From Gas to Ash: The Struggle of Nigerian Women Amidst Surging Cooking Gas Prices

Africa, Civil Society, Climate Change, Development & Aid, Energy, Environment, Featured, Food and Agriculture, Gender, Headlines, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations


Nigerian women returning from the forest with firewood. Credit: Peace Oladipo/IPS

Nigerian women returning from the forest with firewood. Credit: Peace Oladipo/IPS

KWARA, Nigeria, Mar 1 2024 (IPS) – One sunny mid-morning in Omu-Aran village, a community in Kwara State, North Central Nigeria, Iyabo Sunday sat beside a firewood stand observing her pot of beans with rice (a combination enjoyed by many in Nigeria).

The 52-year-old widow used her plastic dirt parker to fan the flames, occasionally blowing air through her mouth for speed and frantically shielding her face from the wisps of smoke that curled from the firewood.

After a hike in electricity tariffs, Sunday told IPS that she abandoned her electric-powered stove for cooking gas. But instability in the “economy has successfully caused me to move back to the firewood since my children and I must eat.”

Oyedele Christiana, a 41-year-old restaurateur who specializes in making fufu, a local delicacy made from cassava, expressed her wish to stop using firewood and charcoal but was constrained by finances. “The smoke enters my eyes and makes me cough a lot.  I usually use firewood for my canteen business, while I use charcoal at home for household cooking.”

Like Iyabo, Christiana made use of cooking gas. The sporadic increase in the price of domestic gas has since pushed her to the traditional cooking method, with its attendant havoc on her eyes and lungs. “I am not as old as I look, but cooking has done this,” Oyedele sighed.

The price of cooking gas in Nigeria has soared wildly amid the country’s inflation woes. The removal of subsidy on petrol products, together with a depreciation of the naira, has resulted in a steep increase in the cost of food and transportation. This hike in the cost of living comes amid a minimum wage of N30,000 ($18), ranked among the lowest in the world, according to Picodi.

The price of 12.5 kg of cooking gas increased from N7,413. ($4) in 2022 to N16,875 ($10) in February 2024 across the country, a price just half the national minimum wage.

Implications on Women, Environment

Women living in grassroots communities who can no longer afford cooking gas have no choice but to bear the harsh method of cooking with firewood. Many, like Ajayi Omole, an octogenarian living in Akungba, a town in Ondo State, have made cooking with firewood a delight due to the lack of alternatives.

“We usually go into the forest, get the trees, sun dry (them), and prepare them for cooking.” However, she said, “I have a stove inside my room but I can’t use it because I don’t have enough to purchase kerosene.”

The nation’s alarming poverty circle, where Iyabo and Oyedele belong, speaks loudly about the reality of clean cooking. Statistics indicate that 63 percent of the entire population mostly relies on traditional method cooking, usually described as ‘dirty’.

The National Council on Climate Change (NCCC) has stated that, aside from the dangers of deforestation and climate destruction, the use of firewood and charcoal for cooking directly affects women’s health. This is in agreement with figures from the Federal Ministry of Environment about how more than 98,000 Nigerian women die annually from smoke inhaled while cooking with firewood.

Aisha Sulaiman, a renewable energy and green hydrogen technologist, said that rising prices of cooking gas have caused many to transition back to the use of firewood and charcoal, leading many women to multiple health issues. She emphasized that women suffer stronger health issues as secondhand smokers.

She said, “In an African setting, women belong to the kitchen; that’s how the narrative is, even if that is not supposed to be. In rural communities, the main source of energy in terms of cooking is the traditional method, which is unsustainable and harmful.

“The traditional methods of cooking involve charcoal and firewood. These are materials that lead to the release of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, into our environment, and this in turn contributes to global warming, which brings about climate change.”

Speaking on women’s health, Sulaiman mentioned that respiratory diseases could stem from inhaling smoke from charcoal and firewood. “These methods are a source of air pollution, which can cause serious health issues. Overexposure to the smoke also leads to a disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is very endemic to women,’’ she said. Sulaiman added that the Nigerian government should prioritize making clean energy accessible and cost-competitive to procure its acceptance by the people in low-income communities.

Ibrahim Muhammad, an energy consultant and team lead at Climate Alaramma Sustainable Development Initiative, a youth-led environmental organization in northern Nigeria, argued that the transition back to the traditional method of cooking would increase deforestation. He said the increase in LPG’s price is connected to the nation’s economic downturn.

In his words, “There is extensive research demonstrating the significant impact of traditional cooking methods on women and children. These methods contribute to deforestation and air pollution, particularly through the emission of smoke.”

Muhammad noted that women’s transition to traditional cooking was a setback in Nigeria’s transition plan to energy, especially in the area of clean cooking.

