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Archive for May 28th, 2011

Nordic ambassadors laud IITA research

Posted by African Press International on May 28, 2011

Ibadan,Nigeria— The ambassadors fromFinland,Norway, andSwedenhave commended the quality of research and scientific professionalism displayed at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in fighting hunger and poverty in tropical countries.

The visit to IITA-West Africa inIbadan,Nigeriaby the diplomats further reinforced the imperative for agricultural research to address the challenges of food insecurity in tropical countries.

Her Excellency Anneli Vuorinen,Finland’s Ambassador toNigeria, said “The level of excellence and knowledge at IITA is extraordinary.”

Established in 1967, IITA is now one of the world’s leading research partners in finding solutions to hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.

Using the research for development (R4D) approach, the Institute works with partners to enhance crop quality and productivity, reduce producer and consumer risks, and generate wealth from agriculture.

In over four decades of existence, the Institute has contributed to building the capacities of scientists in tropical nations, thereby helping to stabilize the national research systems especially those in sub-SaharanAfrica. Improved maize varieties released by the Institute today make up 60% of farmers’ preferred varieties in West andCentral Africa. “The biological control programs of the Institute against food crop pests saved cassava, a major staple inAfrica,” said Dr. Peter Hartmann, IITA’s Director General.

Norway’s Ambassador toNigeria, His Excellency Kjell Lillerud, said he was proud of his government’s support to IITA and the positive outcomes that research has had on the lives of people in the tropics.

 “I am happy my country is supporting IITA and I am impressed with the work here,” he said.

Among the areas visited by the ambassadors were the Institute’ Genetic Resources Center, which holds in trust for the world the largest collection of cowpea and other crops such as soybean, cassava, maize, yam, and banana, among others. The team also visited theBioscienceCenterand the IITA forest—one of the few surviving secondary forests in the West African region, where thousands of indigenous tree seedlings are being raised for reforestation.

The Swedish Ambassador toNigeria, His Excellency Per Lindgärde, who was instrumental in organizing the visit, said his country appreciated the positive impacts IITA’s work has had on food production inAfrica. “We see the value in the work IITA is doing and we will continue to give our support,” he said.

The visit provided the Nordic ambassadors and IITA Administration the opportunity to explore a broad range of development challenges.


Filed by Godwin Atser
Corporate Communications Officer (East & Southern Africa)

About IITA
IITA is an international non-profit R4D organization established in 1967, governed by a Board of Trustees, and supported primarily by the CGIAR. We work with partners in Africa and beyond to reduce producer and consumer risks, enhance crop quality and productivity, and generate wealth from agriculture. We develop agricultural solutions with our partners to tackle hunger and poverty. Our award winning research for development (R4D) is based on focused, authoritative thinking anchored on the development needs of tropical countries.

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Foreign Minister Støre welcomes Azerbaijani newspaper editor’s release

Posted by African Press International on May 28, 2011

“It was high time the prominent Azerbaijani newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev was released. This is very good news,” said Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre. “Mr Fatullayev has been imprisoned since 2007, and in 2010 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that he should be released.”
Azerbaijan has been heavily criticised for keeping Mr Fatullayev imprisoned and for failing to comply with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.
“I am very pleased that in pardoning Mr Fatullayev, Azerbaijan has taken an important step towards complying with the Court’s ruling. We have long been concerned about the human rights situation in Azerbaijan and have raised this issue on a number of occasions. We have also taken up Mr Fatullayev’s case,” said Mr Støre.
“I hope Mr Fatullayev’s release will be accompanied by similar progress in other cases, and that the situation as regards freedom of expression in the country will improve,” said Mr Støre.

By the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Duty Press Officer:Date:   May 27 2011

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Prices: How much did you just say?

Posted by African Press International on May 28, 2011

FOOD: Prices and perceptions

How much did you just say?

LONDON, 25 May 2011 (IRIN) – Banu Bibi’s shopping basket is becoming emptier. When she goes shopping in Dhaka, Bangladesh, she spends more than a year ago, but that money buys less. In 2010, for 134 taka (US$1.80), she could afford lentils and laundry soap, and the family’s favourite fish. This year she has to spend 185 taka ($2.50) just for the basics: more rice to make up for the lack of other food, and cheaper vegetables.

Banu Bibi lives in one of eight communities picked by a research team from the Institute of Development Studies in the UK to track the effects of rising food and fuel prices. For three years, with the help of partner organizations in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Zambia and Kenya, they have been talking to people in selected rural and urban communities about how rising prices affect their lives.

Banu Bibi’s experience is fairly typical. Her family is not starving; they still have food, but it is not the food they like and is not as nutritious as it could be. They certainly ate more and ate better before the food price shock and financial crisis of 2008. And across the world, homemakers are having to work harder, spending more time shopping or looking for food, and planning more carefully to stretch their budgets to feed their families.

A woman in Lango Baya, Kenya, spoke for many when she told the researchers: “You go to a shop to buy something with the same amount as you paid the previous day, only to be told that prices have risen.”

