Project improves food security in six African nations

By Stephanie Achieng’, Gilbert Nakweya

[NAIROBI] An initiative in six African countries has helped improve farming methods and food security.

Launched in 2012, the project funded by the government of Finland and called FoodAfrica Programme has helped improve the security and quality of food supply in Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal and Uganda.

During a meeting held this month in Kenya (7 March), the programme leaders said that the initiative that ends in June this year is centred on sustainable food production, food safety and nutrition, market access and agricultural extension.

“This is a good initiative that has helped increase our knowledge on farming methods such as grafting.”

Peter Katumbu, Eastern Kenya

Mila Sell, a senior specialist, Natural Resources Institute Finland, says that African soils are generally poor in micronutrients, which is a big challenge because smallholders have insufficient money to buy fertilisers.

“Small-scale farmers, especially in the rural areas, have the weakest access to information,” says Sell, adding that providing information, especially on land preparation and proper use of inputs to these farmers, can increase yields.

According to Sell, Africa offers enormous diversity of unused edible plant species that could help foster food security. These species, she notes, could be used by involving women in decision-making at household and national levels in matters of agriculture, especially food and nutrition.

The programme, the experts noted, has been able to engage volunteer farmer trainers (VFTs) to help increase the reach and sustainability of agricultural extension services. It has trained 20,000 farmers and improved the livelihoods of more than 200,000 people.

In an interview with SciDev.Net, Steve Franzel, an agricultural economist at the Kenya-headquartered World Agroforestry Centre, which is one of the project’s implementing partners, said that although organisations are increasingly recruiting voluntary farmer trainers, proactive measures such as targeting women’s groups are needed for recruiting female farmer trainers.

He added that VFTs are highly neglected and inadequately funded even though they play an important role in increasing trust to adopt new technologies. “This is a positive indicator for sustainability as seen in dairy farming in Western parts of Kenya,” explains Franzel.

But Peter Katumbu, a smallholder from Masii in Eastern Kenya says that smallholders still need help to access information, especially on markets. “This is a good initiative that has helped increase our knowledge on farming methods such as grafting,” Katumbu tells SciDev.Net.

Katumbu, who plants mangoes and oranges, says that access to markets will help smallholders get value for their produce and invest more in farming, thus increasing agricultural productivity and food security.

Since September last year, smallholders in Masii have realised over 60 per cent losses as their mangoes rot because of lack of markets, he adds.

Being a trainer of fellow smallholder farmers, Katumbu says that it was easier for him to persuade farmers in his locality using vernacular language and show them what to do practically. “I am now a pioneer farmer in this area, helping smallholders improve their farming methods,” he explains.

According to Sell, the programme has mostly been about research where good farming practices have been developed and tested. She adds that recommendations have been given to farmers and policymakers.

The next step is to put the learning into use and assess the initiative’s impact on food production.

According to her, because of the initiative, in Senegal cattle farmers incomes rose eight times because of more effective farming methods and cross-breeding.

She adds that the adoption of improved post-harvest methods including mobile dryer combined with tarp drying, farmers have reduced aflatoxin contamination by 80 per cent.

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.

Large mammals are back in Gabon’s Batéké Park

Daniela Hedwig, Cornell University

Monitoring mammal species is a crucial conservation tool. This is particularly true in ecological transition zones – geographical areas in which different habitats, like grassland and forest, meet and merge into one another.

These zones are frequent hotspots of mammal species diversity because they do not only contain species typical for specific habitat types, but often also additional highly adaptable species. But in zones of ecological transition animals can find themselves at the edge of the habitat type most suitable to them. The result is that there are often fewer of them and they have reduced genetic variability. This makes them less resilient than core populations.

Bateke Plateau National Park is situated at the transition between forest and savannah habitats
The Bateke Plateau National Park is situated at the transition between forest and savannah habitats. It provides breathtaking views of narrow stretches of forest along the Mpassa river reaching out into the savannah.
Daniela Hedwig

 

As such, with ever increasing levels of human encroachment and poaching, these zones need special attention by conservationists to guarantee the survival of populations inhabiting in these.

A good example is the stunning, but largely overlooked, Batéké Plateau National Park in southeastern Gabon. In 2015, a systematic camera trap based monitoring programme was started by The Aspinall Foundation and the Gabonese National Parks Agency. Since 1998 they have worked together to facilitate the reintroduction of the western lowland gorilla in the national park. Data were collected in collaboration with Panthera, an international NGO dedicated to the conservation of the world’s wild cats and the Pan African Program of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, which conducted a survey investigating the behaviour of chimpanzees in the park.

