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  • 09 Aug 2016
     A Case Study of Okavango Basin   According to the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) the Okavango River rises in the headwaters of the Cuito and Cubango-Okavango Rivers in the highland plateaus of Angola. The river is drained by Cubango (referred to as Kavango in Namibia and Okavango in Botswana), Cutato, Cuchi, Cuelei, Cuebe, Cueio, Cuatir, Luassinga, Longa, Cuiriri and Cuito Rivers and the Okavango Delta. Flowing from the Angola highlands the Cuito and Cubango Rivers meet to form the Cubango-Okavango along the border of Namibia Angola before flowing through the panhandle to into the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Current and future challenges While Okavango is one of the least ‘developed’ river basins in Africa, there is an increasing pressure to develop the basin’s resources (Nicol, 2003).The fact that Okavango is a shared water resource between Angola, Botswana and Namibia means that each country not only has to deal with internal water challenges but also with trans-boundary water challenges as well. In addition it is a Ramsar site with rich biodiversity which has attracted international concerns bringing in stakeholders beyond the riparian countries (Peter Ashton, Public involvement in water resource management within the Okavango River Basin, 2005). These current and future challenges are discussed below in detail: Population Dynamics: The present population in the basin is 921,890 and is projected to increase to 1.28 million people by 2025 with 62% living in Angola, 16% in Botswana and 22% in Namibia (Commission, 2011).  The increase in urbanization partly because of the high population growth all around the basin presents a new challenge in meeting the present and future demand for water and sanitation. For example the centre of Rundu in Namibia is growing at a rate of 2.5% compared with the growth of 1.5% per annum in the rural areas of Kavongo. In 2009-2010 the Kavongo region was subject to severe flooding which was attributed to the increased population in the floodplains in Caprivi and Kavango and development of infrastructure (rail, road) that interfered with the natural flow of the river. The Namibian and Botswana sectors of the Okavango catchment represent a relatively arid environment and most communities tend to be located close to the available water resources. This concentration of human activities in close proximity to the water resources of the Okavango River and the Okavango Delta represents a growing dependency on these resources and could represent a potential threat to the ecological integrity of these systems if resource exploitation patterns are not carefully balanced by resource protection (Ashton & Neal, 2003; Turton et al., 2003). Climate change: an analysis of projected climate change effects predicts a rise in the temperature and rainfall in the basin. Higher temperatures of 2.3°C-3°C will affect the Southern basin more than the North with increasing evaporation. There is also a projected rise in rainfall of 0-20% with the greatest effect on the North (Commission, 2011). During the dry season an increase in evaporation may exceed the inflow from the catchment causing drier conditions whereas there would be increased flooding during the wetter seasons downstream. This presents a current and future challenge for the riparian countries. A collaborative study by Sweden, South Africa and the UK showed that the flow of the river would decrease by 26% by 2100 under the A2 scenario and 17% under the B2 scenario. International interest on the river basin: Okavango River Basin is a Ramsar site and therefore attracts a lot of international interest. The interest from international groups in protecting the wetland conflicts with some of the development plans for the three states. For example Angola was not able to secure funding for a dam along the Okavango River because of the fact that it is a Ramsar site. Land use change: there is an increased demand for land for crops along the river basin from the Angolan highlands and with the projected population growth the demand will only increase. There are expansive agricultural irrigation activities in Angola (15,000 ha) and Namibia (338,000 ha) along the basin which translates into the use of fertilizers and pesticides posing the danger of eutrophication and surface and ground water contamination from the use of pesticides. There has been proof of decline in forest cover over the last 25 years which affects the hydrological regime of the basin. Livestock numbers are expected to increase substantially in Angola and Namibia leading to overgrazing and encroachment. This will result to higher levels of erosion resulting to siltation which affects the water quality for those who are downstream. This will result to higher levels of erosion resulting to siltation which affects the water quality for those who are downstream. Conflict in Angola: Following the signing of the peace accord in Angola between the Government of Angola and the leaders of National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) in 4th April 2002 it is clear that the country needs to rehabilitate all its resources for economic growth after 30 years of civil war. In the pursuit of economic growth the Angola government will seek to develop the country’s hydropower capacity and agricultural irrigation schemes (Peter Ashton, Public involvement in water resource management within the Okavango River Basin, 2005) and increased urbanization and industrialization will also put more pressure on the water resource. This presents a problem for those living in the lower Okavango basin since it will mean construction of hydro dams, irrigation pipeline schemes and water treatment infrastructure will have to be laid out. The Angolan portion of the Okavango basin contains some of the most remote and sparsely populated portions of the country. However, this region was a UNITA stronghold and some of the most ferocious battles of the civil war were fought here. A large number of mines have been laid along all of the roads and encircling each urban centre, as well as along many parts of the border with Namibia and at all bridges and river crossing points. As a result, road travel and access to the towns in the catchment (Menongue, Longa, CuitoCanavale, Mavinga, Savata and Caiundo) is extremely dangerous and air transport to Menongue remains the most reliable means of access to the catchment (Dr Chris Brown, CEO: Namibia Nature Foundation, personal communication, 12 May 2003). The long civil conflict in Angola prevented the collection of data in the basin region and the participation of local communities concerning the utilization of the basin (Mbaiwa, 2004). This is contrary to Namibia and Botswana where stakeholder participation is encouraged. The lack of data availability from Angola makes it very hard for the riparian countries to coordinate their planning and management efforts of the Okavango basin. The prolonged period of war in Angola also means that communication systems are not developed compared to Namibia and Botswana. Communication challenge: The cultural, linguistic diversity of the communities living along the basin poses another challenge in data collection and carrying out of research. According to the Summer Institute of Linguistic 2002, there are 13 different indigenous languages as well as five official languages. This represents a challenge in communication and the ability to incorporate the different cultural beliefs in water resource management in the three basin states.  Poverty: Unequal distribution of wealth in the three countries is partly to blame for the poverty level along the basin and so is the remoteness of the basin area. The majority of those living along the basin rely on natural resources to meet their needs through fishing, agriculture, charcoal burning and livestock keeping all of which have an impact on the vegetation cover and consequently on the water quality. If the trend remains the same the pressure on natural resources in Angola will increase nearly by 50% and by about 25% in Namibia and Botswana (Commission, 2011). This will result into further degradation and loss of wetland and forest cover. Weak institutions: The establishment of the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) in 1994 as a coordinating organization that acts as the technical advisor to the three member states regarding conservation, development and use of water resources of mutual interest was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, OKACOM has no legal authority, suffers from inadequate financing and has no enforcement mechanisms and each country maintains full sovereignty over its water rights. The commission is therefore unable to fulfill its mandate. In conclusion, the trans-boundary development and management challenges faced in the Okavango River Basin are not unique to it but are reflected across Africa with other shared water resources. The three states need to come to a consensus on how the Okavango River Basin will be managed and allow OKACOM to carry out its mandate independently in order to sustainably and equitably achieve social and economic development without compromising the environment. Different stakeholders local, national, regional and international need to be fully involved in planning and management of the basin if any meaningful gains are to be made in the protection and management of this water resource.   Works Cited Commission, T. P. (2011). Cubango-Okavango River Basin Transbooundary Diagnostic Analysis. Botswana: OKACOM. Mbaiwa, J. E. (2004). Causes and possible solutions to water resource conflicts in theOkavango River Basin: The case of Angola, Namibia and Botswana. Elsevier ltd. Nicol, A. (2003). The dynamics of river basin cooperation:The Nile and Okavango basins. In A. W. International., Transboundary Rivers, Sovereignty and Development:Hydropolitical Drivers in the Okavango River Basin. Pretotia. OKACOM. (2016). Retrieved January 9, 2016, from http://www.okacom.org/knowing-the-river/okavango-countries Organizations, A. N. (2007). Source book On Africa's River Basin Organization. Kampala: Warner Consultants Limited. Peter Ashton, M. N. (2003). An overview of key strategic issues in the Okavango basin. Transboundary Rivers, Sovereignty and Development: Hydropolitical Drivers in the Okavango River Basin , 31-63. Peter Ashton, M. N. (2005). Public involvement in water resource management within the Okavango River Basin. In Public Participation in the Governance of International Freshwater Resources (pp. 169-198). Tokyo: United Nations University Press. Ruud Jansen, M. M. (2003). The Okavango Delta Management Plan project:The need for environmental partnership. In G. C. African Water Issue Research Unit, Transboundary Rivers, Sovereignty and Development: Hydropolitical drivers in the Okavango River Basin (pp. 141-166). Pretoria. Tlou, T. (1985). A history of Ngamiland:1750–1906 The Formation of an African State. Gaborone: Macmillan Publishing Company. Turton, A.R., P.J. Ashton and T.E. Cloete. (2003). “An introduction to the hydropolitical drivers in the Okavango River basin”, in A.R. Turton, P.J. Ashton and T.E. Cloete, eds, Transboundary Rivers, Sovereignty and Development: Hydropolitical Drivers in the Okavango River Basin, Geneva: Green Cross International, Pages 6-30.    
