Climate-Proofing Agriculture Must Take Centre Stage in African Policy

KIGALI, Rwanda, Jun 14 2016 (IPS) – After over a year of extreme weather changes across the world, causing destruction to homes and lives, 2015-16 El Niño has now come to an end.

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This recent El Niño – probably the strongest on record along with the along with those in 1997-1998 and 1982-83– has yet again shown us just how vulnerable we, let alone the poorest of the poor, are to dramatic changes in the climate and other extreme weather events.

Across southern Africa El Niño has led to the extreme drought affecting this year’s crop. Worst affected by poor rains are Malawi, where almost three million people are facing hunger, and Madagascar and Zimbabwe, where last year’s harvest was reduced by half compared to the previous year because of substantial crop failure.

However, El Niño is not the only manifestation of climate change. Mean temperatures across Africa are expected to rise faster than the global average, possibly reaching as high as 3°C to 6°C greater than pre-industrial levels, and rainfall will change, almost invariably for the worst.

In the face of this, African governments are under more pressure than ever to boost productivity and accelerate growth in order to meet the food demands of a rapidly expanding population and a growing middle class. To achieve this exact challenge, African Union nations signed the Malabo Declaration in 2014, committing themselves to double agricultural productivity and end hunger by 2025.

However, according to a new briefing paper out today from the Montpellier Panel, the agricultural growth and food security goals as set out by the Malabo Declaration have underemphasised the risk that climate change will pose to food and nutrition security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. The Montpellier Panel concludes that food security and agricultural development policies in Africa will fail if they are not climate-smart.

Smallholder farmers will require more support than ever to withstand the challenges and threats posed by climate change while at the same time enabling them to continue to improve their livelihoods and help achieve an agricultural transformation. In this process it will be important that governments do not fail to mainstream smallholder resilience across their policies and strategies, to ensure that agriculture continues to thrive, despite the increasing number and intensity of droughts, heat waves or flash floods.

The Montpellier Panel argues that climate-smart agriculture, which serves the triple purpose of increasing production, adapting to climate change and reducing agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions, needs to be integrated into countries’ National Agriculture Investment Plans and become a more explicit part of the implementation of the Malabo Declaration.

Across Africa we are starting to see signs of progress to remove some of the barriers to implementing successful climate change strategies at national and local levels.  These projects and agriculture interventions are scalable and provide important lessons for strengthening political leadership, triggering technological innovations, improving risk mitigation and above all building the capacity of a next generation of agricultural scientists, farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs. The Montpellier Panel has outlined several strategies that have shown particular success.

Building a Knowledge Economy

A “knowledge economy” improves the scientific capacities of both individuals and institutions, supported by financial incentives and better infrastructure. A good example is the “Global Change System Analysis, Research and Training” (START) programme, that promotes research-driven capacity building to advance knowledge on global environmental change across 26 countries in Africa.

START provides research grants and fellowships, facilitates multi-stakeholder dialogues and develops curricula. This opens up opportunities for scientists and development professionals, young people and policy makers to enhance their understanding of the threats posed by climate change.

Sustainably intensifying agriculture

Agriculture production that will simultaneously improve food security and natural resources such as soil and water quality will be key for African countries to achieve the goal of doubling agriculture productivity by 2025. Adoption of Sustainable Intensification (SI) practices in combination has the potential to increase agricultural production while improving soil fertility, reducing GHG emissions and environmental degradation and making smallholders more resilient to climate change or other weather stresses and shocks.

Drip irrigation technologies such as bucket drip kits help deliver water to crops effectively with far less effort than hand-watering and for a minimal cost compared to irrigation. In Kenya, through the support of the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute, the use of the drip kit is spreading rapidly and farmers reported profits of US$80-200 with a single bucket kit, depending on the type of vegetable.

Providing climate information services

Risk mitigation tools, such as providing reliable climate information services, insurance policies that pay out to farmers following extreme climate events and social safety net programmes that pay vulnerable households to contribute to public works can boost community resilience. Since 2011 the CGIAR’s Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Senegalese National Meteorological Agency and the the Union des Radios Associatives et Communautaires du Sénégal, an association of 82 community-based radio stations, have been collaborating to develop climate information services that benefit smallholder farmers.

A pilot project was implemented in Kaffrine and by 2015, the project had scaled-up to the rest of the country. Four different types of CI form the basis of advice provided to farmers through SMS and radio: seasonal, 10-day, daily and instant weather forecasts, that allow farmers to adjust their farming practices. In 2014, over 740,000 farm households across Senegal benefitted from these services.

Now is the time to act

While international and continental processes such as the Sustainable Development Goals, COP21 and the Malabo Declaration are crucial for aligning core development objectives and goals, there is often a disconnect between the levels of commitment and implementation on the ground. Now is an opportune time to act. Governments inevitably have many concurrent and often conflicting commitments and hence require clear goals that chart a way forward to deliver on the Malabo Declaration.

The 15 success stories discussed in the Montpellier Panel’s briefing paper highlight just some examples that help Africa’s agriculture thrive. As the backbone of African economies, accounting for as much as 40% of total export earnings and employing 60 – 90% of the labour force, agriculture is the sector that will accelerate growth and transform Africa’s economies.