The Nigerian government and international development partners must find avenues for cleaning cooking infrastructure to be subsidized so that rural communities, mostly affected, can be able to afford it. According to him, “Considering the nature of some communities that are into agriculture, they are expected to be supported with infrastructure that can help them use this agricultural waste to cook.  Additionally, the prices of these clean cooking stoves that are being developed are subsidized.”

Speaking further on alternatives, he added, “Briquettes, produced from agricultural waste, typically resemble charcoal and can perform all the functions of charcoal. They are energy-efficient and made from various agricultural waste materials, thus not promoting deforestation.”

Muhammad added that harmless solutions should be created to fit in Nigeria’s context; electric stoves may be considered impossible due to unstable electricity.

“Solar cookers are typically used when it is sunny, but many people hardly have lunch, they mostly focus on breakfast and dinner. Many women cook early in the morning or evening, so we need to tailor solutions to our specific circumstances,’’ he said.

IPS UN Bureau Report


Air Quality Sensors Boosting Nairobi’s Fight Against Air Pollution

Africa, Climate Action, Conferences, Development & Aid, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Health, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations


A mother and her children are seen wading through a cloud of smoke at the Dandora dumpsite, Kenya's largest open landfill. Smoke emanating from the dumpsite is cited as a contributor to air pollution in Nairobi. Credit: Jackson Okata/IPS

A mother and her children are seen wading through a cloud of smoke at the Dandora dumpsite, Kenya’s largest open landfill. Smoke emanating from the dumpsite is cited as a contributor to air pollution in Nairobi. Credit: Jackson Okata/IPS

NAIROBI, Feb 29 2024 (IPS) – Deborah Adhiambo (43) has been battling mild asthma since 2022, a condition she describes as “both a health and economic burden.’’ The mother of three lives within Dandora Estate, nine miles east of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Dandora is home to Kenya’s largest open landfill, which receives more than 2,000 metric tonnes of waste daily.

For five years, Adhiambo operated a makeshift restaurant near the dumpsite, where her main clients were waste pickers working within its environs.

“Working near the dumpsite exposed me to the heavy smoke that billows from the dumpsite. I started developing chest pains gradually and would take painkillers to subdue the pain. It was later that I was diagnosed with asthma,’’ Adhiambo told IPS.

Adhiambo’s doctors told her that prolonged and constant exposure to toxic fumes was the root cause of her asthma. She was forced to close her business since she could not venture out of her house early in the morning, late in the evenings or during cold seasons.

“The closure of my business due to sickness crippled me economically as it was my only source of income. Getting medication and feeding my family has been hard because now I have to rely on my husband, who also works at the dumpsite,” she says.

Nairobi’s Air Quality

More than 70 percent of Nairobi’s 5.3 million residents live in informal settlements like Dandora, which analysts say have the worst air quality, with vulnerable populations, particularly women and children, bearing the brunt of polluted air. Vehicles, open burning of waste, and industrial emissions are cited as the major sources of air pollutants in Nairobi. Motor vehicles contribute an estimated 40 percent of Nairobi’s particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution concentrations, with illegal dumping and open waste burning contributing 25 percent.

And as both the population and economic output of Kenya’s capital keep expanding, the demand for energy from fossil fuels is also on the rise. The rapid expansion of Nairobi has taken an environmental toll on the city, which is evident in the worsening air pollution levels.  Air pollution in Kenya’s capital is 4.2 times higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended average annual concentration levels.

According to the World Health Organization, Nairobi’s air pollution is 2.4 times higher than recommended levels, with 19,000 poor air quality deaths being reported in Kenya annually.

Air photo 1- A technician installs a low-cost air quality monitor sensor in Nairobi, Kenya. Air quality monitors are helping Nairobi collect data on air pollution. Credit: Jackson Okata/IPS

A technician installs a low-cost air quality monitor sensor in Nairobi, Kenya. Air quality monitors are helping Nairobi collect data on air pollution. Credit: Jackson Okata/IPS

Tech and Data

To enhance her efforts in combating air pollution, the City of Nairobi has been incorporating the use of technology. The city management has been installing low-cost air quality monitors and sensors to gather and share data on the levels of air pollution trends across the city. The data collected is then analyzed and guided in the formulation of policies and legal frameworks to combat air pollution, even as East Africa’s economic giant works towards realizing her ambitious target of becoming a net-zero green city by 2030.

Dubbed AirQo monitors, the low-cost air quality sensors developed by a team of young engineering and computer science students at Uganda’s Makerere University are in use in eight countries, including Kenya.

Engineer Bainomugisha, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Makerere University and lead developer of the AirQo monitoring system, says Sub-Saharan Africa lacks usable air quality data that can help in the formulation of proper and effective policies to combat air pollution. AirQo monitors collect information about air pollution levels, types of air pollutants, and air quality

Bainomugisha explains that the air quality monitors main aim is to “close the existing gap in air quality monitoring.” AirQo air quality monitors collect air samples, which are then analyzed through a light scattering technology that quantifies the particulate matter concentration.

