​FAO Distributes Seeds, Tools to 200,000 Vulnerable Families in South Sudan

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By Abdallah el-Kurebe

Ahead of the 2016 farming season and in order to give farmers enough time for proper land preparation and planting, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and its partners have so far distributed seeds and agricultural tools to about 200,000 vulnerable farming households, which benefitted about 1.1 million people in South Sudan.

A statement issued by the Organization revealed that many families had exhausted their seed reserves because they were unable to plant last year, had low harvest or were unable to replenish their reserves by buying seeds in local markets.

“In some cases, families have been forced to consume or sell their seeds for food and seed distributions have come at a critical moment. Without this support, many families would be unable to plant this year, meaning another year of relying on external assistance to meet their basic food needs,” said Serge Tissot, FAO Representative in South Sudan.

As a reason for the predicament, FAO stated that the 2015 violence forced many farmers in the country from their lands, “leaving them unable to plant their crops. In areas where security has improved, such as Western Equatoria, Unity and Jonglei, farmers are returning and FAO’s support has been crucial in enabling them to plant and resume food production. With the tensed food security situation, this is a critical time to ensure a decent harvest for South Sudan – last year, local production met about 70 percent of the nation’s cereal needs.”

In order to achieve the feat and because of the challenge of getting the seeds to the farmers on time, FAO worked with 40 local and international partners to effectively reach out to those families in dire need.

The early seed supply, according to FAO was necessary because the season extends from as early as mid-March in the Equatoria regions up to June in Greater Upper Nile and Greater Bahr El Ghazal. “The support of the WFP-led Logistics Cluster was critical in ensuring that the seeds and tools were transported to hard-to-reach areas of the former Jonglei and Upper Nile States,” the statement further stressed.

FAO and the partners provided the seeds and tools directly to beneficiaries in Greater Upper Nile and in other areas, scaled up the distribution of seeds through seed fairs. In this case, over 80,000 vulnerable families have been issued with vouchers that have pre-set values with which to ‘buy’ seeds at local fairs in 2016. Over 110,000 other vulnerable families received their seeds through direct distribution.

“With the seed fairs, we are increasing access to local, but high quality seeds in a sustainable way. The fairs also boost the local economy by working with local traders, which directly injects money into the market. FAO strives to implement all distributions through seed fairs as far as security and market functioning allows,” Abdoul Karim Bah, Deputy FAO Representative explained.

FAO added that in Greater Equatoria, more than 40,000 households received crop seeds and tools; over 60,000 households in Greater Bahr El Ghazal and a further 90,000 in Greater Upper Nile.

The beneficiaries of the assistance through a joint operation by FAO and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, included refugee households, who received the inputs. “In addition to the crop seeds and tools, FAO and its partners have also distributed more than 170,000 vegetable seeds and tools and over 140 000 fishing kits in South Suda,” the statement further disclosed.

It stressed that the Organization’s emergency response activities were made possible through theu financial support of the Common Humanitarian Fund, and the Governments of Denmark and Norway, the Swiss Confederation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America. 

Shinkafi Was A True statesman – Tambuwal

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​By Abdallah el-Kurebe

Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state has described late Umaru Shinkafi, the Marafan Sokoto, who died on Wednesday afternoon at a London hospital as a true statesman whose selfless and meritorious service to God, country and humanity was felt by all. 

In a message of condolence issued in Sokoto by his spokesman, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal added tat Shinkafi was a distinguished legal luminary, security expert, politician with conscience as well as a great community leader and mobiliser.

“Marafa’s death has closed a chapter in the life of one Nigeria’s most valuable public officers who made his mark in both public and private sectors. He was a truly passionate Nigerian whose invaluable contributions to issues of national interest will be greatly missed.

“His law office served as training ground for many aspiring lawyers in Sokoto State and beyond,” the statement read in parts. 

While condoling his immediate family, the people and government of Zamfara State and the Sultanate Council of Sokoto, Tambuwal prayed to God to grant the deceased eternal rest.

