Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Women in Media For Change


Today we want to celebrate one of our Women in Media Network Member MICHELLE MALUNGA !!! A Programmes Manager, News caster, Marketing Executive at Q FM Radio and Television Presenter at Q TV. Aged 25, Michelle leaves us quite impressed with her dedication and passion for Media having worked with Radio Q FM for 5 years now. But there is more to this young lady than what meets the eye. We sat down with her to find out about what drives her, what challenges she faced and what her achievements. This is Michelle’s Story. We hope you get Inspired!!!

WIM4C : Tell us about your Education background:
Michelle: I Went to Mazabuka Girls’ High School then later obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology at the University of Zambia (UNZA).

WIM4C : What would you consider to be some of your past achievements?
Michelle : Was picked as 1 of 8 Zambian Youth Climate Change Ambassadors to represent the country in the African Youth Climate Caravan that started from Nairobi, Kenya to Durban, South Africa during the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP17) in 2011. The Climate Change Campaign which was dubbed ‘We Have Faith’ drew its support and inspiration from, and linked to the global climate justice campaigns under the “Act Now for Climate Justice’ Banner. The ‘We Have Faith’ campaign is anchored on the moral responsibility to care for the earth, a strong ethical message for climate justice. It is a demand for actions but at the same time proposes options and solutions to problems caused by climate change in the region of Africa and it continues to be a campaign that is close to the hearts of young people.

WIM4C: What drives you: 
Michelle: I have a great passion for writing, anything and everything, from poetry to motivational. Writing keeps me sane. My greatest drive is being able to inspire others through my writing and motivational talks.

WIM4C: Tell us about your current projects and how do you feel your work is contributing to social Change? 
Michelle: At the moment I am volunteering for an organisation called the Zambian Association of Literacy (ZALIT). ZALIT is a youth based organisation, run by the youth, which is aimed at providing programmes of social education and recreation activities in a safe and sound environment. A special emphasis is put on helping children, youth and women achieve their goals for improving their chances of being self-reliant by empowering them with relevant skills through the promotion and enhancement of literacy development, providing training, mentorship and school support. As an organisation, we started a campaign called ‘I SUPPORT LITERACY’. The ‘I SUPPORT LITERACY’ campaign was developed in our quest to put literacy at the core of sustainable development. The campaign has already been endorsed by people from different walks of life such as leaders, artists, radio presenters, actors and actresses, poets, professionals and individuals. This is an important contribution to social change as we encourage literacy development among youths and children in a fun and creative way and we also aim to make literacy development a top priority in our country.

Through the Zambia Youth Climate Change Forum (ZYCCF), the WE HAVE FAITH Secretariat, the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) and the Joint Country Programme (JCP), in 2011 I became a part of a campaign called “WE HAVE FAITH – ACT NOW FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE”. The ‘We Have Faith – Act Now for Climate Justice’ is a Faith and Youth led Climate Justice Campaign that brings together Faith Based Organisations (FBOs), Youth Networks/Movements and other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from East and Southern Africa. The Campaign draws its support and inspiration from, and linked to the global climate justice campaigns under the “Act Now for Climate Justice’ Banner. The ‘We Have Faith’ campaign in anchored on the moral responsibility to care for the earth, a strong ethical message for climate justice. Over the years, the campaign has grown and continues to work towards preserving the environment for future generations. The pride of the youths is being able to steer processes and get the needed support across Africa to be part of the 'Conquest of Hope' for climate justice. This has been a significant mark of faith! Climate change is currently one of the biggest challenges facing humanity. This is especially very true for many people in the developing world who have contributed the least to causing climate change but are suffering the impacts each and every day. Together in solidarity as stewards of the environment, young people are fighting to influence decisions and contribute to a better world by protecting and safeguarding the future of generations to come. This has been a great contribution to social change as we have taken action to reduce climate change by calling for a better and sustainable world free from the threat of climate change.

WIM4C: What has been your biggest challenge as a woman personally or professionally and how did you handle it? 

Michelle: I am the first female to hold my current position with my current employer and this has been the greatest challenge and achievement at the same time. It is not easy to be a young woman in a top management position without the criticism of those that feel a man or someone older would do it better. Leading people who are older or the same age as you are doesn’t make it any easier. There are times when I’ve had to find a balance between being a workmate (or friend) and being the one in charge. It is no walk in the park, but when need arises you need to put your foot down to get the job done. Some people will hate you for it and a few will appreciate you for it. A job is a job, and those who respect you will respect the job you do. That’s my policy. The job comes first in the work place. Comprising the quality of work to maintain friendships defeats the whole purpose of you being in that position in the first place. I do not believe in being a horrible boss either, I believe work is like a second home and one must be able to find peace in a work place.

