Looming Collapse of Kariba Dam: A Common under threat

December 6, 2016 by

This surely is a subject of interest in the area of Sustainability and the Commons as well as Development in general as will be revealed in the following discourse.

Kariba Dam is made of a double curvature concrete arch that lies on the Zambezi River Gorge. The dam is 128 metres tall and 579 metres long, forming Lake Kariba – one of the world’s largest man-made lakes, extending 280 kilometres and holding 185 cubic kilometres of water. Financed by the World Bank, this dam was designed by a French company and constructed by an Italian company in 1959 during the British colonial era in the then Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). On the dam lies one of the world’s largest hydro-electric power stations, which was initially built to sustain, among other colonial interests, the copper mining exploits of the Copperbelt in Zambia.

Currently, Zambia and Zimbabwe derive the bulk of their energy from Kariba Power Station, with Zimbabwe getting another small percentage from four Thermal Power Stations – Hwange, Munyati, Harare and Bulawayo. Zimbabwe is getting about 42 % of its full energy needs from Kariba, and a present near-complete expansion of the power station will increase this capacity to 71 %.

However, it has been revealed that since the dam’s construction, the water fall-out from the spillway has been scouring the ground near the base of the dam, creating a large ‘plunge pool’ which is said to be now 90 metres deep and only 30 metres from the foundations of the dam. To save the dam, it is claimed by experts that this plunge pool needs to be reshaped to prevent further backward erosion towards the foundation. Although the World Bank is not convinced of the looming danger, the Institute of Risk Management South Africa (IRMSA) and AON South Africa have both issued a report which claims that if nothing is done, the dam will collapse in three years”.

Up-river, from Kariba, is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the Victoria Falls (locally called Mosi-Oa-Tunya, meaning The Smoke That Thunders). Further down the Zambezi River is another Power Station which lies on the Cabora Bassa Dam and supplies clean power to Mozambique and South Africa (40% of the region’s hydro-electric power). All along the Zambezi valley are various communities that interact with and rely on this environment, besides a rich array of wildlife. The Zambezi Valley is therefore a very significant kind of macro-common, with many other micro-commons within it. However, collapse of Kariba dam would trigger a tsunami that would tear down the valley, wreaking havoc on both human and animal life in this macro-common. The Cabora Bassa dam would also inevitably give way under the force of this tsunami.

The consequences on this macro-common and the countries in the region are ‘too ghastly to contemplate’ as the article puts it. Given this scenario, should the International Community and all interested parties wait until a catastrophic disaster strikes? My opinion is that it is wiser to take preventive action now rather than rush to chip in with aid when disaster has already struck. Meanwhile, all communities in the valley must be notified of this possibility and emergency plans must be put in place as a matter of urgency.


Drink lemonade to fight against poverty!

December 5, 2016 by

The start-up Lemonaid produces drinks with fruit from organic farming and fair trade. The goal of the company: to use the profit to finance sustainable projects in developing countries.

A refreshing drinkthat is green and fair, does it sounds too good? Yet it is the goal of the start-up Lemonaid. On 7 October, she was rewarded in the Non Profit Awards which aim to enhance the pioneers of altruistic economy.

In 2008, in Hamburg, Germany, the founders have a simple but innovative idea: like children wishing to pocket money, they’ll make lemonade, a good and simple product. And instead of keeping the money for themselves, it will be used to finance actions in the service of social improvements, environmental and ecological in developing countries through their foundation “Lemonaid & ChariTea e.V.”.

Currently, the company has developed three different products: Lime, Maracuja and Blutorange. All fruits are from organic farming and fair trade, and the recipe is similar: fruit, sometimes sugar and sparkling water. No preservatives, coloring or other artificial flavor. The fruits come from small farming cooperatives located around the world: the sugar cane is grown in Paraguay, the lime is from Mexico, the maracuja is grown in Sri Lanka, the mango is from India.

