Fall Armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda (Smith)

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The fall armyworm can colonize over 80 different plant species including many grasses, and crops such as alfalfa, soybean, sorghum, and corn.  Fall armyworm is more likely to be an economic pest in corn and vegetable crops. Fall armyworms are similar in size and shape to other moths in the cutworm family.  They are grayish in color with a wingspan of about 1.5 inches.
Upon arrival to a new field, the female moth deposits egg masses on green plants including important crop hosts.  The eggs hatch about five to seven days after oviposition and the small larvae then begin to feed on plants near the ground or in protected areas such as the whorl of corn plants.  They usually go unnoticed until they are approximately an inch long.  The larva goes through six instars (about 15 to 18 days) before burrowing one to three inches into the soil to pupate.  Adults emerge about one to five weeks after pupation depending on soil temperature.

Adult stage: Adult moths are 20 to 25mm long with a wingspan of 30 to 40mm. Forewings are shaded grey to brown, often mottled with a conspicuous white spot on the extreme tip. Hindwings are silvery white with a narrow dark border. Adults are nocturnal and most active during warm, humid evenings. Females lay eggs in clusters of fifty to a few hundred and can lay up to 2000 eggs in a lifetime. The average adult lifespan is estimated to be 10 days.

Egg stage: Eggs are white, pinkish or light green in color and spherical in shape. Clusters of eggs are frequently covered in moth scales or bristles giving a fuzzy appearance. Eggs are usually laid on the underside of leaves.

Larval stage: Larvae generally emerge simultaneously 3 to 5 days following oviposition and migrate to the whorl. Mortality rate following emergence is extremely high due to climatic factors, predators, and parasites. There are six larval instar stages. In the 2nd and 3rd instar stages larvae are often cannibalistic, resulting in only one larva in the whorl. Mature larvae are 30 to 40mm in length and vary in color from light tan to green to black. Larvae are characterized by several subdorsal and lateral stripes running along the body. Dark, elevated spots (tubercles) bearing spines occur dorsally along the body. Larvae of fall armyworm can be distinguished from larvae of armyworm and corn ear worm by a distinct white inverted Y-shaped mark on the front of the head. They have four large spots on the upper surface of the last segment. Larvae mature in 14 to 21 days after which they drop to the ground to pupate.

Pupal stage: Pupation occurs a few centimeters (2 to 8cm) below the soil surface. Cocoons are generally oval and 20 to 30mm in length. Pupae are reddish brown and measure 13 to 17mm in length. Pupation usually takes 9 to 13 days, following which adults emerge.

  • In optimum conditions the entire lifecycle can be completed in 30 days. Maize crops can normally support two generations.
  • Optimum temperature for larval development is 28۫ C, although the egg stage and pupal stage require slightly lower temperatures.
  • Protracted periods of extreme cold will result in death of most growth stages. The fall armyworm has no diapause mechanism and therefore is only able to overwinter in mild climates and recolonize in cooler climates in the summeConfirmation

Host range

The fall armyworm has a wide range of hosts including maize, rice, sorghum, sugarcane, cotton, alfalfa, peanuts, tobacco, and soybean, in addition to various wild grasses. However, gramineous plants are preferred.

  • Mechanism of damage:Damage is caused by loss of photosynthetic area due to foliar feeding, structural damage due to feeding in the whorl, lodging due to cut stems, and direct damage to grains due to larvae feeding.
  • When damage is important:Severe infestations are uncommon and most plants recover from partial foliar feeding. Under severe infestation complete defoliation of the maize plant is possible. Damage is most severe when worms cause direct damage to the ear. Under severe infestation larvae are frequently observed migrating in large numbers to new fields similar to the true armyworm. Late planted maize and advanced growth stages are more vulnerable to fall armyworm damage.
  • Economic damage:Under severe infestation yield loss ranging from 25 to 50% has been documented.

Monitoring

  • Regularly monitor leaves and whorls for presence of larvae and signs of crop damage.
  • Look for masses of larvae migrating between fields.
  • Pheromone traps can be used to determine incidence of adult moths and disrupt mating during the whorl stages.

Cultural control

  • Plant early to avoid periods of heavy infestation later in the season.
  • Plant early maturing varieties.
  • Rotate maize with a non-host.
  • Reduced tillage methods often result in an increase of natural predators and parasitoids. However, in areas where fall armyworm infestation is high, disking or plowing can effectively reduce the survival rate of pupae in the soil.

Biological control

  • Numerous parasitic wasps, natural predators, and pathogens help to control the population of fall armyworms.
  • The egg parasitoidTelenomus remus is frequently introduced to effectively control fall armyworm and other Spodoptera 

Insecticides

  • Insecticide application should be considered when eggs are present on 5% of seedlings or when 25% of plants show signs of feeding damage. In order to be effective, insecticide application should commence before larvae burrow into the whorls or ears and insecticide spray should penetrate the crop canopy.
  • Insecticides recommended for control ofSpodoptera species include various pyrethroids, carbamates and organophosphates. However, insecticide resistance has been widely reported.