Although food and fuel prices did fall after the initial spike in 2008, they never went back to their previous levels, and this year they have jumped again. Only one of the four countries studied has experienced some respite this year – Zambia, where the price of maize, the staple food, has not increased.

Local locus

While the two previous studies concentrated on the mechanisms people used to cope with the rising prices, this time the researchers decided to ask some more political questions – why did people think prices were so high? Who was to blame? And what should be done about it?

“It was an interesting time, with the Arab Spring and unrest around the world, and we wanted to ask how people felt about the food and fuel price rises,” the research team leader, Naomi Hossain, told an audience at the University of Sussex, recently.

Her presentation coincided with the publication of a report into the global causes of rising prices by the British charity, Christian Aid. It analyzed recent movements on commodity markets, and concluded that much-vilified hedge funds were not the real culprits, instead singling out pension funds. They have very large pots of money, and have been pulling out of volatile stocks and shares and investing in funds linked to a basket of commodity prices, forcing fund managers to protect their positions by buying commodity futures on such a scale that they move the market.

But although commodity price rises are now an international phenomenon, extensively reported in the media, the people Hossain and her colleagues spoke to only looked for causes within their own country, citing hoarding and speculation, changing climate and environmental problems in their own area, and – overwhelmingly – their governments’ failure to care about the poor.

One interviewee in Bangladesh told them, “I don’t believe in this global market story at all. It is just an excuse for the government not to do anything.”

Hossain describes “a real failure of global civil society to get people to see how their livelihoods are connected to the global economy. I am not surprised people prefer local causes. It gives people a sense of agency; if it’s a global problem, then what can they do?”

Moral focus

But she has a certain sympathy for governments. There are more social protection schemes in place, for instance, than at the time of the first survey, despite governments having their budgets squeezed, but even so they get little credit.

Those who believe the government should “do something”, suggest banning exports, controlling prices, punishing hoarders and subsidizing basic foodstuffs. The researchers found a sense that it was the moral duty of a government to provide for its people, sometimes linked to notions of democracy. A woman in Kenya told them, “In the new constitution, we have the right to be provided [with] food by the government.”

The moral sense also extended to the business community. A rural doctor in Bangladesh said, “The businessmen should get some moral teaching. If they were afraid of Allah and conducted business honestly, the situation would improve.”

All in all, says Hossain, “There is a popular consensus about what is legitimate, about social norms and obligations. People set moral limits to the freedom of the markets.”

High food prices are not bad news for everyone. Another IDS research fellow, Xavier Cirera, pointed out that the rises followed a long period of low food prices, which had been very hard on farmers. “We always have to ask the question, what is the real price of food? And how can governments ensure better safety nets for the poor while ensuring that traders pass the benefits of price increases back to the producers? The evidence is that farmers are getting some benefit and are responding. But they are not realizing the full benefit of higher prices.”

eb/mw source

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Many religious leaders believe condoms promote adultery

Posted by African Press International on May 28, 2011

BURUNDI: Religious leaders’ resistance to condoms hurts HIV fight

Many religious leaders believe condoms promote adultery

BUJUMBURA, 26 May 2011 (PlusNews) – Asha* is in a polygamous marriage, and while she would like to protect herself from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, the message from the preachers at her local mosque in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, is that condoms promote adultery.

“We can’t use condoms as a way of preventing AIDS in our community; only abstinence is preached in our mosques,” she said. “We [Muslims] are so exposed to the AIDS pandemic, especially because we believe in polygamy…”

The scholars at her mosque, in the predominantly Muslim suburb of Buyenzi, are keen to participate in the fight against HIV, caring for HIV-positive people and orphans in their communities and even encouraging HIV testing before marriage, but according to Asha, this advice is flawed.

“I can take HIV tests but the problem is that I can’t know that the other wife of my husband has done it or will do it; I have no right to tell her to do so,” she said. “How do you [protect yourself from HIV] when… subjected to the constraints of religion?”

Muslims make up about 10 percent of Burundi’s population; research is divided on the HIV risk posed by polygamy – some regional studies indicate that women in polygamous relationships are at higher risk of HIV, while others argue that “closed” polygamous relationships can actually protect against HIV as long as sexual relationships remain within the closed group. However, HIV policy-makers and implementers do agree on one thing – condoms should be an essential part of any effort to prevent HIV.

But Islamic scholars insist that condoms must be avoided at all costs. “Encouraging condoms in Islamic circles is a way of calling people to sexual debauchery,” said Secretary-General of the Islamic community of Burundi, El Hadj Nkunduwiga Haruna. “We ask people to be faithful and not to engage in sexual promiscuity as a means to fight AIDS.”

Poverty factors

According to Jolie*, a non-practising Christian, poverty was often a bigger consideration than religion or HIV prevention when choosing a spouse.

“With this poverty everywhere here in Burundi, if [a woman] gets a chance to get married to a rich man who happens to be a Muslim, she can’t refuse it… thoughts of AIDS come afterwards,” she said.

“It is difficult to convince a man who wants to marry, especially when he is rich, to do HIV tests,” she added.

Muslim scholars are not the only religious leaders firmly against condom use. Father Emmanuel Gihutu, a professor of philosophy at a seminary in Gitega, east of the capital, said: “It is unthinkable that people insist on condom use in schools and even among young children, rather than teaching them to [wait] before any sexual temptation.