With the targets of the Malabo Declaration aimed at 2025 – five years before the SDGs – Africa can now seize the moment and lead the way on the shared agenda of sustainable agricultural development and green economic growth.

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Africa makes great strides towards Zero Hunger, despite hurdles

Climate change and conflict pose challenges; joint action to deliver on commitments needed – FAO Director-General.

Africa has made great strides in tackling hunger — achieving a 30 percent drop in the proportion of its people facing hunger over the 1990-2015 period — but climate change, conflict and social inequality continue to present major challenges in the continent’s quest for a future free from hunger and want, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today.

While the overall proportion of Africans who are food insecure has dropped, there are “significant variations” in the numbers of food insecure can be seen from country to country, he noted.

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“Africa’s economic performance remains robust with growth rates above the global average. However, vulnerability to climate change is high, post-harvest losses are considerable, natural resources are being depleted, and not everyone is benefiting from the proceeds of the current strong economic growth. Access to remunerative income, social protection systems and decent employment opportunities remain narrow for too many rural households,” FAO’s Director-General said.

He was speaking at the official opening of the FAO’ Regional Conference for Africa, taking place this week in Abidjan with the participation of the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, Daniel Kablan Duncan..

Graziano da Silva urged his listeners to continue to work together to harness the power of the food and agriculture sector as a catalyst for inclusive growth, poverty reduction and fighting hunger, saying: “In spite of the many hurdles along the way, today I urge you to look at how far we have come in the journey to end hunger in our lifetimes.”

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The conference’s theme ”Transforming African Agri-food systems for inclusive growth and shared prosperity” mirrors the vision of the African Union and its NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency to realise a renewed vision for Africa’s agriculture sector.

“This conference adds momentum to the push for a fundamental shift in the orientation of Africa’s agricultural and rural development towards transforming the lives of Africans under the 2014 Malabo Declaration and outlined in the Africa’s Agenda 2063”, the FAO Director-General said.

More than 300 people are participating in the event, including 51 African ministers of agriculture and related sectors, as well as technical experts and development specialists, representatives of regional organizations and institutions, members of civil society, and the private sector.

El Niño and other crisis pose challenges

Graziano da Silva highlighted climate change and conflict as two particularly pressing challenges for Africa.

The ongoing El Niño cycle is affecting large parts of the African continent, especially the southern sub-region as well as parts of East Africa, notably Ethiopia and Tanzania, and has taken a major tool on agriculture, he noted, while conflicts in the Central African Republic, Somalia, and South Sudan continue to have serious food insecurity repercussions.

FAO is working in all these hotspots, providing farmers with seeds, tools, and other support vital to maintaining and strengthening their ability to produce food and earn income.

“These crisis vividly remind us of the importance of scaling up resilience interventions targeting vulnerable populations whose livelihoods mainly depend on agriculture, livestock, fisheries forestry and other renewable natural resources,” according to Graziano da Silva.

He also underscored the importance of preventing future disease epidemics like Ebola, which impacted food security and people’s livelihoods in West Africa. FAO has recently launched a five-year programme in Africa to monitor and tackle emerging pandemic threats at their source in animals, working in 13 countries, he said.

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Africans for Africa

Delivering on the 2025 Zero Hunger challenge as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will require the efforts of an alliance of partners, and

“FAO stands ready to support Africa member states in the delivery of the SDGs in firm collaboration with the African Union, other regional institutions and humanitarian and development partners,” Graziano da Silva said.

In support of CAADP, FAO has participated in the formulation of 95 agriculture and food security investment projects in 40 countries in Africa, with financial support from partners such as the AfDB World Bank and IFAD, the agency’s Director-General pointed out.

And in 2012 FAO helped pioneer the innovative Africa Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF), which mobilizes funds donated by African countries in support of food security projects in less-well off parts of the continent. So far, $34.5 million have been allocated to 15 programmes and projects in 36 different countries, boosting efforts to eradicate hunger.

He encouraged governments to continue to resource the fund, which is working to transforming African agriculture and make it an engine for shared growth and prosperity.

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How science should feed into 2030 Agenda

ST&I can help implement the SDGs in more ways than many policymakers realise, says Måns Nilsson.

The 2030 Agenda and its centrepiece, the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs), call for a transformation in how societies interact with the planet and each other. This transformation will need new technologies, new knowledge and new ways of structuring societies and economies.
Scientific research obviously has a central role. But is innovation the only way it can contribute?
I was recently part of an independent expert group set up by the European Commission to advise on the role of science, technology and innovation (ST&I) in implementing the new global sustainable development agenda. [1] We identified many, sometimes unexpected, aspects of ST&I’s potential role, and made some recommendations on how to maximise the benefits.
I see three principal roles for ST&I: characterising the challenges; providing the solutions; and strengthening public institutions and society. [2]

Characterising challenges

The 2030 Agenda is based on a principle of universality. This means that every country should contribute to achieving the larger vision of global sustainable development. But — naturally — the challenges, priorities and options for action will vary between countries, and for the different groups or institutions involved.

