Ugandan Students Turn Waste to Wealth

Students holding vegetables from the school garden.

By Melissa Kyeyune
Aug 30 2019 – Namugongo is a lush, forested community in central Uganda where tall trees are home to colourful birds and noisy monkeys.

The community has a tragic place in history: on 3 June 1886, 22 Ugandan Christian converts were publicly executed, on the orders of King Mwanga II of the Buganda Kingdom, in an attempt to ward off the influence of colonial powers with whom the Christians were associated.

The converts were elevated to sainthood by Pope Paul VI in 1964. Ugandans today see those converts as martyrs. They commemorate every 3 June, Martyrs Day, with weeklong celebrations that attract thousands of visitors from around the country.

During the week celebrants discard tons of waste, including plastic bottles, food and sewage, often throwing them into open channels, where they are likely to be transported by heavy rains into the premises of St. Kizito High School on the outskirts of the village.

Melissa Kyeyune

Waste to wealth

But the students of St. Kizito have come up with ways to collect that waste and transform it into wealth. They use the silt they collect to create and maintain the school’s pavers, and they create arts and crafts from the plastic straws and bottles, which they then sell.

The students also turn biowaste into organic fertilizer for the school gardens, where they learn to grow mushrooms, onions and cabbage, and they use dried briquettes made from biowaste as fuel to cook school meals.

A visit to the school reveals many recycling efforts by the students. Three large metal bed frames, refashioned by the students into a simple recycling facility, sit in the middle of the school courtyard. Here the students separate waste into paper, plastic and biodegradables.

“We get the dirty straws, wash them, and soften them. We then weave them into baskets, handbags, money purses, laptop bags, doormats and carpets. We sell the products to our parents and visitors,” says Patricia Nakibuule, one of the students producing the handcrafted items.

“I am responsible for ensuring that my fellow students, all 800 of them, have lunch to eat,” she says, smiling. “We use biowaste briquettes as fuel because this contributes to recycling and reduces deforestation.” The school does not need firewood and therefore does not have to cut down trees in the forest.

Aside from waste recycling, St. Kizito school equips students with skills in making soap and candles, caring for animals, landscaping and baking.

A student holding an SDG badge. Photo: Solomon Musisi

Students tell their stories

“At home, I rear poultry and grow tomatoes, so my parents do not spend a lot of money on food,” notes student Christine Nandujja, who says that she is applying smart farming concepts learned in school back at home.

Joseph Kakande, the school’s sports prefect, enjoys vegetable growing as much as basketball. “I learnt how to grow onions and mushrooms in school, then I started to do the same at home. It started off as a small project, but now I grow enough to even supply a hotel. I paid half of my last term’s school fees using the profits.”

To train current students, the school engages former graduates as well as other young experts in waste-to-energy projects. Brian Galabuzi, CEO of WEYE Clean Energy Company, a waste-to-energy project, trains young people in waste management and clean energy and uses the school as a laboratory for his award-winning initiatives.

He told Africa Renewal, “When I first came to the school a few years ago, I was a young university student with crazy ideas, but the students jumped right on board. They had come from rural areas and saw my ideas as an opportunity for them to develop their own skills. I benefitted greatly from their support.”

Today Galabuzi travels the world, showcasing ways to turn waste into clean energy.

Rhoda Nassanga, an engineer and a specialist in water conservation, regularly conducts training for the students. “My goal is to impart knowledge to the students while they are still in school and teach them about sustainable development goals,” says Nassanga. She benefits as well, as training the students allows her to use her engineering skills.

Brian (WEYE Clean Energy) displays a bag of briquettes. Photo: Solomon Musisi

Positive effects on the community

In turn, St. Kizito students have been training Namugongo community residents to make arts and crafts out of plastic waste and, as a result, earn incomes.

Now both the St. Kizito students and the larger Namugongo community are making efforts to preserve the environment, create ecofriendly businesses, manage environmental projects and use natural resources in sustainable ways.

Frederick Kakembo, the director of St. Kizito High School, who has a background in community development, says instructively, “I believe that you must first use what you have before you look elsewhere.”

*Published by the United Nations, Africa Renewal reports on and examines the many different aspects of the UN’s involvement in Africa, especially within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). It works closely with the many UN agencies and offices dealing with African issues, including the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa.

Reimagining ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ as Social Commentary on Inequalities in Asia-Pacific

By Srinivas Tata and Jaco Cilliers
BANGKOK, Thailand, Aug 30 2019 – It’s 1962, and in a modest Hong Kong neighborhood, a poetic love story unfolds. Filmed almost twenty years ago, Wong Kar-wai’s seminal movie In the Mood for Love captured the world’s imagination about lifestyle in the region.

A lower-middle class existence had never looked better. Fast forward to 2018 and a new movie, set in today’s Singapore captures the world’s attention, but for very different reasons.

“Crazy Rich Asians” mixes Asian family values, education and prosperity with a consumeristic facade of jewelry, clothes and luxury travel. The result is entertaining, yet thought-provoking: when did this seismic socio-economic shift take place? When did Asia become so prosperous, yet so unequal?

Research by the United Nations has shown that inequalities of both income and opportunities have been on the rise across the region over the past two decades. Our 2019 research with the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) shows two-thirds of the world’s ‘multi-dimensionally’ poor now live in middle-income countries.

Increases in income inequality have coincided with a narrower concentration of wealth in the Asia-Pacific region, now home to the greatest number of billionaires in the world. Their combined net worth is seven times the combined GDP of the region’s least developed countries.

Governments have committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and aim to fulfill the promise of “leaving no one behind”. Nonetheless, research reveals a worrying trend toward greater inequality, not just in incomes, but also in access to basic services — educational attainment, health, clean energy and basic sanitation.