WIM4C: What type of world would you like to live in? 
Michelle: The type of world I want is simple; I want a world that does not discriminate based on one’s sex, a world where men and women enjoy the same rights. I want a world where every child’s rights are protected and a world where everyone is given the opportunity to get quality education, a world where everyone is literate. I want a world whose environment is conducive for everyone, free from disease and poverty and a world where everyone can live in harmony.

WIM4C: What is your favorite quote?
Michelle:  “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others” by Marianne Williamson

WINM4C: How can people get in touch with you?
Michelle: Facebook: Michelle Nicole Malunga
Facebook Page: Michelle Malunga
Twitter: @michellechoc
Instagram: @michellechoc
Thank you Michelle for your time, Rock on!!!!

#KnowingOurWomenInMedia  #WomenInMedia

Off grid solar power is gaining steam in Africa, what's next?

Elizabeth Mukwimba, an M-Power Off Grid Electric customer in Tanzania. With increased investment, cheaper products and innovative business models, solar is not only on the rise, but could transform the way the African continent is powered. Photo by: Russell Watkins / U.K. Department for International Development / CC BY

For years solar seemed like a potential solution for millions without access to electricity in Africa, but high costs and slow technology left it largely out of reach.

In the past few years, however, that has changed. With increased investment, cheaper products and innovative business models, solar is not only on the rise, but could transform the way the continent is powered. 

It will be used to boost economic activity as businesses stay open late and students are able to study after dark, but it may also be used for unexpected purposes such as lighting a goat hut to keep prized animals safe from predators. And this growth is being driven by private companies who look at the 600 million people in Africa, or the 1.3 billion people in the world who lack access to power and see the vast market opportunity.

“Energy access and infrastructure are fundamental to eliminating poverty and improving people’s lives,” said Russell Sturm, global head for energy access at International Finance Corp. Advisory Solutions. “Building an electric grid and having centralized power is untenable for much of the world — particularly Africa.”

It’s a sentiment that seems to be echoed more widely these days. And there are examples across the spectrum — from inexpensive solar lanterns, to home solar systems, to microgrids or commercial-scale projects. Just in the past week the U.S. government announced millions of dollars in new commitment to off-grid solar and the U.K.’s Department for International Development launched a new Energy Africa initiative. And this week the off-grid solar industry is gathered for the 4th International Off-Grid Lighting Conference, organized by the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association.

Incredible progress

What’s helped create this progress is a mix of factors: technology costs have dropped making pricing more competitive, investment has increased and, in some cases, governments have created favorable environments for progress. 

When IFC first began working to explore solar technology 15 or 20 years ago, home solar systems cost $500 to $1,000, which even with the most creating leasing model was still unaffordable to those living on less than $2 a day.

But between 2000 and 2013 the efficiency of these systems improved by about 10,000 percent and the costs of batteries, LED lights, and photovoltaic cells, all dropped more than 80 percent, according to Sturm.

LED lights, along with an an emerging set of appliances, are also dramatically more efficient. This means the same 40 watt solar panel that 10 years ago could power one 25 watt light bulb can today power four LED lights, a color tv, a phone charger and a radio.

As those prices went down and efficiency went up, a market opportunity emerged. If only those products could be marketed in a way that competed with products people were using (which in most cases were kerosene or battery-powered flashlights). That’s where some early funding from the development industry helped — IFC started working on setting quality standards, providing market intelligence, business assistance and education programs for consumers.

Dynamic developments

Several years ago innovation really started around solar lanterns and donor darlings like d.light drew attention and funding. While some might dismiss these solar lanterns — Sturm describes them as “underappreciated” — they are an important “first rung on the energy ladder,” he said.

New U.S. government investments in off-grid solar:

The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp. announced a $6.8 million loan to back Powerhive’s Cloverfield Project in Kenya which will build about 100 solar-powered microgrids to reach about 20,000 households and commercial users. OPIC also committed $15 million to Nova-Lumos’ Nigerian subsidiary Txtlight Power Solutions Limited to finance the delivery of 70,000 rooftop solar panel kits using a lease-to-own model.

USAID’s Development Credit Authority will provide $75 million in loan guarantees to fund the scale up of off-grid energy investments in sub-Saharan Africa. The Millennium Challenge Corp. is providing $46 million for off-grid electrification in Benin.

The U.S. Department of Energy will also ramp up funding through its Global LEAP program, including incentives to accelerate the off-grid appliance market and releasing a quality assurance framework for minigrids.

