Tuesday, 27 October 2015
Saturday, 24 October 2015
Thursday, 22 October 2015
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).
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 group’s 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
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.
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.
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 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
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