Shining light at night could suppress mosquito bites

By Munyaradzi Makoni

[CAPE TOWN] Exposing malaria-transmitting mosquitoes to light at two-hour intervals during the night or at late daytime could inhibit their biting behaviour and reduce malaria transmission, says a study.

A 2016 report of the World Health Organization says that 214 million people worldwide were infected with malaria in 2015, resulting in 438,000 deaths, with 88 per cent of the cases and deaths occurring in Africa.

According to researchers from the University of Notre Dame in the United States, the development of resistance to insecticides requires innovative approaches for controlling the malaria vector

“When we subjected the mosquitoes to a series of pulses of light … we observed suppression of biting activity during most of the night.”

Giles Duffield, University of Notre Dame

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Therefore, they explored the potential of using light to target feeding times of mosquitoes by exposing Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes — a key vector of malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa — to multiple pulses of bright light, especially in the night to help control their feeding behaviour.

“When we subjected the mosquitoes to a series of pulses of light with a two-hour interval and presented throughout the entire night, we observed suppression of biting activity during most of the night,” says Giles Duffield, a co-author of the study published in the journal Parasites & Vectors last month (16 June).

Giles, an associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame, tells SciDev.Net that the finding was most prominent during the early to middle of the night and at dawn, phases of the night when people are least protected by the barrier of a bed net.

“Conversely, biting levels were significantly elevated when mosquitoes were exposed to a dark treatment during the late day, suggesting that light suppresses biting behaviour even during the late daytime,” the researchers note in the paper.

This is an interesting study, says Maureen Coetzee, director, Wits Research Institute for Malaria, at Witwatersrand University, South Africa.

But Coetzee notes that most Africans live in rural areas with no electricity and thus a lighting system would have to be set up using batteries or a generator, making the practical implementation of the method a bit challenging.

“I wonder how many people would be able to afford to set this up themselves, and I can’t see governments providing such equipment,” she tells SciDev.Net.

Coetzee says to get protection throughout the night, the light would need to be switched on every two hours, which would disrupt mosquito biting behaviour and human sleeping patterns.

“If I was woken up every two hours with the light going on for ten minutes, it would not take long before I started to suffer from sleep deprivation and I would switch the device off,” she says.

Giles agrees with the authors that more experimental work needs to be conducted both in the laboratory where the environmental conditions can be carefully controlled as well as under field conditions that match a more natural setting.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.

 

References

Aaron D. Sheppard and others Light manipulation of mosquito behaviour: acute and sustained photic suppression of biting activity in the Anopheles gambiae malaria mosquito (Parasites & Vectors, 16 June 2017)

 

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

This App Helps African Farmers Secure Their Land Rights

by Karol Boudreaux

In Ghana, a for-profit firm called LandMapp is “unlocking land’s value” by helping to secure farmer’s unofficial land rights. These farmers may have customary or traditional rights to their land, but in many cases these rights are not formally recognized.

The company uses GPS-enabled smartphones to map the boundaries of farmers’ plots. They verify boundary information with farmers and their neighbors, and then they provide farmers with documentation, at relatively low cost, of their land holdings.

With this verified and accurate information, farmers may be better able to access credit or contract with commodity firms to provide cacao or shea nuts. LandMapp is trying hard to do what African governments have difficulty doing: providing dependable mapping and surveying services and evidence of legitimate land rights claims at a reasonable cost to families and communities.

Property Rights in Africa

In my last post, I talked about how, by devolving rights to manage and benefit from wildlife to historically disadvantaged black communities, the government of Namibia helped to increase wildlife numbers while simultaneously promoting economic development and new job opportunities for people living in rural areas.

Karol Boudreaux property land rights AfricaBy providing local people with secure property rights to wildlife, the government created positive incentives to protect and conserve animals. It also created incentives for local people to think entrepreneurially about how to benefit from the presence of these animals. Some communities enter into joint ventures with tourism companies to build lodges that earn income; others may allow limited trophy hunting. Namibia’s approach to wildlife has resulted in important environmental and economic gains.

Imagine, then, how this kind of approach could help to improve economic outcomes for people across Africa. What if local people had secure rights to manage and benefit from the use of forests, or pastures, or farmland? What kind of entrepreneurial activities would we see?