The park is situated at the transition between the Gabonese rain forest and the savannah-dominated Batéké Plateau of the Republic of the Congo. It provides breathtaking views of narrow stretches of forest along the banks of the Mpassa River (so called gallery forests) meandering into the savannah. The park once teamed with wildlife. But the bushmeat and illegal ivory trade along with organised eradication of large carnivores had taken its toll on the mammal species in the area.

Those that remained appeared to be restricted to the gallery forests. Some were thought to be close to extinction. For example, for decades it was assumed that mammals like lion were extinct in the park. But the results from the camera trap monitoring project give reason for hope that wildlife is returning to the park. And captured footage provides intriguing insights into the Batéké mammal species community.

Astonishing findings

The monitoring programme found 12 mammal species that are threatened with extinction according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.. These include chimpanzee, leopard, elephant, giant pangolin and western lowland gorilla, which were reintroduced to the park since 1998.

Notably, the camera traps captured species thought to be long extinct or even not occurring in the area. For example, camera footage in 2015 marked the first definitive proof of lion in Gabon. Until then the assumption had been that the last specimen was shot in 1996. Potential paw prints were spotted in 2004. Non-invasive efforts were made to collect hair samples. Genetic analysis showed that this single male lion might be a survivor of the historic Batéké lion population
.

Batéké Park mandrills Gabon
Male mandrills may venture out further than previously thought.
Shutterstock

 

Another example involves footage of several young mandrills. This suggests that emigrating males of this species may venture out further than previously thought in search for new groups and females. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the distribution of mandrills in Gabon is restricted to the east by the Ivindo and Ogoue Rivers. Combined with interviews with local people, which reported that mandrills were once present in the north of the park, current observations suggest that the current species distribution must be redefined.

More recently, another spectacular discovery took place in 2017. Camera traps captured a spotted hyena in Batéké for the first time in two decades.

These astonishing findings illustrate that large mammals are returning to the Batéké Plateau National Park after two decades of conservation efforts, initiated by The Aspinall Foundation’s gorilla reintroduction programme. Today, Batéké appears to be the only park within the network of protected areas in Gabon where the savannah-dwelling serval, jackal and bush duiker exist together. It’s also the only park with four species of wild cats. The national park is also rare because it holds large carnivores like lion and spotted hyena. But illegal hunting remains a threat, particularly in the southeast of the park.

Intriguingly, the findings also showed that the species diversity wasn’t as great as might have been expected. With 36 medium to large sized mammal species, the park appears to host a smaller number of species than the forested protected areas of Gabon and Congo. To investigate this, researchers took a closer look at the mammal species in the gallery forests.

As the gallery forests reach out into the savannah, they may degrade and become less suitable for species that are highly adapted to living in a forest habitat. But the researchers did not find a smaller number of species in the gallery forests further in the savannah compared to those closer to the continuous Gabonese rain forest.

However, it may be possible that the narrow gallery forests are simply too small to provide sufficient forage to support certain species. This might explain the striking absence of mangabey and colobine primate species, which are characteristic for the African rain forest. Future studies will need to take into account factors like altitude, climate and soil composition influencing plant productivity and food availability, to understand the local variation in species richness.

In the meantime, it’s crucial that the Batéké Plateau National Park is rigorously protected to guarantee the continued survival and recovery of the fragile community of mammals.

The ConversationThis article was co-authored by Tony King of The Aspinall Foundation.

Daniela Hedwig, Postdoc with the Elephant Listening Project at BRP, Cornell University

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

News Release: Department of State Participation in Flintlock 2018

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 6, 2018

The Department of State is pleased to once again participate in Flintlock, U.S. Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) annual and largest Special Operations Forces exercise. Flintlock exercises have taken place regularly since 2005 with partner nations from the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) and are planned by African partner nation special operations forces; Special Operations Command, Africa (SOCAFRICA); and the U.S. Department of State. Approximately 1,900 service members from 20 African and Western partner nations will participate in Flintlock at multiple locations in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Senegal from April 9-20, 2018.

Operation Flintlock Department of StateThe largest civilian component to Flintlock 2018 is the law enforcement training and equipment provided under the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program. Through a partnership with the ATA program, this year’s exercise marks the most thorough integration of civilian equities into Flintlock yet. The law enforcement component will build upon the cross-border counterterrorism communication, coordination, and response at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels between military and civilian law enforcement to counter terrorist threats and attacks. In general, the law enforcement integration into Flintlock provides a series of training sessions focusing on tactical rural patrol and crisis response capabilities, counterterrorism investigations, command and communication management, post blast and crime scene investigations, community engagement, and human rights. The State Department will also integrate rule of law engagement and humanitarian border management training into components of the exercise.

