The Kano State Fire Service says 11 temporary shops and two permanent ones in a one-storey building have been destroyed by an early morning fire at Singer Market on Ado Bayero road, in Kano metropolis.
The Public Relations Officer of the Service, Alhaji Saidu Mohammed disclosed this while speaking with newsmen on Thursday.
“We received a distress call in the early hours of Thursday at about 04:00 a.m from one Mubarak Umar that there was a fire outbreak at the market.
“On receiving the information, we quickly sent our personnel and fire fighting vehicles to the scene of the incident at about 04:03 a.m to put off the fire spreading to other shops,“ he said.
He advised traders to be more careful and desist from using instruments capable of causing fire outbreak in the future.
Mohammed also advised residents to keep fire buckets, blankets and extinguishers at home to enable them to curtail fire outbreak before calling on the fire service.
He said the cause of the fire was still being investigated.
Russia is seeking to reverse its birth rate decline with hefty payouts to new parents, according to a legislation passed by the lower house of parliament on Thursday.
For the birth of a first child as of the beginning of this year, a family or single parent can receive about 466,000 roubles (7,300 dollars), according to the legislation.
That amount is about the equivalent of 10 times the average national monthly salary, according to data by the Federal State Statistics Service.
For a second child, the payout would be about 616,000 roubles, the lower house of parliament said in a statement.
With a total fertility rate of fewer than two births per woman, Russia is struggling to sustain its population of about 147 million people.
Russia, geographically the world’s largest country, has the world’s ninth-largest population, behind Bangladesh.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited economic hardships as a major factor behind the birth rate decline.
Putin said in his state of the nation speech last month that birth rate decline is a “direct threat” to the country’s future.
The total fertility rate is expected to amount to 1.7 per woman in 2024, Putin said, proposing monetary incentives to help new families.
“This is one of the most important initiatives from the president’s address,’’ Lower House Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said in Thursday’s statement.
Desert locusts have been ravaging East Africa. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization warns of a food crisis. The main response has been spraying the areas affected with pesticides. But more needs to be done.
Bernard Makanga's farm was invaded by desert locusts. "Normally by this time, these beans, they're ready for harvest. But the locusts have destroyed them all," he told DW. His neighbor Francis Muliungi's crop is equally devastated. "There is nothing left to harvest. And there is nothing else that I know how to do. It's just this farm. That's where I get food, where I feed my family and friends, all people," he said.
This is the worst infestation that Kenya has seen in 70 years. Many farmers in the affected regions have lost their crops. Some have started planting again, but they don't know what they will do if the locusts return, which at this point looks very likely, according to environmental experts.
A second generation of the insects is already threatening to swarm Kenya and other parts of the region, including Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan.
The locusts are putting extra stress on regions already battling problems such as food insecurity and armed conflicts, raising the specter of more violence to come. Tobias Takavarasha, representative in Kenya of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said: "That danger exists, to the extent that there is a risk wherever there are shortages of food." He added that the situation could degenerate into conflict "if that is not taken care of."
The Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation reported that the locust invasion in Samburu is "threatening to trigger conflicts over grazing fields among pastoralist communities." In rural Somalia, 50% of the people depend on animals for their livelihood. And in South Sudan 6 million people were already suffering food shortages before the locusts arrived. Experts believe that South Sudan is particularly ill-prepared to deal with the invasion.
Spraying the locusts
International agencies are scrambling to contain the swarms, mainly by spraying pesticides. Critics say that this can be just as dangerous as the plague itself in the long run, as the poison is liable to enter the food chain and also kill other insects besides locusts. "This is where we have experts to assure that the pesticides that are procured to spray the locusts are the correct ones, that they are internationally approved and registered, and that they are effective," Takavarasha said.
The FAO representative said there were three levels of preparedness, including ensuring the availability of food and equipping farmers to enable them to start planting again when the season comes. The first level, though, is "the capacity to control the invasion of the locusts," Takavarasha said. "That includes accessing where the locusts have been sighted."
Access remains a problem. Some points of origin are located in crisis hot spots such as Somalia. Large parts of the country are under threat, or controlled by al-Shabab. The international community is trying to negotiate access with the extremist group.
A 1-square-kilometer (0.4-square-mile) swarm can eat as much food in one day as 35,000 people. Locusts can also travel up to 200 kilometers (120 miles) per day. And they reproduce very quickly. The response needs to be just as quick, something that has yet to be understood by the international community. Dominique Burgeon, director of the FAO's Emergency and Rehabilitation Division, told DW that there is an appeal out for $76 million (€70 million), but so far the organization has received only $30 million. "We have a very short window of opportunity," Burgeon said. "We are in between two planting seasons. We need to control the locust population now, before the planting season starts in March/April. This is the main planting season."