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“Scientific research can help to identify precisely what the sustainability challenges are in different contexts.” Måns Nilsson, Stockholm Environment Institute

Scientific research can help to identify precisely what the sustainability challenges are in different contexts, what are the root causes of those challenges and how they relate to other challenges.

The agenda also needs to be interpreted. The SDGs may be numerous, but they are also notoriously vague. This allows — in fact, requires  — countries to interpret them, work out where to focus their energies and decide what targets to set. This applies beyond governments too, to the different groups and institutions working to advance sustainable development.
This interpretation is largely a social and political process, but science has a key role to play, for example to provide data and models exploring how different targets interact. This is one role policymakers don’t normally consider.
Finally, science has a role in tracking progress towards the goals. Some targets lend themselves to measurement with indicators derived from the natural sciences, but most require contributions from social and behavioural sciences too.

Providing solutions

The second way ST&I can contribute is by providing the technologies, strategies and business models for implementing the SDGs. We simply do not yet have all the solutions we need to make this agenda a reality.
Certainly much could be achieved through making wider use of already available or emerging technologies and know-how. But there will always be a need to adapt them and innovate. To make this happen, we will need to better align funding models, institutions and mindsets with the needs of sustainable development. Research institutions tend to be stuck in sectoral or disciplinary straitjackets, but delivering on the SDGs requires multidisciplinary work.
The 2030 Agenda explicitly recognises that sustainability challenges are fundamentally inter-related. Similarly, the solutions will need to integrate — or at least coordinate — action by many groups, informed by diverse scientific fields. A key role of research here is to ensure that agendas are coherent: that progress in one sustainability area does not undermine progress in another.
Scientific research can also help in assessing current practices, strategies and policy proposals — with an eye to capturing how different goals interact (both the trade-offs and the synergies). The aim here is to look for improvements, identify potential consequences and explore how promising activities could be scaled up or transplanted.

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Strengthening institutions

And we should not overlook a final type of contribution, even though it is less direct and often goes unrecognised.

“Scientists will also need to step out of their comfort zones and embrace new ways of working and thinking.” Måns Nilsson, Stockholm Environment Institute

First, the research community is uniquely placed to serve as a neutral forum and platform for dialogue between government, business, civil society and other groups or organisations.

Second, it contributes to development and democracy. In the past, institutions such as the World Bank have viewed research and higher education as a private and individual concern rather than a social benefit — so, for example, they have encouraged borrowing countries to reduce public investment in favour of privatisation.

But in the past 20 years, development policymakers and practitioners have become more aware of the development benefits of long-term investment in research institutions.These are not only in terms of research results that can be put to productive use, but also in building up an educated middle class that promotes social stability and democratic processes.

What does this mean for science?

To say that implementation of the SDGs must rest on solid scientific foundations does not only mean that politicians, businesses and civil society should listen to what science has to say. To pursue this agenda, some scientists will also need to step out of their comfort zones and embrace new ways of working and thinking.

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We all have a role to play to achieve water security

Access to clean, safe water is fundamental to life. It is essential to health and well-being, but also food, energy, prosperity and economic growth. Yet the impacts of climate change threaten to make water scarcity an even more pressing issue for even more people. Successfully safeguarding this precious resource requires true partnership between organizations, both public and private.

Already, momentum is building at the global level to better manage water resources. Ensuring everyone, everywhere has access to water is a key part of the recent Sustainable Development Goals. At the national level, recent droughts from South Africa and California to Sao Paulo have hit local populations, as well as businesses and economic growth. It’s impossible to ignore extreme weather and increased competition for water — and we can expect it to worsen as the impacts of climate change increase.

Experts we partner with tell us there are two main reasons people experience low water security. Sometimes, there is simply not enough to meet demand. Around 1.2 billion people, almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million more are approaching water scarcity. This means everyone should look to reduce any unnecessary waste or loss of water, and save water wherever possible.

But there is another type of water scarcity — one where water is available but people are unable to access the quantity and quality they need. This is where we can make a real and more immediate difference. Another 1.6 billion people face this type of economic scarcity, which has multiple and complex causes, from historical inequities and poor infrastructure to bureaucratic hurdles.

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The search for sustainable solutions to challenges like these brought us to work with a number of partners on both local and global water projects.

We know water scarcity is an issue that requires long-term vision and commitment. Our partnership over the past 17 years with the Unilever Center for Environmental Water Quality at Rhodes University in South Africa works to empower communities to have a say in how local water resources are managed and governed. This is critical when there are so many competing claims for water from industrial, agricultural and domestic users.

But we also need to provide immediate, practical solutions. As many households continue to suffer unreliable and interrupted water supply in South Africa, UCEWQ and partners have set up an emergency water program called Water for Dignity. Hundreds of homes are able to access safe water stored and made available through simple solutions like street water tanks. They are also supporting community-based businesses where volunteers provide household water barrels against staged payments — a model that will soon be self-sustaining.

These types of programs need to be scaled up if we want to meet the SDG of ensuring safe water for all by 2030. Today, we have just announced a new partnership with UNICEF to improve access to safe water in countries across sub-Saharan Africa. Starting in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast, the programs will promote handwashing in schools and improve water management. The aim is to provide access to safe water and drive behavior change in how people use and conserve water, in a way that is sustainable and scalable across the continent.