From solar lanterns, consumers can step up to home solar panels or to microgrids, though their set up has proven more complex. 

“What we see is governments slowly picking up that there is more to access than grid extension,” said Koen Peters, executive director of the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association. “The market is developing in a very dynamic way.”

And this shift on the part of local governments — perhaps too for donor governments — has led to a slew of recent announcements and commitments designed to bring more funding and attention to the industry.

Several of these new investments by the U.S. government fall under the Power Africa Initiative, which with these announcements and other funding, is clearly now going to support solar, off-grid power. That’s a big of a departure from the early days of the initiative. While the launch of Power Africa included included both megawatt and access targets, many of the early announcements focused on large-scale, grid-connected generation.

“What I think has happened is there has been a maturity of business models for OPIC to credibly finance,” said John Morton, the Overseas Private Investment Corp’s chief operating officer. “We want to grow the access piece of our portfolio.”

Business models 

While all those advancements in technology and plunging costs have opened up the market, what’s making it possible and leading to exponential growth for some companies is the innovation around business models. 

Companies like M-KOPA Solar, which installs home solar systems and hit 250,000 sales in September, uses a pay-as-you-go system integrated with the M-pesa mobile money platform. This allows customers to sell solar power on a monthly, daily, weekly or even hourly basis. 

The model seems to be working — the company had 60,000 customers in April 2014 — so there is a fast pace of growth.

In Tanzania, Off Grid Electric — which guarantees service for the lifetime of the product and operates a 24/7 call center to respond to customer needs — has deployed a leasing model and is adding 10,000 customers a month. The company estimates that 80 percent of the Tanzanian population could be potential customers and that their pricing is not only competitive with kerosene and phone charging, but is possible even for those living on less than $2 a day. 

The company is now in its 10th cohort and recently expanded to a large new office building in Arusha, Tanzania. This was in part to house the Off Grid Academy: as they started building their workforce they recognized a need for more skilled employees, so they built one in-house and around 500 people have been hired through the training program. 

“We’re hoping gather support around that, because it’s quite new to business,” said Jessica Eastling, business development manager at Off Grid Electric, adding that they are still working to improve it and get it right.

There are also many others, though most of the early success stories are coming from East Africa, which according to Peters is in part due to demographics but also as a result of market conditions. The pervasiveness of mobile money systems has made business models easier to develop.

Nova Lumos, which just received a $15 million loan from OPIC to finance its expansion, is one of the companies testing the waters in West Africa. The company works in Nigeria for a fairly simple reason — it’s the largest market in Africa. But what’s needed in the Nigerian market is somewhat different than the smaller home solar systems that have been succeeding in East Africa. Many potential consumers in Nigeria use diesel-powered generators instead of kerosene and have greater power needs. The Nova Lumos system provides the added capacity — it uses bigger panels — and the company has set up a unique arrangement with the country’s largest mobile network operator MTN. The systems are shipped directly to MTN storefronts and are sold through its existing distribution networks, with marketing also done by MTN.

In a country where mobile payments aren’t often used, Nova Lumos is allowing consumers to use phone credit to pay for electricity. 

Off Grid Electric is one of the companies proving that a creative business model coupled with cheaper technology can help bring solar power to those at the base of the pyramid. In this video, Devex visits its branch in Arusha, Tanzania, for a look at the installation of a new system.

Looking forward

The industry is still young and the market opportunity is massive. That means that issues of financing, ensuring quality standards, developing metrics and enabling scale all need to be on the agenda.

And they are at the GOGLA conference.

Financing, particularly debt financing and working capital financing will be important. Many of the companies operating today need to reinvent their business models repeatedly in order to grow.

“This sector is growing but is not fully commercial yet … [they] still need public sector support,” Peters said. “They don’t necessarily need subsidies anymore but they do need the public sector to help mobilize investment and build capacity.”

Nir Marom, Nova Lumos co-founder, said that the OPIC investment is important, not just for the money but as a commitment to prove that debt investments in the space can be successful. 

“Estimates are that the market is millions, you can’t do that without debt,” he said. 

Similarly, companies — particularly in the solar lantern sector — are hamstrung by their ability to get access to working capital, Sturm said. In fact, sales of quality-verified solar products were flat based on a June year-on-year comparison.

So what’s the problem?

It’s not growth. There is money out there from investors, especially for the frontrunners who have shown they can deliver returns, but what’s been lagging is working capital. For companies that rely on cash sales and are selling devices to retailers it’s a critical component to operating and growing business. 

