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For Liberia to Remain a Peaceful Society

Liberia Youth

A report by Human Rights Watch, titled “How to Fight, How to Kill: Child Soldiers in Liberia” detailed the horrific experience children and youth in Liberia went through, and continue to go through.

Reports from the United Nations indicated that 15,000 Child soldiers (possibly more) were actively engaged during the civil war in Liberia; in spite of the fact that this was a serious violation of their rights as children. These Child Soldiers encompassed children under the age of 12, and of both sexes.

The effects of the trauma of these now former child soldiers, is a threat to their future, and the future of Liberia .

In order to rehabilitate these youth on the long term, it is essential that they be enrolled in formal or non formal training programs. These training programs could range from vocational to academic programs. It is also essential that those effected by this trauma go through a counseling program.

These effected children and youth in Liberia have indicated that they have a strong interest in obtaining skills and in having an education.

Training these children and youth, creates a win-win situation for both the effected children and youth, and the Liberian society. The rewards of training these effected children and youth serves as long term rehabilitation, and also provides the urgent post-war skills needed in the rebuilding of Liberia .

The rehabilitation of these children and youth is essential, in order to assist Liberia remain a peaceful society in the long run, and to also prevent future conflict.

Several reports have also highlighted the fact that Liberian women and children; ranging from girls less than eight years old, to women in their seventies, have been victims or have witnessed sexual violence in Liberia. The American Medical Association, reported that 49% of Liberian women experienced one act of physical or sexual violence during the war. Some studies have put the proportion of women and girls raped in Liberia, at an estimated 40%. Associated Press buttressed these finding in an article, in which aid workers with rape survivors’ assistance groups in Liberia, reported that they had never seen so many rape cases before.

Installing training centers and sexual education programs for women is essential for these women, and additional effort must be made by government, in conjunction with international agencies, to heal the psychological traumas faced by Liberian women and children.

Mondo9 therefore seeks to assist in preserving long term peace in Liberia by acting as that bridge to assist these effected children, women and youth in adjusting and contributing positively to sustaining peace in post-war Liberian society since peace in the Liberia strongly depends on the successful reintegration of child soldiers into civil society.

By Darlington Micah Email: darlingtonmicah44@gmail.com Tel:+2316450906

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Liberia launches report on human trafficking

Stop Human Trafficking

The Government of Liberia on Thursday launched the report entitled “Situational Analysis of Human Trafficking, Especially Women and Children in Liberia.” The event was held by Labour Minister Councillor Tiawan S. Gongloe, and was attended by senior government officials, national and international partners.

The report shows that human trafficking is prevalent in Liberia and provides valuable information on the scope and nature of the issue in Liberia. Although the focus was on the trafficking of children, the report suggests that both adults and children are trafficked in the country and beyond its borders. This is done for different purposes including labour exploitation, organ removal and the trafficking of drugs. The report notes that “officials do not have the skills to differentiate between trafficking, kidnappings and smuggling practices, especially in source or destination sites where an ‘intention to exploit’ is unknown.”

“Here in Liberia, when we speak of human rights, it is always about adults and not children,” says Minister Gongloe. “This report is indeed a useful tool for the government and people of Liberia. We would like to thank all of our partners especially UNICEF for its contribution in ensuring that this document is today finalized.”

The report is based on a review of existing literature, a rights-based policy-analysis, and qualitative field work with respondents from:  Montserrado, Grand Cape Mount, Lofa, Bong, Nimba, Grand Gedeh, Maryland, Grand Bassa and Margibi. Interviews and focus group discussions were also conducted with key informants from the government, UN, NGOs, civil society actors, caregivers, parents and children.

UNICEF calls on the Government to demonstrate its commitment to combat human trafficking through a rights-based approach by ratifying all relevant international and regional instruments and to fully enforce the implementation of all international instruments that it has signed and ratified. “I would like to call on the respective ministries and other institutions to facilitate the development of a comprehensive national anti-human trafficking strategy and plan of action based on the findings of this study,” said Ms. Isabel Crowley, UNICEF Liberia Resident Representative.