Our motivation for partnering with Rhodes University and UNICEF is as much a question of survival as it is of social responsibility. We know our business can’t succeed without water. We need water to grow our agricultural materials, keep our factories running and even for customers to use our products when they cook, clean and wash. We’re working hard to use water more efficiently within our own supply chain and to innovate products that help our consumers use less water. Since 1995, we’ve cut the water abstracted by our factories per unit of production by 74 percent. But there’s still much more for us to do — within our operations and with others.

The stakes could not be higher. As World Bank President Jim Yong Kim recently noted: “Achieving the water global goal would have multiple benefits, including laying the foundations for food and energy security, sustainable urbanization, and ultimately climate security.”

This year’s U.N.-Water theme, “Water and Jobs,” is a stark reminder of how many people depend on water for their livelihood and employment.

Communities, businesses and governments all have an interest in ensuring that we manage this scarce resource sustainability and equitably. It is critical for those who lack access to water today, but it is also essential if we want our communities and economy to thrive in the future.

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Why Singapore needs the sharing economy

Singapore has declared its plans to be a sustainable city. In the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015, a policy document which maps out the country’s sustainable development strategies, the city-state has set out a collective vision that includes being a “car-lite”, zero waste nation by 2030.

It has also set reduction targets for its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Under Singapore’s pledge to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it will cut its emissions intensity—that is, the greenhouse gases needed to produce every dollar of national income—by 36 per cent compared to 2005 levels.

Experts say that one largely untapped strategy for Singapore with huge potential is the sharing economy, where people use websites and mobile applications, or apps, to rent, lend, and swap goods and services with one another rather than buying them from shops or commercial companies.

April Rinne, a United States-based sharing economy consultant and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, says that by encouraging people to pool existing resources instead of buying new goods, “there is no question that the sharing economy can help a society be more sustainable”.

With its high population density, technology-savvy society, compact urban layout, and a strong government commitment to efficiency, Singapore is perfectly poised to become a sharing nation, adds Rinne, who was in Singapore last month to speak on the sharing economy.

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An evolving economy

People have swapped, loaned, and rented items informally for centuries, but the sharing economy—also known as collaborative consumption, peer economy, and access economy, among other names—has gained formal recognition only in recent years.

The term has come to include everything from services that help neighbours lend each other household items and websites that allow a tourist to stay at a stranger’s home while on vacation, to apps that summon a driver at the tap of a button.

United Kingdom-based business consultancy PwC notes in a 2015 study that peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding, peer-to-peer accommodation, and car-sharing are among the fastest growing sharing economy sectors globally.

PwC predicts that these sectors—along with online staffing, and music and video streaming—by 2025 will present a global revenue opportunity of US$335 billion, up from US$15 billion in 2013.

These new operating models certainly promise bigger business opportunities and profits, but they are also a chance to change how society uses resources, note experts.

Eugene Tay, founder and former president of the Sharing Economy Association of Singapore (SEAS)—an organisation set up in 2014 to promote the industry’s growth—notes that “car sharing or carpooling reduces the need to own a car, while the sharing of accommodation or co-working spaces reduces the resources to build more spaces”.

Members of SEAS include local start-ups such as item-lending services Rent Tycoons and Leendy, accommodation sharing site PandaBed and car-sharing firms CarPal and iCarsclub. International home-sharing giant Airbnb is also a member.

Other local enterprises include Carousell, an app for selling second-hand goods, and carpooling services like the Tripda app and, an online community.

Fenni Wang, co-founder, Rent Tycoons, says that “renting helps to reduce the wastage caused by avoidable purchases—for example, if an item is only needed for a one-off or short-term use”.

While there are no statistics on how these local companies have helped drive Singapore’s sustainability goals, global firms like Airbnb and on-demand ride service Uber have calculated their environmental impact.

Airbnb, for example, in a 2014 study, found that home sharing helps reduce water and energy use, greenhouse gases and waste generated compared to traditional hotel stays.

In North America, Airbnb properties used 63 per cent less energy than hotels per guest night, enough to power 19,000 homes for a year. They also consumed 12 per cent less water than hotels, which resulted in savings of 270 Olympic-sized swimming pools in 2013.

Staying in other people’s homes—most of which already have recycling facilities in place, and tend not to offer guests single-use toiletries like hotels do—also reduced waste, found Airbnb.

Car sharing or carpooling reduces the need to own a car, while the sharing of accommodation or co-working spaces reduces the resources to build more spaces.

Eugene Tay, founder and former president, Sharing Economy Association of Singapore.

Uber, meanwhile, says its vision is to have “many fewer cars on the road”. In addition to its basic service, called UberX, where people can use the app to call a driver in a few minutes, the company is also rolling out UberPool, which integrates carpooling into Uber’s standard business model.

First announced in August 2014 and launched in New York City in December that year. UberPool groups users travelling on similar routes and allows them to share a single ride—and the fare.