Unfortunately for Africans, these kinds of experiments are limited. By some estimates, nearly 98% of African forests are owned by the state. Although locals may have informal rights to forests and forest products, these weak and unenforceable rights mean that forests become de facto “open access” resources – free for all to use and misuse because governments have such limited capacity to monitor who may enter and withdraw timber, plants, bush meat, honey, and other forest materials.

Local people have fewer incentives to conserve and protect forests than they would, either as individuals or as communities, if they were legally empowered to manage and benefit from the use of forests.

Some countries have adopted community-based forest management practices and, depending on the specific institutional arrangements, this approach can help reduce deforestation rates and generate income. But to date, few African countries have devolved secure rights to manage forests to local people; top-down management strategies remain the favored approach.

Customary Land Rules

The problem isn’t confined to forests: across Africa, a majority of governments legally own the surface land. But while governments may legally own the land (and the water and the forests and all the subsurface wealth), many rural people hold traditional, customary rights to this land. In practice, this means that many communities have chiefs or other traditional leaders who are responsible for allocating land-use rights to the clan or tribal members as well as to newcomers (migrants) or to groups that use land seasonally (pastoralists).

Karol Boudreaux YAL Africa property land rights

Karol Boudreaux (center)

These customary or communal systems of landholding have evolved over time and are fairly flexible – often adapting to rising population pressure or to the discovery of valuable resources. Not surprisingly, they differ from country to country and from region to region (and even from village to village). More problematic is that they exist alongside, and often compete with, the formal government system of land ownership.

In fact, perhaps as much as 60% of the land in sub-Saharan Africa is held under these customary rules. Customary lands typically are not accurately mapped, and rights to these lands typically are not registered with the government, even though many African countries do have laws that allow for this (many people with customary rights choose not to register their claims because the process is too expensive and complicated).

As a result, many people living in rural areas have insecure property rights in their land. This insecurity means they are less likely to invest in improving agricultural productivity, they can be thrown off the land by more powerful people, and they are often in conflict with others – and sometimes that conflict is violent.

So, it is encouraging to see how private-sector solutions including technology can help to address some of these problems. It’s not clear yet how scalable LandMapp is, or how applicable this approach will be in an environment where farmers grow maize (a subsistence crop) rather than cacao (a cash crop).But it certainly is encouraging that entrepreneurs are trying to solve this pervasive problem and bring the benefits of secure property rights to the millions of rural Africans whose land rights remain undocumented and at risk.

But it certainly is encouraging that entrepreneurs are trying to solve this pervasive problem and bring the benefits of secure property rights to the millions of rural Africans whose land rights remain undocumented and at risk.

Reprinted from Learn Liberty.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

New tool to forecast malnutrition-related vulnerabilities

By Sam Otieno, Stephanie Achieng’

[NAIROBI] A new online tool to help decision-makers take early action to resolve problems that cause high levels of malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa has been launched.

The tool known as Nutrition Early Warning System (NEWS) will be in use by the end of this year in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan, according to researchers from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) who are developing it.

Speaking during the launch in Kenya last month (29 May), experts said that with recurrent droughts and famine causing hunger, malnutrition and instability across Africa, there is an urgent need for innovations to help stop the vicious cycle.

“There is a need [for] proactive actions, which will require a shift in the way we forecast nutrition-related vulnerabilities.”

Mercy Lung’aho, CIAT

Mercy Lung’aho, a nutritionist and research scientist at CIAT, Kenya, tells SciDev.Net that despite progress in strengthening early warning systems for food insecurity, current approaches to detect declines in nutrition status still tend to be very late and are based on indicators that identify nutrition crisis after it has already begun.

“There is a need [for] proactive actions, which will require a shift in the way we forecast nutrition-related vulnerabilities and identify the key factors driving undernutrition, while building nutrition resilience to shocks that add to the fragility,” Lung’aho says.

Debisi Araba, regional director for Africa, CIAT, says that NEWS will use cutting-edge big data approaches to process large volumes of information from multiple sources to detect early signs of food shortages and raise the alarm about impending crises.

