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Zimbabwe: Witness: Tobacco Farmers Kept In The Dark
April 10, 2018

Everyone sat on a thatched blanket spread outside under the warm sun, near the tobacco curing barn, with flat farmland, green grass and the occasional tree stretching as far as the eye could see.

Admire (not his real name), a tobacco farmer in Zimbabwe, had welcomed the researcher Margaret Wurth and two colleagues onto his property. Admire, together with his wife and their 20-year-old daughter, who both held energetic babies, talked with the researchers about tobacco farming.

When Margaret asked if they had ever heard of the terms nicotine poisoning or Green Tobacco Sickness, or knew what it was, the family said no.

She was horrified, though not surprised – she had heard this again and again from other farmers in Zimbabwe. For the past seven years, Admire had contracted with a company that supplied a major multinational cigarette maker.

Tobacco companies have responsibilities to respect human rights in their supply chains, and that includes making sure that farmers know about the dangers of nicotine exposure – particularly for children. Margaret had hoped that in those seven years, someone would have warned Admire.

Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s most valuable export, generating US$933.7 million in 2016. After President Robert Mugabe was forced from office last year, the new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, said that agriculture will be a key pillar of the government’s plans to revive the economy.

However, Human Rights Watch research into conditions on Zimbabwe’s tobacco farms revealed an industry tainted by child labor and confronted by other serious human rights problems.company's social responsibility guidelines, human rights watch, tobacco, nicotine poisoning

While Admire’s whole family was warm and welcoming, it was Admire, a slim man with a thin face, who did most of the talking. His wife and daughter, who wore the long, patterned skirts traditional for Zimbabwe’s women, would sometimes chime in.

Admire and his wife have five children, the eldest being the daughter who joined the conversation and the youngest their baby girl. Like other children in this community, both their eldest daughter and 17-year-old son started to help with the harvest at around age 14.

During our visit, this son was away from the farm, delivering his family’s tobacco to the auction houses in Harare, where it would be weighed and handed over to the company. Admire’s children in grade 6 and grade 7 help their parents and older siblings carry tobacco leaves.

Admire’s children only work when he can’t afford to hire workers—which happens often. But he wishes it were otherwise, he told Margaret “[My kids would] relax, they’d go to school without pain in their bodies,” he said. “At night they’d sleep. They’d have enough time to read books.”

When the family told her they had never heard of nicotine poisoning, Margaret explained the symptoms – nausea, dizziness, headaches – and that it’s caused by nicotine being absorbed into the body through your skin and clothes while handling tobacco.

She also explained that this is even more dangerous for children, as nicotine is a toxin that can affect the brain, especially in children, who are still growing and developing.

You could see the realization hit them. “When we’re hanging tobacco, we normally feel weak or vomit, and get a headache and dizziness,” Admire said, explaining that he felt sick while hanging the leaves in the curing barn, a windowless brick building heated by fire, where the tobacco dries.

This wasn’t surprising. Nicotine is water-soluble, and when tobacco plants are wet, or workers are sweaty, nicotine dissolves into the moisture and enters the bloodstream more readily.

It is places like curing barns – hot, sweaty, enclosed, and surrounded by tobacco – where people get really sick. His 17-year-old son, he added, has also vomited while working with tobacco. Both his wife and daughter had gotten dizzy while harvesting tobacco. “You fall sick, but you don’t know what it is,” Admire added.

Margaret told Admire and his family how to avoid nicotine poisoning – something it would have been easy enough for the company to do long ago. Did they have raincoats? Water-resistant gloves? Admire’s family was poor, and the only protective clothing they had was the two pairs of gloves the company had given them (at a cost).

She explained that the best way to help someone sick with nicotine poisoning is to get them away from tobacco, and have them bathe and change clothes. She also stressed the need to drink water.

Admire thanked Margaret. “We have never heard that kind of education,” he said.

For farmers like Admire, who make very little money, buying gloves or raincoats is difficult. “We just suffer,” he said, indicating they work without protection.

Admire and other farmers the researchers spoke with get paid once a year, and they often run out of money before their next harvest, leaving them unable to pay their children’s school fees – school in Zimbabwe is not free. Admire is lucky, though.

He’s behind in paying the fees, but unlike other farmers we spoke with, he said the school hasn’t sent his children home. “They know I’ll bring the fees after I go to sell [my tobacco],” he said.

The tobacco companies provide them with tobacco seeds, pesticides, and other things they need – although after the harvest the farmers have to pay the companies back with interest.

He had, of course, signed a detailed contract agreement with the company – a contract that most likely said he agreed to comply with company policies on child labor, handling pesticides, and preventing nicotine poisoning.

But like many farmers we spoke with, Admire said he wasn’t given a copy of the contract. Only the companies held the contracts, leaving the farmers vulnerable.

