Water key to ending poverty and hunger in Africa, UN report says
May 16, 2008
by C.T. Pope Circle of Blue
Almost two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa's rural poor could benefit from investment in water, a new UN report finds.
The jointly commissioned report, Water and the Rural Poor, was presented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) at the Sixteenth Annual UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-16) on Monday.
"Insecure access to water for consumption and productive uses is a major constraint on poverty reduction in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)," the report found.
With almost half of Africa's population suffering from water related diseases, the new assessment highlighted the potential for low-tech, highly localized, solutions to have a major impact the livelihoods of the rural poor.
Only 3 percent of sub-Saharan Africa's land is under irrigation systems - elsewhere, crop production relies almost entirely on seasonal rainfall. Harvest rates rise and fall with unpredictable rain patterns.
Subsistence farmers, who account for nearly 80 percent of the agricultural activity in sub-Saharan Africa, are often the most vulnerable to seasonal variation in rainfall. The long-term impacts of such unpredictability make it impossible for these rural farmers to break from subsistence to small-scale production, thus reinforcing the cycle of poverty.
The report underlined the needs of these non-market oriented producers. "For millions of smallholder farmers, fishers and herders in SSA, water is one of the most important production assets, and securing access to and control and management of water is key to enhancing their livelihoods," the UN report said.
Beyond the subsistence farmer, the FAO and IFAD suggested solutions for each economic farm class in the region - including, large-scale commercial farms, small market oriented farms, subsistence farms, and the highly vulnerable "survival" farms.
Each of these markets suffers from a variety of factors, including at the upper end, a lack of reliable fertilization options and irrigation systems; at the middle, a lack of healthy seeds and access credit; and at the lower ends, a loss of work from AIDS related issues and waterborne disease.
Stressing these "context-specific" solutions, the report divided sub-Saharan Africa into 13 livelihood zones - based on land-type, major crops grown, and the prevailing economic situation of the areas. Each of the 13 zones faces unique problems for which localized solutions are best suited.
Modeling their suggestions on existing success stories in Africa, the report offered real-world examples to better inform policy makers and investors. It recognized the heterogeneous nature the water issues facing the region.
The report came as part of the CSD-16's focus on agriculture, drought and desertification; Africa; and water and sanitation. And, while the FAO stressed that water management alone would not solve the poverty and hunger crisis in Africa, it emphasized the potential for well-targeted water interventions to significantly improve the livelihoods of Africa's rural poor.
Photo: C.T. Pope / Circle of Blue Map: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)/International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), 2008
Joint Report: Water and the Rural Poor
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Yellow fever is sweeping through the thousands of Congolese expelled from Angola, a local official says. At least 10 people have already died, says the mayor of Lutembo in south-west Democratic Republic of Congo. The town's hospital, which is chronically short of medicines, is struggling to cope.
More than 20,000 Congolese diamond miners have been expelled from Angola in recent weeks. The UN is trying to reach the remote region by helicopter.
There are 500,000 to million freelance miners, called artisanal miners, in the Congo. They mine cooper and cobalt. Two minerals that are necessary for the industralized western world.
Billions of dollars worth of ore have been mined by the artisanal miners. However, they received only a very small portion of that sum. They make only $5 a day on the average. The middle guys make all the money.
It is going to get worse. Their jobs are going away due to increased modern mining processes and equipment. A potential tragedy for the artisanal miners and their families. Millions of Congolese in Katanga will go hungry unless they learn how to farm or to do something else. What?
by Gwen Thompkins Listen Now [7 min 46 sec] NOTE: You can listen online to the broadcast by following the link above. A written transcript is available for small fee of $3.95
Morning Edition, April 24, 2008 · The economy of the Democratic Republic of Congo depends on its natural resources of copper, gold, diamonds and cobalt to fuel the mining industry. Yet the country is still incredibly impoverished. Mining has devastated many sectors of the population since the colonial era — but foreign investors are hoping it can finally boost the struggling economy.
SAMPLE of the transcript:
RENEE MONTAGNE, host: If the world were a more predictable place, the Democratic Republic of Congo would be the richest country in Africa. It has diamonds, it has gold, it has copper and cobalt. But the Congolese are barely getting by. The country is betting on its mining sector for a better economic future and yet mining in Congo runs on brutality, greed and bald-faced lies, as NPR’s Gwen Thompkins reports. GWEN THOMPKINS: Most people feel lucky when they find a dollar on the...
I knew it was too good to be true. There are lots of benefits in a $80 Billion dam on the Congo River. The construction could be a great economic stimulus package. Plus electricity for millions of people who are in the dark.
There were no plans to include the people. There were no funds to electrify the Congo.
Scramble to Dam the Congo Keeps Africans in the Dark By Terri Hathaway International Rivers, Africa Campaigner
A lucrative hydropower scheme proposed for the Congo River has become Africa's next great scramble. Led by the World Energy Council, major industries, banks, and governments met in London this week to seek their piece of the US$80 billion Grand Inga project - the world's largest hydropower installation.
The scheme is being promoted as a development venture to electrify the African continent, where two in every three people now lack access to electricity.
Nearly a hundred officials and big money interests discussed how to profit from one of Congo's great natural resources, but Congolese officials disappeared shortly after the meeting commenced with no explanation to organizers. Worse, organizers had refused to invite Congolese civil society and area communities, leaving no voice to defend the country's interest.
It will take time and determination to change a century of mismanagement and organized theft. The people have suffered through it all.
