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Turning African Youth on to Technology

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

An African NGO believes the Internet is the single biggest key to rapid development in Africa – and it is working to connect youth, women and rural populations to the web, and in turn, switch them on to the vast resources stored across the world’s Internet sites.

After initial successes with a youth project and with farmers, Voices of Africa (VOA) (http://www.voicesofafrica.info) is now seeking to scale up its work to fan out across Africa – and takes its services to the world’s largest refugee camp, the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya. 

The youth and technology empowerment NGO has developed a business model to deliver low-cost Internet access and e-resources to Africa’s slums and rural farmers.

VOA argues that “the digital divide, defined by a lack of access to information for a specific population, symbolizes the largest difference between developed and developing countries: the opportunity to obtain and utilize information.”

“The digital divide runs much deeper than hardware and software,” it says. “While equipment is necessary it is not sufficient. The real heart of the digital divide is that those without access to information resources often suffer needlessly while the solutions to their problems are floating in the air.”

But why is the Internet so important?

“The internet puts the choice of content at the fingertips of the user,” explains executive director Crystal Kigoni. “Traditional media is one way communications. Internet is bi-directional.

“Our NGO is completely grassroots. We train the people who train the people. It is an each one, teach one philosophy and is highly effective. We also design our projects to be self-sustainable after one year of successful implementation.”

The philosophy behind Voices of Africa – “Sustainable Development through Information Empowerment” – is to give people the information and resources to take better control of their lives.

Access to the Internet in Africa is patchy and, for the poor, an expensive resource. The penetration of mobile phones in Africa has been spectacular in the past five years. But there are limits to the resources people can afford to access with their phones. Issues abound about data costs, mobile phone networks, and mobile phone capability.

VOA targets youth and women in sub-Saharan Africa through online educational resources offered on their e-learning website (http://elearning.voicesofafrica.info/). The resources have been certified by Nazarene University (http://www.anu.ac.ke), a private university in Nairobi, Kenya.

The e-learning resources include high quality training videos, presentations and screencasts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screencast) – like a movie, it is a digital recording of changes on a computer screen and is used to teach software – to share on the web. The resources are also shared through compact discs (CDs) and iPods (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod).

Project coordinator Nick Kungu coordinates the staff working on the pilot Kenyan projects: a Rural Internet Kiosk; a Youth Empowerment Center; and KiberaNet, which launched in August 2011. VOA uses a part-time and volunteer staff of more than 20 Kenyans and four international ‘virtual’ volunteers.

The group is also working with farmers in Kutus, central Kenya, to help them get a better price for their products and introduce sustainable agriculture practices. This is done through online courses so the farmers do not need to travel. It is hoped by doing this they can improve the supply of food for the country.

The Youth Empowerment Center in Webuye constituency of the Western province of Kenya involves a partnership with the government of Kenya to teach computer basics, research and data collection, social media, ICT (information communication technology) for development, social business and community health.

In rural areas, the need for information cannot be overestimated. In the remote countryside, there are few schools with adequate resources and almost no community libraries. The lifesaving knowledge the people require has to date been completely beyond their grasp. As one rural woman in the Western province of Kenya exclaimed to VOA after encountering the resources on the Internet, “It is like being brought from the darkness into the light.”

Another project in development is SlumNet, which seeks to combine the Internet with low-cost devices like tablet computers and netbooks. Its pilot scheme, KiberaNet, launched this month in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya to test the business model. VOA hopes to then expand it to Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. It is using a business model to bring low-cost Internet access to Africa’s slums that is fully funded by the local communities and the users.

It has identified the key needs of youth in slums that need to be met: a way to access the vast resources available on the Internet; a way to generate income, undertake low-cost learning, and organise for social justice; ways to overcome social, economic and political isolation; a way to access affordable equipment and resources to improve their quality of life in the short-term.

