Monday, November 26, 2018

Kwa nini Kusimamisha Majaribio ya GMO ni Ushindi?

Kwa Nini Uamuzi wa Serikali kusimamisha Majaribio ya GMO ni Ushindi kwa Tanzania?


Awali ya yote, nipende kuipongeza Serikali ya Awamu ya Tano kwa usikivu wake na kuchukua hatua stahiki kuhusiana na sakata la mimea na mbegu Zilizobadilishwa Vinasaba (GMO) nchini. Kama mtafiti wa Uhuru wa Chakula, napenda kuihakikishia Serikali kuwa, wadau mbalimbali wakiwemo wakulima, walaji, wazalishaji wa mbegu wa ndani, watafiti katika taasisi zetu za Kilimo (mbali na wale waliokuwa wakinufaika na mradi wa WEMA), na wauzaji wa vyakula nje na ndani ya nchi wamefarijika sana na hatua hii. Namshukuru Katibu Mkuu wa Wizara ya Kilimo, lakini pia natambua suala hili ni la kisera hivyo kwa namna yeyote linamhusu Rais wa Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania-Mheshimiwa Dkt. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli. Natoa pongezi za dhati kabisa kwa Serikali, na katika makala hii fupi nitaeleza kwa nini uamuzi huu ni wa kupongezwa.  

Kwanza, nianze kwa kukiri kuwa, hatua hii ambayo Serikali imechukua isingekwepeka katika nchi makini kama Tanzania. Lilikuwa ni suala la muda tu. Kuna watu wanaodhani maamuzi haya yamefikiwa kwa hofu tu isiyo na msingi wa kitafiti. Lakini nataka kuwatahadharisha kuwa Serikali ina taarifa nyingi zaidi kuliko sisi tunavyofikiri. Na kwa mwenendo wa kisera wa Serikali ya Awamu ya Tano, suala hili halikuhitaji mjadala wala barua za watu wasio na ushawishi wowote kutoka Mbinga au London. Lakini nitambue tu tamko la wakulima wenyewe, wakiwakilishwa na MVIWATA, huenda liliharakisha maamuzi haya muhimu kwa masilahi ya Taifa.  

Suala la kuruhusu teknolojia ya uhandisi-jeni, ni la kimkakati. Mara nyingi sana nimemsikia Rais akisisitiza Serikali inatekeleza Ilani ya CCM. Napenda kukumbusha tu kuwa Ilani ya CCM ya mwaka 2015 ndiyo mkataba halisi kati ya Serikali na Wananchi waliokichagua chama hiki ili kitawale kuanzia mwaka 2015-2020. Tathmini ya kina inaonesha kuwa CCM haikuahidi teknolojia ya Uhandisi-jeni (Genetic Engineering) katika kilimo kupitia ilani yake ya mwaka 2015. Mkakati huu ungekuwepo kwenye Ilani huenda tungesema kuwa watu wameuchagua pale walipoipigia kura CCM. Kinachoshangaza ni pale ambapo katika Mpango wa Pili wa Sekta ya Kilimo (ASDP II), uhandisi-jeni katika mimea, wanyama na samaki unatamkwa kama mkakati ya Serikali katika kilimo. Hali hii inachanganya. 

Lakini pia tathmini ya kina inaonesha kuwa, mkakati ya uhandisi-jeni umekuwa ukisukumwa na makampuni husika yatakayonufaika na teknolojia hii kwa kuzitumia taasisi zetu za utafiti. Kimsingi, Sera ya Taifa ya Baiteknolojia (National Biotechnology Policy), iliyopitishwa mwaka 2010 ina kila harufu ya ushawishi wa hiki tunachokiona leo huku masilahi ya taifa yakiwekwa rehani. Kiutawala, taasisi za utafiti nchini si watunga sera bali watekelezaji wa sera na mikakati ya serikali iliyopo madarakani. Jukumu lao kuu ni kutoa utaalamu wa kitafiti kwa serikali ili kuiwezesha kutumia ushauri huo katika kutunga sera na mikakati husika. 

Katika sakata la mbegu za GMO, Taasisi ya Utafiti wa Kilimo nchini (TARI) na Tume ya Sayansi na Teknolojia (COSTECH) wamefanya tofauti. Naam, hawakutimiza wajibu wao. Taasisi hizi zimenukuliwa katika vyombo vya habari kama makuwadi wa kunadi mbegu za GMO kuwa zinakuja ili kumkomboa mkulima mdogo. Sera ya Baiteknolojia inatamka wazi katika kipengele cha malengo ya jumla kuwa inakusudia tu kutumia faida zilizothibitika za baioteknolojia, huku ikilinda usalama wa jamii na mazingira katika matumizi ya faida hizi. Hii inatuonesha kuwa, tayari waandaaji ya sera hii, pamoja na ubovu wake, walijua kuna madhara ya teknolojia hii.

