Can One App Change the World?

Comment

Can One App Change the World?

On Tuesday, Facebook Inc. along with Reliance Communications launched the app Internet.org in India in an initiative to provide basic Internet access for those who can’t yet connect for free. The app, which has already been launched in some African countries as well as Colombia, aims to connect low income and rural clients to the internet for free. Users are able to access up to 38 web services including news, local jobs and education, farming, weather and health websites. Some such sites include Google Search, Dictionary.com, Accuweather, and Facebook. The benefits of Internet.org? Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Chief Executive, stated Tuesday on his Facebook page that since the launch of Internet.org, “More than 6 million people are already connected to the internet who previously weren’t, and we’ve started hearing incredible stories about how the internet is changing lives and communities. But to continue connecting the world, we have to connect India. More than a billion people in India don’t have access to the internet. That means they can’t enjoy the same opportunities many of us take for granted, and the entire world is robbed of their ideas and creativity… One day, we will connect everyone, and the power of the internet will serve every community across India and the world. That day is coming.”

Comment

South Africa Seeks to Expand Broadband Internet Access

Comment

South Africa Seeks to Expand Broadband Internet Access

Can the expansion of broadband internet contribute to a higher quality of life?

South African Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele recently announced it’s plan to push for phone company Telkom to provide funds for a government backed expansion of broadband internet access. The proposal is expected to cost roughly $8.4 billion US, but government expenses are expected to be cut down as it plans to shift many public services online, making it easier for residents of South Africa to access them nationwide. According to Bloomberg Business, South Africa is surprisingly “one of the world’s stragglers in Internet access with just 3.06 fixed-line broadband subscribers per 100 people in 2013 compared with 10.08 in Brazil, 29.25 in the U.S. and 34.56 in Germany, according to figures compiled by the World Bank.” However, the African National Congress, in accordance with the National Infrastructure Plan, has pledged to extend broadband internet access to every household by 2020. There is hope that this expansion along with other reforms will boost economic growth and will contribute to an overall higher quality of life in the nation as a whole. 

Comment

The World According to Dan Fredinburg

Comment

The World According to Dan Fredinburg

Dan Fredinburg defines life differently: Jail time becomes an opportunity for reverse interrogation; his first grown-up job interview finds him choosing the occupation of his dreams at Boeing; and now as Google[x]’s Head of Privacy, he translates Twilight Zone technology into global good.

As the first speaker for Startup Grind’s launch in Jackson Hole, WY, Fredinburg set a maverick tone for the sold-out house at the Amangani Resort. Alternating between stories of innovation and shenanigans, Dan offered a glossary of ideas prime for entrepreneurial expression – some more universally applicable than others (see Glitter Marketing below), yet all inspiring.

The World According to Dan Fredinburg: A Glossary of Ideas

Moonshots: Google[x] projects, not directly in line with the macro Google business model, including the self-driving car, Project Loon, and Google Glass. The goal: Improve science-fiction-sounding technologies by a factor of 10. Take Project Loon, for instance: To address the fact that two-thirds of the world’s population lack Internet access, Google[x] imagined a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, providing coverage in remote areas, filling in gaps and bringing people back online after disasters. A crazy as a loon idea, made possible by people like Fredinburg.

Home: Originally a farm in Arkansas; now the Bay Area.

The Laundry: Yes, the pile you ignore, but also the co-work space Fredinburg is building in the Mission. An old laundromat turned big-data incubator: Good things are guaranteed.

Intrapreneur: As a behemoth like Google continues to grow, pitching intra-corporate innovations becomes all the more challenging. i.e., you have to persuade more and more people. You have to be more charismatic. You have to find more executive champions. And in a bottoms-up org structure like Google, you have to educate everyone on the ground to become advocates for your idea. The intrapreneurial time investment becomes exponentially more intense.

Google Adventure Team: The group Fredinburg co-founded (in his downtime) to translate the Google Street View concept into extreme, exotic locations like the summit of Mount Everest or the Great Barrier Reef off Australia.  

Accelerometer: The cellphone built-in tool measuring tilt or motion. Recent studies at MIT and Stanford use accelerometer data to uniquely identify users – a scary notion Fredinburg sees as an opportunity for privacy innovation.