To make it a sustainable business model, the community takes a 60 percent stake in the incorporated entity. Voices of Africa will select six local civil society organisations to take another 10 percent stake in the business. VOA takes 10 percent and the remaining 30 percent will be open to outside investors.

It involves setting up a closed intranet system and Internet access covering the entire Kibera slum, which has an estimated population of 2 million, a majority under the age of 30.

KiberaNet hopes to act as a community hub for socialising, education and generating content. A key part is creating an atmosphere that is welcoming to novices. The business model is about delivering the bandwidth of Internet access and simultaneously generating a sustainable source of income to keep it going. Partners in the business include Promote Africa, Plexus Group and Future Optics Networks.

VOA also has been blogging about its time in Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Camp (http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=49e483a16) at their website, www.voicesofafrica.info, and has been developing plans to expand services to the camp, home to over 400,000 refugees from drought and famine in Somalia. The camp was only designed to hold 90,000 people. The chronic food insecurity has caused a massive humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, leaving over 10 million people in need of help.

“There are plenty of resources going in but it is aid business as usual,” claims Kigoni. “You see lots of waste in many areas, and a lack in others that would be extremely beneficial. Hence, why Voices of Africa has come up with the youth technology and empowerment plan that accompanies a general information and communications system, DadaabNet.”

DadaabNet will be a youth-run community Internet service and education service. VOA plans to use a wireless intranet, internal communications systems and low-cost internet access in the refugee camp.

The project is the first of its kind in Dadaab and a first in Kenya, claims VOA, allowing free educational content without needing to access the Internet

The intranet will host free educational videos that can be accessed by mobile phones and computers. The topics covered in the videos include health, nutrition, sanitation and computer training and how to use technology for sustainable development.

The curriculum is also approved by Nazerene University to certificate level.

The system is supervised and would be able to offer resources to other NGOs seeking to provide services to the camp’s residents. The intention is to open up opportunities for education and employment youth who are currently unemployed.

At present the youth in the camp, many of whom have not completed secondary school, get by ‘hustling’ for work, according to VOA. By being left to their own devices, there is a risk they will fall into negative behaviour like crime and drug use or be preyed upon by terrorist organisations operating in the area like al Shabaab, they maintain.

“In our dreams, everyone everywhere in the world can have the opportunity to develop their minds. It is through this creativity that Africa will rise,” concludes Kigoni.

Resources

1) The Impact of Mobile Phones on Profits from Livestock Activities by Roxana Barrantes. Website:http://www.mendeley.com/research/impact-mobile-phones-profits-livestock-activities-evidence-puno-peru-14/

2) 2011 UNHCR Country Operations Profile – Kenya. Website: http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=49e483a16

3) Southern Innovator magazine: New global magazine Southern Innovator’s first issue is out now and is about Mobile Phones and Information Technology in the global South. Website:http://www.scribd.com/doc/57980406/Southern-Innovator-Issue-1

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Ring Tones and Mobile Phone Downloads are Generating Income for Local Musicians in Africa

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

African musicians hoping to support themselves through their recordings have always had to contend with the added burden of poor copyright control over their work. While musicians in the West are supported by a highly regulated regime of copyright protection – ensuring some to become the richest people in their respective countries – most African musicians have had to stand back and watch their work being copied, sold and exchanged with little chance of seeing any royalties. Global audiences know of the success of artists like Fela Kuti, Youssou N’Dour, Manu Dibango and Miriam Makeba, but most African musicians can look forward to scant earnings from recording their music.

Anyone who has walked through the markets of Africa will know there are plenty of pirated CDs for sale, yet it is of no use to a musician who never sees the money. Poverty is endemic amongst African musicians as a result of this loss of income. While music is a global business worth US $40 billion according to the Recording Industry Association of America, pirated music in Africa is rampant – some estimates by the Recording Industry of South Africa put it at over 80 percent of available music. How much money is being lost can be judged from the estimated daily income of a pirate music vendor in Africa, ranging between Euro 762 and Euro 2,744.