​How Smallholder Farmers Can Ensure Food Security in Africa (II)

Agriculture

Amira Gornass, CFS Boss

By Abdallah el-Kurebe

One of the Goals of Sustainable Development is to “End hunger, achieve food security and adequate nutrition for all, and promote sustainable agriculture.”

Smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa number around 33 million, representing 80% of all farms in the region, thereby contributing up to 90% of food production in some sub-Saharan African countries.

These facts state the importance of this group of farmers in ensuring food security in Africa, especially if the regional governments could provide incentives, education, farm inputs as well as favourable policies that would strengthen their efforts towards mass food production.

As major producers of food, African governments must pay more attention to the smallholder farmers. They must be made to, in the first place, be food sufficient so that they could become non or less dependent on governments for subsistence. All farmers’ needs towards food production should also be made affordable in order to incite the zeal in them to support food security programmes of governments.

More so, African governments should partner with organisations like the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to enhance food security as well as boost nations’ agricultural productivities.

It is commendable to note that, through its Committee for World Food Security (WFS), the FAO is strengthening the African smallholder farmer in order to enable him contribute his quota in addressing global food insecurity.

The Chairperson of the Committee for World Food Security (WFS), Amira Gornass told me in an exclusive interview during the Organization’s recent Regional Conference for Africa, which held in Abidjan that smallholder farmers make up the world largest producers of food. She added that they supply 70 percent of overall food production.

“Smallholders are at the heart of the agricultural sector by supplying 70% of the overall food production. They are at the center of agro-food systems, mainly as producers, but also as consumers and laborers and increasingly as processors and traders. At the same time, 70% of the 1.4 billion poor people in the world live in rural areas with smallholders representing three quarters of these rural poor,” she said.

According to the Chairperson, there was the need to strengthen smallholder farmers’ role and their livelihoods because policy interventions that address food insecurity and malnutrition should consider that they were engaged in a variety of interrelated markets (such as local and international, output and input, labor and financial) and perform multiple roles in rural areas.

“The CFS,” Gornass emphasized, had “developed a number of recommendations to address the specific challenges faced by smallholders. In 2011 and 2013, respectively, it endorsed policy recommendations on “How to increase food security and smallholder-sensitive investments in agriculture” and on “Investing in smallholder agriculture for food security and nutrition,” adding that, “currently, the Committee is discussing a set of recommendations to strengthen smallholders’ access to markets, which are expected to be approved at the Plenary in October.”

The recommendations, she further streased, resulted from extensive discussions and negotiations among representatives of member states, UN bodies, civil society and private sector organizations, financial and agricultural research institutions and were informed by the independent reports of the High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE), the scientific arm of CFS.

She pointed out that “drawing on its analysis of the potential contribution of smallholders to the four dimensions of food security and nutrition (availability, access, utilization and stability), the Committee recognizes that, with the support of adequate policies and public investments, smallholders can greatly contribute to economic growth, employment, poverty reduction, emancipation of marginalized groups and the reduction of social and economic inequalities.”

Gornass however posits that for smallholders to be able to contribute to food security and nutrition, “we not only need to better understand and recognize the importance of local and domestic food markets for smallholders and the need to strengthen markets’ data collection systems to better inform public policies; the potential role that smallholders can play in international markets, as well as the financial and capacity building opportunities they have, but also the challenges in terms of standards to be met and conditions to be faced; the importance of smallholders in creating stronger linkages between consumers and producers; and the reliance on smallholders’ production to support the development of public procurement programmes for vulnerable consumers.”

On the migration of the African smallholder farmer from traditional to modern methods of farming, Gornass noted that “smallholder farmers’ education, especially in the area of the application of farm inputs, is a worrisome impediment to the achievement of food security.”

She explained that the CFS had identified a set of major areas where increased support was “needed to improve smallholders’ productivity: water and land management, sustainable management of genetic resources, soil conservation practices, better transport systems and infrastructure, including feeder roads and rural electrification, in addition to appropriate pre and post-harvest handling and storage facilities.”