Gender is, perhaps, the most important lens through which these stark inequalities in access to health, basic services and rights can be understood. And they are most likely to be left behind. In addition, natural disasters, which have become more frequent and intense, disproportionately affect the poorest. Due to their socio-economic plight, their capacity to recover is also seriously weakened.

Putting “Leave no one behind” into practice

Inequalities are not inevitable – they ‘stem from policies, laws, cultural norms, corruption, and other issues that can be addressed.’ To be addressed, they require a range of well-coordinated policy interventions. If left unchecked, inequalities ultimately threaten social cohesion, economic growth and environmental sustainability.

Several countries have prioritized investments in education, health and social protection to achieve more equitable development outcomes. Mongolia, for instance, now allocates 21 per cent of public expenditure toward social protection with a specific focus on children. This has resulted in a significant reduction in stunting.

Bhutan and Thailand have successfully introduced universal health care schemes. Viet Nam decided to boost financing toward education and health sectors, in effect managing or reversing the trend toward greater inequality.

Fiscal measures are equally fundamental in addressing inequality. Tax to GDP ratios are low in a number of countries across the region, especially in South Asia. Progressive taxation remains a critical tool for wealth and income redistribution.

Some countries are taking steps to reform their tax systems while others are finding innovative and creative ways to boost venue and enforce tax collection. In 2016, for instance, Thailand introduced an inheritance tax and China is planning to do so in the coming years.

Labour market policies aimed at improving working conditions, raising the minimum wage, and offering unemployment benefits can act as a buffer to protect the poorer segments of society.

While some countries in the region, especially in Southeast Asia, have raised the minimum wage, more comprehensive measures need to be taken. With the emergence and adoption of new technologies—automation, AI, and machine-learning—many low-skilled jobs and tasks are being eliminated.

Adopting and embracing new technologies would need to be viewed through the broader lens of achieving the SDG and leaving no one behind.

Emerging trends, such as the fourth industrial revolution and climate change have wider cross-border ramifications. Countering the negative impact on inequalities will require collective and coordinated responses at the national, regional and global levels. It is apparent that a range of pro-active actions need to be taken by policymakers in the region to tackle inequality. Business as usual will just not do it this time.

The producers of the comedy blockbuster probably did not intend to stir debate on socio-economic inequalities. Nonetheless, by showing us “Crazy Rich Asians” enjoying their lavish lifestyles, they also managed to hold up a mirror and make us think about the striking contradictions lived everyday by millions.

If the region is to continue to be a growth engine for the world and a centre of global economic dynamism, it will have to show that it is not just a place where billionaires feel at home, but also a region that is charting a more secure and sustainable future for those left behind.

UNICEF’s Goodwill Envoy a Messenger of ill-Will, Complain Critics

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra holds 5 year old Suleiman during a visit to his home in Amman, Jordan on 10 September 2017. Credit: UNICEF/UN0120373/Rich

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 29 2019 – When two-time Wimbledon tennis champion Boris Becker, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, refused to make a commitment not to play in South Africa, a country blacklisted for its apartheid policies, the UN children’s agency stripped him of the prestigious title, back in October 1987.

“I will be 20 years old this year and I am a good professional tennis player, but I think that I am too young to enter politics,” Becker said, while the then West German government protested the UNICEF firing, backing one of its own nationals.

And now 32 years later, another UNICEF goodwill ambassador Priyanka Chopra, a movie star and fashion model of Indian origin, is mired in a political controversy over her implicit support for the Indian armed forces poised to go to war with neighboring Pakistan over the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

“So, the goodwill ambassador has become a messenger of ill-will,’ Masood Haider, a longstanding UN correspondent for Pakistan’s leading English newspaper “Dawn”, told IPS.

At a press briefing August 22, Haider complained that UNICEF did not respond to a message seeking comments.

“I asked you about this Priyanka Chopra, the [Goodwill Ambassador], and I called UNICEF, and I called the press office… But nobody has responded at all.”

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters: “I can tell you that, for any Goodwill Ambassador, whether it’s Ms. Chopra or anyone else, we expect them to adhere to impartial positions when they speak on behalf of UNICEF or any other organization,” he said.

“When they speak in their personal capacity, they retain the right to speak about issues of interests or concern to them. Their personal views, however, do not reflect those of the agency with which they may be affiliated with,” he added.

According to an October 1987 report in the New York Times, Horst Cerni, a director of special projects for UNICEF, said Becker’s association with UNICEF, which began in April 1986, had been terminated because Becker had failed to say that he would never return to South Africa.

Becker was blacklisted by the UN Center Against Apartheid after he played in South Africa as a member of the West German Federation’s junior team in 1984. He was, however, only 16 years old at the time, traveling with the team and trying to qualify for the main draw of a grand prix event, the Times reported.

Credit: UNICEF/2017/Jordan/Sebastian Rich

UNICEF says its Ambassadors are leaders in the entertainment industry, representing the fields of film, television, music, sports and beyond.

“They demonstrate leadership in their professions and serve as positive role models through their work”.

As the first to instill an Ambassador Programme, with the appointment of celebrated actor Danny Kaye in 1954, UNICEF’s envoys have played a critical role in raising awareness of the needs for children, and have continued to use their talent and fame to fundraise, advocate, and educate on behalf of UNICEF, says the children’s agency.

Together, UNICEF Ambassadors have proven that being a public figure can be a powerful tool in mobilizing the support necessary to improve the lives of children and ensure their basic human rights

Salim Lone, a former Director of the United Nations News and Media Division, told IPS that Chopra, with tens of millions of social media followers, made an alarming comment recently.

