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  • Food security in Sub Saharan Africa is under threat with the continent losing an average US$4 billion in post-harvest losses annually, hence the need for farmers on the continent to invest in modern storage methods to avert acute hunger,  the United Nations food agency has advised.

  • Giraffes are one of Africa’s most iconic animals, beloved by tourists from around the world who take home with them iconic wooden carvings of the magnificent animal each and every day… And yet giraffe numbers across Africa are plummeting with an estimated drop of 40% over the last 30 years to an estimated 97,500 individuals remaining throughout the continent.

  • THE world's eyes have turned to Africa, attracted by its economic performance.

  • Given the change in global agricultural production and trade patterns that followed the Carter grain embargo in 1980, it is worth considering what changes may emerge in the years after the Trump era tariffs.

  • In an interview, Doug Casey comments:

  • • Increasing demand for agricultural land putting pressure on forests.-• High proportion of cocoa smallholdings means doubly acute pressure.
    • Digital farming tools can help identify farmable forest areas. -

  • Night and day, he thinks of his donkeys. Are they still in the fields, munching on hay? Or has someone stolen them once again, wrecking his business for some foreigner's cash?

  • The Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has commended Nigeria as the number one rice producer in Africa and debunks claims by the World Food Programme (WFP) that Nigeria risks sliding into a hunger crisis.

  • The Nile – the world’s longest river – runs through 11 countries in Africa and has a basin that covers about 3 million sq kms, nearly 10% of the continent’s landmass.

  • Kenyan food production and grazing land is under threat from a huge desert locust invasion.

  •  Over 60% of all employed women in Sub-Saharan Africa work in agriculture. Yet the region’s women farmers often reap a meager harvest, not because of inclement weather or poor soil quality, but because of their gender – or, more specifically, because of a dense web of laws, policies, programs, and customs that put them at a significant disadvantage.

  •  The hum of millions of locusts on the move is broken by the screams of farmers and the clanging of pots and pans. But their noise-making does little to stop the voracious insects from feasting on their crops in this rural community.

  • Consecutive years of drought, flooding and economic decay have left a record 45 million people in southern Africa facing severe food shortages, aid agencies have said.

  • The remnants of a forgotten world can be found all along the Mpumalanga escarpment. You can see glimpses of it if you watch the passing countryside when driving through this area.

    You will see sections of buildings in stone near the sides of the road, further away on the hills above you and the valley sides below.

    An aerial view of the escarpment reveals clusters of stone walling and sprawling expanses of stone circles, mazes of stone ridging linked by long stone passages. These structures span 150 kilometres from Ohrigstad to Carolina and connect over 10,000 square kilometres of the Mpumalanga escarpment.

    It’s a world of stone settlements and agricultural innovation that archaeologists have been aware of for many decades. But these structures have not received the attention they deserve from researchers, heritage agencies or tourist authorities.

    Part of the reason for this historical neglect was a racist insistence that because these sites were built from stone they can’t have been the work of Africans. Various outsiders, including ancient Indians and visitors from outer space, have been credited with constructing them. One consequence of these risible assertions was to distract resources and attention from serious research and much needed preservation.

    But in recent years interdisciplinary research has formed the core of new understandings of the stone-walled structures. These sites are the remnants of the Bokoni society which once dominated the escarpment.

     
    Ancient master farmers
    The settlements emerged around 1500 and lasted until the 1820s. They were based on intensive farming techniques including massive investment in stone terracing and cattle paths which allowed for the cultivation of rich volcanic soils on the hillsides of the escarpment.

    Crop cultivation was combined with closely managed livestock production. Cattle were kept at the heart of settlements at night and moved out during the day to feed on the diverse grasslands that existed on the higher lying slopes and in the valleys below.

    This pattern ensured that highly nutritious milk could play a central part in the diet of these communities. And this probably contributed to an unusually large population developing in Bokoni by the standards of the time.

    This system was unique in South Africa and was the largest intensive farming system in south or east Africa. It connected to systems of long distance trade which spanned the interior and linked to the east coast and the vast and ancient Indian Ocean trading system.

    Trade pioneers
    Visitors to Delagoa Bay made mention of a ‘Grain King’ living in the interior. The sorghum and millet produced on the escarpment were exchanged for copper and iron goods from Phalaborwa and Messina. This regional trade connected to an international network of exchange and currency which was based on the export of gold, ivory, cloth, glass beads and, increasingly, slaves.

