. Security Council.
Al-Bashir entered Kenyan territory once since he became subject to an ICC arrest warrant in August 2010 to attend the celebration of Kenya’s new constitution.

Africa Focus: MP arrested in Mozambique municipal by-election

By Manuel Camilo MAPUTO, (Xinhua) -- The Mozambican police have arrested a member of the Niassa Provincial Assembly, Carlos Martins, during the municipal by-election for mayor of the city of Cuamba, state radio reported on Wednesday.
Martins was surprised by supporters of the ruling Frelimo Party writing down the names of voters and their voter card numbers.
The accusation against Martins is exactly the same accusation that the MDM made last week against Frelimo member Suzete Ernesto. They were both caught drawing up lists of voters.
But this is not a crime, according to AIM. Nowhere in the electoral legislation are parties forbidden from making such lists which, in much of the world, would be regarded as normal canvassing activity.
But the other daily paper, O Pais, gives a different version. It says that Martins was arrested for his role in the MDM’s abduction of Ernesto.
She and three other Frelimo members were allegedly held for some hours in the MDM office, before the MDM released most of them and handed Ernesto over to the police.
This constitutes the crime of private imprisonment—but Martinho denies that Ernesto was ever imprisoned.
Instead she was taken directly to the police station. However such citizens’ arrests are only legitimate if the person arrested is committing a crime.
Writing down lists is not a crime. The MDM election agent in Cuamba, Jose Chitula, accused the police of acting in favor of Frelimo.
He argued that, since Martins enjoys limited immunity as a member of the Provincial Assembly, if his case goes to trial, it should be heard by the Niassa Provincial Court and not the lower Cuamba District Court.
The MDM ensured that Martins was released from custody by paying bail of 20,000 meticais (about 740 U. S. dollars).
The MDM has also claimed police harassment in Quelimane, capital of the central province of Zambezia.
On Tuesday the police prevented an MDM parade of bicycles and motorbike from using one of the main streets in the city, National Heroes Avenue, because the city prison and the police command are located on this street.
The spokesperson for the provincial police command, Ernesto Serrote, cited in O Pais, said that the MDM parade would break the law if it went past the prison and the command.
In fact the electoral law does not state that political party parades and motorcades cannot go past public buildings, although it is true that no flyposting on these buildings is allowed.
Political activities cannot be held inside them. Serrote even alleged that inmates of the prison might take advantage of the MDM parade to escape.
However, Frelimo motorcades have driven down this avenue, and no prisoners escaped.
Serrote acknowledged that Frelimo had indeed used the avenue, but said there had only been “a few vehicles” in the Frelimo motorcade, so it did not meet his definition of a political parade, according to AIM.

Sudan able to foil attempt to politically isolate it from Africa: president

KHARTOUM, (Xinhua) -- Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday accused some international trends of attempting to politically isolate Sudan from its African surrounding.
“Sudan has been subject to unjustified pressures because of its independent options and its rejection of foreign interventions and politicization of justice,” said al-Bashir when addressing the 34th conference of African Parliamentary Union (APU) in Khartoum.
“An economic siege has been imposed on Sudan and presently attempts are ongoing by external trends to politically isolate Sudan from its African surrounding,” he added.
He reiterated Sudan’s ability to face foreign plots, saying that “due to Sudan’s adherence to its stances and with the support of the peace loving peoples in Africa we have managed to break the siege and abort the isolation plot.”
Al-Bashir called on the African countries to prevent foreign intervention in the African affair, saying that “the (African) countries must live up to their responsibility in resolving the African conflicts and block the way before foreign interventions which further complicate our issues.”
The 34th APU conference is discussing two main issues relating to the role of parliamentary institutions in enhancing solidarity among the African countries to boost security and stability and involvement of the people, particularly the youth, to reduce poverty, end exclusion and enhance justice.

Kenya says Lamu port to become East Africa’s gateway

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- The envisaged Lamu port to be constructed along Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline will be the gateway for East African region, and especially for land locked South Sudan and Ethiopia, Kenya’s prime minister said here late on Monday.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga said in Nairobi that the port will be well placed to handle imports and exports of the countries in the hinterland.
“We will have the ground breaking ceremony of the port in the next three months for the first three berths of the facility which will be placed to be the link of the East Africa to the rest of the world,” Odinga said during the closing ceremony of the retreat for the vice president, cabinet ministers and deputy ministers of the South Sudan Government.
“The port will be built in phases in order to accommodate the expected growing traffic of trade due to rapid economic expansion of Ethiopia and South Sudan as well as the rest of the region,” the prime minister said.
Odinga said that already a draft bilateral agreement on the development of the Lamu port and related infrastructure dubbed Lamu South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) has already been sent to South Sudan’s capital of Juba and Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.
Additionally, he noted that Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in the process of convening bilateral meetings with the two neighbouring states.
LAPSSET project includes road, rail, pipeline and fiber optic link from the Lamu port through Kenya’s northern town of Isiolo and eventually terminating in Addis Ababa and Juba.
He also invited the two governments to second staff to the port when it is completed so that goods emanating and destined to the countries are cleared without any delay.
South Sudan’s Vice President Dr. Riek Machar said that the infrastructure project will foster closer linkages between Kenya and the land locked East African states. “The port will strengthen the integration of the economies in the region for the benefit all countries,” Machar said.
He added that Kenya’s emergence as a major economic partner will be a big plus for South Sudan as it will provide a large market for its (South Sudanese) exports.
He lamented his countries continued reliance on oil for a majority of its export earnings despite the great potential in agriculture, tourism, minerals and livestock.
.Africa should no longer see new generation with HIV infection

Africa should no longer see new generation with HIV infection

By Liang Shanggang ADDIS ABABA, (Xinhua) -- Marking the World AIDS Day on Thursday at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jean Ping, the AU Commission chairperson, said Africa should no longer see new generations with HIV infection.
Through his representative, Ping called upon individual and collective action to contain mother to child transmission of HIV.
“We should act individually and collectively not only to prevent mother to child transmission but also to take care of the health of people living with the virus,” said the chairperson.
He also expressed commitment of the AU Commission to work with member states and pertinent bodies in the efforts made to HIV treatment and prevention.
The World AIDS Day is commemorated this year under the theme “Zero Mother to Child Transmission”, as world leaders who were gathered in New York for the 2011 United Nations (UN) High Level Meeting on AIDS in June, launched a Global Plan for significant strides towards eliminating new HIV infection among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive.
Remarkable progress has been made so far, which is proof to realize the vision of zero new HIV infection, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related death (the three zeros), said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the message on the commemoration of the World AIDS Day.
The secretary general revealed that the number of new infections has fallen by more than 20 percent since 1997, and new infections are continuing to decline in most parts of the world.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the region most affected by the AIDS epidemic, HIV incidence has decreased in 22 countries, he said.
According to UNAIDS, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are among the African countries where new HIV infections dropped significantly.
“Treatment has averted 2.5 million AIDS-related deaths since 1985. Last year alone, 700,000 lives were saved. Some 6.6 million people, nearly half those who need treatment in low and middle- income countries, are now receiving it,” said Ban.
“Synergies between prevention and treatment are speeding up progress. But, to end AIDS, we need to deliver even greater results,” said the secretary general.
The UNAIDS says to get to the three zeros there must be acceleration on smart investments, capitalizing on scientific advancements and respecting human rights.
Speaking at the AU headquarters on the commemoration of AIDS Day, Jan Beagle, deputy executive director of UNAIDS, underlined on the need to invest smartly to achieve the vision of the three zeros.
There is a global target of 22 million U. S. dollars to 24 billion dollars to fund the AIDS response, which the UNAIDS says is a shared responsibility of all countries, donors and others.
“International assistance for the AIDS response has declined from 8.7 billion dollars in 2009 to 7.6 billion in 2010,” said the Deputy Executive Director.
“We need to use new technology more effectively to reduce costs and demonstrate that we can deliver return on investment,” she said.
The AIDS movement is a movement for inclusiveness, equity and social justice, she said, adding that it has demonstrated global solidarity is possible to address multi-sectoral challenges.
According to Abdoulie Janneh, executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), an estimated 7,000 people get infected with HIV infections every day.
The executive secretary highlighted ingenious and novel approaches in introducing new HIV/AIDS prevention strategies.
“A combination of the traditional initiatives and innovative initiatives can all be used to eliminate new HIV infections,” said Janneh.

