Posted tagged ‘news’


February 23, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Global food price index ended up with a general decline, as per report from the FAO. This was a quick reversal of the year-long trend that saw food prices rising as a whole.

The FAO reported in the mid-phase of last year that food prices were rising, and rising alarmingly. Famine struck the Horn of Africa, while calamities damaged to food base of other countries, events that shook the world food terrain.

Last year also saw the raging conflicts in the MENA (middle east & north Africa), political quakes that also affected the supply chain of food production and distribution. As of this writing, a world war prospect looms as Iran has been threatening to close the Hormuz area, and pronouncements have already been leading to speculations in the oil spot markets and food trading.

Will the pattern of declining food price index hold through for 2012?

[Philippines, 09 February 2012]


FAO Food Price Index ends year with sharp decline / But record high prices mark the year as a whole

12 January 2012, Rome – Food prices fell in December 2011 with the FAO Food Price Index dropping 2.4 percent, or five points from November, FAO said today.

At its new level of 211 points, the Index was 11.3 percent (27 points) below its peak in February 2011.

The decline was driven by sharp falls in international prices of cereals, sugar and oils due to bumper 2011 crops coupled with slowing demand and a stronger US dollar. Most commodities were affected.

However, although prices dropped steadily in the second half of 2011, the Index averaged 228 points in 2011 — the highest average since FAO started measuring international food prices in 1990. The previous high was in 2008 at 200 points.

A period of uncertainty

Commenting on the new figures, FAO Senior Grains Economist Abdolreza Abbassian said that it was difficult to make any firm prediction on price trends for the coming months.

“International prices of many food commodities have declined in recent months, but given the uncertainties over the global economy, currency and energy markets, unpredictable prospects lie ahead,” Abbassian said.

Among the principal commodities, cereal prices registered the biggest fall, with the FAO Cereal Price Index dropping 4.8 percent to 218 points in December. Record crops and an improved supply outlook sent prices of major cereals declining significantly. Maize prices fell 6 percent, wheat 4 percent and rice 3 percent. In 2011, the FAO cereal price index averaged 247 points, up some 35 percent from 2010 and the highest since the 1970s.

Oils and fats down

The FAO Oils and Fats Price Index stood at 227 points in December, down 3 percent from November and well below the level of 264 points one year ago. Larger than expected overall supplies of vegetable oil led to a rise in stocks (notably palm and sunflower oil), which, together with poor global demand for soybeans, deflated prices.

The FAO Meat Price Index averaged 179 points, slightly down compared with November. The decline was mainly driven by pig meat, whose price dropped by 2.2 percent, with sheep meat also receding somewhat. By contrast, poultry and bovine meat prices recorded mild gains. On an annual basis, meat prices in 2011 were 16 percent higher than in 2010.

Dairy products mostly up

The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 202 points, almost unchanged from November. All dairy products were up slightly with the exception of butter, which dropped by 1 percent. Over the whole year, dairy products were on average 10 percent dearer than in 2010, with particularly strong gains witnessed for skim milk powder and casein, which gained 17 percent each. More modest increases were seen for butter and whole milk powder prices, which progressed by 11 percent, and cheese, by 8 percent.

The FAO Sugar Price Index declined for the fifth consecutive month to 327 points in December, down 4 percent from November and 18 percent from its July 2011 peak. The Index’s weakness in recent months mostly reflects expectations of a large world production surplus over the new season, on the back of good harvests in India, the European Union, Thailand and the Russian Federation.


February 22, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Can smart farming equalize or even totally reverse the deleterious impact of climate change? What parameters and factors (soil? seeds? water? skills? technology?) need to have some control altogether to see the positive effects of the interventions?

That question is the subject of intense response today by stakeholders in Malawi, Vietnam and Zambia that have embarked on smart farming pilot works. FAO and the European Commission have bankrolled the pilot projects.

It may take at least three (3) years of experimentations and observations before the projects can bear fruit. Smart farming is no new concept actually, as the International Rice Research Institute or IRRI had already introduced similar interventions—applied to rice production—since its launching in 1964 yet.

Let’s see what will happen to these pilot projects.

[Philippines, 08 February 2012]
FAO-EC project to promote climate-smart farming
16 January 2012, Rome – FAO and the European Commission announced today a new €5.3 million project aimed at helping Malawi, Vietnam and Zambia transition to a “climate-smart” approach to agriculture.

Agriculture — and the communities who depend on it for their livelihoods and food security — are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. At the same time agriculture, as a significant producer of greenhouse gases, contributes to global warming.

“Climate-smart agriculture” is an approach that seeks to position the agricultural sector as a solution to these major challenges.

It involves making changes in farming systems that achieve multiple goals: improving their contribution to the fight against hunger and poverty; rendering them more resilient to climate change; reducing emissions; and increasing agriculture’s potential to capture and sequester atmospheric carbon.