But a solution to this problem is being pioneered in Botswana in southern Africa. A partnership between mobile phone provider Orange Botswana and Small House Records/Mud Hut Studios, ensures musicians get a slice of the profit pie. Managing director Solomon Monyame of Small House Records has signed a contract with Orange to share the profits from ring tone and song downloads to mobile phone subscribers. With more than 76.8 million people currently subscribing to mobile phone services in Africa, and the number growing by about 58 percent each year for the last five years, the potential royalties market for African musicians is vast if this initiative is replicated across the continent.

In the paper “Development Goes Wireless” to be published in the spring 2007 issue of the journal of the Institute of Economic Affairs, lead researcher Karol Boudreaux of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center and Enterprise Africa!, discovered mobile phones and mobile phone companies can give artists a new way to control royalties for their work. She found that in the absence of effective copyright control mechanisms – as is the case in many African countries – the mobile phone company can step in to save the day.

“When you walk through the markets there you see so much music available on the street, but there is little intellectual property rights protection,” she said.

“In other countries, like the UK, you have strong intellectual property rights protection, but this just isn’t the case in much of Africa. The mobile phones are a very good way to get around this problem as long as cell phone providers are willing to make the contracts. Botswana is very lucky in that they have a very good contract environment, but this isn’t necessarily the case in other countries. It is a win-win for music providers and mobile companies.”

The NetTel@Africa project started by USAID and the Center to Bridge the Digital Divide, in partnership with many African and US universities, is also championing copyright protection strategies.

How important creative industries are becoming to economic development is slowly being recognized. It is now seen as an important component of modern post-industrial, knowledge-based economies, but equally also a way for economically underdeveloped countries to generate wealth. Not only are they thought to account for higher than average growth and job creation, they are also vehicles of cultural identity and play an important role in fostering cultural diversity. Initiatives like UNESCO’s Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity attempt to document this phenomenon and back it up with hard numbers.

UNESCO also has a project to establish musicians’ cooperatives across Africa. As such, the musicians are able to pool their production resources, which are individually insufficient to ensure the economic viability of a small or medium-sized business. In Burkina Faso, a co-operative is working with the International Labour Organisation. Click here for more information.

Festivals like Mali’s annual Festival in the Desert in the oasis of Essakane, 65 kilometers from Timbuktu, is an example of how African musicians are finding their own way to reach audiences. Targeted above all to promote African and Malian Music inside the continent, the Festival has also boosted international tourism to the region and almost 10 percent of last year’s 6,000 visitors came from outside of Africa.

Another initiative for African musicians is the DigiArts Africa network. It was founded by UNESCO and aims to increase communication between artists, industries and educators, make musicians self-sustainable, use the ICT industries to support and contribute to cultural activities, and better promote African musicians within and outside Africa. Click here for more information.

Well-known Senegalese musician Thione Seck is blunt about the economic effect of piracy on his income.

“Were there no piracy, I could have bought an island, seeing the number of songs that I composed in more than 30 years of my career”, he told a local newspaper.

According to Abdoul Aziz Dieng, president of the Senegal Music Works Association (AMS) and Chairman of the Board of the Senegalese Copyright Office (BSDA) (www.mali-music.com), out of 10 Senegalese artists’ CDs available on the local market, “only two are legal”. For audio cassettes, the ratio is three pirate copies out of every five sold.

Opportunities to combat piracy and generate income are also not limited to just musicians. Filmmakers in Africa are starting to learn how to exploit the opportunities thrown up by the fast-expanding mobile phone networks on the continent. Already a phenomenon in South Africa (www.filmmaker.co.za), director Aryan Kaganof is in the process of releasing SMS Sugar Man, a feature length movie shot entirely with mobile devices. The movie will be beamed to cell phones in three-minute clips over 30 days.

What are the effects of Piracy?