The report says that there have been some successes in the implementation of the National Plan on trafficking, largely due to collaboration with the United Nations, non-governmental organisations and community-based actors both internally and across borders. However, these efforts have been delayed due to logistical difficulties, the absence of skilled manpower, funding and material shortages, as well as ‘compromises’ at the level of the judiciary and in the community. These factors have hindered attempts to identify, intercept, arrest and prosecute perpetrators.

By Darlington Micah email: darlingtonmicah44@gmail.com Tel: +2316450906

 

Liberia Investment Opportunities

US Dollars

Investment opportunities in Liberia can be found in the manufacturing or industry, construction, fishery, agricultural sectors (commercial farming for rice); in tourism (eco-tourism, hotels and restaurants, leisure activities); in manufacturing; in training in various fields; and in many areas of infrastructure, including telecommunication, energy and finance.

Priority Areas are as follows:

Industry/Manufacturing

There are quite a lot of manufacturing opportunities basically available to foreign investors across the board. Two areas of special interest might be food-processing (e.g., juices, jams, jellies) and the manufacture of rubber goods, given Liberia’s natural assets for agriculture and its substantial production of rubber. Rubber goods with investment potential include tires and tubes, inflatable, sporting goods and surgical products. Decorative items made of rubber wood, which is soft and is currently used only as firewood, can also find a niche market.

Other opportunities for value addition to Liberia’s forestry products include sawmilling, pulp and paper production, plywood and particle board production, and manufacturing furniture.

Agriculture

Agriculture is the dominant sector in the Liberian economy, accounting for more than half the GDP and perhaps 70% of employment. Liberia imports substantial quantities of its staple food, rice, which accounted for a little over 10% of its imports in 2004. Large-scale swamp cultivation could serve both domestic and export markets. Investment is needed in production, quality assurance and processing. Coffee, cocoa, corn (maize) and sugar cane are grown in most parts of the country. Both coffee and cocoa have been significant earners of foreign exchange in the past and could be again.

There are opportunities in commercial farming as well as in processing, especially in converting cocoa beans into cocoa powder, butter and liquor. The variety of fruits grown in Liberia includes mango, banana, papaya, pineapple, melon, breadfruit and a number of citrus fruits such as orange, grape fruit, tangerine and lime. Vegetables grown include cabbage, hot pepper, cucumber and pumpkin. The international fruit and vegetable market is huge. Accessing it requires quality control, proper post-harvest handling and storage, and efficient transport — all of which offer opportunities for investors. There are also opportunities in processing fruits into jams and juices and processing cane and  corn into sugar and oil, among other things.

The biggest earner of foreign exchange for Liberia is rubber. Natural is cultivated both by large foreign companies (like Firestone, which has been in Liberia for 80 years) and by Liberian smallholders, each of them accounting for about half the area under cultivation.

Processing is minimal. The government would like to see more FDI in this area, both for the managing and maintenance of plantations, and for greater value addition in rubber-processing.

Oil palm is another tree crop with great potential in Liberia. It can yield cooking oil, animal food, and raw material for the manufacture of cosmetics, detergents and pharmaceuticals. A number of state-owned and private oil palm plantations are available for rehabilitation.

Agricultural development in Liberia is in need of a variety of support services that also offer many investment opportunities. These include pest and disease control, extension services, cold storage, transport and marketing, and training and capacity-building

Regulation and Policies:

Registering a Business in Liberia

The potential investor willing to establish a business will have to follow the following regulations and policies:

Registration and Related Requirements

All foreign commercial enterprises must register with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry before they commence operations. The registration process begins with a letter from the company or the individual to the Ministry that states the name, nature and location of the proposed business.

The next step is completing the registration forms available from the Ministry (cost USD100) and submitting them with the required documents and the appropriate fee. The fees are as follows: sole proprietorship USD700, partnership USD800 and corporation USD 900. The process is in principle simple.

In addition to registration with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, foreign companies must meet the requirements of the particular sector or industry in which they propose to operate.

 

For example, in the fishery industry, potential investors must register the watercraft with the Bureau of Maritime Affairs and pay an inspection fee as determined by the Bureau in order to secure a certificate of inspection.