“We need to start putting climate-smart agriculture into practice, working closely with farmers and their communities,” said FAO Assistant Director-General for the Economic and Social Development Department, Hafez Ghanem. “But there are no one-size-fits-all solutions — better climate-smart farming practices need to respond to different local conditions, to geography, weather and the natural resource base,” he added.

“This project will look closely at three countries and identify challenges and opportunities for climate-smart agriculture and produce strategic plans tailored to each country’s own reality,” Ghanem said. “While not all solutions identified will be universally applicable, we can learn a lot about how countries could take similar steps and begin shifting to this approach to agriculture.”

Tailor-made solutions

The EU is providing €3.3 million to support the effort; FAO’s contribution is €2 million.

Working closely with agriculture and other ministries in each of the partner countries, and collaborating with local and international organizations, the three-year project will:
• Identify country-specific opportunities for expansion of existing climate-smart practices or implementation of new ones
• Study the constraints that need to be overcome to promote wider adoption of climate-smart agriculture, including investment costs
• Promote integration of national climate change and agricultural strategies to support the implementation of climate-smart agriculture
• Identify innovative mechanisms for linking climate finance with climate-smart agriculture investments
• Build capacity for planning and implementing climate-smart projects capable of attracting international investments

FAO will take the overall lead on the project, working in partnership with national policy and research institutions, as well as global organizations such as the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

By tackling the urgent need to incorporate climate change concerns into agricultural development planning, this new project represents a concrete step forward, said Ghanem. “The problems of climate change are increasingly being felt on the ground, and thus early actions to address the problem are needed, even as international negotiations continue in the search for a global climate agreement,” he said.


February 16, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Another breakthrough news has struck our perception banks recently, with the gladdening news that Asians as a whole have topped both USA and EU spendings on science research & development.

Ten Asian countries are noted to be leading the way for Asians as a whole in sci-tech R & D, to note: China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. The time frame used for the research on sci-tech R&D funding was 1999 through 2009.

The brightening news surely correlates well with the conclusion of Western observers that the East had already surpassed the West technologically in the year 2007. It also ties up with another news, coming from Western observers, that science research publications in Asia have risen by many folds over the last ten (10) years.

The news is truly brightening, as the Asian ethos of sharing will see the East disseminating its sci-tech knowledge to shore up the stagnating West in the coming decades. That is in far contrast to the bellicose and hostile attitudes of the West during their imperious occupation of Asian territories and post-war hegemonism.
[Philippines, 06 February 201]]
Asian countries collectively top US R&D spend
Mićo Tatalović
19 January 2012 | EN
Overall, Asia now invests in R&D as much as the United States
Ten Asian countries, including some developing countries in South-East Asia, have, as a bloc, caught up with the global leader in research and development (R&D) investment, the United States, according to a US report published this week (17 January).
The total science spend of China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam rose steadily between 1999 and 2009 to reach 32 per cent of the global share of spending on science, compared with 31 per cent in the US.
A “major trend has been the rapid expansion of R&D performance in the regions of East/Southeast Asia and South Asia,” according to the biennial report ‘Science and Engineering Indicators 2012’ produced by the National Science Board, the policy-making body of the US National Science Foundation, which drew upon a variety of national and international statistics.
The report also mentions that the share of R&D expenditure spent by US multinationals in Asia-Pacific has increased.
“Asia’s rapid ascent as a major world science and technology (S&T) centre is chiefly driven by developments in China,” says the report. “But several other Asian economies (the Asia-8 [India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand]) have also played a role.
“All are intent on boosting quality of, and access to, higher education and developing world-class research and S&T infrastructures.
“The Asia-8 functions like a loosely structured supplier zone for China’s high-technology manufacturing export industries.
“This supplier zone increasingly appears to include Japan. Japan, a preeminent S&T nation, is continuing to lose ground relative to China and the Asia-8 in high-technology manufacturing and trade,” the report says.
“India’s high gross domestic product (GDP) growth continues to contrast with a fledgling overall S&T performance.”
The figures show that China, while still a long way behind the United States, is now the second largest R&D performer globally, contributing 12 per cent of the global research spend. It has overtaken Japan, which contributed 11 per cent in 2009.
The proportion of GDP that China devotes to science funding has doubled since 1999 to 1.7 per cent and China’s pace of real growth in R&D expenditure “remains exceptionally high at about 20 per cent annually,” the report says.
Overall, world expenditures on R&D are estimated to have exceeded US$1.25 trillion in 2009, up from US$641 billion a decade earlier.
“Governments in many parts of the developing world, viewing science and technology as integral to economic growth and development, have set out to build more knowledge-intensive economies,” it says.
“They have taken steps to open their markets to trade and foreign investment, develop their S&T infrastructures, stimulate industrial R&D, expand their higher education systems, and build indigenous R&D capabilities. Over time, global S&T capabilities have grown, nowhere more so than in Asia.”
A study, published last year in Scientometrics, said South-East Asian science papers have proliferated in the past decade, suggesting a move towards knowledge-based economies in the region.
Asia’s combined production of science and engineering publications is also approaching that of the United States and European Union, and Asia is already a top producer of engineering publications.
“Engineering is vital to knowledge-intensive and technologically advanced economies, and many Asian economies are building their engineering capabilities,” the report digest says.
“China publishes 15 per cent of global engineering articles, and Asia as a whole publishes twice as many engineering articles as the United States and half again as many as the EU [European Union].”
Link to full report


February 15, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Myanmar has been mired too long in the rural backwoods of eternal militaristic damnation. So it would be a well appreciated news to learn of scaling up urban development in the struggling country.

