Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
By Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU, Jan 26 (AlertNet) – Nurto Isak’s food rations are feeding her, her three children, and — she suspects — the militiamen guarding the camp in Mogadishu where she and other uprooted Somalis have taken refuge.
The city is host to more than 180,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who, like Isak, have fled a killer combination of conflict, drought and hunger back home.
Many risk long, difficult journeys to reach the capital, their sights set on the numerous aid agencies that have set up relief operations to hand out food and treat malnutrition there.
Yet many people at various IDP settlements in the war-torn city complain that food aid is not reaching them and accuse local aid workers working for international and Somali NGOs of taking it to line their own pockets.
I had a flashback the other day when I was looking at photographs from Haiti of 15-year-old Fabianne Geismar, shot dead in the head after stealing wall hangings from a Port-au-Prince store, crushed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.
The image of Fabianne sprawled on the ground, blood trailing over the paintings she’d grabbed, took me back to my own childhood in Nairobi and the sight of a 7- or 8-year-old-boy – probably the same age as me at the time – who was caught stealing sweets from a street vendor and was beaten and burnt with rubber tyres. They called it mob justice.
A major obstacle to producing enough food has been the dry weather which hit many African countries last year, including Kenya, where 10 million people urgently needed food when rains failed. Now Kenyan farmers have been asked to grow drought tolerant crops to help prepare for the effects of climate change.
Nancy Opele has been growing sweet potatoes on her farm in Kenya’s western Trans Nzoia district. She started growing the potatoes in 2003 after researchers approached farmers and introduced them to the crop.
It has now been 25 years since more than 1 million Ethiopians died as those of us lucky enough to live in the rich world sat transfixed in front of our television screens. The horrible suffering brought with it the biggest outpouring of charity ever seen as governments and ordinary people dug deep to stop it.
But a quarter of a century on foreigners are still feeding a huge number of Ethiopians. The Ethiopian government says poor rains mean 6.2 million of its people need food aid this year and has asked the international community to provide it.
A group from east Africa’s biggest slum has proved that you don’t need a big farm in the countryside to produce food crops for sale.
They’re planting organic vegetables on a small allotment in the middle of Nairobi’s Kibera slum that his been cleared out of an old rubbish tip.
It was not the most encouraging message after a year that had few silver linings for the country of 36 million, still recovering from a bout of post-election violence early last year.
The announcement by a U.S. investor that he has a deal to lease a swathe of South Sudan for farmland has again focused attention on foreigners trying to snap up African agricultural land.
A few months ago, South Korea’s Daweoo Logistics said it had secured rights to plant corn and palm oil in an even bigger patch of Madagascar – although local authorities said the deal was not done yet. Investors from Asia and the Gulf are looking elsewhere in Africa too.
Zimbabwe may lose its status as the country with the world’s highest proportion of billionaires after the central bank’s decision to lop 10 zeroes from its dollar.
What it means for the currency is that 10,000,000,000 dollars will become just one - although it will still take 25 of the new dollars to buy a loaf of bread.
Few people from the outside world come this way.
Most foreign and local holidaymakers heading for the popular Lamu Islands prefer to fly rather than use the road.
Rich countries look set to fall roughly $40 billion short of the amount they had pledged to give to Africa by 2010. So says a report released on Monday by the panel set up to monitor commitments made amid much fanfare at the Group of Eight summit in 2005.
The panel said G8 countries were not keeping their promises at the very moment rising food prices threaten to increase hunger and child mortality. The report also calls for a rethink of trade policies to help African countries and urges rich nations to spend more on renewable energy sources there.