    844 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  •  A Case Study of Okavango Basin   According to the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) the Okavango River rises in the headwaters of the Cuito and Cubango-Okavango Rivers in the highland plateaus of Angola. The river is drained by Cubango (referred to as Kavango in Namibia and Okavango in Botswana), Cutato, Cuchi, Cuelei, Cuebe, Cueio, Cuatir, Luassinga, Longa, Cuiriri and Cuito Rivers and the Okavango Delta. Flowing from the Angola highlands the Cuito and Cubango Rivers meet to form the Cubango-Okavango along the border of Namibia Angola before flowing through the panhandle to into the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Current and future challenges While Okavango is one of the least ‘developed’ river basins in Africa, there is an increasing pressure to develop the basin’s resources (Nicol, 2003).The fact that Okavango is a shared water resource between Angola, Botswana and Namibia means that each country not only has to deal with internal water challenges but also with trans-boundary water challenges as well. In addition it is a Ramsar site with rich biodiversity which has attracted international concerns bringing in stakeholders beyond the riparian countries (Peter Ashton, Public involvement in water resource management within the Okavango River Basin, 2005). These current and future challenges are discussed below in detail: Population Dynamics: The present population in the basin is 921,890 and is projected to increase to 1.28 million people by 2025 with 62% living in Angola, 16% in Botswana and 22% in Namibia (Commission, 2011).  The increase in urbanization partly because of the high population growth all around the basin presents a new challenge in meeting the present and future demand for water and sanitation. For example the centre of Rundu in Namibia is growing at a rate of 2.5% compared with the growth of 1.5% per annum in the rural areas of Kavongo. In 2009-2010 the Kavongo region was subject to severe flooding which was attributed to the increased population in the floodplains in Caprivi and Kavango and development of infrastructure (rail, road) that interfered with the natural flow of the river. The Namibian and Botswana sectors of the Okavango catchment represent a relatively arid environment and most communities tend to be located close to the available water resources. This concentration of human activities in close proximity to the water resources of the Okavango River and the Okavango Delta represents a growing dependency on these resources and could represent a potential threat to the ecological integrity of these systems if resource exploitation patterns are not carefully balanced by resource protection (Ashton & Neal, 2003; Turton et al., 2003). Climate change: an analysis of projected climate change effects predicts a rise in the temperature and rainfall in the basin. Higher temperatures of 2.3°C-3°C will affect the Southern basin more than the North with increasing evaporation. There is also a projected rise in rainfall of 0-20% with the greatest effect on the North (Commission, 2011). During the dry season an increase in evaporation may exceed the inflow from the catchment causing drier conditions whereas there would be increased flooding during the wetter seasons downstream. This presents a current and future challenge for the riparian countries. A collaborative study by Sweden, South Africa and the UK showed that the flow of the river would decrease by 26% by 2100 under the A2 scenario and 17% under the B2 scenario. International interest on the river basin: Okavango River Basin is a Ramsar site and therefore attracts a lot of international interest. The interest from international groups in protecting the wetland conflicts with some of the development plans for the three states. For example Angola was not able to secure funding for a dam along the Okavango River because of the fact that it is a Ramsar site. Land use change: there is an increased demand for land for crops along the river basin from the Angolan highlands and with the projected population growth the demand will only increase. There are expansive agricultural irrigation activities in Angola (15,000 ha) and Namibia (338,000 ha) along the basin which translates into the use of fertilizers and pesticides posing the danger of eutrophication and surface and ground water contamination from the use of pesticides. There has been proof of decline in forest cover over the last 25 years which affects the hydrological regime of the basin. Livestock numbers are expected to increase substantially in Angola and Namibia leading to overgrazing and encroachment. This will result to higher levels of erosion resulting to siltation which affects the water quality for those who are downstream. This will result to higher levels of erosion resulting to siltation which affects the water quality for those who are downstream. Conflict in Angola: Following the signing of the peace accord in Angola between the Government of Angola and the leaders of National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) in 4th April 2002 it is clear that the country needs to rehabilitate all its resources for economic growth after 30 years of civil war. In the pursuit of economic growth the Angola government will seek to develop the country’s hydropower capacity and agricultural irrigation schemes (Peter Ashton, Public involvement in water resource management within the Okavango River Basin, 2005) and increased urbanization and industrialization will also put more pressure on the water resource. This presents a problem for those living in the lower Okavango basin since it will mean construction of hydro dams, irrigation pipeline schemes and water treatment infrastructure will have to be laid out. The Angolan portion of the Okavango basin contains some of the most remote and sparsely populated portions of the country. However, this region was a UNITA stronghold and some of the most ferocious battles of the civil war were fought here. A large number of mines have been laid along all of the roads and encircling each urban centre, as well as along many parts of the border with Namibia and at all bridges and river crossing points. As a result, road travel and access to the towns in the catchment (Menongue, Longa, CuitoCanavale, Mavinga, Savata and Caiundo) is extremely dangerous and air transport to Menongue remains the most reliable means of access to the catchment (Dr Chris Brown, CEO: Namibia Nature Foundation, personal communication, 12 May 2003). The long civil conflict in Angola prevented the collection of data in the basin region and the participation of local communities concerning the utilization of the basin (Mbaiwa, 2004). This is contrary to Namibia and Botswana where stakeholder participation is encouraged. The lack of data availability from Angola makes it very hard for the riparian countries to coordinate their planning and management efforts of the Okavango basin. The prolonged period of war in Angola also means that communication systems are not developed compared to Namibia and Botswana. Communication challenge: The cultural, linguistic diversity of the communities living along the basin poses another challenge in data collection and carrying out of research. According to the Summer Institute of Linguistic 2002, there are 13 different indigenous languages as well as five official languages. This represents a challenge in communication and the ability to incorporate the different cultural beliefs in water resource management in the three basin states.  Poverty: Unequal distribution of wealth in the three countries is partly to blame for the poverty level along the basin and so is the remoteness of the basin area. The majority of those living along the basin rely on natural resources to meet their needs through fishing, agriculture, charcoal burning and livestock keeping all of which have an impact on the vegetation cover and consequently on the water quality. If the trend remains the same the pressure on natural resources in Angola will increase nearly by 50% and by about 25% in Namibia and Botswana (Commission, 2011). This will result into further degradation and loss of wetland and forest cover. Weak institutions: The establishment of the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) in 1994 as a coordinating organization that acts as the technical advisor to the three member states regarding conservation, development and use of water resources of mutual interest was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, OKACOM has no legal authority, suffers from inadequate financing and has no enforcement mechanisms and each country maintains full sovereignty over its water rights. The commission is therefore unable to fulfill its mandate. In conclusion, the trans-boundary development and management challenges faced in the Okavango River Basin are not unique to it but are reflected across Africa with other shared water resources. The three states need to come to a consensus on how the Okavango River Basin will be managed and allow OKACOM to carry out its mandate independently in order to sustainably and equitably achieve social and economic development without compromising the environment. Different stakeholders local, national, regional and international need to be fully involved in planning and management of the basin if any meaningful gains are to be made in the protection and management of this water resource.   Works Cited Commission, T. P. (2011). Cubango-Okavango River Basin Transbooundary Diagnostic Analysis. Botswana: OKACOM. Mbaiwa, J. E. (2004). Causes and possible solutions to water resource conflicts in theOkavango River Basin: The case of Angola, Namibia and Botswana. Elsevier ltd. Nicol, A. (2003). The dynamics of river basin cooperation:The Nile and Okavango basins. In A. W. International., Transboundary Rivers, Sovereignty and Development:Hydropolitical Drivers in the Okavango River Basin. Pretotia. OKACOM. (2016). Retrieved January 9, 2016, from http://www.okacom.org/knowing-the-river/okavango-countries Organizations, A. N. (2007). Source book On Africa's River Basin Organization. Kampala: Warner Consultants Limited. Peter Ashton, M. N. (2003). An overview of key strategic issues in the Okavango basin. Transboundary Rivers, Sovereignty and Development: Hydropolitical Drivers in the Okavango River Basin , 31-63. Peter Ashton, M. N. (2005). Public involvement in water resource management within the Okavango River Basin. In Public Participation in the Governance of International Freshwater Resources (pp. 169-198). Tokyo: United Nations University Press. Ruud Jansen, M. M. (2003). The Okavango Delta Management Plan project:The need for environmental partnership. In G. C. African Water Issue Research Unit, Transboundary Rivers, Sovereignty and Development: Hydropolitical drivers in the Okavango River Basin (pp. 141-166). Pretoria. Tlou, T. (1985). A history of Ngamiland:1750–1906 The Formation of an African State. Gaborone: Macmillan Publishing Company. Turton, A.R., P.J. Ashton and T.E. Cloete. (2003). “An introduction to the hydropolitical drivers in the Okavango River basin”, in A.R. Turton, P.J. Ashton and T.E. Cloete, eds, Transboundary Rivers, Sovereignty and Development: Hydropolitical Drivers in the Okavango River Basin, Geneva: Green Cross International, Pages 6-30.    