Myanmar is juxtaposed next to the ASEAN 5—Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines—that are now citadels of urban development, industrialization and service economies. A member of ASEAN, Myanmar surely has a lot of catching up to do by releasing the innovative grids of its own peoples that congeal in urban development.

A contributor to the creation of High Culture in Southeast Asia, Myanmar’s deterioration across the decades of militarization has truly saddened its own neighbors and Asians. It is fortunate enough to see ASEAN peoples supportive of its efforts at social change, a support that translates to financing and technical reinforcements that Myanmar’s leaders can nil afford to squander.

Let us cross our fingers the urban institute will function as a truly autonomous institution that operate without the machinations of vested military interests there.

[Philippines, 05 February 2012]


UN-Habitat teams up with Myanmar at brand new urban institute
Yangon, 20 Jan 12

The Union Minister of Construction, U Khin Maung Myint Friday opened Myanmar’s first Urban Research and Development Institute (URDI) to help local and national authorities ensure a better urban future for country.
The institute, established with UN-Habitat support within the Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development, will conduct research to strengthen policy formulation and arrange training programmes to build national and local government capacities in inclusive urban planning and management. It will also foster urban-rural linkages.
Officials said the opening of institute marks the beginning of a wider collaboration between the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and the United Nations in the field of urban development, with a view to making the urban sector all inclusive, environmentally sustainable and complementary to rural development.
In his opening remarks the minister expressed his hope that the new institute would help the government’s drive to build a new, modern and developed nation. He added that the urban research and training would facilitate capacity building in the human resource sector that is a basic need for tackling urban issues.
UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Ashok Nigam said the establishment of the new institute represented a clear reflection of one of the United Nations core commitments to build the capacity of national counterparts. Mr. Nigam added that the United Nations and international community were currently witnessing exciting new developments in Myanmar, starting with the installation of the new government which created a clear window of opportunity to promote and strengthen collaboration and action for the country’s socio-economic progress.
UN-Habitat Myanmar Country Manager Srinivasa Popuri said the establishment of new urban institute was an integral part of the agency’s assistance being offered the government in its quest for a better future for the people of Myanmar.
UN-Habitat is cooperating with the relevant ministries in the sectors that are pertaining to Habitat Agenda and implementing several normative and operational activities focusing on basic access of services to settlements, while addressing matters of gender, risk reduction, environment and climate change.
UN-HABITAT and the Union Government of Myanmar, represented by Ministry of Construction, signed a Memorandum of Understanding in September 2011 for various technical cooperation programmes in Myanmar of which establishment of the new urban insitute and the development of national building code projects are supported by Norway.
UN-Habitat Myanmar this year plans to boost its normative programmatic support and technical assistance to several ministries and interest groups in the areas of urban poverty reduction, urban planning and development, urban-rural linkages, research, training and capacity building, land governance, local governance and leadership training and capacity development.


February 13, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Kelp off the coast of Chile is being developed into a source of biofuels today. The strategy is aquafarming and not the open biomining of available seaweeds. Which means that biotech can be applied to treble the quantities of yields of the bi-product.

What’s your take of the new development in biofuels? Techno-innovators would surely welcome this development, among whom are budding entrepreneurs eager to cash in on the aquafarming promise? However, this development may not sink in well with hardline greens or eco-fascists who may view the aquafarming as another anamolous engagement to pollute the seas.

The sci-tech news is shown below.

