Archive | August, 2011

Ditch the fingernail scratching

18 Aug

Last week, I got a broadcast message that read “Medical Research Authority of the US has found new cancer in human beings caused by ‘Silver Nitro or Nitric-oxide’. Whenever you buy recharge cards for cell or other purposes, don’t scratch it with your nails as it contains silver nitro/nitric oxide coating and can cause skin cancer. Please spread awareness among people and be concerned about it”.

I was concerned and thought I should share on the blog. I had always imagined how much toxin the silver coat could contain so I usually kept my eyes and nostrils away when I scratched “with my nail”. I thought I was smart but, obviously, I hadn’t been using my common sense well.

I am not a scientist, but I have always had this strong feeling that there are so many things flying in the air which we cannot see with our natural eyes that are not safe for us.

NOT all silver is dangerous though. For silver to affect our health, it must first dissolve into our body. And so, as a rule of thumb, the dangerous items are the ones that contain or are coated by silver in an easily soluble form. This means that in addition to the cards we’ve mentioned, any other silver articles that you observe to be fading or discoloring, are actually “washing” and poisoning us or our surroundings with silver. Stable metallic silver is generally considered to be safe as it does not dissolve into our body.

The soluble salts, however, are so dangerous that given levels high enough in our body, can change our skin and eye colour, cause cancer and damage bodily organs such as the liver and kidneys. So, let’s all be careful, people.

Such messages are always broadcast. Remember the “DON’T MICROWAVE FOOD USING PLASTIC, DON’T FREEZE FOOD OR WATER USING PLASTIC, DON’T DRINK  PLASTIC BOTTLED WATER LEFT IN THE SUN FOR HOURS”.

Whether you believe this message or not, it would cost you absolutely nothing to keep your finger off the silver panel (even if scratching it would bring you millions).  I know you have faith like I do that nothing shall by any means hurt you, remember also that God gave you this body and it is your responsibility to take care of  it. I would suggest that you scratch with anything apart from your finger and keep the silver dust off your skin.

There are so many items these days with silver coating that needs to get scratched off, from JAMB cards to call cards and so many other silver “scratching” items. Just be careful.

Before you take any action, think about how each action could affect our eco system which  you are a significant part of.

Thank you Dr Uche Urakpa, Doctors for Humankind, for your great contribution to this piece.

Nigeria recycles plastic bottles, into housing!

12 Aug

Making the pillars

Step by step, bottle by bottle

Katrin Macmillan was on my Climate Change radio show Green Angle on Aso 93.5fm, a few months back to discuss indoor air pollution and efficient wood stove as alternative. She also told my audience and I about recycling and Nigeria‘s first bottle house, constructed from recycled plastic bottles in Kaduna State.Thought to also share this innovation on the blog.The house has been built using earth-filled plastic bottle ‘bricks’ and mud. The three-room structure is so sturdy that it could stand for thousands of years.

Bottle walls and pillars go up.

Plastic bottles take hundreds years to biodegrade in landfill. In Nigeria millions of plastic bottles are dumped into waterways and landfill each year causing pollution, erosion, irrigation blockages and health problems.Bottle houses take this dangerous waste out of the environment and make it useful.

Walls of the bottle house are plastered

Katrin Macmillan launched Nigeria’s bottle recycling programme in December 2010. Used plastic bottles and their lids are now being collected from hotels, restaurants, homes and embassies and, so far, thousands of bottles have been collected for the bottle house builds.

The foundation is in place and the bottle walls begin

Yahaya Ahmed, CEO of Development Association for Renewable Energies (DARE), set out to build energy-autonomous houses from recycled materials. DARE have brought Andres Froesse, founder of Eco-Tec Soluciones Ambientales, to Nigeria to train local masons in the bottle building technique. Land for Nigeria’s first bottle building was donated to the project by engineer Chris Vassilou. The bottle house will be solar powered, with a fuel-efficient clean cookstove, urine filtration fertilisation systems and water purification tanks, thereby making it energy autonomous.