Role of Social Media for Good Governance and Democracy: Literature Review and Personal Observation in Horn of Africa

Social media refers to web-based platforms that allow users to create, share, rate and search for content and information.  These tools become ‘social’ in the sense that they are created in ways that enable users to share and communicate with one another. This includes mixture of web-based technologies and services blogs, micro-blogs, social sharing platforms and social networking services.

This blog part would like to review the role of social media platforms in nation building in the horn of Africa and to a wider region at large. Recognizing the power of this Medias compared with the conventional Medias for public participations in good governance and democratic systems as well as giving attentions to threats related to the technologies including commonly observed provoking and racial remarks/ comments. And to bring attentions to all stakeholders look forward how virtual community at grass root level and social-media giants shall collaborate towards making social media more people centered, developmental, a media for the voiceless and in an effort to build proactive democratic systems while at the same time making sure  the , zero abusive foot-print by embarrassing all basic human rights.

Trends of Internet Penetration in the Region

The applications and effects of social media have ever grown with the expansion of ICT and youth preference to engage actively in politics of respective nations in the horn of Africa and to the regions at large. Facebook, one of the biggest social networks was created in 2004, the biggest video sharing website Youtube did not exist before 2005 and the most popular micro blogging site like Twitter only traces back to 2006. Following this, it has been widely used by public officials, political parties and activist to interact with this ever growing virtual community, which was not a common one decade ago. As we can see from the figure below the trends of internet penetration in the region have been grown since its introduction, this by far shows there is an ever growing population of the virtual community in the region that could be a played a great role to shared commitment towards building a democratic systems and good governance in this fragile region.

Year Kenya Sudan Uganda South Sudan Djibouti Ethiopia Eritrea Egypt* South Africa *
2016 45% 26% 19% 17% 12% 4% 1% 33% 52%
2015 45% 26% 19% 17% 11% 4% 1% 33% 51%
2014 43% 25% 18% 16% 11% 3% 1% 32% 49%
2013 39% 23% 16% 14% 10% 2% 1% 29% 47%
2012 32% 21% 15% 12% 8% 2% 1% 26% 41%
2011 28% 17% 13% 9% 7% 1% 1% 26% 34%
2010 14% 17% 13% 7% 7% 1% 1% 22% 24%
2009 10% 14% 10% 5% 4% 1% 1% 20% 10%
2008 9% 11% 8% 3% 2% 1% 1% 18% 8%
2007 8.0% 8.7% 3.7% 2.0% 1.6% 0.4% 0.4% 16.0% 8.1%
2006 7.5% 5.0% 2.5% 1.8% 1.3% 0.3% 0.4% 13.7% 7.6%
2005 3.1% 1.3% 1.7% 1.4% 1.0% 0.2% 0.3% 12.8% 7.5%
2004 3.0% 0.8% 0.7% 1.3% 0.8% 0.2% 0.3% 11.9% 8.4%
2003 2.9% 0.5% 0.5% 1.0% 0.6% 0.1% 0.3% 4.0% 7.0%
2002 1.2% 0.4% 0.4% 0.8% 0.5% 0.1% 0.2% 2.7% 6.7%
2001 0.6% 0.1% 0.2% 0.4% 0.3% 0.0% 0.2% 0.8% 6.3%
2000 0.3% 0.0% 0.2% 0.3% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.6% 5.3%
Population

 2016

in million

47.25 41.18 40.32 12.73 0.90 101.85 5.35 93.38 54.98

* Egypt and South Africa used as a comparison, since the two African nations have high internet penetrations rate and study shows that more than 90% of peoples who have internet access have used social medias.

The data for the above figure are collected from http://www.internetlivestats.com/internetusers

The term “Horn of Africa” is not only a geographical expression but it is rather a geopolitical concept. The Horn of Africa proper consists of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, the Sudan and South Sudan. Stretchily, it also encompasses Kenya and Uganda. Some are convinced that the nations of the Horn of Africa are endowed with a dynamic, youthful and entrepreneurial population and an abundance of natural resources. Yet, for too many years, peoples of this region have been suffering from hunger, conflicts, poverty and growing inequalities and instabilities. The twin problems of poverty and conflict have various and complex causes. sine from history so far scholars put it as most of the wars / conflict in the Horn of Africa during the past decades have been described in terms of ethnic conflict, both by the adversaries themselves and by external analysts. Sudan civil wars have been characterized as ethnic conflicts with cleavages along religious, racial, cultural, and linguistic lines. The various civil wars in Ethiopia, Somali conflicts and Djibouti have also linked to ethnic conflict.