But do you know what Admire did have at home? The company had given him an itemized list of specific chemicals, fertilizers and other necessities for growing tobacco that he received from the company, how much they cost, and how much he would pay for them at the end of the season—with 10 percent interest added. It included the quantity and unit price of each item. Admire understood each line.

In tiny print at the bottom was a reminder that farmers are expected to comply with a requirement of the company’s social responsibility guidelines– specifically on the fuel used in curing barns. Admire said it meant he was not allowed to cut down trees to use for firewood in his curing barn.

Margaret and her colleagues already knew a lot about this company’s social responsibility guidelines. It was a set of standards used by many of the world’s largest tobacco companies, covering four different areas: crop, environment, facilities, and people. It includes requirements on child labor, labor rights, and health and safety, in line with international standards.

On paper it looks good. But the only information Admire had about this program was a voucher saying he could only use fuel supplied by the company. He had zero materials about health and safety, nothing about protecting the rights of workers on farms, nothing about child labor.

When the researchers asked Admire what the program was, he had no idea. “I’m not understanding,” he said.

Other farmers Margaret spoke with had similar experiences.

Human Rights Watch sent six-page letters to dozens of tobacco companies, describing our research findings and asking questions about their human rights policies and practices. In their responses, many proudly drew attention to the kinds of guidelines Admire and many other farmers like him knew next to nothing about.

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Genocide memorials inch closer to becoming UNESCO heritage sites
April 6, 2018

Former Nyamata Catholic church-turned Genocide memorial. Sam Ngenadahimana.

Efforts to have four of the country’s Genocide memorials added on to the UNESCO World Heritage List have reached advanced stages, the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) has said.

Speaking during a consultative meeting at the Senate yesterday, Jean Damascène Bizimana, the commission’s executive-secretary, said the Government was currently plugging the gaps earlier identified by the UN agency.

The Genocide memorial sites in question are Nyamata (Bugesera District), Murambi (Nyamagabe District), Bisesero (Karongi District, pictured right), and Kigali Genocide memorial (Gasabo District).

On January 23, Rwanda submitted to UNESCO an application for potential nomination for inscription of the four memorial sites as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, he said.

Yesterday’s consultative meeting was called to review progress on the process to give the Genocide memorials a world heritage status.

The sites are currently on the ‘Tentative List’ of the natural, cultural and mixed world heritage sites, the CNGL boss added.

“We have no doubt that these four sites will be permanently registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List but one of the things we need to look into is how we’ll preserve their uniqueness,” Bizimana said.

A team of UNESCO officials is expected in the country this week to examine the status of the sites, he told the lawmakers.
The experts are also expected to join Rwandans during the commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi, Bizimana said.

A weeklong commemoration period starts Saturday.

The official said engaging the masses on the process to register the four sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List will go a long way in facilitating the effort to preserve the sites.

In an interview with The New Times, Dr Deogene Bideri, the legal advisor at CNLG, said that clearly demarcating the memorial sites’ buffer zones and ensuring that development master plans do not tamper with the sites’ maps is one of the recommendations from UNESCO.

The UN agency also raised concerns about the “validity” of Kigali and Bisesero Genocide memorial sites which were were constructed after the Genocide, unlike Murambi and Nyamata whose pre-Genocide structures remain intact.

“The latter two sit on the same spots where atrocities were committed 24 years ago and their architecture embody harrowing tales about those places,” he said. “We offered detailed explanations and we believe they were satisfied.”

Jeanne d’Arc Gakuba, the Vice President of the Senate in charge of Finance and Administration, called for comprehensive preparations in bid to have the sites accorded a world heritage status with the country expected to submit another proposal before February 1, 2019.

Inscription of the memorials on UNESCO World Heritage List is seen as a major step toward cementing their global significance, as well as a boost to their preservation.

In East Africa, Kenya has the most (six) sites permanently listed by UNESCO.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Sports and Culture, Julienne Uwacu, urged district mayors and provincial governors – who were in attendance – to ensure the safety of Genocide sites “because they need to be preserved in their original status for future educational and remembrance purposes”.

More than a million Rwandans lost their lives during the Genocide

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NFSC: Lalong’s Agric Revolution Yielding Results
April 3, 2018

Agric Revolution: As President Muhammadu Buhari made to visit Plateau in March, the interrogation for the visit, due to the level of seriousness the state government committed to the project bordered on the justification for such high level preparation.

When the president concluded his two-day visit and left however, many were awed by the tangible benefits of the visit that began to come in in droves that the initial cynicism not only abated but stopped completely.

Apart from the numerous projects commissioned which were thrown open for public use, the goodwill of being on the same page with the president began to manifest.

It was not surprising therefore that two weeks after the visit, the state governor, Simon Lalong was appointed as a member of the National Food Security Council (NFSC), giving Plateau a deserved recognition as an agricultural center of excellence.

As many know, any governor chosen to be on the council considers himself and his state as privileged as the council has only six states governors with proven commitment to agriculture as members.