The next Nigerian bottle building project is a school hall in Seluja at the Africa School of Excellence, which urgently needs classroom space. The school children are being trained in the bottle brick making technique and the newly trained masons will lead the build in   January 2012.

A similar project was undertaken in Guatemala. Former Peace Corp volunteer Laura Kutner, behind the Guatemala “Trash to Treasure” project told Bruce Gellerman of Living on Earth, Boston, about the project which she refereed to as a win-win as villages are cleaner and children are getting new schools. Here is a link to Living on Earth’s  “Trash to Treasure” feature http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=11-P13-00006&segmentID=6

Children making bottle-bricks

“Nigeria has a serious waste and energy problem and this project is one small step towards making positive changes. This project can be easily replicated and is a wonderful way to enable Nigeria to recycle in a creative and practical way. Following on from this first Nigerian  bottle house the children at the African School of Excellence in Seluja have started making the bottle ‘bricks’ for their new school hall and students will be involved throughout the build. The school hall will take 200,000 bottles out of landfill and into education.” – Katrin Macmillan

Bottles were donated by

American Embassy,Centre for Disease Control, Protea Hotel,
British High Commission,Hilton Hotel, British Council Rooftop
Café, Chez Victor, USAID, Chelsea Hotel, Heinrich Boell Foundation

Photos by Katrin Macmillan and Center for Water and Environment Development (CWED).

Got lots of bottles to donate? Email: greenangle935@yahoo.com

A Nigerian quest for better use of wood fuel

11 Aug

Health issues caused by use of firewood and indoor air pollution have led to 79,000 deaths in Nigeria. Respiratory problems from smoke inhalation is the 3rd killer in Nigeria after HIV/AIDS and Malaria, killing more people than road accidents.In this radio feature, Nigerian Environmental Journalist Ugochi Anyaka reports on the health effects that people suffer when they burn wood as fuel in their homes – and how tackling this problem can help to limit climate change too.

http://www.climatemediapartnership.org/reporting/radio/a-nigerian-quest-for-better-use-of-wood-fuel/

Famine in East Africa: How you can help

7 Aug

 

(CNN) — Twelve million people are facing a hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa, and they are in desperate need of help.

The United Nations declared a famine in parts of southern Somalia, calling for a widespread international response to end the suffering.

Thousands of Somalis have been fleeing the country each week in search of food, water and shelter — many of them walking for days in the sweltering sun toward refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Nearly half a million children are at risk of dying from malnutrition and disease.

Relief organizations are calling on the international community to join together to end the crisis, and they’re working to gain entrance into areas with limited humanitarian access.

There are ways you can help.

UNICEF is asking for $31.8 million over the next three months for relief efforts. The money will help provide therapeutic treatment for women and children with severe malnutrition, access to clean drinking water and vaccinations to prevent deadly diseases like measles and polio.

“The earlier we act, the more children we can save. Americans are a generous people, and a little goes a long way — just $10 can feed a child for 10 days,” said Caryl Stern, president of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

To help UNICEF’s efforts, text “FOOD” to 864233 to donate $10 from the United States or visit the website. Follow this link to make a donation from other countries around the world.

International Medical Corps has teams on the ground in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya to provide food, water, hygiene, sanitation and mental health services to people in refugee camps.

Visit the website to donate from various countries or text “AFRICA” to 80888 to donate $10 to the group’s drought relief response from the United States. It will show up on your next mobile phone bill.

In central Somalia, the International Rescue Committee is giving cash and other assistance to families whose livestock, pastures and farmland have been decimated and helping to repair boreholes and wells for those left behind.

In overcrowded camps in Kenya, the group has helped establish reception centers for newcomers to receive food, health screenings and medical referrals. In Ethiopia, the organization is bringing in water and installing water-supply systems in three camps serving 82,000 refugees.

Visit the website to make a donation from various countries.

The United Nations World Food Programme has plans to airlift high energy biscuits and highly nutritious supplementary foods for children and pregnant or nursing mothers into southern Somalia.