South Africa business urged to initiate effective workplace HIV policy

JOHANNESBURG, (Xinhua) -- As South Africa cabinet recently said the Presidency would lead the country to honor World AIDS Day, HIV/AIDS rights group called on the business sector to play a leading role in the fight against the epidemic last Friday.
Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) Skills Development Officer Lawrence Mbalati said the business sector in South Africa must promote labour laws that are “non-discriminatory” and augment funding towards HIV/AIDS programmes.
“Business must take a lead in fighting stigma and discrimination at workplace and communities by promoting labour laws that are non-discriminatory and promoting conducive environment for HIV testing and treatment,” Mbalati told Xinhua ahead of the World AIDS Day.
Held annually on Dec. 1, the World AIDS Day is an important opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
It reminds the public, government and business that HIV has not gone away—there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
“Business must also increase strategic health and HIV funding,” Mbalati said. “It must promote capacity building and skills development for community empowerment and development,” he added.
The senior HIV/AIDS activist said there is need for both government and business to initiate effective workplace HIV policy that is not discriminatory.
According to reports globally an estimated 33.3 million people have HIV. More than 25 million people have died from the virus between 1981 and 2007, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. In South Africa, 5.6 million people are living with HIV, the highest number in the world. And 68 percent of all HIV cases are in sub-Saharan Africa.
However a recent UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) report indicate that in the past two years, South Africa has made significant investment in combating HIV and “the impact is beginning to show.”
According to the report the most impressive impact is on the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission. Around 95 percent of pregnant HIV positive women are now getting antiretroviral to prevent their babies from getting the virus, scoring a 30 percent increase since 2007. In addition, the rate of new HIV infections in the country has decreased by 22 percent between 2001 and 2009, while AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 21 percent between 2001 and 2010.
Mbalati said Pretoria must promote meaningful public and private partnership with health programmes, which are of community ownership rather than current Cooperate Social Responsibility status.
This year World AIDS Day in South Africa marks 30 years of existence of HIV/AIDS in the country. Manyi said government campaign on the Day will emphasize on providing universal access to HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and tuberculosis prevention, treatment, care and support. This is complementary to the global theme as South Africa will continuously strive to achieve zero HIV infections.
“Government should evaluate and overhaul current HIV prevention strategy to evaluate what has worked and what didn’t work. It must develop effective and evidence-based HIV prevention policy and programmes that take note of the nature and pattern of the epidemic in the country,” Mbalati said.
According to TAC government must develop effective HIV prevention and treatment prevention strategy, should incorporate effective young friendly clinics focusing on sexuality, post exposure prophylaxis, teenage pregnancy, behavioral change, prevention and treatment of STIs including HIV.
The AIDS right group said this as last week Statistics South Africa said there is big increase in the teenager pregnancy and that young people in South Africa especially at school are sexually active without protection. “School health programmes must be intensified and effectively implemented,” Mbalati said. “All sexual active age group amongst youth particularly high school learners should have access to condoms at schools,” he added.
He called on the non governmental sector to assist in mobilizing and organizing youth in communities to take responsibilities of their lives.
He said in South Africa there is a need for scaling up treatment literacy and HIV counselling and testing in communities for early diagnostic and treatment.

UNESCO decries low HIV knowledge among youth in eastern, southern Africa

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- The UN Educational Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Wednesday raised concern about the low levels of knowledge on HIV prevention among young people in eastern and southern Africa region, an UNESCO official said here.
UNESCO Director for Nairobi Office Joseph Massaquoi said that evidence from various studies indicates that the UN member states goal of ensuring 95 percent of young people aged between 15 to 24 have comprehensive knowledge about the disease by 2010 is yet to be achieved.
“Data from a recently concluded study by the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality (SACMEQ) showed that only 39 percent of grade 6 learners had the minimum level of information about HIV,” Massaquoi told a consultative forum on HIV and Young people in Nairobi.
The forum provides a platform for dialogue between the government, civil society and development partners in outlining collaborative actions around HIV among young people who are the majority of the country’s population.
The director said that the low level of awareness is a clear sign for all stakeholders to focus more on the efforts to address how best to ensure that the young people are well equipped with comprehensive information to bring about the desired behavior change on HIV prevention in order to secure the future of the country. “For young people to be informed, it is important to involve parents and community leaders in making crucial decisions on how holistic information pertaining to HIV is shaped and delivered,” he said.
Additionally, he said the role of parents and families through partnerships with schools and teachers needs to be enhanced as they have the necessary skills and resources to educate the youth.
Massaquoi noted that despite all concerted efforts, new infections continue to be recorded among young people as the pandemic has remained a step ahead of our interventions.
Kenya’s National AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Programme (NASCOP), Director Nicholas Muraguri attributed the low education among youth on different polices among government departments. “While the health sector is more open to sharing information on reproductive health and HIV information to the school students, other public departments are more hesitant due to existing social and cultural norms,” he said.
He emphasized the need for comprehensive education in order to help the youth protect themselves from HIV.



UGANDA, (Xinhua) -- Simon Wasswa, 15-year-old, talks with a local doctor in central Ugandan district of Mukono, Nov. 25, 2011. Unsure of the day’s meals, which tops his worries, Wasswa moves from village to village in search for petty jobs like fetching water, digging or feeding animals. Wasswa was orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and he is also battling the disease which he says he got from his mother during birth. Aware of the importance of ARVs, Wasswa will now have to walk for four hours and sometimes with an empty stomach to reach the nearest hospital where he can access the medicine. His caretaker at the hospital, Richard Aliwali, however wonders whether this will make any difference because the ARVs need good feeding which Wasswa can not afford. He urges government and other agencies to come to the rescue of children like Wasswa. Like any other child, Wasswa has a dream and his dream is to become a driver. He says when he becomes a driver, he will be able to earn enough money to take care of himself. Xinhua PHOTO: Yuan Qing


AU expresses concern about health over children in Kenya

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- A technical expert on food safety at the African Union Commission on Wednesday expressed concern about recent reports indicating that over 60,000 children of school-going age in drought-stricken areas of Kenya are exposed to aflatoxin.
Sarah Olembo, a scientist based at the AU Commission said in Nairobi during a conference on aflacontrol that has drawn players in the maize chain that failure by a reputable company like Proctor and Allan to detect traces of aflatoxin in its maize supply has sent fears among consumers of maize in the region.
“It was painful and devastating to hear that such a large number of children, who in addition to suffering the impact of drought have had harmful toxins introduced in their system that can cause devastating effects to their health,” Olembo said.
The scientist said they have taken note of the report at the AU and promised that the Commission will address the matter.
“At the AU, we develop, sensitize and facilitate policy on food safety issues among member states and aflatoxin is one of the areas that we cover. Therefore we will give this matter the attention that it deserves.”
The conference is receiving reports of a two-year Aflacontrol project that studied and focused on small holder production in Kenya and which used maize as a vital value food chain to mitigate the risks.
A Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute Clare Narrod said analysis indicate that aflatoxin is prevalent in three regions of the world, namely Africa, Southeast Asia and Western Pacific with secondary data from Kenya showing that over 4,000 cases of aflatoxin-induced liver afflictions were reported between 2004 and 2005.
Last October, the Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross Society Abbas Gullet said cereals manufacturer Proctor and Allan recalled 28 tons out of a total of 382 metric tons of relief food following the discovery of the deadly aflatoxing in some of its maize meal sent to drought-ravaged areas in Kenya after the anomaly was detected during routine examination of samples.
Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring fungus that on entering the body is metabolized by the liver which in turn causes liver cancer. The distribution targeted children in school among other vulnerable groups.

