Times are tough for OFO Bike-Sharing Startup

December 15, 2018 by

Founded in 2014, the Beijing-based bike-sharing company has expanded rapidly to 20 countries and 250 cities by mid-2018, with markets in UK, Mexico, Australia, Singapore, France and US. Sharing bicycle is regarded as an eco-friendly transportation tool by people around the world, and can become a substitute for traditional cars and buses energized by fossil fuels.

OFO bikes are conveniently accessible for people in streets. Riders should first download an OFO app onto their smartphones, and create an account with payment details. Then the nearest bike can be located with this GPS-embedded app. What riders have to do is to scan the unique QR code on the bike, and a four digit code will be sent to the app. So riders can unlock the bike with code then go everywhere they like. The cost for each rent is about $0.5 every hour, regardless of distance.

china bike graveyardBroken Ofo bikes. Getty Images 

After the journey, riders should scramble the lock, find a spot and park it in the public area. But herein lies a problem, many riders randomly park their ofo bikes, which have made sidewalks or streets littered with mountains of bicycles. Crowded places like city centres and attractions don’t have enough place for bikes, and a few regulations are implemented to manage riders parking behaviors. In addition, some riders would put their private locks on the bike for fear that no available bikes in rush hours, so others cannot use the bicycle.

What’s more, the repair of bikes also remains a challenge. Although riders can send massages to inform the company about the condition of bike by clicking the button in the app, many people think this is too bothersome. If the maintenance crews fail to repair the bike timely, some bikes are just abandoned because a huge number of broken ones are waiting to be repaired. 

Riders in US also complain that it’s not safe to ride an ofo bike in the evening, because they do not have a taillight. Riders may find it difficult to identify whether there is anyone riding in front of them at night, which made it a potential danger for traffic accidents.

 

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Common land – the case of the Kalinago People.

December 15, 2018 by

The very idea of the commons has been marginalized and dismissed as a means of managing resources because of the self-interest motive. The tragedy of commons develops in this way. Commons may loosely be defined as areas where certain people hold beneficial rights to use land that they do not own.

View along the east coast of the Kalinago Territory 

The Land

Commons are not merely a resource but a form of social organisation within the Kalinago Territory the land is communally owned.

The Kalinagos arrived along the island from South America with their families, plants an animals, and established a new life culture which was adapted from their mainland continent. The area covers 1,530 hecatres on the east coast of Dominica, from the village of Bataca in the north to the village of Sineku in the south. It was established in 1903 by Dominica’s first Crown Colony administrator, Hesketh Bell, who governed Dominica between 1899 and 1905. The Kalinago Territory is administered by the Kalinago Council, which is headed up by the Kalinago Chief. Both council and chief are democratically elected by residents of the villages within the Kalinago Territory every five years. The Kalinago Territory and its people are represented in government by the Ministry of Kalinago Affairs.

By law, the Kalinago Territory is communally owned. No one person can buy or sell part of the territory nor use it as collateral at a bank for a loan. This is often cited by Kalinago as a hindrance to both personal and business development and for this reason some are calling for statutory modifications or specific financial allowances to be enacted for Dominica’s indigenous people. Any Kalinago resident may stake a claim to a vacant portion of land, however, and so long as no-one else has already claimed it, and the Kalinago Council approves the claim, then that resident may build a house there and work the land. Any land which has been left untended for more than a year may theoretically be claimed by someone else, subject to approval by the Kalinago Council.

Within the definition of the commons people have the common right to use some good, and a law that defends this right, there is a cultural process presupposed in this – a process by which a group of people agree that such and such a set of goods and resources should be held in common, and act together in a way that preserves the commons. Each individual who participates in this cultural process undergoes a subjective transformation called: commoning.

Commoning is based in four broad principles. These principles shape the psycho-symbolic space that is sustained by people who participate in commoning.

1. Plenitude: Commoning proceeds from a place of wealth. We do not need to accumulate more than we possess. Together we have all that we require.