Sledgehammer Marketing: What you do to loosen up suit-clad potential investors who visit your under-construction co-working concept? In lieu of a deck, you hand them a sledgehammer and encourage them to wield it with abandon. A memorable experience is had by all; buy-in ensues.

Glitter Marketing: The follow-up to the aforementioned marketing push. To make your pitch even more memorable, fill a piñata with glitter and – in a similar stroke of brut buy-in – ask entrepreneurs to whack it. The inevitable explosion of glitter – magical in the moment – lingers in people’s memory as they discover the shimmery particles weeks later. Too bad it wreaks havoc on the host site’s plumbing.

Carstensz’s Pyramid: The tallest mountain in Oceania, summited by Fredinburg and friends, one of whom fell ill. Instead of trekking back the way they came (a long slog through Indonesian jungle), they went the more direct route – through the Grasberg gold mine – and almost emerged unscathed, save for the stint Fredinburg spent in a jail inside the mine. As mentioned earlier, he carpe diemed his jail-time into a personal investigation of Grasberg, ultimately securing proof of the expansion plans that would threaten the mountain altogether. Now, an effort is underway to save the UNESCO World Heritage Site from that mined demise.

Footwear: The hiking boots he used to top five of the Seven Summits.

Save the Ice Dot Org: The campaign Fredinburg spearheaded with friends to anchor their far-flung adventures in activism. Under the mission-guise of bringing awareness of global warming to the Baltic States, the friends traveled as the Vikings did, quite literally costumed as such, following the Swedes’ ameliorating route through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all while spreading awareness through mindful actions (eating locally, relentlessly recycling) aboard a 1998 Volvo spray-painted to look like(ish) a Viking ship.

Daily routine: The absence of one. A bit of a morning person, a bit of a late person, Fredinburg doesn’t sleep much and fills the intervening hours with things he rarely schedules in advance. The opposite of organized, he tries to keep churning through the important tasks on his queue, while still leaving room for plenty of genius spontaneity.  

Jackson Hole: A place to pack in adventure. Last Sunday, he went backcountry skiing with Startup Grind director Natalie Spencer of Navvi. Monday found him kite-skiing for the first time. And Wednesday, pre-talk, he took Tram laps in fresh powder, with work peppered throughout. Dan Fredinburg seems to abide by his own hybrid of work hard, play hard, achieving both triumphantly.

 

**Photo Credit: Austin Hopkins of Teton Gravity Research

Comment

South African Power Plants Fail to Meet Output Targets

Comment

South African Power Plants Fail to Meet Output Targets

The largest power plant breakdown in South Africa in three years has caused multiple unplanned outages in the past week, thus causing a decrease in production at many of the countries major companies. Roger Baxter, Chief of Mines in South Africa stated that many companies have confirmed that they are feeling constrained by the rationing of the power supply, especially as they become more frequent. Bloomberg Business reports: “Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the utility that provides 95 percent of the nation’s power, rationed supply for a fourth straight day on Friday. Its aging plants are breaking down more often and the startup of new capacity has been delayed by construction issues and labor unrest.” As much as 37 percent of Eskom’s installed generating capacity was offline last on Thursday.

Bloomberg goes on to report that “Eskom is struggling to keep the lights on after the country failed to invest adequately in generation in the 20 years after the first democratic elections in 1994, even as the government expanded supply to an extra 7 million people.” Although Eskom has already removed 2,000 megawatts from the power grid, it is estimated that they will have to cut 4,000 megawatts of capacity in the coming weeks, amounting to blackouts of 9 hours in length in 4.5 hour blocks in both businesses and homes.

South Africa is the world’s 7th largest producer of coal, and Eskom uses coal to generate about 80% of its electricity. Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi declared that state-owned African Exploration Mining and Finance Corp., “will be augmenting its portfolio to contribute towards greater security of supply.” Many companies and residents are demanding research be done in order to find more efficient ways to use coal. Read more on this here.