    Aug 09, 2016 844
  • 06 Jun 2016
    If I was a New York Times blogger or Washington Post (I am allowed to dream) I think my editor would have had my head by now. I have a habit of writing my blogs at the last minute because funny enough that is when inspiration seems to strike me or that is when I can no longer stew on a topic and I have to write it down. You may ask why I continue to write if the pressure to deliver is so high but writing my weekly entries has taught me how to honor commitment and frankly I enjoy penning my thoughts down but I digress. A few days ago we were enjoying a few drinks with some of our colleagues and we discussed a lot of issues and cultural food was one of them. I came to realize that Cameroon and specifically the Bamileke have very diverse dishes to choose from, be it from the meat, vegetables and the roots. To be honest I was a bit jealous because my tribe (Kikuyu) is known for many things but diversity in their cuisine is not one of them.   Our discussion got me thinking about the food crisis that continues to face our world. According to the World Food Program 795-216 million people are undernourished and do not get enough food to lead a healthy and active life. Hunger and malnutrition are in fact the number one risk to human health worldwide — greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The report goes on to list the main causes of hunger as conflict, natural disasters, poverty and poor agricultural practices and over exploitation of resources.  Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of undernourishment in the world at 23.3% or almost one in every four people.   In Kenya an estimated 1.6 million people are considered food insecure with global rates of acute malnutrition is between 24-37% which is beyond the 15% emergency threshold provided by the World Health Organization. I cannot count how many times Kenyan citizens have come together under the umbrella of Red Cross to mobilize funds to feed the hungry in the Northern part of the country which is majorly an arid and semi-arid zone. Sadly, this has only served as a short term relief measure and a long term solution is yet to be fully implemented. Hence, in every few years the country is caught off guard and we end up losing lives and sources of income especially for the pastoralist communities.    On the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), goal number two is to end hunger which is closely tied to goal number one which is to end poverty. The target is to ensure access by all people to safe nutritious food all year round by 2030. Governments hope to achieve this by doubling the agricultural productivity, ensuring secure and equal access to land, implementing resilient agricultural practices that will increase productivity and production and maintaining genetic diversity of seeds, plants, domestic animals among others like political reforms.    I think it is a shame that with all the advancements humans have made in the 21st Century feeding themselves sufficiently remains a big challenge. What I think should be on this list as well are communities adopting new food sources that are not traditionally considered as culturally acceptable. It is sad to have people die out of hunger when food surrounds them only because the said food is not acceptable in their culture. If we are to beat world hunger and especially in Africa we will have to think outside the box. We need to start considering other sources of food even as we implement other actions. Bugs like crickets, termites, beetles, and caterpillars are sources of food in parts of Central and West Africa and we could look into investing in breeding them and supplying our markets. I do not know how many of us me included would consider frogs, snakes or bats as delicacies without gagging but the truth of the matter is there are people who have been eating them for years and they are well and breathing so we shouldn’t be any different. The vision we have for 2030 does not have to seem like an unreachable goal but we can slowly work towards achieving it through gradual lifestyle and social changes.  
    833 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  • If I was a New York Times blogger or Washington Post (I am allowed to dream) I think my editor would have had my head by now. I have a habit of writing my blogs at the last minute because funny enough that is when inspiration seems to strike me or that is when I can no longer stew on a topic and I have to write it down. You may ask why I continue to write if the pressure to deliver is so high but writing my weekly entries has taught me how to honor commitment and frankly I enjoy penning my thoughts down but I digress. A few days ago we were enjoying a few drinks with some of our colleagues and we discussed a lot of issues and cultural food was one of them. I came to realize that Cameroon and specifically the Bamileke have very diverse dishes to choose from, be it from the meat, vegetables and the roots. To be honest I was a bit jealous because my tribe (Kikuyu) is known for many things but diversity in their cuisine is not one of them.   Our discussion got me thinking about the food crisis that continues to face our world. According to the World Food Program 795-216 million people are undernourished and do not get enough food to lead a healthy and active life. Hunger and malnutrition are in fact the number one risk to human health worldwide — greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. The report goes on to list the main causes of hunger as conflict, natural disasters, poverty and poor agricultural practices and over exploitation of resources.  Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of undernourishment in the world at 23.3% or almost one in every four people.   In Kenya an estimated 1.6 million people are considered food insecure with global rates of acute malnutrition is between 24-37% which is beyond the 15% emergency threshold provided by the World Health Organization. I cannot count how many times Kenyan citizens have come together under the umbrella of Red Cross to mobilize funds to feed the hungry in the Northern part of the country which is majorly an arid and semi-arid zone. Sadly, this has only served as a short term relief measure and a long term solution is yet to be fully implemented. Hence, in every few years the country is caught off guard and we end up losing lives and sources of income especially for the pastoralist communities.    On the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), goal number two is to end hunger which is closely tied to goal number one which is to end poverty. The target is to ensure access by all people to safe nutritious food all year round by 2030. Governments hope to achieve this by doubling the agricultural productivity, ensuring secure and equal access to land, implementing resilient agricultural practices that will increase productivity and production and maintaining genetic diversity of seeds, plants, domestic animals among others like political reforms.    I think it is a shame that with all the advancements humans have made in the 21st Century feeding themselves sufficiently remains a big challenge. What I think should be on this list as well are communities adopting new food sources that are not traditionally considered as culturally acceptable. It is sad to have people die out of hunger when food surrounds them only because the said food is not acceptable in their culture. If we are to beat world hunger and especially in Africa we will have to think outside the box. We need to start considering other sources of food even as we implement other actions. Bugs like crickets, termites, beetles, and caterpillars are sources of food in parts of Central and West Africa and we could look into investing in breeding them and supplying our markets. I do not know how many of us me included would consider frogs, snakes or bats as delicacies without gagging but the truth of the matter is there are people who have been eating them for years and they are well and breathing so we shouldn’t be any different. The vision we have for 2030 does not have to seem like an unreachable goal but we can slowly work towards achieving it through gradual lifestyle and social changes.  