Not only does this allow passengers to save money, it can also reduce the number of cars on the road, says the San Francisco-headquartered company, which was founded in 2009 and now operates in almost 400 cities worldwide.

According to the company, for every fully utilised UberPool car, eight cars could be rendered unnecessary. This means that in a city like New York, UberPool could eventually result in 1 million fewer cars on the road.

Chan Park, Southeast Asia general manager, Uber, tells Climate Challenge that UberPool is likely to be launched in Singapore sometime this year.

Today, over 30 per cent of all Uber trips in Singapore start and end within 100 metres of a train station, Park shares. This likely means that “people are using UberX to complement their public transport use and bridge the first and last mile of their journey,” he says.

The first and last mile of a journey refers to the distance between a person’s home or office and the nearest public transport node, such as a train station. If commuters find it too inconvenient to bridge this distance—for example, if the walk is too long, or connecting bus services are too infrequent—they may find it more convenient to stick to using a car.

The government is already stepping up efforts to bridge this last-mile gap through measures such as improving bus services in residential neighbourhoods and providing ample bicycle parking at train stations for commuters.

To make it easier and more convenient for people to use bicycles to cover the distance between their homes and train stations, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in July 2014 announced a study into how a public bicycle-sharing scheme could be introduced in the city-state.

Famous examples of bike-share programmes, where the public can simply rent a bicycle from one location and drop it off at another, include London’s Santander Cycles and YouBike, a public scheme in Taiwan’s capital city, Taipei.

The government is also exploring how shared autonomous vehicles—that is, self-driving cars—can overcome the last-mile challenge in another study, announced by LTA last June. These new vehicles could provide residents with a convenient last-mile solution, and encourage people to shift away from private car ownership, notes LTA.

Uncovering new opportunities

These reductions in new purchases, waste, and emissions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how the sharing economy can help shape a more sustainable Singapore, say Tay and Rinne. But there are even more ways for the city-state to become a truly sharing nation.

Tay, for example, notes that most sharing businesses today operate on a peer-to-peer model, or in the business-to-consumer space.

“Businesses with underutilised equipment, vehicles, spaces and assets can share with other companies,” he says. If the government does the same, Singapore’s civil service could be “the first sharing government in the world”, he adds.

One government which has received much praise for its sharing economy initiatives is South Korea’s capital city, Seoul, says Rinne. In 2012, it launched the Sharing City Seoul initiative to promote collaborative consumption and resource sharing.

To use valuable assets like land more efficiently, the city’s leadership has opened up almost 800 government buildings for the public to hold meetings and events when they are idle.

Guided by a vision to make private car ownership obsolete by 2030, Seoul has also invested heavily in public bicycle sharing services and aims to have 1,200 car-sharing hubs in the city by 2030, up from 292 in 2013.

Similar public sector leadership could make a big difference in Singapore, says Rinne.

On its part, the Singapore government has already taken several steps recently to facilitate the growth of the sharing economy while at the same time addressing some common concerns regarding the industry such as safety, privacy, and proper taxation.

For example, given the popularity of home-sharing companies like Airbnb, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is re-assessing a law which states that it is illegal for a person to rent out their home on a short-term basis.

The agency last January embarked on a public feedback exercise to decide whether private residential properties in Singapore should be allowed to be used for stays shorter than six months. At the end of the feedback exercise, URA said that it is reviewing the matter and will announce details when ready.

Meanwhile, LTA has also taken steps to encourage people to carpool, a practice which results in more efficient car use and fewer vehicles on the road.

Until recently, drivers could not accept any compensation for offering others a ride, which discouraged them from going out of their way to offer strangers a ride.

But this changed last May when LTA passed laws allowing drivers to receive payment from passengers as long as it did not exceed trip expenses such as fuel and road tolls.

Virtually every city in the world is tackling the same uncertainties and regulatory challenges that Singapore is working on, says Rinne. When these issues have been addressed and sharing is the ‘new normal’, it could transform daily life for Singaporeans, she adds.

In an ideal scenario, every resident will tap on sharing services to make life more convenient and save money, and the government will use these platforms to better deliver public services, streamline its own operations, and fulfil the nation’s sustainability goals.

“This is not an unachievable utopia,” she says. “It is a bold ambition which is 100 per cent doable, and I am more confident that Singapore will get it right than other places”

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Regional tourism set for growth, but not everyone is happy

The rise of the middle classes in emerging markets seems to be fueling growth in travel and tourism, a sector that is set for massive growth in the next decade despite various challenges.

Travel and tourism in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) made a direct contribution of US$19.2 billion (2.9%) to the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013, and this contribution was due to reach 5% in 2014, representing about US$20 billion, according to a 2014 report published by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

This direct contribution, which primarily reflects the economic activity generated by industries such as hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services, is set to rise to 5% each year between 2014 and 2024, and reach US$32.9 billion by 2024.

The report forecasts a decade of massive growth in every aspect of this sector worldwide, with SADC’s total contribution to the world GDP and total employment set to reach US$92 billion (down from US$55.3 billion in 2013) and 6.86 million jobs (down from 5.33 million in 2014) in 2024, respectively. SADC countries, which invested US$9.2 billion in 2013 to boost the sector, are expected to fork out US$12.9 billion over the next 10 years to help the sector stay afloat and make a significant impact on the world stage.