The information is then relayed to a cloud-based network that determines the pollution levels in a specific area. The devices measure the air particulate matter PM2.5 and PM10, which is a mixture of solid particles in the air. They also capture ambient meteorological conditions such as humidity and atmospheric pressure

“The air quality monitors run on a 2G GSM-enabled network configuration for loT sim cards and are optimized to work in areas with unstable internet and power connectivity,” says Gideon Lubisia, AirQo’s international operations embedded systems and network support engineer.

AirQo has also developed a mobile app that allows people to receive periodic and real-time updates on the air quality in their city.  The monitors are mounted at strategic points within the city’s Central Business District, industrial areas, markets, along major city highways and in select residential areas. while others are mounted on motorbikes that move from one location to another, collecting data.

Data and Policy Formulation

With the monitors in place, Nairobi City has been able to develop two air quality collocation installations and infrastructure reference grade monitors, according to Nairobi City County Deputy Director in Charge of Air Quality and Climate Maurice Kavai.

“The one-stop center collocation enables our research teams to compare air quality data collected from various points within the city, which is key in developing appropriate action,” Kivai explained.

“The availability of periodic data collected by the monitors enables the city to establish the extent of pollution in particular areas, identify the causes, and develop necessary actions,” he said.

Through air quality data collected through the monitors and establishing the extent of air pollution in the city, Nairobi has been able to develop a city Air Quality Action Plan as well as enact the Nairobi City County Air Quality Act which have become critical policy and legal assets in tackling the problem of air pollution.

AirQo monitors are now in use within select cities in eight African countries, including Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Cameroon, Burundi, Ghana, Mozambique, and Senegal.

Global Push for Clean Air

During the Climate and Clean Air Conference(CCAC) 2024 in Nairobi between February 21 and 23, 2024, ahead of the sixth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), member states and partners launched a Clean Air Flagship effort to provide, among other things, data-led policy action towards combating air pollution

Inger Andersen, UNEP’s Executive Director, said, “We need to push harder on superpollutants. Just as you need a superhero to defeat a supervillain, we need super solutions to face down super pollutants. And we need you to mastermind these solutions.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the CCAC, Kenyan environmentalist Elizabeth Wathuti observed that “the very essence of life starts with a breath, a gasp of air that signifies the beginning of our journey on this Earth. Yet, for too many across our globe, this fundamental act of breathing has become a hazard, a risk, and a gamble against the odds of pollution and climate-induced adversities.” According to Wathuti, the commitment to clean air and a stable climate is not just an environmental cause but a fight for the very right to life.

The World Health Organization estimates that 99 percent of the world’s population lives in places with poor air quality, leading to nearly seven million premature deaths per year, primarily in low- and middle-income countries.

According to UNEP, in Africa alone, ambient air pollution caused an estimated 400,000 premature deaths in 2019, while indoor air pollution caused more than one million premature deaths in the same year. Some of the leading air pollution-related ailments that contribute to these premature deaths include pneumonia, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic lung disease, and lung cancer. Ambient air pollution and household air pollution are associated with 6.7 million premature deaths annually.

IPS UN Bureau Report


Funding, Policy Changes Could Result in Countries Reaping Benefit of Migration

Active Citizens, Africa, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Inequality, Migration & Refugees, TerraViva United Nations

Migration & Refugees

The African Unions Migration Policy Framework for Africa (2018-2030) provides guidelines to manage migration and reap the benefits of well managed migration which contribute to global prosperity and progress. Credit: UNHCR

The African Unions Migration Policy Framework for Africa (2018-2030) provides guidelines to manage migration and reap the benefits of well managed migration which contribute to global prosperity and progress. Credit: UNHCR

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Feb 23 2024 (IPS) – Amid an escalation of global conflict and climate change-induced displacements, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is escalating its donor campaign.

For the first time since the organization’s formation in 1951, the IOM says it is “proactively approaching all partners to fund this vital appeal,” at a time when the number of migrants making perilous intercontinental journeys has increased.

“Irregular and forced migration have reached unprecedented levels and the challenges we face are increasingly complex,” said IOM Director General Amy Pope at the launch of the Global Appeal in Geneva in January.

It added to its appeal this week, asking for USD 112 million to provide urgent humanitarian and development assistance to over 1.4 million migrants and host communities in the Horn of Africa, Yemen, and Southern Africa. Routes from the Horn of Africa to Yemen and the Gulf States, and the Southern route from the Horn of Africa through Kenya and Tanzania to Southern Africa, are among the most dangerous, complex, and under-reported migratory routes in the world. In 2023, nearly 400,000 movements were recorded across the Eastern route, while an additional 80,000 movements were recorded on the Southern route, particularly to South Africa, the statement read.