100% ethical

Of course, they want be sure to respect their values. Lemonaid do not just use international certifications to choose farmers. The company also meets the farmers who provide their raw material to ensure to their working conditions are fair

On every bottle sold, 5 cents is levied. Since January 2010, the company has already managed to raise over 1.2 million € and supported many projects. Water tanks in South Africa to collect rainwater are helping local farmers. In Paraguay, an organic farming school provides young people with basic education as well as more practical matters related to agriculture, fruits and vegetables, livestock.

This social business helps to create a relation between different systems of  commoners around the world to support local initiatives of sustainable development. “Limonaid” confirms that the spirit of company and collective action have points of convergence. This example also highlights that the spirit of a business can be a means of promoting sustainable development in communities.


EU Food waste/Energy waste.

December 5, 2016 by


According to the United Nations food and agriculture organisation, food waste is a global issue that sees a third of global food production lost or wasted annually. This is as the global population is set to rise to over 95. Billion by 2050. This is inevitably going to put a massive pressure on the world’s food system.

Food that go uneaten or discarded is referred to as food waste or in some cases, food loss. There are various causes of food waste or loss and they occur at the various stages of food system (production, processing, retailing and consumption). Global figures on food waste shows that each year, 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced is wasted. This includes about “45% of all fruit and vegetables, 35% of fish and seafood, 30% of cereals, 20% of dairy products and 20% of meat”.

EU food waste.

The European Union throws away 89 million tonnes of food and the United Kingdom is one of the worst offenders. A House of Lords commissioned inquiry into the cost of food waste across the EU expects the figure to rise to around 126 million tonnes by 2020 if there is no significant action taken. This will have a tremendous impact on the environment, economy and society. From the inquiry, food waste across the EU-27 was broken down into 4 sectors. The household had the highest share of food waste at 42%. This is followed by food/drink manufacturing with 39%, food service/hospitality at 14% and retail/wholesale at 5%.

Between the big UK grocery market (accounting for around 87%) such as M&S, Morrisons, Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Co-operative food, they were responsible for the disposal of around 200,000 tonnes of food in 2013 alone. These supermarkets contribution of 1.3% in the UK in 2013 add up to the overall 5% retail and wholesale sector waste in the EU. On the other hand, the biggest contributor to the EU food waste is the household. Some of the waste generated are as a result of unnecessary strict sell-by dates, promotions (buy one get one free), cosmetically perfect food and poor storage of food.

All the food waste equal to waste of energy that was used to produce them. These energy come in the form of water to grow crops, land nutrients and fuel for chemicals production and powering farming machines. According to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, they report that “about 550 billion cubic meters of water is wasted globally in growing crops that never reach consumer.” The production of meat increases the use of water as it takes 20-50 times more water to produce 1 kilogram of meat than 1 kilogram of vegetables.

Legislation against food waste.

In Europe, some countries are taking steps to combat food waste.

Under a set of laws brought in by the French government to crack down on food waste, French supermarkets will be banned from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Instead, they will be donated to charities or used for animal feed. Supermarkets are barred from deliberately disposing and spoiling of unsold food. They are to sign contracts with charity to give unsold food or face fines and years in jail. This move by the government is a way of tackling one of the contributions of waste in the country but they also have to reduce the household food waste with a proper campaign.

The move by the French parliament to combat food waste has also led to pressure on the UK government to introduce legislation to restrict supermarkets from sending tonnes of unsold food to landfill sites.

Some of the key proponents of tackling food waste are charities and people of the commons that are putting pressure on governments to implement laws to combat food waste as they have a great impact on the world and the resources used to produce food worldwide.