INVESTMENT POLICY INCENTIVES

 

& Foreign Investment

Liberia incentive package focuses on several priority sectors available to Foreign Investors. The investment Incentive Code of 1973, which continues to be in force, specified the following:

 

v  The manufacture or assembly of finished and semi-finished goods;

v  Agriculture, forestry and fishing;

v  Mining and quarrying;

v  Building and construction;

v  Electricity, gas an water;

v  Transport and communication;

v  Service sectors that provide technical services to the preceding; and service sectors that provide services and suppliers to tourism;

v  Free-zone enterprises, exports, and activities on different sectors.

The benefits granted are as follows:

Exemptions from Trade Taxes

Machinery, equipment, raw materials semi-finished products and other supplies to be used in the project are exempted from import duty up to 90 % of their dutiable value

Manufactured goods exported from the production of the project are entitled to full rebate on import duties and full refund of both income tax and excise tax.

Exemptions from Income Tax

Reinvested profits are exempted from income tax. However, if the reinvestment is in employee housing, the exemption is subject to prior approval from the national investment Commission (NIC).

Profits not reinvested are exempted from 50% of the income tax otherwise payable.

Other Benefits

Approved investment projects may receive certain additional benefits on application to the government.

Guarantees

v  Legal protection  of private property rights, regarding foreign investment;

v  Unconditional transferability in convertible currency, of net profits and  dividends;

v  Privately managed foreign currency accounts;

By Darlington Micah

Email: darlingtonmicah44@gmail.com Tel: +2316450906

Darlington Micah is a Liberian human rights activist, youth leader, social commentator and business consultant.

 

Liberia Prepare for October Elections..

Liberian President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf

Liberia’s National Elections Commission (NEC) has given the go-ahead for the commencement of campaigning for the 2011 presidential and legislative elections, which are scheduled to take place on 11 October. A run off election is scheduled for 8 November.

The contest is likely to pit the incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf against the flag bearers of the Congress for Democratic Change, (CDC) Winston Tubman and Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party (LP). The CDC is currently the largest opposition party, having come second in the elections in 2005, when it won 18 legislative seats.

In 2010, Johnson Sirleaf went back on her promise not to stand for two terms arguing that the on-going post-conflict reconstruction, development and reconciliation process requires stability and continuity. Although she enjoys widespread international support, particularly from the US, Johnson Sirleaf faces mixed domestic popularity. Two serious challenges stand on her way to retain power in 2011.

Firstly, many Liberians express frustrations at the pace of progress. An estimated 80 per cent of Liberians still live in poverty and many complain about the lack of meaningful transformation and impact. ?Allegations of corruptions were also raised concerns and could be used against the president.

In 2010, the annual report on human rights released by the US Department of State was critical of continued failures in tackling corruption in Liberia and the systemic nature of this problem, citing weaknesses in the judicial system, including the susceptibility to bribery of judges and juries.

A culture of impunity in society, low wages and limited training of civil servants, and the lack of capacity at the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission were mentioned as further key factors, with the insufficient budget and minimal staff of the commission hampering its ability to carry out its mandate effectively.

Secondly, Johnson Sirleaf faces credibility problems.  The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation report has hinted that she funded and provided support for the devastating war that ravaged Liberia between 1989 and 1998 and therefore recommended that she step down. The commission also recommended that 50 other political actors be prevented from holding public offices for the next 30 years.

In the meantime, there are calls for the electoral process to be made free and fair in order to mitigate the risks of violence as seen in 2005. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has the daunting task to ensure the security of the vote in a particularly difficult context. Recent crises in Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea have added to the security challenges of the Mano River Region with the proliferation of mercenaries and light weapons.