Donations can be made from various countries online or via text. To donate $10 from the United States, text “AID” to 27722; to donate $5 from Canada, text “RELIEF” to 45678; to donate £3 from the United Kingdom text “AID” to 70303.

World Vision is working to regain safe humanitarian access in south central Somalia where millions of children are in urgent need of food and assistance.

The organization continues to implement programs in Somaliland and affected areas in Puntland. For families fleeing the drought, World Vision is providing nutrition supplements to malnourished children and improving healthcare and sanitation.

To donate to relief efforts from the United States, visit the website, call 1-888-56-CHILD or text “4AFRICA” to 20222 to donate $10.

Oxfam America is responding to the crisis by providing life-saving water, sanitation services, food and money. The organization aims to reach 3 million people, including 700,000 in Ethiopia, 1.3 million in Kenya, and 500,000 in Somalia.

Visit their website to donate from various countries.

Staff members from Catholic Relief Services are visiting a refugee camp in Dadaab in eastern Kenya and in surrounding communities that are hosting refugees. Workers are on the ground determining the level of food, water and sanitation needs.

In Ethiopia, the group is leading a Joint Emergency Operational Plan that is feeding more than 400,000 people.

Visit their website to make a donation from around the world or call 1-800-736-3467 in the U.S.

Mercy Corps has teams in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya distributing food and water and expanding critical relief efforts. The group is currently on the ground helping more than 150,000 people in the region survive.

Visit the website to make a donation from various countries.

ShelterBox, which provides tents and essential supplies to people who have been displaced after disasters, has a response team in Ethiopia and a second team on the way to Kenya.

The teams will be working with the Norwegian Refugee Council and Rotarians to establish how they can be of assistance during the crisis.

To help, visit the website to donate from various countries or text “SHELTER” to 20222 from the U.S. for a one-time $10 donation. Location and time specific donations cannot be accepted.

Save the Children has launched a major humanitarian response in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia feeding underweight children, providing life-saving medical treatment, and getting clean water to remote communities.

Visit the website to donate from various countries or text “SURVIVE” to 20222 to donate $10 from the United States to Save the Children’s East Africa Drought and Food Crisis.

AmeriCares is preparing to send urgently needed medical aid to areas of East Africa. The organization will ship medicine and supplies to help medical teams serving refugees in Mogadishu.

Visit the website to make a donation from various countries or call 1-800-486-HELP from the United States.

Doctors Without Borders is operating nine medical-nutritional programs in south-central Somalia. These programs, along with three projects in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, provide thousands of medical consultations each day. Teams are treating more than 10,000 severely malnourished children.

Donations can be made online in the U.S. and by following this link in other countries.

Samaritan’s Purse is feeding 2,100 families in Wajir and Garissa counties, providing a supplemental nutrition program for 1,700 school children and supplying porridge and health care to 400 children under 5 years old in Garissa. The group is also drilling boreholes in the region to supply water in hard hit communities.

Visit the website to make a donation from the United States and other countries.

The UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency distributed 2,500 emergency assistance packages to 15,000 people in southwest Mogadishu. Each package contains a tarpaulin, three blankets, a sleeping mat, two jerry cans, a kitchen set and utensils. The UNHCR plans to distribute 7,500 additional packages in the coming weeks.

Visit the USA for UNHCR to make a donation from the United States or go to the UNHCR’s main website to donate from other countries.

CARE is reaching a million people affected by the food crisis in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia and working to provide emergency relief to another million. The organization is providing food, water and sanitation facilities in Ethiopia. In Somalia, CARE is rehabilitating water pans and shallow wells and operating cash-for-work programs.

Visit the website to make a donation from various countries.

Relief International provides emergency services in conflict-affected areas in East African countries. The organization is on the ground providing food to hungry families and essential nutrition to malnourished children through feeding centers.

Go online to donate to the Horn of Africa: 2011 Famine Response fund or call 1-800-573-3332 from the United States.

ChildFund International is helping to provide food, water and basic health services to victims in Kenya and Ethiopia. The organization is focusing on newborns and children up to 5 years old due to their vulnerability and the lifelong implications of inadequate food intake.

