Hunger Stalks Africa: Nations Should be Food Self-Sufficient

Desert Locust invade Ethiopia (Courtesy TESFANEWS)

February 27, 2020

Right now, as I write, two regions of Africa are experiencing food emergencies: East Africa and Southern Africa. This is a crime against humanity. There is no objective reason for starvation and malnutrition in this continent rich with arable land. Actions should be taken today, not tomorrow, to reverse this life threatening, but preventable food shortage. It is morally repugnant to witness so many human beings perishing due to the persistence of poverty, hunger, and disease in Africa.

On January 20th, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) requested a mere $76 million to combat the spread of the destructive Desert Locusts.  A just released joint statement-UN Joint Statement on Locust in East Africa signed by several organizations, Locust in Africa: A Race Against Time, reports that since February, the locust swarms originally sighted in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, have spread to South Sudan, Djibouti, Uganda, Tanzania,  and have reached the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has not since a locust incursion since 1944.  With the expansion of the locust invasion, the FAO has doubled its request for emergency funding to $138 million, of which only $33 million, less than 25% has been collected of pledged.

In this region of the world the food supply is already so fragile that 20 million Africans are deemed food insecure. Experts estimate that a one square kilometer swarm of Desert Locusts can consume as much food as 35,000 people in one day, which potentially increases the number of food insecure Africans in this zone to almost 40 million.

The joint communique boldly states: “The next wave of locusts could devastate East Africa’s most important crop of the year, right when it is most vulnerable. But that doesn’t have to happen. The Window of opportunity is still open. The time to act is now.”

The statement concludes: “It is time for the international community to act more decisively. The math is clear, as is our moral obligation. Pay a little now, or pay a lot more late.”

Read: UN Joint Statement on Locust in East Africa

Read my recent post: End Threat of Locust Plague: Transform the Desert

 

Village women receive aid from a charity organisation in Chirumhanzi, Zimbabwe, File picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP
Village women receive aid from a charity organisation in Chirumhanzi, Zimbabwe, File picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Southern Africa

Simultaneously, on the Southern end of the Africa continent; Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Lesotho, and Eswanti (Swaziland) are also facing shortages of food.

Journalist, Shannon Ebrahim, reports that “according the World Food Program (WFP), 7.7 million Zimbabweans are facing the worst hunger emergency in a decade…An astounding 90% of infants are malnourished and have stunted growth.” However, severe food shortages are not limited to Zimbabwe

“In Angola, 2.4 million are affected by food insecurity, where children are barely eating one meal a day. World Vision staff in Angola report they have never seen hunger and malnutrition on this scale.

“In Zambia, 2.3 million are facing acute hunger, and in Eswatini 24% of the population are suffering food shortages. In Lesotho, 20% of the population is food insecure

WFP regional director for southern Africa Lola Castro has said, “The hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve never seen before and evidence shows it’s going to get worse.”

Ebrahim writes, “As a result of drought, widespread flooding, and economic problems, 45 million people in southern Africa are facing food shortages.”

Hunger Can Be Eliminated

Droughts, locusts, and other disasters that contribute to food insecurity may not easily be prevented, but human intervention can mitigate and surmount so called natural catastrophes. However, there is no justifiable reason for hunger to persist in a continent of abundant, fertile, arable land.

Food self-sufficiency, which is a national security priority, in this age of out sized and exaggerated globalization, has worsened in the majority of African nations over the last several decades.  Not only does this jeopardize the health and existence of society, but it drains nation’s foreign reserves with mega-food import expenditures.

The most critical, essential, fundamental, and undeniable ingredient to a successful agricultural sector, as well as a manufacturing sector, is infrastructure.  It is the sine qua non for progress. Africa is suffering from a lack of infrastructure, particularly in the most crucial categories of hard infrastructure; electrical power and railroads. No concerned official in Africa or from a friendly government, who does not place their emphasis on energy and rail, is not helping African nations to develop. No NGO activist, no matter how sincere, who does not advocate for such infrastructure is not truly helping Africans to free themselves from the shackles of poverty, hunger, and disease.