“War is not something that I’m really fond of, but I am patriotic,” was how the Bollywood/Hollywood superstar, who was appointed UNICEF goodwill ambassador in 2016, described her views on war amid the rising tensions between India and Pakistan, he pointed out.

“She had a few months earlier tweeted her support for her country’s armed forces as Indian jets bombed an alleged militant camp in Pakistan, risking another war, potentially nuclear this time,” said Lone, a former Spokesman for the head of the UN mission in Iraq.

He said the entire world’s stability is being beset by an escalating degradation of long-held global values, many of which were pioneered and entrenched by the United Nations.

“The organization will undermine its greatest strength, its moral credibility, if it itself succumbs to this rising scourge”

Had UNICEF spoken to Ms. Chopra after her unfortunate February tweet, as it once used to do in such situations, she would not now have gone farther and suggested that patriotism required support for war, argued Lone.

After the outcry against Chopra’s remarks about not “really loving war”, the UN explained that its envoys adhere to UN guidelines whenever they speak on behalf of the organization. However, they are free to express personal opinions on other occasions.

“That is intolerable,” said Lone. “If someone who expresses racist or misogynistic or indeed pro-war sentiments in the name of freedom of personal expression can be kept on as a UN ambassador, then the UN will be seen to be actively contributing to the degradation it was created to end”.

In any event, he said, about three decades ago, another renowned UNICEF ambassador Boris Becker played in a tennis tournament in apartheid South Africa. When he refused to give UNICEF reassurance he wouldn’t do so again, that relationship was terminated, Lone added.

Meanwhile, in a testy exchange of words at a cosmetic industry’s trade show event in California in mid- August, Chopra said; “I have many, many friends from Pakistan, and I am from India, and war is not something that I’m really fond of but I am patriotic.”

“So, I’m sorry if I hurt sentiments to people who do love me and have loved me, but I think that all of us have a sort of middle ground that we all have to walk.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

The Arctic: Earth´s Last Frontier

By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, Aug 29 2019 – The last frontier for utilizing and maybe even exhausting Earth´s natural resources is opening up in the Arctic and some of the world´s wealthiest nations are trying to secure their piece of the cake. Some act openly, others are more secretive – recently one of the competitors entered the game in a remarkably unwieldy manner.

Lysekil is a picturesque town by Skagerak, a strait between Sweden, Denmark and Norway, opening up to the North Sea. For many years its main income came from salted herring and train oil, while it during the 19th century developed into a popular spa and bathing resort. Most Swedes know Lysekil as the birthplace of Kalle´s Caviar a popular sandwich spread of creamed smoked roe produced by Abba Seafood, a brand that provided the name for a Swedish pop group of world renown.

Many Swedes were astonished when Gunter Gao Jingde, chairman of a Hong Kong private investment company, Sunbase International (Holdings) Ltd., gave the city council of Lysekil an offer they did not refuse. Sunbase was established in 1991 and is active in property investment, transport, infrastructure and technology. It was in late November 2017 that Sunbase´s long-running and secretive negotiations with members of Lysekil´s city council were revealed. At this tiny community of 7,500 inhabitants Gunter Gao Jingde´s representatives proposed the construction of Scandinavia’s largest port. Town officials accepted the offer without any public consultation. Under Swedish law, the power to approve such projects is entirely in the hands of the local municipalities and cannot be challenged from above. Lysekil´s city council was tempted by a generous offer that did not only include an expansion of the town harbour, making it deep enough to receive huge vessels from all over the world. On top of that, Sunbase promised to expand the road net and railway system reaching Lysekil, bridging the nearby fjord of Gullmarn and invest in schools, hospitals and care for the elderly.

It was a reportage aired on Swedish national radio that alerted the people of Lysekil. Several of them declared that their elected representatives had taken them for a ride. The chairman of the City Council vented his anger over these “exaggerated protests”. After all, he and his colleagues had negotiated a deal with a foreign, private firm promising a bright future for Lysekil and he pointed out that VOLVO, the Swedish prestigious car manufacture in neighbouring Gothenburg, was a subsidiary of the Chinese motor company Geely. However, local protests became even more vociferous when it was revealed that Gao Jingde was not only a member of the small-circle Election Committee which selects the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region Government of the People´s Republic of China and since 1993 also a member of the Chinese People´s Political Advisory Conference a legislative advisory body of the People´s Republic of China. Furthermore, Sunbase is closely connected with the Chinese military establishment, among other things it owns the 18 Hong Kong land areas occupied by military installations and Gao Jingde has personally financed the publication of various books about China´s military forces.

Local opponents to the sale of Lysekil´s harbour became particularly upset when they could not be provided with any concrete guarantees that the planned port would not serve any Chinese military interests. Petitions signed by a long list of opponents to the Chinese deal was submitted to Lysekil´s city council and while facing negative publicity and local anger Sunbase finally called off the entire venture. 1

Why would China be interested in purchasing a port from a small, Swedish town and turn it into a huge state-of-the-art seaport structure? Most commentators agree that the initiative was probably related to the Chinese Government´s global strategy of infrastructure development and worldwide investment – The Belt and Road Initiative. The Lysekil port would become one link in what has been referred to as the Polar Silk Road, which through Chinese controlled ports and industrial hubs would be connected with a Pan-Asian Silk Road. From a transport point of view such an Arctic thoroughfare makes sense since sailing a container ship from China to northern Europe via the Arctic Sea north of Russia would shorten the alternative journey time via the Suez canal by 10 days.

However, this is probably not the only reason for China´s interest in the Arctic realms. Climate change and global warming are currently opening up access to Arctic riches, wetting the appetite of nations bordering the Arctic sea, and not only them – China has demonstrated a great interest in the untapped resources that have laid frozen and inaccessible in the distant north. The Arctic conceals huge deposits of minerals as well as an estimated 13 percent of the world´s oil reserves and 30 percent of the natural gas reserves.