To make a donation, visit the website, call 1-800-776-6767 or text “RESPOND” to 90999 and donate $10 to drought relief efforts from the United States.

Action Against Hunger is working to help victims in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and southern Somalia. The organization is providing treatment and medical care for acutely malnourished children, general nutritional support for children under 5 years of age, and emergency access to food, clean water and improved sanitation for vulnerable populations.

To help Action Against Hunger’s efforts, text “NOHUNGER” to 20222 to donate $10 from the United States or visit their website.

By Natalie Angley, CNN

Wishing Ogoni Yasuni

4 Aug

Ogoni Gas Flaring

Over the years, host communities world over, have had their health, environment and livelihood destroyed and their rights abused by  Multi-nationals who care little about them. Thought to share this piece by Nmimmo Bassey, Nigerian Environmentalist and Chair, Friends of Earth International,  via NEXT  on the plight of Nigeria’s Ogoni people.

 

Flowing from the Eastern slopes of the Andes, the Napo River in North Eastern Ecuador offers travellers a swift downstream ride. The broad river with occasional sand bars was so replete with driftwood that as the Oilwatch team sailed on it a week ago, we had to hold our breath when it seemed the pilot would run smack into some. Happily the over four-hour ride from Coca, the capital city of Orellana Province, to Neuva Rocafuerte, close to the Ecuadorian border with Peru, was devoid of incident.

Views of lush forests and the occasional human settlements on the banks of the river were broken at two points by gas flares that peeped through the foliage. Before heading here I had heard a presentation where it was stated that gas flaring had been snuffed out in Ecuador. Here we were, confronted with blatant evidence to the contrary. These flares cannot be hidden.

We were headed for Yasuni, the nature reserve and indigenous territory famous for being declared by the government as out of bounds to crude oil activities. Yasuni holds 846 million barrels of crude oil or 20 percent of the country’s oil reserves. Valued at $7.2 billion, the Ecuadorian government launched a programme in August 2010 where it stated that the country would leave the oil underground and forgo 50 percent of its value in the process.

Interesting. But where would the balance 50 percent come from if the oil is not extracted and sold? The proposal requires that the international community contribute the balance $3.6 billion over a period of 13 years. A steep idea, if you ask me. However, since then there have been responses, although the trickle is yet to become a deluge.

Perhaps you are wondering why anyone would sit on oil reserves and refuse to drill it. The reasons given by the Ecuadorian government include that the area in question is a national park, protected by law against mining and other destructive activities. Yasuni, in the Amazon, is a biodiversity hotspot. It is so lush, captivating and awe-inspiring you would not blink if someone suggests that Yasuni means ‘sacred land’.

Secondly, there are some indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation in this territory. They ask nothing of government, want nothing from anyone, except that they should be left alone, to stay with no contact with anyone.

Thirdly, leaving the oil underground avoids release of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

Expectedly, corporate interests seriously contest the government’s intention. But the people are all for leaving the oil in the soil here. Campaigners include school kids who have formed themselves into Guardians of Yasuni groups.

While the battle is on to leave the oil firmly underground in the Yasuni, this has already been the reality of Ogoni, Nigeria, since 1993 when Shell was expelled from their territory. Shell’s expulsion has effectively locked the oil underground here, and attempts to return to the lucrative Ogoni oil fields could not materialise as the people are not ready to forget the damage done by decades of exploitation of crude in their land. They are not ready to wash away the memories of the several lives lost when the Nigerian state unleashed a reign of terror on the people – an orgy that climaxed in the murder of Ogoni chiefs and the state murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders. Moreover, thousands of Ogonis are yet to return from exile into which they were forced by the state of insecurity that reigned in the land.

Many Ogoni people are happy that oil extraction has been halted in their land and creeks. However, with major oil pipelines crossing through Ogoni territory, they have experienced massive oil spills even though oil activities do not go on there.