2. Mutual benefit: Commoning hinges on a spirit of reciprocity and justice. My gain does not need to mean your loss. Genuine success produces mutual benefit.

3. Spiritual abundance: Commoning challenges us to discover our inner abundance and to add it to a shared stock of potential. Commoning requires us to cultivate the overflowing generosity that represents true spiritual health.

4. Transition: Commoning is a threshold activity. To make common is to participate in an unfolding movement for social change, with positive implications for politics, economics, and the planet. Each act of commoning – be it a matter of collaborative consumption, peer-to-peer production, open space technology, or democratic assembly – is an experimental contribution towards a new social and economic paradigm.

The Kalinagos each play their part in managing the community, where every individual of the community exercise his rights and with responsibility to manage his community, which is participatory community planning in terminology of planning. This has worked for a long time however more recently, the Kalinago people have recognized the economic constraints from not having individual access to land titles. Nonetheless, the system ha still worked and continues to work for the Kalinagos.

Lab-grown steak is said to have smaller environmental footprint

December 15, 2018 by

According a recent news released by the Guardian, world’s first lab-grown steak was produced in Israel. The scientists extracted foetal bovine serum from a cattle, and mixed it with several types of cells on the scaffold. They said that lab-grown steak tastes 100% like real meat, but the taste still needs perfecting. The thickness is another problem waiting to solve, and scientists are working with a tissue company, trying to learn the experience of tissue producing which would provide some enlightenment to them.

Lab-grown steak

It will take 3 or 4 years to buy this lab-grown meat in markets, but chicken nuggets will soon be in some restaurants. According to a report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 2006, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 % – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.

Recent scientific studies show that huge reductions on meat-consuming would helpfully cut greenhouse gas emission and avoid climate change. According to both the scientists and the company, the lab-grown meat will reduce the impact on environment owing to its less animal welfare issues and no antibiotics. But Louise Davies, of the UK’s Vegan Society, said that although lab-grown meat are grown out of a real grass-feed cattle, it still originates from cattle’s cell, so it is not entirely vegan. Lab-grown meat also aroused a debate on food labeling- whether they can be called meat? Or do these products contain meat? Relative laws are also becoming a hot issue. Government may have to come up with more approaches to solve food safety problems of lab-grown meat.

 

Local Taxi Drivers Rage war against Uber and Taxify in Durban

December 14, 2018 by

 

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For many years the KwaMashu taxi Association have been the leaders when it comes to public transportation in South Africa. But since the rise of Uber and Taxify, customers now prefer to use these app powered taxis. Well the local taxi drivers are not having it and have decide to take a stand against these big corporations and their drivers.

Uber and Taxify drivers all over Durban and even cars that look like they may be Ubers have been getting attacked by members of the KwaMashu Taxi Association. The local taxi drivers as like in other countries have been complaining that Uber and Taxify are taking over the market and putting them out of jobs. Since nothing has been done in their defence they have taken matters into their own hands and have now made it unsafe to take an Uber. This comes amidst talks from Uber of wanting to expand their range of cars to minibuses. Which will not only affect the local taxi drivers but will also affect the mini buses which are popular in South Africa.

uber5Reports of people losing their lives over this war have been reported. The local taxi drivers have made it a point to attack not only Uber drivers but also attack customers in the car. It has been reported that the local taxi drivers doing the attacking are mostly targeting cars with women in them, for obvious reasons that they will probably be less likely to defend themselves. Uber and Taxify Drivers have tried to report to the police who refuse to be of any assistance. While the SA National Association is claiming to know nothing of these incidents (it should be noted here that the Association dislike the way both the App drivers operate and say the apps “create an uneven playing field”.)

In Response to all this controversy Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has spoken up to say that Uber will be implementing a Safety Toolkit for both drivers and passengers. The toolkit is to be an upgrade in the existing app that will allow passengers and drivers to access an emergency button and a safety centre button for riders, amongst other safety features. The emergency button is supposed to alert local authorities or security companies near you in case of an emergency. This upgrade of course has not yet been implemented and one can only speculate on whether the new safety toolkit by Uber will help the situation or only make it worse.