Into this sensitive web of delicate, diplomatic maneuvers and carefully constructed plans for future exploitation of the Arctic U.S. President Donald J. Trump now has entered like an elephant in a porcelain shop, or as the Danish Newspaper Berlingske described his appearance – a clown stumbling into a circus ring. While the Danes´ were preparing for a state visit of the American President he suddenly offered to buy Greenland from them, declaring:

    Essentially it’s a large real estate deal. A lot of things can be done. Ownership of Greenland is hurting Denmark very badly because they’re losing almost $700 million a year carrying it. 2

The Danish Government was flabbergasted, the Royal Court scandalized and the Greenlanders horrified, one of them, Else Mathiesen told local media:

    You can’t just buy an island or a people. This sounds like something from the era of slavery and colonial power. 3

The Danish Pime Minister stated:

    Greenland is not for sale. Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland. I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously. 4

An undeterred Trump replicated:

    Denmark essentially owns it [Greenland]. We’re very good allies with Denmark, we protect Denmark like we protect large portions of the world. So the concept came up and I said ”Certainly I’d be strategically interested,”and we’d be interested, but we’ll talk to them a little bit.” It’s not No1 on the burner, I can tell you that. 5

After the debacle a deeply hurt Trump canceled his visit to Denmark, declaring:

    I thought the prime minister’s statement that it was an absurd idea was nasty.
    It was not a nice way of doing it. She could have just said, ”No, we’d rather not do it.” She’s not talking to me, she’s talking to the United States of America. They can’t say: ”How absurd.” 6

Trump´s ungainly behaviour has ripped open a sensitive scare. Greenland was until 1953 a Danish colony. In 1979, the Danish government granted home rule to the vast territory and in 2008 agreed to allow Kalaallit Nunaat, as it is called in Inuit, to gradually assume responsibility for policing, jurisdiction, mining and border control, while the Danish government retains its control of foreign affairs and defense. However, an increasing confidence fuelled by prospects of controlling the vast natural resources of the Arctic Sea make many of Greenland´s 55,000 inhabitants, the majority of them Inuit, favouring full independence from Denmark and Trump´s lack of diplomatic skills and ignorance of people´s rights have reignited the debate.

Like during the late 19th century´s ”scramble for Africa”, world powers are now in for a race to control riches that actually belong to others. A competition incited by greed and recklessness that may prove harmful to indigenous peoples, the environment and even world peace, in particular if stakeholders express dated opinions and behave with the blatant brutality of the current U.S. President.

1 Olssson, Jojje (2017) “Sanningen bakom Kinas miljardinvestering i Lysekil.” Fokus, December 29. Sunbase closed the negotiations on the 30th of January 2018: “Ingen kinesisk hamn i Lysekil”, Göteborgsposten, 30 January, 2018.
2 Pengelly, Martin (2019) ”Trump confirms he is considering attempt to buy Greenland,” The Guardian, 18 August.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Tisdall, Simon (2019) ”Trump´s bid to buy Greenland shows that the ´scramble for the Arctic´ is truly upon us,” The Guardian, 24 August.
6 Ibid.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

Festival Pays Tribute to Singer, Civil-Rights Icon Nina Simone

By A. D. McKenzie
LONDON, Aug 29 2019 – It must be a daunting prospect to sing songs made famous by the incomparable Nina Simone, but performers Ledisi and Lisa Fischer brought their individual style to a BBC Proms concert in London, honouring Simone and gaining admiration for their own talent.

The show, “Mississippi Goddam: A Homage to Nina Simone”, paid tribute to the singer, pianist and civil rights campaigner – a “towering musical figure” – at the Royal Albert Hall on Aug. 21, more than 16 years after Simone died in her sleep in southern France at the age of 70.

This was a celebration to recognise her “unique contribution to music history”, according to the Proms, an annual summer festival of classical music that also features genres “outside the traditional classical repertoire”.

The concert’s title refers to the song that marked a turning point in Simone’s career, when she composed it in fury and grief following the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, and the deaths of four African-American girls in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.

Performing the song at the tribute, New Orleans-born vocalist Ledisi held nothing back. She put all the anger and anguish that the lyrics required into her rendition, creating one of the high points of the concert.

The composition stood out particularly because of the contrast between the lyrics and the rhythm, and Ledisi – who’s also an actress and writer – emphasized this disparity. While the “tune has an almost fun-filled, pulsating vibe” (as conductor Jules Buckley put it in his written introduction to the show), the message itself is uncompromising.

“It speaks of murder, of dashed dreams and severe inequality, and it shattered the assumption that African-Americans would patiently use the legislative process to seek political rights,” Buckley wrote. Listeners got the full context, and they were reminded that some things have not changed much in the United States.

Conducting the Metropole Orkest, whose members played superbly, Buckley said that in putting together the programme he wanted to shine a light not only on Simone’s hits but also on a “few genius and lesser-known songs”. With the sold-out concert, he and the performers succeeded in providing the audience a clear idea of the range of Simone’s oeuvre.

The concert began with an instrumental version of “African Mailman” and segued into “Sinnerman”, the soulful track about the “wrongdoer who unsuccessfully seeks shelter from a rock, the river and the sea, and ultimately makes a direct appeal to God”, to quote Alyn Shipman, the author of A New History of Jazz who compiled the programme notes.

The orchestral introduction paved the way for Lisa Fischer’s arresting entrance. With her shaved head and flowing black outfit, she moved across the stage, singing “Plain Gold Ring” in her inimitable voice, evoking the image of an operatic monk. The two-time Grammy winner displayed the genre-crossing versatility for which she has become known, using her voice like a musical instrument and hitting unexpected lows before again going high. The audience loved it.