[Philippines, 04 February 2012]
Breakthrough in quest to turn seaweed into biofuels
Paula Leighton
19 January 2012
[SANTIAGO] Brown seaweed’s potential as a vast source of biofuels has been highlighted with the announcement that scientists have found a way of converting all its major sugars into ethanol.
A team reported in Science today (19 January) that it has engineered a microbe that will convert the sugars to ethanol, overturning one of the main obstacles to making the use of brown macroalgae, or seaweed, as a biofuel feedstock competitive.
The prospective ethanol yield from brown seaweed is approximately two times higher than that from sugarcane and five times higher than maize, from the same area of cultivation.
But its full potential cannot be reached because of the inability of industrial microbes to break down alginate, one of the three most abundant sugars in brown seaweed, commonly known as kelp, which is the most widely grown seaweed in the world.
Now, researchers based in Chile, France and the United States say that they have developed the first microbe capable of fermenting all the major sugars found in a common species of brown seaweed (Saccharinna japonica).
“This [development] makes [brown seaweed] a viable biomass for the production of renewable fuels and chemicals,” Yasuo Yoshikuni, co-author of the study and chief science officer at Bio Architecture Lab (BAL) Inc — a US company that has built four seaweed farms off the coast of Chile — told SciDev.Net.
The team engineered Escherichia coli bacteria, which has the natural ability to metabolise glucose and mannitol — the other two main sugars in brown seaweed — and Vibrio splendidus a microorganism containing all necessary genes to metabolise alginates.
As a result, the scientists were able to get a yield of bioethanol directly from seaweed equivalent to 15,000-20,000 litres per hectare per year.
An analysis by the US Department of Energy has previously reported that, if technical barriers were overcome, brown macroalgae could produce 19,000 litres per hectare per year.
Brown seaweed “does not compete with food crops or terrestrial plants for land and fresh water, and seaweed aquafarming can absorb excess nutrients in the ocean [which can cause oxygen depletion]”, said Yuki Kashiyama, head of BAL Chile.
Stephen Mayfield, director of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology at the University of California, San Diego, United States, told SciDev.Net: “This is a great engineering feat but, at least for right now, kelp is not a viable feedstock for ethanol production, and won’t be until we can figure how to grow it and transport it to a processing site in an easy and energy efficient way”.
According to Yoshikuni, to demonstrate “overall process economics more in depth” an experimental pilot facility is being built in Chile and is scheduled to start scaling up the process by July. For this stage BAL has received a grant from CORFO (see Chile is committed to algae-based biofuels, in Spanish), the Chilean agency that promotes innovation.
Link to full paper in Science
Science doi:10.1126/science.1214547 (2012)


February 11, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good day from Manila!

There are lots of good news that are being churned out today from Rwanda. Among the top great news is the upscaling of urban development in this developing economy.

Remember that Rwanda, like many other soft states, was once racked by fratricidal wars among competing ethnicities. The days of ethnic conflicts are not yet fully over, but it seems the healing of social wounds has been effective so far.

The urban development efforts there must be welcome by enthused stakeholders across the globe. Already the UN Habitat has lent support for the upscaling agenda, which is a most appropriate move.

[Philippines, 03 February 2012]


Kagame and Clos agree on new urban development for Rwanda
Kigali, 17 Jan 12

The Government of Rwanda and UN-Habitat will start work in coming weeks on a series of pilot projects to tackle growing urbanization confronting the country in recent years.
The announcement was made after President Paul Kagame of Rwanda this week received UN-Habitat Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos, to discuss future collaboration and projects dealing with sustainable urban development policies. Both agreed on the priority of having a national urban policy for one of the most densely populated and least urbanized countries in Africa.
Between 1991 and 2002, the urban population growth in Rwanda increased three times, growing from 5.5% to 17%. The Government of Rwanda foresees that 30 % of the Rwandan population will be living in urban areas by 2020.
After the meeting with President Kagame, Dr. Clos expressed “the willingness of UN-Habitat to work together with the Rwandan authorities on future city enlargement plans, urban planning for intermediate cities and urban capacity building in order to develop new projects of cooperation to take advantage of the process of urbanization to create wealth and increase the quality of life of citizens”. UN-Habitat Executive Director said that “on my first visit to Kigali, I have to congratulate the country for the quality of the public space of their capital. UN-Habitat wants to share Rwanda’s experiences and to explain their best practices to other parts of the world”.
The Minister of Infrastructure, Mr. Albert Nsengiyumva, told a press conference after the meeting: “UN-Habitat is a strategic and important partner for Rwanda due to its expertise and their international network. Rwanda should prioritize urban issues and work on the implementation of master plans, not only for Kigali but also for existing emerging towns.”
Dr. Clos was accompanied to the meeting with President Kagame by Dr. Aisa Kirabo, UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director; the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. Aurelien A. Agbenonci, and the Director of UN-Habitat’s Regional Office for Africa, Ms. Axumite Gebre-Egziabher.


February 8, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

An end-of year (2011) good news was the meeting of Mekong leaders to plan ahead for tomorrow. A 10-year plan was forged among them, with the ADB acting out as process facilitator and co-convenor.

The Mekong region comprises a huge section of the continental Southeast Asia which by itself is a subregion of significant proportions. Boosting development growth in the subregion will surely impact greatly for the entire ASEAN. U.S. $14 Billion was earmarked for the projects, on top of the $5 Billions that was already expended by the ADB for the program.

Note that a $100-Billion Integrated Mekong River Project is now on-going, with China providing the biggest bulk of the funding. When finished, the gigantic project, which will be led by a system of hydro-electric dams, may turn out to be the world’s biggest ever.

Peoples of ASEAN should look forward to seeing the success of the development projects in the subregion.