  • Artist
    • No royalty payments, no money to live
  • Record companies
    • No return on investments. Staff retrenchments
  • Retailers
    • Cannot compete with low prices. Staff retrenchments
  • Consumers
    • Many copies are of inferior quality. If tracks are missing or the sound quality is poor, no exchange or refunds
    • May be contributing to “organized crime” syndicates which are heavily involved in international music piracy

Source: Recording Industry of South Africa

Resources

Lively website about African musicians

BBC website on African music

Further reading from UNESCO: African music: new challenges, new vocations: Click here

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Disrupted! Whatever happened to Southern Innovator Issue 6?

Disrupted!! Issue 6 of Southern Innovator never came about and here is the story of why. One part of the story is very positive and inspiring; the other part is disappointing and frustrating (though always a risk when working in the international realm). 

First, the disappointing and frustrating part. We had been working with the UNOSSC (the funder of Southern Innovator) on a scale-up plan which would provide the funds for the brand to better chronicle the global South innovator culture of the 21st century. What we had not anticipated was various individuals involved with the UNOSSC not only acting in bad faith, but actually being involved with a multinational network to bribe UN officials and launder money into the United States, as was exposed during arrests by US authorities in late 2015 in New York (home of the UNOSSC and the UN’s headquarters). As we found out, gradually, through media coverage and court trial testimonies and confessions under oath by co-conspirators following the arrests, there was a fundamental conflict of interest between the work we were doing and the UNOSSC’s funding relationship with an entity that had its own news agency working out of the United Nations, South-South News. South-South News was established and funded by an Interpol Watch List individual, flagged up as a person not to do business with because of his involvement with human and sex trafficking and international criminal networks. South-South News’ executives pushed for the building of a new “Geneva of Asia” for the UN in Macau, which would also host the UNOSSC’s annual Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo). As confessed by the executives of South-South News, the news agency was established to facilitate bribes to UN officials and launder money into the United States – violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). This bribery and corruption case led to the UNOSSC’s budget being suspended pending two internal UN audits.

When the UNOSSC eventually re-booted in 2016/2017, Southern Innovator was not included in its programming budget. You can read more about this case here: http://www.davidsouthconsulting.com/blog/2018/3/4/the-strange-saga-of-south-south-news-may-2018.html

Read more on this case from the Supreme Court of the United States here:

Read more on this case from the U.S. Department of Justice here: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/fcpa/cases/ng-lap-seng

Executives of the UNOSSC audited by UNDP in 2016: Yiping Zhou, Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, Adam Rogers.

‘Jacked! | The Taking Of The American Order

A selection of books covering the bribery and money laundering network targeting the United Nations from 2010 to 2015:  From Baksheesh to Bribery: Understanding the Global Fight Against Corruption and Graft Edited by T. Markus Funk and Andrew S. Boutros, Oxford University Press, 30 May 2019, Chinese Spies: From Chairman Mao to Xi Jinping by Roger Faligot, Hurst, 2019, Historical Dictionary of Chinese Intelligence by I. C. SmithNigel West, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 5 February 2021, ONU: la grande imposture by Pauline Liétar, Albin Michel, 4 October 2017, Organized Crime and Corruption Across Borders: Exploring the Belt and Road Initiative Edited ByT. Wing Lo,Dina SiegelSharon Kwok, Routledge, 1 April 2021.
Books covering the 2015 United Nations SDGs bribery scandal: ONU: La Grande Imposture, Organized Crime and Corruption Across Borders, New Humanitarianism and the Crisis of Charity: Good Intensions on the Road to Help, Historical Dictionary of Chinese Intelligence.
Journalists and scholars alike have probed deep into the criminogenic networks across the global South. Crime and Development in the Global South by Jarrett Blaustein, Graham Ellison, Nathan Pino, The Palgrave Handbook of Criminology and the Global South, January 2018, Criminology and the UN Sustainable Development Goals: The Need for Support and Critique by Jarrett Blaustein, Nathan W Pino, Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Rob White, The British Journal of Criminology, Volume 58, Issue 4, July 2018,
Corruption in the Global Era: Causes, Sources and Forms of Manifestation edited by Lorenzo Pasculli and Nicholas Ryder, Taylor & Francis, 2019, Who Blunders and How: The Dumb Side of the Corporate World by Robin Banerjee, Sage Publications, 2019,
Wilful Blindness: How a Network of Narcos, Tycoons and CCP Agents Infiltrated the West by Sam Cooper, Optimum Publishing International, May 2021.