Fischer introduced Ledisi, who wore a scarlet gown (before changing to an African dress after the intermission), and the two women then took turns singing Simone’s repertoire, expressing love for the icon as well as appreciation for each other’s performances.

They both kept topping their previous song, and the temperature rose with “I Put a Spell on You” (Ledisi), “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (Fischer), “Ne me quitte pas” (poignantly rendered by Ledisi) and “I Loves You, Porgy” (memorably delivered by Fischer).

Then there was, of course, “Mississippi Goddam”, which followed a haunting, syncopated “Dambala”, a song made famous by Bahamian musician Tony McKay aka Exuma, who inspired Simone. Fischer performed “Dambala” with the requisite mysticism, getting listeners to shake to the beat.

Back-up vocalists LaSharVu, comprising three powerhouse singers, also contributed to the energy and success of the concert. Two of them joined Ledisi and Fischer for an outstanding and moving presentation of “Four Women” – Simone’s 1966 song about the lives of four African-American women that has become an essential part of her artistic legacy.

For other songs, LaSharVu teamed up with the orchestra to provide “percussive accompaniment” through clapping, and the orchestra’s skill on moving from reggae (“Baltimore”) to gospel underpinned the overall triumph of the show.

The concert ended with an encore, as Fischer and Ledisi performed “Feeling Good” to a standing ovation, and to comments of “fantastic”, “fabulous”, “amazing” and other superlatives.

The show was not the only part of the homage to Simone. Earlier in the day, the BBC’s “Proms Plus Talk” programme had featured a discussion of the “life, work and legacy” of the singer, with poet Zena Edwards and singer-musician Ayanna Witter-Johnson interviewed by journalist Kevin Le Gendre, author of Don’t Stop The Carnival: Black Music In Britain.

During this free public event, held at Imperial College Union, the three spoke of the impact Simone has had on their work and recalled her style and performances. They also discussed the abuse she suffered from her second husband and the painful relationship she had with her only daughter, Lisa, whom Simone in turn physically abused.

Witter-Johnson said that Simone had inspired her to feel empowered in performing different genres, so that she could sing and play music across various styles. “Her courage, outstanding musicianship and love of her heritage will always be a continual source of inspiration,” she said later.

In response to a comment from an audience member, a publisher, that Simone had been an extremely “difficult” person, Edwards stressed that Simone had been a “genius” and could be expected to not have an easy personality. Le Gendre meanwhile pointed to the difficulties Simone herself had experienced, with relationships, record companies, and the American establishment, especially after she began defending civil rights.

In an email interview after the tribute, Le Gendre said Simone’s music had had a “profound effect” on him throughout his life.

“There are so many anthems that she recorded it is difficult to know where to start, but a song like ‘Four Women’ can still move me to tears because it is such an unflinchingly honest depiction of the black condition that African-Americans, African-Caribbeans and black Britons can easily relate to,” he said.

“The way she broaches the very real historical issues of rape on a plantation, girls forced into prostitution and the internal battles based on skin shade affected me a great deal because, having lived in the West Indies and the UK and visited America several times, I know that what she is talking about is simply the truth,” he added.

“There is a war within the race as well as between the races, and we will only move beyond self-destruction if we firstly recognise these painful facts. I continue to be inspired by her ability to ‘keep it real’ as well as her great musicianship. Above all else she has made me think, as well as listen and dance.”

The BBC Proms classical music festival runs until Sept. 14 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. A concert on Aug. 29 features “Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music”, with conductor Peter Edwards, pianist Monty Alexander and tap dancer Annette Walker.

(This article is published by permission of Southern World Arts News – SWAN. You can follow the writer on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale)

Triumph of the Right is Changing the World Order

Supporters of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro celebrated his triumph in the early hours of Oct. 29, in front of the former captain’s residence on the west side of Rio de Janeiro. The far-right candidate garnered 55.13 percent of the vote and began his four-year presidency on Jan. 1, 2019. Credit: Fernando Frazão/Agencia Brasil

By Katharina Hofmann De Moura
SAO PAULO, Brazil, Aug 29 2019 – The crisis of regional and multilateral institutions goes hand in hand with the international rise of right-wing populism. In the US, the UK, Russia, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Turkey, the Philippines and Brazil, we are experiencing the rise of right-wing populist politicians who throw headline-grabbing barbs at global compromises and the negotiating processes of supranational institutions such as the UN.

The more countries succumb to right-wing populism, the lower the chances of curbing climate change and social inequality and triggering the transition to a sustainable economic model.

While criticism of economic globalisation came predominantly from the left in the past, it’s currently becoming the core narrative of the Right. All over the world, right-wing populists are making protectionism the key theme of their regime.

They are using frustration with the social upheavals of neoliberal globalisation as a narrative. Job losses due to relocations, the decline of whole industrial sites, concerns about uncontrolled immigration and the search for identity in a multipolar world are skilfully exploited. The result is a historic, authoritarian-style populist ‘backlash’.

Despite their anti-globalisation rhetoric, however, the right-wing populists are not convincing protagonists against free trade. Rather, they are usually aligned with or even part of economic and financial elites. Their target group is the lower middle class who often does not actually benefit from their policies.

People in this electoral group feel that they are net losers from globalisation. In the populists’ promises, they see compensation for the perceived and sometimes real loss of national sovereignty.

Katharina Hofmann De Moura

Right-wing populists are making inroads into the centres of political power because they focus on the issues that are causing uncertainty and growing inequality: fear of downward social mobility, unemployment and lack of prospects.