Good governance

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) defines governance as “the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels. It comprises the mechanisms, processes, and institutions, through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences”. One of the fundamental principles of good governance is transparency, which ensures that the decision-making and the subsequently due process monitoring and implementation of this information is freely available and directly accessible by all stakeholders.

The United Nations Development Program views corruption as “the misuse of public power, office or authority for private benefit – through bribery, extortion, influence peddling, nepotism, fraud, speed money or embezzlement”. Corruption does not necessarily appear only in monetary terms. When an official fails to deliver the services that were paid by the government, this may be defined as “quiet corruption”. Quiet corruption thus may include deviations that can be potentially observable, such as being absent from work, but also deviations that are hard to observe, for example to bend rules for personal benefits, or to deviate from the expected conduct

Political Participation

Historically, citizen’s participation in the political processes has been considered a fundamental element of an ideal democracy. Thus, participation represents a significant component in political communication and democratic institution.  Recent reports indicate decreasing youth participation in political activities such as low turnout at elections.

two decades ago, there has been serious academic concern about the low political participation among youth in many parts of developed and developing nations, thus, some scholars have identified this as a threat to good governance particularly in developing nations. Before the coming of social media, space in newspaper and airtime on radio and television were limited and expensive; thus youth, specifically cannot express their opinion nor participate in politics through the old media.  Online social networking sites such as Facebook have brought new hopes and opportunities by connecting youth with politicians and common interest groups to share information and opinions.

Studies have suggested that youth are now using Facebook to seek for political information, mobilize common interest groups, create user-generated content and share political views. Facebook provides a great opportunity to politicians to reach out to their constituents and voters. The technology also link and facilitates interaction between community and elected political representatives by providing a public online ‘Wall’ a space where community members can easily write comments in favor or against their political leaders.

More youth are showcasing stronger reliance on it as their online platform for securing political information they need to make an informed political decision. Hence, targeting and tailoring political messages online to the youth through Facebook and what motivate youth to develop an interest in politics should be an important factor in future campaign strategies for Political parties in their day to day activities as well as during election seasons.

Social media vis-à-vis Good governance and Democracy

Researchers argue that social media has a great potential to increase government outreach, enhance problem solving capacities and improve decision-making processes. Citizens´ demand for a transparent government is fermenting a new age of opportunities through social media, web-enabled technologies, mobile technologies and E-Government. With the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies and new media citizens became able to be journalists themselves avoiding unnecessary mediation of traditional media. As scholars put it: ‘The powerful have been spying on their subjects since the beginning of history, but the subjects can now watch the powerful, at least to a greater extent than in the past’. We have all become potential citizen journalists who, if equipped with a mobile phone, can record and instantly upload to the global networks any wrongdoing by anyone, anywhere.

Freed from the necessities of professional media and journalist skills or the centralized control and distribution of industrial mass media organizations, social media is instead seen to be technologically, financially and accessible to youths. Equipped with social media, the citizens no longer have to be passive consumers of political party propaganda, government spin or mass media news, but are instead actually enabled to challenge discourses, share alternative perspectives and publish their own opinions. In this age of widespread communication and political consciousness, people expect political participation and accountability much more than they did in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. social media allows citizens not only to influence public debate, public opinion and public policy, but, on a more direct level, also to get the chance to tackle matters of consequences, for example to address deficiencies in infrastructure projects, improve project planning and uncover cases of corruption.

Social media can be empowering to its users as it gives them a platform to speak. It allows anyone with access to the Internet the ability to inexpensively publish or broadcast information, effectively democratizing media. In terms of time, Social media technologies allow users to immediately publish information in near-real time. There is a growing prospects that shows social media must be used by Parliaments, Parliamentarians, governments and political parties as they are highly effective tools to involve and inform citizens in public policymaking and in the formation of governments.

The rapidly advancing world of information technology affects all spheres of life but none more so than politics and the replacement of authoritarian governance with democratic governance. Easy access to information from around the world promotes liberty, competition and choice.  It can also be used to advance respect for the rule of law and human rights and other indices of good governance such as equality and free and credible elections.  Use of the new social media enables group thinking to promote concepts such as the independence of the judiciary, the development of civil society, multiparty systems and democratic institutions which are participatory, transparent and accountable. Such media empower and unite people.  Political leaders can rise social and political issues and shape public opinion, and the media can give a voice to those who previously did not have one. It will also provide members of parliaments with the information they need to hold their representatives accountable in a more transparent system of governance. While the public can use the social media to influence political debate, he said they can also be used by political parties to mobilize voters.  More generally, the social media can also be used to enable faster responses to crises.

The way forward

In general, there is a strong assumption in the literature that social media have a tremendous power to improve transparency, accountability, good governance and democratic system coupled with my observation in the ground. But the ever growing threat that hinders for harvesting the advantage of social media in different parts of the region needs great attentions and further research and strategies shall be raised from the virtual communities for avoiding polarized and extremist contents generated ideas perpetuate among us.