    This system of trade and production was the beating heart of a regional economic system that long preceded development of mining-based processes of development which are conventionally seen as the beginning of South African economic history.


    A documentary called Forgotten Worlds captures the incredible structures on film.
    The walls also stand in mute but eloquent reproach to the host of commentators who have suggested that prior to the arrival of settler farming, African agriculture was rudimentary, subsistence-oriented, transient and barely capitalised. The terraces mock the academics who have argued that production for markets only became prevalent amongst Africans in the last decades of the nineteenth century and were rooted in colonial pressure and opportunity. Bokoni provides ample evidence of high levels of innovation, skill and agrarian specialisation.

    The end of an era
    The way of life that had emerged in Bokoni was destroyed in the 1820s as a result of attacks by the armies of new, more militarised states such as the Ndwandwe, Swazi and Zulu kingdoms which intruded on this area. The Bokoni settlements – which were rich in people, cattle and grain and organised on the basis of production – were no match for armies skilled in warfare. The population was either taken captive, especially women and children, or fled to safer areas.

    This sudden tragic ending helps to explain why the history of Bokoni has been undervalued. History has a tendency to focus on the winners and ignore the losers no matter how successful they might have been.

    Given the rapidly expanding body of work on this lost world one would have expected state and provincial heritage agencies to be at the forefront of protecting and promoting them.

    This, sadly, has not been the case.

    A criminal neglect
    A degree of disinterest was more understandable in the context of apartheid, which ignored forms of African heritage that could not be used to buttress ethnic divisions. But the neglect of Bokoni after 1994 is an indictment of the effectiveness of national and provincial heritage agencies. It is an expression of the blinkered and self-referential vision of the dominant political organisations in relation to history and heritage.

    The Bokoni settlements have received no official recognition as a heritage site. Even more alarming is the fact that little in the way of protection has been extended to prevent the destruction of key sites and artefacts. Many of them are in a state of dereliction and decay, open to plunder and strewn with litter.

    Walls that have stood for hundreds of years are in grave danger of finally being toppled by official indifference, vandalism and unregulated development.

    Important preservation initiatives have been taken by local landowners and communities, but a huge amount more needs to be done to ensure that the marvels and puzzles provided by these myriad sites are available for future generations to visit, research and debate.

  • Being raised in a family where all income came from my mother’s farm is something hard to forget. My mother told me that farming is not easy, but if you have skills, tools and passion, farming will be easy and profitable.

    Even if I was quite small during that time, I do remember the efforts my mother used on our farm in order to get a pretty harvest. Potatoes, maize (corn) and beans were the main crops my mother used to cultivate.

    My school fees, school uniforms, school insurance, notebooks, pens, shoes and much more were coming from my mother’s harvest. She is the reason I am who I am today. Her dream was to see me in a position where I am helping the most vulnerable community in my village.

    I do remember being with her in her green farm while she was grabbing some weedy grasses so that our maize can grow well. It was a most beautiful time that I still am missing.

    As the days went on, my mother’s farm was no more producing the same harvest we used to get. Climate change, resistant pests and diseases have swept away all my mother’s harvest. Farming is no longer her option. What else she can do?

    Food instability, lack of money, joblessness and a struggle to pay health care Insurance are now the characteristics of my family. There are many other farm households out there also still struggling like my family. Agriculture is becoming harder than ever.

    Asking about the effects of fall armyworm, which has destroyed completely my family’s and neighbors’ maize and beans farms, is like asking someone who is bleeding if he /she has a wound. If you want to see the anger of maize and beans farmers, ask them about the history of fall armyworm in Rwanda between the years 2017-2018. My advice: don’t ask.

    Jean Claude Habimana in his mother’s corn field in Rwanda when the harvests were still good.
    My neighbor who used to cultivate banana can testify about the bad experience of banana bacteria wilt. The mountains I used to see filled with green banana are now either empty due to banana bacteria wilt or replaced with other crops.

    In my home country, Rwanda, “banana is symbol of richness.” Over 70 percent of Rwandans in the eastern part of the country consume banana foods three times per day, and over 80 percent depend on the added value of banana, selling beer, juice or fruits to generate money.