The globalisation of right-wing populism

Alignment of these global right-wingers is progressing apace. For instance, current Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro based his election campaign on Donald Trump’s strategy. ‘The Movement’, headed by Steve Bannon, Trump’s former election campaign advisor, has successfully forged links in Europe and Latin America as well as the US.

The formula is always the same: building up the national economy as a bastion against foreign influence while attacking the left for supposedly neglecting the interests of the majority of the population in favour of a ‘politics of identity’ geared towards minorities and a snobbish urban electorate.

The Western model of liberal democracy, so heavily influenced by Germany in the post-war era, is visibly ailing.

The right-wing populists rely on dividing society and pit various population groups and their interests against each other. Brazil provides a powerful example of this. ‘Only vegans are interested in nature,’ was Bolsonaro’s response to accusations of large-scale environmental destruction.

Accordingly, ‘America First’ has become ‘Brasil Primeiro’. The focus on neoliberal economic policy is underpinned with contemptuous remarks against minorities, extending as far as incitement to violence. Society is extremely polarised and the centre is fading away.

In a WhatsApp campaign focused on inadequate public safety and spiralling corruption, Bolsonaro managed to win the elections in the largest and, until the controversial removal of Dilma Roussef in 2016, most progressively governed country in Latin America.

The Brazilian election campaign is a good example of how right-wing movements use ‘social’ media to get closer to the people. They convey a sense of direct influence and apparent power and portray themselves on Twitter as ‘down-to-earth’.

Denial, denial, denial

Science and facts are flatly denied. For instance, Brazil’s foreign minister Ernesto Araujo has dismissed climate change as a ‘Communist invention’. This statement echoes Trump’s anti-climate ideology.

Bolsonaro denies the authenticity of satellite images that show how deforestation of the Amazon has doubled since he took office, and summarily dismissed the director of the renowned INPE institute (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais) when it published the corresponding data.

Historical denial is also part of the package, such his ‘own account’ of the military dictatorship, shamelessly praising torture. Right-wing populist movements manipulate citizens and employ an anti-intellectualism, a hatred of the so-called ‘elite’ – which obviously means the educational rather than the economic elite.

The right-wing populist is a self-styled ‘straightforward man’ of the people. The anti-politician is coming to the fore. Ideological confrontation is the aim, not least in order to deflect from the results of his own economic policy – Brazil remains mired in an economic crisis, with growth of just 0.8 per cent.

The rise of right-wing populism is exacerbating the crisis of the international order. The unprecedented rise of China is weakening Europe’s position as a global democratic power, while also challenging the decades-long formula of ‘democracy combined with economic growth’.

Economic development just seems to be achievable more quickly without democracy, as democratic processes require votes and compromises and everything is based on dialogue. That’s why many countries in the South admire the rise of China and not division-wracked Europe.

The Western model of liberal democracy, so heavily influenced by Germany in the post-war era, is visibly ailing. Many analysts are already talking of the end of the liberal international order. Pressure on the European states will grow, as the upcoming emerging nations show no ambitions to assume regional or multilateral responsibility.

For instance, the Brazilian president says, ‘The Amazon is ours, not yours,’ and brooks no criticism from Europe. No international responsibility and no external interference is the guiding principle of authoritarian rulers.

Although it is currently weakened, Brazil has a well-organised left-wing civil society as well as trade unions and the Workers’ Party.

Gone is the optimistic era of global governance that only recently was largely shaped by the BRICS alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). BRICS embodied the ‘rise of the South’, aimed at building a better world on an equal footing with the North.

The euphoria of multilateralism has since faded away. Whereas there were still hopes in the early 2000s that the emerging nations would become ‘anchor countries’, taking responsibility for regional integration and democratisation, most of their heads of state are now populists.

They too are looking for new alliances, but under different premises. So, the world is indeed converging, but only because of a growth in populism in Europe rather than an upturn in democracy in the South. Whole new alliances are being forged.

For instance, on the UN Human Rights Council, Bolsonaro is backing the Arab nations, which criticise the term ‘gender’ and jointly aim to stand up for ‘traditional family values’.

So what’s left for the left?

Left-wing governments cannot resolve this dilemma in the short term. The left’s partly self-inflicted loss of power because of its naive embracing of globalised free trade has been underestimated.

Now, business owners like Blackrock and the large multinationals have hit on a hitherto unknown form of capital accumulation that produces a form of wealth redolent of feudal times. Big corporations control social media, enabling them to build up their own influence even more and further undermine that of politicians (a phenomenon now known as ‘corporate capture’).

According to research by the Folha de São Paulo newspaper, owners of large stores and restaurant chains paid 12 million reais (€3 million) per WhatsApp campaign to service providers, ensuring mass distribution of lots of fake news against the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores) in the Brazilian election campaign. Bolsonaro’s supporters then forwarded this fake news to their individual contact lists in a snowball process.

Democratic politicians were no match for the right in terms of their method – but that’s alright, as it is illegal. Before the 2018 elections, election campaign financing by companies was banned for the first time in Brazil’s history. The above-mentioned business owners had to pay fines, yet the elections were declared valid.

However, the Brazilian left is using social media to mobilise protests, for example against cuts to the education budget and health and social programmes, against liberalisation of weapons laws, in favour of women’s and LGTBI rights, and against an unfair pension reform.

Although it is currently weakened, Brazil has a well-organised left-wing civil society as well as trade unions and the Workers’ Party. And they will not readily give into right-wing populism.

Our Food Systems Need Transformation

By Zoltán Kálmán
ROME, Aug 28 2019 – The right to food is a universal human right. Yet, over 820 million people are going hungry, according the latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI 2019). In addition, 2 billion people in the world are food insecure with great risk of malnutrition and poor health” 1.

