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  • Christine Chumbler
    May 31 6:16 AM
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      Malawi: World Bank Approves US $37m Loan to Revamp Irrigation Systems

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      May 27, 2005
      Posted to the web May 27, 2005


      Malawi's ageing irrigation schemes will be getting a revamp following the approval of a US $37 million World Bank loan, a senior official confirmed on Friday.

      Director of Irrigation Sandram Muweru told IRIN the funds would go towards rehabilitating and establishing new irrigation sites in 11 districts across the country.

      "Work has already been undertaken on restoring four schemes in certain parts of the country - most of these were established in the 60s and 70s and are overdue for repair," Muweru said.

      Districts earmarked for new irrigation sites include Blantyre, Zomba, Chikwawa and Nsanje in Southern Province; Dedza in Central Province; and Rumphi and Chitipa in Northern Province. Some of the money will also be spent on encouraging local communities to adopt new farming techniques and raising awareness of the benefits of crop diversification.

      Muweru said the government hoped the improved irrigation systems would boost smallholder crop production.

      "So far, we have been very unlucky with the weather - we have had poor harvests for nearly three years, and this is because we are dependent on rains. While the [government-sponsored] seeds to the rural poor does help, intensive irrigating is probably the only lasting way to ensure adequate crop production," he told IRIN.

      Almost 500,000 mt of food will be required to assist up to two million Malawians facing food shortages this year.


      Malawi: Top UN Officials See for Themselves

      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

      May 27, 2005
      Posted to the web May 27, 2005


      The remote village of Malemia, in drought-stricken southern Malawi, had never seen anything quite like it as a convoy of vehicles, accompanied by a police escort with sirens wailing, arrived in a cloud of dust.

      Although fairly large, Malemia, about 100 km from Malawi's main commercial capital of Blantryre, does not get many visitors. On Thursday, however, it played host to James Morris, the UN Secretary-General's Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, and the newly appointed UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director, Ann Veneman.

      They had come to see the work of the 'Village to Village AIDS Community Better Life Organisation' - which targets orphans, vulnerable children and people living with HIV/AIDS - and assess the impact of Malawi's looming food crisis.

      Part of the community-based initiative they visited was a child care centre, funded by UNICEF, which has 828 children aged under five on its books, and dishes out two meals a day of maize porridge, with groundnuts and bananas for added nutrition.

      "It is because of hunger that they are here. Their families cannot afford to feed them - the centre acts as their parents," said Chaliza Matola of the Association of Professional Playgroups in Malawi.

      "The situation here is serious - usually we grow our own crops to feed the children but now, with drought, we have nothing to give them, and our only hope lies in the donors and other well wishers," she said.

      Crop estimates indicate that Malawi's harvest could drop by around 25 percent this season, with the number of people in need of food aid climbing beyond last year's 1.3 million.

      The UN delegation met people living with AIDS, who, despite taking antiretroviral drugs administered through the community programme, told the UN officials they were hungry - and, indeed, they seemed frail. "It is important that you eat well - this will also help you live longer," Morris told them.

      Malawi has an HIV prevalence rate of 14.2 percent, and an estimated 900,000 people living with AIDS. Around 30,000 children have been orphaned by the epidemic.

      The special envoy's visit was the fifth to the region, aimed at drawing attention to the "triple threat" of HIV/AIDS, food insecurity and weakened government capacity that has affected Southern Africa since 2001.

      Morris and Veneman arrived in Malawi from Zambia, and will go on to Botswana and Zimbabwe, which are struggling with food insecurity and some of the highest adult prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS in the world.

      After touring the care centre, the UN team left for a World Food Programme distribution point about 25 minutes' drive away, along a dusty, unpaved road.

      There, scores of people were queueing for free food. Villager John Tebulo said the community had harvested "nothing because of the drought" - a catastrophic dry spell between mid-January and March that caught crops at a key growing stage.

      "I only hope that government is listening to our call for assistance. People here planted on time, but the maize withered before maturity," he told PlusNews as he stood in line.

      The Malawi government has set aside an undisclosed amount of money for maize purchases, and has requested financial assistance from the international community to help cover the food deficit, but has not yet issued a formal emergency appeal.

      "The problems that I have seen are enormous," Morris told reporters. "Children are without food, and HIV/AIDS is taking its toll."

      Although saddened by what he saw in Malawi, he was quick to point out that the situation was "similar in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland".

      "Southern Africa needs food diversification; there is also need to follow conservation practices and grow drought-resistant varieties."

      Veneman said she was impressed with the way communities were "working hard to assist each other in times of need".

      "Despite the little resources that these people have, we have seen that the desire to help the children, and those suffering from AIDS, is there," she commented. "UNICEF will support such initiatives by the communities."


      Countries Seek Regional Elephant Management Plan

      The Herald (Harare)

      May 26, 2005
      Posted to the web May 27, 2005

      Tsitsi Matope
      Victoria Falls

      DELEGATES from Southern African are attending a workshop to map out the Southern Africa Elephant Management strategy.

      The workshop would see the participants coming up with a plan of action on how effectively they could manage the region's ballooning elephant population. Countries attending include Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

      Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism Cde Andrew Langa, who officially opened the workshop, said a regional plan that included decision to cull the elephants was justified as the region was faced with a problem of over-abundance.