  1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/22/uk-tops-chart-of-eu-food-waste
  2. http://www.edie.net/news/5/Supermarket-food-waste–Combined-figures-revealed-for-first-time/
  3. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/the-obscure-reason-why-supermarkets-are-allowed-to-send-food-waste-to-landfill-a6861196.html
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jan/10/half-world-food-waste
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/22/france-to-force-big-supermarkets-to-give-away-unsold-food-to-charity
  6. http://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-committees/eu-sub-com-d/food-waste-prevention/154.pdf
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2015/aug/12/produced-but-never-eaten-a-visual-guide-to-food-waste
  8. https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/campaigns/food-waste

Donald Trump vs Paris Agreement

December 4, 2016 by

According to the United nations environment, the world is heading for a temperature rise of 2.9 to 3.4 degrees Celcius this century, even with Paris pledges, making sustainability of the environment a global issue. In 2015, all the leaders of the world took a giant step in sustaining the planetary earth in Paris to foster low carbon economy and promote sustainable growth in building a climate resilient society. The biggest source of future instability according to the scientists is now climate change. But the Paris agreement is under threat with the emergent of  Donald Trump  as the president-elect in  United State of America.

During campaign, American president-elect, Donald Trump opposed the Paris climate accord and promised to cancel those agreements which he claimed was bad for business. In his interview with radio talk show Hewitt; Trump said “Obama thinks ‘climate change’ is the number one problem of the world today. And I think it’s very low  on the list. So I am not a believer and I will unless somebody can prove something  to me, I believe there’s a  weather. I believe there is a change and it goes up and it goes down and it goes up again. And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer and we have much bigger problems”. This is not the first time Donald Trump a contemporary capitalist has denies climate change. In 2012 he claimed that climate change was a ‘hoax’, created by and for the Chinese to kill manufacturing companies and jobs in America. Trump’s  opines climate  change is not the biggest problem facing America today or the world. It’s just a Hoax to take job away from America,. His appointment  of the  strongest critics of climate change. Myron Ebell to lead American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team; explain Trump’s resilience to weaken EPA’s in America and undo all national and international commitments to climate action

Globally, there is trepidation surrounding trump’s view on climate change. US is the second largest gas polluter after China, many experts fear that Trump’s threat to pull America out of Paris agreement would not only leave the crusade on climate change leaderless but cripple landmark on global climate and environmental regulations such as the clean power plan, clean water and clean air plan; leaving developing countries and many impoverished  and minorities’ communities  around the world  to be at the mercy of  corporate polluters. I want to summit that Donald Trump needs education  on how to respect the environment, he has no clue on the necessity of sustainability in human relation to the earth. I think Donald trump needs to visit Africa for lessons on climate change; for instance Nigeria and see how climate change  and desertification have manifested in the drying up of Lake Chad, where the livelihood of 30million people inhabitants  are at stake. You don’t need to be a climatologist or metrologies to see connection between climate change causing drought, immigration and hike in food prices.


The earth, our Common

December 3, 2016 by

 Global warming is scientifically established, and it turned out that human beings are responsible. Beyond the COP21 agreements in November 2015, the fate of the planet depends on all of us. Everyone is invited to consider the climate as a common good of humanity. Every individual has to feel concern about it in his everyday actions. Businesses, also, must be involved, in fact industry, tourism, restauration sectors… are the major cause of climate deregulation. Today population around the world and especially in the West, have to move from a culture of climate destruction to a culture of nature and humanity preservation.

The case of the environment, refers to the issue of global governance. In fact, the lack of global institutions ability to impose rules and put in place causes severe penalties and does not push countries to take actions. Furthermore, as the common good, it is difficult to establish a common management.

In his latest documentary, Leonardo DiCaprio tries to draw the world portrait. The movie, follows the actor in his journey around the world to examine the worst climate disasters.

  • Deforestation due to palm fields in Indonesia;
  • Glaciers melt around the North Pole;
  • Beijing’s smog;
  • Oil exploitation in South America…

Spectators also see major anti-pollution sites as the “Tesla Gigafactory” and interviews with different people all more or less involved in the environmental cause. I find it praiseworthy the actor’s approach of using his status of “Oscar-winning superstar” to send a message that would affect communities directly. His celebrity give him the possibility to his combat to be heard.

Many have criticized the choice of the United Nations to awarded the title “Messenger of Peace” in ecology to Leonardo Dicaprio . In fact, he knows nothing scientifically about this subject. But with this film, DiCaprio plays its role of ambassador and delivers what it does best for a cause close to his heart and his concern for all human beings.