The locusts eat everything in their way and reproducevery quickly
The climate factor
Climate experts have pointed to unusually heavy rains, aided by a powerful cyclone off Somalia in December, as a major factor in the outbreak. Niklas Hagelberg, senior program coordinator at the UN Environment Programme, told DW that scientific data did not yet directly link the current events with climate change, even if he "personally" believes in the possibility. "What we can say is that the likelihood for increasing rainfall, increasing heat, increasing winds, has gone up due to climate change," Hagelberg said. "So the likelihood for a swarm like this has increased."
Spraying with pesticides is an emergency measure. In future, other steps need to be taken to improve the response to similar outbreaks. "I think a key element from a climate change point of view is that we have early warning systems," Hagelberg said. "Because the system is changing, we need to get early warnings on conditions for the formation of swarms as early as possible, which would make a timely and concerted international reaction possible."
Sella Oneko (Nairobi) contributed to this article
Avocado is grown in several parts of Kenya and about 70% of avocado production is by small-scale growers. They grow it for subsistence, local markets, and export purposes.
The avocado export market in Kenya is dominated by five major exporters: Kakuzi, Vegpro, Sunripe, Kenya Horticultural Exporters, and East African Growers. These companies source their avocados primarily from smallholder farmers, although some firms also source from larger growers or own plantations.
In a new study we surveyed 790 avocado-farming households in Kenya and analysed what factors get in the way of smallholder farmers participating in export markets. We then looked at the implications this has on their farming businesses. This included labour inputs – such as hired and family labour – farm yields, sales prices, and finally, incomes.
We found that exporting more of Kenya’s avocado production could raise the incomes of Kenyan smallholder farmers. But, to do so, programmes and policymakers need to reduce the barriers that smallholders face when they want to participate in export markets. These include the costs of harvesting, transport and having liquidity. There are also farmers’ organisation transaction costs, such as membership fees and the opportunity costs of time when attending meetings.
The barriers to entry
Smallholder avocado farmers in Kenya face several big barriers to participating in export markets.
Capital and liquidity constraint: They often don’t have enough capital to meet the high costs of participation in export markets. For instance being able to buy or grow higher quality avocados. In most cases, contract farmers need to harvest the produce themselves and transport it to collection sheds or company premises. Their payment then usually arrives after a delay of one to two weeks.
Limited access to production technologies and institutional support: For instance, credit and training. This means smallholder avocado farmers are left out of important parts of the value chain.
Poor infrastructure: In rural areas a lack of good roads makes it difficult and costly to bring produce to markets in far-off areas.
The benefits of exports
We found that participating in export markets raises smallholder farmers’ incomes by nearly 39%. This is mostly on account of higher prices offered in international markets. For example, a dozen Haas avocados, distinguished by their dark green and brown skin and smaller than average avocado stone, sell for 3.5 Kenyan Shillings ($0.03) in domestic markets. But they fetch nearly double, 6 Kenyan Shillings ($0.06), in global export markets.
Smallholder farmers’ participation in export markets also increased employment opportunities within the community. International markets demanded higher quality avocados which required additional labour.
Our study found that hired labour costs increase by about 1,300 Kenyan Shillings (US$13) and smallholder farmers’ family labour inputs increase by about 15 days, if they participate in export markets.
We also found that smallholder farmers who participated in export markets were older and had received more training than those who participated in only local markets.
Additionally, participants’ farms were on average about 0.11 acres larger, with more Hass avocado trees, the favoured variety in international markets.
Those smallholder farmers who were cracking export markets were also more likely to live near an organised and established farmers’ group. These groups allow farmers to share agricultural techniques to improve their produce quality and increase yields.
The groups were more likely to focus on contract farming that grants higher prices for farmers’ produce while reducing the costs and barriers for communication between contract firms and farmers.
However, we found only a few smallholder farmers are linked to export markets through contract farming.
Connecting with exporters
The Kenyan government, recognising the potential to increase exports and boost smallholder welfare, recently started encouraging more smallholder farmers to connect with exporters. But integration with export markets remains a difficult barrier for individual smallholder farmers to overcome.
To make export markets more accessible for smallholders, the Kenyan government should increase seedling provision and facilitate avocado cultivation training programmes. Policies geared towards export promotion and encouraging innovative contract design would increase smallholder farmers’ yields and improve the quality of their produce. This would be critical for farmers to participate in export markets.
Additionally, programmes focused on improving the quality of farmers groups, making them more organised and better connected to resources and contract firms alike, would also provide an impetus to participating in export markets over the long term.
Mulubrhan Amare, Research fellow, The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Whilst South Africans have until the end of February to share their comment on the draft national policy for beneficiary selection and land allocation, Prof Brian Ganson, Head of the Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) argues that “the land reform debate largely remains a dialogue of the deaf.