    Jun 06, 2016 833
  • 17 Oct 2016
      The International day of the Girl was celebrated last week and to mark it a report on child brides was released by Save the Children and the findings are grim. Weddings in any culture are a source of joy and celebration. It is a passage of life that ensures continuity of life and brings families together. However, this is not always the case. Every seven seconds a girl under 15 years of age is married off often to an older man. I will let that sink in. UNICEF estimates that the number of girls married under 18 will increase from 700 million to 950 million in 2030. It is mind boggling that such statistics even exist in our world today. Top on the rank of countries where child marriages are prevalent according to the report is Afghanistan, Yemen, India, Somali, Niger, Chad, Mali and Central African Republic. So why are families pushing their children into early marriages? Poverty, war and cultural practices are among the many reasons why young girls or in this case children are left exposed to such practices. Sadly, what this does is expose the girls to a vicious cycle of poverty, domestic violence, and sexual assault and puts them at the risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The girls are deprived of the chance for a normal childhood and they become a generation of children raising children. The European Union has not been spared either in dealing with cases of child marriages. The conflict in the Middle East has had some rarely discussed consequences like an increase in child brides as families marry off their daughters as a safety or coping mechanism. It is estimated that child marriages represent 35% of all marriages of Syrian refugees in 2015. Consequently, the influx of refugees in Europe has left governments in Germany, Netherlands and Denmark grappling with how to deal with child brides. In Germany it is estimated that 1000 marriages involve one or both of the parties being under the age of 18. So do they consider it as a question of protection and allow such marriages to exist or a matter of rights where such marriages are not recognized? The debate continues in some countries with some moving fast to close any legal loop holes in a bid to protect underage children. I will be honest with you, I get overwhelmed by some of the reports and stories I read. How are we to achieve the Sustainability Development Goals or our country specific development goals if part of a generation is condemned for being female? How do we expect to see change when we continuously bury our heads in the sand as the dreams of our children are stolen? I have come to appreciate the endless opportunities I have access to because my parents chose to give me an education and I believe herein lies the solution. We need to keep our girls in school and educate their communities on the importance of them remaining there. After all if you educate a girl you educate a community. Governments have an obligation to provide an education and put in place proper policies and laws that are implemented to ensure the protection and safety of both girls and boys. We do not have any other option than to act and bring this barbaric practice to an end, one girl every seven seconds is one too many! Stories published on the Every Last Girl report 2016 One:"Tamrea," a young girl from Ethiopia, is one example. She was married, pregnant and abandoned before she hit her teens."I was given to a husband at 12," she tells Save the Children. "I wasn't happy to get married at that age, but my father said there was nobody to look after me since my mum wasn't around. I wasn't happy. I was crying. I wasn't able to get used to what marriage was... When I became pregnant my husband left me." Two: A 13-year-old Syrian refugee in Lebanon called Sahar - not her real name - who was married to a 20-year-old man. Now 14, she is two months pregnant."The wedding day, I was imagining it would be a great day but it wasn't. It was all misery. It was full of sadness," Save the Children quoted her as saying."I feel really blessed that I am having a baby. But I am a child raising a child."   One of too many dreams stolen!
    824 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  •   The International day of the Girl was celebrated last week and to mark it a report on child brides was released by Save the Children and the findings are grim. Weddings in any culture are a source of joy and celebration. It is a passage of life that ensures continuity of life and brings families together. However, this is not always the case. Every seven seconds a girl under 15 years of age is married off often to an older man. I will let that sink in. UNICEF estimates that the number of girls married under 18 will increase from 700 million to 950 million in 2030. It is mind boggling that such statistics even exist in our world today. Top on the rank of countries where child marriages are prevalent according to the report is Afghanistan, Yemen, India, Somali, Niger, Chad, Mali and Central African Republic. So why are families pushing their children into early marriages? Poverty, war and cultural practices are among the many reasons why young girls or in this case children are left exposed to such practices. Sadly, what this does is expose the girls to a vicious cycle of poverty, domestic violence, and sexual assault and puts them at the risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The girls are deprived of the chance for a normal childhood and they become a generation of children raising children. The European Union has not been spared either in dealing with cases of child marriages. The conflict in the Middle East has had some rarely discussed consequences like an increase in child brides as families marry off their daughters as a safety or coping mechanism. It is estimated that child marriages represent 35% of all marriages of Syrian refugees in 2015. Consequently, the influx of refugees in Europe has left governments in Germany, Netherlands and Denmark grappling with how to deal with child brides. In Germany it is estimated that 1000 marriages involve one or both of the parties being under the age of 18. So do they consider it as a question of protection and allow such marriages to exist or a matter of rights where such marriages are not recognized? The debate continues in some countries with some moving fast to close any legal loop holes in a bid to protect underage children. I will be honest with you, I get overwhelmed by some of the reports and stories I read. How are we to achieve the Sustainability Development Goals or our country specific development goals if part of a generation is condemned for being female? How do we expect to see change when we continuously bury our heads in the sand as the dreams of our children are stolen? I have come to appreciate the endless opportunities I have access to because my parents chose to give me an education and I believe herein lies the solution. We need to keep our girls in school and educate their communities on the importance of them remaining there. After all if you educate a girl you educate a community. Governments have an obligation to provide an education and put in place proper policies and laws that are implemented to ensure the protection and safety of both girls and boys. We do not have any other option than to act and bring this barbaric practice to an end, one girl every seven seconds is one too many! Stories published on the Every Last Girl report 2016 One:"Tamrea," a young girl from Ethiopia, is one example. She was married, pregnant and abandoned before she hit her teens."I was given to a husband at 12," she tells Save the Children. "I wasn't happy to get married at that age, but my father said there was nobody to look after me since my mum wasn't around. I wasn't happy. I was crying. I wasn't able to get used to what marriage was... When I became pregnant my husband left me." Two: A 13-year-old Syrian refugee in Lebanon called Sahar - not her real name - who was married to a 20-year-old man. Now 14, she is two months pregnant."The wedding day, I was imagining it would be a great day but it wasn't. It was all misery. It was full of sadness," Save the Children quoted her as saying."I feel really blessed that I am having a baby. But I am a child raising a child."   One of too many dreams stolen!
    Oct 17, 2016 824
  • 21 Mar 2016
      I am a lover of history and you can say my love started some years back when I got the opportunity to study post independent African and European history in deep detail. I felt like I was getting a free tour through time and I could clearly see the chronology of events that have shaped our world to what it is today. However, regardless of how much I love history it also makes me angry and sad for mankind. This was my feeling when I took a course in African History late last year. I felt so frustrated and angry and that only bled into a feeling of helplessness and resignation.   Mama Africa, a beautiful continent rich in human, culture and natural resources yet mostly known for hunger ,civil wars, corruption and dysfunctional governments. It is like we are the joke of the world and we do not even realize it. I know that my short essay cannot do the political dynamics of Africa justice but you will agree with me that there is a common theme in all countries as far as politics are concern. We have leaders who are high on power and a people who are so busy trying to survive that they do not realize that they are being taken for a ride. I do not know when the rain started beating us but it has hit us hard.   There was so much hope after gaining independence but it now seems like that candle has burnt out. The promise of freedom and self governance was what bound us together and saw the freedom fighters through the dark days. The promise of turning that dream into reality was what made most of the leaders get elected into office. Yet those we elected to power have turned democratic positions into monarchies. Power seems like a more potent drug in Africa than anywhere else in the world. That Promised Land is still a mirage many decades after independence.   Every government has a responsibility to provide basic services to its citizens. Access to affordable health care, food, education, security and any other social service is not a privilege but a right. If you pay tax then you have the right to demand better services. Yet this is not the case in most African countries. We get surprised when services are provided and think it is normal for civil servants to steal from public funds. We defend those who steal from us in the name of ethnic and tribal lines and so we elect them back to office year in year out. We stand blindly behind those who commit crimes against humanity in the name of loyalty. We are easily bought.   I think the middle class is what ails this continent. We are so comfortable with our fancy lives that politics is no longer our thing. If the government cannot provide a service to us we go for private providers. We do not go to public hospitals anymore because they do not have the human resource or medicine; we take our children to private schools because the quality of education in public schools is so poor it is near collapse. We use private means of transport because public transport is chaotic and inefficient. I could go on and on. The icing on the cake is we do not vote because who has the time to make long queues only to vote in another dysfunctional government. So we have left the fate of our countries to the poor. I know what you are thinking, but the poor have rights too! I couldn’t agree more but they have also been turned into puppets by the political class; politics of the belly. Their votes are bought for a piece of bread or a packet of maize flour. This is what we have left our fate to; a greedy political class and a hungry population.   Many will argue that African countries are young in their democracy and I am no political analyst. However, the situation seems to have become worse than it was when we gained independence. We are the first to shout that the west should not interfere with African affairs and yet we lap on the crumbs they feed us. You think that’s crude? There is much more where that came from. We have the ability to be self sufficient; we can feed our people and educate our children. Provide basic medical care for pregnant women and infants. We can stand up against injustice and poor quality of services. The middle class should come off its high horse and help sensitize the poor on the power they hold in their votes. Just because the ruling party is from your region or tribe does not put food on your table. We need to shift from the “me mentality” and realize we are so much stronger together. That everything we need has been within our reach all along.