Ukisoma Eneo la Sera (Policy Issue) 4.5, sera inataka umma wa Watanzania upate taarifa sahihi kuhusu teknolojia hii ili kuwasiadia wananchi na watunga sera kufanya uamuzi utakanao na ufahamu (informed decision) juu ya matumizi ya teknolojia hii kwa maendeleo. Kipengele hiki kinaendelea kusisitiza taasisi hizi kutoa taarifa sahihi na zenye mlingano wa faida na madhara ya teknolojia hii. Haiishii hapo tu, taasisi hizi zinahimizwa kuandaa midahalo na mijadala kuhusu faida na madhara ya matumizi ya teknolojia kwa afya, mazingira, uchumi na kimaadili. 

Lakini TARI na COSTECH waliamua kuchagua upande wa kuzungumzia faida tu za GMO kwa niaba ya wawekezaji wakati  tafiti lukuki za kisayansi zilizofanywa sehemu mbalimbali duniani zinasema kuna madhara, kama nilivyoeleza katika Barua yangu ya Wazi kwa Rais hapo awali. Tumefanya mijadala na wawakilishi wa taasisi hizi mara kadhaa, siyo walioandaa wao, ila walioalikwa lakini wamekuwa wakiimba faida za GMO tu bila kueleza ukweli kuhusu madhara. Mbali na kuwa hawakutoa elimu yenye mlingano wa faida na hasara, lakini pale ambapo watu walijitolea kutoa elimu hiyo, taasisi hizi zilitoa matamko ya kutaka kuzuia mjadala. Hali ilikuwa mbaya zaidi pale ambapo hata vyombo vya habari vilikuwa na upande wa kuzuia mawazo mbadala dhidi ya GMO.

Kimsingi, taasisi hizi zinazoendeshwa kwa kodi ya Watanzania hazikupaswa kutuchagulia teknolojia na kutumia wakulima kushawishi mbegu za GMO na teknolojia ya uhandisi-jeni zipitishwe chinichini kama mkakati wa nchi. Hazikupaswa kuendesha propaganda za kushawishi umma kuzipokea mbegu hizi bila taarifa sahihi juu ya faida na madhara. Kwa kuzingatia athari za kiuchumi zitokanazo na mbegu za GMO, COSTECH na hasa TARI walipaswa kuhimiza utafiti unaoendana na kilimo chetu na kuwa mhimili mkubwa wa mageuzi ya kilimo nchini. Kiujumla, taasisi hizi hazikupaswa kuwa makuwadi wa makampuni ya nje yanayokusudia kutuletea ukoloni wa kikampuni. 

Kwa upande wa serikali yetu tukufu, kuruhusu kuanza kwa utafiti, na baadaye kutoa rukhsa ya matumizi ya mbegu za GMO ni jambo ambalo yafaa umakini uzingatiwe. Nafurahi kuona kuwa kanuni zetu za usalama wa viini hai (biosafety), zinaweka tahadhari kubwa sana, japo pamekuwa na jitihada za kuzimwagia maji kwanza kuruhusu utafiti. Lakini kuruhusu matumizi ya mbegu za GMO zenye athari katika maisha ya makundi mbalimbali niliyoyataja hapo juu, na nafasi yetu ya kuuza chakula ndani na nje ya nchi, ni suala ambalo haliwezi kuchukuliwa kwa wepesi. Kwa namna yeyote serikali ilipaswa kupata ridhaa ya jamii za asili za maeneo hayo (indigenous peoples) hasa kwa kuzingatia fasili ambayo inahusisha wakulima wadogo kwa misingi ya kanuni ya Free, Prior and Informed Consent(FPIC), yaani uhuru wa kuridhia kabla ya kitu fulani kufanyika.

Kanuni hii ya ridhaa ya jamii husika inawekwa na mikataba ya kimataifa kama vile Azimio la Umoja wa Mataifa la Haki za Jamii za Asili (UNDRIP), Mkataba wa Shirika la Kazi namba 169 (ILO Convention 169), na Sera kuhusu Jamii za Asili na Watu wa Makabila iliyoandaliwa na Shirika la Chakula Duniani (FAO). Sheria za kimataifa zinaweka wazi haki ya kujitawala (Right to self-determination) kwa jamii hizi ambayo ndiyo msingi mkubwa wa kuhakikisha kuna ridhaa kutoka kwa jamii za asili zinazoishi na kutegemea maeneo yanayolengwa. Hivyo basi, jambo linalobadili maisha yao kama hili la mbegu za GMO, kiuchumi, kimazingira na hata kiafya lilipaswa kupata ridhaa ya wakulima wadogo, ambao kimsingi ni asilimia kubwa ya wananchi wetu. Ukiniuliza mimi, kwa kuwa GMO inagusa pia jamii kubwa ya walaji wa mijini na vijijini, uamuzi huu unahitaji kura ya maoni (referendum).  