    Beyond fall armyworm and banana bacteria wilt, the cassava mosaic virus arrived in the southern part of Rwanda in about 2015 and has left hundreds of thousands in loss. In the south, cassava was and still is the main crop that generates food and money. But cankers, leaf spot and cassava bacterial blight are still demolishing hundreds of hectares of the crop.

    You and I, maybe we can’t feel the same pain a farmer feels when he/she cultivates certain acres with a loan from the bank or microfinance and unfortunately, the pests come and destroy all. Who is going to pay back the loan? Where is food going to come from? Health insurance? School fees? Money? Our farmers whom we are relying on for survival are suffering more than any other person in this world.

    In the western part of Rwanda, where farmers grow potatoes, bees have been greatly reduced and bee farmers have already closed their hives or moved them to some other part of the country. Due to the overuse of pesticides, conserving biodiversity is another big challenge.

    It was confirmed that overuse of pesticides not only kills insects, including bees and ants, and some birds, but also destroys the life of people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Imagine the lungs of those people who are using extra pesticides day to day to save their crops. Meanwhile, they are demolishing not only themselves but also biodiversity in general.

    It has taken me almost four years to realize that science can provide a longtime solution rather than pesticides. For decades, scientists have researched improved seeds with the ability to resist climate change (drought), use less pesticides, increase yields and save the planet. They have come up with a solution — mainly, genetically modified (GM) crops — that have the capability to save the world.

    Hundreds of research projects were undertaken by professional entities on risks that may occur when human beings and animals consume GM crops, or the impacts on nature when they are planted in the environment. Among them are the World Health Organization, United Nations Environment Progam, World Food Program, University of Pretoria, University of Nigeria, Cornell University, California University at Davis and Harvard Business School, to list a few. Millions of US dollars were sent out to many countries around the world to undertake risk assessment. But ultimately, not one entity has shown any risk to humans or animals that consumed GMOs or any negative side of releasing GMOs in the environment.

    The results from the above entities have led many African countries to adopt GM crops. For example, South Africa has been growing insect-resistant Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn since 1996 and today the country also has Bt cotton and soybeans. In over 20 years, no UN agency has ever shown any risk in consuming Bt maize or soybeans in South Africa.

    Today, Bangladesh is the country that can give you testimonies on how Bt brinjal (eggplant) has lifted up thousands of Bangladeshis from poverty and food instability to the level of food security and a six-fold increase in incomes. The country adopted this technology after many farmers suffered crop losses due to climate change and pests.

    Due to the special interests of certain people, especially those in the pesticide industries, GM crops have been misrepresented, leading to bad assumptions among the public. Truthfully, the pesticide companies know the potential of GM crops and they are afraid of it. To limit the general public from adopting these agricultural technologies, “paid people” are coming up every day and they call themselves ACTIVISTS.

    Their objective and goals are to mislead people. They don’t want to hear the tears and struggles of our mothers, sisters and brothers who are suffering night and day due to food instability, pests and plant diseases. They are outside just making noise and misleading the world while getting paid, quite possibly by the pesticide companies.

    If South Africa, Sudan, America, China, India, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Australia and many other countries have used GM crops to secure their food supply and generate billions of dollars from exports, and no study has ever scientifically shown or been published that describes any risk from consuming GMOs, what are the African countries waiting for? Please hear the evidence from scientists, see the tears and agony of our farmers and then make the right decision that benefits our farmers.

    Jean Claude Habimana is a science and agriculture communicator, founder of Rwanda Environment and Agriculture Communications and a 2019 Cornell Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellow.

  •  THE rains that fell in the past few weeks, albeit destructive in some cases, have lifted the doom around the agricultural sector across several countries in the Southern African region.

  • For the first time in a decade, investment expenditure rather than consumption accounts for more than half of GDP growth; report calls for urgent investment in education and infrastructure for good returns in long-term GDP; “Youth unemployment must be given top priority.

  • The reach of European empires and of Indian Ocean trade networks drew southern Africa into the global politics of opium around the turn of the twentieth century.

  • The broad sell-off that rattled global stock markets on Monday due to growing investor anxiety over the fallout from the rapidly escalating coronavirus crisis in China highlights Africa’s economic vulnerability in this rapidly escalating crisis, particularly in those countries where China is the largest trading partner.

  • International aid requested as nearly eight million people in Zimbabwe, or half its population, are declared food insecure.

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