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Monday, July 4, 2016

Clarion call for Nigerian farmers to unite in the battle to ...

Clarion call for Nigerian farmers to unite in the battle to save their lands

Reverend Father Maurice Kwairanga works with farmers in northeast Nigeria to fight large scale land acquisitions
ABUJA, Nigeria - Farmer Shobantaruba, a father of seven, was stunned to arrive at his small farm in Adamawa state in northeast Nigeria one day about five years ago to find barbed wire fencing off the plot cultivated by his family for decades.
Farmland belonging to hundreds of other villagers had also been cordoned off as had land on which their livestock graze. They soon found out that it had been sold to an unknown businessman by the district chief who lives in a nearby village.
"They told us that we were not the owners of the land," said Shobantaruba, 41, who asked that his surname not be used for fear of reprisal.
Shobantaruba explained that while his parents were born and bred in Namtari and farmed there for decades, they did not have deeds to prove ownership, a requirement under Nigerian law.
Like many other Nigerian farmers who have lost their land, he felt powerless to do anything but campaigners are now trying to raise awareness among small scale farmers of their rights.
Agriculture is the largest sector of the Nigerian economy with studies showing 80 percent of the nation's food is produced by small-scale farmers, the majority of whom are women, and loss of land can impact millions of the 175 million population.
Reverend Father Maurice Kwairanga, who works with rural communities, including Namtari, said over the past five years, he has seen the same fate befall hundreds of people in at least five different communities in Adamawa.
"The local people are not educated and so the rich can get away with it," Kwairanga told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
Many district chiefs are told if they sell local land this will lead to benefits for the local population, including jobs and development opportunities, he said.
"But the reality is far from that. The lands are fenced off and are not cultivated, and the locals are not allowed to use it," said the priest, who wrote a dissertation last year on the impact of large scale land acquisitions on rural people.

Labourers gather sugarcane at a commercial farmland in Numan community, Adamawa state, northeast of Nigeria, November 14, 2009. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
He added that the suspicion is that the land is bought for speculative purposes, sometimes by former government officials "fronting for international interests".
"Even in rare cases where the locals are employed as labourers to work on the land they earn very little, often less than 500 naira ($1.75) a day, and during the seasons when their services are not needed, they do not earn any income."
Asked by the Thomson Reuters Foundation to comment on allegations of arbitrary land sales in Adamawa, the state's commissioner for land and survey, Ibrahim Mijinyawa, said he could not comment.
"We cannot comment because we have not received any complaint from any people that their land was snatched by any individual or company," he said. "All are rumours."
"It's really happening," said Azubuike Nwokoye, advisor for the ActionAid Food and Agriculture Program in Nigeria, which is working with local communities to create awareness of land rights.
"But if the people are united and know what they should do, it won't happen," he said.
Nwokoye said in one recent case in Taraba state, in north east Nigeria, a united response from local communities stopped the acquisition of 30,000 hectares (74,131 acres) of land by a Texan company.
The lack of a proper land registration framework is a serious problem in Nigeria, said Andrea Staeritz, who used to work on the West Africa programme at the Heinrich Boll Foundation, a German-based think tank.
Staeritz, who now works with charity Transparency International, said when land is not registered officially, anyone who has money and power can simply take it.

A labourer gathers sugarcane at a commercial farmland in Numan community, Adamawa state, northeast of Nigeria, November 14, 2009. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
Transparency International said land acquisition has been used as a vehicle for money laundering in Nigeria and there have also been cases of foreign investors acquiring land without consultation with land users.
"But we can't blame the foreign forces (investors) because they cannot do it without the help of Nigerians," Staeritz said.
Many rural people are uneducated, she added, and simply do not know their rights and will accept their district chief's decision as final.
In a telephone interview from Namtari with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Shobantaruba said the fenced off land remains idle and snakes have begun to breed in the area. He said his friend, Danladi, died from a snake bite two months ago.
The farmer said the local pond, on which the Namtari community depends for water, was fenced off as are the trees used to pluck thatch to build or repair local houses.
Before his farmland was sold off, Shobantaruba said he was able to cultivate enough food for his family to eat as well as a little extra to sell and help fund his children's education.
Now he says he is barely surviving and is forced to buy food and to source money for his family's upkeep. His eldest child, a 19-year-old girl, has had to drop out of school.
"She has decided to get married this year," he said, adding many people he knows in the community have migrated to other territories, occupying land which, yet again, they do not own, and which they will probably be forced to evacuate sometime.
Now, he too is considering moving. ($1 = 285.0000 naira) (Reporting by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani; Editing by Paola Totaro and Astrid Zweynert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

