Sustainable Development

ABIDJAN, Cote d'Ivoire, (PAMACC News) – Kenya’s Prof Ruth Oniang’o and Mrs Maïmouna Sidibe Coulibaly from Mali have jointly won $10,000 worth of the Africa Food Prize - 2017.

The women, working at both ends of the agriculture supply chain were awarded the prize for their exemplary efforts in driving Africa's agriculture transformation at the 2017 Africa Green Revolution Forum in Abidjan.

Hon. Prof Oniang'o is recognised as the leading voice of nutrition in Africa and for her relentless advocacy for the availability and affordability of diverse and nutritious crops for millions across the continent. She pioneered nutrition leadership in academia, research, and policy to improve food security and nutrition. Her groundbreaking work, with farmers' groups and rural communities connects agriculture and nutrition both in research and practice providing a natural link between agriculture and nutrition.   

Mrs Coulibaly, on the other hand has been feted for her mission to produce and supply improved and high-yielding seed that have led to improved incomes and nutrition for millions in Mali and other West African countries.

Through sheer hard work and consistency, Coulibaly has overcome multiple hurdles to build a leading seed company that is fast becoming a model for Africa's agri-businesses.  Her company, Faso Kaba, specialises in the production and sale of a wide range of improved seeds, including cereals, oil seeds, market gardening, fodder and tuber seeds that can improve agricultural yields by up to 40 per cent.

The Prize recognises and puts a spotlight on shining examples of agricultural projects that are transforming lives and economies.

According to H.E. President Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria and the Chairperson of the Prize Committee, the 2017 Prize winners come from both the public and private sector representing how both groups are working together to transform agriculture into a high value industry sector. He said that this year’s award attracted over 600 nominees.

"It gives me immense pride that this year's winners are both women. This is a clear demonstration that women in Africa are at the forefront in terms of connecting the rising food needs and the continent's vision for prosperity that is driven by agriculture and agri-business. The fact that the winners work at either end of the agriculture value chain, represent both private and public sector and are from different parts of Africa reflects the wide impact agriculture has in transforming economies and reducing poverty, way beyond the fields," he former Nigerian president.

A strong believer in farming being the bridge between humankind and nature, Prof. Ruth Oniang'o spends most of her time with smallholder farmers and women in rural areas helping them to transform their household's ability to produce, purchase and consume foods in higher quality and quantities. She reckons that smallholder farmers are the most valuable part of the market and the entrepreneurial value chain.

"I believe we are what we eat. I realized early on in my life, when I dreamt of being a doctor, that food is the first medicine," said Prof. Oniang'o in a statement to the press. "I am humbled to receive this Prize and believe it highlights the work we have done and more importantly, it will contribute towards shaping our continent's food future. I am a strong believer that Africa shall, one day, feed the world." said Prof Oniang'o.

For her part, Mme. Coulibaly observed that the opportunities for Africa agribusinesses are endless. She however, decried the enormous challenges African entrepreneurs especially start-ups face as they try to set up businesses.

"I am honored and humbled to receive this Prize. It is, in part, a validation of the hard work that I have put into building Faso Kaba with the support of my family and staff. I would like to say that it has been easy.  There are many times when I almost gave up as I struggled to raise to finance the business. I am glad I stayed true to my vision, attended many trainings and worked with partners that believed in my vision," " she said.  Today, we have become a model that many people that are starting businesses come to. I no longer book appointments with the banks. They call me with financing proposal. I look forward to a time when businesses will not struggle to start like I did," she added.

The 2016 winner of Africa Food Prize is Dr Kanayo Nwanze, the former President of the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD). Dr. Nwanze was awarded for his visionary leadership and passionate advocacy to place African smallholder farmers at the centre of the global agricultural agenda, and for his demonstrated success in advancing policies, programs and resources that have improved the lives of millions across the continent.

KRIBI, Cameroon (PAMACC News) - Michael Wakam stood beside a palm tree in a bushy area in Kribi in the South region of Cameroon and looked dejectedly at the farm land in front of him that was once his.

“It starts from here right over there where you see that palm tree. From there, you move to the right extending to the middle of that building right up to where were are standing” he said showing a vast piece of land which he claimed was grabbed from him by a Chinese company commercial cultivation of rice and cassava.

“We agreed that the land will end right there in the middle of that tree but I came and discovered that they have extended to this level. They have encroached my land almost by one hectare. This is wrong and illegal” he said boiling with anger.

Michael’s story is familiar across Cameroon where locals continue to dispute land with International companies especially Chinese companies.

In September 2015, neighbouring communities of the Lokoundjé and Kribi II subdivisions living close to the farms of Hévéa du Cameroun (Hévécam), a sister company of Chinese group Sinochem International addressed a memorandum to the Cameroonian government in which they accused the company of the of grabbing farming lands, stepping beyond the limits of some of its land concessions. A situation which, according to them, deprived them of a livelihood generally provided by agricultural activities on the lands under dispute.  

“Government remained mute to our complaints and the land grabbing continued. This is 2017, two years after the memorandum and nothing has changed” said Michae. “We suspect that they bribed government officials to stay quiet” he added.

Company officials denied the allegations and stressed that the land was acquired from the indigenes in strict respect of the Cameroonian law.

“What always happens is that, villagers usually get excited and confused when this companies come with huge sums of money to buy and develop their land. They only realized that they did not bargain well when the companies start operating” said Nelson Ndi, a Cameroonian working with Camco, a Chinese company that deals in agricultural and construction machinery.