The research questions for further study should include what is the motivation behind posting and commenting so provokingly and in a polarized way, how the majority of the virtual community who have worked for the common goals in politics usually to bring democratic systems and good governance by using social media  shall not be influenced / diverted by this incite posts from fake identities and how institutions responsible for these platforms ( like Facebook) shall came with better options / solutions for users in reporting towards intruders posting inappropriate contents.

If everyone can make little research in this concerns Content generated by Polarized and incite contents usually done with posts came from fake profile usually including but not limited to names of celebrities and public officials. The appearances for fake profiles are lack of regular posts in their own timeline and with rare number of friends in their own circle but surprisingly they are actively comments on posts came from anyone in the virtual space.

whatever the importance of the post to bring the issues for discussions for developing good governance and democratic systems; the comments from these intruders (the one with the fake ID) came up with provocative, insane and with a very nature of sensitive like racism / ethnic/ religious based insulation  remarks that have usually controlling enough to hijacked/diverted the main posts/discussion as well as it has leads most of the users in that space busy with making angry response to this comments.

Even if the virtual communities have aware of the importance of social media in building democratic systems and good governance that would take part  a role/ bring a light for multi-party systems, inclusive development, self-determination / identify, transparency, corruption, systematic exclusion and other issues that came to be important for the prospects of each nations and toward this region ; if we are not systematically approaches and give attentions to intruders came with   ethnic and religious polarizations and extremism that usually done for the purpose of dismantling / diverting the virtual community in the social medias would have its own threats and consequences for fuelling the online drama towards the offline conflicts.

In response to this calamities social media companies and researchers in the region need to initiate to work with social media users at grass root to come up with user friendly reporting systems for inappropriate content includes contents with local language so that the platforms would maintain/remain for the advantage of the peoples at large for interaction, building of democratic systems and good governance.

Un-tapping the potential of #LocalFood to Improve Food and Nutrition security in #Ethiopia

Stereotypical View of Okra

Okra

Okra, also known as Ladies Fingers, Gombo, Bendi or Gumbo, appears to have originated from West Africa, probably somewhere around Ethiopia, and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians as far back as the 12th century B.C.

Okra is a member of the Mallow family, related to cotton, hibiscus, rose of Sharon, and hollyhock. Okra or ladies finger is an important vegetable of the tropical countries and most popular in India, Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan, etc. Though virtually not grown in Europe and North America, lots of people in these countries have started liking this vegetable due to the presence of good amount of vitamins.

The plant can be grown throughout the year and resembles cotton in its habit. It is an annual vegetable crop grown in the tropics of the world. It can be grown on all kinds of soils. However, to get the best results, it requires a friable well-manure soil. Okra used in countries like India in huge amount, okra accounts for 60 per cent of the export of fresh vegetables. India exports okra mainly to West Asia, Western Europe and the US. The demand for fresh okra is more in the overseas markets.

Okra pods are available year round. Okra is a very healthy green vegetable that contains many important minerals, vitamins, electrolytes and antioxidants which are essential to good health. Read on, to learn various okra health benefits.

Nutritional value of okra, scientific evidence

Okra is low in calories and is a good source of many nutrients including vitamin B6 and C, fiber, calcium, and folic acid.

Okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients. Nearly half of which is soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectin’s. Soluble fiber helps to lower serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease. The other half is insoluble fiber which helps to keep the intestinal tract healthy decreasing the risk of some forms of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. Nearly 10% of the recommended levels of vitamin B6 and folic acid are also present in a half cup of cooked okra. Like soybean oil, okra seed oil is rich (60 to 70%) in unsaturated fatty acids. Okra mucilage refers to the thick and slimy substance found in fresh as well as dried pods. Mucilaginous substances are usually concentrated in the pod walls.

 

Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), Fresh, raw pods:

Nutrition value per 100 g.  (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 1.5% 31 Kcal
Carbohydrates 7.03 g 5.4%
Protein 2.0 g 4%
Total Fat 0.1 g 0.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 9% 3.2 g
Vitamins
Folates 88 mcg 22%
Niacin 1.000 mg 6%
Pantothenic acid 0.245 mg 5%
Pyridoxine 0.215 mg 16.5%
Riboflavin 0.060 mg 4.5%
Thiamin 0.200 mg 17%
Vitamin C 21.1 mg 36%
Vitamin A 375 IU 12.5%
Vitamin E 0.36 mg 2.5%
Vitamin K 53 mcg 44%
Electrolytes
Sodium 8 mg 0.5%
Potassium 303 mg 6%
Minerals
Calcium 81 mg 8%
Copper 0.094 mg 10%
Iron 0.80 mg 10%
Magnesium 57 mg 14%
Manganese 0.990 mg 43%
Phosphorus 63 mg 9%
Selenium 0.7 mcg 1%
Zinc 0.60 mg 5.5%
Phyto-nutrients
Carotene-ß 225 mcg
Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 mcg
Lutein-zeaxanthin 516 mcg