The world of plastic

December 14, 2018 by

Plastic: once a revolutionarily flexible material, today a widely used but equally widely loathed pollutant. Because less than ten percent of it is recycled and each year more of it is produced (as it’s one of the by-products in the oil industry), many people seek a way to alleviate plastic pollution. One of them is Dave Hakkens, a Dutch inventor and the founder of the Precious Plastic platform.

Precious Plastic is a grassroots online community, sharing knowledge and experience, and encouraging low-cost local plastic repurposing. As you can see on the map below, they reached an impressive audience in just a few years, spanning all the inhabited continents and making a small change in almost every country.

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PreciousPlastic.com shows its users how to recognise different types of plastic, how to build machines for each stage of reshaping it into fresh items, and how to use a range of techniques to create new products. The machine range featured a while ago in the HackSpace magazine (hackspace.raspberrypi.org/features/precious-plastic-machines).

The full kit includes four machines: a shredder to create waste plastic flakes, an extrusion machine to process the plastic flakes into a 3D printer filament or granulated plastic (both used for further work on the material), an injection moulding machine to produce very precise objects, and a compression oven to make large and durable objects out of dense plastic.

As the article explains, “Dave began developing a series of low-tech machines to move plastic recycling from expensive, large, industrial-scale factories, and into the hands of enthusiastic makers looking for new, more environmentally friendly materials to work with. The resulting set of open-source, easy-to-build machines enables almost anyone, anywhere, to contribute to plastic recycling, while opening up new opportunities for economic development and job creation. Since launching the Precious Plastic project in 2013, over 200 plastic recycling workspaces have been set up, and new ones are opening up around the world every week”.

If your preference is watching a short clip to reading a somewhat lengthy and technical article, or if you’re just short of time, you can watch a series of YouTube videos, featuring the machines creator, starting for example with the one below.

It’s worth knowing that the machine plans and all other projects and support are available for free to anyone willing to make use of them, as part of the open source commons. I sincerely hope that the tsunami-sized wave of plastic waste can at least be diminished in size thanks to this Dutch inventor.

Doctor Helps Turn a Lagos Swamp Into a Sustainable Trade Zone

December 14, 2018 by

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For my final blog post of the semester, I wanted to highlight someone who is making a positive impact towards sustainability. Dr Amy Jadesimi is an Oxford-trained medical doctor and the CEO of LADOL (Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics), an industrial free zone built out of disused swamp.

Forbes states “She says LADOL is building the world’s first Sustainable Industrial Special Economic Zone (SSEZ) and is using the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “to build a unique circular ecosystem, servicing a range of industries”.

The project is 100% Nigerian owned and services numerous industries under the UN’s sustainable development goals. I found this to be interesting and impressive because for one it shows ownership by someone who comes from the community it is serving and secondly, LADOL is building an eco system in which people can operate 24/7 in a safe environment. LADOL has created jobs and is helping an under-served market.

The article also states “West Africa is one of the largest under-served markets in the world with the fastest growing population, she adds. Industrial companies working in LADOL can service this market sustainably and profitably while creating tens of thousands of jobs”. I think it is safe to view LADOL as a commons, combatting enclosures by bigger government.

LEGO’s Action to Be Eco-friendly with Sustainable Material

December 12, 2018 by

In August 2018, LEGO released a new series of products shaped like trees and bushes. What is worth noting is that these bricks are made from sugar cane, a new type of green materials rather than plastic. This demonstrate that LEGO, one of the world largest toy company, is making efforts to produce in a more eco-friendly way.

LEGO sustainable eco-friendly

                                 LEGO/Press

This new set is made from polyethylene plastic and carries a botanical theme reflected in the trees, bushes and leaf-shaped pieces. LEGO’s vice president Tim Brooks said that this product made from new materials just look totally the same as previous plastic ones with high quality. Brooks added that LEGO is proud of this new set because it represents their first step towards the call for a sustainable world. Alix Grabowski of the World Wildlife Fund also speaks highly of LEGO’s ambition and action, which would encourages companies in manufacturing industry think and work creatively about sustainability.