    817 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  •   I am a lover of history and you can say my love started some years back when I got the opportunity to study post independent African and European history in deep detail. I felt like I was getting a free tour through time and I could clearly see the chronology of events that have shaped our world to what it is today. However, regardless of how much I love history it also makes me angry and sad for mankind. This was my feeling when I took a course in African History late last year. I felt so frustrated and angry and that only bled into a feeling of helplessness and resignation.   Mama Africa, a beautiful continent rich in human, culture and natural resources yet mostly known for hunger ,civil wars, corruption and dysfunctional governments. It is like we are the joke of the world and we do not even realize it. I know that my short essay cannot do the political dynamics of Africa justice but you will agree with me that there is a common theme in all countries as far as politics are concern. We have leaders who are high on power and a people who are so busy trying to survive that they do not realize that they are being taken for a ride. I do not know when the rain started beating us but it has hit us hard.   There was so much hope after gaining independence but it now seems like that candle has burnt out. The promise of freedom and self governance was what bound us together and saw the freedom fighters through the dark days. The promise of turning that dream into reality was what made most of the leaders get elected into office. Yet those we elected to power have turned democratic positions into monarchies. Power seems like a more potent drug in Africa than anywhere else in the world. That Promised Land is still a mirage many decades after independence.   Every government has a responsibility to provide basic services to its citizens. Access to affordable health care, food, education, security and any other social service is not a privilege but a right. If you pay tax then you have the right to demand better services. Yet this is not the case in most African countries. We get surprised when services are provided and think it is normal for civil servants to steal from public funds. We defend those who steal from us in the name of ethnic and tribal lines and so we elect them back to office year in year out. We stand blindly behind those who commit crimes against humanity in the name of loyalty. We are easily bought.   I think the middle class is what ails this continent. We are so comfortable with our fancy lives that politics is no longer our thing. If the government cannot provide a service to us we go for private providers. We do not go to public hospitals anymore because they do not have the human resource or medicine; we take our children to private schools because the quality of education in public schools is so poor it is near collapse. We use private means of transport because public transport is chaotic and inefficient. I could go on and on. The icing on the cake is we do not vote because who has the time to make long queues only to vote in another dysfunctional government. So we have left the fate of our countries to the poor. I know what you are thinking, but the poor have rights too! I couldn’t agree more but they have also been turned into puppets by the political class; politics of the belly. Their votes are bought for a piece of bread or a packet of maize flour. This is what we have left our fate to; a greedy political class and a hungry population.   Many will argue that African countries are young in their democracy and I am no political analyst. However, the situation seems to have become worse than it was when we gained independence. We are the first to shout that the west should not interfere with African affairs and yet we lap on the crumbs they feed us. You think that’s crude? There is much more where that came from. We have the ability to be self sufficient; we can feed our people and educate our children. Provide basic medical care for pregnant women and infants. We can stand up against injustice and poor quality of services. The middle class should come off its high horse and help sensitize the poor on the power they hold in their votes. Just because the ruling party is from your region or tribe does not put food on your table. We need to shift from the “me mentality” and realize we are so much stronger together. That everything we need has been within our reach all along.
    Mar 21, 2016 817
  • 17 Jul 2016
    There are some things I remember growing up and I look back and smile fondly. I remember the good times and the not so good but there are some memories that have stayed with me. They have marked me and made me to the woman I am today. My father made sure we had everything we needed growing up and one of those things was an education. We had this great wall TV that was black and white (I never said I am young) and we spent every possible minute watching the one channel that would broadcast back then. My father however, saw it as his parental duty to regulate the amount of time we watched TV or videos (anyone remember the VCL’s?). I can still hear his voice in my head telling me he did not buy that TV for our entertainment but he wanted us to see what those who had gone through school had achieved and the possibilities we could have if we took our class work more seriously. These memories have been replaying in my mind more after I read the book “I am Malala”. It is a great read and one I can highly recommend. As you all know Malala Yousafzai is a young Pakistan female education activist who became the youngest winner of the Nobel Prize in 2014. In 2012 the Taliban tried to kill her leaving her gravely wounded for standing up for the rights of children especially girls to go to school at a time when the Taliban were reigning havoc in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She had so much against her quest for an education I am surprised she didn’t just quit. Reading the story you understand where her unwavering strength comes from; a mother who dropped out of school and was determined her daughter would not do the same and a father who turned a deaf ear to cultural beliefs and practices to make sure his little girl got an education even when his life was threatened.  Education is a basic human need, one to which every child regardless of gender, culture or religion is entitled to. The highest level of illiteracy in the world is found…wait for it…in Africa. Big surprise there, NOT! Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 47% of out of school children worldwide with 57% of those children being girls. I could go on and give you the stark statistics in countries like Niger where the literacy level is at 19.1 %, Guinea 30.4% or South Sudan at 31.9%. I will also recognize the progress made by countries like Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda among others where the literacy level is above 70% but we are barely hanging in there quality wise. So how are we supposed to compete with the rest of the world when we have such a reality on the ground? The African child is faced with many challenges right form birth especially if they are born in the rural areas. I do not know why our ancestors thought the only job a woman could do was get married, bear children and take care of her husband. Who am I to say it was not working for them back then but it is clearly a custom whose time has passed. Today girls across Africa are forced out of school for early marriages or if the family cannot acquire school fees for all its children then the boy is given priority. Civil war or political unrest has seen many schools razed down and families flee to seek safety. Our governments have let us down and we have no one to blame apart from ourselves. We continue to watch from the sidelines as they squander the future of the next generations and by extension this continent. They continue to line their pockets with money meant for education and meanwhile the school infrastructure is falling apart, books available are outdated and the teachers are among the most poorly paid in the world. No wonder private schools are thriving but what happens to the 42% of the population living below the poverty line? To be honest I do not have answers to all these questions. I do not know what to do to ensure that every child has access to quality education. May be what we need is a political, social and cultural overhaul in order to have a clear plan on how to secure the future of our children. Sure there are other paths to follow in life like sports, arts, music and so on but education offers a fall back plan. It is a security cushion. I believe with all my heart that the greatest gift a parent could give their children is an education.
    811 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  • There are some things I remember growing up and I look back and smile fondly. I remember the good times and the not so good but there are some memories that have stayed with me. They have marked me and made me to the woman I am today. My father made sure we had everything we needed growing up and one of those things was an education. We had this great wall TV that was black and white (I never said I am young) and we spent every possible minute watching the one channel that would broadcast back then. My father however, saw it as his parental duty to regulate the amount of time we watched TV or videos (anyone remember the VCL’s?). I can still hear his voice in my head telling me he did not buy that TV for our entertainment but he wanted us to see what those who had gone through school had achieved and the possibilities we could have if we took our class work more seriously. These memories have been replaying in my mind more after I read the book “I am Malala”. It is a great read and one I can highly recommend. As you all know Malala Yousafzai is a young Pakistan female education activist who became the youngest winner of the Nobel Prize in 2014. In 2012 the Taliban tried to kill her leaving her gravely wounded for standing up for the rights of children especially girls to go to school at a time when the Taliban were reigning havoc in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She had so much against her quest for an education I am surprised she didn’t just quit. Reading the story you understand where her unwavering strength comes from; a mother who dropped out of school and was determined her daughter would not do the same and a father who turned a deaf ear to cultural beliefs and practices to make sure his little girl got an education even when his life was threatened.  Education is a basic human need, one to which every child regardless of gender, culture or religion is entitled to. The highest level of illiteracy in the world is found…wait for it…in Africa. Big surprise there, NOT! Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 47% of out of school children worldwide with 57% of those children being girls. I could go on and give you the stark statistics in countries like Niger where the literacy level is at 19.1 %, Guinea 30.4% or South Sudan at 31.9%. I will also recognize the progress made by countries like Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda among others where the literacy level is above 70% but we are barely hanging in there quality wise. So how are we supposed to compete with the rest of the world when we have such a reality on the ground? The African child is faced with many challenges right form birth especially if they are born in the rural areas. I do not know why our ancestors thought the only job a woman could do was get married, bear children and take care of her husband. Who am I to say it was not working for them back then but it is clearly a custom whose time has passed. Today girls across Africa are forced out of school for early marriages or if the family cannot acquire school fees for all its children then the boy is given priority. Civil war or political unrest has seen many schools razed down and families flee to seek safety. Our governments have let us down and we have no one to blame apart from ourselves. We continue to watch from the sidelines as they squander the future of the next generations and by extension this continent. They continue to line their pockets with money meant for education and meanwhile the school infrastructure is falling apart, books available are outdated and the teachers are among the most poorly paid in the world. No wonder private schools are thriving but what happens to the 42% of the population living below the poverty line? To be honest I do not have answers to all these questions. I do not know what to do to ensure that every child has access to quality education. May be what we need is a political, social and cultural overhaul in order to have a clear plan on how to secure the future of our children. Sure there are other paths to follow in life like sports, arts, music and so on but education offers a fall back plan. It is a security cushion. I believe with all my heart that the greatest gift a parent could give their children is an education.
