Farmers Pushed Off Their Land to Save Tanzania’s Great Ruaha River

KILOLO, TANZANIA � Gazing at the exposed, rocky bottom of the Great Ruaha River, known as the jewel of Tanzania, Rosemary Kasenza ponders what the future holds for her family now that there is no longer enough water for her crops.

“I am worried because it’s the dry season and I don’t have enough food to feed my children,” she said.

Kasenza grows potatoes, maize, onions and bananas on 3 hectares (7 acres) of land in the fertile Ruaha basin in southern Tanzania.

She says she used to have no problem irrigating her crops, but now the river flow slows to a trickle in the dry season.

“We have experienced long periods of drought which have badly affected the river flow,” said Kasenza, who runs a channel to drain water from the river to her farm.

The 51-year-old mother of six is among the roughly 1 million small-scale farmers who produce much of the East African nation’s food, many cultivating rice on water-intensive farms.

In the Ruaha basin, the government accuses farmers of illegally squatting on protected land along the river banks.

Now, thousands face eviction as authorities try to protect wetlands critical for the river’s flow � and the survival of local wildlife.

The government says farmers’ water-intensive methods and herders’ cattle have brought the once mighty river close to death, but farmers and pastoralists say they have lived in harmony with nature for decades, and are victims of drought.

“I don’t have anywhere to go. We have been staying here all our lives. My children have known no other home than this one,” Kasenza said.

Wildlife and water

Described as the “ecological backbone of Tanzania,” the Great Ruaha River flows nearly 500 km (300 miles) from its source in the Kipengere mountains, through vast wetlands and the Ruaha national park before emptying into the Rufiji River in the southeast.

The Ruaha river produced more than half of Tanzania’s hydropower for decades but increasingly frequent periods of drought have forced the government to shift to fossil fuels, including gas, for electricity production.

A task force set up this year by the Tanzanian government to examine the river’s continuing degradation highlighted the impact of intense agriculture on the river’s health and recommended the eviction of farmers and pastoralists from some areas.

Speaking in May after reviewing the task force report, Samia Suluhu Hassan, Tanzania’s Vice President, said the government would consider removing farmers who encroached on water sources to help restore the river’s flow.

“[We must] come together to save the ecosystem of the valley for the welfare of our lives and the interests of the nation as a whole,” she was reported as saying in local media.

During a visit to the river basin in the Kilolo area last month, muddy, drying ponds were visible along the river, and crocodiles and hippos seemingly found it difficult to cool themselves.

In another area, vultures hovered above mounds of dead fish rotting in the sun.

Officials say the degradation of the river spans its entire length, from source to mouth.

In an interview with Reuters, January Makamba, minister of state in the vice president’s environment office, said farmers who divert water from the river to their farms were responsible not only for the degradation of the environment but also for the death of wildlife.

It is illegal to divert water from the river in wetland areas the government deems to be protected sites.

“We are going to take stern measures against them regardless of their status or position in order to save the river ecology,” he said. “We feel it is necessary to be very aggressive and uncompromising in enforcing the laws.”

Long-term problems

Authorities say that the Ruaha river dried up for the first time during the dry season of 1993. Water levels have dropped and dry spells have lengthened since, sometimes lasting several months, the minister said.

“You can say, without fear of being contradicted, that the river is collapsing. And, for once, God is not responsible,” Makamba told Reuters.

He said that unless urgent action is taken to restore flows to the river, Ruaha National Park � the largest in east Africa and home to about 10 percent of the world’s lions � will die.

“The beauty of nature across the basin was breathtaking, its destruction is heart-breaking,” he said.

According to the minister, farmers with legitimate land claims will be compensated and allocated plots elsewhere but those who occupied land in the river’s basin illegally would have to return to “where they came from.”

“If someone settles in an area that he clearly knows to be protected land, they will not be compensated,” the minister said.

According to local analysts however, the government’s decision to evict poor farmers from the river basin and the more fertile areas of wetland will cut off families from natural resources they have relied on for generations.

“Smallholder farmers along river banks have for a long time managed to feed themselves and their families adequately without causing any harm to nature,” said Lucas Mnubi, an environmental expert and the editor of Nature magazine in Dar es Salaam.

Mnubi said authorities should instead teach communities how to harvest river water sustainably, not evict them from the land.

Local farmers say they are being unfairly singled out and the move to evict them would destroy their livelihoods.

“We are being accused of destroying water sources, but the government doesn’t realize the biggest enemy is drought,” said Benjamin Nzuki, a farmer in Kilolo.

According to Nzuki, local farmers have always tried to conserve water sources, especially in the catchment areas.

“We always plant water-friendly trees in order to protect catchment areas so as to allow free flow of the water,” he said.

Nzuki called on the government to work with local communities instead of “harassing them and branding them invaders.”

The minister said farming methods that were less water-intensive would be introduced in some areas, and communities taught about the importance of protecting water sources.

“We have [also] put a limit on the number of cattle that each household can keep to cope with land scarcity and manage water sustainably,” Makamba said.

However, herders who graze their animals in the riverlands are not happy.

“Pastoralism is business like any other, if you ask me to keep ten cows instead of hundreds you will obviously deny me income,” said Leikim Saburi, a herder in Kilolo district.

Source: Voice of America

‘Mama Nyandeng’ Says She Has Reconciled With South Sudan’s President Kiir

WASHINGTON � A well-known South Sudanese politician who a few months ago had called on government soldiers to lay down their weapons saying that would leave President Salva Kiir with no power, said Monday she has reconciled with the president.