For the smallholder farmer in Africa, as elsewhere, these are necessary if he is considered a critical stakeholder in tackling the challenge of food insecurity and, considering the limited resources available to them, Gornass suggests that “smallholders should also make better and more efficient use of those resources to increase their productivity in a sustainable way.”

According to her, CFS had recommended the strengthening of “participatory research, extension and farming services to increase smallholders’ productivity and diversify their production, ideally by combining their traditional knowledge with the findings of the newest scientific research.”

Measured in terms of value, she views that “productivity strictly depends on prices of inputs, equipment and machines but in several developing countries, their reduced availability and higher costs make this increase in productivity more difficult to achieve. In addition, smallholders, when not acting collectively, are pure price takers. For this reason, we need to enhance smallholders’ access to inputs as well as strengthen their capacity to act and invest collectively in order to reduce individual costs and increase smallholder’s economic influence on prices.”

The CFS boss warned that higher levels of productivity that were associated with higher use of inputs and the development of labour-saving technologies might lead to a reduction in agricultural employment, which needed to be somehow addressed with corrective policies and investments. “In this context, the Committee has recommended that rural non-farm economies should be supported in order to provide smallholders with alternative off-farm employment opportunities, to diversify their sources of income and to manage the associated risks. Last, investments should also be made to build local capacities, develop entrepreneurial skills and promote innovation in value chains,” she recommended.

Northeast Humanitarian Challenges: Matters Arising

Agriculture

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                        IDPs

By Labaran Saleh

It is a well-known fact that Nigeria is presently faced with humanitarian challenges arising from insurgency, communal clashes and natural causes like floods. These have led to the displacement of over two million people, mostly in the northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe as well as some part of the country. Global statistics indicate that the country is among the top ten, behind the others in no particular order of gravity that include Syria, Iraq and South Sudan.

The situation, which is largely caused by insurgency, became noticeable in 2009 and apparently continued to widen in complexity, number of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and the attendant challenges of providing necessary supports to them. At the early stage, the pattern was a simple displacement when communities were attacked and immediately left by what was commonly known at the time as “unknown gunmen.” But as the attacks became more frequent and deadly leading even to occupation by the insurgents, the population were forced to flee in taking cover outside their communities in distant towns and even across the border to the Republics of Niger, Cameron and Chad.

Consequently, camps were spontaneously set up for the IDPs mostly in schools and other public places that lacked basic facilities for accommodation of such large number of people. Such necessities as water supply, sufficient toilets, sleeping items and medical facilities. The federal and states governments struggled in providing the requirements as well as deliver other basic supports to them including food and non-food items to them in the camps. This has been followed by supports from other private individuals, corporate agencies, non-governmental organizations, international donors and the United Nations organs in Nigeria.

Unfortunately, the recent misgivings towards the care for the IDPs are unfolding a dangerous phenomenon with the tendency of seriously impacting the on-going humanitarian activities; chief among these is the use of the media in the spread of unfounded rumours and misinformation about the camps and condition of the IDPs. Although, it is necessary to hold the government and other voluntary care givers accountable for their actions, this should be done with facts and constructively in appreciation of the enormity of the challenges and risks often involved in humanitarian care.

Few weeks ago, reports emerged about the IDPs numbering over 25, 000 in Bama camp that were said to have been abandoned, starved and seriously malnourished with about 20 daily deaths. However, not much was said about the fact that they were the people who have been under the siege of insurgents in Sambisa and neighboring communities for long before being recently freed by the military in the raging fierce battle with the terrorist their enclaves. The reality is that the terrorists are having tough times in fending for themselves not less of their captives.

In her reaction to allegation, Princess Modupe Ozolua whose NGO, Empower54 was in the camp and moved the nourished persons from Bama to Maiduguri noted that only about 500 persons were actually malnourished with less than 70 acute cases out of the 1,800 persons transported with the help of the Borno State government to the special care centre in the state capital. She explained that the huge numbers of the IDPs moved to Maiduguri were made up of the family members where a case of malnourishment was found not necessarily that all of them were directly affected.

