For more than two centuries, The Old Farmer’s Almanac seemed to hold the answer to every crop grower’s questions, like when is the best time to plant onions (“as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring”) or harvest potatoes (“after 10 weeks, usually in early July”).
Agnes Mwaki prefers to use an app. After the 49-year-old banana farmer in Meru County, Kenya, recently switched to growing onions — a more profitable crop — she needed help determining when to transplant the seedlings and when to harvest. Through a government program that provides her with a smartphone, Mwakinow uses WhatsApp to send a photo of her onions each week to an agronomist. “When I spot a problem, I just take a photo and send it to the agricultural officer, and she describes the drug [I’m] supposed to use and I buy it,” says Mwaki.
In recent years a growing group of mobile apps has moved in with access to real-time advice and market intelligence, and the latest of that technology is originating where this kind of data is increasingly vital: Africa.
Read the full story at OZY.
The U.S. Department of State regularly issues travel warnings for people heading overseas. These travel advisories recommend precautions that travelers can take to better avoid and react to dangerous circumstances. Erring on the side of extreme caution, the State Department often posts alarmist messages, comically inflating the risks posed in foreign countries.
There’s only one country the State Department won’t warn you about. It’s a country where there were 12,664 murders in 2011, where there are almost as many guns as people, and where there’s a shocking lack of preparedness for natural disasters, even in the most advanced cities. Here’s how a State Department travel advisory might look for the land of the free.
Read the satire at Vocativ
Even the smallest of bribes can stifle an economy when they’re magnified millions of times over.
When a police officer gets caught soliciting a bribe, most people would tend to blame the cop. In Kenya, the government is trying a new approach: clamping down on the people whopaythe cop.
And they’re going about it in a strange way, ordering that Nairobi’s public matatus— the beat-up, privately owned vans that ferry most of the city’s commuters — go high-tech. Passengers are being asked to use popular mobile banking applications like m-pesa to pay the fares. No more cash-carrying passengers, no more bribes, the thinking goes.
Many in Kenya say government officials aren’t naïve in their hope to stem corruption this way — they’re just plain lazy. High-tech solutions like digital fare cards or mobile phone payment apps abound. But Kenya may be no exception to the rule that ending bribery must begin and end with old-fashioned justice for the people who solicit the bribes.
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Read the full story at OZY.
Coca-Cola is partnering with governments, NGOs, and other companies to improve access to water, occupying a gray area where genuine charity meets corporate profit.
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — For years the Mlalakua River overflowed with garbage during each heavy rain. Homes would flood with water contaminated by sewage and trash. Even in the dry season, the narrow river had a nasty grayish hue, the product of runoff from the factories situated alongside it, residents and local water experts say.
Some here call the Mlalakua River by a different name: the Coca-Cola River. The nickname comes from the red-brown hue of the water. But it may also reflect the fact that among those factories that line the river’s banks is a Coca-Cola bottling plant, one of three in Tanzania. As the world’s largest beverage retailer and one of its most recognizable brands, Coca-Cola goes to great lengths to protect its image. And a few years ago, someone at the company seems to have realized that being associated with a garbage-filled river was putting the company’s local reputation very much at risk.
So in 2012, Coca-Cola entered into a public-private partnership, or PPP, aimed at cleaning the river. The company — partnering with nearly a dozen government entities, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other private companies — would dredge the sludge and garbage from the river, then engage the locals in a plan to keep it clean.
But there are currents of criticism about the project — both from local residents and from a number of NGOs that focus on sustainable development. Critics wonder whether the cleanup was intended to achieve genuine and lasting change or to advance the short-term public relations goals of a multinational corporation. Indeed, most water experts and residents interviewed by GlobalPost say the Mlalakua River cleanup was inherently flawed. They say that while the river is undeniably cleaner, the project did not address the root causes of the pollution: the absence of a sewer system and trash collection for the communities along the river’s banks.
A two-month investigation examines what happens when motives of good will and profit mix.
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — Last year, Coca-Cola announced a $100 million partnership with the International Finance Corporation to provide business skills training and micro-loans to “empower” women — those who sell Coca-Cola products, that is.