The council works in collaboration with seven federal ministries, the CBN and other security agencies and is chaired by no less a personality than the President.

Agric Revolution

The other state governors in the council are the governors of Kebbi, Lagos, Delta, Taraba, Ebonyi and the seven cabinet ministers are that of Agriculture and rural development, Finance, interior, industry, trade and investment, water resources, environment as well as budget and national planning.

While the Council has as its key objectives the aim of developing sustainable solutions to the farmers-herdsmen clashes; climate change and desertification and their impact on farmlands; grazing areas and lakes amongst others.

The council also takes interest in regional and global policies and trends that bear implications for food security in Nigeria.

From these it was clear that Plateau’s commitment to developing agriculture and boosting the lot of farmers can no longer be done from the back seat as it has been enrolled into a comity of states with proven track records of agricultural enhancement for its citizens and for the nation.

The question then moved to what Plateau state and its governor owes this privilege and honour to?

At the inception of the Lalong administration in 2015, the governor and his team saw the need to promote agriculture for the development of the state and its people.

This it did by making agriculture one of its policy thrusts all in the bid to ensure food secuirty, provide employment to the citizens of the state and leverage on the policy thrust of the APC led administration.

Lalong who has come to be known as a farmer-friendly governor did not just talk but swung into action by immediately releasing funds to an agency of the government, the state agricultural development program and in the process brought back life to the agency which had become inactive.

Added to that, extension service which was almost extinct in the state was resuscitated with the employment of 400 adhoc staff to guide farmers on best agricultural practices in addition to the payment of counterpart funds which attracted national and international collaboration that further enhanced agricultural production in the state.

Due to the interventions of the Lalong administration, the World Bank through the state Fadama three programme additional funding is expecting two crop value chain programmes in the state, with increase in tomato farming.

A lot of green houses have been springing up all over the state due to these efforts while improvements are being recorded in rice farming.

With the commitment by the current administration in agriculture, potato farming irecieved a boost which has resulted in Plateau being selected as the only state to run the national potato value chain and furtherance of its desire to encourage a robust agricultural sector, the governor created the enabling environment and sponsored the first ever farmers’ summit in the state which resulted in in far reaching resolutions.

In addition to all that, the state government purchased 400 tractors by for a farmer ownership scheme at a subsidized rate.

This project many concede is bound to elevate Plateau as the most mechanized state in the country as it now boasts of over 800 functional tractors in its fleet.

To the surprise of many, the moribund Panyam fish farm all of a sudden began to function and to produce in full gear despite several setbacks,
The Panyam fish farm which was established 65 years ago, is reputed to be Nigeria’s largest fish farm covering a land mass of 309 hectares with the capacity to produce about 4.9 tonnes of fish annually.Agric Revolution

The Lalong administration it was that saw the need to bring it back on stream and went into a Public Private Partnership to ensure sustainable growth in line with government’s resolve to breathe life into moribund industries and provide massive employment opportunities.

Fertilizer being one of the major inputs in crop production propelled the Lalong administration to resuscitate the moribund Bokkos fertilizer blending plant and is now one of the biggest plants in the country which has supplied fertilizer to not only the state but other states in the North Central & North Eastern Regions of the country.

The investment in the agricultural sector in Plateau state has gone beyond subsistence levels to a flourishing value chain enterprise with opportunities waiting to be tapped.

With these clear strides in the agricultural sector, not many were surprised that Plateau, under Lalong is now property placed to realise its destiny as a center of agricultural excellence.

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Road to AfCFTA: South African President expected in Kigali

President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead a South African delegation to the 10th Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in Kigali scheduled to take place on 21 March 2018

President Kagame and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa during their meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. (Courtesy photo)

President Kagame and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa during their meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. (Courtesy photo

President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead a South African delegation to the 10th Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in Kigali scheduled to take place on 21 March 2018.

This was confirmed in a statement from the South African Presidency.

The AU session is preceded by an Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council that started Monday with aim of considering the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Legal instruments and launch the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area.

The Summit, which will be chaired by President Paul Kagame, who is the current chairperson of the AU, is expected to consider and conclude issues related to the AfCFTA and adopt the Agreement on the Establishment of the AfCFTA.

“South Africa is committed to the establishment of an AfCFTA that will boost intra-Africa trade in accordance with the aspirations of the African Union’s Agenda 2063,” reads part of the statement from the South African Presidency.

According to the statement, President Ramaphosa will be accompanied by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies and Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Gratitude Magwanishe.

Airtel-Tigo merger kicks off with ‘Go from good to best’ campaign

Bharti Airtel and Tigo Rwanda have officially started the process to merge assets and services of the two firms, months after the takeover deal was approved by the regulator.

Amoateng says the merger will provide users with better services. / Courtesy.

Amoateng says the merger will provide users with better services. / Courtesy.