The reports that many of them are receiving treatment in various hospitals have since been disproof with a recent investigative visit to medical facilities in Maiduguri. On the number of deaths, a camp manager at the special care centre confirmed the death of 20 of them since their arrival.

Reacting to some of the unfounded reports, the Borno state’s Governor said some care givers are taking huge advantage of the pains of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the state by defrauding foreign philanthropists under the pretense of trying to help victims of Boko haram insurgency in the state.

Similarly, unknown to many distant observers and discussants about the IDPs issues, those camps outside Maiduguri (satellite camps) are under the control of the military because of the on-going operations to completely rout out the terrorists in the adjoining bushes and forests but sometime those camps are consider not safe for humanitarian workers. Bama, where the incidences of malnourishment have been reported is one of these. Details of camp situation were given by Commander of the Nigerian Army Field Brigade based in the town, Colonel Adamu Garba Laka  during the recent visit of a team from the Presidency to the camp over the allegation of the starvation and malnutrition. At the camp, the delegation led by the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment Mrs Maryam Uwais was conducted round by Colonel Laka who told them that the IDPs were recently rescued from the enclaves of the terrorists. He confirmed the availability of foods in the camp for the IDPs, which were delivered by the Federal Government through NEMA and other organizations but noted that those with the problem of malnutrition had brought in from their previous captivity. He, however, encouraged the government to fast track the provision of necessary care, including medical supports for the IDPs in the camp instead of transporting them to Maiduguri. The Borno State Commissioner for Health was present at the camp said the state government would scale up the medical supports to the IDPs as requested by the Army Commander.

Another very important issues of concern presently trending, is that of relief diversion as contained in a footage which has been circulating on the social media. The said video contained some allegations, that have been erroneously misconstrued to involve every agency engaged in the camp management in Borno State. Some sections of the media reports have gone way ahead to speculate existence of a syndicate that has been diverting the relief items, not knowing that there are existence Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NEMA and the governments of Borno and Yobe states in the management of the humanitarian interventions in the states.

Under the understanding, for example in Borno State, NEMA delivers 24, 000 bags of rice for interval of two months to the state government who in-turn warehouse and brings same to the camps along with condiments and other cooking accessories.  The last time NEMA delivered the relief items to the state was on 28th May 2016 with evidence of waybill and acknowledgement from the SEMA. The MoU is a public document, but surprisingly a recent media publication, in attempt to smear the reputation of NEMA, averred that the North East zonal coordinator Alhaji Mohammed Kanar, a deputy director in the agency and who is responsible for its implementation was not even aware of its existence and contents.

On the issue of re-bagging rice intended for IDPs by some officials as being alleged, those familiar with Borno State would confirm that the warehouse in the widely circulated video does not belong to NEMA. In any case, the Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima has directed security operatives to investigate the video while the report is being awaited. No official of NEMA has ever been indicted, arrested or charged for relief diversions since the beginning of humanitarian intervention to the IDPs.

It is also very important to explain that NEMA is a federal agency established to strengthen and support the state governments’ owned SEMAs in the management of disasters and humanitarian interventions. NEMA’s role is principally concerned with coordination and mobilization of resources and strengthening of capacities for the relevant agencies including SEMAs to enable them efficiently and effectively respond to emergencies and humanitarian challenges.

Financing of the current humanitarian challenge is low and inadequate and no single government agency can provide all the needed supports. For instance, the Deputy Director Relief and Rehabilitation of NEMA Mr Daniel Obot, on FRCN network program “Radio Link” last weekend revealed that there was no any special funding available to the agency for the huge humanitarian management except the regular emergency fund (Disaster management). The implication is that the agency could have been technically broke. But despite this, the agency is faced with barrage of accusations and allegations. 