According to two studies carried out separately by Land Matrix, the global watchdog on large scale land acquisitions, and Deborah Brautigam, Director of China Africa Research Initiative at John Hopkins University in the USA, Cameroon is one of the top 10 African countries that have sold the most lands to Chinese agricultural investments.

With 10,120 hectares of lands sold to the Chinese company Shaanxi Land Reclamation General Corporation (operating under the name IKO), to farm maize and rice in the Center region of the country (Nanga Ebola and Ndjoré), Cameroon, Ethiopia and Mozambique have some of the most important Chinese investments in agriculture on the Continent. Cameroon however comes far behind Zimbabwe that sold 100,000 hectares to the Chinese company CWE to farm maize.

Way Forward

“We are thinking of organizing a solid resistance to these land grabbers and demonstrate our resolve to keep our lands. We do not care what happens” said Michael. A move that will certainly end up in violence and probably loss of lives.

The Cameroon Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mining and Arts (CCIMA) has proposed a more sustainable measure to settle the crisis which will possibly not please strong opponents of land grabbing by agro-industrial companies.

The President of the Chamber Christophe Eken, has exhorted the government to carry out a “land reform, to facilitate access to land ownership for investors, especially in the agro-industrial sector”. For businessmen, this reform is to be considered as a “priority”, if the government wants to “increase the competitiveness of the Cameroonian economy”.

Government is yet to react. The request comes in a context marked by civil society organisations blowing the whistle on the land grabbing operated by agro-industrial units, a practice which according to these NGOs, challenges the survival of neighboring communities.

BONN, Germany (PAMACC News) - The United Nations seeks to involve young professionals from developing countries in implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) through a new fellowship programme run by two key UN agencies based in Bonn, Germany.

According to a press statement released in Bonn on 15th May, the fellowship initiative will offer work experience in a vibrant international policy environment at the UN Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC).

“Young, qualified professionals from developing countries represent one of our best resources for building capacity for climate action,” said Patricia Espinosa, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary.

“As we move with determination into the new era of implementation of the Paris Agreement, we need to equip young people with the skills to green economies and build resilience, and this initiative is an example of how organisations can prepare young people for the challenges of the future,” she said

The United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) will help identify and recruit the young professionals, and provide them with an exciting research environment.

Upon completion of the scheme, the “Early Career Climate Fellows” will be able to work in their home countries or internationally, deploying the valuable experience and insights they have gained in Bonn.

“We will also be building their skills so they can better secure employment in the work-place. Many of the young people we will be supporting need real-life experience to get on the job ladder. What we are doing is also a living example of Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) under Article 6 of the original Convention. It ranges from education to training in respect to climate change: So we are securing a great, dynamic human resource and giving back with a positive, empowering experience in partnership with UNU,” said Espinosa.

Professor Dr. Jakob Rhyner, Director of UNU-EHS, said: “There are 1.8 billion young people in the world today, more than ever before in human history, and about nine out of ten live in developing countries. Efforts for sustainable development and climate protection must build on their enthusiasm and ideas. The UNFCCC-UNU-EHS Early Career Climate Fellowship Initiative offers young people from developing countries a unique possibility to start their career at the interface between international climate policy development and research.”

Academically outstanding young graduates from developing countries who are less than three years into their careers, especially women from least developed countries, are encouraged to apply.

Fellowships may last from six months to two years and the work experience with the UNFCCC will be tailored to fit the specific skills and backgrounds of each fellow.

The collaboration will get underway following the UN Climate Change Conference, which runs to 18 May.

BONN Germany (PAMACC News) - The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is offering an opportunity for young people from around the world to showcase what they are doing to combat climate change, through a video competition.

“We are absolutely delighted to be launching the Global Youth Video Competition for the third year running,” Nick Nuttall, the Spokesperson and Director of the UNFCCC said during the launch of the contest at the ongoing climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

Two winners of this contest will get a trip to the UNFCCC in November (COP23), where they will join the UN communications team as videographers and reporters. The competition is opened to young people between the ages of 18 and 30 and videos must be submitted by 18 August 2017.
 
 “I am even more excited about viewing the video shorts that young people from across the globe will be making and sending in, in order to win a place at the UN climate conference in Bonn in November," said Nuttall.

Last year, a total of over 180 entrants from 77 countries submitted short video reports on their personal climate actions and activities to raise public awareness, of which 40 were short-listed.

The two categories for this year are ‘Climate friendly and resilient cities,’ and ‘Oceans and climate change.’
 
“With the Pacific island of Fiji presiding over the conference—COP23—I would like this year to especially urge young, creative people from small islands and vulnerable coastlines to get out their cameras and their smart-phones and submit cool, amazing and inspirational videos about how they and their communities are taking climate action,” added Mr. Nuttall.

The videos can be taken either by cameras or even smart phones, as long as they are able to communicate.

 “We are seeking to inspire collaboration and learning sharing stories presented by young people that could be of interest for their peers around the world,” said Angelica Shamerina, Program Advisor with the UNDP-GEF Small Grants Programme, which is supporting the competition.
 
“For our programe, support of the young generation is a priority, especially on the issue of climate change given that the young people will face the most severe climate impacts and are the future leaders of efforts curb greenhouse emissions and build resilience,” she added.
 
 The third Global Youth Video Competition on Climate Change is co-organized by the United Nations Climate Change secretariat, the UNDP GEF-Small Grants Programme, and will be implemented through the Television for the Environment (tve) platform.

Submit your video here: http://biomovies.tve.org/en/

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