“The tool will use machine learning and artificial intelligence technology to process a steady stream of data to food and nutrition security, and will get smarter and become more accurate over time,” Araba notes.

He adds that it will complement existing efforts by offering a new level of precision and accuracy to assessments and predictions of food-related challenges.

“We will work with countries to ensure that NEWS adheres to national laws regarding data sovereignty, privacy and intellectual property,” Araba explains.

Olufunso Somorin, senior policy officer, fragility and resilience unit at African Development Bank, Kenya, applauds the NEWS system, saying there is need for Africa to move away from reactive to proactive responses to crises.

He is calling for effective collaborations to produce knowledge that include not just warning signs of trouble but also options for interventions that have proven successful in similar situations.

Research and capacity building play a critical role to build resilience within communities, especially by helping to ensure that our food systems can deliver more nutritious food, to reach people when they need it, where they need it at affordable price,” Somorin explains.

The researchers declined to reveal who is funding the development of the tool or the amount of money it will cost once it is fully developed.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.

 

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

Kenya can move away from the politics of ethnicity

Daisy Maritim-Maina, SMC University

In 1992 Kenya held its first multi-party election in 26 years. Since this re-introduction of multipartism, the “politics of tribe” has been blamed for the country’s political tribulations.

This has led to a system under which leaders channel government resources to their ethnic supporters to ensure their political survival. In turn, their supporters begin to feel entitled to government resources.

Kenya politics ethnicity

Former President Mwai Kibaki (bottom left) and opposition leader Raila Odinga (bottom right) sign a power-sharing agreement in February 2008.
Antony Njuguna/Reuters

 

The politics of ethnicity therefore becomes an inter-community competition, not merely for representation in governance, but for resources.

This isn’t a problem exclusive to Kenya. Studies show that many African countries are finding it difficult to manage diversity, and particularly ethnicity.

In other parts of the world such as Yugoslavia, Burma, and Sri Lanka, ethnicity has been politicised and has consequently played a major role in triggering violence.

In Kenya, tribal politics has given rise to rampant corruption, marginalisation, disenfranchisement of entire communities, and full-blown violence.

As the country goes into another general election this August, two questions are frequently being asked. Has anything changed since 2007 when violence broke out after a disputed election? And are there any real ideological differences between Kenya’s two main coalitions?

A stock take of the present ethnic reality shows that tribalism is more entrenched than ever. The two coalitions are a cluster of parties that represent regional ethnic blocs.

In fact they have split the country down the middle along a clear tribal fault line, with the populous Kikuyu and Kalenjin tribes on one side and the Luo, Luhya and Kamba on the other.

The history of ethnic loyalties

But why are there such bitter contests every election cycle? It has everything to do with the possibility of attaining control of state resources and being in charge of their allocation.

Kenya has been governed by four presidents from two ethnic communities since independence: the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin. The 40 other communities now believe that it’s their turn to hold the presidency.

Kenya is home to 42 ethnic groups. The major ones are the Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo, and Kamba. Combined, they form 66% of the country’s population.

The behaviour of Kenyan voters has remained largely consistent over the past five multi-party elections. Regardless of where they reside, ethnic allegiance has been the most influential motivator at the ballot.

This pattern of political allegiance based on ethnicity has a long history dating back to Kenya’s colonial past.

In Kenya’s first independent general election in May 1963, the two largest indigenous parties KANU, formed in May 1960, and KADU, formed a month later, both assumed an ethnic DNA.

KANU represented the populous Kikuyu and Luo tribes and KADU represented the smaller Masai, Kalenjin, Luhya and Mijikenda communities.

This was partly because colonial policy barred the formation of nationwide political movements. It only allowed the formation of district political associations.

The effect was to encourage ethnically homogeneous political associations to emerge across the country. As a result, parties have drawn their political legitimacy and capital from their respective ethnic bases since independence.

At Lancaster House – where Kenyan delegates held a series of meetings to negotiate Kenya’s independence constitution – KANU and KADU leaders wore their ethnic hats.

And in 1966 when Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga left KANU he retreated to his ethnic backyard and formed the Kenya People’s Union.