Climate Change Is Sending Africa's Agriculture Crisis Into a Tailspin


This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Last December, the climate summit in Paris offered journalists an unprecedented opportunity to reframe the global warming story. Climate reporting used to rest on the tacit understanding that the problem is overwhelming and intractable. That no longer rings true. While we have a better understanding than ever of the potential calamity in store, we finally have a clear vision of a path forward—and momentum for actually getting there.
To that end, Paris was a turning point for me personally, too: It was the end of the beginning of my career as an environmental journalist. This week I'm leaving Mother Jones after five years covering climate and other green stories. Paris underscored that it's past time for me to look beyond the borders of the United States. That's why, this fall, I'm going to undertake a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship. For at least nine months, I'll move between Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria to document how climate change is affecting food security.
Agriculture in Africa is one of the most important yet underreported stories about climate change today. It's a fascinating intersection of science, politics, technology, culture, and all the other things that make climate such a rich vein of reporting. At that intersection, the scale of the challenge posed by global warming is matched only by the scale of opportunity to innovate and adapt. There are countless stories waiting to be told, featuring a brilliant and diverse cast of scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians, farmers, families, and more.
East Africa is already the hungriest place on Earth: One in every three people live without sufficient access to nutritious food, according to the United Nations. Crop yields in the region are the lowest on the planet. African farms have one-tenth the productivity of Western farms on average, and sub-Saharan Africa is the only placeon the planet where per capita food production is actually falling.
Now, climate change threatens to compound those problems by raising temperatures and disrupting the seasonal rains on which many farmers depend. Anindex produced by the University of Notre Dame ranks 180 of the world's countries based on their vulnerability to climate change impacts (No. 1, New Zealand, is the least vulnerable; the United State is ranked No. 11). The best-ranked mainland African country is South Africa, down at No. 84; Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda rank at No. 147, No. 154, and No. 160, respectively. In other words, these are among the places that will be hit hardest by climate change. More often than not, the agricultural sector will experience some of the worst impacts. Emerging research indicates that climate change could drive down yields of staples such as rice, wheat, and maize 20 percent by 2050. Worsening and widespread drought could shorten the growing season in some places by up to 40 percent.
A man walks near a carcass of a dead cow in Farado Kebele, one of the drought stricken Somali regions in Ethiopia, January 26. Tiksa Negeri/Reuters
This isn't just a matter of putting food on the table. Agricultural productivity also lies at the root of broader economic development, since farming is Africa's No. 1 form of employment. So, even when hunger isn't an issue, per se, lost agricultural productivity can stymie rural communities' efforts to get the money they need for roads, schools, clinics, and other necessities. "We only produce enough to eat," lamented Amelia Tonito, a farmer I met recently in Mozambique. "We'd like to produce enough to eat and to sell." More food means more money in more pockets; the process of alleviating poverty starts on farms.
"We only produce enough to eat," lamented Amelia Tonito, a farmer I met recently in Mozambique. "We'd like to produce enough to eat and to sell."
The story goes beyond money. Hunger, increased water scarcity, and mass migrations sparked by natural-resource depletion can amplify the risk of conflict. Al-Shabaab in Kenya and Boko Haram in Nigeria have both drawn strength from drought-related hunger.
This is also a story about new applications for technology at the dawn of Africa's digital age. It's a story about gender—most African farmers are women—and the struggle to empower marginalized sectors of society. It's about globalization and the growth of corporate power, as large-scale land investors from Wall Street to Dubai to Shanghai see a potential windfall in turning East and West Africa into a global breadbasket. Such interventions could boost rural economies—or disenfranchise small-scale farmers and further degrade the landscape.
Of course, all the data points I've just mentioned are only that: cold, lifeless data. They work as an entry point for those of us who are thousands of miles away from Africa. But they don't tell a story, and they won't lead to action. They won't help Amelia Tonito improve her income. My hope is my coverage of this story will help provide the depth of understanding that is a prerequisite for holding public and corporate officials accountable, so that the aspirations of the Paris Agreement can start to come to fruition.
I've loved my time at Mother Jones and I'm truly at a loss to express my gratitude to my editors for the experiences they have afforded me. I've seen the devastating impacts of global warming, from the vanishing Louisiana coastline to thesmoldering wreckage of Breezy Point, Queens, after Hurricane Sandy. And I've seen the cost of our fossil fuel addiction, from the dystopian fracking fields of North Dakota to Germany's yawning open-pit coal mines. But I've also seen the fortitude of the young Arizonans who spent weeks sweating in the woods to protect their community from wildfires. And I've seen the compassion of a caretaker who, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, stayed with her elderly patient on the top floor of a Lower East Side high-rise with no electricity or running water.
Encounters like these are what draw me to climate change as a beat. The story is just getting started.

Australia Pauline Hanson warns of terror on the streets and suburbs 'swamped by Asians'

Election 2016: Pauline Hanson warns of terror on the streets and suburbs 'swamped by Asians'

'You love your Islam don't you': Hanson

Pauline Hanson defends her views on Islam saying mosques preach hate towards Australians. (Vision courtesy ABC News 24)

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has warned of "terrorism on our streets" and says Australians fear their suburbs have been "swamped by Asians", as she claimed her party could snare up to six Senate spots.

You're standing here having a go at me because I stand up for my culture, my way of life and my country 
The prospect of Ms Hanson's return to the federal political arena after 18 years, which included a stint in jail, has sharpened focus on the extreme One Nation policy agenda that a future government must contend with.