Bharti Airtel and Tigo Rwanda have officially started the process to merge assets and services of the two firms, months after the takeover deal was approved by the regulator.

“This is the first phase of the process and it involves harmonisation of services of two firms,” Philip Amoateng, the Airtel managing director, said during the launch of a campaign dubbed “Go from good to best”. Amoateng said the campaign seeks to raise awareness among subscribers about the benefits of Airtel’s recent acquisition of Tigo’s operations in Rwanda.

During this phase, we will be reassuring customers about the services and products we are offering, he told The New Times on Thursday.

“We are excited about this campaign which is designed to bring together our customers so that they can benefit from competitively-priced services and products.”

This means that both Tigo and Airtel customers will be able to enjoy fast Internet on one network, as well as affordable voice pack products, among others, Amoateng added.

Last year, Airtel announced 100 per cent equity takeover of the Millicom subsidiary company Tigo Rwanda Limited.

The deal was approved by the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) on January 23, with formal closure of the acquisition concluded on January 30, paving way for merger process to start.

The move means Airtel will now consolidate the Rwandan telecom market and position itself as a strong contender in Rwanda with revenues of over $80 million.

Airtel has operations in 17 countries across Asia and Africa.

Tigo Rwanda users will join over 370 million customers on Airtel’s global network across 17 countries.

Tigo has 3,443,332 active subscribers as at the end of January compared to 3,456,601 customers recorded in December 2017, according to RURA monthly active mobile telephone subscription report for January.

Airtel made the biggest gain during the month growing by 2.52 per cent to 1,675,497 users compared to 1,634,379 clients the previous month, the report shows. MTN customers were up by 2.25 per cent to 3,812,168 subscribers, from 3,728,237 users in December.

The telecom firm was still dominating in as at the end of January with 42.62 per cent of the market share, Tigo 38.65 per cent and Airtel has 18.73 per cent. The conclusion of the merger between Airtel and Tigo Rwanda has, however, propelled the new combined entity as market leaders in terms of subscriber numbers.

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Revolutionizing Breeding Programs, Agriculture In Africa
March 28, 2018

Revolutionizing Breeding Programs: Cassava is one of the most important staple crops in sub-Saharan Africa, yet it stands out from other crops in many ways.

In some ways, cassava may seem an unlikely focus for a flagship project: typically considered a “poor man’s crop” and under-researched, it is the fourth most consumed staple in the African continent after maize, rice and wheat, yet it is exactly in this gap of knowledge that the possibility for innovation exists.

Cassava breeders/researchers through a fund made available by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UK Aid from the United Kingdom in the NextGen Cassava project launched from 2012 to 2017 made major strides in understanding cassava’s genome and flowering, shortened the time to develop new cassava varieties from eight years to five, identified user preferences important to men and women to incorporate into breeding targets, and established Cassavabase, an open-access database for cassava genomic information.

Revolutionizing Breeding Programs

With the expiration of the five-year timeline, the project secured yet another fund from the same donors for the second phase of the project for another five-year timeline with the lofty ambition to revolutionize breeding programs and agriculture in Africa through cassava.

In the second phase of the project, greater emphasis will be placed on delivering improved cassava varieties to smallholder farmers and end-users throughout sub-Saharan Africa with Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania highlighted as major beneficiaries.

Speaking at the project’s inauguration during the sixth annual NextGen Cassava meeting recently in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the director of Cornell’s International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (IP CALS), who administers the Next Generation Cassava Breeding Project (NextGen Cassava), Ronnie Coffman, said a key goal in the second phase of the project was to identify traits important to farmers and to engage them as research partners to breed new varieties that are adopted and equitably impactful.

Coffman, an international plant breeder, said: “Another five years will help us strengthen the long-term global sustainability of cassava – a crop important for food security and predicted to stand up to climate change and extended periods of drought or rain.

“A key goal in phase 2 is to identify traits important to a diverse range of users–including women and marginalized groups–and to engage farmers as research partners to breed new varieties that are adopted and equitably impactful.

It is to everyone’s benefit to hear women’s voices and tap into their knowledge about product quality to breed better cassava for everyone.”

In his remarks, the director of research and development at the ministry of agriculture in Tanzania, Dr Mansour Hussein, said he considered the project a very important investment for the people of Tanzania, Nigeria and Uganda, especially the farming community.

The director of the NextGen project and adjunct professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell, who is based at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria, Chiedozie Egesi, said cassava could be the engine that would revolutionize agriculture in Africa, saying the next five years would provide the opportunity of delivering best bet varieties resilient to major diseases for African farmers, adding the first varieties from NextGen would be available to farmers in Nigeria within the next 18-24 months.