“The evidence is overwhelming that migration, when well managed, is a major contributor to global prosperity and progress. We are at a critical moment in time, and we have designed this appeal  to help deliver on that promise. We can and must do better,”  Pope said at the launch.

The IOM has broken down the appeal as follows:

  • USD 3.4 billion for work on saving lives and protecting people on the move.
  • USD 2.7 billion for work on solutions to displacement, including reducing the risks and impacts of climate change.
  • USD 1.6 billion for work on facilitating regular pathways for migration.
  • USD 163 million for work on transforming IOM to deliver services in a better, more effective way.

“Full funding would allow IOM to serve almost 140 million people, including internally displaced people and the local communities that host them. Crucially, it would also allow for an expansion of the IOM’s development work, which helps prevent further displacement,” the IOM said in a media briefing.

However, experts and researchers say the global migration that has peaked in recent years has deeper, more complex roots that will require more than just responding to after the fact.

“What we’re seeing is a willingness from officials and citizens to thoroughly dehumanise migrants,” said Loren Landau, professor and chair at the University of Witwatersrand African Centre for Migration and Society.

“Not only can they be left to suffer, but they should be made to suffer. Only by doing this can ‘we’ send a message that others are unwelcome. The policies of the EU, Australia, and even South Africa are all designed to broadcast this sentiment,” Landau told IPS.

The IOM estimates that there are more than 140 million displaced people, and it’s global appeal for donor support will “save lives and protect people on the move, drive solutions to displacement, and facilitate safe pathways for regular migration.”

Thousands continue to make efforts to illegally enter Europe and the USA with assistance from traffickers,.

According to the IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, 60,000 people have died or disappeared on perilous journeys to seek economic opportunities over the last nine years.

Migration has in recent years become a political hot button, with right-wing political parties in Europe accused of whipping up public sentiment against migrants.

However, Landau says global inequality has worsened the displacement of millions of people.

“Migration has long been a crisis, although it has often been framed differently. There have always been displaced people. There has long been violence and corruption on the border. However, it has now moved from the edge of public debate to the centre,” Loren said.

“Global inequality, labour demand, conflict, and environmental factors are encouraging people to move, but movement is natural,” he told IPS.

Claims that migrants steal jobs from locals and force governments to divert social spending to accommodate migrants have fueled anti-immigrant sentiment.

Researchers, however, have always questioned those claims as the IOM ups its efforts to assist migrants in their new domiciles.

“Migrants are generally not why fewer people have secure employment, social protection, or feel their cultures and values are under threat.  But in light of those anxieties, migrants have become the fetish on which politicians and the public fixate,” Landau added.

In its appeal for donor funding, the IOM says well-managed migration “has the potential to advance development outcomes, contribute to climate change adaptation, and promote a safer and more peaceful, sustainable, prosperous, and equitable future.”

“The consequences of underfunded, piecemeal assistance come at a greater cost, not just in terms of money but in greater danger to migrants through irregular migration, trafficking, and smuggling,” said Pope.

“Getting the job done requires greater investment from governments, the private sector, individual donors, and other partners,” said Pope.

The African Union, which has seen the bulk of global migration, says the continent has witnessed changing patterns of migration, “a phenomenon that has become both dynamic and extremely complex.”

As part of efforts to address this and in what is expected to aid the work being done by the IOM, the AU set up the Migration Policy Framework for Africa (2018–2030).

The Framework provides “guidelines to manage migration in a coherent manner and therefore reap the benefits of migration.”

Those benefits are captured in IOM findings that “281 million international migrants generate 9.4% of global GDP.”

Despite the dangers that have come to define migrant experiences, especially on the high seas, the factors that drive millions to leave their homelands remain unresolved.

“There are immediate practical concerns about ensuring people can migrate safely,” said Landau.

“Beyond this, there is a broader need to recalibrate how we speak about these issues. Migration is not going anywhere so there’s a need to shift the framing from one of crisis to one of ‘the new normal’, Landau told IPS.
IPS UN Bureau Report


Trapped and Trafficked—Fishers Tell of Forced Labor Horror

Active Citizens, Africa, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Economy & Trade, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Human Trafficking, Humanitarian Emergencies, Labour, Migration & Refugees, TerraViva United Nations

Human Trafficking

Workers take a break after unloading fish from the Sor Somboon 19 fishing vessel. Initial screenings conducted by Greenpeace revealed that the crew of this Thai trawler met internationally accepted definitions of forced labour. Credit: Greenpeace

Workers take a break after unloading fish from the Sor Somboon 19 fishing vessel. Initial screenings conducted by Greenpeace revealed that the crew of this Thai trawler met internationally accepted definitions of forced labour. Credit: Greenpeace

BRATISLAVA, Jan 19 2024 (IPS) – “The thing is that when you come from an African country, they know that you’re basically trapped,” says Noel Adabblah.