Many spend their energy shouting about how they are right and others are wrong.”
He proposes that conflict resolution and problem-solving skills of perspective-taking and bridging principles – proven in other long-entrenched conflicts – be applied in South Africa to shift heated public debate beyond opposing, one-sided arguments to “move the conversation forward and engender real problem solving”.
Prof Ganson says land reform in South Africa is critically important in its own right: an unfinished promise to redress epic historic wrongs on the one hand, and on the other, a project that could easily have unintended negative social and economic consequences – in particular for the poor black South Africans it is most needed to serve – if poorly managed.
“How we all go about land reform is also a bellwether of our ability to engage around the construction of the just, democratic, and united South Africa envisioned by the Constitution,” he said.
Prof Ganson said research had shown that a key skill of people who help find solutions to exceptionally entrenched conflicts is perspective-taking: the capacity to view the world – even if temporarily – through the lens of other people’s fears, hopes, rights, and interests.
“If we want a satisfying meal of positive progress – rather than just the thin gruel of self-righteous indignation that all sides of the land debate seem to be enjoying – a starting point might therefore be to acknowledge where others are right,” he said.
He invited those who react strongly against the phrase, “give back the land”, to consider how there may be nothing remotely radical about such a demand – the principle is already contained in the Constitution.
“The current Constitution – never mind any amendments under consideration – promises restitution to people and communities dispossessed of property as a result of racially discriminatory laws or practices going back to 1913. It gives Government broad latitude to carry this out. Any other proposed solution can and should be measured against ‘giving back the land’ to those who have legitimate expectations that it be returned.”
Prof Ganson urged recognition that the mixing of questions on the principles of restitution of land with those of whether and how people to whom land is returned would put it to productive use, “must be hurtful and angering in the extreme” to former black landholders and their descendants.
“It reeks of the argument in favour of the Natives Land Act of 1913 by the President of the Chamber of Mines, who opined that it would end ‘the surplus of young men … squatting on the land in idleness’ – but in fact provided low wage workers for the mines as it destroyed families and communities for generations to come.”
Prof Ganson suggests that, “In relation to those currently holding land that may be returned in the name of restitution under the provisions of the Constitution, we can concede that many of the issues they raise – even if immaterial to the fundamental right of dispossessed people and communities to land – are real.”
He suggests that it need not be in contention that it would indeed be better for all South Africans if land reform is managed in a way that confronts the realities of the substantial bonds on many properties, minimises corruption, maximises food security, and improves the possibilities for people either to make their livelihoods from the land or to make their transition to urban life, each according to his or her choice.
He believes that such perspective-taking might in the first instance invite parties to let go of one-sided arguments that serve to raise hackles rather than engender any real problem solving.
“Putting tongue in cheek for a moment, the current owners of large plots in Bishopscourt and Sandhurst, or Plettenberg Bay and Umhlanga, might agree that the person to whom land is returned is entitled to do anything with it, or nothing at all – lest universal application of standards of idleness or lack of productive use put their own tenure in question.”
“Others might begin to realise that ‘expropriation without compensation’ is a wonderful rallying cry in the international press but fairly empty here at home. Property returned to its rightful owner is hardly being expropriated; and thus, the fundamental question that cannot be bypassed is not one of compensation, but one of just and rightful ownership consistent with the mandates of the Constitution for restoration and transformation.”
He argued that those who currently weaponise the concept of ‘give back the land’ to exclude any discussion at all might admit that the phrase might usefully be continued: ‘… in ways that protect the poor and vulnerable from corrupt officials, dishonest businesses, and an economic system that makes it difficult for the person to whom land is returned to benefit from it or even keep it’.
He says that such perspective thinking might therefore remind each and all of us of our responsibilities.
“As neither land claimants nor substantial landholders under threat, we may be happy to sit on the side lines of the land reform debate when in fact we are in a privileged position to help move the conversation forward. We can do so with another skill of exceptional problem solvers: that of constructing bridging principles, or the power of AND.”
He argues that at every available juncture, “we can be impatient with the failure to implement the land reform envisioned by our Constitution – AND be advocates for land reform that addresses the broadest possible array of social and economic interests.”
“We can insist that the interests of the poor, vulnerable, and dispossessed in land restitution and land distribution be put first – AND readily agree that we must have answers for those whose lives and businesses will be inevitably be disrupted.”
“We can state that no one should be asked to compromise their rights, values, or dreams around land reform or any other issue in a constitutional democracy – AND point out that endless posturing without reference to Constitutional principles or viable and just solutions is making the situation worse rather than better.”
He says that such perspective-taking and bridging principles had proven in other conflicts to provide a starting point for transforming hearts, minds, and civic discourse. “No less is required to move forward land reform, and the country.”