 

Health and Medicinal Value: Scientific Evidence

 

  • The fiber content of okra has many high qualities; it helps in maintaining the health of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Okra helps to reabsorb water and traps excess cholesterol, metabolic toxins and excess bile in its mucilage and slips it out through stool. Because of the greater percentage of water in the bulk, it prevents constipation, gas and bloating stomach problems.
  • This is a very good vegetable for weight loss, as it is a storehouse of health benefits, provided it is cooked on low flame, so that the okra health benefits are retained. This way the invaluable mucilage obtained from okra, is not lost due to high heat.
  • To add volume and bounce to your hair, you can use this hair care tip. Boil horizontally sliced okra, till the brew becomes slimy. Then let it cool, add few drops of lemon to it and use it as a last rinse. This will bring bounce and volume to your hair.
  • The mucilage and fiber present in okra, helps in maintaining blood sugar levels and regulating their absorption in small intestine.
  • Okra facilitates in propagation of good bacteria known as probiotics. These bacteria are similar to the ones proliferated by yogurt in the small intestine, and helps in biosynthesis of vitamin B complex.
  • Protein and oil found in the seeds of okra serves as a good source of high quality vegetable protein. It is rich in amino acids like tryptophan, cysteine and other sulfur amino acids.
  • Okra is a very good laxative, as it helps in treating irritable bowels, healing ulcers and soothing the gastrointestinal track.
  • Okra is good for summer heat and sun stroke treatment.
  • Okra is good for atherosclerosis, and is good for asthma.
  • It can help in prevention of diabetes.
  • Okra Is High In Foliate (Folic Acid) an Important Vitamin for Preventing Birth Defects

 

Okra in ETHIOPIA: Berta Community

Berta is one of the five local ethnic groups found in Benishangulumuz regional state. According to 2007 national census survey (CSA, 2007) report around 173,743 Berta communities found in the region. This local community resides along the Ethiopia Sudan border and they shared same ethnic group in the other side (Sudan) of Ethiopia-Sudan border. Berta community use some special local foods like ocra ( kenkase) , hibiscus (kerkada)and bamboo shoot as a stable food recipe in the area.

The Berta community usually uses okra as a wet to eat food prepared from sorghum and maize, sorghum and maize are the two main stable crops cultivated in the area.

Besides using okra for household consumption, there is a great demand for the plant in the local market to be used for the town communities like in Asosa and also substantial amount of it is cross to Sudan with rewarding price.

The Berta community proudly reported that the reason behind resisting from the high risk of malaria case in the area, for their digestive system and general healthy condition is their food habit of using okra in their food.

Future Direction

As we can see Okra is very important crop for the local Berta community and research papers show that okra is become known in western and North American dishes. However there is no significant promotion and research done in Ethiopia to promote and enhance the food value and market of okra. Future research strategies should give emphasis on promoting local food like okra that have play significant role in improving nutritional content of the Ethiopian dish.

Research and development focuses on traditional food plants and on essential oils shall be one of the Ethiopian national agriculture research systems program in addressing the national calorie deficit , malnutrition and for the treatment of life style diseases that are recently become prevalent  in urban parts of the community.

Since processed food items derived from traditional crops like have a potential export market value, on the quest of developing traditional and indigenous plants that have a great medicinal value for fighting diabetes, nutritional dense in micronutrients and treating the case of different cancer cells could be a source of generating additional income if they are properly researched, developed and marketed.

 

Reading material reviewed

How to Plant and Grow Okra | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2325331_plant-grow-okra.html#ixzz1LISuMOn0

http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/okra.cfm

http://www.neurophys.wisc.edu/ravi/okra/pictures/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/new-health/health-nutrition/leslie-beck/cut-sugar-to-lower-triglycerides/article1999190/

http://healthmad.com/nutrition/health-benefits-of-okra-cleopatra-and-yang-gifei-of-china-ate-okra/

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/okra-health-benefits.html

http://www.healingfoodreference.com/okra.html

http://wilsonbrosnursery.com/Articles/Organic-Gardening/Vegetable-Fruit-Nutrition/Okra-Nutrition-Health-Benefits.aspx

http://www.vegrecipes4u.com/health-benefits-of-okra.html

http://naturalhealthezine.com/okra-health-benefits/

http://www.ifood.tv/blog/how-to-eat-okra

East Africa Food Security Brief – January 2012

Food security outlook points to deepening food insecurity in some areas even as OctoberDecember rains result in marked improvement in Crisis areas

Current food security conditions and expected outcomes during the Outlook period (through March 2012) are mixed across the East Africa region. Several areas previously at Crisis levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) have shown considerable improvement, namely parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, following favorable and mostly above normal OctoberDecember rains, coupled with a major humanitarian response. Notwithstanding these improvements, the outlook in the eastern Horn is measured, due to the underlying fragility of livelihoods, which have been weakened by a succession of poor seasons and multiple shocks, principally drought, conflict, livestock disease, above-normal food and non-food prices, and more recently, floods. Furthermore, most of the improvements in food security are supported by humanitarian response rather than substantial recovery in productive capacities or enhanced resilience of livelihoods. Blue Nile and South Kordofan states in Sudan, and Jonglei State and border areas of South Sudan, are now emerging as the areas of greatest concern, in addition to parts of southern Somalia. Food insecurity in Sudan and South Sudan is driven by the poor recent agricultural season, and intense conflict and heavy fighting in some areas, as well as restrictions on trade and humanitarian access.

