Archive for December, 2009

Climate Change and Development

December 14, 2009

Climate Change and Development

It is well known that there is an agreement amongst scientists that global warning is taking place. Though there is debate about how much of this is expected to fall under the basic of climate change and how much to human activities. However, the key contribution to ever take place in climate change is the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation by human activities which has led to the increased in carbon dioxide. The natural cause of climate change are decided or examined in other places (Houghton, 1997), for example, during the 1980s, the estimate rate of strong forest in South Africa were around 5million ha per annum (Grainger, 1993:131), which led to the reduction in precipitation and cause the increased in erosion, and also led to the carrying of other materials into rivers and causing high risk of overflowing. Although it is yet to be shown that there is an increasing idea about an environment which is getting more and more dangerous, though it must be put in a historical context where serious event have been reported differently in the past. In recent time the interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere seem to be one of those changes that took place in the past. However, the effect mentioned is among the increased level of hurricane activities and the rising levels of the sea.

Hurricane taking place in the Pacific Ocean seem to be getting stronger in the last two decades.
But a clear link has not yet been established about this, Morse and Stocking, et al (1995: 48) suggest that the existence of temperature in the surfaces of the sea seem different from the normal degree of disrupted atmosphere throughout the world.

Global warming and the rise in sea temperature have led to the cause of hurricanes storms. This has been shown in the case of the Caribbean that the rise in the surface of the sea temperature could not only lead to hurricane storms, but also changes their arrangement, Wigley and Santer (1993). In the last five years, the Caribbean has experienced the incidence of hurricane storms, and it has been the worse hurricane period since the 1930s. When combining a set of circumstances where the level of precipitation seem to be getting lower in some part of the Caribbean Basin (Walsh, 1998), a circumstances of forcefulness often show  more drought and fast land degradation through agriculture land during raining season.

By Mac-konah Tokpah

The Climatic Environment and Agricultural Development

December 14, 2009


The Climatic Environment and Agricultural Development

There is no doubt that the climate has direct restriction on agriculture, especially during dangerous weather where there is no particular season for growing enough crops. Most Important to this is the equal process by which water is transferred from the earth surface to the atmosphere, this also show the availability of water for plant growth (FAO, 1978).  The growing period is taken as a period when precipitation reaches half of the quality of water that evaporate from the surfaces of the soil and plant, and when the plants lose water through their leaves.

The tiny droplet that is needed for crop growth may be over-ridden by some form of irrigation, but the main problem that is connected to irrigation is waterlogged, aquifer depletion and salinization. Salinization is a major problem in warm and dry land. For example, in India, it is roughly calculated that 4.5 million hectares have been damaged by salinization (Agnew and Anderson, 1992:159), while over 60 percent of the dry soil area in Haryana has been classified as marginally salty.

Changing the regular form of rainfall can also lead to changing the pattern of crops. Throughout history, the rise and fall in the climate has taken placed for some time, and many farming organizations have gradually developed a set of strategies to deal with these issues effectively. For example, in a warm and dry land, the state of vegetation will continuous to change slightly in response to the climate in that area. Again what may be seen by outsider as land degradation may also be seen by people living on that land as normal or adaptable way of living (Warren, 1995; Sullivan, 1966). Strategies have been developed for taking risk, including the expansion of food production, animal farming, using different seeds for long and short-term growing period, and using flexible approach for planting seeds in drought area.

It has been seen in the case of Sahel in sub-Saharan Africa, that it is very difficult to deal with long-term drought problems. The intensification of agriculture and the displacement of people form the north in the 1950s and 1960s, including the intense drought season during the 1970s and through the 1980s, has led to the severe shortage of food and the death of thousands of people and millions of animals in the region. The word desertification was invented in the late 1940s by the United Nations Conference on Desertification in Nairobi in 1977 to clearly show that the traditional belief that is surrounding desertification can only be resolve by means of keeping the climate under observation or through a detail examination of population growth, and good understanding of social movement that involve the irregularity of the climate, and the effect it have on plants, Thomas and  Middleton (1994).

The fast natural recovery of the Sahelian ecosystem, or the short-term rise and fall in the climate has been overwritten in a harmful and damaging way by human activities, such as technology, therefore climate change have significant effect on food security, both on the sustainability of particular crops and the weather condition in particular area, therefore the major problem facing most developing countries is the uneven arrangement of people living on the land, and the mismatch of agricultural land (Greenland et al., 1998). This means, food security in most developing countries is very slight, but climate change may benefit some people, but may not benefit large group of people

By Mac-konah

Can Fair Trade Help to Reduce Poverty?