The second phase of the NextGen cassava project is structured into three major divisions which include the breeding, research and survey divisions respectively. Egesi who leads the breeding division, serves as the fulcrum of the project.Revolutionizing Breeding Programs

He explained: “Four breeding programs in Africa will implement improved breeding pipelines: the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) in Nigeria; the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Nigeria (with additional support from IITA/Uganda); the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI ) in Uganda; and the Tanzanian Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) in Tanzania.”
Additional activities to support the breeding programs will be carried out in South America at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), and at the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Pacific West and the University of Hawaii at Hilo in the USA.

In addition, Cornell University, the West African Center for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana, and Makerere University in Uganda will provide training and support for African cassava breeders for capacity development in target countries.

The survey division and its activities will be spearheaded by NextGen Cassava’s gender initiative leader in Phase I, Hale Ann Tufan who said successful adoption of cassava varieties depended on meeting diverse user preferences.

“We will support the breeding division in decision-making and trait prioritization, generating product profiles with measurable breeding targets. Engaging large numbers of diverse farmer groups will enable us to evaluate new varieties on farm, at scale.

Gender analysis of participatory evaluation, gender training and trait-level impact analysis on members of participating households will underpin our strategy to ensure new varieties are developed that benefit men, women, boys and girls equally,” Tufan added, NextGen researchers will work closely with another Gates Foundation project, BreedingRTB Products for End User Preferences(RTBfoods), to jointly carry out survey activities.

The research division will be led by research plant geneticist with the USDA-ARS and adjunct associate professor in the department of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell, Jean-Luc Jannink.

He said : “Our primary activities will be to identify, develop, and implement technologies that can be used to deliver improved varieties rapidly and efficiently. We will provide support to the breeding programs to improve their processes, and may propose new technologies to benefit their work.”

Among the activities overseen by this division are flowering and seed set, breeding scheme optimization, Cassavabase development, genomic prediction and decision analysis support, and bioinformatics for improving prediction accuracies.

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Circular economy will spur Africa’s transformation—experts

Rocio Diaz-Chavez, Deputy Director of the Stockholm Environment Institute Africa Centre says that there are many assessments tools, which can support Africa’s wide scale transition to the Circular Economy (All photos by Timothy Kisambira)

Adoption of circular economy practices will go a long way in delivering economic growth, jobs and positive environmental outcomes needed for Africa, experts said yesterday.

A circular economy is a reformative system in which resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimised.

This, according to science, can be achieved through long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling.

According to Kathryn Toure, Regional Director for Canada’s International Development Research Center (IDRC) for sub Saharan Africa, circular economy is a concept of reduce, reuse, recycle, remanufacture, repair and continually renew.

At a panel discussion moderated by Toure, at the ongoing Next Einstein Forum in Kigali, experts reiterated need for African economy to build industrial synergy that facilitates efficient resource use.

The panel explored Africa’s low carbon circular economy.

“Circular economy is not only about job and economic growth, it’s also about our environment and our health,” said Ana Therese Ndong-Jatta, Regional Director of the UNESCO Eastern Africa.

Rocio Diaz-Chavez, Deputy Director of the Stockholm Environment Institute Africa Centre noted that there are many assessment tools, such as life cycle analysis, which can support Africa’s wide scale transition to the circular economy, which should be utilised more.

The Minister for Environment Vincent Biruta mentioned that Rwanda is at the forefront of fostering circular economy in the region and beyond.

Rwanda, South Africa, and Nigeria -along with the World Economic Forum are the pioneers of the African Circular Economy Alliance, which was launched on the sideline of Climate Change conference (COP23) in Bonn last year.

“In order to make effective use of the circular economy, there is a need to build connections between industries to close the production loop. This industrial symbiosis will be key for efficient resource use,” Biruta reiterated.

“Rwanda is working with South Africa, Nigeria, the United Nations Environment Programme and World Economic Forum to develop a continent wide alliance that will spur Africa’s transformation to a circular economy which delivers economic growth, jobs and positive environmental outcomes,” Biruta added.

At the national level, Biruta also noted that Rwanda is “very positive” about the prospects of the circular economy, not only to address environmental issues, but to foster economic growth and job creation.

Coletha Ruhamya, Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) called on stakeholders to invest in Africa’s scientists and engineers to conduct research for Africa and in Africa if the advancement of the circular economy is to bear sustainable fruits.

Govt to introduce electronic ankle monitors for criminals

Minister Busingye addresses senators yesterday . (Sam Ngendahimana)

As part of a broader plan to reduce on the number of people who end up in correctional facilities, the Government will soon introduce electronic ankle monitors as an alternative to incarceration, the Minister for Justice, Johnston Busingye has said.

Addressing members of the Senate, yesterday, Busingye said that though the number of people in the country’s correctional facilities has significantly reduced over the years, the Government was working on alternative ways of bringing those who commit crimes to justice without necessarily sending them to jail.

“There are different laws that have been passed to help us in this process and they will soon come into force once they are published in the official gazette. One of them will allow for the introduction of the court mandated electronic ankle monitor. In about a month, we will be discussing with the stakeholders on how to use it. It’s one of the ways that are popularly used in more developed countries,” he said.

