Archive for November 2011


November 4, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Climate change + burgeoning population are causing pressures on food production. Famine has hit the Horn of Africa anew due to drought, a famine that has affected 11 millions of poor small planters. What intervention tools can be applied in support of rehabilitation works post-calamities?

Micro-insurance is one such tool, which could come in different forms. It could morph as crop insurance. Likewise can it come as calamity insurance. The latter option still has to be conceptualized though in developing countries.

Kenya has its own version of innovation on micro-insurance, which when combined with high-tech solar-energized climate/weather tracking there surely makes for a highly appreciable project. Below is a report about the subject.

[Philippines, 05 November 2011]


Micro-insurance scheme pays off for Kenyan farmers
Tom Mboya
14 October 2011 | EN
[NAIROBI] Some of the farmers who lost their crops in the Horn of Africa drought this year may be able to afford farming next season, with the help of a ‘micro-insurance’ scheme.
Kilimo Salama — Swahili for ‘safe farming’ — was launched last year, providing small-scale farmers in Kenya with crop insurance by combining mobile phone payment with the data from automated weather stations.
Farmers register with one of 30 solar-powered weather stations, each covering a 15–20 kilometre radius, and purchase insurance when buying seeds and fertilisers. Kilimo Salama uses data from these stations to calculate the severity of droughts — or excessive rainfall. Eligible farmers then receive payouts via their mobile phones.
In March, it paid out US$3,135 each to more than 1,200 farmers for losses after lack of rain, and more than 1,400 farmers received US$9,230 each in September because of prolonged droughts that caused crop failure.
“Since its inception, the project has been a big success,” said Wairimu Muthike, project’s lead field coordinator.
He added: “The number of farmers willing to protect their crop by insuring their farm investments has increased tremendously. The sum insured among interested farmers has also been growing.”
According to Wairimu, the best indicator that the project is succeeding is the number of larger-scale farmers it is attracting.
Finance is entirely derived from the premiums collected from farmers, according to Rahab Wambui, a field coordinator with the project, rather than coming from commercial or charitable sources.
“This will result in the sustainability of the programme,” she said.
The project initially enrolled 9,000 farmers but the number has increased to 21,341 this year. In 2009-2010 it targeted maize, but this year it expanded to include wheat, beans, and sorghum.
“Many farmers find this to be an effective way of ensuring that, when adverse effects of nature set in, they can find an alternative source of funding in order to cultivate again,” said Silas Waweru, a farmer who has benefited from the payout.
Wairimu said that potential plans for spreading the programme to other countries were still classified.
The Horn of Africa has been hit by the worst drought in 60 years, according to the UN. It has caused a widespread famine affecting millions of people, despite having been forecast months in advance.
Livestock farmers in Kenya are expected to find out about their claims from another, satellite-based insurance scheme this month.

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November 3, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Youth as change drivers is hardly a new phenomenon. The advent of modernity has seen the youth (ages 18 through 30 roughly) began searing critiques of status quo, critiques that later evolved to large-scale mass movements aiming to overthrow establish authority. The Philippines is a concrete case in point where the youth of the late 19th century led the nationalist independent movement that created the new nation.

What makes a youth-led change program unique is that it is an alternative to the old notions of a working class-led movement for change. The ideologies of the 19th century, same ideologies that have stubbornly stayed and solidified till the 20th century, were very strongly class-based cognitive forms, which excluded the possibility of youth-led or gender-led change programs.

Old ideologies are finally cracking, thus paving the way for alternative tracks to social sector-driven change. The Arab Spring for instance highlighted the stinking Jurassic state of the old options and the decisive import of a youth-led change.

Below is a briefer from the UNESCO about writings from the youth concerning their sector as drivers of change.

[Philippines, 04 November 2011]