    Jul 17, 2016 811
  • 27 Apr 2016
    Day 2, Session 1This session was mainly focused on presentations concerning Economics and Finance plus potential assessment in relation to Renewable Energy scenarios . Among the presentations that were held included one that was solely on the exploration of the conditions for Renewable Energy transitions in Nigeria. The presenter highlighted the reasons behind the unequal distribution of the adoption of renewable energy across the thirty six states of the country. The multi-level socio-technical perspective (MLP) which involves the examination of the variation along three hypotheses: the niche hypothesis, the regime hypothesis and the landscape hypothesis was used. The presenter argued that while all three hypotheses are able to explain variation in the adoption of renewable energy technologies in Nigeria to some extent, the regime hypothesis plays a more prominent role. He explained that the hypothesis exposes clearly the structural dependence of states on oil and its influence on the adoption of renewable energy technologies. The presenter additionally discussed the crucial pathways in the development of renewable energy in Nigeria and beyond. After this topic, a presenter from Wits Business School, Johannesburg, South Africa followed with an investigation on the state of financing Renewable Energy projects (REPs). According his survey, the following results were obtained; firstly, with firms, the risk to lose the capital in financing Renewable energy projects located in semi-urban and rural areas is higher than projects implemented in urban areas. Secondly, it was found out that in investing capital, safety of the environment or impacting local economic development is not a priority for larger firms financing REPs. Thirdly, with smaller localised firms, in financing REPs, the capacity of renewable energy technologies (RETs) to contribute to sustainable economic development is an important consideration. As a solution for sustainable economic development improvement in semi-rural and rural communities, the presenter proposed the two hand renewable energy service company model of ESCO as efficient financial vehicles to increase sustainable economic development through the production of reliable and stable electricity in semi-urban and rural communities. The presentation that followed was about Smart Pricing Implementation where a simulator with ICT Infrastructure was used to approximate the system in operation. The presenter highlighted that due to a general lack of established designs, technologies and business models in developing countries, a generic platform for planning and evaluating alternative microgrid technologies and operating strategies is needed for the developing world context. He underscored that while microgrid testbeds have proved effective in many developed countries – notably within the European Union (EU) and North America – such a tool has not been developed specifically to address the variety of system architectures and technologies that arise in developing world settings. A testbed for developing world microgrids, now being planned in Rwanda was used in his study for the different case scenarios. Both DC and AC micro grids as well as Solar Home Systems (SHS), were to be represented in the testbed scenarios. The testbed would also calculate the economic effects of tiered pricing, where consumers would agree to different electricity prices in the same microgrid based on the level of service they choose. The presenter commended such a system as it modeled smart meters that provide precision monitoring and control to estimate economic returns from microgrids with different pricing schemes and different power clipping levels that correspond to the levels of service offered to consumers. Follow this heading for more interesting researches that were presented in the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Research and Innovations Symposium. @Editorial_team  
    800 Posted by Tonny Kukeera
  • Day 2, Session 1This session was mainly focused on presentations concerning Economics and Finance plus potential assessment in relation to Renewable Energy scenarios . Among the presentations that were held included one that was solely on the exploration of the conditions for Renewable Energy transitions in Nigeria. The presenter highlighted the reasons behind the unequal distribution of the adoption of renewable energy across the thirty six states of the country. The multi-level socio-technical perspective (MLP) which involves the examination of the variation along three hypotheses: the niche hypothesis, the regime hypothesis and the landscape hypothesis was used. The presenter argued that while all three hypotheses are able to explain variation in the adoption of renewable energy technologies in Nigeria to some extent, the regime hypothesis plays a more prominent role. He explained that the hypothesis exposes clearly the structural dependence of states on oil and its influence on the adoption of renewable energy technologies. The presenter additionally discussed the crucial pathways in the development of renewable energy in Nigeria and beyond. After this topic, a presenter from Wits Business School, Johannesburg, South Africa followed with an investigation on the state of financing Renewable Energy projects (REPs). According his survey, the following results were obtained; firstly, with firms, the risk to lose the capital in financing Renewable energy projects located in semi-urban and rural areas is higher than projects implemented in urban areas. Secondly, it was found out that in investing capital, safety of the environment or impacting local economic development is not a priority for larger firms financing REPs. Thirdly, with smaller localised firms, in financing REPs, the capacity of renewable energy technologies (RETs) to contribute to sustainable economic development is an important consideration. As a solution for sustainable economic development improvement in semi-rural and rural communities, the presenter proposed the two hand renewable energy service company model of ESCO as efficient financial vehicles to increase sustainable economic development through the production of reliable and stable electricity in semi-urban and rural communities. The presentation that followed was about Smart Pricing Implementation where a simulator with ICT Infrastructure was used to approximate the system in operation. The presenter highlighted that due to a general lack of established designs, technologies and business models in developing countries, a generic platform for planning and evaluating alternative microgrid technologies and operating strategies is needed for the developing world context. He underscored that while microgrid testbeds have proved effective in many developed countries – notably within the European Union (EU) and North America – such a tool has not been developed specifically to address the variety of system architectures and technologies that arise in developing world settings. A testbed for developing world microgrids, now being planned in Rwanda was used in his study for the different case scenarios. Both DC and AC micro grids as well as Solar Home Systems (SHS), were to be represented in the testbed scenarios. The testbed would also calculate the economic effects of tiered pricing, where consumers would agree to different electricity prices in the same microgrid based on the level of service they choose. The presenter commended such a system as it modeled smart meters that provide precision monitoring and control to estimate economic returns from microgrids with different pricing schemes and different power clipping levels that correspond to the levels of service offered to consumers. Follow this heading for more interesting researches that were presented in the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Research and Innovations Symposium. @Editorial_team  
    Apr 27, 2016 800
  • 29 Aug 2016
    I use my skin care products religiously and I am loyal to several brands that have proven to be good for my skin over the years. Top on my list are Neutrogena and Clean and Clear facial scrubs that leave my skin feeling smooth and silky. So imagine my shock when I saw these products on the list of those causing harm to marine life and affecting the water quality. I will be honest; the research I have done on these products has been purely based on what I could gain from them and not what their use could potentially mean to the environment. However, a time comes when you can no longer ignore the facts glaring in your face. The past week has seen an active debate and discussion on the effects of microbeads on marine life and water supplies. Microbeads are small plastic particles found in different hygiene products. They provide color and texture; exfoliating dead skin particles from our skin. Microbeads are smaller than one millimeter and are made of polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polymethyl methacrylate, or nylon. The 5 Gyres institute estimates that a single tube of scrub can have more than 300,000 microbeads. They create a rough texture that is used in exfoliating scrubs and color in toothpastes. What complicates matters with microbeads is that they are non-biodegradable and its size makes it possible for it to pass through the waste water treatment systems. This means that the microbeads are washed into rivers and lakes and eventually make their way into the ocean where they contribute to the plastic soup.   Environmental activists claim that microbeads are clogging the water affecting marine life and eventually putting man at risk through the food chain. Beat the Microbead, an international campaign geared towards the complete phasing out of microbeads in hygiene products claims that the small size of the beads confuses the marine species to believe it is food. Microbeads also have the ability to absorb dangerous chemicals posing more threat to animals that consume them. Depending on the goodwill of companies to phase out the use of microbeads has not yielded any tangible results so far. As a result active restrictions on use of microbeads may be the next best alternative as some states in the USA have proven. Therefore, companies that produce products containing microbeads will have to reevaluate their products and redevelop new brands in order to conform to these new requirements. I am experiencing a personal struggle because I am an advocate for behavior change to promote environmental protection and conservation but this time round I need to heed my own advice. This time I am not writing about what other people should do but what I am supposed to do and that in itself is difficult. I am still using the said products but every time I do some guilt eats at me. I am not an extremist when it comes to sustainability but I believe in doing the little I can to make this world a better place. There are many other products on that list and groups like Beat the Microbead are pushing for legislation change in different countries to ban the use plastic microbeads in hygiene products. I need to believe that if a few of us can stop using these products before their production ceases can have even the slightest impact in protecting marine life. I also need to start doing my research on alternative products!   For more information: https://www.beatthemicrobead.org/en/science