A conference convened in December 2010 by key stakeholders in the 2011 electoral process identified a number of factors that needed constant monitoring including:

  • Electoral violence in Liberia is both spontaneous and organized;
  • Participants agree that the following counties are problem areas and need a specific focus: Nimba, Lofa, Grand?Gedeh, Montserrado, and Bong County;
  • Issues underpinning the concerns are: ethnic mobilization, cross border voting, media;
  • Political party irresponsibility;
  • Lack of understanding of the election rules;
  • Security challenges as Liberian security institutions take over national security for the elections;
  • Demographically, Liberia has a high population of youth facing a particularly high unemployment rate;
  • There is general agreement that the lack of skill development opportunities, job and economic opportunities, as well as illiteracy, make the youth vulnerable to exploitation by political actors and other groups to perpetrate election related violence.

Liberia has the opportunity to create a conducive environment for a peaceful electoral process that could enhance the hopes for democratic governance and better responses to the many socio-economic challenges.

By Darlington Micah

Email: darlingtonmicah44@gmail.com Tel: +2316450906

 

Coastal Erosion threaten Monrovia

Erosion Damage

Coastal erosion has wiped out dozens of homes and left nearly 200 inhabitants homeless in Monrovia the Liberian capital and Buchanan, the second largest city in Liberia, and government officials say the whole city of 200,000 people is threatened.

The situation is clearly posing a threat to the Monrovia and Buchanana.  Since 2006 the sea has been gradually encroaching on Monrovia, Buchanan and other coastal cities in Liberia leaving more than one hundred homes destroyed and displacing hundreds of people, and it is still getting worse. If nothing is done immediately, the entire city Monrovia could be rubbed off the map.

Coastal erosion is a problem all along Liberia’s coastline as eight of Liberia’s 15 counties have their main settlements on the coast. However the culprit is apparently not climate change.

According to a joint survey prepared by the Liberian government and the United Nations Development Programme on the state of the environment in Liberia two years ago, most of the erosion is caused by unregulated sand mining.

One of the major factors responsible for the coastal erosion of the coast in Buchanan is the extraction of the breakwaters which some of the residents are using for construction purposes,” Shannon said.

As a result of this, the corridor where those rocks and metals were placed are now opened allowing the sea to hit the shorelines and devastating homes, which has now affected residents in Buchanan.”

By Darlington Micah

Email: darlingtonmicah44@gmail.com Tel: +2316450906

 

 

Liberian School

Liberia’s government has teamed up with UNICEF to build the first of what it calls “child friendly schools”  in Liberia, in the border town of Ganta. The high tech school is part of a multi-million dollar initiative by the agency to help foster peace and prevent a recurrence of war in impoverished border communities. Organizers say the process of building the school has already changed peoples’ lives.

Six-year-old Salome Gaye is a prime example. In a few months time Salome and 270 other children will be the first pupils at the Charles Boyu Elementary and Junior High School.

“This school is being constructed around the border community and Ganta has been ideally selected, and it should be serving as a means to be able to prevent conflict and try to cement the peace that exists,” says Mathew Flomo UNICEF Education Officer in Ganta.

“There will be a resource center that will have internet facilities in there.  There will be a playground.  It will be a public school owned and run by the Ministry of Education.”

Finley Pitt an Australian architect hired by UNICEF to supervise the building of the school says, “Ganta was chosen because it is close to Guinea. Like other border towns in Liberia, the flames of war were fanned in Ganta by cross border disputes between local communities. The new school is meant to prevent conflict from happening again by providing a community center to foster peace.”

Finn’s description of the community center suggests a building that is designed to bring communities together. She says the three buildings are contained under a very large roof.

“You can see the holes in the ground ready to take the columns,” says Finn. It’s a parasol roof that sits above the structures of each of the individual buildings. So it provides a focal point for the campus.”

Finn points out that inside the community center there’s also resource center as well as a radio station.

The deadline for completion of the new school has been delayed because the local workforce had to learn international standards of construction.

Patrick Dolo, the principal of the St. Lawrence Catholic School.says, says like most schools in Liberia his pupils are older than they should be.

“I think it’s because of the war… and during the war we never had many schools …but right now we see UNICEF coming in and this is a very good idea. And we are very much happy,” Dolo says.

Experts say over-age students are more likely to drop out, or become teenage mothers. Mathew Flomo the UNICEF Education Officer for Ganta says it’s one of the harmful consequences of poverty and war that the school would like to change.