Africa Feature: Tough times for Kenyans as December holiday starts

By Bedah Mengo NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenyans are bracing themselves for tough times during December holiday as cost of living, pushed up by high prices of basic commodities and fuel, continues to escalate.
Prices of most goods and services in the East African nation have risen in the past months, making Kenyans spend twice as much as they used to spend on the same goods a year ago.
Top on the list of goods and services which have increased sharply include transport, rent, electricity, food, gas, basic items like sugar, bread and milk, fuel and healthcare.
And as December, the month of festivities starts, Kenyans will have to dig deeper into their pockets to travel, put food on the table, access healthcare, go on holiday and buy prizes for loved ones.
“This is December, where most people like to entertain their families and enjoy themselves. However, with rising cost of goods and services, we have no choice but to cut our spending,” Samuel Munyendo, a banker working in Nairobi, said on Wednesday.
The-32-year-old noted that most people are struggling to make ends meet. “I often ask myself that if me, who has a job with a constant salary has to struggle to meet my daily needs, what about that person who is unemployed?” he posed.
His expenses in a day, the banker revealed, have risen from 2.2 dollars to about 3.4 dollars in the past three months. “Things are going out of hand. Most of that money goes to fare, which fluctuates regularly and on lunch. Sometimes I have to skip lunch so that I do not overspend,” he recounted.
The father of two school-going children said that most Kenyans are finding it hard to survive because of increased number of dependants.
“There is a lot of pressure on people who have jobs because more than half of those who are supposed to be working are unemployed. Those who are employed, therefore, have to support several dependants putting a strain on their resources,” he said.
“It will even be tougher this festive season where peoples’ expectations are higher.”
Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) on Nov. 29 painted a grimmer picture on the cost of living, noting that inflation will continue to rise significantly in the month of December.
In its monthly report, the bureau noted that Kenya’s cost of living (inflation) had shot up to 19.72 percent in November, up from 18.91 percent the previous month.
Inflation has increased by six points since a year ago when it stood at 3.84 percent. In January this year, according to KNBS, inflation was at 5.42 percent.
“Food and non alcoholic drinks’ index went up by 1.35 percent between October and November as a result of price increases observed in a number of food products such as beef, bread, potatoes, chicken, wheat flour and sugar. The average price of a kilogram of beef with bones, for instance, rose from 3.2 dollars in October to 3.4 dollars in November,” said the bureau in its report.
It further observed there were notable falls in the prices of sukuma wiki (kales), maize flour, tomatoes, mangoes, cabbages, spinach and carrots, among other food items, because of good rainfall and an increase in supply.
Analysts, however, note that Kenyans will not benefit from price reductions of fresh food items because of rise in fuel prices, which push up cost of transport.
It is expected that Energy Regulatory Commission, Kenya’s energy sector regulator, will review prices of petrol, kerosene and diesel upwards mid this month.
This will further increase the cost of transport, which according to KNBS increased by 2.19 percent between October and November.
“The transport index rose due to continued increases in the costs of petrol, diesel, taxi charges and matatu/bus fares. The national average prices of petrol and diesel per liter have gone up by 29.44 and 27.07 percent, respectively, compared to the same month last year,” said KNBS.
Other basic items, whose prices have increased considerably, include housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels.
“The cost of cooking gas, kerosene and charcoal went up by 7.01, 5.40 and 4.33 percent, respectively during the period under review, “ KNBS said.
Thus, to cushion themselves from runaway inflation during this festive season, Kenyans are working on austerity measures.
Judith Mbelesa, an administrative assistant in a State corporation in Nairobi said on Tuesday the high cost of living has pushed many Kenyans to the edge.
She has agreed with her husband not to send their four children upcountry in Western Kenya.
“We usually take them to our parents the whole of December but this time, we must do things differently to cut our expenses. We will stay with them until the holiday ends. Even ourselves we will not travel. The money that we would have used on transport will send to our parents,” she said.
To compensate their children, she said they will take them to Nairobi National Park and other places they have never visited.
“This will reduce our expenses and when the holiday ends, and schools reopen, we would have spared some money to pay school fees, “ she said.

Expert urges use of biotechnology for Africa’s food production

ACCRA, (Xinhua) -- A senior agriculture expert on Thursday urged Africans to adopt biotechnology to increase the yield of food crops on the continent.
Speaking at the closing session of the four-day Pan African Biotechnology Stewardship Conference held here, the director of the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA), Adewale Adekunle, expressed hope that the program would yield the needed results.
“The case studies presented by African scientists who have benefitted from training on Stewardship received from the FARA-led Biotechnology Strengthening Project is an indication that African scientists are on course in using the tools of biotechnology for safe development of crops that are of high quality,” Adekunle said.
The conference, the first of its kind with the theme of “Africa Managing Safe and High-Quality Biotech Crops”, was to connect stakeholders such as scientists, funding and technology donors, and government agencies to build capacity and raise support for sustainable funding, according to Adekunle.
The conference started on Monday with a workshop for 45 participants from about eight countries including the United States, Switzerland and African countries such as Uganda, South Africa and Ghana.
Coordinator of the Strengthening Capacity for Safe Biotechnology Management in Sub-Saharan Africa (SABIMA), Professor Walter Alhassan, was glad the conference was able to review the three-year project, which ends this year.
“It has also allowed the six countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Malawi and Kenya) to tell the rest of the world their successes, challenges and how they have applied the principles of stewardship in Agricultural Biotechnology,” Alhassan noted.
Some participants were of the view that the problem in Africa was not really about the increase in population but the demand for food and livestock, improving the soil, producing good seed varieties of crops that mature quickly, and good markets for farmers’ products.

Africa’s sovereign wealth funds should boost private sector growth

By David Musyoka NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- African countries can use their own sovereign wealth funds to invest in homegrown private equity funds to create wealth and employment and drive the growth of the private equity sector, an investment fund official says.
Africa receives only 1.5 percent of the global private equity funds despite high returns and highly diversified investments available in the continent, said Stephen Murphy, managing director of Institutional Fundraising at the Citadel Capital.
“There are enormous and vibrant opportunities for private equity in the continent. One of the reasons most global players avoid investing here is because of the perception that Africa does not have a free press, which is essential for private equity to thrive,” Murphy told Xinhua in a recent interview in Nairobi.
He said African countries should set up independent sovereign wealth funds that are free of government interference and managed by people with clear motivation of what they want to achieve.
The sovereign funds should then invest some of their funds in private equity companies to spur private sector growth, he said.
The interplay between sovereign funds and private equity will mean that sovereign funds create better returns with their money that can be used by the governments to meet their pension obligations or for long-term wealth preservation.
The model is widely used by some European countries. For instance, KfW of Germany or Propaco of France invest in private equity funds in emerging markets to make returns while helping to create wealth and employment.
According to Murphy, this interplay ensures that money is invested in businesses that have high growth prospects.
“Governments should aim to get three dollars in return for every one dollar they invest,” said Murphy.
The most recent effort to address the issue of sovereign funds in Africa was a roundtable conference organized in March by the African Development Bank in Morocco to enable African sovereign funds to compare notes on common investment, strategy and governance challenges with their counterparts from other parts of the world.
The most visible sovereign wealth funds in Africa, according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, are Algeria Revenue Regulation Fund, Botswana Pula Fund, Libyan Investment Authority, Mauritania National Fund for Hydrocarbon Reserves and Nigeria Excess Crude Account.
Algeria Revenue Regulation Fund was established in 2000 with 54.8 billion U.S. dollars from sales of oil taxes. It was set up to insulate the Algerian economy from price volatility in gas and oil commodity prices.
Botswana Pula Fund was established in 1996 with 6.9 billion dollars from the sale of diamonds.
The fund invests in public equity and fixed income instruments in industrialized and developed economies.
Mauritania National Fund for Hydrocarbon Reserves is derived from oil and gas sales. It was established in 2006, the fund plays the role of a macroeconomic stabilization fund for the country.
In addition, it has a long-term goal of accumulating savings for future generations.

Non-communicable diseases increase in Kenya against few experts

by Peter Mutai NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- There is high increase of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung, neurological and psychiatric diseases in Kenya even before malaria, HIV and tuberculosis have been brought under control.
According to Kenya’s Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology Professor Margaret Kamar, this poses a double burden of diseases in the country.
“There is need to restructure the health delivery system and shift emphasis to promotion and preventive care in order to lower the nations disease burden,” Kamar said on Wednesday in Nairobi while opening a Non Communicable Diseases Alliance, Kenya research prioritization workshop.
She revealed that the prevalence of hypertension is 27 percent and that of diabetes is four percent, an increase that she attributes to increase in age, salt intake, low vegetable consumption, increased body weight and lack of physical activity.
“These two conditions are responsible for almost all cases of heart failure, heart attack, stroke and kidney failure in Kenya,” Kamar added.
According to the 2011 Global Medicine Report, the incident of cancer in Kenya are on the rise, with over 82,000 new cases reported annually and blames this upward trend to poor habit of Kenyans.
The report noted that the eating habit is to blame for the increase of breast, cervix, prostrate and oesophageal cancers.
“The poorest people have the highest risk of developing chronic disease and they are least able to cope with the resulting financial consequences,” the report said.
The minster noted that the communicable diseases are underestimated yet they cause poverty besides being a barrier to economic development and are impeding the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
She said that non-communicable diseases account for about 22 percent of total mortality rates and over 50 percent of morbidity.
“It is important that the available research data be analyzed and presented in a format that could be easily understood by the policy makers,” she noted.
Kamar called for the formulation and effective implementation of policies and legislation that create and maintain an enabling environment to promotion of options and access to low salt in foods, affordable prices of fruits and vegetables, spaces and security for cycling and walking or jogging.
“Advertising and positioning unhealthy foods, alcohol and cigarettes to school should be controlled. Adherence to physical education lessons scheduled in schools should be increased and the tendency to substitute them with academic lessons stopped,” she said.
The Secretary of National Council of Science and Technology (NCST), Professor Shaukat Abdulrazak, told participants that the department has research funds and called on applicants on the area of non communicable diseases to apply.
He said that it was regrettable that South Africa handles 100 patents a year while Kenya only handles 42. “We gave 46 scholarships for masters and 76 PhD scholarships this year and intend to increase the funding next year,” he noted.
Dr. Ahmed Ogwell Africa World Health Organization (WHO) Team leader for Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) revealed that non communicable diseases account for 35 percent of deaths in the continent.
He called on experts non communicable players to seek alternative funding from different partners to help reduce the number of deaths of the diseases.
“The governments in the continent must put in place conducive infrastructure to help in early detection of non communicable diseases,” he said.
He advised non-communicable experts to put in place infrastructure for all non communicable diseases instead of coming up with separate facilities for individual diseases adding that acquiring findings may prove a tall order for governments in developing countries.
Kenya’s Director of non communicable diseases Dr. William Maina challenged participants that were drawn from Nigeria, Togo, Zambia, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ghana to consider involving all stakeholders from all walks of life in the management of the diseases.
He revealed that the policy on cancer is due to be released anytime adding that the national cancer control bill is already in parliament awaiting deliberations and maybe passed soon.
“Non communicable disease should be in the development agenda beyond the year 2015 so that proper attention can be given to the diseases,” the Coordinator of Consortium on Non Communicable Diseases (CNCD) Dr. Mary Nyamongo said.
Nyamongo appealed to participants to involve policy makers so as to address all causes of ill health and poverty that are a major contributor to non communicable diseases.
She calls for the interventions that promote healthy diets and physical activities as a way of managing the rise of the diseases.
According to the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) 2011 cancer unit report, Kenya has five clinical oncologists, four medical oncologists and about eight oncologists.
Kenya is ranked 148 out of 187 countries surveyed in the 2011 human development index and is categorized as low income country in the annual rankings of national achievement in health, education and income by the UN Development Program (UNDP).

