Friday, 15 June 2012

LAGOS: FARMING IN A MEGA CITY



Knowing that farming is a lucrative business in Lagos can be shocking information to many residence and visitors, who are full of the notion that Lagos is all about office job in its various forms. Mrs Bolatito Oyinloye a farmer of over twenty years in Ijanikin area of Lagos is often confronted with this question. How can you tell me you are a farmer in Lagos? I don’t think so because Lagos is a mega city that is well developed. The food we eat here is produced in the North and other States. This sarcastic reaction is what many small scale farmers in Nigeria’s economic capital city are confronted with. Mrs. Oyinloye explained the plight she and her fellow farmers have to undergo to keep still been farmers in Lagos, a city of over 18 million people.
I became a farmer because my parents were farmers in this Lagos and it was from this job that my fathers provided for the house and was able to give my siblings and I basic education. I continued in the farming business after their death but years after, I can tell you it is not easy to be a farmer in Lagos. I started with vegetable farming but now am into fish production. I had to to stop growing vegetables because I was not making enough money to assist my husband in providing for the family. Look at me I only have secondary education but with what I have suffered, I want my children to study in Higher Institutions and I have two already in the Universities. When I was into vegetable production, I could not predict what the outcome of the weathers would be. Sometime it rains a lot our farmlands get flooded and water logged. The vegetables rotten and we lose everything. We don’t get support from anywhere; even the Banks are not willing to give us the so called Agriculture loan. They keep procrastinating and wasting our time, for how long will I keep waiting for their loan while my farming business suffers. Most of us small scale farmers have challenge with land. You know in Lagos, most lands owners want to sale their lands to people for bigger money. When we beg for land to farm, they tell us how much do we make that they will give their lands to us. It was becoming frustrating and I don’t have any other business than farming. I had to borrow money from my friends and relatives to start fish farming. I still prefer fish farming to vegetable production; nobody will come and take or drag farm land with me.




 The world at large is threatened by food insecurity and Nigeria is not an exception. In Nigeria, 70% of food consumed is usually produced by small scale farmers, majority of which are women and this largely depend on the climate. These women farmers who either support their family by providing additional income or are the sole bread winner of the family. This is the case in a farming community operating inside the military cantonment in Ojo Barrack in Lagos. The farmers are mostly wives of military officers and some widows whose husbands had died in active service to the nation. The leader of the farmers Madam Deborah Thomas boasted that their produce is sourced by most traders in different markets across the State. The women are mainly into vegetable production and few cultivate cassava. Madam Deborah explained that they have a daily market of vegetables that holds in the morning and evening. During market period you will see Lorries and trucks coming to buy from us. Our vegetables are very healthy and fresh. But she lamented that they have no support from anywhere. People living in the city don’t know we are the ones producing the vegetables they are consuming. If we have assistance from the government, we will be selling vegetables to much more people than what we are doing now. Among the challenges the women farmers faced is lack of drainage within the farmland as they suffer loss of crops during the raining season. “Our farmlands get so flooded that we can’t even enter the farm. The women burn there wastes which are made up of vegetable stalks that could be used to make compost.
    
 

The programme Director of Human and Development Agenda (HEDA), Mr. Sulaiman Arigbabu pointed out that these farmers are responsible for most of the vegetables, fish, poultry and live-stock we consume in Lagos but they lack support for large scale production.  We are working on a project to ensure theses farmers are supported. If they should stop farming, do you know the effect it would have on Lagos? Food prices will shoot up and that is why we have organized some training with them on climate change and also visited the Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Agriculture with the farmers’ representatives. We are optimistic that help will soon come to them.


The case of Epe, a coastal town that has boundary with Ogun State is not different. Most of the farmers are into fish farming which include fishing in the rivers, streams and also fish production in artificial fish ponds. A fisherman Mr. Sikiru Adetunmobi spends an average of six-eight hours in the river while fishing, and according to him the night period is the best time to fish when the fish would be resting and traffic on the water will be less. The jetties that ferry passengers from the mainland to Epe and other coastal communities affect the location of the fish. So I start fishing from 8pm till it is dawn like 4am and return back home. Before the raining season, it is easier to fish but once the rain starts the sea hya-cinth covers most part of the river and we would not be able to fish. An old fisherman of over seventy years, who now make fishing net Pa Jacob Ajayi, explains that the sea hya-cinth was first noticed about twenty-years ago along the water ways in Epe and with time it became pre-dominant and constant blocking the river during the raining season. He attributed the sea hya-cinth presence to pollution from the Ogun-River which flows into Lagos. For those into fish production in Epe, lack of fish feed is a major challenge to their business. Mr. Omole Simson who has fish ponds believes that if a fish feed mill could be establish in Epe, it would alleviate their suffering. “We have to go to Ogun State to buy fish feed and it is not supposed to be like that. Lagos State can construct a fish feed mill and boost fish farming in Nigeria”.  This to him is saddened. “People come to our fish market from across the country but we don’t have government support to make this business more attractive. I know if the government pays attention to farming in Lagos State, we will be exporting food instead of the money wasted in importing food. Small scale farmers can feed this nation and even export to other countries, he stressed. Our fellow fishermen that go to the rivers to fish make use of engine boats. These boats are expensive to buy so they resort to buying fairly used boats, which would not last long before they start developing fault.”