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The program has already involved 200,000 women in Nigeria who “touch the Coca-Cola value chain,” according to the company. For instance, a woman might receive a loan to buy water from a local Coke bottler and resell it in bulk, or a farmer who grows fruit used in Coca-Cola products might receive a loan to increase her crop yield. Watchdogs say the project, ironically called the Banking on Women initiative, is merely a savvy way for Coca-Cola to increase its own reach in the country while diverting so-called development funding from the International Finance Corporation, a subsidiary of the World Bank, to subsidize Coca-Cola’s profit-seeking activity.
A successful Coca-Cola partnership in Tanzania to better distribute medicine across the country shows that not all public-private partnerships have to be self-serving.
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DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — Coca-Cola, the world’s largest beverage retailer, has an unparalleled ability to get its goods to anyone and everyone. In Tanzania, Coca-Cola reaches areas where even essential medicines and life-saving medical supplies do not. An incredible 35 to 40 percent of all orders for medicine from Tanzania’s 5,000 health centers go unfilled due to “stock-outs.” The drugs simply don’t arrive.
If Coca-Cola can reach all corners of Tanzania, why not medicine? At last it is beginning to, thanks to Project Last Mile, a partnership that is helping to fix a number of kinks in the medical distribution process.
The Chinese Invade Africa
By Ian Johnson
A year ago this month, gunmen affiliated with the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab stormed the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The three-day standoff killed 67 people and wounded many more. The event riveted the world for days. Those who survived are still recovering.
Among the dead was the Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor. He’d come to Nairobi that weekend to speak at Storymoja, a Pan-African literary festival. Hundreds of Kenyans and visitors from around the world had gathered at the National Museum downtown to discuss literature, memory, politics and country, and to meet luminaries like Awoonor. The poet had led a workshop, presented a talk about his forthcoming book and taken part in a press conference.
But Awoonor was at the Westgate Mall, enjoying the company of his son, Afetsi, when the first gunshots rang out. He died. The next day of Storymoja was canceled. In Accra, Ghana, later that week, hundreds gathered at the airport for the arrival of the poet’s body. He was 78 years old.
Another Ghanaian poet, Kwame Dawes, explained to me Awoonor’s significance to Ghanaian culture and African history.
The Western Kenyan village of Nyawita is a dry, sparse place. In the mornings, wives tend to small plots of corn or cassava near their mud-wall homes. Husbands shepherd their few cows around, searching for patches of grass. Children attend a local school if their parents can afford to send them.
Victor Ochieng has spent almost his entire 39 years here farming corn, tomatoes, and other crops. Until recently, it was all the father of six could do to scratch out a living for his family. He wanted to buy pumps and pipes to irrigate his crops with water from his well but couldn’t afford it.
“Farming has so many challenges, and one of the biggest is that rains disappear,” he said. “I wanted to farm even during the times of drought, so I could take my crops to the market while the price is high.”
One day last year, a couple of out-of-towners showed up in his village. They walked from house to house, chatting with the locals. When the visitors, Kenyans like Ochieng, arrived at his home, they told him something astonishing: Some Americans he’d never met wanted to give him and nearly all his neighbors a fortune. Not a loan, a giveaway. With no strings attached.
Read the full story at TakePart.com
Foreign Aid is broken. Can giving cash directly to the poor help fix it?
Just give money to the poor: That’s the essence of GiveDirectly’s strategy for global good. It sounds way too simple to work. What about trainings and empowerment and oversight?
But initial studies suggest it works very well indeed — and that GiveDirectly could jumpstart an entirely new way of easing global poverty.
In western Kenya, GiveDirectly grants recipient families about $1,000 over the six to nine months, more than doubling their annual incomes, on average. Recipients can spend the money however they want. So far, it seems, they’re making investments with long-term returns: sturdy tin roofs that, unlike thatched ones, don’t require constant repairs; school fees for their children; and livestock and land.
One internal study of the cash transfers found that families saw their personal assets increase an average of 58 percent over a year, while monthly incomes rose an average of 28 percent, thanks to returns on investments made with GiveDirectly cash. (The study was conducted by a researcher at MIT’s Poverty Action Lab and a co-founder of GiveDirectly.) Just across Kenya’s western border in Uganda, a three-year government cash-transfer program had similar success.
Could the GiveDirectly approach rescue development?