An electronic ankle monitor or bracelet is usually worn by a criminal who has been sentenced to house arrest, has been paroled or those on probation. They may be worn before or after a person goes to trial on criminal charges.

Busingye explained to the senators that the ankle monitor transmits the wearer’s location to a monitoring system via GPS and an attempt to remove the device triggers an alarm to law enforcement. If the offender travels outside of a set geographic area, such as the city in which he lives, it also triggers an alarm.

For instance, a judge can order a person convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances to wear an ankle bracelet instead of serving jail time. Ankle bracelets assigned in connection to a driving under influence case can monitor alcohol consumption. The bracelet tests the offender’s perspiration for the presence of alcohol and the information is then relayed to a central computer database where it is tracked by law enforcement.

Besides reducing cases of imprisonment, Busingye pointed out that as part of the ongoing prison reforms, those who end up in jail are immediately enrolled into programmes with an aim to change them for the better.

“We are looking into how those who are entering correctional facilities can be changed for the better and can apply for early release faster. We have no control over who enters prison because it’s the judge’s decision but we can do something to make sure that the person who has been sentenced can leave a changed human being,” he said.

Busingye also pointed out that the Rwanda Correctional Services had been instructed to keep track of and collect information on repeat offenders.

The senators were also told that those who have committed crimes are not released and forgotten but, instead, are followed up in their local communities, where they are given all the support that they need to better their lives.

Members of the Senate follow Justice Minister as he addresses them  during the session

Senators react

Senator Apollinaire Mushinzimana commended the significant changes that have been made in terms of prisoners’ files, including an integrated system that was established to help people to keep track of their files or those of their loved ones.

Senator Marie Claire Mukasine said that there was need to look into the country’s history on how offenders would be punished but also at the same time protected and not made enemies of society.

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Nigeria’s Food Imports Dropping Drastically — FG
March 27, 2018

Nigeria Food Imports Dropping Drastically, The Federal Government has disclosed that Nigeria is recording a massive decline in food importation, stating that its agricultural policies have started to have far-reaching effects on the transformation of the sector.

Speaking at the inauguration of chairpersons and members of Boards of 23 agencies and parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development, weekend, Minister of State in charge of the Ministry, Mr. Heineken Lokpobiri, however, stated that while the country had achieved significant results in its bid to grow the sector, it still has a lot of work to do.

According to Lokpobiri, over the last couple of months, the importation of food items including rice and fish into the country had reduced significantly, while he noted that efforts are in progress to further reduce all food imports to the barest minimum.

Nigeria Food Imports Dropping Drastically — FG
Nigeria Food Imports Dropping Drastically — FG
“Efforts on developing other agricultural products like cassava, millet, cocoa, hibiscus flower (zobo), ginger, cashew nuts and so on, are yielding positive results,” he added.

Lokpobiri further stated that since the inception of the current administration, concerted efforts had been made to diversify the economy and agriculture is the foremost sector being explored in this regard.

He explained that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has the responsibility of developing agriculture, making it the key driver of rural development for the transformation of the economy, with a view of attaining food security, generating employment and becoming a net exporter of agricultural produce and earner of foreign exchange.

“Our Agricultural Research institutions and colleges have a vital role to play in achieving this goal as they have a mandate to ensure the development of new technologies, inputs, production techniques, storage and distribution techniques and processes through research for improved yield and reduction in losses. Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation also plays a major role in protecting farmers from agricultural losses in the entire value chain,” he added.

He urged the newly inaugurated chairmen and board members, to view their appointments as a clarion call to service, and be partners in progress, stating that their competencies and wealth of experience would be required to support the institutions they are appointed into, giving strategic direction and ensuring attainment at the goals they were set up to deliver.

However, he said, “Please note that your role is non-executive and part time. As Board chairmen and members, you are to ensure the adherence to the tenets of corporate governance and remember that you have statutory responsibilities to bring your wealth of experience to bear on policy articulation and formulation for your agencies. The heads of Agencies and Parastatals are enjoined to work amicably with their Boards.”

Nigeria Food Imports Dropping Drastically — FG
Nigeria Food Imports Dropping Drastically — FG

In addition, Lokpobiri averred that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is devoted to ensuring positive change in the lives of Nigerians and also improve standard of living across the country.

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Cross River Appeals For Media Support For Its Health Insurance Scheme
March 27, 2018
The Cross River State government has called for the support of the media and civil society organizations in it’s efforts  to make quality health care available through it’s health insurance scheme tagged “Ayade Care”.

The State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Rosemary Archibong made the call during a sensitization workshop for the media and civil society on the Ayade Care project in Calabar.

She said the state government is interested in providing qualitative health care for all categories of people living in the state irrespective of their states of origin, hence the need for every one to buy into the insurance scheme with a token contribution of a thousand naira monthly.