[Philippines, 02 February 2012]

Mekong Leaders Agree on Wide-Ranging Development Plan for Next Decade
20 December 2011
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – At the conclusion of the 4th Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Summit today, leaders of the six nations that share the Mekong River agreed on a new 10-year plan to boost growth, development and poverty reduction across the GMS.
In a joint declaration issued at the conclusion of the Summit, GMS leaders endorsed a strategic framework for 2012 to 2022 that calls for a range of new measures to strengthen regional cooperation, including more effective resource utilization and more careful balancing of development with environmental concerns.
“The new Strategic Framework for 2012-2022 will move the GMS to the next level through multisector investment projects, policy development, and inter-sector coordination,” said ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda.
GMS leaders also endorsed strategies to enhance agricultural development, including food safety and security; accelerate the development and implementation of the pro-poor sustainable tourism industry, with the creation of multi-country tour packages to help spread revenues more widely; and promote low-carbon development and enhance management of the sub-region’s richly diverse ecosystems.
Since its inception in 1992, the GMS program has helped bring an area once divided by conflict increasingly together with investments of about $14 billion in projects with broad subregional benefits, including roads, airports and railways; telecommunications; energy; urban development; tourism; environmental protection; and the prevention of communicable diseases.
Since the start of the economic cooperation program, gross domestic product growth in the subregion has averaged about 8% a year, while real per capita incomes more than tripled between 1993 and 2010. As of September 2011, ADB assistance for the program totaled about $5 billion.
GMS members include Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Yunnan province and the Guangxi autonomous region in the People’s Republic of China.


February 4, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Is it possible to fully monitor security of tenure in cities? What concrete policy measures and institutional requirements can be taken to conduct such monitoring efficaciously?

Cities often than not differ in their policy measures concerning tenure matters. Besides, there is the variegation in the level of institutionalization of rules and enactment—from weak to strong—so one can just imagine the challenge posed on authorities and stakeholders to enforce monitoring.

Below is a publication on the subject from the UN Habitat that can be aid to the monitoring challenges facing local administrators.

[Philippines, 01 February 2012]


Monitoring Security of Tenure in cities

This publication, presents and innovatiove method to ascertain the extent to which security of tenure can be measeured at three main levels. Targeting cities in developing countries the methodological framework presented in this publication is entrusted, in the concept of continuum of land rights where tenure can be realised at various levels: individual, household, settlement or communitye, city and national levels. Various options to measure tenure security at each of these levels are presented. You will also find in this publication a review of the experiences of several agencies and individual academeics in measuring tenure security. From these reviews, lessons are drawn and gaps are identified, which then form the basis of the range of methods presented in this report.

DOWNLOAD: (1,024 Kb)

ISBN Series Number: – Not available –
ISBN: 978-92-1-132415-0
HS Number: 130/11E
Series Title: – Not available –
Pages: 94
Year: 2012
Publisher: UN-HABITAT
Co-Publisher : GLTN
Languages: English
Themes: Land & Tenure, Land and Housing
Branch/Office: Land, Tenure & Property Administration


February 1, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Is the development agenda of the world’s top 20 wealthy nations still flying high on the menu of social interventions? Or is the same agenda being continued, if to show semblance of the glory and power of the North/West, a glory & power that is now nose-diving to oblivion?

Let’s get to the bottom of the issue: development investments, aid, and trade were the broad strategies of the Western powers to economically encumber developing countries in yokes of poverty and misery. The global economy has already turned the tides in favor of emerging markets as saviors even of the Western economies where their investments in treasuries & bonds are keeping the latter alive, so what’s the relevance of the G20 development agenda?

The G20 nations are definitely living in the past as they marshall toothpick resources to give to their imagined forever hungry peoples of the South whom they can continue to control and manipulate as semi-slaves of the global order ruled by the financier oligarchs or so it seems. As this happens, the G20’s very own marginal peoples lose jobs and access to healthcare, a situation that inflames passions against immigrants and revives hate-politics of neo-fascist directions.

[Philippines, 29 December 2011]

Sarkozy to Keep Development High on G20 Agenda – French Diplomat
Posted by Ivy Mungcal on 02 November 2011 08:03:55 AM
The G-20 summit in France on Nov. 3 and 4 will focus largely on the global economic crisis, but French President Nicolas Sarkozy can be expected to keep development a priority, the French ambassador to South Africa has noted.
The summit, to be held in the resort city of Cannes, will tackle food security, infrastructure development, and new sources of development finance, Jacques Lapouge said, according to the Star. Lapouge noted that these three issues are among the nine development pillars outlined in a consensus approved by G-20 leaders at their last meeting in Busan, South Korea.
France hopes to encourage the G-20 to support at least one innovative approach to raising development finance, Lapouge said. Sarkozy can also be expected to stress the need for donor countries to to reaffirm their commitments to increase official development aid levels despite the current global economic downturn, the French diplomat added.
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.

PEACE & DEVELOPMENT LINKS:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


January 23, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Severe drought just struck northern Afghanistan, inducing shortfalls in crop yields. Over 2 millions of Afghans up north have begun to feel the severity of the shortfall.