Food as a life wire would be cut short in Nigeria’s most populous city due to the challenges faced by small scale farmers. One of the United Nation Millennium Development Goal's (MDG) is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, Nigeria is farther away in achieving this target in spite of its large expanse of land being fertile. Currently Africa is battling with a major food crisis in the Horn of Africa. While Nigeria’s economy used to be agriculture based before the oil boom which apart from contributing to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Agriculture will be a major source of ensuring food security, creating jobs for the teeming population that comes daily into Nigeria mega city Lagos; in search of greener pastures.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Africa Press Organisation introduces Online Press Conferencing





 OPC.JPG



“Through the online conference tool, the African Press Organisation (APO) is re-defining the concept of 'news conferencing' and has created an easy platform for African journalists and newsmakers to share information beyond borders,” said Marcel Mbamalu, Business Editor, The Guardian, Nigeria.
 
“The quality in service provided by the APO is exceptional!” said Fathima Naidoo, Senior Media Relations Executive, Ernst & Young.
 
“As we find ourselves in trying financial times, we need to work diligently to put our resources in the right meetings and involved in meaningful conversations. APO offers a wide range of high-impact and cost-effective services to reach out to the pan-African news media,” said Nicholas N. Gouede, M.S. Programme Specialist, UNAIDS.
 
Online press conferencing makes possible for a large number of journalists from different countries to participate in a press conference without travelling. It's cost and time-effective, climate friendly, and a unique way to disseminate messages across a large number of countries, in real-time.


Interactive webcast allows journalists based remotely to interact in a press conference held anywhere in the world. Not only journalists are able to attend the press conference in real-time, from any country and any computer connected to the internet, but they also are able to interact by asking questions.
 

“Most journalists cannot afford the expenses of air tickets and accommodation to attend an international press conference. Similarly, communication professionals are facing cost reductions, and their budget does not allow them to physically engage with journalists from all 54 African countries. With online press conferencing and interactive webcast, journalists now get the chance to participate in a press conference without having to move from their desk!” said Elo├»ne Barry, APO’s Executive Director.
 
Over the past three years, APO’s online press conferencing and interactive webcast solutions have been used by some of the world’s largest companies, institutions and organizations, out of which Western Union, Ernst & Young, the European Commission, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the African Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the GAVI Alliance to name a few.
 
These press events have brought together hundreds of media worldwide, including Thomson Reuters, Associated Press, Bloomberg News, BBC World News, XINHUA News, Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA), South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Agence France Presse (AFP), Panafrican News Agency (PANA), along with many more local and international media corporations.



This innovative style of media relations should be emulated by global organisation like the United Nations in some of its summits and conferences where people travel en masse to attend. The United Nation Conference on Sustainable Development which preliminary stages has kicked off at Rio de Janerio Brazil is expected to have tens of thousand in attendance. This has brought about an increase on flight fares in and out of Brazil, inflated cost of hotel bookings. Due to this the European delegation to the Rio summit had to cut some of their cost. Not only does this increases the amount of carbon foot-prints that would be generated as a result of the conference but also increases global world temperature.

Friday, 8 June 2012

REDUCING DEFORESTATION IN NIGERIA THROUGH THE USE OF CLEAN ENERGY COOKSTOVES







“It is my turn to help in the kitchen this evening to prepare food
for the family but I would find a trick to avoid that by going to
fetch water from the neighbouring village”. This was the plan of
Nkechi Okafor a teenage girl from Alaoma village in Mbaise
town of Imo state. According to her, cooking with her mother is
never interesting because of the heavy smokes that choke her
mother and her. “Aunty anytime I have to prepare food, by the
time I’m done I will be smelling of smoke and I will find it hard
to sleep properly”. I would have cough and catarrh for some days
because of the smoke from the firewood. I met Nkechi when I
travelled on a field trip to some communities affected by gully
erosion in Imo state. We got talking and asked her which soup she
knows how to prepare best. She was reluctant to answer me; she
told me she does not like cooking. That was how she explained
the burden and challenging experience her sisters and mother
undergo to prepare food for the family. “Aunty the food my
mother cook is sweet but the smoke is too much, when I grow up I
will not use firewood like my mother” she said. As I pondered
through what Nkechi told me I saw a picture of a girl who find
cooking a herculean task and prefer going long distance to fetch
water in order to dodge helping her mother in the kitchen. Nkechi
is not the only girl with this fear and anxiety.

 


Cooking in Nigeria’s rural communities and some urban areas is

done mainly by using firewood. Firewood is the major source of

energy where other sources of energy such as kerosene, gas and

electricity are expensive and not affordable. Firewood use

continues to increase the level of deforestation in Nigeria as the

Northern part of Nigeria is threatened by desert encroachment.

