FRW news in brief

    | March 3, 2014

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    1- Zimbabwe: Resource curse or misery diamonds?

    The province of Manicaland in eastern Zimbabwe is facing rising food insecurity. The situation in the area around the Marange diamond mines is being blamed by Chiadzwa Community Development Trust, a local NGO, on the “resource curse.”

    Mining activities have swallowed 60,000 hectares of land from the community. The increase in mining has undermined the livelihoods of local families which traditionally sold crops and livestock to buy food, pay for school fees and other basic needs.

    Stella Washaya is a Marange villager and volunteer counsellor for vulnerable young girls. She claims that the loss of land and other factors has resulted in one in five village households having at least one teenaged girl involved in the commercial sex trade.

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    2- Uganda: Climate-smart technology

    Ugandan farmers and livestock herders have suffered in recent years from the lack of reliable local weather information. Before the effects of the changing climate became apparent, weather patterns were predictable. But now, farmers are finding it more difficult to predict when the rains will come.

    To remedy this situation, the Ugandan government, NGOs, local council leaders, communities and researchers teamed up to develop a weather information service which is offered via SMS. The Climate Change Adaptation and ICT Project collects local weather data via mobile phone and transmits it to the capital, Kampala. Once the data is analyzed, the project delivers 10-day and 30-day weather forecasts to farmers via text messages.

    The new service has been tested in three central and eastern districts of Uganda and now the country’s Ministry of Water and Environment is looking to expand its reach.

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    3- Ghana: SMS poll changes government position on electricity rates

    At the end of 2013, Ghana’s government decided to raise water and electricity rates across the country. The decision sparked street protests and complaints on radio call-in shows.

    With assistance from the NGO Journalists for Human Rights, Accra’s Citi FM and the Globe newspaper conducted a national SMS poll, in which Ghanaians voiced their opinions on the proposed rate increase. Media coverage of the nine-question SMS poll led to country-wide participation, turning it into a national issue and an international story.

    As a result of the poll and the massive opposition to the increase, the government relented and reduced the proposed hike from 79 percent to 55 per cent.

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    4- Kenya: Maize shortage means empty stomachs

    Families are struggling to put food on the table in the midst of a drought in Kenya’s semi-arid Central Province. And nearly half the 400,000 residents of arid Turkana County in the Rift Valley Province are facing starvation.

    Kenya’s Drought Management Authority says food shortages in central Kenya are a result of the lack of rainfall. Only 200 millimetres of rain fell this year, a fifth of the annual average. The effects of the drought are expected to reach their peak in August, when stocks from this year’s maize harvest start to run out. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that this year’s maize harvest in Kenya was 10 million bags less than average.

    The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute stated that ten million Kenyans across the country lack sufficient food, and 1.7 million face hunger and starvation.