Another report 2 describes the situation even more worrying: “At the global level, one person in three is malnourished today and one in two could be malnourished by 2030 in a business-as-usual scenario. While hunger remains a critical concern, malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity) now affects all countries, whether low-, middle- or high-income. Those different forms of malnutrition can co-exist within the same country or community, and sometimes within the same household or individual.”

Against this backdrop, the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) 3, which is, at the global level, the foremost inclusive and evidence-based international and intergovernmental platform for food security and nutrition (FSN), requested a High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) 4 to prepare a report on nutrition and food systems. The comprehensive HLPE report 5 is the basis for a series of inclusive, multi-stakeholder discussions at global and regional levels, including e-consultations, to provide inputs for shaping the Voluntary Guidelines (VGs) on Food Systems and Nutrition.

The zero draft 6 of the VGs provides a comprehensive overview on the situation of food security and nutrition. However, among the causes of malnutrition, appropriate reference to the root causes is still missing: poverty and inequalities. Due to their extreme poverty, many people do not have access to enough nutritious food, although it should not be a privilege, it is a basic human right. This confirms the need for transformation of our current food systems and make them more sustainable.

One basic problem is the misconception of low food price policy. The impacts of low food prices on the consumers’ behaviour are significant, including their buying preferences. The situation of “low food prices” appears to be the result of competition among retailers and as such, they seem to be positive, favouring the poor people. In reality, all people, including the poor, suffer the consequences of low food prices, which regularly mean low quality of food. Low quality, ultra-processed food (frequently with high fat, sugar and salt content, the so-called junk food) have serious consequences on the nutrition status of the poor populations, leading to obesity, overweight and other non-communicable diseases. Food prices generally do not reflect the real costs of production, ignore the positive and negative impacts (externalities) of food systems on the environment and on human health.

For the right decisions to transform our current food systems, true cost accounting is essential, giving due consideration to all environmental and human health externalities. This could help shape the VGs, recommending appropriate measures, policy incentives in support of sustainable solutions. There are ample scientific evidences related to the true costs of food and there are several studies 7 available on this topic.

In addition, artificially distorted, low food prices have a strong impact on the food waste as well. Cheap food conveys the message that it does not represent a real value and consumers will throw away food more easily. Higher food prices (reflecting the true costs of food) would discourage consumers to buy more than they effectively need. Realistic prices of food do not imply generally high food prices. Only the prices of those (ultraprocessed, junk) food would go up which do not internalize the environmental and public health externalities. Studies show that as a result of true cost accounting, locally produced, fresh, healthy, unprocessed (whole) food would become more competitive, for the benefit of those who produce them, and in particular, the consumers and the whole society. The solution for the poor is not cheap food, but decent work and wages, essential to combat extreme poverty. In addition, the costs of decent wages are much lower than the benefits of saving great amounts of public health care expenditure.

For the transformation of our food systems, sustainability should be the driving principle, paying due attention to the (so far ignored) environmental and social dimensions. Obviously, the economic dimension should also be considered, keeping in mind, however, that economic sustainability is nothing else but the result of the financial policy incentives or subsidies, promoting one or another type of food systems. In this regard, national legislators have enormous responsibility in providing the appropriate policy incentives to those food systems, which are sustainable. Sustainability addresses climate change adaptation and mitigation concerns as well, and goes well beyond, it provides adequate responses to a number of other environmental challenges (biodiversity loss, soil degradation) and to social issues as well, like rural employment.

The VGs are expected to provide assistance for the transformation of food systems and to make them more sustainable, in order to eliminate hunger and all forms of malnutrition and to supply fresh, diverse, nutritious food for a healthy diet for all.

1 http://www.fao.org/publications/sofi/en/
2 HLPE. 2017. Nutrition and food systems. A report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and
Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security, Rome.
3 http://www.fao.org/cfs/home/en/
4 http://www.fao.org/cfs/cfs-hlpe/en/
5 http://www.fao.org/3/a-i7846e.pdf/
6 http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/cfs/Docs1819/Nutrition/CFS_Zero_Draft_Voluntary_Guidelines_Food_Systems_and_Nutrition.pdf
7 http://www.fao.org/family-farming/detail/en/c/436356/; or http://teebweb.org/agrifood/measuring-what-matters-in-agriculture-and-food-systems/.

African Risk Capacity and Africa CDC Sign Partnership Agreement to Strengthen Disease Outbreak Preparedness

ASG Mohamed Beavogui, Director-General, African Risk Capacity (Right) and Dr John Nkengasong, Director, Africa Centre for Disease Control (Left) at the signing of the Partnership Agreement during the ongoing TICAD7 in Yokohama, Japan.

By African Risk Capacity
Aug 28 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The African Risk Capacity (ARC) and the Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) have signed a Partnership Agreement to establish a collaborative framework to help African Union Member States strengthen preparedness and emergency response against infectious diseases, of epidemic nature.

ARC and Africa CDC have been working together, in collaboration with other stakeholders, on establishing the “Africa Epidemic Preparedness Index” which is an innovative project for strengthening outbreak preparedness assessment within the framework of the International Health Regulation (IHR 2005) compliance.

“This is in line with our ongoing strategic and technical collaboration to provide AU Member States with an array of risk management tools, including early warning, contingency planning, and alternative financing options against infectious disease outbreaks. The next steps will be how quickly we can assist Governments to begin strengthening capacities for risk reduction and mitigation before the next outbreak….”

UN-ASG Mohamed Beavogui, DG, ARC Yokohama

“This Agreement is in line with our ongoing strategic and technical collaboration to provide AU Member States with an array of risk management tools, including early warning, contingency planning, and alternative financing options against infectious diseases”, said ASG Mohamed Beavogui, the Director-General of ARC.