According to Flomo the main goal is to make sure that children of the right school age are in the classes so grade one should be starting with six seven years olds.  For this year he says they are concentrating on grades one to four.

Flomo says UNICEF plans to build 14 child friendly schools in Liberia’s border communities and 80 throughout West Africa.

The multimillion dollar projects are identified as the LABLAB, or Learning Along Borders for Living Across Bounderies.

According to Flomo, the LABLAB initiative aims to bring together the four West African countries [Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Cote D’Ivoire] countries engaged in conflict.

Though the process of building the school has been challenging, UNICEF architect Finley Pitt believes in the core vision, which is to nurture a bright new generation of Africans.

“I think the best achievement for me,” says Pitt, “will be having classrooms full of Liberian children learning in a nice environment that will go on to become future leaders of Liberia. That for me will be fantastic.”

 

 

[http://waterandfoodaward.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/how-you-can-support-the-next-years-award/]

 

Liberia Young Girls..

Liberia sex-for-aid ‘widespread’

Young girls in Liberia are still being sexually exploited by aid workers and peacekeepers despite pledges to stamp out such abuse, Save the Children says.

Girls as young as eight are being forced to have sex in exchange for food by workers for local and international agencies, according to its report.

The agency says such abuse is continuing as people displaced by the civil war return to their villages.

The UN in Liberia said it would investigate specific allegations.

The United Nations promised to put safeguards in place after sexual abuse in the refugee camps of West Africa was first revealed four years ago.

But a study by Save the Children, which involved speaking to more than 300 people in camps for people displaced by the war, found that abuse was still widespread.

The report said that all of the respondents clearly stated that more than half of the girls in their locations were affected.

Girls from the age of eight to 18 years were being sold for sex, “commonly referred to as ‘man business’,” the report noted

‘Clear priority”

One 20-year-old woman told the BBC that she had been forced to have sex with a worker for the World Food Programme (WFP).

“This young man had been doing it to most of my friends. And the children too don’t have strong minds. They will have sex with him to get the food,” Konah Brown said.

But government officials and teachers are also contributing to the abuse, Save the Children says.

Teachers have demanded sex in lieu of school fees, or even just to give good grades, the report found.

“This cannot continue. It must be tackled,” said Jasmine Whitbread, Save the Children’s UK Chief Executive.

“Men who use positions of power to take advantage of vulnerable children must be reported and fired.

“More must be done to support children and their families to make a living without turning to this kind of desperation.”

The WFP’s Greg Barrow said the organisation would be taking the latest allegations with “the greatest seriousness” and was already taking steps to investigate them.

“The key here is to find what link in this chain of delivering food, and getting it to the people who need it, is perhaps abusing this position,” he told the BBC.

The UN’s Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Liberia, Jordan Ryan, also said specific allegations would be investigated.

“Unfortunately not all international NGOs have taken it seriously. But it is a clear priority,” he said.

“We have never done enough until there’s a zero case load. Has enough been done? Not yet. Are we working on it? You bet we are.”

Darlington Micah

Email: darlingotnmicah44@gmail.com

 

Agony of  Liberia Child Soldiers !

Liberia Child Soldier

 

Gloria Sherman was 13 years old when Charles Taylor’s soldiers came for her in 2001. Flushed from her hiding place in the bush outside her village in Lofa, northern Liberia, she was forced to watch as her father and brother were skinned alive. Then she was taken into a captivity lasting nearly two years: a conscript child soldier and a sexual slave in the former president’s army.

She is 18 now, but the memories are still raw. “We used to do bad, bad things that they told us to do,” she said last week. “Sometimes even if you were only 10 years old they would put guns and ammunition on your head to carry to the battle; you have to do what they said or they’d kill you. They killed many children, many girls. All the time many soldiers would have sex with you, every night they would come and have sex and beat you, and if you said no they would kill you or hit you with guns.”

Charles  Taylor will become the first African leader to be tried for crimes against humanity by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, sitting in The Hague. He faces 11 charges – including the deployment of child soldiers – relating to a decade-long civil war in the neighbouring state of Sierra Leone.