In addition, LEGO intends to produce most of its products and packaging using sustainable and recyclable materials by 2030.

 

Technology Disrupts Farming

December 11, 2018 by

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A recent Financial Times article describes the technological advancements in the farming industry. Innovators such as Google have developed  technology to help farmers be more independent and increase their farming income. The technology helps farmers choose from a variety of different seeds and make a proper guess on what to farm.

“The mood of the 53-year-old, who also farms soyabeans and wheat on more than 5,000ha of farmland, has been boosted this year by a corn seed recommended by Farmers Business Network, a digital platform dubbed as a “Google for farmers””.

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For most farmers, it can be a risk on what to farm and when, all depending on the crop. They have also seen falling numbers in their income and at the bottom of the farm supply chain. Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund is a billion- dollar start up in California which offers their participants crop data, fertilisers and pesticides, and help them in buying crop.

“In retail, there is Amazon, automotive has Tesla, transportation Uber and Lyft and there is Netflix in media. In every other large industry we can point to a new company that’s changing the way the business is done.”

The article believes agriculture has seen disruption before though industrialization and the green revolution but I personally believe this new technology has the potential to go wrong. Although it shows benefits by giving farmers more data and increasing their income, it serves as a threat to people who can’t afford the technology. This not only increases the competition between farmers but it can lead to problems in the market.

Land grabbing in Angola. A growing threat to commons in rural communities

December 9, 2018 by
Angola is a country rich in natural resources, such as diamonds and oil. When the oil price dropped, the government decreed a diversification of the economy, encouraging investment in agriculture from foreign as well as local companies. A new land law was passed to protect small-scale farmers and rural communities. But often the legal procedure is not respected and farmers lose the land on which their livelihood depends.

LWF works to protect communities from land grabbing

(LWI) – In Angola, farming communities are vulnerable to losing their land. Foreign investment presses its way into the country, endangering small scale farming and authorities offer little protection. LWF raises awareness through workshops on land rights and administrative procedures, and offers literacy classes for adults, to help people protect their livelihoods and claim their rights.

Eduardo C. (name changed), 53, used to cultivate a plot by the river in Moxico province, eastern Angola. One day he saw a fence had been erected, cutting his land off from the river. The soba (village leader) told him his land had been leased to a private investor from the capital, Luanda. Eduardo had no choice but to move to a different area without river access or irrigation. “The private investor had already paid and signed all the papers when I learned about it,” Eduardo said.

The same happened to others in his village, whose land had been also partially or entirely leased to the same private investor. None of them were consulted before the contracts were drawn up, nor compensated for their loss. “If someone comes with a legal document, who has not worked on the land, and someone else claims he farmed the land all his life but cannot provide a legal title, authorities will always give the right to the person who has the document,” says José Caca Tomaz, Municipal Director of Agriculture in Leua municipality, the district capital. “The numbers of those cases go up. It is worrying.”

A farmer in his house in Moxico province, Angola. Like many others, he is a strong supporter of the ruling party and the president, who is depicted on the posters.

A farmer in his house in Moxico province, Angola. Like many others, he is a strong supporter of the ruling party and the president, who is depicted on the posters.

Corruption and ignorance

Large land occupation and grabbing cases like these are happening in various places in Angola, a country rich in natural resources, such as diamonds and oil. When the oil price dropped, the government decreed a diversification of the economy, encouraging investment in agriculture from foreign as well as local companies.

“The government is encouraging diversification of the economy, but the problem is that often the legal procedure is not respected,” says Malungo Germano, LWF Advocacy Officer in Angola. Suddenly, private investors, many of them high-ranking government officials, become interested in land which has been farmed by communities for generations. They are often acting in the interest of foreign investors. The communities in most cases find themselves on the losing end, despite a new land law which was put into place to protect their interests.