But this film offers only a first look at the ecological cause, it just a statement of the situation. Someone who is already accustomed to the ecological cause will not learn much from the documentary. He can even find things to complain about. For example, the film praises the renewable energy systems such as wind turbines or solar panels, but does not speak about the recycling difficulty of these materials, or how they can they be improved.

Finally, even if the documentary denounces, it does not really offer new sustainable solutions or even start possible solution to solve the various problems reported. However the documentary  opens the spectator’s eyes so they can themselves be  actors of change.

Palm oil: can it be environmentally sustainable?

December 3, 2016 by

Background on palm oil: The industry is linked to major issues such as deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses in the countries where it is produced, as the land and forests must be cleared for the development of the oil palm plantations (saynotopalmoil). Palm oil is in most of the processed food we eat made by companies such as Nestle, Kellog’s, and Pepsi. Why do people like it – it’s great for cooking, it has a creamy texture, extends the shelf life of that delicious jar of peanut butter, and it’s the highest-yielding vegetable oil crop (RSPO). Some argue that if we were to replace palm oil with sunflower or soybean this would cause even more deforestation and land use. Another argument in favor of palm oil is that it has created jobs for so many people and the economy depends on it.

In 2008, the RSPO developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). When they are properly applied, these criteria can help to minimize negative impacts (RSPO). Fast forward to 2016 “Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard” released by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) found decidedly mixed results.” WWF Scorecard Out of the 137 companies, WWF found that only 78 had made commitments to use 100 certified sustainable palm oil by 2015, while 30 have not made any kind of public commitment whatsoever (WWF). “One of the most important RSPO criteria states, no primary forests or areas which contain significant concentrations of biodiversity (e.g. endangered species) or fragile ecosystems, or areas which are fundamental to meeting basic or traditional cultural needs of local communities (high conservation value areas), can’t be cleared (RSPO).” Does an area of land exist according to this criteria? Is it really possible to find a forest that doesn’t contain biodiversity of species? How many of these criteria have to be met? Here you can find the details on how certification works.

My initial thoughts are this should be a mandate by the government for palm oil producers to operate, not an optional certification. If governments play hard ball the palm oil producers won’t get up and move locations, they have far too much invested in their current operational sites. Make them play by the rules.

I can’t help but feel that RSPO certification may not make a large enough impact to help mitigate the damage caused by palm oil production. It’s hard for me to believe that there can be much done to prevent deforestation, when the goal of production is to expand and grow revenue which means more trees planted to produce more oil. If you look at how palm oil is harvested – land clearing by burning forests, it doesn’t seem possible to minimize negative impacts. Not only are there terrible environmental impacts but negative impacts on indigenous people that once lived and farmed on the land now being used for palm oil. Governments have allowed corporations to take land from indigenous people, devastating their livelihoods (Takepart). This is my opinion but I could very well be wrong. Maybe RSPO is actually helping to make corporations accountable through certification. However, the very premise of mass production of palm oil does not coincide with protecting the environment and sustainability.

I’ve been critical so with that I have to also admit I do enjoy peanut butter and have purchased lipstick that contained palm oil among other things. We all have had a part in consumption of processed goods whether we are conscious of it or not. For the longest time I had no idea what palm oil was. However, I believe that consumers need to consume less, limit consumption of processed foods, get back to buying local produce at the farmer’s market and be conscience of waste. I am going to try my best to continue these practices in daily life.







Capitalism and Sustainability: Is it Possible?

December 2, 2016 by

“If our economies are to flourish, if global poverty is to be banished, and if the well being of the world’s people enhanced – not just in this generation, but in succeeding   generations we must make sure we take care of the natural environment and resource on which our economic activity depends”  says: Gordon Brown – Chancellor of the Exchequer (March, 2005).