Lakini kuna baadhi ya watu wanaona ni jambo la ukakasi kuzuia utafiti huo wa GMO. Hoja hii imepata mashiko makubwa na inaoneka kuzuia utafiti ni kutokupenda  sayansi. Ieleweke pia, kupinga GMO inaonekana pia kama ni kupinga sayansi. Wasiwasi mkubwa pia umeoneshwa na baadhi ya wanafunzi wanaotaka kubobea katika teknolojia hii, wakihofu kuwa sasa hawatapata fursa ya kufanyia kazi ujuzi wao. 

Lakini utafiti wa GMO uliofanyika Makutupora-Dodoma ulikuwa na mwelekeo upi? Mwelekeo wa tafiti hizi ulikuwa kuhalalisha tu mradi wa mbegu za GMO kwa kuzitumia taasisi zetu. Utafiti huu haukuwa HURU wenye lengo la kuleta matokeo mapya, kama vile kujibu ukosoaji wa kisayansi uliofanywa na tafiti za wanasayansi wengine waliogundua athari mbalimbali za GMO katika mazingira, baianuai, na mtanzuko wa kisayansi juu ya usalama wa vyakula vya GMO kiafya. Inaonekana utafiti huu ulilenga uzalishaji tu kisha watafiti wanaumbaumba ripoti za tathmini za kiuchumi na kimazingira ili kuurubuni umma kuwa GMO hazina madhara yeyote. Na kimsingi, utafiti huu ulifanywa katika mazingira magumu ya hakimiliki (patent) ambapo wanasayansi wetu hawakuwa na uwezo wa kuifikia teknolojia halisi ya uhandisi-jeni bali kufanya majaribio ya kukuza mimea tu katika eneo la majaribio. Kampuni ya Monsanto imekuwa ikifanya majaribio ya aina hii katika kila nchi kama hatua ya kulazimisha mbegu na vyakula vya GMO vikubalike huku yenyewe ikiwa inahakikisha inahodhi hakimiliki mbalimbali za mbegu.

Ikumbukwe kuwa, Afrika Kusini, ambao walirasimisha matumizi ya GMO nchini mwao tangu miaka ya 1990 wiki iliyopita walikataa kuidhinisha mbegu za mahindi za Monsanto MON87460, MON89034, na NK603 zilizotajwa kuhimili ukame na wadudu. Lakini tathmini binafsi zilionesha kuwa uwezo wa mbegu hizi haukutofautiana na mbegu zinazozalishwa kawaida, na katika majaribio mengine mbegu za GMO zilikuwa na mazao hafifu kuliko mbegu za kawaida. Hii inadhihirisha kwamba Afrika Kusini wameanza kung’amua ujanja wa makampuni haya wenye lengo tu la kulikamata soko la mbegu. Lakini pia utafiti huu wa Afrika Kusini ulichukua miaka takribani mitano, lakini utashangazwa na utafiti wa miaka miwili (2016-2018) wa Makutupora halafu wanasema wakulima wanazihitaji hizo mbegu haraka, hata kabla tathmini huru haijafanyika. Utafiti huu haukuwa na malengo sahihi kwa masilahi ya Taifa na serikali ilikuwa na kila sababu ya kuupiga tindo.

Tathmini iliyofanywa na Chuo Cha Ulinzi cha Marekani mwaka 2011, inaeleza kuwa kuna uwezekano wa maadui kutumia GMO kama silaha ya kibaiolojia na kuleta madhara makubwa sana kwa jamii. Ripoti hii ya utafiti inatufungua macho kujua ni kwa jinsi gani teknolojia hii inapaswa kuchukuliwa kwa umakini. Mimi naunga mkono utafiti. Lakini kwanza ningeshauri Serikali iwekeze katika teknolojia hii na kupata wataalamu watakaoweza kufanya uhandisi-jeni wenyewe. Na taasisi zetu za kiusalama zinaweza kuwa mwangalizi mzuri wa tafiti hizi zenye lengo la kujielimisha kwa kushirikisha taasisi zingine na watafiti binafsi nchini. Hatuwezi kuacha uwekezaji huu kwa makampuni ya nje bila serikali kujiridhisha kuhusu faida na madhara ya teknolojia hii. Ningetamani watafiti wa Tanzania waje na matokeo huru ya faida na hasara za GMO. 

