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Thursday, March 26, 2015


Just recently, the Guardian published an article named: "Bean breakthrough bodes well for climate change challenge". Which is about a breakthrough in heat-resistant beans that have the potential of flourishing in the African heat. Yet, a question resides on the immediate threat of distribution of the bean seeds because of corporate America's profit-over-prudence ideology. To this end, questioning the ethical boundaries of the international businesses that are contributing to the agricultural and development growth within Africa needs to happen. 

While one could argue that the investment of community growth through the means of private investment is a step forward, Mark Anderson - who is the author - points out that this could backfire. Anderson reiterates concerns that profit seeking corporations have been known to pressure governments to change laws and policy in favor of big business. Mariam Mariet in response to a recent gathering of these businesses, and who is the director of the African Centre For Biodiversity, cements this thought: 

"Public-farmer partnerships that integrate farmer and scientific knowledge will generate a more accountable process, and produce longer-lasting and more meaningful solutions for African  agricultural production, than these profit-driven, exclusive and narrow processes." - The Guardian

While the sentiment of private partnership is not without merit, a business model that creates further dependency is not the best plan of action in order to rid the Global South of hunger and poverty. Katungi et al., in their journal: "A cost-benefit analysis of farmer based seed production for common bean in Kenya", provide a more economically sustainable alternative to this issue.

Community based informal seed production has recently gained popularity as a alternative to the formal seed sector. This is because farmer produced seed, which is readily available, costs much less than certified seed. To this extent, the authors of the study examined the profitability of locally produced common bean seeds within Kenya, Africa. 

The study used data collected from farmers and one seed company participating in seed multiplication. Findings suggested that farmer based common bean seed production was a profitable enterprise and was less sensitive to market price fluctuations. However, compared to certified common bean seed production, net profit margins were five times higher for certified common bean. The reason for this is because of two distinct factors; namely, high productivity from the use of sophisticated irrigation systems and relatively higher prices for certified bean seeds. 

It is suggested by the authors of the study that with the current varieties, profitability - and thus a locally sustainable market - depends on access to irrigation and good agronomy. 

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Sunday, March 15, 2015


Recently, The Guardian's article: "Toxic 'e-waste' dumped in poor nations, says United Nations", outlines the severity of the illegal dumping of what is being referred to as 'e-waste' within developing countries. John Vidal, who is the author of the publication, lists the many hazards of dumping discarded electronics has on both the environment and the locals. Because the areas being used as trash sites for the Wests' addiction of consumer goods, the people - often times small children - use this as a means for income. Because the locals within the exploited communities lack adequate resources, most times they burn the plastics in order to retrieve the metals. This is obviously a health risk.

Vidal goes onto state that the global volume of electronic goods is expected to grow by 33% within the next four years, and that it is now the fastest growing system of waste, with China and the US being on top for the most consumption. The European Environment Agency estimates that between 250,000 tonnes to 1.3 million tonnes of used electronic goods are illegally shipped out of the European Union each year. And while it is highly illegal to ship discarded goods to developing countries, Vidal suggests that they are falsely labeled and packaged as 'used goods' in order to get through customs.

While this is no new issue, it has to be said that it is exciting to see more attention being brought to this serious issue. Igaharo et al. in their journal: "Toxic Metal Levels Nigerian Electronic Waste Workers Indicate Occupational Metal Toxicity Associated With Crude Electronic Waste Management Practices", thoroughly evaluate the health risks associated with electronic waste metals within Nigeria.

In the study, they evaluated the toxic metal levels in Nigerians who have been occupationally exposed to e-waste. Large levels of Lead, Mercury, Arsenic, Cadmium, and Chromium were detected within the blood tests of the Nigerian e-waste workers. To unsure a non-biased study, age-matched non-exposed participants were also studied using: standard electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. 

The results showed statistically significant elevated levels of toxic metals within the workers compared to the non-exposed study group (see: article for scientific measurements). Additionally, data indicated that elevated levels of toxic metals within the e-waste exposed population is directly related to the e-waste management practices within Nigeria. The potential for serious health effects, such as kidney disease and cancer; proceeded by genome instability and depressed immune response were highlighted within the study. 

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Monday, March 09, 2015

CHILD LABOUR IN FOOTWEAR INDUSTRY: POSSIBLE OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH HAZARDS - Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Vol. 9, No. 1

The demand for inexpensive labor is an increasing problem throughout the developing world. While most people would point to the west and the ever increasing consumption of goods that drives this demand/ supply market. In some circumstances the demand for cheap labor comes from within individual developing countries, and the failure of their governments to implement policies to protect its citizens from exploitation is very much to blame.

The Guardian's recent publication: "Aid money for development projects in Nepal linked to child labor", supports the claim that so-called "blood-bricks", made by children as young as eight and who are working up to 15 hour days, are being funded by the very initiatives that are put in place to uplift the country from poverty (development aid money). In effect, the money being invested is doing the opposite of what it is meant to do and increasing the already problematic exploitation of children that exists today. 