The Nigeria Alliance of Clean Energy Cookstoves recently

launches some stoves in Nigeria. The Director of the International

Centre for Energy Development, Mr. Ewah Eleri said the energy

clean cookstoves would reduce cases of diseases related to indoor

air pollution (IAP) which kills women silently. The use of energy

clean cook stove Mr. Eleri emphasized would reduce the

exposure of women to smoke emitted from cooking with

firewood. Furthermore he said cooking is supposed to bring

happiness not death as indoor air pollution is the third largest

killer in Nigeria after malaria and HIV/AIDS. Traditional cooking

through the use of firewood increases the level of deforestation

and also contributes to the effect of climate change as carbon is

released through burning firewood. The Director of

Developmental Association for Renewable Energy (DARE), Mr.

Yahaya Ahmed in a presentation at the launch of the Nigeria

Alliance for Clean Energy Cookstoves said the use of the stove

would reduce threat to the nation forest reserve. Mr. Ahmed

explained that a visit to some parts of Northern Nigeria shows that

if nothing is done urgently, most areas in the North would have

been encroached by the Sahara Desert due to increasing level of

deforestation. The increasing demand for firewood is in both the

North and also in the cities in the South by local canteen operators

would lead to climate refugees. He opined that the deforestation in

the North is resulting in high level of urban migration in major

cities in the southern parts of Nigeria. He believes that through

mass introduction and sales of clean cook energy stove

deforestation could be reduced in the country because it is

environment friendly.


      http://audioboo.fm/boos/836864-clean-energy-cookstoves-reducing-deforestation-and-indoor-air-pollution?playlist_direction=reversed




The stoves come in different forms and shape with those that use
bio-fuel, solar energy, dried shrubs instead of the usual firewood
among others. The stoves prices range from #3,500 to about
#20,000. The Nigeria Alliance of Clean Energy Cookstoves
proposes to distribute ten million stove by 2020. The
establishment of clean cookstoves Company in Nigeria would
provide job opportunities, empower women, improve maternal
health, and also reduce the effect of climate change.

 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Is rainfall a blessing in Lagos?




Lagos State is very strategic to the socio-economic development of Nigeria. Not only is it the economic capital of Africa most populous nation but   a megacity of about eighteen million people, and would be the third largest megacity by 2015 according to the World Bank. In terms of land space Lagos is also the smallest state in Nigeria but the most densely populated, with almost all the tribes in the country living there. The coastal nature of Lagos has made it a hub for sea transportation as the most vibrant ports, are located in Lagos and this coastal nature also makes it a tourist attraction.

This year the Nigeria Meteorology Agency gave a forecast of 236 days of rain with breaks between March and November 2012. The rain would be accompanied with storms and a record of 1279mm of rainfall. This record of 1279mm is an envy statistics for countries like, Botswana that usually experience an average of 88mm of rainfall per year and Saudi Arabia with 100mm per annum of rainfall. In Botswana not only is Pula the word for the currency but also for rain as they always wish for rainfall, in a country where livestock farming is a household occupation with Botswana been the 2nd largest exporter of beef after Argentina. Excess rainfall would be a blessing to Botswana and also Saudi Arabia where some regions in the country hardly witness rainfall for years, but have developed mechanism for trapping the little rainfall to ensure the religious tourist nation has enough water.

In Lesotho a country in the South of Africa apart from diamond, water is a largest revenue earner and natural resources which Lesotho have explored to maximum. Through the Lesotho Highland Water Project (LHWP), the country was been able to capture, store and transport water to neighbouring South Africa. In 2010 Lesotho made seventy million dollars ($70), through sale of water and electricity. Water is being converted to energy to produce electricity which has now made the country an exporter of both water and electricity.

  
        The population of Lesotho is nothing compared to Lagos, as Lagos population can make up a nation of its own. Water in all its forms in Lagos could be maximized to make excessive rainfall a blessing.  Through water harvesting in Lagos farmers could produce all year round different kinds of crops, which will make Lagos compete with other major food-producing states, particularly in North-Central of the country that could best be described as food basket of Nigeria. Rice can be cultivated in commercial quantities in areas like Epe, Ikorodu, Badagry which are bounded by water. Excessive rainfall in Lagos could be harnessed to provide electricity without the whole country depending on Kanji Dam which the Minister of Power Professor Barth Nnaji, recently admitted has dropped in power production. Lagos State could begin to export and provide electricity to other states not like the recent bilateral agreement in Adamawa, were the state wants to buy electricity from the Republic of Chad. The coastal nature of Lagos could help decongest the roads which are notorious to be highly traffic prone, where an average Lagosian spends three hours in traffic commuting from home to work and vice-versa. The efficiency of water transport would help save time lost in traffic.


 
Portable water is no longer affordable in a state largely surrounded by water, where water in a sachet popularly called “pure-water” is the only source of clean and affordable drinking water. This same pure-water sachet is responsible for most incidents of blocked drainages in the state due to the indiscriminate disposal of empty sachets. One in five blocked drainage channels in Lagos contain pure-water sachets. Excessive rainfall in Nigeria’s megacity Lagos should be seen as a blessing and maximized to its full potential for generation of power for electricity, improve urban agriculture, source of transportation and provision of clean and affordable drinking water for residents of Lagos.