The news is surely alarming, as it comes amid the eco-catastrophes of similar types in the Horn of Africa, parts of Pakistan, and other regions of the planet. The seeming coincidence of too many droughts is indicative of the dire consequences of ecological changes brought forth by both human intervention and natural phenomena.

Meantime, as winter now knocks at the doors of northern hemispheric communities, over 2 millions of Afghans face coupling disasters of hunger, diseases, and gargantuan mortalities due to the drought there. Is the world ready to respond to the new eco-challenge and help out the said small tillers and workers?

[Philippines, 26 December 2011]

In Afghanistan, Millions Face Hunger as Winter Approaches
By Ivy Mungcal on 21 November 2011
More than 2 million people in northern Afghanistan are facing hunger following a severe drought that has caused crop shortfall in the region. The situation is expected to worsen with the upcoming winter, according to several aid groups.
Nine aid groups, including Oxfam, have released a joint statement to highlight the situation and urge the international community and Afghan government to ensure people receive the food assistance they require quickly.
“Donors and relief agencies must remain vigilant and responsive as more resources will be required if the situation deteriorates because of a harsh winter,” said Manohar Shenoy, Oxfam’s country director in Afghanistan, according to The Associated Press.
Some aid agencies have also raised questions on why the situation in northern Afghanistan persists despite the billions of dollars in foreign aid received by the country.
One theory is that donors focus their aid programs in Helmand, Kandahar and other conflict-torn cities in southern Afghanistan, BBC notes, adding that aid agencies have slammed this policy, which they describe as “militarized aid.”
“They are aiming on winning hearts and minds by implementing quick fix, quick impact projects,” said Louise Hancock, Oxfam’s policy and advocacy director in Afghanistan. “These result in schools being built in areas where there are no roads going to them, where needs are not at their greatest or where there are not enough teachers to staff that school.
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.

PEACE & DEVELOPMENT LINKS:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


January 22, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Whether this news is gladdening or not, the Asian Development Bank had extended emergency funds worth US $3 million to Thailand to shore up the country’s relief and rehabilitation operations in light of the massive flooding there.

The amount is surely token, as it is worth some couples of toothpick cases for the millions of affected persons. Thailand surely deserves larger relief assistance, most specially from the global corporations that have been operating in the Bangkok region as their central hub in the whole of Asia. The oligarchic companies surely remember Thailand only when their cash registers inflow from their profitable operations, but shirk from the responsibility of helping out during calamities and catastrophies.

Better indeed that the ADB provides some aid for toothpick packs than none at all. Hopefully the same continental bank would allocate billions of dollars for new investments in the country as a way of compensating its toothpick mentality during worst calamities.

[Philippines, 25 December 2011]

ADB Gives Emergency Support to Thailand after Worst Floods in over 50 Years
21 November 2011
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing emergency assistance of $3 million to help Thailand get back on its feet in the wake of the country’s worst flooding in more than half a century.
“The scale and magnitude of the floods are immense and this grant will help Thailand address some of the most immediate, pressing needs,” said Craig Steffensen, ADB’s Country Director in Thailand.
The floods, sparked by heavy rains in August and September, have over 600 people dead and inundated homes, farmland and businesses, including parts of the capital Bangkok and surrounding districts. All affected provinces have been declared disaster areas and the country’s gross domestic product could decline by up to 2% as a result of the devastation.
ADB’s grant will support the provision of food, water, and other essential services to people who have been forced to flee their homes and others affected by the floods. It will be coordinated with assistance being provided by other development partners, including the United Nations, World Bank, European Union, Japan and the United States.
The grant is being provided from ADB’s Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund, which was established in 2009 to provide quick disbursing grants to help countries affected by natural calamities meet their immediate needs. It also helps bridge the gap ahead of longer term post-disaster reconstruction assistance and disaster risk reduction initiatives.


January 18, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

In case you global citizens may be musing about what’s going on in Uganda, tons of positive news are being churned out there year by year. Such as the news about the Ugandan electric car that has just been successfully tested.

Traumatic experiences surely have a way of leaving behind bad tastes, such as the grotesque crimes of the past tyranny of the Idi Amin regime there. But that dictatorship is way past behind us now, buried deeply now in the global canvass of rapidly shaping events.

The Kiira EV that has been to a large degree designed with technical aid from university experts will be a thing to watch in the whole of Africa. It promises to be a low-cost clean energy vehicle, as shown in the report below.

[Philippines, 24 December 2011]

Uganda test-drives its first electric car
Peter Wamboga-Mugirya
21 November 2011
[KAMPALA] Ugandan scientists and students at Makerere University have built an electric car.

The two-seater Kiira EV (‘Kiira’ means roaring in Lusoga, a local dialect), which is powered by a lithium-ion battery, was test-driven early this month (1 November) at the university. It can reach a maximum speed of 200 kilometres (km) an hour but needs recharging after an 80km run.

Sandy Stevens Tickodri-Togboa, principal investigator for the project and deputy vice-chancellor at the university, told SciDev.Net that the conceptualisation and design took place between April and August 2009.