How youth drive change
The International Year of Youth (August 2010 – August 2011) turned out to be more revolutionary than expected. At the beginning of 2011, young people rose up in Tunisia and then in Egypt, and the movement spread to other countries in the region, also rousing countries in Europe such as Spain. Elsewhere in the world, youth are mobilizing for a range of causes, as varied as the means they use. Much more involved than we tend to think, young people have decided to take things in hand. And in this issue of the Courier, it is they who are speaking out, expressing their concerns and explaining their actions.
To read this issue please click here (PDF-56 pages)
Cover “How youth drive change” of the UNESCO Courier (July – September, 2011) – © UNESCO
• Young people in the world: So different and so alike, Monique Coleman
• Mobile revolution, Gigi Ibrahim
• Spring of outrage, Alfredo Trujillo Fernandez
• Miracle Weapons, Serge Amisi
• When poetry is louder than a bomb, Nate Marshall
• Moonlight stars, Carol Natukunda
• A young sughar, Nosheen Abbas
• Rebels with a cause, Jens Lubbadeh
• Prescriptions for a sick planet, Zhao Ying
• Green architecture, Carlos Bartesaghi Koc
• Revolution: one of the great feats of civilization, Khaled Youssef
*To display PDF documents, Acrobat reader is needed: download the latest version

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November 2, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The world’s top hegemon is slashing fund contributions to the United Nations. The fund cuts are coated with rubrics of transparency and accountability, which is hardly surprising for the global hegemon that has been tailing behind emerging markets in providing fresh perspectives on global issues.

Such a development is hardly new. During the hegemonism of the fascistic neo-conservatives, there was a slight modification of the plan, as the UN members were made to kowtow to the extremist polarism of the said fascists led by Cheney & Bush. Funds thus flowed to the UN at rather appreciable levels, thus quashing the isolationists who were sidelighted during the dominant years of the extremists.

The neo-cons are still inside the defense establishment today, though their ascendancy within the Republican Party has been eclipsed by the neo-fascist Tea Party demagogues’ formation that seems to have resurrected the isolationists. Part of the old fogey isolationism agenda was to reduce UN funding to bare minimum as the US federal government should focus on internal affairs.

In a revealing pronouncement by a Harvard professor of political science who visited Manila in 2000, 2/3 of the isolationists in the House of Representatives have not even visited other countries. Yet such isolationists speak so nauseatingly self-righteous a manner in their putting the blames of the USA’s ailments on external factors such as the yuan, China, immigrants’ host countries, etc.

Only the harebrained folks surely buy the line of dirty isolationist demogues. Below is a reportage about the latest anti-foreign demagogy of the isolationists.

[Philippines, 03 November 2011]

House Panel Moves to Slash US Contributions to UN
Posted by Ivy Mungcal on 14 October 2011 05:19:07 AM
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen holds a press conference on the United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act or H.R. 2829. Photo by: House Committee on Foreign Affairs
The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee passed Oct. 13 a reform proposal that would significantly slash U.S. funding to the United Nations if the global body fails to implement sweeping reforms, including shifting to a voluntary funding basis for its regular budget.
H.R. 2829, or the U.N. Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act, was approved by the Republican-led committee with a 23-15 vote despite pressure from top administration officials and leading U.S. aid groups, who argued the measure would undermine U.S. leadership in the international community.
The proposal, which was introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), requires the United States to withhold 50 percent of its nonvoluntary regular budget contributions to the United Nations if, after two years, less than 80 percent of the U.N. regular budget is funded on a voluntary basis.
A voluntary funding structure of the U.N. regular budget would allow the United States and other U.N.-member states to pressure the global body to implement badly needed reforms, supporters of the measure argued.
“We will never achieve lasting, sweeping reforms if the U.S. keeps paying in full what the U.N. dictates to us, with no consequences for the U.N.’s failures,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “A shift to voluntary funding will help end the U.N.’s entitlement culture, forcing it to perform better and cut costs in order to justify its funding.”
Leading U.S. aid groups and foreign aid supporters, however, stressed the proposal is not the best way to press for reform at the United Nations.
“The anti-U.N. legislation passed today is counterproductive to an effective relationship between the United States and the United Nations,” Better World Campaign head Timothy Wirth said. “This bill would degrade our leadership and end the decades-long work of Republican and Democratic administrations to successfully work within the U.N. system to advance American national security, political and economic interests.”
Wirth further noted that approval of the reform proposal goes “against the will of the American people,” citing the results of a recent opinion poll showing the majority of the U.S. public opposes the measure.
Leading U.S. aid groups and foreign aid supporters have been actively campaigning alongside administration officials against the approval of H.R. 2829 and similar proposals targeting the U.S. international affairs budget account.
Ahead of the proposal’s markup, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has written to the House Foreign Affairs Committee to pressure it to drop the proposal. Clinton also noted that she would ask U.S. President Barack Obama to veto the proposal should it reach his desk.
But as Time notes, a presidential veto may not be necessary. The reform proposal is not expected to reach the president’s desk any time soon as it still needs approval of the full House floor and the Democrat-led Senate, which is unlikely to support the significant cuts proposed by the Republicans.
Read more:
• US Public Largely Opposes Cuts in US Contributions to UN
• Ros-Lehtinen Proposal Keeps Pressure on UN
• Esther Brimmer: Ros-Lehtinen Proposal ‘Backwards,’ Will Undermine U.S. World Leadership
Read more on U.S. aid reform online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