Pauline Hanson on election day at Jamboree State School in Brisbane. Photo: Robert Shakespeare

On Monday, Labor leader Bill Shorten said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's double dissolution election and Senate reforms were to blame for One Nation's rise. He called for Mr Turnbull's resignation.
As Fairfax Media reported on Sunday, One Nation wants Muslim immigration to cease, a ban on new mosques and a royal commission into Islam and climate science. Greens leader Richard Di Natale has called the agenda "racist and bigoted".
At a fiery press conference in Brisbane on Monday, Ms Hanson claimed the major parties should respect the large number of votes One Nation pulled, and urged a return to an Australia "where we as a nation had a right to have an opinion and have a say".
Asked about her maiden speech in 1996 when she said Australia was at risk of being "swamped by Asians", the former fish-and-chip shop owner repeated the claim.
"You go and ask a lot of people in Sydney, at Hurstville or some of the other suburbs. They feel they have been swamped by Asians and, regardless of that now, a lot of Australians feel that Asians are buying up prime agricultural land, housing," she said.
"You ask people in Melbourne how they feel about it as well."
'Out of context'
She claimed her 1996 comments were taken out of context, and were meant to refer to the call for a crackdown on "a high intake of Asians … coming via New Zealand".
Ms Hanson demanded greater transparency on what was being taught in Muslim schools and preached in mosques.
"You can't deny the fact that in these mosques they have been known to preach hate towards us. Is that a society that we want to live in?" she said.
"I don't believe it is … Do you want to see terrorism on our streets here? Do you want to see our Australians murdered?"
One Nation also wants the wearing of the burqa and niqab banned in public places, and a net zero immigration policy.
Asked if anyone else in Parliament shared her views, Ms Hanson pointed to George Christensen, the Coalition MP who has refused to resettle refugees in his north Queensland electorate.
Ms Hanson indicated other parliamentarians were also sympathetic to her agenda but had been "stifled" by their parties.
'You're having a go at me'
She then lashed out at reporters after repeated questioning over her contentious stance.
"You're standing here having a go at me because I stand up for my culture, my way of life and my country.
"Every day that I went to school I saw the Australian flag raised and it was instilled in me the pride, who I was to be an Australian and … I stand here before you and want to bring that to my country and floor of Parliament and you criticise me."
Ms Hanson denied she was seeking a return to the White Australia policy, but suggested that multiculturalism "has not worked".
One Nation's agenda states it wants to abolish the Racial Discrimination Act and instead promote "assimilation, nationalism, loyalty and pride in being an Australian".
Ms Hanson said on Monday: "We are a Christian country and that's what I'm saying …  [former Liberal prime minister] John Howard said we have a right to say who comes into our country and I'm saying exactly the same."
She claimed the cliffhanger election result showed voters had "no confidence in [Prime Minister] Malcolm Turnbull. They don't believe that Malcolm Turnbull is connected with the grassroots Australians."
Mr Turnbull has previously said Ms Hanson was "not a welcome presence on the Australian political scene".
Ms Hanson agreed with the suggestion she had picked up votes from disillusioned electors who could not vote for former prime minister Tony Abbott.
Asked whether she preferred Mr Turnbull or Mr Shorten, she replied, "To tell you the truth, I don't particularly like either one of them as the prime minister of this country."
Ms Hanson said she was older, wiser and less "politically naive" than during her last parliamentary stint. 
"I haven't got the people around me who are out for their own self-interest or gains. I have taken on the leadership of this party with the gusto … to really make a change, a difference," she said.
In 2003, Ms Hanson and party co-founder David Ettridge were jailed for three years each after being found guilty of fraud charges but the convictions were quashed 11 weeks later.
On Monday Mr Shorten said Labor would work with all parliamentarians "whatever their political stripe", but would not compromise its principles.
"I have to say by contrast, remember what this election was about, according to Mr Turnbull. It was about stability. Mr Turnbull proposed Senate reform. He has made a bad situation worse," Mr Shorten said.
"How on Earth did Mr Turnbull think that an idea of reform could end up with two or three One Nation senators in the Senate? This is farcical. Mr Turnbull clearly doesn't know what he is doing. Frankly I think he should quit."
'Successfully multicultural'
Refugee Council of Australia spokesman Tim O'Connor said Ms Hanson's comments were inflammatory and unsubstantiated.
The remarks could "cause great anxiety for many people in our community and should be rejected by our political leaders," he said.
"Australia is one of the most successful multicultural countries in the world, in large part because of the successful integration of migrants and refugees that has occurred since World War II.
"We live in a time of great upheaval and it's human to hope for simple answers. Yet to think Australia can resolve these challenges by returning to policies that have failed economically and socially time and time again, is not just naive, it is dangerous and will only perpetuate the problems."

South Africa Downward Spiral: Map of Election Violence

Map from ewn.co.za

Election Violence in South Africa Click on markers for information

CIWARS:  This is a dangerous moment for Southern Africa with both Zimbabwe and South Africa heading into troubled political times and violence.