“I assembled 25 engineers, electricians and designers. We used a large percentage of local materials to develop the Kiira EV.” He said that they imported only the steering wheel and minor accessories.

The inspiration for the project came from Makerere’s participation in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Vehicle Design Summit in Italy, in 2008. The inter-university event — in which Makerere was the only African team — led to the development of Vision 200, a prototype hybrid fuel-electric car.

Following the summit, the team decided to return home and build its own electric car.

In December 2009, President Yoweri Museveni expressed confidence in the product and instructed the Ministry of Finance to provide funding for the project of 25 billion Ugandan shillings (around US$10 million) for five years (2009–14).

Tickodri-Togboa added that a prominent Uganda businessman and member of the Private Sector Foundation, Habib Kagimu, has pledged to promote the group’s work.

With such entrepreneurs, he said, the group expects the Kiira EV to evolve into low-cost cars for Ugandans in the near future. The next step is to build an electric 28-seater bus, said Tickodri-Togboa.

Kiira EV project manager Paul Musasizi said the car was tested for road-drive performance including its ability to climb steep gradients and pick up speed.

“It picks speed very quickly, the motor is strong and its reversing [ability] is perfect. It also climbed a 55 degrees incline,” he said, after test-driving the car for 4km at a speed of 65km per hour. But he added: “More adjustments still need to be done when it is gaining speed to avoid jerking”.

But David Mulabi, a community development programme coordinator at the Uganda Czech Development Trust, said that Makerere should redirect its energies.

“Farmers are struggling with drought because irrigation is too expensive … We need [irrigation] technology … not luxury [cars],” he said.


January 16, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

So many conflicts are happening across the globe at this moment, leading to mass migrations of affected non-combatants. Rebel groups bent on forming mini-states, such as those on the African continent, form a ceaseless phenomenal tapestry of violence and migrations.

Incidentally, many migrants have returned to the homeland, or as in the case of other migrants they get absorbed in the host countries. Let us take the case of Cote d’Ivoire that has been badly hit by the same rebel syndrome messianically forming mini-states in the most gruesome conflicts one can imagine.

Migrants that used to be sheltered in tent cities of sorts are back in the country. Let’s take a cursory visit to the life of these lucky migrants via the reportage of the IOM below.

[Philippines, 23 December 2011]


First Group of Internally Displaced Persons Return to Their Villages in Western Cote d’Ivoire

Posted on Friday, 18-11-2011

Cote d’Ivoire – Seven months after the end of the post electoral crisis in Cote d’Ivoire, hundreds of families who sought refuge in camps in the west of the country, are finally returning home with IOM assistance.
On 16 November 2011, IOM in coordination with government authorities and partner agencies carried out the first organized return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from a displaced centre in the western town of Duékoué to surrounding villages.
A first IOM convoy of 103 families (459 individuals) left the overcrowded Catholic Mission holding centre in Duékoué for various nearby communities. Other returns are planned over the next few days, with the remaining families scheduled for relocation in a nearby camp in Nahibly.
Up to 25,000 IDPs sought refuge in and around the Catholic Mission in Duékoué at the peak of the conflict. Currently, an estimated 17,000 displaced persons are still living in camps throughout Cote d’Ivoire, in addition to thousands of others who are staying with host communities.
Security improvements in the region have encouraged many displaced persons to consider returning to villages, with many families excited at the prospect of returning home.
“I think I will do better by returning to my village,” one of the returnees told IOM. “Life in the camp has been good because it has provided us with security. Now things are better, I need to go home and re-build my life for the sake of my children.”
Residents of other IDP camps in Western Cote d’Ivoire who are willing to return to their villages will be assisted by IOM and its partners to do so.
Over the past weeks, IOM has organized several “go-and-see visits” for IDPs who saw that living conditions in their home villages had steadily improved. On their return, they shared information with those who stayed back in the camps. This information helped them in their decision to return or not.
However, many families are still too frightened to return immediately, though they intend to do so at a later date. Some say they will have nowhere to stay because their houses were destroyed during the conflict. Others are afraid of gun-carrying traditional fighters and other armed men, while a good number fear those who they say illegally occupied their plantations after they had fled.
IOM is currently rehabilitating some 300 destroyed homes in some of the worst conflict-affected areas in the west of Cote d’Ivoire and is stocking up on non-food items, which include plastic sheeting, mattresses, mats, kitchen sets, buckets, etc. for distribution to families in need.
As the IDPs return, they will undoubtedly face the daunting task of putting their lives back together. IOM will continue to conduct follow-up missions in the areas of return, to ascertain the living conditions, with the aim of providing the assistance that is needed for sustainability.
In order to do this IOM will appeal to the donor community for financial aid. The current activities are being carried out thanks to donations from the Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), the European Union Humanitarian Assistance (ECHO), the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Australian Assistance for International Development (AUSAID).
For further information, please contact:
David Coomber
IOM Cote d’Ivoire
Tel: +225 048 30 444


January 14, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

How much transparency is involved in the aid phenomenon? Is the transparency coming from the donor or from the recipient, or from both sides of the aid coin?