Comment

World Bank to Give Kyrgyzstan $24 Million to Provide Electricity to Remote Areas

Comment

World Bank to Give Kyrgyzstan $24 Million to Provide Electricity to Remote Areas

The World Bank Executive Board of Directors approved $24 million to go towards the Energy Sector Development Policy Operation for the Republic of Kyrgyzstan today. The goal of this project is to improve the long term reliability of the Central Asian republic’s energy supply, which has deep rooted structural issues. The country relies mostly on hydroelectric power but is very unreliable due to a multitude of issues.

AKIpress reports: “The Kyrgyz Republic has the lowest electricity tariffs in the Europe and Central Asia region, which contributes to the inefficient use of energy, severe under-spending on maintenance and new investments, and resulting poor supply reliability and quality. The patchwork regulatory framework and insufficient transparency and accountability result in operational inefficiencies and undermine public trust in the sector.” When these issues are coupled with the fluctuation in hydrology cycles, energy shortages become abundant. The issue has become more apparent in the winter 2014-2015 season as there has been a significant reduction in water flow to the much relied upon Toktogul reservoir.

The approach being taken is to focus on a few main policy areas including increasing electricity tariffs, strengthening energy sector governance and transparency, and better management of power shortages in remote and lower income areas. The hope is that by addressing these different policy areas that are interlinked at the core, energy supply reliability will greatly improve in the coming years.


Read more about this operation here.

Comment

How can private-sector investment increase capital while impacting climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa?

How can private-sector investment increase capital while impacting climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa?

The US-Africa Clean Energy Finance (ACEF) initiative reportedly reached 100% commitment of their initial $20 million project funds in December. The project was designed to support early stage private-sector investment in renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa. ACEF was launched at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development 2012 under then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. At the US-Africa Leaders Summit in August of 2014, current Secretary of State John Kerry announced his support for the project and pledged that the US will invest another $10 million. 

So far the project has seen much success and praise with funds having been invested in nearly 30 different renewable energy projects in 10 African countries. The US Trade and Development Agency reports: “The initial $20 million of funding has the potential to lead to more than 400 megawatts of new renewable power in Africa and could mobilize more than $1.5 billion in project capital, a ratio of $75 for every $1 from the ACEF program.” The initiative has a goal of making energy more reliable in Sub-Saharan Africa in both urban and rural environments while also inviting private investment. Projects include a 150 megawatt wind farm in Senegal and a 12 megawatt “run-of-the-river” hydroelectric power facility in Rwanda. 

Todd Stern, US special envoy for climate change at the US State Department states: “ACEF is an excellent example of how we can use limited public resources to leverage the private financing necessary to fuel low-carbon growth in developing countries – a key step in meeting the challenge to address climate change.

Learn more about this initiative here.

1 Coin, 2 Sides: 15 Million People

Comment

1 Coin, 2 Sides: 15 Million People

After decades of British occupation and intermittent military rule, Nigeria’s roads, schools and hospitals were in shambles - an unappetizing sight to seemingly hungry western investors. But with the economic recession in 2008 came a new opportunity for the non-western world. While the countries in Europe and America were forced to close their doors, Lagos offered itself as a new frontier for ambitious entrepreneurs. Nigeria is Africa’s largest petroleum exporter, so the potential wasn’t hard to recognize, but it’s economy lacked variety.  Since then, investors and business moguls have flocked to Lagos by the thousands, creating an economy most countries in Africa only dream of. “The country recently recalculated its gross domestic product to take into account sectors of the economy that barely existed two decades ago. As a result, Nigeria determined that its GDP surpassed South Africa’s in 2012 to become the continent’s largest economy. About 15,700 millionaires and a handful of billionaires live in Nigeria, more than 60 percent of them in Lagos.” Its population is growing at an alarming rate - in fact, it is nearly impossible to estimate the population more precisely than between 13 million and 18 million. The middle class population is expected to grow by 7.6 million by the year 2030. “ Seemingly overnight, Lagos has transformed itself into a city of Davids clamoring to become Goliaths.” The city’s motto? “Be Very Rich” 