And now the positive and inspiring part: Southern Innovator evolved from the e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions, first launched in 2006 (and we came on board to research and write stories in 2007). Much has happened since, including the Global Financial Crisis, and the global financial system re-boot that occurred afterwords. Both the e-newsletter and the magazine Southern Innovator fall into the category of ‘crisis media’: media used to bring together a response where the old methods and methodologies no longer work and something has caused system failure. Back in 2007, there was little discussion in the media about the global South, innovation, innovators, social entrepreneurship, and the mobile and information technology revolution occurring in the global South. Both the e-newsletter and the magazine identified a global 21st-century innovator culture that was unique since it was being fuelled by the rapid adoption of mobile and information technologies, often in places with high levels of poverty and turmoil.

According to the Final evaluation of the performance of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation under its strategic framework, 2014-2017, in light of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, prepared by Marcia Brewster, Consultant for the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC): 

“The reviewer observed that, although the Policy and UN Coordination Unit had produced all of the reports requested by intergovernmental bodies, especially for the High-level Committee, it had not been able to produce many of the publications (evidence-based analytical reports) that had previously been within its purview. Such publications included Southern Innovator magazine and the monthly e-newsletter “Development Challenges, South-South Solutions. In the case of Southern Innovator, one issue (No. 5 on waste and recycling) was published during the four-year period of the framework but did not have wide online distribution, and issue No. 6 was awaiting funds for publication. The e-newsletter was last issued in July 2014 even though the reviewer found it a good way to communicate with focal points at the national and inter-agency levels. In fact, the shortage of funds for those knowledge products was the main reason that they had ceased being produced during the evaluation period.”

“With respect to the analytical reports previously produced by the Office, such as Southern Innovator, they have not been produced in recent years owing to lack of funding.” 

From the beginning, the e-newsletter and magazine were about changing perspectives and inspiring action. And so they have. Rather than say so in my words, I shall offer the words of others as we received them: 

“Great economic and business reporting! Very helpful for us.”Africa RenewalAfrica Section, Strategic Communications Division, United Nations Department of Public Information

“I just went over your June newsletter. It’s very well done and far reaching. Congratulations!” Violette Ruppanner, Director, 3D -> Trade – Human Rights – Equitable Economy, Geneva, Switzerland

“Just to let you know I enjoyed the newsletter a lot – it was interesting to learn about things going on that I would never otherwise find out about, and also the listing of future conferences and events proved very useful.” Ian Sanderson, Deloitte, Geneva, Switzerland

“Congratulations on another great newsletter that’s packed with fascinating information! I really enjoy getting it each month.” Whitney Harrelson, Making Cents, Washington D.C.

Blogger Taline Haytayan from Brighton, England, found a case study on story telling in the South particularly interesting: “I came across this interesting article entitled ‘The South Has a Good Story to Tell’, which talks about storytelling in developing countries, and its use as a critical tool for passing on history, while teaching morals and ethics – so I would like to share it here with you. It’s a nice surprise to see that this article appears in UNDP’s South to South Cooperation unit newsletter. It gives an overview of storytelling in a number of countries, such as the movement of urban storytellers in Colombia, inspired by Italo Calvino; tale-spinners in Argentina; the halakis, or storytelling sages, of Morocco; and digital storytelling by women in South Africa.” (http://talinita.blogspot.com/2008/05/south-has-good-story-to-tell.html)