Special adviser to the Governor on insurance matters, Godwin Iyala , said increased awareness of the benefits of the insurance coverage is key and called for support from  both the media and the civil society organizations.

Study Challenges ‘Healthy But Obese’ Theory

File photo.

Being overweight or obese does pose a risk of heart disease, despite claims to the contrary, a study of nearly 300,000 British adults suggested Friday.

While it is generally accepted that being overweight increases a person’s disease risk, some researchers have recently suggested that carrying extra weight does not actually boost death rates for some, particularly the elderly.

A number have even suggested that being overweight may protect against disease, a claim dubbed the “obesity paradox.”
But the latest study, published in the European Heart Journal, said there is no paradox.

It looked at 296,535 people aged 40-69 who enrolled in an ongoing health study in the United Kingdom between 2006 and 2010.

For the latest analysis, data on the participants — all of “white European descent” — was available until 2015.
All were healthy when they first enrolled.

The researchers noted the participants’ Body Mass Index (BMI) — a ratio of weight-to-height squared used to determine whether a person falls in a healthy weight range.

They then tracked who went on to develop CVD — which includes heart attack, stroke or high blood pressure.

The World Health Organization considers someone with a BMI of 25 kg/m2 as overweight, and 30 kg/m2 or higher as obese.

The research team found that CVD risk increased beyond a BMI of 22-23 kg/m2.

“Furthermore, the risk also increases steadily the more fat a person carries around their waist,” said a press statement summarising the findings.

People with a BMI of 22-23 kg/m2 had the lowest CVD risk, the study found.

“As BMI increased above 22kg/m2, the risk of CVD increased by 13 percent for every 5.2 kg/m2 increase in women and 4.3 kg/m2 in men.”

The findings presented a direct challenge to the obesity paradox.

“Any public misconception of a potential ‘protective’ effect of fat on heart and stroke risks should be challenged,”
said study co-author Stamatina Iliodromiti from the University of Glasgow.

It is possible that the effect would be different for people with pre-existing disease, the authors said.

But for healthy people, maintaining a BMI of 22-23 kg/m2 appeared to minimise the risk of developing or dying from heart disease.

“The less fat, especially around their abdomen, the lower the risk of future heart disease,” the authors concluded.

An American study published by the journal JAMA Cardiology last month, similarly found that overweight and obesity were associated with “significantly increased risk for CVD”.

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Oyo Govt Warns Residents Against Illegal Tree Felling
March 27, 2018

The Oyo State Government has warned members of the public to desist from illegal tree felling and indiscriminate bush burning across the state.

Commissioner for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development in the state, Mr Oyewole Oyewumi, who gave the warning, noted that offenders would be punished accordingly.

He spoke during the week while declaring open the 2018 International Day of Forest (IDF) at the Methodist Grammar School, Bodija in Ibadan, the state capital.

Oyewumi, who was represented at the event by the Special Adviser on Agriculture to Governor Abiola Ajimobi, Professor Adetokunbo Adekunle, stressed that the importance of trees in the society cannot be overestimated.

According to him, an environment that is devoid of trees is prone to hazard and it is advisable for all to plant at least a tree so as to ensure a greener environment.

The commissioner stated that the state government has restored all depleted forests through collaboration with local and foreign investors to improve afforestation.

He decried that the degraded forests were as a result of illegal felling, noting that government has placed surveillance on the forest reserves to apprehend those who are involved in the illegal act.

Oyewumi, however, called on all and sundry to support tree planting, stressing that it has become necessary to achieve greener, healthier, happier and sustainable environment.

The Patron of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Forest Centre, Dr David Oladiipo, also delivered a lecture with the theme “Forest for Sustainable Cities” at the event.

He explained that the United Nations has set aside March 21 to commemorate IDF because of the importance of tree to humanity.

Dr Oladiipo also lamented that the rate of deforestation in Africa, as a result of inadequate sensitisation and awareness, was already harming the environment.

He, however, pointed out that afforestation is a collective responsibility as the government cannot do it alone and consequently called on the Oyo State government to implement a policy in which approval must be given before land can be cleared.

He further appealed to principals of various schools to inaugurate ‘Young Forester and Tree Clubs’ in their institutions to save the environment.

The Director, Federal Comptroller of Environment in the state, Mrs Aina Adetola, also called on the state government to place more priority on the forest reserves

World’s Carbon Emissions On The Rise Again – IEA

Harmful carbon emissions from energy rose in 2017 for the first time in three years, the International Energy Agency said Thursday, proof that the world’s efforts to fight climate change are falling short.

Strong economic growth pushed global energy demand up by 2.1 percent last year, the Paris-based IEA said in a report.

Some 70 percent of those additional needs were met by fossil fuels oil, gas and coal, pushing global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions up by 1.4 percent, after three years of remaining flat.