Yet with all this growth, success, and wealth, Lagos still finds itself stymied. Nigeria may be home to Lagos, a city full of money and optimism, but it is also home to violent terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and faces many challenges in the way of making it a true success story. “The miracle of Lagos is that its economy gallops onward even when fettered by the same federal incompetence that allows terrorism to go unchecked. A lesser city would be crippled. Then again, in a sense so is Lagos… How do the two worlds coexist? How does Lagos prosper when upper Nigeria roils with chaos?” Robert Draper, the author of the article Lagos: Africa’s First City, featured in the January publication of National Geographic asks, “If Nigeria is the largest exporter of petroleum in Africa, how can there be continual fuel scarcity, such that Lagosians periodically sit in gas lines for up to four hours? Why does every building in the city—not just the low-income hovels on the mainland but also the sleekest hotels on Lagos Island—rely on generators to supply round-the-clock power? Why do residents continue to pay for electricity that never arrives? Why do the city’s police set up evening checkpoints on the bridges and shake down commuters for cash? Why do the top academics at the University of Lagos carry on with strikes lasting entire semesters? What’s wrong with this picture? Corruption is what’s wrong—and because much of it exists on the federal level, Lagos is largely powerless to overcome it.”

Comment

SMS AS A TOOL FOR TRACKING AND COUNTERING MISINFORMATION IN THE TANA DELTA

Comment

SMS AS A TOOL FOR TRACKING AND COUNTERING MISINFORMATION IN THE TANA DELTA

A free information service that seeks to counteract malicious misinformation which has been the trigger for recent outbreaks of violence in the region.

The Una Hakika initiative, supported by iHub and launched by the Sentinel Project, is a free information telecommunication service which seeks to counter misinformation that has contributed to recent outbreaks of violence in the Tana Delta region of Kenya. This region is prone to inter-communal violence and has recently seen a number of massacres due to the spreading of political rumors and misinformation. Often news does not reach this area until 3 days after an event has occurred and verifying information is close to impossible. The initiative was started by the Sentinel Project in hopes of defusing this rapid spread of misinformation and replacing it with unbiased and accurate information in a timely manner. Prior to Una Hakika, residents would quickly act on rumors but now they wait for and seek out accurate information before acting. 

The importance of the transmission of accurate information is vital for this conflict ridden region. In an interview with Project Coordinator Christina Mutisya, she states: “Sometimes the media does not portray what exactly is on the ground. So when you come to ground and talk to the people you understand the real issues and you find that they are very complicated and interlinked.” In fact, Una Hakika has been so effective that Mutisya claims, “There have even been several instances in which Una Hakika was the first to receive reports of violence even before local authorities and security forces did.” 

By reducing the prevalence of violence there is hope that NGOs and potential investors will be attracted to the area and thus development and other projects will be established. 

So far, it is reported that 1 in 50 adult mobile phone owners use the service in the region, thus leaving much room for expansion and improvement. All in all, “Una Hakika has made a notable and potentially long lasting difference in the region by reducing tension through the transformation of how information is used, transmitted and received.”

Comment

Nigerian Broadband Revolution?

Comment

Nigerian Broadband Revolution?

Nigeria’s Ministry of Communications Technology (MCT) has revealed plans to connect 50% of the Nigerian Population by the end of 2015. The government is aiming to complete Phase 1 of a wireless broadband infrastructure upgrade and expansion project which is part of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan, approved by President Goodluck Jonathan in June 2013. The plan includes a Presidential Mandate that emphasizes the importance of broadband connection in multiple aspects, stating “Broadband has the potential of enabling entire new industries and introducing significant efficiencies into education delivery, health care provision, energy management, ensuring public safety, government/citizen interaction, and the overall organization and dissemination of knowledge… It has been empirically proven that every 10% increase in broadband penetration in developing countries results in a commensurate increase of 1.3% in GDP.” If this ambitious plan succeeds in its goals, Nigeria will set a worthy precedent for the emerging world, especially on the continent of Africa.

Comment

The moment when real-world activism and armchair activism collide: How hashtags impacted activism and news in 2014.

Comment

The moment when real-world activism and armchair activism collide: How hashtags impacted activism and news in 2014.