“A few weeks ago, David South, Development consultant and author of UNDPs Development Challenges, South-South Solutions Newsletter, came by the betterplace office to take a look at our work. When I asked him how he had come about betterplace.org, he answered: he found me on twitter! So much for the twitter-scepticts.” Joana Breidenbach, betterplace.org, Berlin, Germany (http://blog.betterplace.org/en/2009/09/15/690/)

“This is a WONDERFUL site. I read–and at least bookmarked to read again–your stories with the photo of the homeless gentleman “will write HTML code for food,” and of the young African girl who was hungry, and how they are predicting (and it seems inevitable) famine an a high voltage bolt in the poverty percentages. … your writing is phenomenal–the few stories that I have seen are actually SUPERIOR in their professional, technical, and relevant accounts. Their VERY interesting, and I unfortunately have not seen other sources of news lately (other than from my school’s library database, and old Public Broadcasting documentaries). God has blessed your works, and I am thankfully blessed by them!”  Sincerely, J. (Au) Whi, (from NowPublic site)

“Many thanks for sending me a copy of your interesting work. I read just one article in Spanish thus far but found it well written and useful. For us here in Colombia, it will be most useful having regular access to your publication and, of course, I am pleased that the articles are in Spanish as well as French and English. I hope that one day I might invite you to take a closer look at the Arranque Automático operation in Colombia and perhaps invite you to do a write-up on the technique and its ample theoretical foundations.”  David Cuanespero Boriol, Colombia

“What a tremendous magazine your team has produced! It’s a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space… Really looking forward to what you produce in issues #2 and #3. This is great, engaging, relevant and topical stuff.” Rose Shuman, Founder & CEO, Open Mind and Question Box

“Question Box was featured in Southern Innovator, a new publication of UNDP that profiles some of the most innovative ideas coming out of the global South. We were pleased to see many friends in the sector profiled as well, such as UshahidiMedic Mobile, and TxtEagle. Take a look at the magazine, as it is a great primer on ICT and mobile innovation from around the globe.” Question Box News

“Looks great. Congratulations. It’s Brill’s Content for the 21st century!” Conan Tobias, Managing Editor, Canadian Business

What they are saying about SI on Twitter: From @CapacityPlus Nice job RT @ActevisCGroup: RT @UNDP: Great looking informative @SouthSouth1 mag on South-South Innovation; @UNDP Great looking informative @SouthSouth1 mag on South-South Innovation; @JeannineLemaireGraphically beautiful & informative @UNDP Southern Innovator mag on South-South Innov. 

And on Pinterest:Peggy Lee • 1 year ago 

“Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation. Heart is pumping adrenaline and admiration just reading it”

“Thank you David – Your insight into the issues facing us a[s] [a] “global Village” is made real in the detail of your article – 10 out of 10 from the moladi team.” Moladi, South Africa (http://www.moladi.net/index.htm)

“I liked your latest Southern innovator! Always inspiring.” Joana Breidenbach, betterplace.org, Berlin, Germany

“The magazine looks fantastic, great content and a beautiful design!”

“Btw, I really enjoyed reading them, impressive work & a great resource. Looking forward to Issue 6. My best wishes to you & your team at SI.”

“… great magazine, nice design.”

2014 proved a significant year for our work, as Southern Innovator is cited in various strategy documents as a resource contributing to a shift in funding priorities at the United Nations and other international development funders, and the adoption of South-South innovation as a key part of the UN’s work. The e-newsletter and magazine are also cited in many papers and books and are clearly contributing to a better understanding of the 21st-century global South innovator culture.  

By 2015, Southern Innovator was still drawing praise for its timely resources on South-South innovation and innovators:

“@SouthSouth1 is one of the best sources out there for news and info on #solutions to #SouthSouth challenges.” Adam Rogers, Assistant Director, Regional Representative, Europe, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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An Innovator’s ‘Big Chicken Agenda’ for Africa

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Increasing the quantity and quality of food in Africa will be critical to improving the continent’s human development. And a key element in giving Africa a more secure food supply will be boosting science and knowledge on the continent and making sure it is focused on Africa’s needs and situation.