      "There are other areas where regional co-operation is needed like when presenting challenges to international conservation bodies such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), culling decisions, tourist promotion, international negotiations over the sale of elephant products and poaching across international boundaries," Cde Langa said.

      He said although a series of elephant management meetings have been held both regionally and at international level there is no one management option that has successfully dealt with the problem of elephants.

      "None of the meetings were able to come up with effective ways of dealing with the elephants and human conflict," Cde Langa said.

      He said the situation was a challenge to the Sadc region, which holds the key to a successful management strategy.

      Secretary for Environment and Tourism Ms Margaret Sangarwe said the controversy surrounding elephant statistics were unjustified on the part of Sadc countries and the communities.

      "Our communities live with the elephants and Sadc governments who have seen the magnitude of the problems have put in place census mechanisms to establish the number of elephants we have in the region.

      "We would not waste resources trying to deal with a non-existent problem," Ms Sangarwe said.

      Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Director-general Dr Morris Mtsambiwa added that Zimbabwe which is over burdened by a huge population of nearly 100 000 elephants was confronted with limited options on how to manage Africa's largest land mammal's population.

      Some participants however indicated that relocation of elephants would only mean transferring a problem into a new place where in most cases would mean destruction for crops, killing of people and more damage in unprotected areas.

      Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources director Mr Charles Jonga said the region would welcome a management strategy that would permit culling of a certain number of elephants in the country and/or the Sadc region.

      "Re-allocation of the elephants would mean national parks would have very little to do with those that would have been bought.

      " I am convinced that we need a more practical strategy to be able to reduce its number into a more sustainable number," Mr Jonga said.

      Botswana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have the highest elephant population of 123 000 and about 100 000 for the last two countries. Zambia has 24 000, South Africa (14 000) and Namibia (15 000) bringing the total regional population to nearly 400 000 while sustainable levels for the region stood at about 180 000.


      Zimbabwe: The burning continues

      Michael Hartnack | Harare, Zimbabwe

      30 May 2005 05:27

      Police in Zimbabwe continued demolishing thousands of shacks and vendors' kiosks in opposition strongholds on Monday, burning a 10km-long line of curio stalls along the road near Victoria Falls.

      A spokesperson for the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) called the crackdown a "tyranny" and urged people to resist.

      Lawyers for the party sought a court order on Monday that banned police from demolishing shacks and kiosks, and demanding compensation for the owners of buildings already destroyed in what the government calls a campaign to clean up the cities.

      Thousands of street traders have been arrested and their wares seized or destroyed since the May 19 start of the crackdown, which the government has described as an urban renewal campaign. Police using torches, sledgehammers and bulldozers have also burned and demolished the homes of the urban poor in informal settlements around the country.

      "A government that destroys the property of people who are trying to make an honest living is evil," MDC spokesperson Paul Themba-Nyathi said on Monday after a session of the main opposition party's national council.

      "We call on all Zimbabweans to mobilise against this assault on their dignity, livelihoods and well-being," said Themba-Nyathi, defying tough new security laws that provide a 20-year prison term for anyone trying to "coerce" President Robert Mugabe's government.

      "We shall overcome this tyranny," he said.

      Over the weekend, residents in some informal settlements put boulders across a maze of side roads in a futile attempt to keep police and security forces out. However, there were no reports of rioting in any of the townships where police demolished and burned shacks.

      In the resort town of Victoria Falls, police burned a 10km-long line of curio stalls and claimed to have confiscated a large amount of stolen or illegally imported goods.

      In the eastern city of Mutare, police said they arrested an American, identified as Howard Smith Gilman, under media laws for allegedly covering the destruction of 9 000 illegal structures there. Zimbabwe's media laws make it illegal to operate without a licence.

      MDC legislator Trudi Stevenson said in the preceding 24 hours, police had "at gunpoint" forced 2 000 more people in Hatcliffe township in northern Harare to destroy their houses and leave. On Friday and Saturday, 7 000 were evicted, although they had lease agreements issued by Mugabe's government.

      "The people are homeless and sleeping in the open," she said.

      Many were trying to salvage building materials in the hope they would be allocated other plots.

      Harare's government-appointed mayor Sekesai Makwavarara last week gave dwellers in the city's myriad backyard shacks until July to vacate, citing health grounds. About half the city's poor live in such shacks. The government has not explained why it began demolitions before the July deadline. -- Sapa-AP


      Zimbabwe set to nationalise land

      Zimbabwe is to proceed with plans to nationalise all farmland, a ruling party official has said.
      Zanu-PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira said the party would amend the constitution so as to abolish rights to private ownership of land.

      He said the move would end "ceaseless litigation" by white farmers whose property has been expropriated by decree over the past five years.

      Under the proposed new system, land would be leased for 99-year terms.

      The statement appeared in state media.

      "Through the amendments we are going to push for when parliament resumes sitting in June, all land will become state land, with farmers leasing it on a 99-year lease basis," Mr Shamuvarira said.

      "This will dispense with the ownership litigation process.

      "All the former farmers can do after these amendments would be to contest the amount of compensation."

      Zanu-PF has a large enough parliamentary majority to push through constitutional changes.

      However, some party officials who are themselves landowners are understood to be unhappy with the proposal.

      The move comes after some white farmers won court cases against the government after contesting the expropriation of their land.
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