Companies have told Sturm they expect they could continue on the path they were on a year ago with 100 percent year-on-year growth if they had working capital.

IFC is working to help leverage additional financing, in part through its $10 million investment in ResponsAbility’s Energy Access working capital debt fund. The World Bank Group member would like to invest more in this area, according to Sturm, and is interested in working with local banks to create new types of financing to support customers who want to buy these products.

Government regulations can have a big impact on market growth. Countries that are not corrupt, have supportive business environments, don’t have a high kerosene subsidy, generally have low tariffs and import fees, and decent infrastructure will be the most appealing. Working with countries to change bad policies and encourage favorable ones will help future industry growth.

As an industry association GOGLA is also working to identify minimum quality standards and will look for ways to hold those not in compliance accountable. IFC has been working on quality assurance for years and has worked to build its quality-verified system, which can be and is used as a benchmark, particularly for products like solar lanterns. 

Having standardized measurement, particularly of social impact, will help get all companies on the same page when it comes to reporting. It’s an issue also likely to be discussed at this week’s meeting.

And while innovation may happen at a slower place, there’s plenty of room for more — particularly in products and appliances like low-watt televisions and fans that consumers are demanding.

Because as people gain access to electricity they tend to want to move up the energy access ladder pretty quickly. So making that affordable, and providing the finance and the business models to make it happen, will be important.

Culled from Devex

Saturday, 24 October 2015

On The Road To COP 21: Concern over France visa, fees in Nigeria By Ezekiel Akor

As preparations for the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reach a feverish peak, prospective participants from Nigeria have been told in clear terms by the Embassy of France in (Abuja and Consulate in Lagos) Nigeria that visa issuance is only contingent upon the payment of visa consultancy and processing fees. This directive, according to observers, is a contravention of the principles of the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Participants from over 196 countries are expected to converge on Paris, France this December for crunch climate talks with a view to adopting a new global climate treaty capable of lowering global temperatures and halting further slides into dangerous thresholds of climate vulnerability.

An information note published on the conference organisers’ website reads: “For holders of an ordinary passport, obtaining a short-stay visa to France is subject to a fee of €60 payable in local currency, in addition to the fees charged in the relevant countries by the external service provider. Persons accredited by the United Nations to attend COP21/CMP11 are exonerated from these charges on presentation of their accreditation letter.”
Duly accredited participants from Nigeria including civil society leaders and journalists have condemned the directive by the French embassy in Nigeria and are calling for a policy reversal by the appropriate authorities.

Tina Armstrong Ogbonna, an accredited journalist to the conference, says: “This action by the French Embassy in Nigeria is a direct affront on the integrity of Nigerians and a baseless contravention of UNFCCC protocol governing issuance of visas to COP participants.
“We have attended UNFCCC conferences in several European countries with noone asking us for visa fees so why is France different?” she wondered.

Stephen Onuche, an accredited civil society observer to the conference, recalls: “This action by the French Embassy in Nigeria is pure extortion and manipulation of environmentally conscious Nigerians to achieve a pre-determined objective.
“I was asked to pay N4,500 (€20) as visa interview booking fee to VFS, a consulting firm approved by the embassy, and when I was eventually interviewed at the embassy premises in Abuja, the visa officer pointedly asked me to pay N13,500 (€60) to their cashier if I ever wanted to collect the visa.
“If the French Embassy in Nigeria is broke and in urgent need of funds, they should say so openly and not use UNFCCC conference hosting right as a smokescreen to fleece hapless Nigerians,” he added.

For another Nigerian journalist who prefers to remain anonymous for now, his experience with the French Consulate in Lagos and their accredited visa agents, VFS, leaves much to be desired.
He says: “After paying N20,420 (about €91) and waiting for several weeks, I was issued a visa that is valid from 12/10/2015 to 11/11/2015 even when my UNFCCC accreditation letter, flight ticket, and travel insurance reads 30th November to 16th December 2015!
“As it is now, the French Consulate has succeeded in issuing a visa that is useless to me. I wonder if my application documents were even looked at before the visa was issued,” he added.

Efforts to get the official position of the French Embassy failed as mails to George Vanin, the Embassy’s Head of Press and Communication, were never replied and neither were calls returned. Similar efforts to get the views of the Consul General in Lagos were fruitless as the Secretary switched off all communication lines with the consulate.