I do not make these statements lightly. Without massive construction of hard infrastructure, African nations will not have productive agricultural and manufacturing sectors capable of producing the physical goods necessary for society’s continued existence. This is a scientific-economic reality.

Why are trees being cut down across the Sahel? To provide firewood and charcoal for cooking. This is foolishness. Trees are one of the best means to reverse the march of the desert. However, trees are being cut down, because homes do not have access to electricity and gas. If a portion of the tens of billions of dollars being spent on “global warming” were spent providing electricity to the nations of the Sahel, the counterproductive practice of charcoaling would be eliminated. If we built the decades’ overdue East West railroad, along with irrigating the desert (again energy) we could, can, transform the desert.

Why should over 100 million Africans face food insecurity on this rich African continent? The truth is; there is no acceptable reason. Our own lack of action speaks volumes.

Read: Zimbabwe is Facing Starvation

Read my article below from March 22, 2017 

Famine in Africa: More Than Humanitarian Aid Required

 

End Threat of Locust Plague: Transform the Desert

End Locust Plagues: Transform the Desert

February 20, 2020

Lawrence Freeman

Today the food supply of East Africa is threatened by a locust swarm that is ravaging crops in several nations. The Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is an extremely destructive pest that is found from West Africa, east across the African continent to the Middle East, India, and Asia.

A Desert Locust upsurge can grow into a swarm, and under the right conditions develop into a plague, affecting two or more regions with concentrated locust infestations. When locust swarms grow and migrate, they endanger the food supply of dozens of nations that comprise a large portion of the earth’s surface. The 1986-1989 plague is reported to have affected over 40 nations destroying crops in the Sahel, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and southwestern Asia.

In 2016, the World Metrological Organization (WMO), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO), released a report, Weather and Desert Locusts, documenting that the invasion area of the Desert Locusts extends to 30 million square kilometers, over 11.5 million square miles-almost the size of the entire African continent.

The international community must initiate a full scale military style operation to support African nations with resources and personnel, if we are to prevent thousands of more Africans from starvation. Africa, Arabia, India, Pakistan cannot afford a new plague; we have the power to act now to prevent such a catastrophe.

Now is also the opportune time for civilization to confront the more difficult task of “eliminating” desert conditions that spawn the locust. Many initiatives and water infrastructure projects exist to begin the greening of the Sahel.

East Africa’s Food Supply at Risk

A swarm of these deadly locusts can reach several billion, covering an area of 200 by 120 kilometers. Each locust consumes its weight daily in food-2grams, resulting in a loss of hundreds of thousands of tons of food meant to feed the population. According to the United Nations’ (FAO), “each square kilometer of swarm can include 40 to 80 million locusts and eat as much food as 35,000 people.”

The swarms are active in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, and have spread to Uganda, and South Sudan. It is estimated that 11 million people are already considered food insecure in this region of Africa. According to the U.N., this new invasion of locust swarms could cause food insecurity to an additional 20 million Africans. The UN reports that the swarms are the largest that Somalia, and Ethiopia have experienced in a quarter of a century. Kenya has not faced this severe of an incursion in 70 years. Somalia has declared a national emergency, in response to the Desert Locust invasion, as has Pakistan. Already, 71,000 acres of farmland in Ethiopia and Somalia have been destroyed.

Keith Cressman, senior forecaster for the FAO, reported that the swarms have moved across the border into Tanzania and Uganda. He said: “Action taken in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya – as well as Pakistan – will now determine what happens next. If the current upsurge crosses more borders and infests more regions, devastating more crops, it could be declared a ‘plague’.”

The Uganda government has responded appropriately to the threat to their food supply by deploying the military to assist in spraying of pesticides.