The State Department is proud to be part of this exercise and values this opportunity for information sharing and integration of civilian law enforcement with the military to increase security sector and multinational interoperability and cooperation in the fight against terrorism and terrorist organizations.

Participating African nations include Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal. Western partners include Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

For further information, contact the Bureau of African Affairs at AF-Press@state.gov.

Rich Bureaucrats Want Higher Taxes on Poor Africans

by Daniel J. Mitchell

If you were exempted from taxation, you’d presumably be very happy. After all, even folks on the left do everything they can to minimize their tax payments.

Now imagine that you are put in charge of tax policy.

Like Elizabeth Warren, you obviously won’t volunteer to start paying tax, but what would you recommend for other people? Would you want them to also enjoy tax-free status, or at least get to experience a smaller tax burden? Or would you take a malicious approach and suggest tax increases, comforted by the fact that you wouldn’t be affected?

In this theoretical scenario, I hope most of us would choose the former approach and seek tax cuts.

The IMF Loves Taxation 

But not everybody feels the same way. The bureaucrats at the International Monetary Fund actually do receive tax-free salaries. Yet instead of seeking to share their good fortune with others, they routinely and reflexively urge higher taxes on the rest of us. Here are some articles, all from the past 12 months, that I’ve written about the IMF’s love affair with punitive taxation.

  • Last June, I wrote about the IMF pushing a theory that higher taxes would improve growth in the developing world.
  • Last July, I wrote about the IMF complaining that tax competition between nations is resulting in lower corporate tax rates.
  • Last October, I wrote about the IMF asserting that lower living standards are desirable if everyone is more equally poor.
  • Also in October, I wrote about the IMF concocting a measure of “fiscal space” to justify higher taxes across the globe.
  • Last November, I wrote about the IMF publishing a study expanding on its claim that equal poverty is better than unequal prosperity.
  • This February, I wrote about the IMF advocating more double taxation of income that is saved and invested.

Needless to say, I especially don’t like it when the IMF urges higher taxes in America.

But I think everybody should have more freedom and prosperity, so I also don’t like it when the IMF pushes tax hikes elsewhere. I don’t like it when the tax-free bureaucrats advocate higher taxes on an entire region. I don’t like it when they push a high-tax agenda on big countries. I don’t like it when they urge tax increases on small countries.

What upsets me most of all, however, is that the IMF is trying to punish very poor nations is sub-Saharan Africa.

The Ivory Coast

This came to my attention when I saw a Bloomberg report about the IMF recommending policy changes in Ivory Coast. At first glance, I thought the IMF was doing something sensible, supporting faster growth and higher income.

Ivory Coast must improve its tax system if the world’s biggest cocoa producer wants to maintain economic growth of at least 7 percent,the International Monetary Fund said. Jose Gijon, the resident representative for the Washington-based lender, said in an interview in the commercial capital of Abidjan Wednesday. “…if it wants to become an emerging country and for that, it needs higher income.”

But I found out that the bureaucrats wanted higher income for the government.

The key for Ivory Coast is revenue…The government needs to create sufficient fiscal space…”

Unsurprisingly, local politicians like the idea of getting more loot.

The government seeks to gradually increase its tax revenue to 20 percent of gross domestic product from 15.9 percent now, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly said in 2017.”

How sad. Ivory Coast (now usually known as Côte d’Ivoire) is a very poor country, with living standards akin to those of the United States in 1860. Yet rather than recommend the policies that allowed the United States and other western nations to become rich, such as no income tax and very small government, the IMF wants to fatten the coffers of a corrupt and ineffective public sector.

Here’s something else that is sad. This seems to be the advice the IMF gives to all nations in sub-Saharan Africa.

Consider this story from Kenya.

Kenyans should brace themselves for higher taxes after the Government caved in to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) demands. …It made the commitment to the IMF in a letter of intent that spells out a raft of measures that are likely to eat into consumers’ pockets. …The sectors to be hit include agriculture, manufacturing, education, health, tourism, finance, social work, and energy. …The Government hopes to squeeze an extra Sh40 billion in taxes from these sectors. This is likely to have a ripple effect by pushing up the cost of goods and services… The Government intends to increase income tax by over Sh100 billion in the financial year 2018/19.”