While constructive criticisms are desirable to continuously improve the humanitarian supports to the IDPs, there is need to properly understand verify issues before going to the press. Besides, humanitarian situation in  Nigeria is much better than what obtains in many places including those said to be managed by global organizations. 

​Thirty Countries Enforce First Illegal Fishing Treaty – FAO DG, Da Silva

Agriculture

FAO DG, da Silva

By Abdallah el-Kurebe 
More than 30 countries, including the Europion have formally deposited their instruments of adherence with FAO to enforce the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), the world’s first international treaty designed specifically to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, globally.

Adopted by FAO members in 2009, the treaty marks a big step beyond self-regulation of the seafood sector, from which illicit activity siphons off up to $23 billion a year.

Now in force, the PSMA, according to Jose Graziano da Silva, the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, would reduce the number of fishing activities, which findings say, last year, one of every fish sold around the world was caught illegally.

“Under this new agreement, parties are obliged to ensure that any fishing vessel that comes to its port, even for refueling, must announce that it is doing so and submit to an inspection of their log book, licenses, fishing gear and, to be sure, their actual cargo. Port State authorities agree to share information on violations, thus making it harder for rogue fishermen to shift their practices elsewhere,” da Silva stated.

According to the DG, those in illegally fishing business, “who not only profit but also jeopardize coordinated efforts to manage global marine resources in a sustainable manner so that fishing can prosper as a viable activity and people everywhere can enjoy its nutritional benefits – face higher operating costs and the serious risk of being caught.”

However, the treaty, which presently only applies to countries that have consented to it would, da Silva explained, require more traction and accelerated effectiveness and impact, if more countries joined. 

“As they do, there will be ever fewer port-hopping opportunities for rogue vessels determined to flaunt laws that regulate catch levels, usually to protect biodiversity and stock levels.

But have no doubts. History’s net has been cast. Membership is destined to grow,” he assured.

The DG congratulated the parties to the treaty, which include, Australia, Barbados, Cabo Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, the European Union (on behalf of its member states), Gabon, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Iceland and Indonesia.

Others are Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Palau, Republic of Korea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Tonga, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu.

The Treaty Seeks to:

> Make it harder for improperly caught fish to enter the market, disrupting a critical step in seafood’s complex ocean-to-table supply chain.

> Ships that choose to travel further would incur more cost. Moreover, ports that offer services to such outlaws will not escape notice. Parties to the PSMA will fund capacity-building measures for countries that need it – and FAO is offering technical and legal assistance – and tolerance of rogue behavior will likely increase the burden of eventual compliance.

> Compliance is eventually inevitable. Players in the global fish industry are increasingly exploiting their sustainable practices as a marketing asset and catch documentation and eco-labelling schemes gather steam. Adhering to the treaty may enhance a country’s trade opportunities.

FAO views the stand as a turning point in the struggle against illegality in the fisheries sector and the PSMA is a concrete step towards healthier oceans, as called for by Goal 14 of the new Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

FAO emphasized how sustainable development required integrated efforts and relied on network effects – which in turn could catalyze positive feedback loops.

“The requisite port state inspections, for example, may indirectly complement other global concerns, including the use of slave labor in fishing-industry, illicit trade in endangered species and better management of Marine Protected Areas,” da Silva concluded.

Boko Haram Insurgency Renders 4.6m People Food Insecure in the Lake Chad Basin – FAO

Agriculture

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By Abdallah el-Kurebe

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has disclosed that as at June 2016, 4.6 million people were severely food insecure in the Lake Chad basin with 65 percent located in Northeast Nigerian states of Borno and Yobe States.

FAO further disclosed that the impact of displacements and insecurity on Agriculture in the region was estimated at USD 3.7 billion as a result of livestock losses and reduction in agricultural production.

According to FAO, “Massive population displacements and insecurity in the Lake Chad Basin are putting livelihoods and food security at high risk. In North East Nigeria alone, the impact of the conflict on agriculture is estimated at USD 3.7 billion due to livestock losses and reduced agricultural production, destruction of irrigation and farming facilities, and collapse of extension services including veterinary health facilities.”