Africa Feature: Kenyan girl’s battle with heart condition

By Ejidiah Wangui NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Dressed in a black skirt and a navy blue pullover, Jane Ngugi, 25, appears to be healthy as she goes about her business.
However, her story is nowhere near to describe the pain and turmoil she has been through.
Orphaned at a tender age, Jane relies on well-wishers to take care of herself and her five year-old son.
Two years ago, she was diagnosed with a heart condition that rendered her helpless.
“Life has become really hard, I cannot do any strenuous activity, even walking for a short distance brings on breathlessness, dizzy spells and sometimes swollen feet,” she says.
Her condition could easily be rectified with an open heart surgery to replace an impaired heart valve at a cost of Sh200,000, but she cannot afford to raise the money.
Hailing from Rwaka in Kiambu, Jane depends on her neighbors and well wishers for food and other basic needs.
“I have lost hope in life, I do not know what to do since I cannot manage to raise the required cash for me to be treated,” she says.
Jane is among other patients who cannot afford to pay for expensive medical treatments such as open heart surgery. However, she says she has not given up and hopes to get help soon.
Kenyan cardiologist Dr. H.O Aseso says despite the high cost of accessing such a surgery, Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) which is the country’s leading referral hospital has not been able to meet the demand.
Despite being the only public hospital that performs cardiac surgeries, the hospitals can only handle one or two surgeries a week, he says.
He says a patient who needs valve replacement surgery can only possibly survive on medication for two years without the surgery.
In Kenya, however, even with the availability of the services, Kenyan hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of patients, a shortage of specialists, and adequate machines.
According to Dr. Aseso, Kenyan patients are often referred abroad for heart surgeries, especially pediatric, renal transplants, neurosurgery and cancer treatments.
In some cases, he says, the facilities are available, but the cost is too high.
He explains that the bulk of surgery cost in Kenya goes to professional’s fee, which contributes to the high cost.
Dr Aseso also says Kenya has lost many specialists to developed countries which has also contributed to a shortage of doctors and nurses.
He says only about a quarter of the doctors who graduate opt to specialize, and of those who go abroad to study, a quarter opt to stay there.
“It is a very sad situation since many patients lose lives due to financial problems,” he says.
For instance, he says, there are only four active pediatric cardiac surgeons in Nairobi.
“For a country where it is estimated that 10,000 children are born with congenital heart defects and a further 200,000 new cases of rheumatic heart disease are reported every year, the workload is simply overwhelming,” he adds.
“Despite the doctors shortage, most hospitals in Kenya can only perform basic procedures, the more complicated cases are treated abroad,” says Aseso.

Kenya’s annual inflation rises to over 19% in Nov.

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s annual inflation rose to 19.72 percent in November from 18.91 percent in the previous month as a result of increases in food and fuel prices, dampening hopes of economic growth this year.
Kenya’s National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) said on Tuesday, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), computed using the geometric mean approach increased by 1.52 percent from 127.20 in October to 129. 13 in September. “Food and Non-Alcoholic drinks’index went up by 1.35 percent between October and September as a result of price of increases observed in respect of a number of food products such as potatoes, chicken, wheat flour, sugar, bread and beef,” the bureau said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
However, the bureau said between the two months, there were notable falls in the prices of sukuma wiki, maize flour, tomatoes, mangoes, cabbages, spinach and carrots among other food items.
The bureau said housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuel index went up by 1.55 percent during the review period. The rise was attributed to continued increases in the cost of electricity, house rents and cooking fuels.
The data is generated from 13 urban centres in the country and it is believed to be a reflection of the spending behavior among Kenyans.
It is collected in the second and third weeks of the month under review in order to maintain consistency in price variations.

Africa Economy: Financial bailouts ruled out in EAC single currency plan

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- East African investors support the “slow but steady progress” towards the single currency for the region, seen critical in securing the ultimate goal of forming a single East African state.
“It is possible to achieve the Monetary Union and the Political Federation,” said Hirji Shah, former Chairman of the East African Business Council (EABC) speaking as regional leaders gathered on Wednesday to discuss the Monetary Union.
The East African Community’s (EAC) single currency plan has progressed midway with the negotiating panel having hammered agreements on some key points.
The creation of the East African Central Bank (EACB) to coordinate the financial policy matters of the current five EAC states, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania has been agreed upon along with other key points of the proposed treaty.
“The point is we should not rush very fast to achieve the ultimate goal of the Political Federation. We are progressing at very reasonable pace,” Shah, Director of Comcraft Group, told Xinhua.
Comcraft, a combination of 15 top firms in East Africa, runs the Mabati Rolling Mills, makers of roofing materials for sale across the region.
Richard Sezibera, the EAC Secretary-General, said the single currency is important to the region because it would enable investors to deal with price instability and exchange rate volatility, resulting into a more stable investment environment.
Talks on the terms of creating the single currency have progressed midway. Countries signing into the Monetary Union have agreed not to allow financial bailouts of the members, especially for the financial mismanagement, leading to high debts.
They have also agreed to confine the member states to market- based borrowing by their respective central banks to maintain strict fiscal discipline, according to the EAC Secretariat.
The fifth round of negotiations on the single currency which took place in Entebbe, Uganda, covered discussions on articles 16- 39 of the proposed Monetary Union Protocol, which deals with more details to the single currency plan.
“The primary rationale for the Monetary Union is to reduce the costs and risks of transacting business across national boundaries for countries which comprise the Union,” said Enos Bukuku, the EAC Deputy Secretary-General for Planning.
The High-Level Taskforce on the Monetary Union (HLTMU), leading the process at the expert level, has agreed on articles dealing with financial policies, taxation, the national budget formulation process and the management of foreign debts.
Shah said even though the talks are moving at a steady pace, more attention should be paid to the domestic economic challenges facing the members of the proposed Union.
“There are grass-root issues to take us to the final goal of achieving the political federation, like weak domestic economies. The economies are not at the same level,” Shah said. “The slow and steady is the right way of progressing.”
The financial experts, who include officials from the Central Banks, pension funds regulators, Treasury officials and planning ministry experts, sit in the expert panel, HLTMU, which reports to the committee of finance ministers.
Talks have lately concentrated on issues such as building the resilience and the management of economic shocks and safeguard measures required to protect the proposed single currency.
The Central Bank Governors have agreed on conditions under which the respective Central Banks would deny privileged access to state agencies as well as terms and conditions for foreign exchange reserves management, the EAC Secretariat says.
“The goal should be to achieve all these with much satisfaction, taking into account the differences in economic structures. We need to go slowly. The Monetary Union will provide the foundation for the Political Federation,” Shah said.