“You have the wrong documents; you can’t go home because you’ve already borrowed money there to get here, and you won’t risk losing what work you have, no matter how bad, because of that. They know all the tricks.” 

The 36-year-old is speaking from Dublin, where he has managed to make a new life for himself after becoming a victim of what recent reports have shown to be widespread and growing forced labour in fishing fleets across the globe.

Adabblah, from Tema in Ghana, and three friends signed up with a recruitment agency back home to work as fishers on boats in the UK. They paid the equivalent of 1,200 EUR to be placed in jobs and were given letters of invitation and guarantees by their new employers, who said they would be met in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and who agreed to take care of all their documents and visas. Their employment contracts stated the men would be paid 1,000 GBP per month and employed for 12 months, with an option to reduce or extend that by three months upon mutual consent.

But when they arrived in January 2018, they were taken to Dublin and later split up. In the following months, they were taken to do various jobs at different ports in Ireland, sometimes late at night with no idea where they were going.

“We thought we were going there to sail and fish, but when we got there, we saw the boats were not ready; they were in poor condition, and we couldn’t fish, so the owner of the boats got us to do other jobs instead,” Adabblah tells IPS.

Cambodian fishermen from the fishing vessel Sor Somboon 19 recovers from beriberi at Ranong Hospital. The crew met internationally accepted definitions of victims of forced labour. Thai government investigations determined that the hospitalizations and deaths from the beriberi outbreak aboard Sor Somboon 19 were directly caused by a business model based on transshipment at sea. Credit: Greenpeace

A Cambodian fisher from the fishing vessel Sor Somboon 19 recovers from beriberi at Ranong Hospital. The crew met internationally accepted definitions of victims of forced labour. Credit: Greenpeace

“But after a few months, we said this is not what we came here to do. We had an argument over pay—he said he had no boats to fish with and wanted to lay us off, told us to go home. But we said no, that we had a 12-month contract we had signed for. He said he wouldn’t pay us, but could try to get us another job with someone else, but we said we couldn’t do that because the visas we had only applied to working for him. He told us if we didn’t like it, we could go home.”

It is at this point that many victims of forced labour often simply accept their fate and either go home or do whatever their employer wants. But Adabblah and his friends were determined to see the terms of their contract met, and they contacted the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

However, their problems deepened as they discovered they did not have the right documents for their work.

“We had no idea of the difference between Ireland and the UK. We thought the papers were OK. But when we went to the ITF, we realized they weren’t,” explains Adabblah.

At that point, the Irish police were obliged to open an investigation into the case.

Adabblah, who stayed in Ireland and has since managed to find work in the construction industry, says he heard nothing about the case until last year. “I heard that the police had said there was not enough evidence to pursue a conviction,” he says. Forced labour does not exist as an offense on the Irish statute books, so such cases are investigated under human trafficking legislation.

Regardless of the lack of a conviction in his case, he is clear that what he and his friends experienced was forced labour.

“They treated us badly. We worked 20-hour shifts some days. Once, when I was ill and couldn’t go on the boat, they said that if I couldn’t do the job, I could go home. They say stuff like that to threaten you,” he says.

Burmese fishermen in temporary shelter in Ambon port, Indonesia. Hundreds of trafficked workers are waiting to be sent back home, with many facing an uncertain future. The forced labour and trafficking survivors interviewed by Greenpeace Southeast Asia detailed beatings and food deprivation for anyone who tried to escape. The tuna fishermen on their vessels were forced to work 20-22 hour days for little to no pay, often deprived of basic necessities like showers.

Burmese fishers in temporary shelter in Ambon Port, Indonesia. Hundreds of trafficked workers are waiting to be sent back home, with many facing an uncertain future. The forced labour and trafficking survivors interviewed by Greenpeace Southeast Asia detailed beatings and food deprivation for anyone who tried to escape. The tuna fishermen on their vessels were forced to work 20–22 hours a day for little to no pay, often deprived of basic necessities like showers. Credit: Greenpeace

A commercial shrimp trawler is pursued by three Sea Lions near San Felipe. Shrimp trawlers, often entering into marine reserves illegally, pose a great threat to the marine environment at the northern end of the Gulf of California, due to the variety of marine wildlife, including Sea Lions that get caught in their bottom-trawling nets. The Greenpeace vessel 'MY Esperanza' is currently in Mexico to highlight the threats to the 'world's aquarium' from over-fishing, destructive tourism development, pollution and marine habitat loss.

A commercial shrimp trawler is pursued by three Sea Lions near San Felipe.
Shrimp trawlers, often entering into marine reserves illegally, pose a great threat to the marine environment at the northern end of the Gulf of California, due to the variety of marine wildlife, including Sea Lions, that get caught in their bottom-trawling nets. Credit: Greenpeace

Adabblah’s experience is far from unique among workers in the world’s fishing fleets. A recent report by the Financial Transparency Coalition, an international grouping of NGOs, said that more than 128,000 fishers were trapped in forced labour aboard fishing vessels in 2021. Its authors say there is a “human rights crisis” of forced labour aboard commercial fishing vessels, leading to horrific abuses and even deaths.