But it was in Liberia, as a rebel leader and then as president, that his juvenile bands of killers first began to roam in the 1990s, a military model that was then exported across the border.

Across the towns and villages of the north, countless atrocities took place and thousands of young lives were irredeemably brutalised. Nobody who managed to survive them has forgotten the days when Taylor was the power in the land.

During and after Taylor’s successful rebellion against the corrupt and violent government of Samuel Doe, his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) army controlled much of the country. The Small Boys Unit, made up of children under 11, was among his most feared rebel battalions, a regiment of innocent murderers.

When the rebel warlord was eventually elected president in 1997, one of his election campaign slogans was: “He killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I will vote for him.”

The Taylor presidency was savagely violent as constant insurgencies locked the country in a cycle of war until he was forced to resign in 2003. His son, the infamous Chucky Taylor, who ran Taylor’s paramilitary anti-terrorism security forces, was jailed by a US court for 97 years this year after it was found that, between 1999 and 2002, his “Demon Forces” squads had tortured to death scores of people accused of being anti-Taylor rebels.

By 2003, as Taylor lost control of large tracts of the country to the equally ruthless Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd) rebel force, backed by Guinea, some 15,000 children were fighting in Taylor’s government forces.

Defeated at last, Taylor resigned, went into exile in Nigeria and now faces life imprisonment if found guilty at The Hague. Meanwhile the children and adolescents who killed and suffered in his name have grown into a traumatised, desolate adulthood.

In Lofa county, where the child soldiers once rampaged, bullet-scarred buildings and burnt-out checkpoints still stand as monuments to the relentless fighting this province endured.

Rebel activity and government raids forced hundreds of thousands of civilians in Lofa to flee their homes and surge over the borders of Guinea and Sierra Leone, where they filled sprawling refugee camps until the peace in 2003. When they came back, they found Lofa in tatters, its infrastructure destroyed and villages burnt. Although the region is now peaceful and the land is once again lush, the scars of the war are everywhere.

Many villages in the region are little more than temporary shelters dotted with shattered buildings and burnt-out churches. Rows of tanks sit behind barbed wire as bored Bangladeshi peacekeeping soldiers sit fingering their rifles at lookout posts in United Nations encampments scattered throughout the area.

The vast majority of people here have no electricity and struggle to scrape a living from the land. As for the thousands of former child combatants who returned here after the war, they are now obliged to endure new horrors as they try to rebuild their lives.

Two years of systematic rape and beatings have left Gloria with jagged scars and internal injuries so severe that she has little chance of ever becoming a mother. When she managed to escape from her captors and make her way back to her village, she found that she was now an outcast.

Labelled a “rebel wife” and accused of collaborating in the violence inflicted on her village by drugged and ruthless soldiers during the war, she says that the only way she can survive is by having sex with men – NGO workers, government officials and businessmen – who often pay her in food, sanitary towels or soap.

“They say we are bad girls because of what we did in the war and what we do now,” Gloria said. “But they took me and I had no choice.”

The Observer talked to dozens of Taylor’s former child soldiers in Lofa who said that they have been abandoned by the state, ostracised by their families and forced into prostitution and crime in order to survive.

Elijah Kollie, a frail 19-year-old taken from his home by Taylor’s government troops in 2000, talked impassively of children’s stomachs being slit open in front of him and of the multiple rapes and murders he witnessed on the front line. “When I came back, I didn’t have anyone: everyone in my family was dead,” he said with a shrug.

He points to a patch of earth in the centre of the village where he said that Lurd rebels used to boil alive people they suspected of aiding Taylor’s government forces. “I still don’t know where to go because I can’t forget what happened. I feel angry because of what happened to me and now people here are causing many problems for us. I just wish my father was still here.”

Former girl child soldiers reflect on their traumatic experiences, watch video on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_idiRoOLN0

 

Support a Liberian Child Soldier. Contact: Darlington Micah. Email: darlingtonmicah44@gmail.com Tel: +2316450906

Fight Poverty in Afrca

End Poverty In Africa..