Food security has improved in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Somalia, and the prognosis for the first quarter of 2012 is generally favorable. However, reports by FAO suggest that food security in Djibouti is anticipated to decline through March particularly for pastoralists, the urban poor, and about 19,000 Somali and Yemeni refugees in camps. An estimated 210,000 people will face Stressed levels (IPC Phase 2), while localized households in the north will face Crisis levels. In western Ethiopia, food security is projected to improve to No Acute Food Insecurity (IPC Phase 1) in parts of the cropping highlands after favorable October to December rains. However, Belg cropping areas in North Wollo and northeastern parts of Afar experienced poor rains and poor households will likely remain in Crisis through March 2012. Households in the southern and southeastern pastoral and agropastoral areas of Ethiopia bordering Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia are expected to be in Crisis through March 2012, including about 143,000 Somali refugees at Dollo Ado camp and more than 30,000 Sudanese refugees in Benishangul-Gumuz region in western Ethiopia. Insecurity and suspected polio cases are cause for serious concern in Dollo Ado, while water shortages are increasing in Oromiya and Somali regions.

read from the source

South Sudan – a blueprint for a food secure future

10 January, 2012

Six months since South Sudan became independent, Oxfam America’s President Ray Offenheiser highlights the great potential for agriculture in the country – but also the great challenges the sector faces, from lack of infrastructure to widespread violence and displacement, and the leasing of valuable land to outside investors:

As South Sudan emerges as a new nation, there may be no more pressing issue for its people, and perhaps for the stability of the nation as a whole, than the investments it makes in its agricultural sector and long term food security.

In recent years we have seen the impact of volatile food prices across the globe. In 2008 there were food riots in 38 nations, and the international community has yet to fully address the root causes of this food crisis. So the potential for shock effects in fragile economies like South Sudan are real.

South Sudan is however fortunate. It has abundant arable land, water resources, and large stocks of cattle and fisheries. The White Nile region is one of Africa’s most fertile areas. So there is enormous potential and opportunity for South Sudan to achieve a high level of food security for its people. Yet while the struggle for independence has been achieved, the struggles to ensure peace and security and to overcome extreme poverty are still to be fought and won.

These twin challenges are daunting. 30 years of conflict has seriously compromised agricultural production. As many as 3 million people in South Sudan are at risk of food insecurity, according to the UN. Just 4 percent of arable land in South Sudan is cultivated. The production of livestock and fish is just a fraction of its potential.

The nation depends heavily on imported food stocks. Interstate trade and international exports are minimal. And South Sudan undertakes the task of building its agricultural sector with significant deficits in human and institutional capital, infrastructure, finance and technology.

So where to begin?

Ensuring food security for all citizens of South Sudan

The first priority for investment in agriculture must be ensuring food security for all South Sudan’s citizens. With this goal in mind, there are some critical steps that must be pursued:

  1. Create an enabling environment for investment

    Building the key institutions that facilitate a functioning market economy is critical to attracting investment.

    Create an enabling environment for public and private sector investment.Critical to this is investment in building the key institutions needed to ensure peace and security, rule of law, macro-economic stability and a coordinated regulatory framework. These are prerequisites for any functioning market economy that hopes to attract significant foreign investment.

    Donors in this early stage have an important role to play. They should devote significant financial and technical resources toward assisting the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) to model excellence in governance; and toward building the capacity of those institutions that will manage aid funding, create the foundation for a vibrant market economy, and support civil society to engage in consultative processes with government in developing investment plans and monitoring performance.

  2. Build agricultural infrastructure

    Agricultural expertise and technology can dramatically increase productivity.

    Build the hard and soft infrastructure needed to support a growing agricultural sector. South Sudan must create a class of highly trained professionals to guide and manage the growth of its agricultural sector. It must create agricultural secondary schools, training centers, research capacity and a strong agrarian university.

    It must build an agricultural extension system to serve the needs of its farmers and pastoralists and to deliver new technologies into its rural areas that will dramatically increase productivity. It must build a strong land administration system that can deal with the sensitive issues of land tenure and adjudication across the nation’s complex agrarian landscape.

    It must explore the use of innovative tools like radio education to transmit knowledge to small farmers in local languages. It must create institutions that provide needed finance to support investment in its agricultural sector. It must define a role for the private sector in the development of the agricultural sector, and provide the incentives to private sector actors to invest creatively in supporting the goal of food security.

    It must build a system of trunk highways and feeder roads that will stimulate market investments across the agricultural sector.

    And in this early stage, it must resist the temptation to lease large tracts of valuable and highly productive lands and water sources on a long term basis to third party investors from abroad whose interests are at odds with the goal of ensuring food security for the South Sudanese people.

    Many food deficit nations are trying to ensure their own food security by investing abroad. Between 2007 and 2010, foreign companies, governments and individuals sought oracquired some 2.64 million hectares in what is today South Sudan for agriculture, biofuel or forestry products.

    This is a land area equal to that of Rwanda, representing 10 percent of South Sudan’s landmass. For a new nation, just embarking on building its agricultural sector, it is premature to permit too aggressive an approach to such investments which could compromise the longer range goal of building sustainable livelihoods for its own people.

  3. Prioritize small-scale and sustainable agriculture

    Small-scale farms have a huge potential for sustainable growth.

    Give priority to small farmer agriculture and building sustainable livelihood. Ninety percent of South Sudanese households depend on crop farming, animal husbandry, fishing or forestry for their livelihoods. Productivity across all these sectors is minimal. It is critical that investment planning drive the transition from subsistence production and food assistance to long-term sustainable production and food security for all South Sudanese.

    Support for pro-poor, sustainable livelihoods means:

    • Giving priority to increased investment to small-scale agricultural producers.This is an often ignored class of producers yet they hold the key to sustained inclusive growth in South Sudan.
    • Increasing access to, and ownership of land for returnees, internally displaced persons and vulnerable groups, and better targeting support in areas hosting large numbers of returnees who may lack land or experience in agriculture.
    • Addressing the critical role that women play within the South Sudanese agricultural sector. Throughout much of the country, women farm the land while men manage the herds. It is therefore women who will drive productivity increases in crop production. But to do so, they are going to need access to new skills and technologies and they are going to need equal rights and access to land. Women must be at the center of any strategy that would hope to achieve genuine food security for South Sudan.
    • Ensuring the adoption of strong, internationally-applicable standards of good governance relating to land tenure and management of natural resources, and the principle of free, prior, and informed consent in decisions about major national investments with consequences for communities and the region.
  4. Address conflict and insecurity

    Conflict and insecurity hinder development – and women and children are almost always disproportionately affected.

    Perhaps most importantly, the GoSS must acknowledge and address the impacts of conflict and insecurity on the agricultural sector.

    Insecurity disrupts cultivation, inhibits transport and trade, restricts access to markets, schools and healthcare and exacerbates vulnerabilities – with women and children almost always disproportionately affected.

    Recognizing the linkage between insecurity and development means increasing support to mitigating security threats, addressing root causes of conflict such as inequitable development, and supporting the professionalization of the security sector.

    The current fighting along the border is also a significant obstacle. Sudan and South Sudan will have to rely heavily on each other in the future, and having a peaceful border is vital for the long term development and security for both Sudanese and South Sudanese people.

    The international community has invested a tremendous amount in shepherding Sudan and South Sudan through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and independence. Now, however, the work just begins and donors must double down on their commitments to help South Sudan overcome the challenges of insecurity, displacement, and cyclical droughts and floods.

    As it makes this transition to a nation at peace with itself and with its neighbor, South Sudan will require a comprehensive balance of predictable, multi-year development assistance alongside continued support for humanitarian needs focused on strengthening the GoSS emergency preparedness and disaster management capacity.

    It will also be important to invest in programs of Disaster Risk Reduction and resilience that enable communities to prevent, mitigate and recover quickly from humanitarian crises. Donors should also look to emergent South Sudanese civil society as an important actor in providing humanitarian and development assistance that complements the programs of the state and private sector.

With the right priorities and the right investment strategies, and with support from the international community, we can all ensure the bright future that the people of South Sudan need and deserve.

This is an edited version of Oxfam America’s President Ray Offenheiser’s speech to the Agriculture Panel on 15 December 2011 at the International Engagement Conference for South Sudan Conference held in Washington D.C. 14-15 December 2011.

Long Term Solutions For Drought Hit Horn of Africa

MOST DROUGHT-AFFECTED AREAS INCLUDE 4.6 MILLION PEOPLE
IN ETHIOPIA, 4 MILLION EACH IN SOMALIA AND THE SUDAN, 3.75 MILLION IN KENYA, 1.5 MILLION IN SOUTH SUDAN AND 180, 000
IN DJIBOUTI ARE IN NEED OF EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE

By David Musyoka NAIROBI (Xinhua) — One of the most defining factors for the Horn of Africa region in 2011 was the hunger and famine that affected a total of 18 million people, but efforts to seek long term solutions like weather indexed insurance and research on disease and drought resistant crops continued.

As of November, food situation in the Horn of Africa remain critical, according to the most recent global food analysis report by the United Nations agency Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Most drought-affected areas include 4.6 million people in Ethiopia, 4 million each in Somalia and the Sudan, 3.75 million in Kenya, 1.5 million in South Sudan and 180, 000 in Djibouti are in need of emergency assistance.

“Despite some improvements in the situation in Somalia due to substantial humanitarian assistance and favourable rains, food insecurity is expected to remain critical in drought-affected areas until the harvest of short-season crops in early 2012,” said FAO.

The most unique feature of hunger this year is that it was not limited to areas traditionally prone to drought. This is because extremely high prices of food have pushed many people in urban areas to poverty and others already poor into deeper poverty.

According to the Early Warning Network (FEWS NET), food security outlook for the coming months depends on the amount of rainfall the region receives at least till the end of December.

In September, leaders in the Horn of Africa met at the International Conference on Drought Situation in the Horn of Africa in Nairobi to find solutions for recurrent hunger.

The leaders pledged to work together and with international partners to find long term solutions to the problem.

“Combined regional approach should be developed, anchored on local programmes, and supported by the international community,” said Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete reaffirmed his country’s support to regional efforts towards ensuring food security and accepted to lift export of maize ban that existed in his country.

President Kikwete said despite the drought, there were areas that still enjoyed good rains raising the need for proper policy formulation to increase production in those areas so that the surplus could be transported to deficit areas.

The Tanzanian president expressed the need to revamp infrastructure, especially roads and railways, to facilitate smooth transportation of food within the region.

The leaders agreed that any lasting solution to the current crisis therefore requires holistic approach involving humanitarian assistance aimed at alleviating the suffering of Somali refugees, internally displaced people (Climate Refugees) and importantly, those facing hunger in both rural and urban areas in the countries of the Horn of Africa.

They also greed on the importance of security assistance to restore peace and stability in Somalia; development assistance to improve the adverse impact on communities that host refugees and climate Change assistance to reverse environmental degradation and to finance adaptation measures, including water harvesting and irrigation.

The year also saw concerted efforts by the private sector, scientists and development partners in addition to government to find sustainable solutions to address recurrent hunger and famine.

In Ethiopia and Kenya, weather based crop and livestock micro- insurance services continued to be sold to an increasing number of small scale farmers who are most vulnerable to harvest losses as they not have any other source of household food and income expected for their livestock or crops they grow for household food and sell the surplus.

In Ethiopia, the World Bank and its partners have been popularising the High Value Livestock Insurance. Its other partners include the Association of Ethiopian Microfinance Institutions and Nyala Insurance Company.

The importance of this insurance cover is because in Ethiopia, over 50 million people depend on livestock for their livelihood and the sector accounts for 37 to 38 percent of rural household’s cash income.

In Kenya, APA Insurance, Jubilee Insurance, Heritage Insurance and UAP Insurance companies have all introduced crop and livestock insurance products targeting small scale farmers.

Farmers are paid for either harvest losses or are paid for the inputs they spent growing the crop ensuring that they have enough inputs like seeds and fertilizers for the next season.

“The insurance schemes have the potential to attract other agricultural value chain investors to direct their resources in the sector they have avoided because of losses relating to bad weather conditions,” said James Nyoro, a food security expert and the Managing Director of Rockefeller Foundation in Africa.

“Agricultural insurance is particularly important in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa today as the extreme weather patterns generated by climate change are introducing greater volatility to food production and food prices,” Wilson Songa, Kenya’s Agriculture Secretary told Xinhua in a recent interview.

In Kenya, maize, wheat, livestock and sorghum farmers who lost their harvest to dry weather conditions have already been paid for their losses, enabling them to have inputs to replant and restock, an achievement they could not make in absence of insurance.

Among the many inventions made by scientists in Africa in collaboration with their global partners include the development of 50 new improved varieties of sorghum that are resistant to both drought and Striga disease.

These varieties have been tested in Kenya, Eritrea and Sudan, and are set for wider trial in seven countries – Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.

“We are at the tail-end of developing technologies that offer hope for problems that have been very serious sorghum production constraints in East and Central Africa. In a year’s time we should have products ready for farmers,” said Dan Kiambi, Executive Director of the Nairobi-based Africa Biodiversity Conservation and Innovations Centre (ABCIC).

FAO estimates that striga disease destroys 7 billion U.S. dollars worth of cereal crops every year in Africa, jeopardising the food security of more than 100 million people. In the Horn of Africa, Striga destroys about 2.89 billion dollars worth of maize and sorghum every year, and sorghum suffering 86 percent of this loss.

“Striga is second only to drought as a factor reducing the yield of staple food crops in Africa. It is one of the most serious constraints to cereal production in Africa, sometimes causing up to 100 per cent yield losses on farmers’fields,” said Kiambi.