Upon investigation by ClimateReporters, it was discovered that €80 is the blanket fee the embassy charges all conference-related visa requests it receives at both Abuja and Lagos centres. A source at the embassy who craved anonymity revealed that the decision to extend this fee to all UNFCCC accredited participants from Nigeria is part of the embassy’s resolve to stamp out corruption from its visa issuance processes in Nigeria.
“You know, our former Consul General, François Sastourné and his deputy, were implicated in a visa racketeering scam which led to their replacement earlier this year so the Embassy is very wary of giving directives on no-visa fees for certain category of conference participants as this may be abused by embassy staff,” the source chipped in.

Over the years, Nigeria’s participation in international meetings has come under global spotlight for varying reasons ranging from having the largest official delegations at UN conferences to reserving the most expensive hotels for official government delegates.
It will be recalled also that many Nigerian CSO delegates and journalists accredited to participate in the UNFCCC 19th Conference of Parties (COP 19) which held in Warsaw, Poland were denied visas by the Polish Embassy in Nigeria for reasons, many termed as ridiculous and racist-inclined.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

USAID to Support Nigeria’s Shea Industry By Ayo Okulaja


USAID|NIGERIA has revealed plans to support the development of the Shea industry in Nigeria through the wide network of Global Shea Alliance; another USAID initiative for the Shea sector

The Acting Deputy Mission Director of the American Aid organization in Nigeria, Kathy Body made this know at the 2015 Shea conference in Abuja, where she stated that “USAID|NIGERIA recognize that a stronger Nigerian role in the global Shea market will particularly benefit rural Nigerian women.”


Thousands of women are engaged in picking and processing of Shea in rural communities across 21 states in Nigeria, improving the standard of production can lead to poverty reduction as the demand for Shea butter is increasing in the international market. 

Shea is a major commodity in the cosmetic industry and it was recently approved by regulatory authorities in Europe to have 5% content of Shea in chocolate, thereby astronomically increasing the global demand for Shea.   

Nigeria is a major producer of Shea with the Shea nut trees growing wildly in 21 states across the country but the Shea is mostly smuggled out of the country without any value addition, therefore stripping the country of the immense economic benefit of the commodity.


“USAID believes that together, we can help Nigeria’s Shea industry to take advantage of the business opportunities that exist for this commodity Ms. Body stated, adding that “the U.S. is committed to supporting sustainable, broad-based economic growth in Nigeria. We believe that Nigeria’s agricultural sector will be the key area for that growth.

We are very proud of our support to the Global Shea Alliance that today has more than 350 members, today the Alliance spans the entire industry. The number of Alliance members is not nearly as important as the women’s groups who collect Shea; the exporter of Shea nuts and Shea butter in Nigeria and Africa, or the world’s leading specialty companies that use Shea in their products including global candy and beauty products.

Appealing to practitioners in the Shea sector, the USAID|NIGERIA Director urged the need for a standard procedure of processing to enable the marketability of Nigeria’s Shea appropriately at the right value. 

“The Shea industry has been growing, but further growth is possible, particularly if you in the industry can create the economies of scale in production and marketing that will allow producers to add more value to their goods.” 

Producers need to be able to take advantage of regional and global markets, and process their products where it makes the most sense.  I encourage you to be persistent in your efforts to build a stronger and more competitive Shea industry” Body concluded. 

The 2-day conference which had the theme, Shea Conference: A Concerted Renaissance was organized by the USAID|NIGERIA Expanded Trade and Transport (NEXTT) project in collaboration with Shea Origin and the National Shea Products Association of Nigeria (NASPAN).

Nigeria loses N350billion to Shea smuggling annually By Ayo Okulaja


                                                     Segun Awolowo 

The Executive Director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Segun Awolowo, has revealed that the sum of almost N350 bmillion is lost to smuggling of Shea products from Nigeria every year due to the non-existence of proper structure for the Shea value chain in Nigeria. 

Nearly N345 million is lost in the smuggling of Shea products out of the country” Mr Awolowo stated at the Shea Conference in Abuja. The 2-day conference which had the theme, Shea Conference: A Concerted Renaissance was organized by the USAID|NIGERIA Expanded Trade and Transport (NEXTT) project in collaboration with Shea Origin and the National Shea Products Association of Nigeria (NASPAN)

Noting that the global demand for Shea butter is worth about $10billion and is projected to be worth about $30billion by 2020, the NEPC boss called for increased proactive measures of repositioning the non-oil export sector in the country with agricultural products, such as Shea, with which Nigeria’s GDP is expected to surge.

“This adds value to the country’s socio-economic space in the form of inclusive and sustainable growth and wealth creation” he said, adding that becoming a competitive global player in Shea production is one key step in Nigeria’s push to industrialize, lifting millions out of poverty and bringing the country closer to realizing its full economic potential.