Desert Locust invade Ethiopia (Courtesy TESFANEWS)

Emergency Action Required

The U.N. has asked for $76 million in immediate aid. So far just under $20 million is in hand, including $10 million released from the U.N. emergency relief fund and $3.8 million from FAO. The United States originally agreed to contribute $800,000, and the European Union 1 million Euros. However, even with a pledge of $8 million to fight the locust incursion, announced by Secretary of State, Mike Pampeo during his recent visit to Ethiopia, the total is barely more than a third of the funds requested. The international community is being dangerously shortsighted, if not morally criminal, by allowing the locust swarms to exacerbate existing food shortages.

Dominique Burgeon, the FAO’s emergency and resilience director warned that without aerial spraying the current surge can turn into a plague, “and when you have a plague, it takes years to control.”  Mark Lowcock, the UN’s top humanitarian official, told ambassadors at a UN briefing last week: “We are running out of time. We do have a chance to nip this problem in the bud, but that’s not what we are doing at the moment.”

It is imperative the aerial and ground spraying be expanded immediately, and all necessary resources be provided. African nations lack the adequate number of planes necessary, most having less than a handful that can be deployed to combat the swarm. According to The New Humanitarian, the five planes that Kenya deployed to break up the swarms initially faced a shortage of the insecticide, fenitrothion. They report that the Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Somalia, Maud Ali Hassan said, “We are lacking all resources, including the expertise to prevent a humanitarian disaster.”

In addition to the full complement of aerial and ground spraying that must include a sufficient number of planes, insecticide, and four wheel drive vehicles to reach remote areas, which the locust infected nations lack, Cressman raises the possible deployment of drone technology.

Ultra Low Volume spraying with insecticides produces a mist with droplets that has proved effective in killing this deadly pest.

In his article, Preventing the spread of desert locust swarms, Cressman writes: “The operational use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – also known as drones – could potentially overcome these limitations in many affected nations. In the field, UAVs could be used to automatically collect high-resolution imagery of green, vegetated areas potentially affected by locusts”

Civilian satellite imaging is being employed. However, advanced imagery is needed to locate more precisely infested and breeding areas. This requires that African nations have access to imagery from military satellites, which would also necessitate that their technicians be properly trained to interpret the data.

The application of electron magnetic pulses and other electromagnetic devices to emit tuned frequencies specifically aimed at killing the locusts should also be utilized in this war against these lethal pests.

An all-out war against the spread of locusts, using all available technologies is required to save the food supply of African nations already suffering from nutrition deficiency. The cost cannot be a factor for inaction. Whether it is $80 million, $100 million or several hundred million dollars: this is a small price to pay to prevent another plague. Compare this relatively minor cost to the obscene amounts of money-billions of dollars-being spent on the US Presidential primaries. The Desert Locust assault on humanity can be arrested, if we act now, with full force!

Transform the Desert

Desert Locusts “are always present somewhere in the deserts between Mauritania and India…ready to mate when conditions are favorable. Eggs are usually laid in areas of bare sandy soil and require previous rainfall,” according to the report, Weather and Desert Locusts.

Since the sands, dry heat, and winds of African deserts create propitious conditions for the breeding and migration of desert locust, why not eliminate-i.e. transform the desert?

Contrary to popular beliefs, the Sahel and Sahara Deserts are not the natural-pristine state of North Africa. The desert was created millions of years ago when the African Plate migrated north, cut off the Tethys Sea and crashed into what is now known as Europe. The Sahara Desert was originally under water. The Sahara also alters itself, from three million square miles of arid sand into a tropical climate with lush vegetation, and waters filled with whales, and hippopotami. This occurs every 20-25,000 years in accordance with the cycle of rotation of our planet’s axis, known as the earth’s wobble. Given that the most recent drying up of the Sahara occurred approximately 5,500  years ago, the rains are not expected to return for another 15-20,000 years. However, we cannot afford to sit by idly for thousands of years suffering the harsh conditions of the desert.