Mineral rich Katanga Province of Congo is better situated than most of the other 10 provinces. They should have the resources to support them. But it is troubling to hear that the central government has implemented ZERO projects in the province.
Moise Katumbi, the governor of Katanga, has scheduled a trip to the states to include Indianapolis.
LUBUMBASHI, Congo -- One recent afternoon in this booming mining town, in a provincial office crammed with files, something unusual was happening for a country once ruled by the famously kleptocratic dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
A mid-level government administrator named Vincent-Francois Yangala was going over a local budget, line by line. He was checking receipts. He was noting discrepancies.
Hewa Bora had only one single aircraft authorized to fly to Europe. Now, that single aircraft have been banned from landing in Europe.
I routinely fly Hewa Bora between Kinshasa and Kananga. They fly to Kananga three times a week. I am sure they will continue flying in Congo and Africa. And I will continue using them between Kinshasa and Kananga. There are no roads and no trains. Also, it is too far to walk.
BRUSSELS (Thomson Financial) - The European Commission said it is imposing a ban on all operations of an additional Ukrainian airline, Ukraine Cargo Airways, as well as on all operations of the Congolese carrier Hewa Bora Airways amid concerns over the groups' safety standards.
Hewa Bora was previously allowed to operate a single aircraft under a special arrangement, but this operating permission has been withdrawn, a commission spokesman said.
The "bottom billion" who live in extreme poverty can not go dumpster diving.
I remember an episode of Oprah about a young couple and their friends who went out at night to dumpster dive for food and other stuff. They did not have to dumpster dive but they did it out of sense of saving food and other stuff going to waste.
I have seen the trash piles in poor countries like DR Congo and even Mexico. There was no food in that trash. For those living in extreme poverty, the "bottom billion", every day is a food crisis. Thanks, Mr. Zoellick for drawing attention to the world's poor.
Most of the media, as usual, seems to suffer from a case of double myopia (nearsightedness in time and in space) in which the immediate problem in the U.S. financial market (as legitimate as it is, for the 2 million or so households facing foreclosure risks) eclipses the crisis out there in the "rest of the world," which is urgent and could be long-term, of rising food and energy prices for poor people in poor countries -- who number about 2 billion.
Good to see Mr. Zoellick using the World Bank platform as a bully pulpit to fight for attention to the world's poor. And clever of him to link current shifts in global prices and risks to poor people's needs.
Development in Africa is at a standstill or going backward. The G8 industrialized nations along the "emerging donor nations" met to discuss and jumpstart development in Africa.
Development is the key to achieve poverty reduction and other goals set by the UN. The target dates for these goals are 2015. We are half way to there. Africa to include the Congo is not on track to achieve the goals.
Congo has reached out to three of these "emerging donor nations". China signed a $9 billion agreement with Congo. Also, Congolese ministers have made trips to India and South Africa for conferences.
Since 1978, China's economic has been red hot. Also, China's development has been spectacular. Development in South Africa and India are equally noteworthy.
Congo has good mentors. I pray and hope that Congo learn and implement those lessons well.
TOKYO (AFP) — Ministers from the richest nations and the fastest growing economies started talks Sunday on bolstering aid measures to reduce poverty in Africa and other areas under a 2000 UN agreement.
The talks are the second day of meetings between development ministers from the Group of Eight industrialised nations and emerging donor nations -- Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea and South Africa.
"The ministers discussed development and Africa as one topic," said a Japanese foreign ministry official.
"In terms of development in Africa, many countries pointed to the importance of building infrastructure" and using private sector investment as a tool for development, he said.
But the latest progress reports show poverty has not reduced in areas of Africa and in some cases the situation has deteriorated, in a stark contrast with Asia where some countries have already achieved some of the goals.
The most memorable aspect of the Bill Moyers Journal's Hope in the Congo was the lack of transportation. In our village of Bulape, there is only one vehicle owned by the hospital. Everything is carry by on the heads of women or on bicycles by men.
Pictured is the Basic Utility Vehicle (BUV) designed and manufactured by the Institute for Affordable Transportation. The BUV will be used by the Bulape Hospital to transport people and supplies to and from the reference hospital to remote health clinics.
These bicycles are the backbone for Congo. They are everywhere. They carry everything. I have seen cloth, corn, pigs, goats, corpses, and tin roofing on bicycles. Just think everything that is moved by truck is probably moved on bicycles in the Congo.
Bicycles are the tractor-trailers of Congo. While in Congo, I am so afraid of hitting on those guys. From the video, it appeared this time of the year or this area of Congo does not have lots of bushes. The winding paths with low visibility make travel scary.
It was funny to hear the guy complain about the Chinese tires. But I do not understand how these bicycles hold up to all the weight.
Also, it was funny to hear the guy talk about speeds and gears.
Everyone can not afford bicycles. It is not like Holland where everyone has a bicycle. Most people walk from village to village. Only the transporters have bicycles. Bicycles are business vehicles.
THE JOURNAL takes viewers on the ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo to follow aid workers and local relief efforts that are bringing hope to a forgotten land. "The aid agencies are almost substituting for a social welfare system that hasn't operated in these areas for decades," says Dominic MacSorley, Emergency Director for Concern Worldwide, an international aid organization.
Concern is one of only two aid organizations working in some remote regions of the DCR. The other, Doctors Without Borders entitled its March 12, 2008 field report: "Violence spikes and civilians suffer." It is one more harsh report from a country which has suffered through a devastating history — recent and remote.