In addition to the traditional uses of Shea such as cosmetics, soap, moisturizer, oil, wax, ointments and candles, Shea butter is now commonly used in the production of cocoa butter equivalents or improvers and up to 5% content by weight is allowed under EU regulations in chocolate, other confectionaries and margarine, creating even larger international markets for Shea products.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Nigeria is the world largest producer of Shea nut, producing 325,000mt in 2010 with the wildly grown Shea trees predominant in 21 states across the country. 

Lamenting the failure to harness this nature endowed advantage; Awolowo noted issues of quality control with Shea processing in Nigeria must be standardized. “Although there are approximately 16 Shea producing states in Nigeria, problems arising from quality control meant we were unable to convert our comparative advantage to competitive advantage in the global arena. Yet the strong sector development can lead to poverty reduction, women empowerment, employment generation through the establishment of small and medium scale industries and the earning of precious foreign exchange.

Mr Awolowo however revealed that Shea butter is one of the products that has been selected for the NEPC One-State-One-Product (OSOP) initiative which seeks to “develop one exportable product per state by leveraging on the area’s comparative advantage.”

He also adds that Shea butter will feature prominently as one of the products for the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) initiative by the US government which allows import of agricultural commodities from Africa to the US, duty free as well as the Nigeria Diaspora Export Programme (NDEX), which seeks to take advantage of Nigerians in the diaspora by leveraging on their population.

Declaring the conference open, Wife of the Vice – President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo noted that “Shea butter industry would be able to achieve and eradicate extreme hunger, universal primary education, promote gender equality, and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS and malaria, and other diseases, to ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development.

Also speaking at the conference, the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) who was represented by Mallam Aminu Takuma –a Director at NIPC - stated that “NIPC will be partnering with the USAID|NIGERIA NEXTT project and Technoserve to facilitate investments in Shea Clusters with necessary processing facilities in states where Shea trees are predominant.” The Shea clusters are to be spread across the 19 states where the Shea trees are predominant. 

Affirming the investment opportunities in Nigeria for the Sheaindustry with growing international demand, the President of NASPAN; Saidu Ali notes that “there are currently 6 massive processing plants for Shea butter in Ghana while there is none in Nigeria.” 

“Imagine the level of economic loss for us as a country while we are losing most of the Shea nuts and butter to smugglers.” 

The conference which had over 250 participants featured training sessions on critical issues such as industry trends, production techniques, and the international market for Shea, as well as practical information about the Shea business and improving its processing standards.

The U.S. government, through USAID, continues to support Nigeria’s Shea industry, through the Global Shea Alliance, which includes leading retail brands, Shea butter manufacturers, research institutions, ministries, regulatory bodies, and Shea butter producers and exporters.

“By building local capacities and facilitating a dialogue on public-private partnerships, this conference will do much to further the development and vitality of the Shea industry,” said Mobola Sagoe, Chief Executive of Shea Origin and convener of the Shea Conference.




Follow The Money [www.followthemoneyng.org], a non-profit initiative of Connected Development [CODE] has been awarded a one-year grant of US$100,000  ( NGN19, 894, 994 million) by Omidyar Network, mainly towards the cost of their projects in local communities which includes stakeholders meetings, focus group discussions, travel support, and visualization.


Founded in 2012 by Hamzat Lawal & Oludotun Babayemi, Follow The Money uses traditional offline engagement methods and technology tools to track government and international aid spending at the local level. In 2012, the initiative was able to save the lives of about 1,500 children in Bagega, Zamfara state who needed  urgent medical attention for lead poisoning.   And after the 2012 flooding in Nigeria, the group was able to track 17 Billion NGN allocated for intervention and document the impact on affected rural communities. In 2015, the groups activities convinced the federal government of Nigeria to change its controversial US$49.8 million (NGN 9.2 billion) clean cookstoves plan and ensure accountability.


“Foreign aid and government spending should be grounded in how the spending affects local community realities.  Government programmes that track the impact of funds in local contexts are still remarkably rare,” said Hamzat Lawal, Chief Executive of Connected Development. 


Omidyar Network’s grant comes through the philanthropic investment firm’s Governance & Citizen Engagement initiative, which works to build stronger and more open societies by increasing government responsiveness and citizen participation.


In the past, Follow The Money had received grants from The Indigo Trust, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA)through her Open Societic Initiative led by CITIC Dakar, Open Knowledge Foundation, Heinrich Boell Foundation in Nigeria and The European Union.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Oslo Moves To Ban Cars From City Centre Within Four Years

Proposed ban on private vehicles is part of a plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

Downtown Oslo’s prioritised bike lane with red tarmac, bus lane and a congested lane of ordinary traffic.

