Thursday, 16 May 2013




Press Release N.53/2013

Investments in Post Harvest Loss strategies cardinal says AUC

Lusaka, Zambia, May 14, 2013–The AUC today said investments in agriculture should go beyond improving on-farm productivity to also address Post Harvest Loss (PHL) reduction strategies. 

drea PHL.JPG

Speaking during the African Union Commission, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO) regional engagement on post harvest loss management meeting, Dr. Janet Edeme said significant amounts of food are lost after harvest thereby exacerbating food insecurity on the continent.
She said an efficient post-harvest sector would not only improve food security, but would also provide significant multiplier effects that would in turn enhance supply chain efficiencies, generate rural income and create on and off farm employment.
‘’ Therefore investment in agriculture should go beyond improvements in on-farm productivity to also address the post harvest sector and complementary areas of agri-business and agro-industry, whose potential as engines of economic growth is widely acknowledged.’’ said Dr. Edeme.
Dr. Edeme further acknowledged the endorsement of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), as an African initiative to foster agricultural policy reform at country and regional levels to boost agricultural growth and productivity in Africa.
COMESA Assistant Secretary General for Administration and Finance, Ambassador Nagla El- Hussainy said it was encouraging to note that the CAADP agenda required that African Governments strengthen their post harvest loss reduction strategies.
She said production would only be meaningful if efforts to ensure proper storage of produce were enhanced.
‘’…..High yields without proper infrastructure like storage facilities and roads and without robust interventions along the value chain-indeed without proper harvest systems are a waste of time.” Ambassador El- Hussainy said.
FAO representative for Zambia, Mr. George Okech, said post-harvest loss was a critical element in the quest to promote food security, alleviate poverty and foster the economic growth of African countries.
He noted that Africa’s commitment to invest in agriculture was revealed at the AU’s 13 th Heads of State and Government Summit which was themed, ‘’Investing in Agriculture for economic growth and food security.’’
‘’I am pleased to highlight that most African countries are implementing agricultural strategic frameworks that are in line with CAADP.’’ Mr. Okech said.

Although there is increasing  awareness  and knowledge amongst Member States, on the problem of PHL and the positive effect  that reduced losses can make in improving economic growth and  food security situation in the continent,  the capacity of African governments and other stakeholders to address and meet this challenge remains very limited.  It is in an effort to assist in meeting this challenge that AUC in close collaboration with FAO formulated the PHL Project. The project, to be implemented jointly in close collaboration with the RECs, is designed to strengthen the capacity of Governments and other organizations and institutions in the agriculture sector to tackle PHL by filling some of the exiting knowledge and policy gaps.  It is also aimed at promoting increased investments in PHL reduction programmes in the context of the implementation of the CAADP based National Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans (NAIPs).
The project intends to build regional level capacities of senior technical officials of: Ministries of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Trade and Industries, national research organisations and other public sector institutions involved in post-harvest issues of AU Member Countries to identify, design and implement country level projects targeting PHL reduction and introduce methodologies and tools for conducting post-harvest loss assessments.
The three day training workshop intends to provide strategic guidance and practical know how to stakeholders on how to make effective investments in their post-harvest sectors that will promote food security, enterprise development and economic growth as well as filling in the gaps in PHL. It further intends to come up with bankable proposals to be implemented with support from the African Development Bank within countries’ CAADP agricultural investment plans.

Embargoed until 4.30pm GMT (10.30am Peru time) Wednesday 15 May 2013

Vested interests pushing Amazonian highway bill, putting uncontacted groups and the environment at risk under the guise of development

Plans to build a 270 km highway through the Peruvian Amazon are mired in legal violations and potential conflicts of interest, said Global Witness in a new report today.

The Purús highway bill, currently being considered by Peru’s Congress, proposes a new road between Puerto Esperanza (Ucayali) and Iñapari (Madre de Dios) in the Amazon rainforest. This pristine wilderness harbours the richest stands of mahogany left in Peru (1),  and is home to some of the few remaining indigenous groups living in ‘voluntary isolation’(2).

If approved, the new highway would have devastating impacts on the environment and indigenous communities in the area, violating laws on protected areas, the consultation rights of indigenous peoples and protections for ‘uncontacted’ indigenous groups. The Transport Committee, which is charged with making recommendations to Congress, however, has failed to highlight any of these concerns in its official deliberations.

“It is crucial that investment comes to the isolated Purús region to improve services for the population, but there are important questions to be answered over who this project would actually benefit. The huge social and environmental costs that would result from this new highway have not been properly assessed and Congress should vote it down,” said Billy Kyte, campaigner at Global Witness.

Global Witness’ investigation suggests that access to valuable commodities such as timber and gold, which the highway would provide, may be one of the driving factors behind the bill’s support:
  • Local officials previously drew up an illegal contract with logging company Agro Industrial SAC granting logging rights along the road in return for its construction. Priest Miguel Piovesan, a key promoter of the highway locally, led the negotiations over the deal that was never signed in full.
  • Congressman Carlos Tubino, the bill’s main sponsor, was Political Military Head of Ucayali at a time when illegal timber from Purús was openly transported using military planes.
  • Congressman Francisco Ccama, another key supporter, has extensive gold mining interests and potentially stands to benefit through the opening up of new gold reserves. 
“There are so many concerns with this proposal, it’s worrying that things have even got this far. Some of the most vocal supporters of this project have links to timber and gold interests, two commodities sure to be extracted from the area via any new highway. Such voices are dominating the debate while calls from Peru’s National Ministries and indigenous organisations to reject the bill are being ignored.” said Kyte.

The report also documents bribery and other crimes at the local level associated with the highway plans:  
  • Forest is being illegally cleared along the route of the proposed highway, using funds provided by the local municipality in Purús.
  • The Purús municipality has been accused of fraudulently obtaining the signatures of indigenous peoples to falsely claim indigenous peoples’ support for the highway.
  • One indigenous leader was offered a bribe of 30,000 Soles (around US$10,000) to gain the support of indigenous groups for the road project.
Global Witness is calling for the bill to be suspended, pending a full investigation into evidence of legal violations, and potential conflicts of interest.

“Peru’s Congress should suspend the bill. A parliamentary investigative committee needs to urgently look into these allegations whilst the bill’s implications are properly examined”, said Kyte.