Humankind was fashioned to intervene on our universe, to improve its condition, to enhance the biosphere in which we exist. The concept of the physical universe, that includes the lawful intervention of human creativity, was conceived as the “Noosphere” by the great Ukrainian geologist and scientist of the twentieth century, Vladimir Vernadsky.

The Sahara Desert has been an impediment for Africa’s development throughout hundreds of thousands of years. More recently, this uninhibited desolate expanse of land has become home to numerous violent extremist organizations that have challenged the sovereignty of Mali, and Nigeria’s Borno State.  Military only responses have so far failed to dislodge the terrorists from his region.

Think Big, Bold and in the Future

The physical universe is organized to respond to “noetic” intervention, i.e. humankind’s powers of reason. We should not be sitting on the sidelines watching disasters occur, but rather preventing so called natural catastrophes.

With sufficient density of infrastructure, functioning farms, towns, and cities, can replace mountains of desert sand. Deserts have been conquered in other parts of the world. An East-West railroad across sub-Saharan Africa from the Indian to Atlantic Ocean, which should have been built decades ago, would have already modified the Sahel and Sahara. It would be accompanied by a new platform of energy, trade, and industry that would revolutionize the economies of East and West Africa. A rail link across the Sahara, connecting this newly built East-West railroad to the nations of the Maghreb, and ultimately to Europe, would join the economies of the sub-continent to those of the Eurasian land mass. Sand would be supplanted by concrete and steel.

The desert can be converted into arable land by introducing moisture to this arid territory. Once there is continual penetration of water into the sand, vegetation and growth will occur, eventually altering transpiration cycles. This will cause a change in the volume, and patterns of rainfall.  Tree transpiration is the process by which water is carried through the tree from the roots to small pores on the underside of leaves and released into the atmosphere by evaporation. Trees consuming carbon dioxide and releasing moisture and oxygen, are the “best friends” of human beings and the environment.

Transaqua, a transnational infrastructure project to replenish the shrinking Sahelian Lake Chad to its previous area of 25,000 square kilometers, has been endorsed by the Nigerian government, and is awaiting a feasibility study.  Expanding Lake Chad with an annual flow of billions of cubic meters of water would affect climatic conditions across the Lake Chad Basin, and increase transpiration.

It is also necessary to aggressively move forward with the Pan African Great Green Wall Project (PAGGW), which  focuses on greening a strip of land of 15 km. wide and about 8,000 km. long that  will affect 20 nations including Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan. PAGGW was adopted by the African Union in 2007 and ratified by member countries in 2010.

Another transnational infrastructure project that complements the Great Green Wall is the Trans Africa Pipeline (TAP). It is the first permanent solution to end devastating drought and increasing desertification across the Sahel region of northern Africa.

TAP is an 8,000 km. long freshwater pipeline that will provide clean, potable drinking water to 28-30 million people in 11 countries of the African Sahel. TAP will construct large-scale desalination plants on the west and east coasts of Africa. Regional tank farms and pumping stations for water storage and distribution would cross the Sahel for the management of the water source, which in turn can create upwards of 280,000 jobs across the Sahel.

The Trans Africa Water Pipeline has an agreement with the Pan African Great Green Wall Initiative, and both together can address 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals, but all member states and relevant stakeholders are needed to bring both projects to fruition.

We cannot impotently watch a pest, a mere insect, damage our human environment, when we have the means to defeat it.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

Russia Assists Uganda With Nuclear Energy. China Land Grabbing Is A Myth

(iStock)
{Development of nuclear energy in Africa is not only essential to provide the hundreds of thousands of additional megawatts of power required for Africa’s peace and economic growth. It also elevates African nations to higher scientific platform of infrastructure, which will raise the level of productivity of the entire economy.}

Russia to help Uganda develop nuclear energy

September 18, 2019

Russia’s state-owned companies have been at a key part of the strategy to bolster Moscow’s presence on the continent.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s is seeking to use his country’s uranium deposits to develop nuclear power.