One pioneering scientist is looking to the humble chicken to tackle two big problems in Africa: food security and household incomes. By pumping up the weight and productivity of African chickens, she hopes to eradicate hunger and boost household incomes.

Kenyan scientist Sheila Ommeh (http://www.awardfellowships.org/participants/success-stories/108-sheilaommeh.html ) is showing how local knowledge can give farmers the edge when it comes to improving Africa’s animal stock. An animal geneticist, she is trying to create a disease-resistant African chicken that can also produce plenty of eggs.

Her pioneering work is about trailblazing “a big chicken agenda in Africa,” she explained to TrustLaw, a global hub for free legal assistance and information on good governance and women’s rights.  She grew up in an area – Mount Elgon in western Kenya – where raising chickens was the primary source of both income and food. Her family raised chickens and the income from this helped to pay for her schooling.

Raising chickens is common in rural Kenya, and many of the people doing it are women.

Based on her experience, she saw how virulent diseases kill chicken flocks and destroy family incomes and disrupt lives – diseases like Newcastle (http://www.avianbiotech.com/diseases/newcastle.htm) and Gumboro (gumboro.com).

She works at the International Livestock Research Institute (ilri.org) based in Nairobi, Kenya. The ILRI “works at the crossroads of livestock and poverty, bringing high-quality science and capacity-building to bear on poverty reduction and sustainable development” and conducts research in Africa, South and Southeast Asia and China.

“I’m really passionate about giving back to the community an improved chicken that will really help their lives,” she explains.

Another project she is working on is the development of a drought-tolerant chicken. This chicken could prove very helpful in parts of Africa suffering from drought and hunger, like in the Horn of Africa.

Women are considered to be the majority producers of food in Africa yet just one in four people working in agricultural research in Africa is a woman, according to TrustLaw.

Ommeh has a PhD in chicken genetics and is a staunch believer in seeking out solutions to Africa’s problems within Africa: “In my view = it’s about time Africa looked for solutions in Africa for Africa,” she told a group of British Members of Parliament.

She will continue her research by looking at native African chickens. She is worried indigenous African chickens are being wiped out by cross-breeding and the introduction into the continent of exotic breeds, which are making African chickens more susceptible to viruses.

Her goal is to produce a disease-resistant breed of chicken weighing four kilograms and laying 250 eggs a year. This would be a big increase on current average weights, and a trebling of the yield.

“Definitely the incomes of these households will increase and that will (create) a rippling effect that will trickle up … And we hope that in 10 to 15 years the poverty issue in Africa will not be so serious,” Ommeh said.

“Chicken is a small livestock but I believe it has the capacity to have a big impact.”

For female scientists working in agriculture, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) (http://awardfellowships.org/) is seeking researchers looking to boost their technical and leadership skills. It is hoped that supporting more women researchers will have the effect of turning research priorities towards the needs of smallholder farmers, who make up the majority of  farmers in Africa.

Published: May 2012

Resources

1) Artificial chicken: The contest to create artificial chicken meat offers a US $1 million prize. Website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jan/21/artificial-chicken-food-prize

2) Poultry Hub: “Poultry Hub can help you learn more about the amazing world of poultry and your place in it. Poultry is one of the world’s most technically advanced agricultural industries, offering rewarding career paths to talented young people in hundreds of countries.” The Hub includes the excellent “anatomy of the chicken” learning resource. Website: http://www.poultryhub.org/organisations/rural-industries-research-anddevelopment-corporation-rirdc-chicken-meat-program/

3) Poultry Research Centre: From the University of Alberta, the website offers resources and contacts on poultry sciences. Website: http://www.poultryresearchcentre.com/

4) Chickens: Basic information on chickens and their origins. Website: http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Chicken.aspx

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021