Interestingly, many observers claim that there has been a deliberate arm-twisting rule by government not to allow benefits accruing to other oil producing areas into Ogoni. They insist that there are no NNDC projects in their area simply because they have rejected the re-entry of oil companies. The question they ask, and we agree, is why nothing is remembered of the decades of oil extraction here and the pollutions that led to the peaceful resistance and expulsion of Shell. Why is no one taking note that new oil spills have sacked the entire Goi community, for example, and thoroughly damaged the rivers/creeks at Bodo City?

As the Ogoni pollution study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is being released, it is hoped that the next steps of remediation of Ogoni land will be undertaken with the polluter picking the bill. We can hazard that the UNEP report will state that Ogoni is far severely polluted. If that is so, the question for the Nigerian government will be why they seek to reopen the oil wells in Ogoni? Would it be to inflict more harm on the land, and on the people? The people testify that life is better for them without the sharp claws of the oil industry.

For leaving the oil underground, Ogoni should be rewarded and not punished. They are saving their environment and saving the planet too. As the pollution report is released the best that we can do is to wish Ogoni Yasuni and to see it happen.

Web-based Flood Early Warning System for Nigeria

3 Aug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 3pm on Sunday July 12, 2011, I was chatting with my sister Ubadi when she told me how  the rain in Lagos had been on since morning. Another friend Ogechukwukamma suddenly updated her status to “This decoder, pls you just have to work”. It was the Bigbrother Africa most anticipated eviction show because one of our Favourite Karen Igho (she ofcos won) had refused to replace herself with a housemate , putting herself up for possible eviction. Thanks to the rain, I gave real time update on the eviction show to over 10 friends based in Lagos.

We all did not know the magnitude of the damage caused by the rain till pictures started flying around. Pictures of immense suffering and serious destruction. We heard stories of missing people, flooded homes,vehicles with people in them drowning in the canal, collapsed buildings killing women and children etc. I had the story of a top business executive who got drenched and his jeep inundated as he drove home. He 1st noticed his windows wind down like some invincible hands were controlling them. He tried to get them back up but nothing was working and soon the vehicle stopped. His God had mercy on him as he gathered enough energy to swim through the dirty water to safety. He survived the ordeal. The next day, he called an environmentalist friend of mine to tell his story and ended with “Now I believe this your climate change story. what can we do about it”.  The next day, children missed school as they were asked to stay home. Workers also stayed home. Nigeria lost lives and money on that day.

As a vulnerable state, flooding isn’t all time new to Lagosians, but this was totally all time extreme.The flood left about 25 people dead including 11 children and millions of property destroyed in Lagos.

And trust Nigerians, they refused to be unhappy. Funny messages were shared. “Land in Lekki for sale. N200,000.00. Hurry before it disappears under the flood”, “Flood above knee level. Who has seen Aki and Pawpaw”, “Wife found naked in neighbors bedroom says flood carried her into the room”. Some gradually laughed the pain away, but those most affected in Lagos , Kano and Kaduna would need years to recover from the trauma or may never recover from the death of a loved one.

Good news came on Tuesday August 2, 2011, when  the federal government launched an automated Web-based Flood Early Warning System (FEWS) to mitigate and control incessant flooding in the country.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, at the launch of the new technology in Abuja, stated that annual flooding experienced in most parts of the country have caused agonising human suffering and destruction of residential, agricultural, huge economic and industrial resources.

The automated Web-based Flood Early Warning system is designed to forewarn on the likelihood of flooding, thereby providing effective solution that will not only enhance the operations of relevant institution but has very high potential of reducing flood damage.

Uncontrolled urban and rural development, without adequate knowledge of the negative consequences of human activities, coupled with inadequate provision of  drainage and canals for solid and liquid waste etc are largely responsible for  these disasters.

Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, Minister of Environment, stated that the recent floods and their devastating effects on lives and properties in the country, especially in Lagos, Kano and Katsina, have brought home the need to put in operation effective flood management strategies.

Daouda Toure, UNDP Resident Representative, said the impacts of flood and flooding are usually environmental deterioration, which makes people more vulnerable to famine, diseases, impoverishment and landlessness.