The deal “lays the foundation for specific cooperation between Russia and Uganda” in the field of nuclear energy, Rosatom said.
It also paves the way for working together in “the creation of nuclear energy infrastructure, the production of radioisotopes for industry, medicine, agriculture, as well as the training of personnel”.Rosatom said the parties had agreed to organise visits by specialists in the “near future”.Moscow first signed a memorandum of understanding with Kampala in this area in 2017, ahead of Beijing, which signed a similar agreement in 2018.

Russia To Help Uganda Develop Nuclear Energy

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French Agronomist Proves that China’s “Land Grab” in Africa Is a Myth

PARIS, Sept. 16, 2019 – After the nomination of Chinese biologist, Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China Qu Dongyu, as Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on June 23, rumors went wild against the alleged Chinese plot to “take over” African food production.

French agronomist Jean-Jacques Gabas, a scientist, who traveled over Africa to investigate the situation, offered some clarity to {Le Monde} on September 13.

In effect, China became the head of the Organization for Industrial Development, the International Union for Tele-communications, the International Organization of Civil Aviation and, between 2016 and 2018, of Interpol.

“As a matter of fact, OECD financing of agriculture has been very poor over the last 30 years. It fell increasingly and led to the 2008 food crisis…. When you discuss the Chinese strategy with African agriculture ministers, they tell you: ‘Stop giving advice and creating fear. What did you finance over the last 30 years? Very little, given the need.’ And they aren’t mistaken,” he pointed out.

Asked if China wants to develop its imports of African agriculture products, Gabas, debunking what so many people fear.

“No. Since the end of the 2000, Beijing certainly is the first trading partner of Sub-Saharan Africa, but the share of agriculture in African exports to China represents only 2-3% of trade volume, almost nothing. China’s investments in African rice and sugar production go to regional African markets. Of course, Africa has 1.4 billion people to feed, which makes it very dependent on food imports. However, China knows that in world economic crises, notably in case of a food crisis in Africa, prices will be shaky and products will become scarce, impacting China’s domestic cereal production. China also wants to stabilize the African continent’s food production. What it imports from Africa are rubber, manioc for food packaging, and, depending on the years, peanuts, cotton, and wood. South African vineyards are also bought for export purposes. All of this implies very low volumes, far less than African food exports to Europe or those of mining products and fossil fuels to Africa….

Chinese companies are present and profit from market and investment opportunities, but without a marked strategy to ‘feed China.'”

Asked about the allegation of Chinese “land grabbing,” Gabas answers: “Respecting Chinese land acquisitions, viable statistics tell us that China is not number 1 and comes in only as 8th or 9th. Be it land for farming, mining, forestry, or rubber production, the largest investors remain OECD countries (U.S.A., U.K., and France), national companies or Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia. One observes that whenever the Chinese buy land and a conflict arises about the land or with part of the population, they retreat or change the nature of the utilization. … Chinese land grabbing is a myth.”

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Italian economist Antonino Galloni discusses principles of economic growth for developing nations.

Speaking from Xi’an, China on Sept. 12

“Africa and countries with an higher rate of demographic growth and lower GDP growth should promote a higher domestic growth,” Galloni said, by “improving their domestic industries, substitute imports, upgrading infrastructure, building efficient connections with Europe and the rest of the world.” Those countries should “export less raw materials and semi-finished products, create a productive capacity to fulfill the domestic demand and cut down low-wage exports.”

Galloni recalled that the first economist who understood this was the Italian Antonio Serra, at the end of 16th century, who demonstrated to the Spanish Viceroy in Naples that national wealth was not achieved through gold or silver, through taxation or selling raw materials, but “by improving the industriousness of citizens, mainly by education.”

Galloni also pushed the Transaqua project to bring water to Sub- Saharan Africa.

“Recently industrialized countries, like China, have correctly chosen to increase domestic demand instead of exports.” Investments in infrastructure, higher wages and employment are compatible with the increase of profits, but not with the “increase of the rate of profit,” which is typical of stock markets and financial investments.