They point out that many of these victims of forced labour are from the global South, something that the people behind these crimes use to their advantage, experts say.

Michael O’Brien of the ITF’s Fisheries Section told IPS: “Those employing vulnerable migrants in forced labour scenarios rely upon the vulnerability of the victim, the potential lack of legal status of the victim in the country where they are working, and the victim’s reliance on an income that is unavailable to them in their country of origin.”

Mariama Thiam, an investigative journalist in Senegal who did research for the Financial Transparency Coalition report, said fishers often do not know what they are signing up for.

“Usually there is a standard contract that the fisher signs, and often they sign it without understanding it fully,” she told IPS.  “Most Senegalese fishermen have a low level of education. The contract is checked by the national fishing agency, which sees it, says it looks okay, approves it, and the fishers then go, but the fishers don’t understand what’s in it.”

Then, once they have started work, the men are so desperate to keep their jobs that they will put up with whatever conditions they have to.

“All the fishers I have spoken to say they have had no choice but to do the work because they cannot afford to lose their jobs—their families rely on them. Some of them were beaten or did not have any days off; captains systematically confiscate all their passports when they go on board—the captains say that if the fishermen have their passports, some will go on shore when they are in Europe and stay on there, migrating illegally,” she said.

“In the minds of Senegalese fishermen, their priority is salary. They can tolerate human rights abuses and forced labour if they get their salary,” Thiam added.

Adabblah agrees, adding though that this allows the criminals behind the forced labour to continue their abuses.

“The thing is that a lot of people are afraid to speak up because of where they are from, and they end up being too scared to say anything even if they are really badly treated. There are lots of people who are in the same situation as I was or experiencing much worse, but if no one speaks up, how can [criminals] be identified?” he says.

Experts on the issue say the owners of vessels where forced labour is alleged to have occurred hide behind complex corporate structures and that many governments take a lax approach to uncovering ultimate beneficial ownership information when vessels are registered or fishing licenses are applied for.

This means those behind the abuses are rarely identified, let alone punished.

“In Senegal, what happens is that the government doesn’t want to share information on owner control of boats. No one can get information on it, not journalists, not activists, sometimes not even people in other parts of government itself,” said Thiam.

Other problems include a lack of legislation to even deal with the problem. For instance, Thiam highlighted that fishers in Senegal work under a collective convention dating back to 1976 that does not mention forced labour.

O’Brien added: “In the Irish context, there has never been a prosecution for human trafficking for labour exploitation in fisheries or any other sector.

“There is a school of thought among progressive lawyers that we need a separate offense on the statute books of ‘labour exploitation’ to obtain convictions. In the case of fishers, some remedies can be obtained via the labour and maritime authorities, but these are lower-level offenses that do not have a dissuasive effect on the vessel owners.”

Victims also face difficulties seeking redress in their home countries.

Complaints to recruiting agencies in fishers’ home countries often come to nothing and can end up having serious consequences.

“The thing about the agency I dealt with at home and other agencies like it is that if you complain to them, they will just say that you are talking too much and you should come home and solve the situation there, and then when you get home, they just blacklist you and you won’t get any fishing work ever again; they will just recruit someone else,” says Adabblah.

Although Adabblah did not see the justice he had hoped for, he is aware his story has ended better than many other victims of forced labour. He, along with his three friends, have made new lives in Ireland, and he is hoping to soon begin the process of becoming a naturalised Irish citizen.

He urges anyone who finds themselves in the same situation to not stay quiet, and instead contact an organization like the ITF or something similar.

Doing so may not always bring victims a satisfactory resolution to their problems, but each publicized case may end up having a long-term positive effect on stopping others from being abused, said O’Brien.

“The ITF has significant resources but not enough to match the scale of the problem. The cases we take up like Noel’s are the tip of the iceberg. However, we use these cases, with the consent of the victims, to highlight the problem with governments and, in turn, campaign for changes in the law,” he said.

IPS UN Bureau Report


New Era: Unlocking Africa’s Agriculture Potential Through CGIAR TAAT Model

Africa, Biodiversity, Civil Society, Climate Change, COP28, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Food and Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, Food Sustainability, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Population, Poverty & SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment

Food and Agriculture

Transforming food systems is key to solving food insecurity on the African continent. A powerful and unified effort is needed to ensure food systems are transformed to be robust enough to support the population. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

Transforming food systems is key to solving food insecurity on the African continent. A powerful and unified effort is needed to ensure food systems are transformed to be robust enough to support the population. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

NAIROBI, Jan 16 2024 (IPS) – As hunger and food insecurity deepen, Africa is confronting an unprecedented food crisis. Estimates show that nearly 282 million people on the continent, or 20 percent of the population, are undernourished. Numerous challenges across the African continent threaten the race to achieve food security; research and innovative strategies are urgently needed to transform current systems as they are inadequate to address the food crisis.