Africa Feature: Programs benefit drought- vulnerable pastoralists in Kenya

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- When Maasai pastoralists in Kenya’s Oldonyonyokie and Olkeri ranches in Kajiado county lost thousands of their herds in the 2008/2009 drought, they had no idea where to start as most of their livelihood was wiped out.
But recently, the lanky herdsmen and their women were all smiles when they received 244 heads of cattle as part of a programme by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to help in restocking and preservation of the Maasai traditional system of pastoralism.
The two ranches will ultimately receive 300 cattle. One unique element is that women, who traditionally did not own livestock, were also given cattle because either their husbands had died or moved to urban areas leaving them with no source of livelihood.
According to David Boerma, the Project Technical Adviser, the Maasai is one out of the 10 communities in the world that have been picked as part of the FAO experimental restocking and conservation programme. He noted that it is unfair that links with outsiders have instilled a sense of prejudice against traditional ways of livelihood which is rich in history and technology.
“A lot of policies by various governments in Africa that affect pastoralists are based on these prejudices. The Maasai, for instance, know how to traditionally preserve pasture with some sections put aside for use during hard times,” he said.
The project-The Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)- initiative was launched by FAO in 2002 with the aim of establishing the basis for the global recognition, conservation and adaptive management of outstanding traditional agricultural systems and their associated landscapes, biodiversity, knowledge systems and cultures.
The initiative is meant to protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation or sustainable use requirements specifically within agricultural systems.
In Kenya, the Maasai Pastoral System was identified as the best example of a resilient system deserving of preservation in line with the GIAHS objectives. Its dynamic conservation through the right policy support would ensure food security and livelihood sustenance.
The project will cost about 12 million Kenyan shillings and will also include tourism projects, water dams and pasture harvesting. It is a project that can be replicated in other pastoral areas. It is meant to assist the community in preserving its natural resource base, pastoral practices and knowledge system while adapting its system to contemporary challenges.
Those who were lucky to receive the cattle will have to abide by certain by-laws or else the livestock will be taken from them and given to other people. They include: the cow must stay with the recipient for three years and must give birth at least three times before the trustee can think of selling it.In case there is need to sell, the committee and the PCDA must be witness in the selling. The cows must have a FAO mark so that it can be identified when sold without following the procedure, and finally, all beneficiaries must sign a memorandum of understanding committing themselves to the conditions.
Kiprop Lagat, the National Co-coordinator of the project said that there are plans to make Oldonyonyokie recognized as a world Heritage site. Pastoralism practiced here is still indigenous as has been for thousands of years. National Museums of Kenya (NMK) will propose for the gazettment of these sites to help conserve and protect them from modern development activities that destroy pastoral livelihood. We are working towards trans-boundary gazettment with neigbouring Tanzania.
Lagat added that there will be documentation of the Maasai indigenous pastoral knowledge systems, which will be followed by the construction of the Pastoral Site Museum to disseminate information about the Maasai pastoral heritage.
The project area, Oldonyonyokie and Olkeri Group Ranches combined (Kajiado District) share a common border and also resources. The site borders Suswa, Ewaso Kedong and Loodariak to the north, Kilonito and Elangata Wuas to the west, Shompole Group Ranch to the south and Magadi concession area to the west. The western side of the ranch borders the Olkiramatian Goup Ranch. The total surface for the area is 93,148 ha with a total projected human population of 5,539 persons. Livestock population (before the recent drought) was estimated at 16,000 for cattle and 19,000 sheep and goats.
The specific common values of pastoral systems include their importance for the conservation and sustainable use of animal breeds, the landscapes which co-evolved with pastoralists’ cultural practices, which e.g. provide critical habitats for wild biodiversity, deep reservoirs of local/indigenous knowledge on livestock rearing and health, as well as on ecological functioning.
They show remarkable resilience and capacity to adapt to climatic and other environmental fluctuations. Many pastoralist cultures embody strong conservation values, reflected and reproduced in the communities’ cosmologies and religious practices, customary law, as well as stories, songs, riddles and other aspects of their cultural heritage. Maasai pastoralism, as practiced traditionally, provides an outstanding example in East Africa and continues to have relevance for the sustainable management of its rangelands.
Maasai pastoralism as traditionally practiced was characterized by the movement of livestock in response to the availability of pasture, water and salt resources, common property tenure and a sophisticated body of cultural knowledge, institutions and norms to manage natural resource use. Among the many pastoral societies in the world, the Maasai exemplify the sustainable end of the spectrum of pastoral management.
Historically, the biocultural linkage between Maasai practices and the Rift Valley landscape and its biodiversity had been poorly understood, giving way to a number of contradictory, wildlife and development policies that have had unpredicted negative ecological and economic impacts on the Maasai’s practices, livelihoods and ecosystem.
Today it is better understood that the relationship between wildlife and the Maasai cannot be simply framed as a matter of competition between livestock and wildlife of scarce resources. The Maasai and their livestock have a joint interest in maintaining the very habitats on which both livestock and wildlife depend.
According to Boerma, the British was wrong that wildlife and livestock fight for pasture. They graze on different species, when cattle grave, new grass species emerge which are good for wild animals.
Viewed at this scale, the economic and ecological benefits of wildlife and development policies, especially interventions in the land-tenure regime, have had equivalent or worse environmental and economic costs in other parts of the ecosystem. For the Maasai themselves, the costs have far outstripped the benefits.
The combination of the loss of access to critical grazing resources, the increased population pressure from both within the Maasai society as well as through the influx of other land-users, the subdivision of common property systems and a range of cultural factors, unfortunately has created a set of incentives that discourages the Maasai from their traditional sustainable practices and leads to the adoption of unsustainable uses of natural resources.
One of the main underlying causes is the persistence of false assumptions and prejudices about Maasai pastoralism and a lack of appreciation of how Maasai practices manage to provide a livelihood within the delicate limits of their environment, allowing the landscape to sustain diverse and valuable ecosystem services.
Nevertheless, in selected areas, Maasai pastoralism has proved to be resilient and continues to sustain livelihoods and valuable natural and cultural heritage. This can be attributed in part to the strong cultural resilience of the Maasai and to the fact that in many areas alternative land uses are simply unviable in any sustainable fashion.
One of the major threats to pastoral way of life among the Maasai, is the continued pressure by outsiders to move away from common land ownership and sub-divide their land into small parcels for individual ownership
Studies have shown that sub-division of land to small parcels will mark the end of pastoralism. Sub-division takes away common land and land ownership, migratory corridors are blocked. It is difficult in hostile environment that where common community systems are important. Common property system was discouraged by the British. But tenure system was not the only way to ensure that resources are not misused. The Maasai have their own taboos against cutting down trees and feeding on reserve pasture that help in conservation.

Kenya in line to entrench pastoralists’ rights

By Christine Lagat NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya supports international legal instruments that empower livestock keepers to become custodian of their animal genetic resources, indigenous knowledge and practices that promote environmental conservation.
Kenneth Lusaka, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Livestock Development, said that the government will back global processes that promote the interests of pastoralists and recognize their role in conservation of indigenous livestock breeds.
“The world community has realized the danger faced by indigenous livestock due to rising demand for food and hence the need for high producing breeds,” Lusaka told an international Biocultural Workshop in Nairobi on Wednesday.
The meeting is being attended by representatives of pastoralists associations in East Africa, India and Europe as well as conservationists, researchers and legal experts.
The workshop is discussing the role of biocultural protocols as tools for strengthening livestock keeping communities in owning and conserving indigenous livestock breeds alongside natural assets that include biodiversity. “This has resulted in indiscriminate cross breeding of the indigenous breeds with the high producing exotic breeds that are superior in production but lack adaptive features like drought, pest and disease tolerance,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary emphasized that pastoralists have critical role to play in preserving indigenous livestock breeds that are adaptive to arid and semi arid regions.
He hailed the potential of bio-cultural protocols in promoting livestock keepers rights.
Lusaka singled out the Samburu community Bio-Cultural Protocol launched in 2010. “This protocol is aimed at increasing awareness on issues affecting livestock keepers and their breeds, inspiring livestock keepers to start thinking of what to do in order to continue playing their role as custodians and engage with other stakeholders”, said Lusaka. “The protocol also serves as a tool for researchers and policymakers to engage with local livestock keepers on issues affecting conservation and sustainable utilization of indigenous livestock breeds,” he said.
Lusaka underscored the role of indigenous livestock breeds in boosting food security among communities in arid and semi arid zones. “Indigenous livestock breeds are known to possess many desirable genetic traits such as disease resistance, fertility and general fitness which are not found in high performance animals. They are critical to food security and environmental conservation in dry areas,” he said.
The Kenyan government has partnered with relevant stakeholders to address conservation, management and utilization of indigenous livestock breeds.
The Permanent Secretary reiterated that communities are crucial in conservation of animal genetic resources.
He disclosed that Kenya fully back global legal instruments such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that recognizes the contribution of indigenous livestock breeding communities in food security and environmental conservation.