Mixed fortunes

While the sector overall continues to perform well in other parts of Southern Africa, not everyone in this region of 270 million people is happy about the growth.  The following two case studies can duly demonstrate that yesterday’s losers have become today’s winners.

South Africa

South Africa’s tourism industry figures have been grim when compared to previous years, and even the country’s positive entrepreneurs operating in the sector are said to be finding their perennial optimism strained.

While the International Air Transport Association (IATA) revealed a 21% year-on-year decline in air ticket revenue for tickets bought to South Africa in July this year,  Grant Thornton has estimated that South Africa would receive 100 000 fewer overseas tourists in 2015.

A research report by Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) has suggested that the lower tourist numbers could result in as many as 9 300 jobs losses in the tourism industry and a total net loss to the country’s GDP of approximately R4.1 billion (about US$380 million) in 2015.

Business Partners Limited (BPL) Executive Director Gerrie van Biljon says new visa regulations issued by the South African government are the new barriers and a setback to the tourism industry.

“These effectively require many prospective visitors from countries such as China and India, to travel hundreds of kilometres in their own countries to one of the isolated offices that handle South African visa applications,” van Biljon explains.


In Namibia, where tourism constitutes the third largest contributor to GDP after mining and fisheries and agriculture, 1.176 million international tourists in  2013 were hosted, from a mere 272 000 in 1995, according to with the World Tourism Organisation’s Yearbook of Tourism Statistics.

However, international tourism’s monetary value (receipts), which reached US$560 million in 2010 (from US$511 million in 2009) and went up to US$645 million in 2011, unbelievably decreased to US$598 million in 2012 and further fell to US$524 million in 2013.

Nevertheless, some critics said the rise of the tourism in Namibia means nothing as long as the mass of tourism enterprises, the group of small firms continue to be marginalised in policy processes.

“The mass of Namibian SMEs have limited marketing and funding capacity which makes it difficult for them to compete with larger enterprises, and this inequality in power also extends to the inability of SMEs to influence the process of policy formulation,” E Nyakunu and Prof CM Rogerson, of the School of Tourism and Hospitality at the University of Johannesburg, wrote on Tourism policy analysis: the case of post-independence Namibia.

Current situation

SADC, which regrets that tourism in the region has not received appropriate attention from governments, openly admitted that governments have not prioritised or budgeted for development of the industry.

Perhaps bearing in mind that previous tourism strategies for the region have proved unsuccessful, lacking effective marketing initiatives or prioritising areas at odds with SADC’s overall objectives, and that few investment incentives and disparate policies have created barriers to cross-border travel, the organisation launched the Protocol on the Development of Tourism in 1998.

SADC Protocol on the Development of Tourism

The aim, SADC said, was to establish tourism as a priority for Southern Africa and sets out its intention to use it as a vehicle for sustainable development.

This Protocol urges Member States to improve their quality of service, safety standards and physical infrastructure as a means of attracting tourism and investment into the region.

Therefore, the Protocol encourages cooperation between governments and private developers through a favourable investment climate that promotes sustainable tourism, preserving the region’s natural and cultural resources.

In terms of infrastructure, some Member States have already responded to this call.

Sani Pass

For instance, a 33km Sani Pass gravel twisting road between South Africa and Lesotho is currently being asphalted to act as a magnet to boost visitor numbers in these two countries.

Mpaiphele Maqutu, Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation CEO, said once completed in 2016, the road would act as an attraction to a broader base of tourists and bring new prosperity and economic development to the kingdom.

“This project will bring to life what was envisaged when the South African and Lesotho governments agreed that tarring the road made sense-both from an environmental and economic viewpoint,” Maqutu said.

The project’s cost is estimated at R887 million.

Hope at the end of the tunnel?

Despite the region’s industry facing several challenges and going through rough paths, WTTC forecasts about the next decade offer some hope and instill some impetus among the region’s tourism players.

Industry watchers have urged companies, especially SMEs, to start innovating if they want to continue operating.

BPL’s van Biljon said: “Tourism entrepreneurs should use any lull in the business to rethink and rework their product offering, costs and marketing so that they are ready when the tide turns, as it always does.”

He added: “Tourism businesses that had been focusing on international tourists need to work on providing enticing packages for the local market to fill as many beds and seats as possible if the international tourists aren’t coming in the numbers that they used to.”

As if desperate times call for desperate measures, the Namibian government has called for collective and innovative actions to continue to sustain tourism in the country.

It also urged companies to develop new customer segments and new markets when traditional source markets are in troubled times. τ

Source: southernafrican

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Climate experts want more money allocated to water projects in Africa

Under the theme “Seizing Opportunity for Africa: Prioritising Water in the new Climate Financing Mechanism”, Han Seung-soo, special envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Water called for more balanced thinking with a view to changing the current trend in climate change negotiations where mitigation always receives more attention than adaptation.

Stressing the need for a holistic approach to sustainable development where disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are both part of the agenda, Mr Seung-soo lauded the African Union Commission’s (AUC) 2063 agenda and described it as “a groundbreaking blueprint for Africa”.