He said poverty itself leads to poor urban planning, with houses built along the water ways and poor waste management that result in dumping of refuse in waterways. This would help effectively combat the effect of climate change for sustainable development, food security and wellbeing of Nigerians.

The federal government through the Ministry of Environment and in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), put in place this institutional arrangement and mechanism for the establishment and operations of flood early warning system.

We are making moves to adapt to climate change. We must also make moves to become more environmental conscious as government and citizens. Think  environmentally-through all your actions. Development without nature is Disaster.

Who cares to insure the Nigerian farmer

1 Aug

A huge number of farmers have committed suicide after losing harvest and cannot pay back their loans.

Climate change presents an unprecedented challenge for Nigerian agriculture. In the year 2010, the spate of floods in almost all parts of the country destroyed farmlands. This has resulted in higher food prices, heightened food insecurity, rising demand for imported food and is exacerbating rural poverty. This year’s floods only add to the problems that farmers face. Should this trend continue, Nigeria’s efforts to meet Millennium Development Goals will be jeopardized. Nigerian agriculture is particularly vulnerable to climate variability. Over 90% of crop production is dependent on rain-fed systems. The agricultural sector contributes 42% of the country’s gross domestic product, and employs about 70% of the total labour force. The limited coverage of irrigation, mechanization and use of key farm inputs heightens current vulnerability, and will compromise efforts to reduce poverty and grow the wider economy. United Nation’s models on the future climatic scenario for Nigeria predicts daunting prospects for Nigerian agriculture. In the next two decades, Nigeria will experience shorter rainfall seasons with high intensity of precipitation. A higher average temperature is also predicted, especially for Northern Nigeria. Should the current rain-fed small scale agriculture remain the predominant structure of the sector in the coming decades, Nigerian agricultural economy will face an uncertain future.

Farmers are most affected and according to scientific research, it would get worst. Farmers entire savings on crops  and investment in their farm are usually lost during disasters . The internationally proffered way to address this is to provide insurance to allow farmers balance their risk, so that when it does not rain, or when there is a flood, they  have what to fall back to. In Nigeria, less than 1percent  of farmers have access  to insurance  cover. This confirms that the Federal government is not fulfilling its obligation to the agricultural sector. The mismatch between 42% GDP  coming from agriculture and less than 2% of all credits from banks going to support  agriculture is huge. Less than 2%  of all bank lending to the private sector goes to agricultural insurance. The Central Bank of Nigeria has recently launched the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending. One of the key components of this transformative programme is the scale up of agricultural insurance. This will support the expansion of credit to the agricultural sector and help build farmer’s resilience against climatic disasters. As the threat of climate change looms, reforming this scheme becomes urgent and pressing. This calls for a strong need  to reform agricultural  insurance .Government response is inadequate because a single government  company is allowed to be in charge of agricultural insurance Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation NAIC.

                                                                  

Huzie Mselie, Joseph Nyam, Ewah Eleri, Dr Tunji Oluwasimire

                                          

This monopoly doesn’t point to the future. The International Center for Energy, Environment Development ICEED  brought  together all key actors, the National Insurance Commission NAICOM, Central Bank of Nigeria CBN, Ministry  of  Agriculture, Nigerian Meteorological Agency NIMET to develop a national platform to launch a comprehensive report on agricultural insurance. Four pillars were  identified  as measures  that should be in place to reform agricultural  insurance.

  • Need to understand and build more infrastructure to monitor weather data, support NIMET and   build its capacity.
  •  A legislative review to amend the NAIC act to liberalize the agricultural insurance  market to allow participation of the over 50 registered insurance companies.
  • Build the capacity of the insurance industry  to understand and be able to have departments and key people who can design new insurance products
  • Educate farmers.

A consensus was reached to establish this national implementation  committee on the reform of agricultural  insurance and publish an implementation framework for the committee. Addressing  climate change disaster on agriculture is urgent to help farmers and ensure food security.

For more information on ICEED, check  http://www.iceednigeria.org/

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