    781 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  • I use my skin care products religiously and I am loyal to several brands that have proven to be good for my skin over the years. Top on my list are Neutrogena and Clean and Clear facial scrubs that leave my skin feeling smooth and silky. So imagine my shock when I saw these products on the list of those causing harm to marine life and affecting the water quality. I will be honest; the research I have done on these products has been purely based on what I could gain from them and not what their use could potentially mean to the environment. However, a time comes when you can no longer ignore the facts glaring in your face. The past week has seen an active debate and discussion on the effects of microbeads on marine life and water supplies. Microbeads are small plastic particles found in different hygiene products. They provide color and texture; exfoliating dead skin particles from our skin. Microbeads are smaller than one millimeter and are made of polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polymethyl methacrylate, or nylon. The 5 Gyres institute estimates that a single tube of scrub can have more than 300,000 microbeads. They create a rough texture that is used in exfoliating scrubs and color in toothpastes. What complicates matters with microbeads is that they are non-biodegradable and its size makes it possible for it to pass through the waste water treatment systems. This means that the microbeads are washed into rivers and lakes and eventually make their way into the ocean where they contribute to the plastic soup.   Environmental activists claim that microbeads are clogging the water affecting marine life and eventually putting man at risk through the food chain. Beat the Microbead, an international campaign geared towards the complete phasing out of microbeads in hygiene products claims that the small size of the beads confuses the marine species to believe it is food. Microbeads also have the ability to absorb dangerous chemicals posing more threat to animals that consume them. Depending on the goodwill of companies to phase out the use of microbeads has not yielded any tangible results so far. As a result active restrictions on use of microbeads may be the next best alternative as some states in the USA have proven. Therefore, companies that produce products containing microbeads will have to reevaluate their products and redevelop new brands in order to conform to these new requirements. I am experiencing a personal struggle because I am an advocate for behavior change to promote environmental protection and conservation but this time round I need to heed my own advice. This time I am not writing about what other people should do but what I am supposed to do and that in itself is difficult. I am still using the said products but every time I do some guilt eats at me. I am not an extremist when it comes to sustainability but I believe in doing the little I can to make this world a better place. There are many other products on that list and groups like Beat the Microbead are pushing for legislation change in different countries to ban the use plastic microbeads in hygiene products. I need to believe that if a few of us can stop using these products before their production ceases can have even the slightest impact in protecting marine life. I also need to start doing my research on alternative products!   For more information: https://www.beatthemicrobead.org/en/science
    Aug 29, 2016 781
  • 05 Sep 2016
    There are so many products in the market each claiming to be better than the next that sometimes as a consumer I get dazed just looking at them. We must acknowledge that there exists a lot of exploitation in the production chain before a product finally finds its way on the shelves. There is exploitation of cheap labor in Asia where workers work for long hours with little pay and their working conditions are inhumane. Farmers in Africa get exploited by middlemen with very little representation in trade unions. Yet they work tirelessly to provide for their families and feed the world by extension. We have children working in cocoa farms in West Africa only for you to satisfy your chocolate craving. Forest cover continues to dwindle as the demand for furniture increases. The list is endless. It is in this light that the producers have found a way to ease our guilt as consumers and make us feel better about our consumption habits. We now have labels on products showing fair trade was practiced or for some showing no exploitation took place during the production chain. Yet who really verifies these claims? The fair trade marks are globally recognized symbols that show that products bearing these marks meet the internationally agreed social, environmental and economic standards. According to FAIRTRADE International buying these products support farmers and workers as they improve their lives and communities. Kenya has launched the fair trade mark as its first ethical label on products. I have to admit that the idea is noble. After all it seeks to protect and economically empower farmers and other workers against exploitation. However, this is only in paper. I am a daughter of a farmer who grows coffee and tea among other crops and the general feeling is that of resignation and of things never getting better. A few years back my country experienced a wave of farmers uprooting their coffee and tea plantations because they had been exploited for so long it made no economic sense to continue in the trade. To date, most continue to ravish in poverty as their products grace world markets. In short such marks do not make any sense to farmers if they do not translate into better income and living standards. We can make ourselves feel better by buying the so called certified products and even pay more for them but this money does not get to its rightful owners. So do we stop eating chocolate and drinking tea or coffee among many other products? Of course not! Maybe it is not the job of the consumer to determine what was fairy put in the market or not, after all there is government systems meant for this. What we should not do as consumers is pretend that paying more for products automatically eliminates the exploitation of hard working individuals in the production chain. It is hypocritical at the very least and only fattens the pockets of a few individuals.
    778 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  • There are so many products in the market each claiming to be better than the next that sometimes as a consumer I get dazed just looking at them. We must acknowledge that there exists a lot of exploitation in the production chain before a product finally finds its way on the shelves. There is exploitation of cheap labor in Asia where workers work for long hours with little pay and their working conditions are inhumane. Farmers in Africa get exploited by middlemen with very little representation in trade unions. Yet they work tirelessly to provide for their families and feed the world by extension. We have children working in cocoa farms in West Africa only for you to satisfy your chocolate craving. Forest cover continues to dwindle as the demand for furniture increases. The list is endless. It is in this light that the producers have found a way to ease our guilt as consumers and make us feel better about our consumption habits. We now have labels on products showing fair trade was practiced or for some showing no exploitation took place during the production chain. Yet who really verifies these claims? The fair trade marks are globally recognized symbols that show that products bearing these marks meet the internationally agreed social, environmental and economic standards. According to FAIRTRADE International buying these products support farmers and workers as they improve their lives and communities. Kenya has launched the fair trade mark as its first ethical label on products. I have to admit that the idea is noble. After all it seeks to protect and economically empower farmers and other workers against exploitation. However, this is only in paper. I am a daughter of a farmer who grows coffee and tea among other crops and the general feeling is that of resignation and of things never getting better. A few years back my country experienced a wave of farmers uprooting their coffee and tea plantations because they had been exploited for so long it made no economic sense to continue in the trade. To date, most continue to ravish in poverty as their products grace world markets. In short such marks do not make any sense to farmers if they do not translate into better income and living standards. We can make ourselves feel better by buying the so called certified products and even pay more for them but this money does not get to its rightful owners. So do we stop eating chocolate and drinking tea or coffee among many other products? Of course not! Maybe it is not the job of the consumer to determine what was fairy put in the market or not, after all there is government systems meant for this. What we should not do as consumers is pretend that paying more for products automatically eliminates the exploitation of hard working individuals in the production chain. It is hypocritical at the very least and only fattens the pockets of a few individuals.
    Sep 05, 2016 778
  • 30 May 2016
    The past few days have been particularly difficult for me and saw my dad get admitted to the hospital for about five days. I knew he was unwell and his sugar level had been abnormally high but I did not think it would warrant a stay at the hospital. So you can imagine my shock and panic when I received a message telling me he had been admitted.  I called him right away and he sounded very weak and tired and it made me all weepy because I knew he was hurting and there is nothing I could do about it. More frustrating for me was not being able to see him and verifying for myself that he was going to be alright, so I called him and my mum everyday and somehow I found some peace in that. Luckily I had a very strong support system around me and that helped some and he is now back home healthy as a horse.   During this period I remember writing to a good friend of mine and telling him I was thinking of turning down an internship offer I had received because I needed to get home immediately after the end of the semester. He was very empathetic  with me but reminded me that sometimes being away from our loved ones is the cost we have to pay to make them proud and better ourselves. It made me think of what all of us have had to give up by being here. Some left little kids and a partner behind and they have missed some important milestones in their young lives and yet they keep going. Some have missed important occasions like weddings, graduations, family gatherings and a chance to properly bid farewell to a fallen loved one. For some they have seen relationships crumble because they could not withstand the test of distance. So this brings me to the big question, is it really worth it?    I believe with all my being that the sacrifices I have made have been worth every moment I have missed. Forget the academics even though that is why we are all here but think of all other opportunities that have come our way. I feel like coming to this country was necessary for me in order to start the journey to self discovery and growth. I might have been working before but my level of confidence has tripled over the past couple of months and I have grown into my own person. I have had a chance to find things that I am deeply passionate about and made connections with people I never thought I could stand a chance of meeting. Strangers have become family even though different blood runs in our veins. I continue to learn and make mistakes but the bottom line is I simply refuse to leave the same way I came.   That is my hope for all of us. That we may find something we are good at or care enough about while we are here and channel all our energy into making ourselves better. Like Foster Ofosu from the African Development Bank said during the International Water and Energy Fair; no one owes us anything other than ourselves. We have to motivate ourselves and knock on those doors that we have been made to believe cannot open for one reason or another. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to exploit every opportunity provided so that when our time is done here every sacrifice we have made will be worth it. Eventually you will find that what you consider to be the greatest sacrifice now will prove to be one of the greatest investments you could ever make.