It added that civilians bear the burden of insecurity in the affected areas. “Displaced people lost their assets and most of them rely on the limited resources of host communities, who themselves have suffered from the disruption of agricultural activities and of transhumance flows over the past few years. Staple food prices have also increased, with rises up to 50 to 100 percent reported in some areas of Borno State.”

In response to the plight of the affected communities as well as the displaced people, FAO is assisting 93,000 people in the area and plans to further assist additional 123,200. “FAO is providing critical agricultural and livelihood assistance to 92,000 people in the Lake Chad Basin, and will reach an additional 123,200 people in the coming months with essential crops for the ongoing and upcoming agricultural seasons.”

Rosanne Marchesich, Response Team Leader and Senior Strategic Advisor of FAO’s Strategic Programme Management Team on Resilience, said upon her return from a FAO field mission in Borno and Yobe States in North East Nigeria that “After three consecutive lost agriculture seasons, farmers from both host communities and displaced people are resuming agriculture activities. People are preparing their land and host communities have even allocated land to the internally displaced to farm this year.”

In addition, FAO plans to set up a field office in Maiduguri to ensure adequate monitoring of interventions. “Enhanced efforts are made to better assess the current needs and develop coordinated interventions, together with national authorities and other partners. Strengthening the Food Security Sector work in Maiduguri will also bring coordination capacity closer to the field of operations in the North East.),” the statement further said.

And, because more funds are needed to address food security and livelihood needs on a larger scale, FAO is preparing a sub-regional strategy to mobilize more resources and provide increased support to vulnerable communities in the affected areas of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. “FAO and its partners must keep the momentum and build on recent interventions to expand livelihood assistance.’ said Patrick David, Deputy Head of the Sub-regional Resilience Team for West Africa/Sahel (REOWA), Regional Food Security Analyst.

In this direction, the Organisation seeks “to mobilize USD 15 million to reach an additional 63,000 families (504,000 people) by the end of the year with a wide range of agriculture-based activities aimed to quickly generate food production and income, as well as protect livelihoods.”

The statement stressed that while FAO was committed to respond to the immediate agriculture and livelihoods needs, medium and longer term investment would be critical to build resilient livelihoods in order to avoid longer-term reliance on external assistance. “Support to livelihoods through improved access to and use of natural and economic resources, as well as community-based social protection mechanisms is a critical step to sustainable development and peace building in the Lake Chad Basin.

It could be recalled that in the recent months, security forces have recaptured 22 of 27 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Borno State, and 15 of 17 LGAs in Yobe State in Nigeria.

Nigeria Police retire AIG Mbu, 20 others

Agriculture

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                    AIG MBU

The Police Service Commission on Friday approved the retirement of 21 Assistant Inspectors-General of Police.

The retirement followed the elevation of Idris Ibrahim, who was a junior to the officers in rank, to the position of Inspector-General by President Muhammadu Buhari.

In a statement signed by Ikechukwu Ani, Head of Public Relations, the chairman of the PSC, Mike Okiro, thanked the affected officers for their “meritorious service to the nation” and wished them well in their future endeavours.

The affected AIGs are:

1 Bala A Hassan
2.Yahaya Garba Ardo
3. Irmiya F Yarima
4. Danladi Y Mshebwala
5. Tambari Y. Mohammed
6..Bala Magaji Nasarawa
7. Musa Abdulsalam
8. Adisa Bolanta
9. Mohammed J Gana
10. Umaru Abubakar Manko
11. Lawal Tanko
12. Olufemi A. Adenike
13. Johson A Ogunsakin
14. Adenrele T. Shinaba
15. James O. Caulcrick
16 Olufefemi David Ogumbayode
17. Edgar T Nanakumo
18. Kalafite H. Adeyemi
19. Patrick D Dokumor
20. Mbu Joseph Mbu
21. Sabo Ibrahim Ringim.