Oslo’s new leftist city government said Monday it wants to ban private cars from the city centre by 2019 as part of a plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions.The Labour Party and its allies the Socialist Left and the Green Party, winners of the 14 September municipal elections in the Norwegian capital, presented a platform focused on the environment and the fight against climate change.The programme envisages a ban on private vehicles in the city centre which, according to the Verdans Gang newspaper, is home to only about 1,000 people but where some 90,000 work.The new city government did not give details of how the plan would be implemented. But the proposal has sparked concerns among local businessmen, who noted that 11 of the city’s 57 shopping centres are in the planned car-free zone.

Oslo Divests From Coal Companies

The ban on automobiles is part of a plan to slash emissions of greenhouse gases by 50% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. The new city authorities also plan to divest fossil fuels from their pension funds, build more bicycle lanes, subsidise the purchase of electric bicycles and reduce automobile traffic over the city as a whole by 20% by 2019 and 30% by 2030.
“In 2030, there will still be people driving cars but they must be zero-emissions,” Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, a member of the Green Party, told a news conference.
Norwegian media said the largely ceremonial post of city mayor would go to Marianne Borgen of the Socialist Left and not Shoaib Sultan, the candidate of the Green Party, who thereby misses out on becoming one of the first Muslims to lead a major European city.

China's new Zam dam could be disastrous for India. Here's why

On 13 October, China switched on the Zam Hydropower Station, set at the highest altitude among all hydel power plants in the world. And that should worry India.

The river that the Zam plant is built on is known as Yarlung Zangbo in China; in India it is called Siang and is among the main tributaries of the mighty Brahmaputra - yes, the lifeline of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

So, how would the 510-megawatt project affect India?

China says there wouldn't be much of an impact as Zam is a 'run-of-the-river' project. Beyond that, it has only assured that any adverse impact on India would be sorted out diplomatically.

But how comforting is China's assurance?

Siang is only a tributary of Brahmaputra. It flows through Arunachal to Assam where it combines with Lohit and Dibang.

As the jargon suggests, 'run-of-the-river' projects do not need to store water to generate electricity. The tiniest form of such a project is a simple turbine placed in a river, spinning with its normal flow. They are known to be less harmful than standard dams that block the flow of water, depriving regions downstream of the river.

Problem is, the Chinese dam is much bigger.

In such projects, all the silt is removed before the river water hits turbines. Thus, the flow emerging from the is almost silt-free. That's harmful. Such water is more powerful and has a greater capacity to erode. Silt deposits also make the river banks fertile.

Large run-of-the-river projects do not store water, but they also don't generate power only from a river's natural flow. Instead, water is diverted through long channels and the force of its flow is manipulated. This harms aquatic life.

Thus, such projects impact the biodiversity of the river downstream. Fewer varieties of and quantities of fish in the river in Siang is likely to affect livelihoods of riverside communities downstream.

Who Regulates

The flow of water coming from such dams needs to be regulated. This has been a sore thumb with most such projects worldwide.

Take the example of Canada's British Columbia province, which has many such projects. There were more than 700 instances in just 2010 when dam authorities flouted rules and changed water flow too suddenly, killing thousands of fish, found the Globe and Mail newspaper.

As changing water flow at the Chinese dam will affect India, regulations should involve both. Any mechanism will have to be a diplomatic measure.

But India and China do not have any river-use agreement, which will make enforcement of such a mechanism nearly impossible. Despite concerns raised by India for several years about the impact of China's projects on Brahmaputra, no joint mechanism has come up.

China's Zam dam will kill thousands of fish, reduce soil fertility in India. What can India do?

And the impact would not only be on fish: if China suddenly releases a lot of water, or if the dam ever bursts, it would be disastrous for India, especially along Siang and to an extent, Brahmaputra.

The project would also affect India's own ambitions in generating hydel power from Siang. Over 40 projects have been planned along it, though none of them have taken off as they have not received environmental clearances. If they do become operational, they will also be at risk of such sudden increase in water flow.

So what can India do?

There are almost no studies in India to try and understand the impact of these projects put together, according to Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asian Network for Dams, Rivers and People.

India first needs to get all information on such projects from China. It also needs to conduct a separate study to analyse the cumulative impact of all dams taken together. Combining the impact of individual projects may not be enough.

"Even if India were to take this issue to the United Nations or to the International Court of Justice, it needs to have these assessments in place to build a case," Thakkar said.