Transforming food systems is key. A powerful and unified effort is needed to equip food systems to advance human and planetary health to their full potential. This was the message as CGIAR entered a new era under the leadership of Dr Ismahane Elouafi, the Executive Managing Director. Named one of the most influential Africans of 2023, she continues to stress the need to use science and innovation to unlock Africa’s potential to meet its food needs.

Dr Ismahane Elouafi, the CGIAR’s newly appointed Executive Managing Director. Credit: FAO

Dr Ismahane Elouafi, the CGIAR’s newly appointed Executive Managing Director. Credit: FAO

During her inaugural field visit to an IITA center in Ibadan, Nigeria, alongside Dr Simeon Ehui, IITA’s Director General and CGIAR Regional Director for Continental Africa, she oversaw extensive discussions on transforming food systems and leveraging science and technology.

“At COP28 in Dubai, UAE, there was high-level recognition and a wonderful spotlight on science and innovation. CGIAR has an opportunity to represent science and innovation at large, representing the whole community at large. We can cut down poverty and stop malnutrition, and we have the tools—we just need to bring them to the farmers,” she said.

CGIAR continues to create linkages between agricultural and tech stakeholders, emphasizing digital innovation for agricultural development. CGIAR-IITA explores leveraging ICTs to tackle agricultural challenges, boost productivity, ensure sustainability, and enhance food security, featuring presentations, discussions, workshops, and networking across sectors.

There was a significant focus on the CGIAR TAAT model as a tool to use technology to address Africa’s worsening food crisis. TAAT Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) is a key flagship programme of the African Development Bank’s Feed Africa strategy for 2016 to 2025.

“We have the technology, and all hands are on deck to ensure that no one sleeps hungry. There are severe food insecurities on the continent today, deepening rural poverty and malnutrition. We have the capacity to achieve food security,” Ehui emphasized.

IITA’s Dr Kenton Dashiell spoke about TAAT in the context of strategic discussions around policy and government engagement. Emphasizing the need for the government, private sector, and other key stakeholders to create effective and efficient food systems transformation paths. As a major continent-wide initiative designed to boost agricultural productivity across the continent by rapidly delivering proven technologies to millions of farmers, TAAT can deliver a food-secure continent.

Elouafi stressed the need to ensure that technology is in the hands of farmers. in line with TAAT, which aims to double crop, livestock, and fish productivity by expanding access to productivity-increasing technologies to more than 40 million smallholder farmers across Africa by 2025. In addition, TAAT seeks to generate an additional 120 million metric tons.

IITA’s Bernard Vanlauwe spoke about sustainable intensification with the aim of increasing production and improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Farmers are increasingly dealing with higher temperatures and shorter rainy seasons, affecting the production of staple foods such as maize. Further stressing the need for improved crop varieties to meet Africa’s pressing food insecurities.

Elouafi stressed that the needs are great, in particular, eliminating extreme poverty, ending hunger and malnutrition, turning Africa into a net food exporter, and positioning Africa at the top of the agricultural value chains. She emphasized the need to leverage progress made thus far, building on the commitments of Dakar 1, the 1st Summit of the World’s Regions on Food Security held in Dakar in January 2010, where representatives and associations of regional governments from the five continents noted that the commitments made at the World Food Summit in 2002 had had little effect and that the food crisis had only worsened.

Elouafi said the UN Food System Summit in 2021 and the 2023 Dakar 2 Summit, with an emphasis on building sustainable food systems and aligning government resources, development partners, and private sector financing to unleash Africa’s food production potential, were important meetings to build on. The commitments made at these high-level meetings had already created a pathway towards ending hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition and transforming food systems to meet the most pressing food needs today.

It is estimated that Africa’s agricultural output could increase from USD 280 billion per year to USD 1 trillion by 2030. The visit and ensuing discussions highlighted how investing in raising agricultural productivity, supporting infrastructure, and climate-smart agricultural systems, with private sector investments, government support, and resources from multinational financial institutions, all along the food value chain, can help turn Africa into a breadbasket for the world. Private sector actors will be particularly urged to commit to the development of critical value chains.

IPS UN Bureau Report


Africa Will Not Cope with Climate Change Without a Just, Inclusive Energy Transition

Africa, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Climate Change Finance, COP28, Editors’ Choice, Energy, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Sustainable Development Goals, TerraViva United Nations


Climate change impact on Africa has been devastating as this photo taken in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique shows. A just transition is needed. Credit: Denis Onyodi / IFRC/DRK

Climate change impact on Africa has been devastating as this photo taken in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique shows. Credit: Denis Onyodi / IFRC/DRK

NAIROBI, Nov 24 2023 (IPS) – A just transition should be viewed as an opportunity to rectify some of the wrongs where women are not prioritised in the energy mix, yet their experience of the impact of climate change is massive, says Thandile Chinyavanhu, a young South African-based climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Africa.