Kenya to launch body to manage water tower

By Peter Mutai NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said on Tuesday the government is set to create a Water Tower Authority to lead in the conservation of environment in the country. “We already have Water Towers Conservation Fund and we are now set to increases budget allocation for sustainable rural environment management and the rehabilitation and conservation of water towers in the country,” Odinga said when he launched the 2.3 million Euros European Union (EU) funded Northern Mau Forest project in Nairobi.
The PM noted that the EU funding is set to help in supporting watershed protection and climate change adaptation programme in an equitable, efficient and transparent manner, adding that the government will ensure that the funds are used strictly for the intended purpose.
Odinga assured the donors that the government is keen at making Kenya a country to emulate by other countries through its environment conservation efforts, adding that plans are underway to ensure that the temperatures does not exceed the two degrees Celsius limit set by climate scientists.
“Vision 2030 mandates us to increase our forest cover to four percent by the year 2012 and also identifies rehabilitation of the five water towers as a flagship to attaining the goals,” he added.
Odinga noted that by the devolution system of governance in the management of natural resources as contained in the Water Act 2002, the Forest Act 2005 and the new constitution, environmental conservation and management is fast changing in the country.
He observed that climate change is real, adding that the country is caught in the trouble given the rate of food insecurity and environmental degradation. “In Northern Kenya where people were calling for help due to drought, today they are calling for help again due to floods that is already destroying their land. A few months ago we feared for crops in North Rift region, but today lots of maize are marooned in the farms by heavy downpour,” he noted.
The Charge de Affaires and Head of Operations at the EU delegation in Kenya Dr. Benard Rey said that the new three year intervention is set to deliver multiple benefits for Kenya and the regional countries at large.
“The project will range from restoration of vital water catchments and establishments of payments for environmental services towards the improvement of the people livelihoods and monitoring carbon storage in the Mau Forest,” he added.
Rey said the EU is concerned with the conservation of Mau Forest because it is the largest closed canopy forest in sub- Saharan Africa with assets estimated at 1. 5 billion U.S. dollars per year.
Rey said that the EU is financing the project due to the fact that it has a number of innovative approaches that will contribute to national and international goals like the Kenya Climate Change Response Strategy and National REDD strategy. “The Mau complex is a living example where economy and environment intersect and will benefit the rest of the world in achieving solutions that balance poverty reduction and environmental sustainability,” he added.
Rey also revealed that the success of the project will inform the ongoing deliberations with the government on how the 20 million Euros for water shade protection and climate change adaptation programme for the water towers will be spent.
The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said that Kenya and the neighbouring countries that rely on water from Mau complex are unable to produce enough food and clean water for domestic use due to the degradation that took place in the water catchment area.
He warned that Kenya’s vision 2030 can only succeed once the Mau complex is restored since it has the potential for producing energy. “The Mau Forest complex supports energy, tourism and agriculture and industries in Rift Valley and Western Kenya,” he added.
The EU and the Danish government have earlier made a pledge of 22.3 million dollars for the conservation of Kenya’s water towers and other critical ecosystems through the community Development Trust Fund (CDTF). Already 97 projects have been approved to be implemented by the community.

Landslide cuts northern Tanzania’s tourist circuit, kills one

DAR ES SALAAM, (Xinhua) -- A massive landslide following torrential rains that occurred in northern Tanzania has cut off communication in the popular tourist destinations, leaving one person killed and another missing, local media reported on Tuesday.
The main road leading to Serengeti National Park, the country’s most renowned tourist attraction, in the Northern Circuit, was partly washed off by landslide, as the second tourism peak season is about to start.
An employee working for Serena Lodges was killed and his colleague still missing when the entire building they were staying in was swept away by raging waters.
The incident occurred on Monday morning in Mto-wa-Mbu and Karatu, Arusha Region, has left nearly 200 vehicles, among them buses, trucks, tour vehicles and private cars lined up on both sides of the road.
“There are buses heading to Dar-es-Salaam but are now stranded. There are women and children passengers,” Israel Yohana Natse, the area Member of Parliament, was quoted by the official Dailynews as saying.
A bulldozer sent into the area by the Tanzania Roads Agency (TANROADS) from Arusha to clear the way could not cope.
The Karatu District Commissioner, Mathew Sedeyoka and said the disaster would badly affect the precinct.
Three bridges have been badly damaged along Makuyuni-Ngorongoro- Gate highway, several villages and the lower part of Karatu township were all submerged for the good part of Monday afternoon.
The Serengeti and Lake Manyara National Parks, as well as the Ngorongoro Crater have all been affected as travelers heading to Musoma, Serengeti and other parts of Mara Region are all stranded.

Ericsson urges Africa to harmonize spectrum to boost internet use

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- The world’s provider of telecommunication technologies Ericsson on Wednesday called on African countries to harmonize use of spectrum which it said was key to broadband uptake.
Addressing a news conference in Nairobi, Shiletsi Makhofane, Head of Marketing, Strategy and Regulatory Affairs for Ericsson in sub-Saharan Africa, said the firm will continue to promote ICT development across Africa.
“Through our partnership with the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), Ericsson is well positioned to provide strong thought leadership as experts in connecting Africa by mobilizing the human, financial, and technical resources required to expand the development of ICT,” Makhofane told journalists in Nairobi.
He said emphasis should be placed on the need for policymakers and regulators to be aware of the integral role played by harmonized spectrum in enabling the uptake of broadband, and the need to work together to ensure the adoption of a uniform band for the region.
Makhofane also announced the agreement with ATU at the ongoing “ATU Summit on Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy” in Nairobi.
“The Networked Society is Ericsson’s vision for a better future in which we are able to interact freely, live more sustainably and work more efficiently by harnessing the power of technology such as mobile broadband,” said Makhofane.
Makhofane said the partnership aims to support the ATU in driving regulatory reform that will help facilitate telecommunications development, and subsequent social and economic growth.
The Secretary General of ATU, Soumaila Abdoulkarim, welcomed Ericsson to ATU family as an Associate Member, saying it was a clear indicator that ATU attaches a lot of importance on the role played by the industry in the development of ICT in Africa.
He said the signing of this partnership with Ericsson is timely in ensuring that market resources such as technical and financial expertise are tapped for the benefit of the continent.
ATU called upon all other ICT industry players to take the queue and join the organization. “The Associate Membership allows interactive contacts with Member States in understanding and meeting the ICT needs,” Abdoulkarim said.
The announcement of the partnership comes shortly after Ericsson released a report predicting that global mobile data traffic will grow 10-fold in the next five years.
Harmonizing the allocation and use of the Digital Dividend band will ensure that African countries use the same frequency to deploy Long-Term Evolution (LTE), the next-generation Mobile Broadband technology.
This will enable economies of scale and can bring other benefits such as cost effective roll-out of networks and devices, thus accelerating the roll out of networks and lowering costs for consumers.
Africa is expected to conclude the migration from analog to digital terrestrial television by 2015, freeing up the Digital Dividend spectrum.
This has clear social benefits for Africa in particular given the limited fixed infrastructure, such as improved access to information, education, financial and health services and the wider use of m-government tools.
In addition, a recent study conducted jointly by Ericsson, Arthur D. Little and Chalmers University of Technology in 33 OECD countries, shows that in addition to broadband availability, broadband speed is a strong driver in an economy.
It is estimated that every 10 percent point increase in broadband penetration results in 1 percent increase in GDP and that doubling the broadband speed for an economy in the measured countries increases GDP by 0.3 percent.

Airtel number of customers in Africa reaches 50 million

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Mobile service provider Airtel on Wednesday celebrated a significant milestone when it acquired its 50 millionth mobile customer in Africa.
Airtel said in a statement issued in Nairobi that it has achieved this milestone within just 17 months of acquiring Zain’s mobile operations in 16 African countries and added 14 million new mobile customers during this period.
“This milestone demonstrates our continued dedication and commitment to Africa. We would like to thank our customers for reposing their faith in brand Airtel and we are committed to serving them with world-class services,” Manoj Kohli, the firm’s CEO (International) and Joint Managing Director said in the statement.
“I would also like to thank the governments and regulators for their support and would like to reiterate that we share their vision of bridging the digital divide with affordable telecom services.”
By forging strategic relationships with blue chip organizations, the company has ensured that it continues to meet the needs of its customers.
Airtel’s business model is focused on the introduction of best practices and infusion of global expertise into the markets where it operates.
The organization has strategically partnered with companies such as IBM, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens, Huawei, Spanco, Tech Mahindra and Samsung. The collaborations will sustainably introduce the latest technology and offer competitive services, whilst maintaining a focus on core areas within the business.
“We have made significant investments in our operations and brought in our ecosystem of world-class IT, networks and customer care partners to Africa and this achievement has been possible through their support and commitment,” Kohli said.
“Airtel will continue bring to Africa world-class and innovative voice & data services that delight customers and add value to their daily lives.”
Airtel Africa has invested approximately 1 billion U.S. dollars in the network infrastructure during the current financial year and is launching the same technology currently being rolled out in Europe and the U.S.
In addition to building the necessary infrastructure, Airtel has signed agreements with leading companies like Nokia, Samsung and Blackberry to provide devices that will enable consumers access the services effectively.
Airtel plans to embark on pan African social initiatives that the consumers have a passion for, an example being the Airtel Rising Stars football program launched earlier this year.

Indian telecom service provider Airtel has 50 mln customers in Africa

NEW DELHI, (Xinhua) -- Indian telecom service provider Bharti Airtel Wednesday said it has touched the 50 million customers mark in Africa, where it acquired telecom operations in a 9 billion U.S. dollar deal last year.
“Bharti Airtel Limited today celebrated a significant milestone when it acquired its 50 millionth mobile customer in Africa. It has achieved this milestone within just 17 months of acquiring Zain’s mobile operations in 16 African countries and added 14 million new mobile customers during this period,” the company said in a statement.
Airtel Africa has invested approximately one billion U.S. dollars in the network infrastructure during the current financial year, said the company.
It has already been awarded 12 3G licenses across its operations and recently launched the first 3G network in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while securing a license to operate a GSM network in Rwanda.