Australia Approves Coal Mine That Environmentalists Call ‘A Complete Disaster’ For Coral Reef

Australia will soon be home to one of the world’s biggest coal mines, now that the government has given its approval for the controversial project.

This week, Australia’s government approved the Carmichael mine, a project that’s backed by India’s Adani Enterprises. Environmentalists have staunchly opposed the mine, which will be located in central Queensland, because they say the increase in coal shipping that the mine will spur threatens the Great Barrier Reef. And, they say, the emissions that will come from burning the coal will contribute to the ocean warming and acidification that’s already threatening the reef. 

“Carmichael would be a complete disaster for the climate and the Great Barrier Reef,” Greenpeace Australia campaigner Shani Tager said in a statement Thursday. “The federal government and Environment Minister should be in the business of protecting the Reef and the climate, not giving mining companies licence to destroy them. This project means more dredging in the Great Barrier Reef, more ships through its waters and more carbon emissions.”

The mine had been previously approved by the government, but a court temporarily overturned that approval in August, saying that Australia’s environment minister Greg Hunt didn’t take into account his department’s advice on how the mine would affect two species — the yakka skink and ornamental snake — when he granted approval. Now, Hunt says, the project will be subject to “36 of the strictest conditions in Australian history.”

“The rigorous conditions will protect threatened species and provide long-term benefits for the environment through the development of an offset package,” Hunt said in a statement. “These measures must be approved by myself before mining can start.”

This project means more dredging in the Great Barrier Reef, more ships through its waters and more carbon emissions

The conditions state that groundwater near the mine must be monitored. They also include a mandate that 119 square miles of habitat for the black throated finch must be protected. Lawyers had argued earlier this year that interests behind the mine had understated its impact on the endangered finch and other flora and fauna in the region. Those lawyers said that the environmental costs associated with the coal mine far outweighed the economic benefits that the government was touting. 

“In the circumstances, the risks of this proposal are just too great to justify it, particularly in light of the dramatically reduced economic benefits and very questionable viability of it,” lawyer Saul Holt said in May

The economic benefits of the mine have also been questioned. With the price of coal as low as it is — coal prices have dropped 52 percent since 2011 — investing in another mine doesn’t make sense, some have said. 

“On a standalone basis, the economics just don’t stack up — I’m talking about costs and return on capital,” Daniel Morgan, global commodities analyst at UBS, told Reuters last year. “You’d need a price of about $100-$110 a [metric ton] for it to stack up.”

Experts have also challenged the Adani Group’s advertisments boasting the creation of 10,000 jobs in Queensland from the mine. An analysis from Adani’s economic adviser, however, found that the project would likely only create 1,464 net jobs. 

Most of Carmichael’s coal will be purchased by India — a country that’s third in the world in terms of carbon emissions. India has struggled to bring power to the hundreds of millions in the country that don’t have access to it, but it’s also struggled with the choking pollution — and pollution-related deaths — that comes along with burning coal. 

Australia, for its part, has come under fire recently for its treatment of the Great Barrier Reef. Earlier this year, a study found that dumping dredging waste near the reef, which is the most extensive coral reef system on earth, is causing major damage to the ecosystem. In May, Australia banned dumping dredging waste from new projects in the reef’s waters. But the reef has already lost half of its coral cover over the last three decades, and it faces additional threats from ocean acidification and warming.In July, the U.N. decided not to list the reef as “in danger,” but said that Australia must make significant progress on its conservation plan for the reef by 2016. 

Monday, 19 October 2015

Brazil stinks over capsized livestock carrier

A port town in northern Brazil has been brought to a near standstill more than a week after a livestock carrier loaded with thousands of cattle capsized and sank at the port, killing majority of the animals.

The accident occurred October 6 when the Lebanese-flagged livestock carrier Haidar, which had just loaded some 5,000 cows bound for Venezuela, overturned as it departed the Port of Vila do Conde in Barcarena, Pará state, Brazil.

Some of the animals managed to escape the holds of the ship by scrambling onto the overturned hull, but the vast majority of the animals perished in the accident.

Now, more than a week later, the rotting carcasses of the thousands of cattle have been left to decompose on local beaches, posing a major health risk to residents.

Local officials are now calling for a complete halt to activities at the port until a cleanup solution is reached.

The cattle were owned by international beef producer Minerva SA, who has said that the contracted shipping company, which it has not named, is responsible for the cargo.

The 6,449 DWT MV Haider is one of six livestock carriers owned by Tamara Shipping, based in Lebanon. The ship was built in 1994.

No humans were injured in the initial capsizing