Pete Pattisson, who is the author of the above story, further goes on to suggest that the use of child labor in the production of "blood bricks" is far-reaching in many development projects throughout Nepal and has been systematically traced back to United Kingdom aid money in one such circumstance. Pattisson further suggests that it is estimated that up to 28,000 children are working in brick kilns across Nepal, with an estimated half being that of the age of 14 or under. This alarming number is due to the lack of policies, and the failure of adherence of existing ones, by the many aid agencies and governments throughout the development chain. 

The exploitation of children within the labor force is staggering throughout developing countries, and no more is this issue apparent than in India. The West's overconsumption of goods and the need for a bargain-price creates a market of impoverished children whom work long hours for very little, or in some cases, no pay at all. 

Rajnarayan R. Tiwari in his journal: "Child Labour in Footwear Industry: Possible Health Hazards", provides a more concrete study of the potential risks and overall health hazards involved with such unethical businesses practices. He states that the Government of India has acknowledged that at least 17.5 million children are being used as workers throughout its export industry. Further, is the fact that the footwear industry is considered to be one of the most significant within India, as well as globally- next to China. Children between the ages of 10 - 15 years of age are mainly employed in assembling shoes, while approximately 80 percent work for contractors at home.

Some of the processes involved in producing footwear for export are: cutting patterns, sewing, assembling, and finishing. While finishing consists of soling (fixing upper potions of the shoes to leather or rubber soles) with glue. The child workers are cramped in poorly lit rooms and suffer from continuous inhalation and skin contact of toxic industrial adhesives. Thus most of these children suffer from respiratory problems, lung diseases, and skin infections. The more serious side effects being that of: nasal cancer, neurotoxicity and adverse physical factors. 

It is suggested by Rajnarayan, that child labor be abolished completely within the production of goods and services in India and to allow the child to be a bread eater, instead of a bread earner.

For this journal and others from this issue, click here.


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Monday, March 02, 2015


The recent article: "Creating a fertile future for smallholder farmers in Africa" and published by The Guardian, asks what the most effective ways are to encourage development of smallholder farmers within Africa. Frederika Whitehead, who is the author, answers this very crucial question. She suggests that diversification, training, and working with the private sector are the main variables to encourage such growth. Whitehead argues that diversification is a high priority, in effect, it helps smallholder farmers in preventing economic risks of market collapses, and helps prevent land degradation. Yet, this is hindered by governments, as well as businesses that encourage dependency on fertilizers, as well as encourage them to grow single crops (see: above article). 

Further to this, Whitehead reiterates her interviewee, Marc Pfitzer, who is managing director of a non-profit consulting firm; that one of the main issues within development of smallholder farms is the lack of training. Pfitzer advocates that the private sector has a real incentive to provide adequate training because the farmers will then provide them with their products/ services. Therefore both parties have the potential for economic gain. 

Ngugi et al., in their journal: "Transforming Agriculture Through Contracted Extension Service Delivery Systems: The Case of Kenya's Agricultural Productivity and Agribusiness Project", verifies the inadequate expertise and diversification mentioned above. Further, they solidify the fact that the transformation of smallholder agriculture from subsistence farming to agribusiness focused systems is crucial to attaining Kenya's vision 2030 goal.

To counter this issue: The Kenya Agricultural Productivity and Agribusiness Project (KAPAP) is implementing an innovative service delivery model, which focuses on Community Driven Development (CDD), demand driven and public private partnerships through contracted Service Providers (SPs). With the aim being, that such a model will contribute towards increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers, as well as their income.

The implementation of the model brings together sector players as implementing agents; while the SPs alliance were competitively selected. The services delivered to the farmers' common interest groups (CIGs) include high level value chain interventions, such as organizing farmers for marketing, and connecting them to other markets, as well as other service providers. Payment of the service is achieved using farmer grants and is established through achievements of a set income benchmarks negotiated prior between the farmers and their SPs.  

A total of 109 service provider alliances were contracted within the month of January 2012 to offer services and expertise to 118, 865 smallholder farmers (Males= 57%; Females= 43%). They were then organized into 4,355 Common Interest Working Groups (CWGs), and after a time-span of 15 months, the achievements made through use of this model were substantial. 

The results indicated that the farmers had both an increase in production, as well as income. They earned a total of US$ 44,118 million at a service delivery of US$ 1,124,706, giving an econometric return of investment of 39.4 percent. To this end, the achievements made by the use of this model qualifies it for inclusion amongst other feasible extension approaches. The potential to transform the agricultural sector in Kenya, as well as other developing countries with minimal modifications, is of great significance altogether. 

For this journal and others from this issue, click here.


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