December 13, 2009

I remember quite well a question posed by Massimo during one of the lectures on SD, which reads as follows: ‘what is the difference between fair trade and just trade. The question encouraged me to research a bit into whether Fair Trade can help reduce poverty in the global South. The following notes represent some of my findings:
Trade and poverty are interwoven through economic growth, and faster economic growth resulting from trade liberalisation may definitely help to reduce poverty. However, orthodox research on trade and poverty has been marked by theoretical inconsistencies and empirical flaws (Deraniyagala and Fine 2006). Neutral trade regimes create labour-intensive production in many developing countries, thus increasing the demand for labour and unskilled employment. This scenario coupled with the potential upward pressure on unskilled wages, can definitely help to reduce the incidence of poverty in many countries in the global South. On the other hand, whether this actually leads to a fall in poverty, would largely depend on whether incomes for unskilled workers rise above poverty line. There is currently a huge volume of literature on trade and poverty. One conclusion drawn from the evaluation of this literature is that the effect of trade liberalisation on poverty is complex. The profile of the poor in a country, the production and consumption structures and etc all affect the effect of trade liberalisation on poverty. Therefore, it is hard to conclude that free trade and openness can result in poverty reduction. In fact in the case of Sub-Saharan Africa, it is not even clear if there will ever be free trade at all.

Bio-fuels Not Real Alternative to Fossil Fuels

December 13, 2009

Bio-fuels are becoming increasingly popular for fuelling automobiles in parts of the US and Latin America. Currently Brazil is the largest producer and exporter of bio-fuels. Therefore, the Brazilian government strongly advocates bio-fuels as the only real alternative to fossil fuels. In fact at the current climate summit in Copenhagen, Brazilian delegates pushed hard to show that bio-fuel can combat Greenhouse gas emissions and lift millions out of poverty. According to Ciobanu (the Guardian Friday, 11 Dec. 2009) for the past 30 years, since Brazil started the ethanol programme, an estimated 800 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions have been avoided.
However, bio-fuel production may not be sustainable in the long term as the practice is now eating into farmlands meant for food production and seems to encourage deforestation. Therefore, if in the long run bio-fuel production will continue to encourage deforestation and affect food production, then this makes it an expensive alternative to fossil fuels since the forest that is expected to capture part of the Greenhouse gases, is all disappearing.

Co2 Emissions during the Copenhagen summit

December 11, 2009

A few days ago, i was outraged when i came accross an article on the telegraph that read “Copenhagen is preparing for the climate change summit that will produce as much carbon dioxide as a town the size of Middlesbrough”. A link to this article is provided below:

I can understand that it is a must for all these leaders to meet and discuss the issue of climate change in order to come to a decision on how to tackle the global problem but is it right to do so by contributing to the problem in the process? It is believed that over 15,000 delegates and officials, 5,000 journalists and 98 world leaders, will be attending the summit, and with them, 140 extra private jets are expected, 1200 limos have been booked with most having to be ordered from neighbouring countries and to be even more critical, Denmark is supposed to be a relatively low carbon country so why are taxes on hybrid vehicles so high? According to Ms Jorgensen in the text, among the executive vehicles ordered for the visitors, only five of them are electric or hybrid.

In my humble opinion, this should have been an opportunity for our leaders to prove to the world how commited they are in tackling the climate change issue (if in fact they are). Leaders of neighbouring countries for example could share a flight, they could maximise the use of eco-friendly vehicles, in fact i strongly believe they should make that step and use the latter in their day to day activities. Leaders lead by example not by force.

Climate, Environment and development

December 11, 2009

Climate, Environment and development

It is very impossible to separate climate from the environment. Whilst it is quite easy to define and classify climate, in the past it has been belief that the climate is free from the control or influence of human activity. Over the past years, the environment has had many definitions, though it has been used as a custom to describe the surroundings in which people lived. People make particular changes to environmental conditions in such a way that the environment in turn influence the development of human activity (Gupta and Asher, 1998:3). Perhaps in the development context this is very important in terms of the success or  failure of  agriculture and human living condition, in both rural and urban areas.  That means, the global climate are changing due to  human activity, and it is widely been accepted by a group of scientist that the result are possibly important for the world poorer communities.

Developing countries are situated within the tropical areas of the climate, where natural plants are equally distributed within its environment, and the land are also naturally balanced with the maximum amount of flora and fauna, therefore interfering with such environment or climate can always increase problems within human activities. The combination of high temperature and heavy rainfall can affect the chemical rate in the atmosphere, and also reduce the production of minerals soil. Generally sandy soils gives support to low biomass and its most-likely to contribute to the cost of erosion. Therefore where population and development put pressure on the use of land or crops, it can always lead to the breakdown of culture.

By Mac-konah Tokpah


December 11, 2009


Empowering the community to have saying in decision making process can increase their ability to come out with new ideas for development. Institutional power is a good idea to involve more people, and reduce the influence of small interest groups in the decision making process.

Therefore establishing a strong sustainable development policy will increase and strengthening the needs of government, NGOs, gender, religious, kinship, and other social groups in the society, but the consequence involving institutional capacity is the complexity of interconnected elements that surrounds the society ( Healey, 1997) that means, it involve proofs and effort to establish relationships between all interest groups about the way development should take place in a community. The key point of involving local community in decision making process, is to show the role of local institution in sustainable development (Amin and Thrift, 1995). This approach was supported  at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit for the achievement of participatory environmental management

By Mac-konah Tokpah

Behind the Somalia Piracy: a common effort to stop illegal fishing and nuclear dumping

December 10, 2009

As bizarre that might sound, the piracy along the Somali coast did not start as a mere gangster activity. I was myself surprised to learn that the initiative started as a mean of reacting against illegal fishing by foreign boats in Somali waters; but it was also a way of fighting against the dumping of nuclear waste on Somali coast following the collapse of the state since 1991. The British Independent wrote on 5th January 2009: “Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken.”