Donors ready to fund construction of sub- regional railway line in West Africa

NIAMEY, (Xinhua) -- Technical and financial partners who met on Tuesday in Niamey, expressed their willingness to support the project of constructing a railway line linking the main towns in the West African region.
The railway line will cover Cotonou-Parakou-Dosso-Niamey-Tera- Dori-Ouagadougou-Abidjan and will go through Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire.
The railway line will measure 2,970 km long.
“The technical and financial partners have confirmed their willingness to support this important economic project which will promote regional integration in the West African sub-region,” this was indicated in the final statement from the donors’ round-table.
They expressed their interest to fund the project’s feasibility studies and support the activities of the piloting committee.
The final statement stated that a roadmap will be developed soon to guide the release of funds to enable the construction work to begin by 2014.
At the end of the forum, the states decided to set up a piloting committee which will be the main decision making organ and one that will ensure the completion of the project.
Niger was chosen to head this committee.
The concerned states also decided to set up three sub- committees to handle technical, institutional and financial issues.
The meeting was opened in the presence of the Nigerien President Issoufou Mahamadou together with concerned ministers from the countries sharing the project.

Nigeria has potential to lead Africa’s cashew production: official

LAGOS, (Xinhua) -- Nigeria had the potential to be the leading cashew producer and exporter in Africa, a top official with the African Cashew Alliance (ACA) said here on Tuesday.
President of the organization Idrissa Kilangi said this when he paid a courtesy visit to the management of the Bank of Industry (BOI) in Lagos.
“With Nigeria’s expansive landscape, research institutes and array of investment by the banks, especially BOI, the country should lead Africa’s cashew production and exportation,” he said.
“We know the country can do it. Nigeria should not lead from behind, but must be in the forefront,” the official told his audience.
Kilangi said with the bank’s collaboration with local farmers, Nigeria had the capacity to produce more than 500,000 tons against its present 80,000 tons for exportation.
Mohammed Alkali, BOI’s Executive Director of Operations, said the bank had in the last six years committed huge resources toward empowering farmers for increased cashew production.

S. Africa calls for global solution to deal with climate change, developed countries’ stance slammed by UN body

DURBAN, South Africa, (Xinhua) -- A South African delegate to the Durban climate conference Tuesday urged the global community to come up with a joint solution to deal with climate change.
Meanwhile, Canada, Japan and Russia are reportedly considering pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol.
South African Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa called for global action to deal with the impacts. She said action to address the causes and impacts of climate change by “a single country or small group of countries will not be successful.”
“This is a global problem requiring a global solution through the concerted and cooperative efforts of all countries,” she said.
Heading the South African delegation to the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),Molewa urged Africa to ensure climate change does not pose threats to the country’s development.
“COP 17 must provide the opportunity for both South Africa and the African continent at large to ensure that climate change and the associated changes in the climate patterns do not threaten development,” Molewa told a joint press briefing.
She said for Africa, the success of the Durban climate change talks is vital since it is projected that by 2080, about 70 million people and up to 30 percent of Africa’s coastal infrastructure could “face the risk of coast flooding because of sea level rise.”
Africa has contributed the least to the build-up of greenhouse gases globally, but will be in the frontline of the adverse effects of climate change. Combined with the severe development challenges the continent already faces, this makes Africans particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change foresees yields from rain-fed agriculture being reduced by 50 percent as early as 2020.
“Africa is more vulnerable because of poverty, which limits the ability of most African nations to cope with the impact of climate change,” South African President Jacob Zuma told the opening session of COP 17/CMP 7 on Monday.
Molewa told the media recently that the challenge for Africa is to decouple economic and social development from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation to an extent which has no precedent in the developed world.
Africa needs to embark on a path of sustainable development with new, clean, appropriate technologies and to build climate-resilient communities so as to avoid the environmental mistakes of the developed world.
Earlier in the day, Canadian media reported that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet had already decided to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, and had planned to formally announce the decision after the Durban conference.
A member of the so-called Umbrella Group, Canada stated earlier this year that it won’t accept the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol after its first commitment period expires at the end of 2012.
The Umbrella Group, which also includes Japan, Australia and Russia, acts as a negotiating bloc in climate change talks that rejects new commitments.
Besides Canada, Japan and Russia have said they will not renew their pledges, while the European Union (EU), which is long-term advocate of the treaty, said its support is conditional.
The EU, the United States and several other industrialized nations have also demanded that developing nations commit to legally binding targets to reduce emissions under any agreement reached this year.
Also on Tuesday, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) criticized developed countries for their stance at the climate talks.
Business Day newspaper in South Africa reported that UNEP said in a newsletter distributed at the talks that the developed countries are “stuck on weaker, conditional pledges.”
UNEP also said that the greenhouse gas emissions targets which developed countries have set themselves are “riddled with loopholes.”
The UN enviromental body said the “rather large elephant in the room” at the COP 17 is the ever-widening gap between the action needed to stem global warming and what is on the table this year.
Scientists at the talks agree that average global warming should be kept below 2 degree Celsius in order to avoid damaging climate change.
UNEP said it is not too late, and if “strong action” is taken, this target could be reached, adding that the developed countries need to “raise their game dramatically.”
This would require a focus on energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy, a halt to deforestation, improved waste management and better agricultural services. It would also require action on emissions in the shipping and aviation industries.



DURBAN, (Xinhua) -- Climate champions Marina Mansilla Hermann (1st L) from Argentina and Simone Carolossen (2nd L) from South Africa plant a tree with students at Fairbreeze Secondary school in Durban, South Africa, Nov. 30, 2011. Xinhua PHOTO: Li Qihua


Japan and Canada’s pulling out of second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol frustrate Africa

By Ntandoyenkosi Ncube DURBAN, South Africa, (Xinhua) -- The pull out of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol by Japan and Canada is “frustrating” to Africa efforts to dealing with climate change, Africa Group of Negotiators said Wednesday.
“At this moment of the process it’s clear that Japan and Canada will not join the second commitment period. This is frustrating (because) both are very key and strategic partners and will not join us on this very serious effort to tackle the most pressing phenomena in Africa which is climate change,” Africa Group spokesperson Seyni Nafo told Xinhua on the third day of the United Nations’s conference on climate change in South Africa.
Experts at the conference in Durban said this pullout is likely to damage a UN climate process already weakened by divisions.
According to reports Canada’s argument against the Kyoto Protocol is that it only covered about 15 percent to 20 percent of the world’s emissions at most and that it wanted a treaty that was inclusive of everyone, including developing major economies such as India, Brazil, South Africa and China.
“The position of Japan and Canada is not helping us. It frustrating and we hope that they will reconsider at some point. But this will not stop us and those committed to still peruse the second commitment period with those who are still willing to engage with the European Union,” the spokesman for the 54-nation Africa Group in the UN forum told Xinhua.
Speaking with Xinhua on the sidelines of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 7th Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP7) that officially opened Monday, Nafo said “climate change is Africa’s biggest enemy” and the Africa group of negotiators is committed to best outcomes at the COP 17.
“The biggest terror Africa is fighting now is climate change and the continent is now committed to dealing with this,” he said.
He said the Africa Group intends to use the conference to chart a course towards holistic outcomes that curb the growing threat posed by of climate change to the African continent, implement the United Nations framework convention on climate change and its Kyoto Protocol and advance the interest and aspirations of all African countries and people.
The UN talks continue under the UN convention on climate change and are based on the Bali roadmap agreed in 2007.
Nafo said to Africa Group of Negotiators the key issues on table in Durban include the threat climate change poses to Africa and its food security, addressing the mitigation gap – getting targets that meet the science and address the finance gap securing
finance that match the need or at least the promises.