''We are so concerned about the AIDS pandemic, but we cannot teach Christians to engage in debauchery; that’s not our mission''

“I was surprised when I was rector of the seminary during a training seminar in Gitega and we were told to go and teach our students to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS with condoms. Do you believe that as a spiritual personality we can teach such things?”

“We’re so concerned about the AIDS pandemic, but we cannot teach Christians to engage in debauchery; that’s not our mission,” said Father Evode Bigirimana, rector of the Marian shrine at Mount Zion in Bujumbura. “Encouraging the faithful to use condoms is a way to encourage them in a way to indulge in carnal acts.”

Members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church have similarly strong views on the subject. “Condoms are the satanic ways to fool the gullible that AIDS can be fought by the hoods,” said Cassien Sindaye, a member. “Our condom is the sixth commandment, which prevents us from adultery.”
Condoms “integral” to HIV prevention

However, according to INERELA+, a network of religious leaders living with or personally affected by HIV/AIDS, condoms must be an integral part of any realistic HIV prevention strategy.

“The implication that the use of a condom automatically marks a person as unable to be faithful fuels stigma and acts as a disincentive to evidence-based prevention,” the organization says in its prevention model, which involves safer practices such as abstinence and condom use, counselling and testing, and empowerment and education.

Local NGOs are urging religious leaders to rethink their stance on condom use.

“We ask them to change their language because it can prevent people from using condoms to protect themselves against AIDS, and I am sure among them [religious leaders] there are those in need of condoms,” said Baselissa Ndayisaba, coordinator of the NGO, Society for Women Against AIDS in Africa. “The condom is a tool to prevent AIDS and church teachings can have negative impacts on our work.”

*Not their real names

dn/kr/mw source

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Governments Invest in planning

Posted by African Press International on May 28, 2011

  • By Thomas Ochieng(API Kenya)   

The Africa community of practice, a bilingual community of planners established in 2007 and made up of 2000 members from 42 African countries, meeting in Nairobi have come up with strategies to measure the results emanating from socio-economic planning in respective governments in the continent dubbed, Results for Africa by Africans.
The launch of the programme that encourages members of the body to use knowledge shared through the south-south platform in their daily works as governments across Africa. The Africa community of practice (Afcop) conducted a survey in 2010 where 85.4% of members indicated that the community was a useful and
relevant resource tool in achieving fundamental development results. The strengths and weakness of poverty reduction strategies in the continent have been identified and highlighted, in which experts have used the same in accelerating growth and development thus reducing poverty through citizen’s engagement in decision making processes.

Speaking during the launch of the Afcop general meeting 2011 and launch of the development measuring tool, the Co-chair of the body, Senegal Planning Minister Abdou Karim Lo, expressed his pleasure in the development of the continental initiative.
Africa planners need a proactive platform to share experiences and develop a tool that will measure results in governments throughout Africa; stressed the Minister. The 4th AGM of Afcop provided member states a tool for assessing progress made over past years which will be used to set targets and deliverables for the coming years. During the previous meeting last year in Dakar the community ratified the establishment of linkages both national and international, shifting individual capacity building to institutional capacity building, encouraging south to south capacity building and cooperation with regional economic blocs.

The host of the Nairobi meeting, The Kenya ministry of Planning through the directorate of monitoring and evaluation, head Mr Samson Machuka articulated the country’s commitment towards the Afcop initiative in harnessing planning by governments in a participatory manner that encompasses sharing of information in
South-South cooperation. The government and the planning ministry in entirety is delighted by the tireless work and dedication of the Afcop community in coming up with a measurement tool that is developed by Africans and for use by Africa; said the Director.
In bid to witness the results of proactive planning enspoused by the Afcop, delegates at the meeting were taken to a constituency known as Gatanga in Central Kenya, a success story of utilization of the development fund in the most prudent and effective manner countrywide, where development planning for the constituency development fund (CDF) is done through public participation to achieve its overall intended purpose.


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Millions were affected by Cyclone Aila

Posted by African Press International on May 28, 2011

In Brief: Bangladesh cyclone victims still in need two years on

Millions were affected by Cyclone Aila

DHAKA, 25 May 2011 (IRIN) – Two years after Cyclone Aila struck southwestern Bangladesh, thousands of survivors remain in need, say aid workers.

More than 3.5 million people were affected, about 200 killed and 7,000 injured when the category four storm struck on 25 May 2009, Bangladesh’s Disaster Management Bureau reported. “Sadly, many victims have still not received the assistance they need,” Hasan Mehedi, chief executive of local NGO Humanity Watch, told IRIN.

“Many people are still not able to return to their houses. People who return home do not have sufficient income opportunities and cannot take three full meals a day,” said Aminul Kawser, national emergency coordinator for ActionAid.

According to a recent assessment by 10 international agencies, more than 200,000 people remain affected, more than 50,000 have yet to return to their homes; about 34 percent of households (more than 108,000 people) do not have sufficient access to safe drinking water.

mw/ds/cb source

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