“Angolan land law decrees that community land cannot be sold but the community can grant the use of the land to an outsider,” explains Calucango Caseno Sabino, LWF Community Lead Justice and Peace Officer. The community needs to be consulted before a decision is made, Sabino adds, but that is seldom the case. “Instead, the traditional village leader uses an authoritarian approach in decision-making,” he says.

However, an element of power imbalance exists when authorities in a highly centralised government visit a local village chief. Lack of knowledge or illiteracy prevent the farmers from learning about the situation until it is too late.

In a village play, farmers tell the story of how an investor convinced a village chief to give him land. The role of the village chief is here played by the soba himself (sitting, middle).

In a village play, farmers tell the story of how an investor convinced a village chief to give him land. The role of the village chief is here played by the soba himself (sitting, middle).

In many cases, bribes have been passed – incentive payments, boxes of wine. In Bernardo’s village, the soba became the manager to the same investor to whom he had leased community land. “I consider him a friend,” he says, without having any sense of wrongdoing, while farmers from the village loudly voice their discontent. Like in this community, land grabbing starts to threaten not only livelihoods but also the social peace.

Learning to complain

LWF staff have witnessed many such cases corruption.Therefore, LWF focuses on empowering the community. In workshops, communities learn about the land law and their rights. They learn to organise themselves in village development committees, which provide a stronger basis from which individuals can challenge decision or discuss matters with authorities.

Literacy classes for adults enable communities to read official announcements and understand the law. A large number of participants are women, who are starting to take the initiative in securing the land and protecting their family income.

In Chimpanzee’s village, women have formed an association, defined a plot of 259 hectares for the cooperative, and are now in the process of obtaining a legal title for it. “The men have no savings spirit,” says Margarita Vumbi, secretary of the group. “They put the money in their pockets and we cannot even pay the school fees. It’s the women who worry about the children and grandchildren. Through LWF training, we realised we need to get a legal title for our land.”

Literacy classes and workshops on land rights enable women and men to better interact with authorities and to claim their rights.

Literacy classes and workshops on land rights enable women and men to better interact with authorities and to claim their rights.

Finding their voice

LWF also works with local authorities and village leaders, inform them of their rights and obligations to the local communities. “The problem is that many community leaders are not aware of land law,” says Cahilo Chijica, sectorial head of agriculture and rural development in Moxico province. “They do not know that the land cannot be sold.” To him, LWF is a valuable partner for him, not only in educating communities but also for local authorities. Workshops with administration educate civil servants on how to best inform people of their rights, and at the same time are a reminder of their obligation to do so.

Cahilo Chijica sectorial head of agriculture and rural development in Moxico Province said that “The problem is that many traditional leaders are not aware of the land laws.They do do not know that the land cannot be sold.”

 

LWF not only advocates with local and national authorities but also takes cases like that of Eduardo to the international level. Land grabbing and loss of livelihoods are important indicators of the country’s human rights record, as defined by the UN Human Rights Council. The UN can then put pressure on national governments to better protect communities.

A couple which has been driven from their land, on the plot where they farm cassava. With support by LWF, they have started to employ all legal means to get their land back.

A couple which has been driven from their land, on the plot where they farm cassava. With support by LWF, they have started to employ all legal means to get their land back.

Sometimes, LWF donors and partners use their influence on their respective national governments. “We are working with our German parliament and with political parties to ensure that international rules like the voluntary guideline on land tenure are followed,” says Petra Aschoff, from the German development agency Bread for the World. This serves to influence “German actors in Angola, as well as Angolan actors which are financed by German money.”

In the little village in Angola, Eduardo will not get his land back – yet. The soba, however, has made a commitment in front of the entire village to try and rectify the situation. “The next time the general comes here, I will tell him to stop exploiting the land, because it belongs to us,” he promises.

 

LWF work on land rights in Angola is funded by Bread for the World.

The video shows how LWF is working with rural communities, village chiefs, local and national administration to raise awareness and to support people in claiming their

The role of women on ending the Liberia war.