Africa is the world’s second largest continent after Asia. It has a total surface area of 30.3 million km2, including several islands, and an estimated total population of 888 million (2005, UN). The vast Sahara Desert, covering an area greater than that of the continental United States, divides Northern Africa from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Poverty in Africa is predominantly rural. More than 70 per cent of the continent’s poor people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for food and livelihood, yet development assistance to agriculture is decreasing. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 218 million people live in extreme poverty. Among them are rural poor people in Eastern and Southern Africa, an area that has one of the world’s highest concentrations of poor people. The incidence of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa is increasing faster than the population. Overall, the pace of poverty reduction in most of Africa has slowed since the 1970s.

Rural poverty in many areas of Africa has its roots in the colonial system and the policy and institutional restraints that it imposed on poor people. In recent decades, economic policies and institutional structures have been modified to close the income gap. Structural adjustments have dismantled existing rural systems, but have not always built new ones. In many transitional economies, the rural situation is marked by continuing stagnation, poor production, low incomes and the rising vulnerability of poor people. Lack of access to markets is a problem for many small-scale enterprises in Africa. The rural population is poorly organized and often isolated, beyond the reach of social safety nets and poverty programmes. Increasingly, government policies and investments in poverty reduction tend to favour urban over rural areas.

HIV/AIDS is changing the profile of rural poverty in Africa. It puts an unbearable strain on poor rural households, where labour is the primary income-earning asset. About two thirds of the 34 million people in the world with HIV/AIDS live on the African continent.

Western and Middle Africa

Three fourths of poor people in Western and Middle Africa — an estimated 90 million people — live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. One in five lives in a country affected by warfare. In conflict-torn countries such as Angola, Burundi, Mozambique and Uganda, the capacity of rural people to make a livelihood has been dramatically curtailed by warfare, and per capita food production has plummeted.

Land degradation, a consequence of extensive agriculture, deforestation and overgrazing, has reached alarming levels and further threatens livelihoods. The poorest people live in isolated zones, deprived of the social safety nets and poverty reduction programmes available in semi-urban and urban areas.

The incidence of HIV/AIDS in Western and Middle Africa is generally lower than that of Eastern and Southern Africa, but the epidemic could spread dramatically if it is not combated vigorously.

Eastern and Southern Africa

Rural poverty is deepening in Eastern and Southern Africa, where most of the region’s 130 million poor people live in rural areas. Ten of the 21 countries in the region have an average annual per capita income of less than US$400.

The progress of national and rural development is slow. Development assistance to agriculture has declined. This has a negative impact on smallholder farming, the basic source of livelihood for the rural poor. In general, agricultural productivity per worker is stagnating or decreasing.

More than 85 per cent of the rural poor live on land that has medium to high potential for increased productivity. The poorest people live in the desert or on semi-arid land that makes up almost 40 per cent of the land base of this part of Africa.

Northern Africa

As elsewhere on the continent, poverty in Northern Africa is concentrated in rural areas. The percentage of rural poor people living below the national poverty line varies dramatically, from 6 per cent in Tunisia to 90 per cent in Somalia and 87 per cent in the Sudan. Rural poor people constitute about one third of Tunisia’s poor population and about three fourths of Somalia’s poor. Beginning in the late 1980s, countries such as Egypt and Tunisia undertook structural adjustments with the aim of reducing poverty.

Rural poverty in the region has its roots in limited availability of good arable land and water, and the impact of droughts and floods. Political conflict has disrupted agriculture and aggravated poverty in countries such as Somalia and the Sudan. Among the obstacles to reducing rural poverty in Northern Africa are poor transport and social infrastructure, high rates of illiteracy (especially among women), weak local institutions, poor integration with the national economy, and the migration of rural youth to urban areas.

In Northern African countries in general, rural poor people have very little political influence. This is especially true of women. The rural population is poorly organized and often lives in isolated zones, beyond the reach of social safety nets and poverty programmes. Government policies and investments in the region tend to favour urban over rural areas.

By Darlinton Micah

Email: darlingtonmicah44@gmail.com

 

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