    771 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  • The past few days have been particularly difficult for me and saw my dad get admitted to the hospital for about five days. I knew he was unwell and his sugar level had been abnormally high but I did not think it would warrant a stay at the hospital. So you can imagine my shock and panic when I received a message telling me he had been admitted.  I called him right away and he sounded very weak and tired and it made me all weepy because I knew he was hurting and there is nothing I could do about it. More frustrating for me was not being able to see him and verifying for myself that he was going to be alright, so I called him and my mum everyday and somehow I found some peace in that. Luckily I had a very strong support system around me and that helped some and he is now back home healthy as a horse.   During this period I remember writing to a good friend of mine and telling him I was thinking of turning down an internship offer I had received because I needed to get home immediately after the end of the semester. He was very empathetic  with me but reminded me that sometimes being away from our loved ones is the cost we have to pay to make them proud and better ourselves. It made me think of what all of us have had to give up by being here. Some left little kids and a partner behind and they have missed some important milestones in their young lives and yet they keep going. Some have missed important occasions like weddings, graduations, family gatherings and a chance to properly bid farewell to a fallen loved one. For some they have seen relationships crumble because they could not withstand the test of distance. So this brings me to the big question, is it really worth it?    I believe with all my being that the sacrifices I have made have been worth every moment I have missed. Forget the academics even though that is why we are all here but think of all other opportunities that have come our way. I feel like coming to this country was necessary for me in order to start the journey to self discovery and growth. I might have been working before but my level of confidence has tripled over the past couple of months and I have grown into my own person. I have had a chance to find things that I am deeply passionate about and made connections with people I never thought I could stand a chance of meeting. Strangers have become family even though different blood runs in our veins. I continue to learn and make mistakes but the bottom line is I simply refuse to leave the same way I came.   That is my hope for all of us. That we may find something we are good at or care enough about while we are here and channel all our energy into making ourselves better. Like Foster Ofosu from the African Development Bank said during the International Water and Energy Fair; no one owes us anything other than ourselves. We have to motivate ourselves and knock on those doors that we have been made to believe cannot open for one reason or another. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to exploit every opportunity provided so that when our time is done here every sacrifice we have made will be worth it. Eventually you will find that what you consider to be the greatest sacrifice now will prove to be one of the greatest investments you could ever make.
    May 30, 2016 771
  • 25 Apr 2016
    Is Africa a country? Do you live in the forest and my all time favorite do I live with lions (to be honest we have had a few lions escape the National park in Nairobi and taken to the streets).I am sure at one point in time you have had these bizarre questions posed to you. There are times I have wondered if I should dignify such ignorance with an answer and sometimes I have rolled my eyes to the back of my head. You would be forgiven to think we are still living in the Stone Age and not in the 21st Century where information is at our fingertips.    Half the world believes we are a continent of war and hunger. And who can blame them when that is all the media shows them. Naked little children carrying empty bowls with flies covering their dirty faces and women holding on to emaciated babies making long lines to get food rations. If you watch cable TV I am sure you have seen the countless commercials asking viewers to send dollars to some organization and help save a life! We are a continent in constant need of saving and feeding. Poor Africans! It is funny how some these organizations have come to capitalize on this level of ignorance. I believe the reason as to why we are branded as a continent of misery is because there is money to be made. So they tell our sob stories and in return they get their pockets lined with money by well wishers. You would think with all the charitable organizations camping in our countries our troubles would be over but nope! We are still stuck in the vicious cycle of begging and receiving.   To be honest such questions and statement used to irk me to no end but they do not bother me anymore. If someone is too lazy to use Miss Google then I am more than happy to educate them. For starters Africa is not a country but a continent with 54 states. Just because I am from Africa and Kenya to be more specific does not mean I know your friend from Mali or Namibia, I am not even quarter way done in getting to know people from my village. Do not get me started on the life changing stories that most people share once they visit a country in Africa. It is like Africa is a place where people come to have an epiphany on how precious life is and how privileged they are.   Granted Africans have also played the victim card pretty well, we are always tripping over ourselves to do what the outside world thinks is best for us. We have played a role in portraying the warped picture the world has of us. But we cannot continue to let our heads hang in shame every time someone thinks they know our continent just because they watched a few documentaries and heard stories from a friend of their friend who travelled for a life changing trip to Africa. We have to tell our own stories, stand tall and let the world know that we are a land of endless opportunities and immense potential. If we were so poor and miserable why do we have multinationals fighting it out to set base in our countries? Our soils are rich with minerals and the wild run free in our savannahs. So what if we have troubles here and there, who doesn’t? We are a continent with a heart and back bones of steel, resilient people who rise time and again even in the midst of tragedy and pain. We are a people diverse in their culture and beliefs and that makes us more beautiful and all the more special. However, we all know happy stories don’t sell, sensational stories do and the media foreign or domestic has made this an art. So the next time someone asks you if you live with a lion, give them a smile and get ready to school them on Africa 101!
    770 Posted by Eva Kimonye
  • Is Africa a country? Do you live in the forest and my all time favorite do I live with lions (to be honest we have had a few lions escape the National park in Nairobi and taken to the streets).I am sure at one point in time you have had these bizarre questions posed to you. There are times I have wondered if I should dignify such ignorance with an answer and sometimes I have rolled my eyes to the back of my head. You would be forgiven to think we are still living in the Stone Age and not in the 21st Century where information is at our fingertips.    Half the world believes we are a continent of war and hunger. And who can blame them when that is all the media shows them. Naked little children carrying empty bowls with flies covering their dirty faces and women holding on to emaciated babies making long lines to get food rations. If you watch cable TV I am sure you have seen the countless commercials asking viewers to send dollars to some organization and help save a life! We are a continent in constant need of saving and feeding. Poor Africans! It is funny how some these organizations have come to capitalize on this level of ignorance. I believe the reason as to why we are branded as a continent of misery is because there is money to be made. So they tell our sob stories and in return they get their pockets lined with money by well wishers. You would think with all the charitable organizations camping in our countries our troubles would be over but nope! We are still stuck in the vicious cycle of begging and receiving.   To be honest such questions and statement used to irk me to no end but they do not bother me anymore. If someone is too lazy to use Miss Google then I am more than happy to educate them. For starters Africa is not a country but a continent with 54 states. Just because I am from Africa and Kenya to be more specific does not mean I know your friend from Mali or Namibia, I am not even quarter way done in getting to know people from my village. Do not get me started on the life changing stories that most people share once they visit a country in Africa. It is like Africa is a place where people come to have an epiphany on how precious life is and how privileged they are.   Granted Africans have also played the victim card pretty well, we are always tripping over ourselves to do what the outside world thinks is best for us. We have played a role in portraying the warped picture the world has of us. But we cannot continue to let our heads hang in shame every time someone thinks they know our continent just because they watched a few documentaries and heard stories from a friend of their friend who travelled for a life changing trip to Africa. We have to tell our own stories, stand tall and let the world know that we are a land of endless opportunities and immense potential. If we were so poor and miserable why do we have multinationals fighting it out to set base in our countries? Our soils are rich with minerals and the wild run free in our savannahs. So what if we have troubles here and there, who doesn’t? We are a continent with a heart and back bones of steel, resilient people who rise time and again even in the midst of tragedy and pain. We are a people diverse in their culture and beliefs and that makes us more beautiful and all the more special. However, we all know happy stories don’t sell, sensational stories do and the media foreign or domestic has made this an art. So the next time someone asks you if you live with a lion, give them a smile and get ready to school them on Africa 101!
    Apr 25, 2016 770