The Independent revealed that over the years, Somalis living along the coast experienced strange rashes and some gave birth to malformed babies. The effect of radioactive materials worsened in 2005 when Tsunami washed ashore the dumped radioactive cargoes. The British paper estimates to three hundred people who lost their life as a consequence of radioactive contamination.

In a speech to Chatham House Think Tank in London last October, the Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke declared that “many countries are fishing illegally in Somali waters and have pushed formerly profitable Somali fishermen into the pirate trade.” (AP, 31 October 2009).

There is certainly a hidden ethical issue behind the Somali piracy decried by many. These poor fishermen’ way of life has been destroyed by the capitalist greed of some western fishing companies. What the Somalis started as a non-organised movement to protect their common way of life has developed unfortunately to a lucrative business. It is true that the phenomenon has gone far beyond the initial and genuine claim of the fishermen. Thus, some gangsters have used the opportunity to make easy money.

The Somali prime minister’s statement reproduced by Reuters (5 December 2009) comes as an appeal for an international effort to resolve the Somali piracy problem: “Our fishermen currently watch as other countries plunder our waters. Whilst we condemn it outright, it is no wonder these angry and desperate people resort to ‘fishing’ for ships instead.”

Hopefully, if Somalis are left alone with their fish, they will no longer fish for boats. A simple survival logic!

A final thought….

December 10, 2009

This is a moment of reflection on the blogging experience. I believe that the purpose of this exercise was to create a forum for learning and sharing together. An approximation of a peer to peer experience, of creating a commons.

Now we come to the end of this experience and I have to ask myself and all of you whether we acheived this aim?

I’ve been looking back over the entries on this blog, looking particularly at the posts. Some people have gone to an amazing amount of effort of researching their posts, constructing a full argument. Yet so many of these have no comments in response, or only one or two at best. In fact, the maximum number of comments on any one post is five. When I finish this, I’m going to go through and add a comment to all those posts that currently have no response in recognition of the efforts that everyone has made in their contributions. I’m not doing that to be a martyr, or to increase my word count for my essay. I’m just doing it because everyone has made the effort to say something and I think we all deserve a response to our work.

But how does this discourse of mine relate to sustainability and the commons? How does it relate to whether we achieved what we set out to do? My point is this. We have all participated in creating this blog. But to me the commons, and commoning implies some degree of partnership work. I’m not sure that this is what we’ve seen. How much debate has been stimulated on these blogs? How often have we seen comments in response to comments, rather than all comments relating to the initial post? Massimo suggested that we share potential essay topics via the blog. We haven’t. And as I said before, how many posts received no response – work unacknowledged? We’ve given information, but to what extent have we really shared?

I wonder to what degree this is a product of the blog being linked to our assignment. Would we have been more interactive, more willing to challenge, to create debate, even to be wrong if we weren’t conscious of being marked at the end.

There is also the question of sustainability. I know this wasn’t one of the purposes of this exercise, but I think it is pertinent to question how many people would consider continuing to contribute to this blog once the semester has finished?

I know I’m forever questioning things, and I don’t mean to undermine this exercise. Having never blogged before, I actually found this an interesting experience. But as the first students of this course, it can only be beneficial for take some time to reflect together about what we have learned, demonstrated and acheived in creating this blog.

“Kenya’s Mau Forest dilemma: Is it a common issue?”

December 9, 2009

I watched with a lot of curiosity the debate over Kenya’s Mau forest as it unveiled. Kenyan government has evicted more than 20,000 families from their settlement in Mau Forest. The motive sounds however reasonable: “The government says the destruction of the forest canopy has sparked an environmental disaster downstream, with millions of people suffering from water shortages”, reports BBC (16 November 2009).

The Mau forest is Kenya’s largest water catchments. It supplies water to Lake Victoria and the Nile. Unfortunately, the forest is no longer able to fully play its water reservoir role following deforestation activities. These activities are part of the livelihood of the populations settled in the forest: clearing of the forest for agriculture, fire wood, charcoal production, etc. The consequence of the deforestation is currently being felt downstream by the populations who live on the valleys. Kenya is therefore experiencing drought.

The Kenyan government has decided to evict over 20,000 families from the forest to preserve it from further destruction. But some observers think these populations have been used as scapegoats for a problem which goes beyond the national level: the global warming and the CO2 emission which is currently debated at Copenhagen.

However, there is a dilemma brought by the eviction of these farmers. According to a BBC report, “many had nowhere else to go and are now living in squalid and desperate conditions on the forest boundaries” (BBC, 16 November 2009). Having lost their farms, some are without food, weak and exposed to diseases.

My concern is whether these farmers should be considered as commoners who are therefore entitled to their way of life. I really believe that there was a better way for the Kenyan government to resolve this issue without creating human prejudice. Maybe it has just decided to sacrifice present life to preserve future one!