The quest for our survival and that of our natural world for future generation is growing day by day. From Europe to Africa, Asia to America and to Oceania, nations and multinationals companies are working hand in hand to promote the three pillars of sustainability identified in 2005 World Summit of Social Development. Whilst it is true that sustainability looks to protect our natural environment, human and ecological health driving innovation and not compromising our ways of life. But I find this not compatible with the political ideology that drives the society we live in, the system in which few people at the expense of the others as ”capitalism” particularly in the developing and ever emerging economy like Nigeria and other African countries, Capitalism is a political ideology where minority hold most of and reward themselves with socio and political power. I agree in theory that capitalism is a sustainable economic system as long as there are consumers in a free market economy. But in practice in my opinion it leads to out sourcing for cheap labour, people being laid off and the natural environment, the ”commons” being exploited at the expense of generations to come. What I don’t know is how possible to run a capitalism economy while keeping its impact within a safe economy and ecological boundaries. According to Marx” capitalism transgressed the  boundaries of sustainability.” Marx stated further that a society geared toward sustainability will never be compatible with capitalism system,

In Nigeria 90% of her economy depends largely on oil thus achieving sustainable economy Now this is my argument with capitalist economy and social development and safe ecological boundaries without compromising quality of life is a mirage. For instance oil exploration by multinationals in Nigeria breached the three core ideas of sustainable development  in World Summit on social development in 2005. In pursuit of profit at all cost, the multinationals have breached several socio economic and ecological boundaries in relation to employment, human right, access basic resources, climate change, biodiversity loss and nutrient enrichment. Now his is my argument with a capitalist economic system that has enriched few in the society, create division and inequality and in turn create social and ethnic tension. It is possible for Nigeria and other developing nations in Sub- Sahara Africa  to continue to run a capitalist economy system that enrich few, that threatens their ecosystem and future generations, Marx  viewed capitalism as the most revolutionary economic system in history. But argued that the system is radically unstable; sudden ruin can happen at any time. A century and half later his prophesy was right, we found ourselves in the world he anticipated where minority has accumulated vast wealth and no one can predict what will happen or the value of anything now or in the future. Now there is a change in the way we live our life and people are struggling to cope. For the past three years we are in the state of perpetual unrest, global financial crisis that  threatens the  global economy. Marx writes in Communist Manifesto that “Everything that is solid melts in to air” to depict the end of capitalism and the introduction of communism system. I disagree slightly with Marx on this, I understand the principle  of capital being productive, and that it ceases as such only where the development of these productive forces themselves encounter its barrier in capital itself (Marx, The Grundrisse, 1845). But for more than a century, capitalism never faced off our systems despite hide and seek games played by all actors all over the world.

The question is how do we avoid capitalism structures and still achieve sustainable economy development, social development and ecological protection in our world especially Sub-Sahara Africa. The current issue of transnational partnership in global development can only work if the capitalistic motive is not allowed to play its role.

Jo Freeman in ‘Tyranny of Structurelessness’ writes that rejecting governance structure or leadership roles leads to lack of accountability and deep conflict. According to Freeman, ‘there is no such thing as structure-less group’. Then, what is the way out of capitalism (for the sole purpose of profits) structure that is not working properly? Sustainability can only begin when we cultivate the culture to value the future of people and environment over the excessive pursuit of wealth by multinational in order to have a sustainable society. Maybe , it can only be effective, if morally strong governments that are ready to challenge multinationals and back up regulations with actions are put in place.



















The Commons: Rural vs. Urban

December 2, 2016 by

rural urban

It might be difficult to pinpoint a commons in the current big and mega cities particularly capital and industrial ones. In urban areas, where capitalism is the dominant system, free access is the more-prevalent model. While on the contrary, in the countryside, the probability of spotting a commons becomes more likely. I would like to argue, from my own perspective, why commoning and the commons have more presence in rural areas than in urban ones. The opposite definitely applies for capitalism.