“The next steps will be to explore how quickly we can assist Governments to begin strengthening capacities for risk reduction and mitigation before the next outbreak. Particularly, to encourage prioritization of investments in emergency preparedness and response plans for effective recovery from public health events”, he concluded.

The Outbreaks and Epidemics (O&E) insurance programme of the African Risk Capacity was born in the wake of the devastating 2014 West African Ebola crisis. The lessons from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, revealed that, in addition to weaknesses in health systems, slow unpredictable funding was a major contributing factor to the inability of the Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia to rapidly respond to the initial outbreaks.

Therefore, the ARC Conference of the Parties, States and African Ministers of Finance in 2015, requested for a product to address Africa’s financing needs to contain outbreaks of viruses and diseases common to the African continent, and in the event of spread or secondary transmission.

“Establishing early warning and response surveillance platforms to address all health emergencies in a timely and effective manner towards supporting public health emergency preparedness and response are pivotal to our work”, said Dr John Nkengasong, Director, Africa CDC. “Our partnership with ARC will consolidate this effort and provide a good synergy to support Member States in health emergencies response in addition to promoting critical partnerships to address emerging and endemic diseases and other public health emergencies”.

The Africa CDC supports all African Countries to improve surveillance, emergency response, and prevention of infectious diseases. This includes addressing outbreaks, man-made and natural disasters, and public health events of regional and international concern. It further seeks to build the capacity to reduce disease burden on the continent. It is a specialised technical institution of the African Union that serves as a platform for Member States to share knowledge, exchange lessons learnt, build capacity, and provide technical assistance to each other.

About African Risk Capacity (ARC): The African Risk Capacity model is an innovative, cost-effective, and is proving that it can assist Member States to strengthen their capacities to better plan, prepare and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters, thereby achieving the food security for their populations. Since 2014, 32 policies have been signed by Member States with US$73million paid in premiums for a cumulative insurance coverage of US$553million for the protection of 55million vulnerable population in participating countries.

ARC is now using its expertise to help tackle some of the other greatest threats faced by the continent, including outbreaks and epidemics.

For more information, please visit: www.africanriskcapacity.org PRESS CONTACT Chinedu Moghalu chinedu.moghalu@arc.int; chinedu.moghalu@wfp.org Contact on ARC O&E Insurance Programme: Robert Kwame Agyarko, robert.agyarko@arc.int

TICAD7: PM Shinzo Abe says Japan will help double Africa’s rice production by 2030

Rice fields in Northern Ghana. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

Rice fields in Northern Ghana. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Nafissatou Diouf
YOKOHAMA, Japan, Aug 28 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The Sasakawa Association will work with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), to help double rice production to 50 million tonnes by 2030.  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the announcement at the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) symposium held on Wednesday during TICAD7.

“Japanese technology can play a key role in innovation which is key to agriculture,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told delegates.

We want to help shift the mindset of small-holder farmers from producing-to-eat to producing-to-sell. We are hopeful that Africa’s youth can take agriculture to a new era, and that they can see a career path in agriculture

Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon foundation

Discussions at the Symposium focused on Africa’s youth bulge, unemployment rates, agricultural innovations and technologies, solutions and job creation opportunities in the agricultural sector.

“We’ve always believed in the agriculture potential of Africa,” said Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon foundation.  “We are paying more attention to income-generating activities. We want to help shift the mindset of small-holder farmers from producing-to-eat to producing-to-sell. We are hopeful that Africa’s youth can take agriculture to a new era, and that they can see a career path in agriculture,” he added.

In a keynote address, African Development Bank Group President, Akinwumi Adesina, called for urgent and concerted efforts to “end hunger”.

“In spite of all the gains made in agriculture. We are not winning the global war against hunger. We must all arise collectively and end global hunger. To do that, we must end hunger in Africa. Hunger diminishes our humanity,” Adesina urged.

According to the FAO’s 2019 State of Food and Security, the number of hungry people globally stands at a disconcerting 821 million. Africa alone accounts for 31% of the global number of hungry people – 251 million people.

Commending the Sasakawa Association’s late founder, Ryochi Sasakawa, for his tireless efforts in tackling hunger, Adesina said: “Passion, dedication and commitment to the development of agriculture and the pursuit of food security in our world has been the hallmark of your work.”

Between 1986 and 2003, Sasakawa Association in Africa, operated in a total of 15 countries including – Ghana, Sudan, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, Mali, Guinea, Zambia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi and Mozambique.

 

Harnessing the potential of new technologies

Adesina expressed confidence in the ability of technology to deliver substantial benefits in agriculture. To accelerate Africa’s agricultural growth, the African Development Bank has launched the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) to deliver new technologies to millions of farmers. ‘TAAT has become a game changer, and is already delivering impressive results, Adesina said.

Working with 30 private seed companies, the TAAT maize compact produced over 27,000 tons of seeds of water efficient maize that was planted by 1.6 million farmers.

 

Tackling climate change: a top priority

Hiroyuki Takahashi, founder of Pocket Marche, a platform that connects Japanese farmers and producers with consumers, shared insights and lessons learnt from Japan’s experiences, historic cycles of climate disasters and the country’s rebound.

“The power to choose what we eat is the power to stop the climate crisis and bring sustainable happiness to a world with limited resources,” Takahashi said.

It is estimated that Africa will heat up 1.5 times faster than the global average and require $7-15 billion a year for adaptation alone. Limiting the impacts of climate change is expected to become a top priority for Africa.

“Africa has been short changed by climate change. But, it should not be short changed by climate finance,” Adesina said in his concluding remarks.

“Let’s be better asset managers for nature. For while we must eat today, so must future generations coming after us. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that we do not leave empty plates on the table for generations to come,” Adesina concluded.

 

Nafissatou Diouf is Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank