Posted tagged ‘Africa’

Running for Water Wells in Africa

May 20, 2009

They say World War III will not be about differences in political ideology, or about religion; nor will it be about who has nuclear weapons and who does not. The next world war will be a war about resources, specifically water.

The issue of water is an international concern spanning India, Central Asia, Africa and several other countries the world over. It’s even an issue in my own state.

In an effort to increase awareness of the water situation, particularly in Africa, a new documentary is to be soon released chronicling the journey of three marathon runners from three different countries as they jog across the Sahara. The goal of their monumental run is to raise awareness and funds for water projects throughout Africa.

During their course the runners spend time in local villages located along their route where they often share a jog with village kids and talk with locals about the water situation in their region.

Check out this VOA piece previewing the soon-to-be-aired program.

Here’s the official site.


Why Do Celebrities Ignore North Korea?

April 24, 2009

I admit, this could be a blessing in disguise, but the question remains.

Is North Korea just not sexy enough? Do stars not want to be affiliated with propping up the Kim Jong Il regime? (I could foresee the North Korean propaganda that would result from Bono holding a charity concert in NYC or Pyongyang for that matter. Of course, the Dear Leader himself is known to be an admirer of many things coming from Hollywood.) Or does the lack of transparency just make it not worth the effort? And if that’s the case, what’s not stopping celebrities from donating their statuses to the victims of other corrupt governments?

When I was growing up, we were told as kids to eat all the food on our plates because children were starving in Ethiopia (this was in the 1980s). These days, parents might as well tell their sons and daughters to eat all their veggies as there are kids dying of hunger in North Korea. Unfortunately, there are kids dying of starvation in many countries and as a result, emphasis or awareness on North Korea’s humanitarian disaster loses out to other nations also struggling with malnourishment.

But this goes back to my original question: What dictates, in the world of stardom, why one country receives attention and another does not? (more…)

Why the Daewoo-Madagascar Deal Would Have Struggled Anyway

March 23, 2009

women in Madagascar, originally uploaded by Zé Eduardo….

A while ago I wrote about the issue of food security and the ethical implications that have arisen in relation to it, using the Madagascar-South Korea Daewoo deal as an example. The now failed agreement will serve as a text book case study for large conglomerates and nations seeking similar partnerships in the future, especially as they relate to issues of conflict-resolution.

(For background details on the issue, please click here.)

Over the weekend we learned that the tenant farming deal is now null. Due to political unrest in Madagascar, the island has brought into power a new leader who has scrapped the deal with Daewoo, much to the pleasure of the country’s citizens.

Says the BBC:

Correspondents say Malagasy people have deep ties to their land and some had condemned the deal as “neo-colonialism”.

While there is no denying that such a deal had the potential to bring about positive change for the impoverished nation, even if the agreement had gone through to implementation, Daewoo and Madagascar’s government would have faced an uphill battle from the start.

If the people such changes are meant to benefit aren’t on board with the plan, conflicts are sure to arise. Judging by the reports I have read, there was little support among the domestic population for this agreement.

This isn’t to say that over time, the domestic population would not have gradually accepted the agreement and would have come on board with the plan, especially if they were seeing immediate positive change. Of course, that is such a big “if” when they are resisting the proposal from the get-go.

A great book that deals with issues of development, the environment and indigenous peoples (although in the context of Southeast Asia) is The Politics of Environment in Southeast Asia: Resources and Resistance, edited by Philip Hirsch and Carol Warren.

While the tone of the book did tend to have me on the offensive (as I am a strong believer in development and the good it can bring impoverished populations), I did take away one important thing and that was the realization that there is a wrong way and a right way in terms of dealing with the web of relationships involved with international development, relationships that include the physical development itself, the environment, the people who will benefit and the people who will not (in many cases indigenous communities whose land and resources are affected by the changes).

While it’s not my place to point a finger at any one party in relation to the failed Daewoo-Madagascar deal, I will say that the approach taken in introducing the plan to the domestic population seemed to lack citizen participation in the decision-making process. (At least based on the mainstream media reports I have been reading). And while citizen participation may not have necessarily saved the deal, it could have perhaps lessened the feelings of antagonization that developed further down the road.

How Tanzanian Midwives Pushed Their Government to Do More

March 16, 2009

I always find it inspiring to hear stories about how people in developing nations take the initiative to help themselves — and succeed.

Recently five Tanzanian midwives paired up with a doctor to make a short film highlighting “the dire conditions of maternal health care in the country,” inspiring the government to double the number of midwives throughout Tanzania.

The 10-minute film, made by midwives trained in participatory film-making, looks at “the appalling conditions in which women have to give birth” in Tanzania and incited government action on maternal health care after it was screened before the Minister of Health.

This is especially vital considering the country’s statistics in terms of pregnancy-related deaths and health problems:

In Tanzania, approximately 8,000 women die every year due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, and 57 percent of women give birth at home, estimates the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). “While the country had achieved a 30 percent reduction in child mortality and a 20 percent decrease in newborn deaths in the past five years, infant mortality remained high at nearly 10 deaths per 1,000 live births,” writes the humanitarian news agency IRIN. “Close to one-quarter of all births are unplanned and 40 percent of women remain in dire need of reproductive health services.”

Here is the video that instigated action: (more…)

The New and Improved Peace Corps Journals Site

February 25, 2009

A while back we highlighted for you some of the links on our sidebar which included the Worldwide Peace Corps Journals site – an aggregated collection of Peace Corps volunteer blogs.

After stopping by the site again, I noticed that they have completely updated it so that it includes not only PCV blogs, but photos and videos from volunteers as well as the site’s most popular stories. It’s pretty amazing and well worth taking a look at – I envy the kind of technology volunteers have these days in terms of documenting their work. It’s pretty impressive!

I have included a four-part video series which I found on the Worldwide Peace Corps Journals site. This series comes from Peace Corps Namibia and is about the country’s 2008 Camp GLOW which focuses on educating youth about HIV/AIDS prevention, as well as leadership development and team building. It’s a four part series which begins with an introduction and history of the camp and concludes with a self-assessment from the camp’s chair. It’s impressive and inspiring to watch and can be found, along with other Peace Corps videos, in the video section of the The Worldwide Peace Corps Journals site:

The Global Financial Crisis: How Developing Communities are Coping

February 23, 2009

The global financial crisis has left few nations untouched and is hitting developing countries especially hard, as we were recently reminded by China’s Hu Jintao who used the crisis as a rally call for China’s sometimes questionable relationship and interest with impoverished African countries (think Zimbabwe). Hu recently tied up a tour of Africa as part of China’s attempts to foster close ties with the continent.

Hu’s African tour, despite China’s personal interest in the region, has highlighted the obstacles developing countries – not just in Africa but around the world – face during these challenging times:

“The impact of the crisis on economies around the world is still deepening and its grave consequences will be felt more in the days to come,” he said in a speech at a town hall gathering in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam.

“It has put developing countries in a particularly disadvantaged position. Many African friends are concerned that in the face of the daunting challenges of the financial crisis, their international developing partners may scale back aid, debt relief and investment in Africa,” Hu said.

So how are developing communities coping and is it possible for them to be self-sustainable in the context of such a weak world economy?

One village in Thailand has found a solution:

During a period when foreign aid risks falling victim to strained resources, less money and donor fatigue, it’s always great to see communities find solutions on their own in creative and effective ways.

H/T to Global Voices Online and Al Jazeera.

The Power of Journalism Around the World

February 16, 2009
Serbian Web Journalism School participants.

Serbian Web Journalism School participants.

Newspaper circulations may be declining worldwide with the advent of web-based media, but that has not diminished the vital role journalists play in society, particularly when it comes to social development. In terms of coverage, journalism has managed to adapt with the changing times through web-based reporting: blogs, online networking sites and other new media applications have added a whole new twist to how news is covered and consumed. Due in part to the increased connectedness the Internet now brings us, reporters in other parts of the world are learning how to take advantage of the perks technology offers the industry while others are answering the call to journalism’s role in social development and how it can improve lives in their own countries.

One notable project that is helping shape the journalists of today is the Serbian Web Journalism School which was founded “in Belgrade by Serbian citizen media enthusiast and veteran blogger, Ljubisa Bojic.” The school relies on local media experts to teach the fundamentals of citizen journalism to participating students.

Thanks to the help of a grant from Rising Voices (see sidebar), an initiative dedicated to bringing “new voices from new communities and speaking new languages to the global conversation by providing resources and funding to local groups reaching out to underrepresented communities,” students at the Serbian Web Journalism School are learning how to take advantage of web-based applications and are using them in their reporting.

Students now can use Google Maps to help illustrate a news story and are experimenting with new media applications such as Facebook, blogs and Flickr – all which bring reader interaction to online journalism. In fact, the students have their own Flickr page and blog, which we have added to our sidebar.

(To see other Rising Voices projects, follow this link.)

In another example that highlights the importance journalists have in today’s society, during an interactive forum in Nigeria, journalists there have been “urged to double their efforts towards anchoring developmental projects that have direct impact on people at the grassroots to enable them to enjoy the dividends of democracy.”

Jummai Alhamdu, the Kano/Jigawa program manager of the State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI) emphasized to participants the growing roles journalists must fill when it comes to social development efforts, especially in their own communities:

“As the eyes and ears of the general public, journalists are expected to inform the government about the needs of the grassroots and at the same time inform the public about government policies and programs for proper execution,” she said.

The full story can be read here.