Africa Focus: FAO says adequate agricultural statistics needed

By Liang Shanggang ADDIS ABABA, (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says an adequate system of food and agricultural statistics is required to prevent possible negative consequences by formulating effective policies based on evidence.
The 22nd Session of the African Commission on Agricultural Statistics (AFCAS) kicked off at the UN Conference Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Wednesday.
Speaking at the opening of the conference, Maria Helen Semedo, assistant director-general of FAO, said timely and reliable statistical information has critical role for anticipating shocks of crisis of food prices and mitigating their consequences.
She also said reliable and timely statistics are more than ever needed to face uncertainties resulting from on-going economic and financial crisis that is affecting most regions of the world.
Many African countries have neither adequate system of food and agricultural statistics, nor the capability to use the information that is availability, said Semedo.
The assistant director-general said the African continent with the bulk of undernourished rural people, who mainly depend on agriculture, is still facing unacceptable levels of poverty and hunger.
In order to significantly reverse this trend, more effective policies based on evidence are required in their design and measurement of impact, she said.
The assistant director-general also revealed that the statistical community has come to a consensus on a Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics and an Action Plan to implement the strategy developed under the UN Statistical Commission.
She also said Africa was the first region to prepare its Regional Implementation Plan under the leadership of African Regional Institutions including African Development Bank, UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union.
The Conference is said to provide opportunity to develop a common framework of definitions, concepts, standards and guidelines to help countries to produce internationally comparable basic statistics and linkages between agriculture, climate, and environment.
“The idea is every two years to have meeting with the participation of African countries and some of our stakeholders to define and discuss what we are doing with statistics and how better we improve the collection and analysis of date regarding agriculture,” she said.
Wondirad Mandefro, Ethiopian state minister of agriculture, stated that since inception in 1962, the AFCAS has contributed towards improving the status of food agricultural statistics in the region by providing advice to member countries on the development and harmonization of agricultural statistics.
The 22nd Session of AFCAS delivers significantly towards fulfilling the objectives by taking into consideration the importance of reliable agricultural statistics in formulating appropriate policies in agriculture and tracking the progress of various interventions aimed at improving the livelihood of the African people, said the minister.
On the sidelines of the conference, FAO has also launched the 2010-1011 Report on the state of food and agriculture under the topic, “Women in Agriculture: Closing the gender gap for development”.
The report says women make essential contributions to agriculture in developing countries, and if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 percent.
“This could raise the total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4 percent, which could in turn reduce the number hungry people in the world by 12-17 percent,” says the report.
It gives emphasis to women’s access to productive resources and opportunities. Jacques Diouf, FAO director general, says, “The agriculture sector is underperforming in many developing countries, and one of the reasons is that women do not have equal access to resources and opportunities they need to be more productive.”

West Africa urges conclusion of economic partnership pact with EU

By Justice Lee Adoboe ACCRA, (Xinhua) -- President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) James Victor Gbeho on Wednesday urged member states to expedite action on negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union.
He warned that ECOWAS risked falling prey to the EU divide-and- rule tactics in the near future and eventual disintegration if member-states did not unite in their quest to achieve an EPA agreement that would bring integration and development to the sub- region.
Addressing the final day of the three-day Ministerial Monitoring Committee (MMC) meeting on the EPAs of the sub-regional grouping, Gbeho was distraught about the long time the EPA negotiations had taken for ECOWAS members to resolve outstanding issues.
“We have always mentioned the same outstanding issues and in the mean time the rest of West Africa is growing impatient with us. I am sure that if you think about it carefully, you would agree with me that the negotiations have lasted too long,” he told the meeting.
“They have continued almost in eternity while the international economic environment keeps changing, even for us in our region,” the president pointed out.
Negotiations of the EPAs started at the level of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries level in 2002 but by 2004 the negotiations had been brought down to sub-regional levels.
They comprise ECOWAS, the South African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Communaute Economique et Monetaire de l’Afrique Centrale (CEMAC), the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) and the Eastern African Community (EAC), which negotiate on behalf of the various economic zones of Africa.
ECOWAS countries have come under pressure from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to form a solid front to negotiate with the EU and not allow their front to be broken by petty differences.
But these petty differences, according to Gbeho, have kept ECOWAS from making any significant progress in the EPA negotiations.
“Just keeping on focusing on our differences all the time will no longer do the trick. I think that the present era calls for creativity and inventiveness on our part so as to be able to push our dreams further than they are at the moment,” he said.
Gbeho called the experts of ECOWAS to seek political guidance from the political leadership of the sub-region because failure to do so could divide their ranks.
Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry Hannah Tetteh told the meeting that Ghana was deeply frustrating for the continuous negotiations over the same things among ECOWAS countries.
“There is the urgent need for West Africa to strive to conclude on its negotiations one way or the other because we cannot be negotiating ad-infinitum,” she said.
If West Africans believed that regional integration was the way to mutual growth and development and they could prosper together through trade, then there was urgency in the discussions and decisions to be taken at the meeting, the minister declared.
She called for the deepening of cooperation so ECOWAS did not become a political but an economic union as the founding fathers set out to do.
Nigerian Minister of Trade and Investment Samuel Ortom said at the meeting that trade relations with developed countries must be developed friendly and therefore the EPA negotiations must focus on the development of economies of member states.
A representative of West African CSOs on the EPAs Cheikh Tidiane Dieye told Xinhua in an interview that there was no way ECOWAS would be stampeded into agreeing to an EPA that would disadvantage the sub-region.
The MMC meeting, which opened here on Monday, ended on Wednesday with trade negotiation experts discussing and finalizing proposals for the committee of trade ministers to take concrete decisions.

Two Kenyan runners shortlisted for Laureus award

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Two Kenyans, world marathon record holder Patrick Makau and Vivian Cheruiyot, the double world champion, have been short listed for the prestigious 2012 Laureus World Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Award.
The Laureus Sports Foundation said in a statement on Friday, the winners will be unveiled during a globally televised Awards Ceremony in London on February 6, 2012.
This comes barely a month after both were overlooked by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Athlete of the year award. Jamaican Usain Bolt and Australian Sally Pearson won the award.
Bolt beat compatriot and 100m world champion Yohan Blake, along with Kenyan David Rudisha while Australian Sally Pearson piped Cheruiyot and world shot put champion Valerie Adams of New Zealand.
The Laureus World Sports Awards is recognized as the premier honours event in the international sporting calendar and the Awards Ceremony provides a high profile focus as stars of the sporting world come together to salute the finest sportsmen and sportswomen of the year.
The Laureus Sports Foundation is giving the two Kenyans a new lifeline for recognition after a spectacular year of sport, which has set up an exciting contest for the 2012 Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award.
The duo will have to battle it out with young lions like Novak Djokovic, Lionel Messi and Sebastian Vettel will be competing with a wide-ranging line-up of champions for sport’ s most prestigious honour.
Jamaica’ s sprint star Usain Bolt is probably best remembered in 2011 for the false start, which disqualified him from the World Championship 100 metres in Daegu.
However, it was still a highly successful championship as he won two gold medals, the 200 metres and the 4x100 metres relay, in which the Jamaican team set a new world record of 37.04 seconds.
Other outstanding athletics performances came from Germany’ s Robert Harting, who successfully defended his discus title in Daegu, despite a knee injury, and Kenya’s Patrick Makau, who beat the legendary Haile Gebrselassie in September in the Berlin Marathon and broke the world record by 21 seconds.
Cheruiyot and Makau are among 26 nominees for the award and is the favourite amongst the clutch of gold medal winners from the World Athletics Championships in Daegu.
Laureus described the diminutive runner as the ‘most impressive candidate, who established herself as one of the great distance runners of this generation after winning the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres gold medals.
Alongside the gold medal from Daegu, Republic of Korea, Cheruiyot also won the World Cross-Country Championship in Punta Umbria in Spain achievements that have also placed her as the front-runner for the Kenyan Sports Personality of the Year Awards.

Kenya’s Kiplagat set to take part in marathon race in Netherlands

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- World marathon champion Edna Kiplagat will have her first race since August on Sunday when she lines up in the Montferland Run 15km in Netherlands.
The former New York marathon champion, failed to defend her crown last month citing a knee injury, which she picked in Daegu, Republic of Korea at the World championships, when she slid and fell, and will be pulling on her running gear for the first time Sunday.
“I want to see how fast my legs can go. It has been a while since I last participated in a serious running competition. My knee has been painful so this race is crucial in my rehabilitation,” Kiplagat said in Nairobi on Friday.
Kiplagat will team up with compatriot Abel Kirui, who is also the world marathon champion in the race in the small village of Heerenberg, situated between Arnhem and the German border.
Kirui, who won his second successive World Marathon title in Daegu, will face some stiff competition from a trio of fellow countrymen, John Mwangangi, this year’s winner at the Paris 20km and Africa cross country champion; Philip Langat, winner of the Singelloop 10km in Utrecht in September, clocking 27:28 and the talented 19-year-old Gideon Kipketer, who was recently third and just a few seconds behind Kenenisa Bekele in the 4 Miles of Groningen.
Ethiopian Hailu Mekonnen, the winner here in 2005, is also a serious contender for the win. Koen Raymaekers and Michel Butter, the two fastest Dutch marathoners in 2010 and 201, complete the strong men’s field.
Kiplagat, last year’ s New York City Marathon winner, will look for a solid performance after a minor injury forced her to withdraw from her title defence in New York earlier this month.
Her chief competition includes Dutchwoman Hilda Kibet, this year’s runner-up at the Rotterdam Marathon in 2:24:27, and the Ethiopian Abebech Afework, winner of Great Ethiopian Run.
The women’s course record of 48:32, set by Ethiopian Bezunesh Bekele, dates back to 2005. The men’s record is 42:36, set by Haile Gebrselassie in 2007.


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