Recent UN scientific research on the state of the climate change crisis and ongoing climate action reveals that the window to reach climate goals is rapidly closing. The world is not on track to reach the goals set out in the Paris Agreement, which commits all countries to pursue efforts to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

To achieve this goal, emissions must decrease by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. Ahead of COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), expectations are high that a clear roadmap to net zero progress will be reached, bringing issues of energy, a global energy transition, and energy security into sharp focus.

The energy sector has a significant impact on climate as it accounts for an estimated two-thirds of all harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause of the ongoing global climate change crisis, significantly altering planet Earth. The issue of energy and climate is of particular concern to African countries, especially the Sub-Saharan Africa region, as they also relate to increased vulnerabilities for women, especially rural women. The intersection between energy security and economic growth, poverty reduction, and the empowerment of women and girls is not in doubt.

Still, despite access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy for all being articulated under the UN’s SDG 7, one in eight people around the world has no access to electricity. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, nearly 600 million people, or an estimated 53 percent of the region’s population, have no access to electricity. Currently, less than a fifth of African countries have targets to reach universal electricity access by 2030. For some, the silver bullet is to dump fossil fuels and go green; for others, it is an urgent, just, and equitable transition to renewables.

IPS spoke to Chinyavanhu about her role as a social justice and climate activist. She says she wants to contribute to climate change mitigation, ensuring that people and cities are prepared for climate change and can adapt to what is coming.

Thandile Chinyavanhu

Thandile Chinyavanhu

Here are excerpts from the interview.

IPS: Why are current energy systems untenable, considering the ongoing climate change crisis?

Chinyavanhu: On going green and dumping fossil fuels, there are several issues at play, and they vary from country to country. Fossil fuels—coal, oil, and gas—are by far the largest contributors to global climate change, as they account for more than 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. South Africa, for instance, has a big coal mining industry and is one of the top five coal-exporting countries globally. The country relies heavily on coal for about 70 percent of its total electricity production. We need to move away from energy consumption models that are exacerbating the climate crisis, but we must also ensure that we are centred on a just transition.

IPS: What should a ‘just energy transition’ look like for Africa and other developing nations?

Chinyavanhu: Overall, we are looking at issues of socio-economic development models that leave no one behind. To achieve this, renewable energy is the pathway that provides us with energy security and accelerated development. We have serious energy-related challenges due to a lack of preparation and planning around the energy crisis. The challenge is that Africa needs energy and, at the same time, accelerates its development in a manner that leaves no one behind, be it women or any other vulnerable group that is usually left behind in policy responses.

There is a need to address challenges regarding access to energy for all so that, in transitioning to clean energy, we do not have any groups of people being left behind, as has been the case. This is not so much a problem or challenge as an opportunity for countries to address gaps in access to energy and ensure that it is accessible to all, especially women, bearing in mind the many roles they play in society, including nurturing the continent’s future workforce. A just energy transition is people-centred.

We must recognise and take stock of the economic impact that moving from fossil fuels to clean energy could have on people and their livelihoods, such as those in the mining sector. It is crucial that people are brought along in the process of transition, giving them the tools and resources needed for them to be absorbed into new clean energy models. There is a very deep socio-economic aspect to it because people must be given the skills and capacities to engage in emerging green systems and industries.

IPS: As a young woman activist, what do you think the roles of women in an energy transition are?

Chinyavanhu: Women are generally not prioritised, and so they do not have the same opportunities as men, even in matters of climate change adaptation and mitigation, and this is true for sectors such as agriculture and mining. Women have great economic potential and have a very big role to play towards a just energy transition as key drivers of socio-economic progress.

In the green energy space, economic opportunities are opening up. Men are quickly taking over the renewable energy industry, but there are plenty of opportunities for women to succeed if given the right resources. We are at a point in time when we have the opportunity to leave behind polluting technologies and, at the same time, address some of the key socio-economic challenges that have plagued societies for a long time.

This transition should be viewed as an opportunity to rectify some of those wrongs in a way that is people-centred and inclusive. No one should be left behind. It is really about building harmony with nature while also addressing many of the socio-economic issues that plague us today. This is more of an opportunity than a hurdle. It is about understanding and rectifying systems’ thinking that contributes to women being left behind. It is important that we see the bigger picture—identify and acknowledge that different groups—not just women, but any identifier that places people at a point of vulnerability—have been left furthest behind. The energy transition process has presented an opportunity to make it right.
IPS UN Bureau Report