First, the act of commoning, or doing things in common, is relatively premised on collective recognition and consensus about certain values, beliefs and attitudes attributing to common practices. This formula of interrelated and correlated components can be best incarnated among rural people who have lived and communicated together inherently from ancestors to descendants. Rural people have always shared the same traditions, habits and manners; faced similar challenges and jointly figured out outward-looking solutions. Besides, they are substantially more conservative and protective of their commons and common practices; more cautious and reluctant about the innovations and modernizations driven by the hegemonic force of capitalism. Concepts such as conviviality, simplicity, originality and common destiny are cherished and valued.

In contrast, people in urban areas probably come from diverse backgrounds; appreciate different beliefs, values and traditions and, in a city like London where I currently live, belong to various countries. Apparently, city people do not necessarily share the same principles, ethics or perceptions. Besides, they are increasingly more impressed, receptive and eventually submissive to the attracting baits of a capital life style and the glamorous, yet artificial, modern products. Well, this, certainly, does not eliminate the existence of commoning and commoners in the city. Yet, it makes it more complicated and infrequent.

Second, people in rural areas mainly rely on their own local subsistence and livelihoods. They consume the production of each other’s and mutually contribute to the welfare of the entire rural community. The perpetuation of such pattern is a substrate for their communal well-being. This posits the significance of their commoning, for instance, to jointly discuss the risks of an approaching storm on their crops and how to minimize the potential damage through collective efforts.

On the contrary, within the market primacy, people in urban areas basically work for private companies and corporations that widely impose long working hours and hectic, stressful atmospheres. Their income (wage) is dependent on their individual contribution and competency. Generating more monetary benefits for the owners is the principle and final destination of their endeavor. This induces the fact the capitalist utilitarian approach, in the city, critically obstructs people from doing in common and hinders the existence of commons in general.

Two years later, Flint is still without drinkable water

December 1, 2016 by


It has been over two years since the residence of Flint, Michigan started complaining about the quality of the water. This began when the city of Flint switched their water supply from the Detroit water system to the Flint River due budget cuts. The water that services tens of thousands of homes is heavily polluted with lead and other corrosive water agents.  The level of pollution is due to the fact that the Department for Environmental Quality was discovered to not be treating the water with anti-corrosive agents, which is violation of the federal law.

The city of Flint is an extremely marginalized community with 41% of the population living under the poverty line and 56% of the population of African American descent. The town use to be home to one of the largest General Motor’s plants but has been in decline since GM started closing it’s plants in the 1980’s.

The residents are now having to use bottled water and water filters that are being delivered by government officials. The city is now having to replace the water infrastructure which includes miles of aging pipes. The repairs are estimated to cost $60 million and take around 15 years to complete with over 30,000 homes needing service lines replaced. The residence of Flint have consumed unsafe levels of lead and are now facing major health issues. 

Leadership for the Africa We Want: Sustainable development

November 30, 2016 by

Often the developed countries, International bodies such as IMF and World Bank, and sometimes development professional tend to reflect the notion that they ‘know’ what Africa (or developing countries)need to be able to push forward with development. This article raises some interesting issues concerning African countries’ development.

At the 2014 African Development Bank Annual Meeting, attended by African Statesmen (past and present), as well as Civic Society, South Africa’s former President, Thabo Mbeki, pointed out that what Africa wanted was:
1. Africa free of violent conflict and war
2. Africa free of poverty
3. Africa free from corruption
4. Africa driven by women emancipation
5. Self-assessment of performance by the African leaders

Former President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa added that Africa wanted:
1. Equality of gender
2. Equality of opportunity
3. A promise of good, healthy life
4. Good education
5. Unselfish leadership

Both leaders and the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, agreed that African leaders were selfish, with some attaining power for the sake of enriching themselves. However, although there is existence an African Peer Review mechanism, the leaders concur that there is a culture of fear of rebuking each other and telling them where they were going wrong. As a result of these weaknesses, (according to them), the continent which is the richest in natural resources continues to be exploited by the developed countries for their own benefit.

It follows that African leaders know what they ‘want’ and not necessarily what we think they ‘need’. The question is “How can they be helped to achieve their objectives?”