We also have the IMF’s perverse approach to “tax reform” in Nigeria.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has advised Nigeria to embark on a full Value Added Tax (VAT) reform. …The lender’s Mission Chief for Nigeria, African Department, Mr Amine Mati, …said government must raise taxes… In addition, government should also increase taxes on alcohol and tobacco and broaden VAT.”

The bureaucrats also want more tax revenue in Tanzania.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) Deputy Managing Director, Tao Zhang has hailed Tanzania for managing to boost tax collection… The visiting IMF leader said it was vital to mobilise more…public resources by strengthening tax collection… “it is crucial to mobilise more…public resources within Tanzania, especially by strengthening tax collection…” he said at a public lecture he gave in Dar es Salaam yesterday.”

The IMF is even using a $190 million bribe to advocate higher taxes in Ghana.

Ghana needs to improve revenue collection…to achieve its fiscal targets, the International Monetary Fund said. …“Fiscal consolidation has to be revenue-based,” Koliadina told reporters in the capital, Accra. …A positive outcome of the fifth and sixth reviews of the program will lead to the IMF disbursing $190 million to Ghana, Koliadina said.”

Last but not least, let’s look at the IMF’s misguided advice for Botswana.

The Government of Botswana should seek to strengthen its revenue base…, the International Monetary Fund has said. …”The authorities agreed that there is a significant potential to boost domestic revenues through tax administration and tax policy reforms that could…provide additional funding for future fiscal expenditures,” the report stated.”

Higher taxes to finance bigger government? Wow, talk about economic malpractice.

Since Botswana has been one of the few bright spots in Africa, I hope lawmakers tell the IMF to get lost. But I worry that politicians will be happy to take the IMF’s bad advice.

How tragic.

These are the only nations I investigated, so I guess it’s possible that there’s a sub-Saharan nation where the IMF hasn’t recommended higher taxes. Heck, it’s even theoretically possible that the bureaucrats may have suggested lower taxes somewhere on the continent (though that’s about as likely me playing pro football next season).

I’ll simply note that the IMF openly admits that it wants higher taxes all across the region.

Tax revenues play a critical role for countries to create room in their budgets to increase spending on social services…raising tax revenues is the most growth-friendly way to stabilize debt. More broadly, building a country’s tax capacity is at the center of any viable development strategy…we see potential in many countries of sub-Saharan Africa to raise tax revenues by about one percent of GDP per year over the next five or so years. …Since building the capacity to collect more from personal income taxes takes time, in the next few years VAT and excise taxes likely offer the biggest potential for additional revenue. For example, recent studies by the IMF indicate a revenue potential of about 3 percent of GDP from VAT in Cape Verde, Senegal, and Uganda, and ½ percent of GDP from excises for all countries in sub-Saharan Africa. …It is also important to consider newer sources of revenue, such as property taxes. …Raising revenues is often a politically difficult task. But the current economic junction in sub-Saharan Africa together with sustained development needs creates an imperative for action now.”

I’m almost at a loss for words. It’s mind-boggling that anybody could look at policy in sub-Saharan Africa and conclude that the recipe for growth is giving more money to politicians.

And I’m equally flabbergasted that the IMF openly claims that bigger government is good for growth. Unsurprisingly, the bureaucrats never try to justify that bizarre and anti-empirical assertion.

For those who are interested in genuinely sensible information on how poor nations can become rich nations, I strongly recommend this video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

P.S. Back in 2015, to mock the pervasive statism at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, I created a fake fill-in-the-blanks/multiple-choice template. A similar exercise for the IMF would only require one short sentence: “The nation of __ should raise taxes.”

P.P.S. In other words, this cartoon is very accurate.

Reprinted from International Liberty.

Daniel J. Mitchell Africa taxes IMF

Daniel J. Mitchell is a Washington-based economist who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

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

A Note to Readers of Sub-Saharan Monitor

This is an apology for the unexpected hiatus taken by Sub-Saharan Monitor since early December 2017.

By way of explanation, the server that hosts this web site was physically damaged.  A team of technicians at New World University spent the past four months painstakingly recreating the database of articles, photos, video, and audio that had been published since April 2014.

The task was more daunting than it looked when the problem first surfaced.  I would like to express my appreciation to those who worked so hard to bring us back into publication mode.

You can look forward to many more months (and years?) of interesting and provocative essays, reports, and news aggregation about Africa south of the Sahara on the now-rescued Sub-Saharan Monitor.

Thank you for your patience and close attention to our progress.

— Richard Sincere, Editor