“Africa is blessed with a blue economy, and water will be the key to the continent’s transformation as we continue to work towards achieving a prosperous continent,” he said.

African Natural Resources Centre of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Director Sheila Khama urged African governments to do more in improving water management by reconciling adaptation and mitigation, and using water to reduce the adverse effects of climate change. She called for integrated water resources management across borders.

For the African Ministers’ Council on Water (Amcow), Africa is not starting from scratch regarding water even though the challenges appear widespread on the continent.

Amcow Executive Secretary Bai Mass Taal underscored the progress the council has made on the water front. Principal Investigator of the African Adaptation and Loss and Damage Initiative, African Group of Negotiators (AGN) Chukwumerije Okereke noted the existence of a major data gap in terms of knowing the number of adaptation projects in Africa.

Common approach

He recommended mandating a single body to keep track of funding for adaptation flowing into Africa.

He also recommended that each African country forms a national council for climate investment that includes donors, diplomats, NGOs and public servants from various ministries to act as an oversight mechanism.

Underscoring the need to shift towards adaptation in climate finance, David Craig of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) revealed that his organisation plans to provide 50 per cent of its funding for adaptation.

Niger Basin Authority Executive Secretary Collins Ihekire noted that 46 per cent of the Niger Basin is located in the driest region of the world.

Africa presently reels under serious water challenges such as shortages, pollution, environmental degradation, floods and poor water management in cities and rural centers.

Prof Judi Wakhungu, Kenya’s Minister for Environment said the Government is committed to harvesting water and putting it to good use. “We are building dams to harvest rain water and use it for farming to improve food security,” she said

Source: standardmedia

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RETOSA will be running the 2nd Annual Southern Africa Women in Tourism Conference under the theme “Creating opportunities for inclusive development and social transformation” hosted by Malawi from the 23nd to the 24th November 2015.

The main objective of this conference will be to give a progress report on prioritized programs and projects, discuss the establishment of a Regional Tourism Investment Fund for Women and most importantly the conference will include an interactive Master Class Course in Tourism Business Management for all participating delegates.

The Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA) as the tourism implementing agency of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) is facilitating and promoting tourism growth and development in Southern Africa by targeting women as a critical component in the sustainable development of tourism in the region.

RETOSA believes that if tourism is to effectively contribute to poverty alleviation and wealth creation, it is important that targeted interventionist measures are applied with women in mind.

The reasoning behind RETOSA’s founding of the Southern Africa Women in Tourism program is to institute a forum that offers women from the SADC region access to business skills, trainings, financial services, networking and self-confidence as they enable themselves.

The conference is set to take place at the President Walmont Hotel (Umodzi Park) in Lilongwe,

Malawi. The lineup of speakers from the region include heads from the tourism ministries of RETOSA member states, UN Women representative Auxilia Ponga, director of the Business development agency in South Africa, Pearl Maphumulo, directors of Traveler’s Eye in Tanzania,

Vanessa and Yvonne Baldwin and deputy CEO of New Finance Bank in Malawi, Gilford Kadzakumanja.

RETOSA encourages all women entrepreneurs in the Southern African tourism industry to attend and be part of this landmark conference.

Source: maravipost

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Does the United Nations’ new global sustainability agenda mean anything for cities?

To the raucous applause of relatively few people, the U.N. General Assembly quietly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development last week, and with it, 17 technicolor goals for fixing everything in the world. These are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 2015–2030’s answer to yesteryear’s Millennium Development Goals. Pony up, humans; we’ve got some sustainable things to develop:


Seventeen: Just enough to make achieving even one feel insurmountable.

The first thing to note is that each of the goals is an amalgamation of targets that allow for measurable progress. There are 169 of these targets, which is to say that any governments interested in hitting the goals — and 193 of them just signed up to do exactly that — will be tracking at least 169 new indicators to demonstrate how well they’re doing. (To be clear, we don’t actually know the indicators for the targets yet. Those will be adopted at a future U.N. session.)

But let’s zoom the lens in on one of these goals and see what’s going on. Goal 11, for example, is to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” I think we can all agree those are reasonable asks. But what does it actually mean to be a sustainable city?

That question was the concern of a March 2015 position paper by the Local Authorities Major Group, a channel through which a collection of NGOs and subnational government stakeholders sends feedback to the U.N. Among the authors’ proposed metrics for pairing with the targets were numbers like “percentage of people within 0.5 km of public transit running at least every 20 minutes,” “percentage of urban solid waste regularly collected and well managed,” and “area of public space as a proportion of total city space.”

While the Local Authorities Major Group doesn’t decide which metrics the U.N. will adopt, you can imagine several like these making the cut. But this is where a central contradiction of the SDGs reveals itself: For all the grand and all-encompassing nature of the goals themselves (cf. “End poverty in all its forms everywhere”), developing appropriate metrics for the 169 targets gets persnickety pretty quickly. It threatens to devolve into pegging arbitrary, ultra-specific definitions to things like “reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities” (Target 11.6). What’s more important to the U.N., a given city’s carbon emissions or its water pollution? Both? Either? Fix all of the things in all of the cities? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯?