So historically speaking, political parties have never really been divorced from tribal affiliations.

But the problem runs much deeper than tribal politics. In Kenya an ethnically diverse society is responding to an imposed political configuration which, thanks to its colonial heritage, is a democratic competition for resources.

Fixing the problem

If we regard democracy as elastic rather than rigid, it allows us to recognise that it can be forced – or negotiated. Negotiated democracy can lead to stability whereas forced democracy can lead to instability and violence.

A case in point is Zimbabwe where a power-sharing deal was reached between Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change in 2008.

At the time, the deal brought the country’s political and economic crisis to an end. Other African examples of negotiated democracies include South Africa and Rwanda.

In Kenya, negotiated democracy can be reached by creating more executive positions beyond the president and deputy president to accommodate feuding tribes: mainly the Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Luo and Luhya.

Kenya has tried this model before, and it worked. The power sharing model put in place after the 2007 election quelled the post-election violence.

The new structure, guided by the peace accord, created three new executive positions – a prime minister, and two deputy prime ministers. This created a more ethnically inclusive leadership.

Constitutionally, a power-sharing agreement may not be as simple to effect as the 2008 National Accord and Reconciliation Act.

In that case, a simple Act of Parliament was passed to create the positions of a prime minister and his two deputies. Today the government would need to call a referendum to create substantive positions.

The ConversationBut that shouldn’t be a deterrent. Changes like this could lead to a realignment of political parties. If representatives of a majority of Kenya’s ethnic groups were guaranteed senior positions in government, politicians would gradually move away from ethnicity as a tool for political mobilisation, and towards ideological campaigns that prioritise socioeconomic development.

Daisy Maritim-Maina, PhD Candidate in Political Economy, SMC University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Want to Go on Safari? There’s an App for That

by Bill Wirtz

As the sharing economy develops, the opportunities for cutting out the middle-man seem endless. After Lyft and Uber revolutionized personal transport, BlaBlaCar challenged public transportation and Airbnb overthrew our concept of monetizing our own properties, Safarisource attempts to do the same thing with safaris.

Launched at the INDABA tourism trade fair in South Africa on May 16, safarisource.com connects tourists with local African tour operators. The site was founded by PhD anthropologist Jessika Nilsson, who is originally from Sweden, yet who grew up in Tanzania before going back to Europe for her studies.

For Nilsson, creating Safarisource had multiple reasons, one of which was the support for local communities, as she saw locals bearing the cost of living with wildlife but not reaping the fruit.

In fact, tourists from all over the world get the idea from travel agencies that they are being sold a unique and tailored product, when in fact these safaris are just outsourced through locals who do not make proportionate earnings on their work. This is related to the dependency that the agencies create: local operators are dependent on only two or three companies which actually bring them customers, and therefore have little to no negotiating power.

Tailored to Consumers

Safarisource in itself resembles Airbnb through its website and its concept. The search engine allows to search for location, prices, and dates, and even allows you to narrow the request down to specific parks or activities.

Just like on Airbnb, the rating system assures that users can communicate the quality of the service to other potential customers. “Prices and activities can vary a lot”, says Jessika Nilsson, ranging from low-cost providers who individually teach their skills in archery to one-week all-inclusive trips over many miles, for entire families.

Unlike in the situation of Uber or Airbnb, local governments in Africa have no incentive of regulating this sort of safari sharing economy. Quite the contrary: instead of the money being made by big travel agencies in rich Western countries, the money goes straight to the local community, providing more opportunities for investments.

Empowering Individuals

Lastly, the most important motivation of creator Jessika Nilsson was her personal philosophy:

I’m very much a capitalist. I also studied development studies and do not believe in foreign aid. I believe in all kinds of solutions that empower people to rise without dependency. Anything that makes people more independent, will help Africa to rise.”

Safarisource.com is already online and working with over 100 operators at the moment, of which most are individuals or small companies. The website expects to get over 500 operators by the end of this year.

You can plan your next (or first) Safari by going to www.safarisource.com.

Reprinted from Freedom Today Network.

safari Bill Wirtz FEE

Bill Wirtz studies French Law at the University of Lorraine in Nancy, France.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.