Rebecca Nyandeng, widow of South Sudan founding father John Garang and former adviser on gender affairs to the president, told South Sudan in Focus that in a meeting in Kamapla last week between her, President Kiir, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, and former detainees, she and Kiir agreed to seek a solution to South Sudan’s political crisis.

Nyandeng said it was Kiir who asked for a reconciliation with her.

For me, a reconciliation between me and him; we don’t have any problem; our problem is how we can rescue people of South Sudan. It needs all of us to come together so we can see how we can mend the fence, Nyandeng told South Sudan in Focus.

Nyandeng said despite her new relationship with Kiir, she will not return to the country until all of its political forces are reunited.

Asked about the terms of her reconciliation with Kiir, Nyandeng responded, President Kiir called me mom, and if President Kiir call me ‘mom,’ then I am the mom of all people of South Sudan. If I am the mom of the people of South Sudan, I will not leave them out; I want everybody to be included. I want peace, comprehensive peace, she said.

Asked how she will convince the doubting Thomas’ of South Sudan who only believe she has reconciled with Kiir if they see her in Juba, Nyandeng answered with a question of her own: When they were doubting, what happened to them? Jesus Christ appeared to them!”

Pressed on when she will return to the South Sudanese capital, Nyandeng said, When Jesus Christ appear to me, that is when I will be going back to Juba.

Nyandeng said she wants her people to be reunited. I want them to come together, and I pray for that. We need to see that all the people who are aggrieved come to the table,” she adds.

Nyandeng said South Sudan is her country and wondered why should I not go back?

“Mama Nyandeng,” as she is known in much of South Sudan, added, I will not leave all those children outside. What am I going to do with the big son when the younger children are outside the country?

Source: Voice of America

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MEC Debbie Schafer on reduced incidents of burglary and vandalism in schools

MEC SchA�fer pleased that incidents of burglary and vandalism have reduced

At the start of every school term, one of my main concerns is that teachers and learners will arrive at a school that has been badly vandalised or burgled during the winter school holidays.

Unfortunately, crime is fluid and crime prevention is not always within our control. The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) arranged for additional security at 422 schools during the winter holiday. These measures included patrols at specific schools and clusters of schools.

I am therefore pleased to announce that the number of incidents reported is 15, down from 21 over the same period in 2016. One case was reported as major while the remaining 14 cases were classified as minor.

This suggests that local communities are actively looking after schools, in addition to our security measures. We have found that the safest schools are those where local citizens help to look after the properties.

While many schools were hubs of activity over the holiday period, there were schools that remained vacant and were therefore targeted by vandals. We need communities to be vigilant regarding activities around our schools and report any suspicious behaviour to SAPS as soon as possible. We also need their assistance in identifying or reporting perpetrators who often are from within the community.

I would like to thank those who helped us.

Unfortunately, despite measures taken by the WCED, as well as school communities, some of our schools still fell victim to vandalism and burglaries during the school holiday.

Of the 15 incidents reported, the Metro Central Education District reported the highest number of incidents in the Province, with 4 incidents of burglary and vandalism.

The Cape Winelands and Metro North Districts each reported 3 incidents. One school in Metro North was targeted twice. In the first occurrence, burglars forcefully entered 4 classrooms as well as the feeding scheme storeroom and ablutions.

Doors were damaged in each of these rooms to gain entry and food was stolen from the feeding scheme room, flush valves and piping from the ablutions, and computer towers and a radio from the classroom.

In the second occurrence, burglars gained entry to 7 classrooms and badly vandalised these. The school has an alarm system, but the alarm company indicates that the alarm was not activated by the trespassers. We are investigating and our Safe School Directorate will liaise with the school.

The Eden and Karoo District reported 2 incidents.

Metro East, Metro South and Overberg each reported 1 incident.

The most severe case was in Metro East. I was very disappointed to hear that a school was targeted for its ICT hardware. Burglars broke into the computer lab and made away with 27 full computers, the main server and a data projector.

The cost to repair and replace what was damaged or stolen is estimated at around R350 000. As a government we are investing heavily in ICT to ensure that our learners are better prepared for the 21st century as well as improving their literacy and numeracy rates.

The burglars in this case are stealing opportunities away from our children. I am not able to name the school due to security reasons, but I will say that the school is in Khayelitsha. I appeal to anyone in the community who has any information to report this to the SAPS immediately.

SAPS has reportedly taken fingerprints so if anyone is able to assist them with their investigation and help us recover some of what was stolen, please do so.

In most cases, perpetrators broke into the school classrooms and vandalised the interior, breaking windows and doors, yet stealing nothing. Perpetrators also targeted ablutions and stole basins, flush mechanisms, copper wiring and pipes from schools.

The WCED spends about R10 million a year on emergency repairs for damage resulting from major incidents of vandalism. This financial year, we have had to increase this allocation to R30 million.

The department and schools could better spend these funds on improving the quality of education in schools. At the end of the day, vandalism represents theft from our learners.

I must acknowledge the decline in reported incidents year on year, and for this I would like to thank Safe Schools, Metro Police, SAPS and members of the community for their sustained efforts in assisting us in putting an end to vandalism and burglary in our schools.

It is absolutely nonsensical that we have to tolerate this ongoing destruction of our facilities that is forcing us to divert much needed resources that could be better used to improve education.

(Please note: The WCED does not identify the names of schools that have been affected by burglary and vandalism. In many cases, the damages caused by the perpetrators can result in a security threat or breach. Therefore, it is our policy to not announce the names).

Source: Government of South Africa

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