Among Goal 11’s other targets are items like “provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all,” “strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage,” and “enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries.” Although these targets are admirable, 15 years is a pretty tight deadline for reaching them.

But not all is lost. If the SDGs actually mean anything for cities, it’s that massive multilateral institutions like the United Nations are recognizing the potential of local governments — something that rarely happens in the U.N.’s rooms of noble conversation and dark suits. At a meeting at the New School last Friday, a global coalition of governors and mayors endorsed the SDGs and noted their own role in holding up Goal 11. “When it comes to sustainability, environmental protection, social inclusion, and creating a prosperity that can spread, mayors can do something about that,” said California Gov. Jerry Brown. “To do any of this, though, it will take heroic efforts,” he added.

Indeed. At the same event, speaking on behalf of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, U.N.-Habitat head Joan Clos i Matheu said that Goal 11 “calls for an urban transformation that requires political will and the capacity to coordinate many actors and stakeholders. … Most importantly, [mayors] can give a voice to their citizens.”

And that’s where the SDGs really start to matter. The U.N. argues that the Millennium Development Goals “galvanized” governments to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. That may well be true. (There’s no good way to be certain about what motivated that achievement.) But there’s a difference between government galvanization and actual citizen empowerment. Embedded deep in the SDGs, in the thicket of Goal 11, is the acknowledgement that people count, local governments have a serious role to play in development, and some of the U.N.’s lofty solutions are going to have to come from the bottom up.

Source: grist

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Sustainable Settlements to Combat Urban Slums in Africa

LUANDA, Sep 3 2015 (IPS) – Slums are a curse and blessing in fast urbanising Africa. They have challenged Africa’s progress towards better living and working spaces but they also provide shelter for the swelling populations seeking a life in cities.

Rural Africans are pouring into towns and cities in search of jobs and other opportunities, but African cities – 25 of which are among the 100 fastest growing cities in the world – are not delivering the much needed support services, including housing, at the same rate as people are demanding them.

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) projects that nearly 1.3 billion people – more than the current population of China – will be living in cities in Africa in the next 15 years.

Africa’s urbanisation rate of four percent a year is already over-stretching the capacity of its cities to provide adequate shelter, water, sanitation, energy and even food for its growing population.

Safe and resilient cities and human settlements is one of the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be agreed on in New York next month. As the SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) launched in September 2000, UN-Habitat has largely succeeded in meeting the target of taking 100 million people out of slums by the time the MDGs expired in Asia, China and part of India … but not in Africa.

However, Tokunbo Omisore, past president of the African Architects Association, believes that Africa can solve its slums situation by planning and developing towns and cities that strike a balance in the provision of housing, water sanitation, energy and transport while luring investments to create jobs.

According to Omisore, the problem lies in the fact that so far settlements have been developed for people but not with people, and he asks if Africa wants the humane aspects of its cultural values and heritage reflected in its cities or has to replicate the cities of developed nations to become classified as developed.

“Slums and sprawls demand understanding the reasons and problems resulting in their existence and identifying the class of people living there,” says Omisore.

“African governments focus on the infrastructural development of developed nations without consideration for the human development of our different communities and ensuring creation of employment opportunities which is key to the sustainability of our cities. People make the cities, not the other way around.”

By redefining slums, policy-makers in Africa can work more on understanding the rural-urban links to arrive at African solutions for African problems, he argues, calling for a “campaign of marketing Africa and appreciating what is African.”

“We must encourage, identify ‎and celebrate the continent. Our schools need to train architects and city planners in no other way than to appreciate and promote African architectural culture.”

At a time Africa is grappling with the issue of land tenure, particularly in agriculture, limited and often expensive land in urban settlements is posing the question of whether Africa should build up or build across, and there are those who argue that densification is the answer to Africa’s housing woes.

At the 2nd Africa Urban Infrastructure Investment Forum hosted by United Cities and Local Government-Africa (UCLG-A) and the government of Angola in Luanda in April, Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat argued that densification is an avenue for the transformation of Africa and its cities.

“If urbanisation should be possible and if we are going to build landed housing without going up, it simply means it will be expensive, but if we have to densify then we need to go up,” said Kacyira.

“Yes, let us stick to our identity and culture, but let us stick to principles that make economic sense. We are not going to have vibrant cities by running away from the problem and spreading and sprawling.”

Kacyira also argued that by planning, reducing desertification and recycling waste, African cities can help reduce their carbon footprint, a key issue on the post-MDG agenda.

Meanwhile, a Kenya housing project could represent a model for the future of Housing in Africa. Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, a federation of slum dwellers, has partnered with Shack/Slum Dwellers International to provide decent shelter for people living in slums by creating a low cost three-level house called ‘The Footprint’, which costs 1,000 dollars.

The project has built 300 houses in two settlements this year. Dwellers pay 20 percent towards the structure and are given support to access a microloan covering 80 percent of the cost.

The UCLG-A network which represents over 1,000 cities in Africa, estimates that Africa needs to mobilise investments of 80 billion dollars a year for upgrading urban infrastructure to meet the needs of urban residents.

Source: ipsnews

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