Whatever agenda will be taken up concerning the aid problem in Busan, the transparency question would surely ring the strongest decibels. And may we stress DECIBELS, as we anticipate debates that could be so emotional as they can shoot up adrenalin to feverish levels. Discourses will be accompanied by high tenor rationalizations, with finger-pointing blaming in the menu of presentations.

“Busan Busan on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” could be a guide thought in the report on the subject below.

[Philippines, 22 December 2011]

Ahead of Busan: How Countries Rank on Aid Transparency
By Claudia Elliot on 17 November 2011
The majority of international aid donors are not publishing enough information about the money they give, undermining the effectiveness of development spending and damaging public trust, according to the Aid Transparency Index 2011 released earlier this week by Publish What You Fund. The report comes just two weeks before the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea.
Aid is a scarce and precious resource, which, if spent well, can make a major difference to the lives and prospects of people and countries receiving it. However, a lack of comprehensive, timely and comparable aid information means that donor governments do not know enough about where their own money is being spent with what effect, nor can they can compare and coordinate what they are doing with other agencies around the world.
Without comparable data, aid-recipient countries cannot plan their own spending properly or measure impact. Equally, taxpayers in both donor and recipient countries are unable to hold their government to account for spending the money well.
Major donors including the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Spain, Norway, Canada, Italy and Australia perform poorly in Publish What You Fund’s pilot Aid Transparency Index, in spite of pledges to improve at the high-level meetings in 2005 and 2008. The five best-ranked donors are the World Bank, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the African Development Bank, The Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the U.K.’s Department for International Development.
The index – the first of its kind – ranks 58 donor agencies according to how much information they provide across 35 different indicators. The average score of 34 percent shows that although some donors have made good progress, the majority need to do much more. No donors ranked in the top category “good,” which requires a score of over 80 percent.
The fifteen worst-performers (Spain, Portugal, U.S. Department of Defense, U.K. Commonwealth Development Corp., Latvia, U.S. Treasury, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, China, Greece, Cyprus and Malta) all scored less than 19 percent, with the bottom two scoring zero percent.
The report calls on all donors to sign up to and implement the International Aid Transparency Initiative, which provides a common standard for publishing data and has the potential to transform the way aid is managed. It urges donors to use the upcoming High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan to commit to publish timely, comprehensive and comparable information on aid by 2015.
The Make Aid Transparent campaign was launched in June this year to urge governments to maintain commitments to publish to IATI at Busan. In the last 6 months the campaign has gained real ground. It is now supported by over 100 organisations and 8000 people internationally and has been presented around the world, including in London, Paris, Washington, Yemen, Honduras, and Berlin. The Make Aid Transparent campaign will be handing the petition signatures to country ministers at the meeting in Busan at the end of the month.


January 13, 2012


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Is the Somalia famine hopelessly irreversible? If the catastrophe can be reversed, can the interventions be sustained without aid from external donors?

Those are pretty tough questions to answer. Admittedly, the famine in the Horn is too large a human & nature predicament, with over 11 millions of hungry people affected at its peak some couples of months ago. Somalia seems to be a classic basketcase of the catastrophe, as the problem there is complicated by peace & order challenges.

Below is a reportage on the subject by the UNDP. Note that the UNDP experts have taken the standpoint that the problem can be reversed but with substantial assistance from benevolent sources.

[Philippines, 21 December 2011]
Famine in Somalia can only be reversed with continued assistance
21 November 2011

Water tanks have also been placed along the routes being used by displaced people. (Photo: OCHA/Buhaene)
Nairobi – Increased humanitarian assistance to Somalia has had a significant impact in the famine‐affected parts, bringing the three southern regions of Bay, Bakool and Lower Shabelle out of famine.
However, according to the latest data compiled by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit and Famine Early Warning System in southern Somalia, famine persists in parts of the Middle Shabelle region and in the areas hosting internally displaced persons in the capital Mogadishu and along the Afgooye corridor, northwest of the city.
Malnutrition and mortality rates in many parts of southern Somalia continue to be the highest in the world.
“Any improvements can only be sustained if the current level of humanitarian assistance continues,” said Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, who also serves as the UN Development Programme’s Resident Representative.
“If humanitarian activities are interrupted or reduced in southern Somalia, many areas will fall back into famine. It is only thanks to the generosity of donors that we have been able to save tens of thousands of lives in the past three months. We need this support to continue or the price we pay will be the loss of thousands of lives.”
The UN and other partners are working to increase access to food, markets and health services. UNDP has been working in Mogadishu and in some of the famine-affected districts building shallow wells, boreholes and water pumps, rehabilitating essential agricultural infrastructure, and helping to create short term jobs which allow households to improve access to food.
Somalia continues to face the largest humanitarian crisis in the world with over half of its population in urgent need of assistance.
Three million out of the four million people in crisis are in southern Somalia, where access to the population in need remains a major challenge.