December 9, 2018 by

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The Second Liberian Civil War was an intense four-year conflict that involved child soldiers on all sides and extensive civilian casualties. It was also one of the few civil wars that spread into neighbouring countries, in this case, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The conflict began in April 1999 when a rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), with the support of the government of neighbouring Guinea, began a military offensive to topple the government of President Charles Taylor. They quickly gained control over much of Northern Liberia.

The origin of the second civil war was rooted in the previous conflict waged between 1989 and 1996 which saw former rebel leader Charles Taylor become president of the entire nation, following UN-monitored elections in 1997. The country remained at peace only two years before LURD began its military campaign. Most of LURD were Mandingo and Krahn fighters led by Sekou Conneh. Many of them had been part of the rebel group, United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO), which had fought in the first Liberian civil war against Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) as well as the government of President Samuel Doe.

In September 2000, to weaken support for the rebels from the government of Guinea and Sierra Leone which was now also supporting LURD, Taylor persuaded anti-government dissidents in both nations to form the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). They along with some of his paramilitary supporters began insurgencies and thus expanded the conflict to three nations. His action drew condemnation and opposition from the UN as well as support for Guinea and Sierra Leone from UK and the United States.

By early 2002, LURD troops had outmanoeuvred Taylor’s forces and were only about twenty-seven miles from Monrovia, the capital. Under leaders Conneh and Thomas Nimely, LURD troops mounted successful raids that bypassed government strongholds, and in May, they staged a bold attack on Arthington, less than twelve miles from Monrovia.

By early 2003, a second rebel group called the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), backed by the government of Côte d’Ivoire, emerged in the south to challenge the Taylor government as well. By May 2003, Taylor controlled only about one-third of Liberia. With rebels closing in on Monrovia from all sides, President John Kufuor of Ghana, then chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), convened a peace conference in Accra to work out a negotiated agreement that would avoid further bloodshed in a four-year conflict that had already taken nearly three hundred thousand lives. When Taylor appeared initially reluctant to support the peace process, Leymah Gbowee formed an organisation called “Women of Liberia Mass Action in Peace” which, after a silent protest outside the presidential palace, extracted a promise from the Liberian head of state to attend the peace conference in Accra.

By July, even as peace talks were taking place in Accra, LURD forces reached the outskirts of Monrovia and began a siege of the capital. In the subsequent shelling of the city, over one thousand civilians were killed and thousands more were made homeless. On July 29, LURD declared a ceasefire which allowed ECOWAS to send to battalions of mostly Nigerian troops to the capital as peacekeepers.  As it became increasingly apparent that his government would not survive the siege, on August 11, 2003, President Charles Taylor resigned and flew to exile in Nigeria. Three days later, two hundred American troops landed to support ECOWAS troops. On August 18, the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) announced the forming of the National Transition Government of Liberia with Gyude Bryant as president. The agreement also scheduled Liberia’s first post-civil war national election for 2005. In that election, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the twenty-fourth president of Liberia and the first woman to head an African nation. Sirleaf continues to hold the office of president, and over a decade after the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement was worked out, Liberia remains at peace.

The war resulted in the death of many and the displacement of thousands. Property was destroyed and people lived in terrible conditions. The situation has called for interventions from many people locally and internationally.

Among these was a group of women called the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace led by Leymah Gbowee.

The movement started off with praying and singing in a fish market. The group consisted of women from different backgrounds who then carried out nonviolent protests and sit-ins.

They even put in a sex strike, which according to Gbowee was not as effective. She said, “The [sex] strike lasted, on and off, for a few months. It had little or no practical effect, but it was extremely valuable in getting us media attention.”

Their consistent protests saw President Taylor finally grant a hearing on April 23, 2003. Gbowee used this platform to highlight their call for peace in Liberia. It was this meeting that saw Taylor go to Ghana for peace talks. They also did not stop there but continued with the protests to ensure that the warring sides have come to an agreement to end the conflict.

It is reported that the women’s protest and agitation for peace led to the signing of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The war officially came to an end on August 18.

Gbowee was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2011, alongside Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakkul Karman.