The rest was covered mostly by renewables.

“The significant growth in global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 tells us that current efforts to combat climate change are far from sufficient,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement.

“For example, there has been a dramatic slowdown in the rate of improvement in global energy efficiency as policy makers have put less focus in this area,” he said.

But the overall increase in CO2 emissions masked major improvements in some individual countries, including the United States, a big polluter.

In fact, the US saw the biggest drop in emissions, helped by a higher deployment of renewables.

Emissions also declined in Britain, Mexico and Japan, the IEA said.

The 29-nation IEA provides analysis on global energy markets and advocates policies enhancing the reliability, affordability and sustainability of energy.



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‘Yobe can feed 40% of Nigerians’
March 26, 2018

Irrigation farmers in Yobe State say the state can provide at least 40 per cent of Nigeria’s food needs, if the partnership between the Yobe government and MardiCorp, a Malaysian firm, is properly executed.

They also indicated their interest to partner the state government in the project, especially in its special irrigation scheme.

The farmers’ spokesman, Alhaji Modu Gashua told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Gashua on Friday that the partnership would significantly boost food production and economic growth.

AbduKareem Usman, another irrigation farmer, said that Yobe had the capacity to make a 40-percent contribution to the nation’s food stock.

“This partnership will provide more opportunities to improve food production; there is no doubt that this state can contribute 40 per cent of Nigeria’s food requirements.

“This initiative is a welcome development, as it will boost the country’s agricultural growth and development,” Usman said.

In a statement, Abdullahi Bego, the Director-General (Media and Publicity) to Gov. Ibrahim Gaidam, said that partnership with the Malaysian company would also focus on the Special Irrigation Scheme at Nguru Lake, Boloram, Mugura and Garin Gada.

He said that Gaidam was in Malaysia to explore the partnership and engage the services of MardiCorp in training of extension workers and irrigation farmers.(NAN)

Why we allowed Sunti Sugar estates – Etsu Nupe

Why we allowed Sunti Sugar estates – Etsu Nupe

…coy to begin fish rearing project for locals

The Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, has explained why his people supported the revival of the Sunti Sugar Estate by Flour Mills of Nigeria in Mokwa Local Government Area of the state

reports that about 17,000 hectares of irrigable land has been acquired from the host communities for the project

Our reporter learnt that youths in the communities had initially kicked against the project over fear of the land being taken away without the people benefitting from compensation.

Competent local sources in Mokwa, however, told Daily Trust that the land was initially acquired in the 1980s for the Sunti Sugar project jointly owned then by the federal and Niger State governments.

One of the sources said compensation on the land was paid then when most of the agitating youths were not even born.

But the Etsu Nupe, who spoke at the commissioning of the N50 billion Sunti Golden Sugar Estates (SGSE) by President Muhammadu Buhari last Thursday, said the project would provide jobs, improve trade and commerce and considerably uplift the standard of living of the people.

“There were some challenges at the beginning, but ultimately, our people have come to understand that an industrial-size project like this is not intended to disturb their traditions and means of livelihood but to increase the capacity of our farmers, and to generally benefit our communities,’’ the traditional ruler said.

While congratulating the management of Flour Mills of Nigeria for its patience and magnanimity, the Etsu Nupe noted that the organisation has exhibited its interest in working with his people for the development of their communities, adding that was the main reason all the communities involved finally accepted the project.

“While we appreciate the effort and work done so far, I will like to use this medium to ask that you do even more in the aspects of infrastructural development. I know that you have plans to further invest in CSR projects for the host communities. This strengthens our faith and support for this project,” the traditional ruler said.

But even before the call by the Etsu Nupe for assistance for the host communities in the area of infrastructural development, Flour Mills has already provided water in five surrounding villages and constructed three schools.

This was confirmed by some locals at Kusopa, Kede and Sunfla villages.

The company further supports schooling by providing teachers, school uniforms, desks and other educational equipment.

The Sugar Estate will also embark on a fish-rearing project to stock surrounding ponds and lakes with fish to sustain the communities fishing activities.

There are 28 communities from Mokwa, Rabba and Sunflag in the west and Ketso in the east impacted by the project, with 12 of them in the immediate surroundings of the SGSE.

President Muhammadu Buhari, while commissioning the project, noted that the nation’s vision of attaining self-sufficiency in sugar was well within sight with the kind of investment by Four Mills of Nigeria.

“I am happy to mention also that projects like the Sunti Sugar Estate are in tandem with the vision and objectives that we set out to achieve when this administration instituted the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP,’’ the president said.

The chairman of Flour Mills, Mr. John Coumantaros, said the estate was expected to produce one million tons of sugarcane, which roughly translates into 100,000 metric tons of sugar yearly.

This locally produced sugar, according to him, will save the country 100 million dollars in foreign exchange every year, apart from over 10,000 jobs it will create when fully operational.



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