On April 13th, 2014, 300 Nigerian girls were kidnapped by armed gunmen from the terrorist group Boko Haram. More than 200 of them are still unaccounted for nearly 10 months later. But Obiageli Ezekwesili, former governor minister and member of the Open Society Foundation, has not given up hope. Ezekwesili was one of the promoters of the Twitter campaign #bringbackourgirls which in turn spurred grassroots campaigns and protests around the world demanding that action be taken and the girls brought home by people from all walks of life. At the end of 2014, NPR chose to feature hashtags and Twitter slogans that started an international movement or conversation and #bringbackourgirls is a shining example. In the interview, Ms. Ezekwesili states, “The social media empowers you with the kind of information that would ordinarily not be available to you. Frankly speaking, how would you have known that this number of girls were abducted so quickly as you did, were it not for social media? You know, it would’ve taken time for traditional news to get to the nooks and crannies of the United States… What the social media does is to call the attention of those who have the power to act… You advocate so that those who should be able to act would hear you.”

Comment

How can smart phones make a social impact in East Africa?

Comment

How can smart phones make a social impact in East Africa?

The Mobile Impact Ventures Program, created by M:lab East Africa in partnership with iHub, is a technology incubator and accelerator that mentors start up companies that have mobile applications with a social impact focus, meaning agriculture, education, or health. M:lab East Africa has a free testing facility in Nairobi, Kenya with over 200 phones so that those companies creating the social impact applications are able to test them on hundreds of devices. Once accepted to the program, startups are provided with business and technical classes as well as coaching for up to 6 months, thus giving them the tools to succeed. 

On December 9th, 2014, the Mobile Impact Ventures Program hosted a Demo Day that showcased 4 of their highest impact ventures from the accelerator program in order to present their products to investors, possible partners, and the like. One such application, Tumukaro, provides an “online service that enables parents and well wishers living in the diaspora to easily pay school fees for their dependents in Kenya in a fast, secure and convenient way.” Find out more about the MIV Program and the innovative social impact ventures it supports here.

Listen to an interview with Sheilah Birgen, the Community Leader at M:lab East Africa, as she delves further into the different programs M:lab offers.

Comment

What are the impacts of monoculture economies?

Comment

What are the impacts of monoculture economies?

Oil has fallen to it’s lowest price since May 2009. Many countries, especially in Africa and the Middle East, rely almost solely on oil revenue - For Algeria, oil revenue makes up 97 percent of hard currency earnings, and the government has done little to diversify the economy. This heavy reliance on oil and gas is dangerous. While Algeria has done well to subsidize basics such as electricity, food, education, and housing, all of these things are provided and supported with money brought in from oil and gas. “Algerians will not find anything to eat if the price of oil continues to fall,” stated independent lawmaker Habib Zegad. Read more on Algeria’s monoculture economy here.

Comment

58 Million children are still excluded from school because they are child labourers, brides, discriminated against and exploited.

Comment

58 Million children are still excluded from school because they are child labourers, brides, discriminated against and exploited.

In the recent wake of the Taliban killing spree in Pakistan that left 132 students and 9 teachers dead, the need to fight for universal education without discrimination or danger is more pressing than ever. The Up For SchoolPetition, a campaign launched in September that has a little under 1.2 million signatures already, believes “all children deserve the opportunity to learn and achieve their potential.” With the support of iHub along with numerous NGO’s, politicians, and celebrities, Up For School has a goal of becoming the biggest petition in history. Join the fight today! Read more on the Up For School campaign here and sign the petition by clicking here.

Comment

For every dollar we invest in water and sanitation, there is a $4.3 return in costs.

Comment

For every dollar we invest in water and sanitation, there is a $4.3 return in costs.

The battle against Ebola rages on  in parts of West Africa, and the world remains transfixed by the deadly virus. Yet with all the attention focused on Ebola, more common — and preventable — diseases such as sepsis and diarrhea, which are often caused by lack of access to potable water, continue to destroy lives by the thousands around the world. Those who are hit the hardest? Pregnant women and children. According to the World Health Organization, diarrhea kills 760,000 children under the age of five each year globally. A recent article in The Telegraph highlights how the shortage of clean water in Tanzania has forced clinics to make use of contaminated water dug up from riverbeds. When, for example, Aisha Mkude went into labor with her fourth child, her first son, relatives had to bring water in cans to the clinic. The water was used to wash Aisha and her newborn, plus her clothes and the  bedsheets. Her baby died just one week later from an umbilical cord infection, most likely contracted from the contaminated water. This is just one case of many:. It’s reported that a mere 44% of delivery facilities in Tanzania have access to clean water. As the article states, for every 1,000 children born in Tanzania, 21 die in the first month of life, or 39,000 per year. Most of these deaths can be attributed to sepsis, diarrhea, and infection. 

