Sub-Saharan Africa Lags Behind

Published on 21st June 2005

Desertification: A Threat

Environmental degradation is threatening the health and livelihoods of two billion people living in arid regions round the world, said an international team of researchers. They said that that desertification is among the world\'s greatest environmental challenges. The researchers published their findings last week, June 16, 2005 in a report of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a US$22 million study by an international partnership of scientists, UN agencies, the World Bank and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). According to the report, desertification is spreading because of climate change and population growth, both of which have led to pressure on resources such as water for irrigating fields. It says that 43 per cent of the world\'s cultivated land is in drylands. “Desertification is not due to lack of knowledge and science, but to a lack of proper governance,\" says co-author Uriel Safriel, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Safriel explains that the knowledge needed to generate sustainable incomes from drylands is available in the world\'s scientific and engineering communities, yet doesn\'t reach the people affected.

Pest resistant maize variety

Kenyan scientists announced what they described as a major breakthrough in the search for pest-resistant maize variety. The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) is to release into the market the generically modified maize, which is resistant to the stem borer which is the cause of huge losses to farmers. KARI Director Romano Kiome said last week that the research at the institute\'s Kiboko station in Kibwezi was about to be completed. He said that the conventional seed which is between 40 per cent and 50 per cent stem-borer-resistant would be released next year, while the new type that is 100 per cent resistant will be out in 2009. \"It is fantastic news for farmers as it will reduce the production costs by 30 per cent,\" Dr. Kiome said. KARI is also working on genetically modified varieties of potatoes, cassava and cotton under the Insect-Resistant Maize for Africa project.

Sub-Saharan Africa Lags Behind

Asia\'s remarkable victory in its war on poverty has put the world, except for Sub-Saharan Africa, on target to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), designed by a United Nations summit five years ago to reduce extreme poverty and other forms of deprivation by 2015. According to The Millennium Development Goals Report 2005, an interim survey launched by Secretary-General Kofi in New York last week, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen by 130 million worldwide since 1990, even with an overall growth of more than 800 million in the developing regions since then. While about one billion people in the developing world still live on less than a dollar day, in Sub-Saharan Africa, that income actually fell, from 62 cents a day in 1990 to 60 cents in 2001, he said. The MDG report said that by 2015, the poorest countries in Africa are likely to have a rising proportion of those living in extreme poverty, lacking a primary school education and dying before the age of 5.

Leadership

The most startling aspects of President Thabo Mbeki\'s decision to fire his deputy, Jacob Zuma, was his failure to get the whole nation behind him on his commitment to clean governance in South Africa. In his six-year leadership, he has had no qualms about swimming against the tide of popular opinion. His stance on AIDS won him no friends among the rank and file; his quiet diplomacy on Zimbabwe alienated him from many sections of society and his economic policies do not enjoy widespread support in the ANC-led tripartite alliance, or in civil society. This time he again swam against the tide but for the right, moral reason and found hostility among some in the ANC and among the leaders of its left-wing allies. It\'s all about leadership.

 


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