In Africa, agricultural land covers less than 15% of the land area, yet demand from transnational companies is increasing for arable terrain, driven by the assumption that biofuels are a viable long-term solution to current energy and ecological challenges, combined with a decline in land allocated to agriculture in developed countries. The inclusion of biofuels as part of the green economy agenda jeopardises the immediate and long-term food security of many regions in the developing world, according to this paper. In sub-Saharan Africa, rising food prices, land grabs, and precarious and informal labour conditions are key social threats linked to the emphasis on biofuel production. In Africa, a region already under pressure from population growth, famine, drought and conflict, increases in biofuel production and concomitant land grabs can only contribute to weakening food security and keeping achievement of the Millennium Development Goals far beyond reach.
Poverty and health
In Africa, agricultural land covers less than 15% of the land area, yet demand from transnational companies is increasing for arable terrain. This demand is driven by the assumption that biofuels are a viable long-term solution to current energy and ecological challenges, combined with a decline in land allocated to agriculture in developed countries. The inclusion of biofuels as part of the green economy agenda jeopardises the immediate and long-term food security of many regions in the developing world, according to this paper. In sub-Saharan Africa, rising food prices, land grabs, and precarious and informal labour conditions are key social threats linked to the emphasis on biofuel production. In Africa, a region already under pressure from population growth, famine, drought and conflict, increases in biofuel production and concomitant land grabs can only contribute to weakening food security and keeping achievement of the Millennium Development Goals far beyond reach.
Archaic agricultural practices and erratic rainfall in the recent planting period is expected to lead to an increase in food insecurity for most of Swaziland's 1.1 million people in 2012, according to Thembumenzi Dube, a Swazi government agriculture official. He predicted that the country will soon need food assistance for most of its population. Rains failed during the October planting season in the usually productive central middleveld, as well as the generally drought-prone eastern and southern regions. The virtual absence of irrigation systems makes the country dependent on rainfall. Small-scale farmers, who depend on rain-fed agriculture, do not have title deeds, and so cannot use their land as collateral to secure loans for irrigation equipment or other improvements.
The five-year $362.6 million grant to Lesotho seeks to increase water supplies for industrial and domestic use, to mitigate the devastating affects of poor maternal health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases by substantially strengthening the country’s health care infrastructure and human resources for health capacity, and to remove barriers to foreign and local private sector investment. Mozambique’s five-year $506.9 million Millennium Challenge Compact aims to reduce poverty levels through increased incomes and employment by improving water, sanitation, roads, land tenure, and agriculture. This program is expected to benefit about five million Mozambicans by 2015.
On 2-3 March 2011, Partners in Health, Harvard University and other organisations met to discuss the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) of the world’s poorest billion people. The Conference was held in Boston, United States, and attended by a wide range of government, civil society and academic organisations who have advocated for the inclusion of NCDs as a priority on the global health agenda. This Statement allies itself with a number of World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations (UN) agreements and resolutions, such as the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and its Global Strategy on NCDs and the UN Resolution ‘Keeping the Promise: United to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals’. The Statement calls on all UN member state Heads of Government and Heads of State to take urgent action to address NCDs amongst the world’s billion poorest people by: leading at global and national levels for NCDs; strengthening health systems and NCD prevention, treatment and care; strengthening research and data systems; and addressing poverty, vulnerability and discrimination.
The stigma of being labelled poor is inhibiting struggling foster families in Botswana, who are looking after already vulnerable children, from accessing welfare, a new study has found. The study, which focused on the plight of orphans and vulnerable children in Palapye, one of the largest villages in Botswana, located 275km north of the capital, Gaborone, found government assistance was "crippled" by the reluctance of families to register children for state aid. It cited an official as saying, "Some parents do not want to show they have orphans".
In this interview with the World Health Organisation, Brazilian Minister of Health Alexandre Padilha calls on other countries around the world to develop a pact to eradicate poverty and hunger. Padhila calls for the launch of a proactive and rational agenda that encompasses the food, pharmaceutical, arms, tobacco and alcohol industries, as well as action to develop and increase the wealth of peoples, setting goals for environmental sustainability and the end of extreme poverty. The last two United Nations meetings on health – on polio and HIV and AIDS – point to the same direction in solving both challenges: equity in the access to prevention measures and treatment, he notes. The Brazilian Ministry of Health has carried out a broad public consultation to prepare a plan to address non-communicable diseases. The prevention and control of these diseases will be the subject of a set of political and governmental policies.
Brazil has agreed to assist South Africa on social development issues, particularly in fighting against poverty and hunger. Brazil is aiming to help 16.2 million Brazilians out of extreme poverty with its comprehensive national poverty alleviation plan, ‘Brasil Sem Misera’. The plan includes cash transfer initiatives, and increased access to education, health, welfare and sanitation. South Africa has expressed a desire to learn about Brazil’s national alleviation plan and its successful Zero Hunger programme.
Cutting poverty and reducing the burden of disease are major global development goals. Can strategies tackle these tasks in parallel, by focusing on very poor people? The health sector can borrow strategies from welfare services to reduce the risk of health-related shocks, ease their impact and break the vicious cycle of poverty and ill-health. Poor people often have higher risks of adverse events and fewer means to cope with them than wealthier groups. A paper produced for a UK Department for International Development workshop analyses health-related shocks.
This report covers a period in which PLAAS sought to clarify and consolidate its vision, and elaborate an agenda for research, policymaking, teaching and training that emphasises the centrality of the dynamics of chronic poverty and structural inequality in South Africa. The particular emphasis is on understanding how the workings of agro-food systems can either perpetuate structural poverty and marginalisation — or alleviate it. Within this broad field of investigation, PLAAS’s work focuses on the dynamics of marginalised livelihoods in agro-food systems; particularly livelihoods that are vulnerable, structurally excluded or adversely incorporated, such as those of farm workers, small and subsistence farmers, artisanal fishers and fishing communities, and the informally self-employed, in urban and in rural contexts.