“Not all of the sick have Ebola,” says Dr. Fallah, “It’s a complex paradox. On the one hand, you’re trying to stay alive in an epidemic. On the other hand, my fear is that we’re going to see a great increase in deaths from common, preventable diseases.”

Dr. Fallah, who studied public health and epidemiology at Harvard, grew up in West Point, a township of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. West Point is home to 75,000 people. But there are four public toilets. People are forced to defecate on the beach.

This is a lesson for all of us. For every dollar we invest in water and sanitation, we save  $4.3 in healthcare costs. According to Dr. Fallah, the Ebola epidemic could have been extinguished months ago if we had focused resources on preventing the spread of the disease. “Not until an American doctor became infected—not until it became an international threat—did they mount an effective response,” he says. “If we had invested one-tenth of what we’re investing now back in July, when there were just a few hundred cases, this epidemic could have been stopped.”  

The people of West Point, along with 2.5 billion other people around the world, don’t have access to basic sanitation. Ebola is not the only disease prone to explosive outbreak. More than 3.4 million people die each year from contaminated water and hygiene-related complications. 

How do we stop waterborne illness and deadly epidemics such as Ebola? Part of the answer lies in communication and tracing the sources of disease. Dr. Fallah is working with the CDC to collect data and GPS information to map the travel and transmission of disease. Hot spots are constantly moving, and doctors need to be able to locate those hot spots and determine what those people need in real time. As for Ebola, Dr. Fallah has hope: , “If we can find 100 percent of the contacts, we can break the transmission.”

To read more about Dr. Fallah, check out this article from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Comment

How can nations hit by Ebola avoid food security crises?

Comment

How can nations hit by Ebola avoid food security crises?

The Food and Agriculture Organization has devised a plan to attempt to fend off this looming disaster

Food security has been a pressing issue in many parts of Africa for decades. But the recent outbreak of Ebola in northern Africa along with the changing climate and increased subsidies from the EU have stretched many countries to their limits. As the countries hardest hit by Ebola, namely Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea are some of the poorest in the world, this has stretched their already tight budgets and put them in an even greater bind. While the Green Morocco Plan in conjunction with the later developed National Charter for the Environment and Sustainable Development provide an ideal example of what countries struggling with food security and climate change can do in the long term, the fragile state of the countries still battling Ebola require an immediate emergency response to food shortage, especially as this season’s crop harvest has just begun. With expected major labor shortages and a severely threatened cash crop production, what is being done in response to this desperate need for help? 

The Food and Agriculture Organization recently published a strategy to combat the potential crisis through their Regional Response Program with an estimated 12 month time span based on four main pillars:

1. Save lives by stopping the spread of disease.

2. Boost incomes and agricultural production to safeguard livelihoods.

3. Build resilience of communities to disease threats.

4. Strengthen coordination for improved response.

With an expected budget of $30 million, the FAO expects to help nearly 90,000 of the most affected farming households. Click here to read more on the Regional Response Program. The issue of food security in the countries most affected by Ebola provides proof that the effects of this disease leaves almost no one and nothing untouched. From labor shortages, to migration and movement restrictions, it seems that everything that could go awry, has. To read more on the widespread effects of this dangerous virus and the likely vicious poverty cycle it has caused, click here.

Comment

What is the link between emerging countries, disease, and the changing environment?

Comment

What is the link between emerging countries, disease, and the changing environment?

 

Disease, namely Ebola, and extreme weather send food prices soaring in parts of Africa. What is the link between emerging countries and disease and climate change? What is the emerging world doing doing to protect their agriculture sectors? Morocco may have an answer….

Of the many consequences of the Ebola outbreak, one is an exacerbated food crisis. Border closures in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have stopped the flow of food. This, in addition to labor shortages, have sent food prices through the roof. To read more about Ebola and food security see the Orange African Social Venture Prize article here.