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November 1, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Storms have repetitively struck emerging markets in Asia over the last two (2) months. Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Pakistan, Japan, Taiwan, India, Indonesia and other most dynamic economies of the region seem to be liberally wallowing in swamps of floods.

The signs are very ominous as they bring to the surface the ecohazards facing the said countries. The case of Thailand, where 300 people have died in the latest floods while over 2 million people were badly affected, represents such ecohazards for the economic dynamos during the period.

Below is an update report from the UNDP about the Thai floods.

[Philippines, 02 November 2011]


Thailand: UNDP beefs up capacity to respond to severe flooding
14 October 2011

Bangkok – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has expressed deep concern and offered support to the Government of Thailand as the country battles severe flooding that has killed more than 280 people and affected more than two million others since July this year.

More than 80 percent of the country’s 76 provinces have been affected by the floods. In excess of 900 industrial plants and farmland areas have suffered damage and millions of heads of livestock have been affected.

Nearly 30 provinces have been declared disaster areas and 12 are on high alert for threats of heavy rain and river overflow.

The UN has been in regular contact with authorities including the Thailand Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, and has been monitoring the flood situation and its humanitarian and development impacts.

According to the country’s irrigation authorities, 11 out of the 26 major dams in Thailand currently hold more water than their official capacity, while others are between 82 and 99 percent full, and need to release excess water, forcing more evacuations in downstream areas.

UNDP is increasing its own capacity to support the Thai people at this time, setting aside both financial and technical emergency resources, and will continue to work with the Government to support Thailand’s longer-term recovery and rehabilitation.

The 21st century has been marked by an escalating impact of disasters from natural hazards and a huge loss of life and destruction of livelihoods and communities. In 2010, nearly 400,000 people were killed by disasters worldwide and more than 200 million were affected. Economic damage was estimated at US$110 billion.

“Vulnerability to disasters is growing faster than resilience,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday in his message to mark the International Day for Disaster Reduction. “Disaster risk reduction should be an everyday concern for everybody. Let us all invest today for a safer tomorrow.”


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November 1, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

A big infra project is in the pipeline in Bangladesh, which at projected budget of US $2.9 Billion is comparatively gigantic for a developing country. This is the Padma bridge project, which will traverse a river in the country.

As per report, the World Bank already decided to suspended the release of a US $1.2 Billion loan it allotted for the project. The question arising from the decision is: what’s the most reasonable justification for the delay?

I still recall the 11 Major Industrial Projects or MIPs in the Philippines in the 1980s, most of which relied on the World Bank for funding. The global recession came beginning in 1981, which then gave WB’s top management the justification to cancel the release of funding for the integrated steel and other projects. The act was tantamount to economic sabotage, which was so damaging that till these days PH’s suffers from an absence of integrated steel that is crucial to accelerating industrial development.

What’s WB’s drama this time in delaying the Padma project’s funding? Is this really a delay, or is this a cancellation of funding that is subtly a form of economic sabotage?

[Philippines, 31 October 2011]

World Bank Delays Padma Bridge Funding
Posted by Ivy Mungcal on 10 October 2011 03:49:27 AM
The World Bank has suspended the release of a $1.2 billion loan it promised for the construction of a river bridge in Bangladesh in light of corruption allegations faced by a firm participating in the project’s tender process, a senior Bangladeshi official has announced.
Some employees of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. are under investigation by Canadian authorities due to reports of possible corruption in connection to the $2.9 billion Padma River bridge construction project, Reuters says. The World Bank said it wants the issue resolved before providing the promised loan.
“The World Bank has cleared its position during the Washington meeting last week that it would not finance (the river project) until the issue was settled,” Bangladeshi Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said, according to Reuters.
This is the first time the World Bank has suspended any promised funds for Bangladesh and local officials have expressed concern over the impact of the bank’s decision on the country’s relationships with other lenders.
In addition to the World Bank, the Padma River project is supported by the Asian Development Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Islamic Development Bank and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.
Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

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