Morocco is leading the way to more sustainable and cooperative agricultural practices. They don’t have a choice. Eighteen percent of Morocco’s GDP comes from agriculture and 75 percent of the rural population depends on agriculture for employment. With a future that will be defined by unpredictable climate changes, Morocco’s agricultural sector is at risk. Only 16 percent of Morocco’s arable land can be irrigated, meaning there is little standing between Morocco’s food supply and climate change. A recent article by Al-Monitor explains “any shortage or excess rainfall has an immediate effect on the economy as a whole.”

In 2008 Morocco developed the “Green Morocco Plan” to increase agricultural productivity and food security, minimize agricultural inefficiencies, and provide a buffer against extreme weather. The first pillar of the strategy focuses on high-yield agriculture. Large projects include expanding irrigation and building dams. The second pillar supports small farmers, promotes local food production, and replaces unsustainable crops with more climate and terrain appropriate crops. Morocco’s visionary leadership could produce profits and spur a shift towards more environmentally and economically sustainable agriculture.

Comment

Ebola 2014

Comment

Ebola 2014

As the death toll tops 1,000 people, certain questions about the Ebola virus outbreak begin to arise: What exactly is Ebola? How is it contracted? How does it compare to past outbreaks? What can be done to prevent further spread of the deadly virus?

Close tabs are being kept on the status of the recent Ebola outbreak in Central and West Africa and it seems there is a new article posted on the subject every couple of hours. As of today, the death toll has risen to roughly 1,000 people while the number of infected cases nears 2,000. The outbreak originated in Guinea, but has spread to numerous neighboring countries including Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Liberia. In the past week, the World Health Organization has declared that it would be ethical to offer unproven Ebola vaccines and medicines as the outbreak has become so severe. To read more on the most recent updates and what countries like Canada are doing to help, click here.

So what exactly is the Ebola virus and how does one contract it? The short answer is that it is a zoonotic disease, meaning it is spread from animal to human through close contact. The host is thought to be the fruit bat, a very common species in Central and West Africa. The long answer can be read and examined by clicking on one or both of the following links:

WHO: Ebola virus disease

The Ebola Outbreak: ‘A Dress Rehearsal For The Next Big One’

Finally, how does this outbreak compare to outbreaks in the past? It is easy to see that the 2014 Ebola outbreak has the highest death toll of any outbreak in recorded history, however it is not the most fatal. Why so? To read more on this comparison as well as others, click here.

Comment

Energy: East Africa Pipeline

Comment

Energy: East Africa Pipeline

Oil fields found across East Africa in recent years hold vast economic potential. Building a joint pipeline to bring the oil to market could generate millions in revenue for member nations. 

What are the long-term impacts of building a pipeline in the region? How can the neighboring nations agree on a joint plan? Which of the proposed plans is most financially efficient? Which proposal would bring the most public benefit as well as political stability?

The Daily Nation reports that Kenya’s plans for a pipeline between Nairobi and Mombosa are moving forward. Reuters notes that the feasibility of further plans is still under debate. The Economist wrote about the overarching political and economic obstacles to the project in “Pipeline Poker.”

Comment

How can we better measure food security?

Comment

How can we better measure food security?

How can we better measure food security? What factors effect security? What are available solutions that can ensure food security, especially with a changing climate? 

A new study was released by The Economist Intelligence Unit for the IFAMA (International Food and Agribusiness Management Association) Workshop last month on a project working to find a new way to measure food security: The Global Food Security Index, which uses 28 indicators and shows how a multitude of factors contribute to levels of food security, and goes so far as to study the effectiveness of different food systems.

Take a look at the full report here

The CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) Research Program on CCAFS (Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security) has written an article on the use of hybrid crops and animals and the success of their use in Kenya, focusing research on small scale (mostly subsistence) farmers. These crops and animals need less water than the norm and have seen great success. This could be the next big thing in East Africa!

The same program CGIAR has an article delving into the progress made with the creation of a Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture and what it will entail. The ACSA has a goal of creating one language that can be used by anyone and everyone in order to bring ideas, policies, and the like under one roof. Governments should be responsible for creating awareness of climate change agriculture and all countries should integrate Climate Smart Agriculture into their policies and frameworks from a regional and grassroots level all the way to a national and even international level.

Comment