Lakini pia si lazima tufanye utafiti wa kila kitu hasa kama tuna vipaumbele vingine. Tafiti inapaswa kuwa kwa ajili ya msaada wa nchi, na teknolojia ni chombo cha kuleta maendeleo lakini si dira ya maendeleo. Tathmini inaonesha kuwa teknolojia ya uhandisi-jeni ni ghali, ila hatuwezi kusema tunachelewa kupata teknolojia hii. Ningeshauri tafiti zetu zijikite zaidi katika maeneo mengine ya kilimo ili kuboresha mbegu zetu zinazoweza kuzaa kawaida, kwani tafiti zinaonesha kuna uwezekano wa kuwa na mbegu za kawaida zinazohimili ukame na kuleta tija kubwa. Ni jambo la kushangaza pia kuwa Monsanto wana mbegu za kawaida zinazohimili ukame lakini wanaona hazitawapa mamlaka ya kutosha juu yetu.

Ujasiri wa Serikali ya Awamu ya Tano kuzuia majaribio ya GMO unatutia moyo sana. Pamoja na mambo mengine, Serikali ya CCM ikiongozwa na Rais Magufuli imekuwa jasiri katika kufufua ATCL kwa kununua ndege mpya; ujenzi wa reli (Standard Gauge Railway-SGR) ili kuboresha miundombinu na sekta ya usafirishaji; kuhakikisha taifa linanufaika na rasilimali zake kama vile madini katika sakata maarufu la makinikia; na imesimama thabiti katika nia ya kujenga bwawa la kuzalisha umeme (Stiegler’s Gorge Hydropower Plant), hatua ambayo itatupatia umeme wa uhakika. Katika mkakati wa viwanda, tumebakiza mkakati thabiti tu wa kuhakikisha Mkulima Mdogo analipeleka jembe la mkono Makumbusho ya Taifa, kwa kujengwa viwanda vinavyotengeneza zana za bei nafuu na za kisasa (motorized simple and affordable farm implements) zitakazoongeza tija katika uzalishaji.
 Pia tunahitaji utekelezaji wa Azimio la asilimia 1 ya pato la taifa kuelekezwa katika tafiti, ili taasisi zetu za kilimo ziweze kujikita katika kuboresha mbegu zinazoendana na utamaduni wa chakula chetu. Na mwisho Serikali inapaswa kuhakikisha mkulima ananufaika na kilimo kwa kuweka mazingira wezeshi ya soko la uhakika la ndani na kufungua mipaka ya nje ili Tanzania iwe inauza chakula bora na kisicho na unyanyapaa katika ukanda wa SADC, na Afrika Mashariki. Ukisoma Ilani ya CCM 2015 ukurasa wa 14-16 haya, na mambo mengine, ndiyo wakulima waliyategemea katika ASDP II na utekelezwaji wake mpaka 2020. 

Katika kufanikisha hayo, tunahitaji mikakati sahihi na GMO, mbegu na chakula chenye unyanyapaa duniani, haiwezi kuwa sehemu ya mkakati huo. Niliwahi kusema huko nyuma, Tanzania kama kitovu cha utalii Afrika tunapaswa kulinda vyakula vyetu kwa choyo kubwa, ili tusiwakwaze watalii wetu. Lakini pia kwa kuzingatia uwezo wetu wa kuzalisha, ambao mpaka sasa hatujauendeleza vya kutosha, ningetamani kuona Tanzania inakuwa chanzo cha uzalishaji na usambazaji wa vyakula salama Afrika huku vikiwanufaisha wakulima wetu na kuchangia ukuaji wa pato la Taifa na maendeleo.

Naipongeza tena Serikali kwa uthubutu na kuchukua maamuzi sahihi bila kupepesa macho. Katika sakata hili la kuzuia GMO nchini, Watanzania wameshinda. Pasi na shaka, uamuzi huu utakumbukwa siku za usoni.

Mungu Ibariki Tanzania!

Monday, November 19, 2018

DIAMOND PLATNUMZ AND MORALISM IN TANZANIA







































“RAUNCHY” DIAMOND PLATNUMZ AND CREEPING MORAL CONSERVATISM IN TANZANIA


East Africa’s finest Afro-pop singer Naseeb Abdul, known by his stage name Diamond Platinum has once again found himself IN hot water after Baraza la Sanaa Tanzania (BASATA), the national art council, banned his latest single titled “Mwanza.” To my recollection, it is the fourth time the Bongo Fleva singer has been on the receiving end of BASATA’s stringent moral code. Bongo Fleva is probably Tanzania’s fastest growing industry in the last two decades (of course, with a little bit of tongue-in-cheek). It is made of “youth music” or, as known in the country, “new generation music.”

Bongo, i.e. brain, stands for Tanzania when it is parochially used, but it can also mean Africa if stretched to the pan-Africanist discourse. Mbongo, i.e. someone who uses his/her brain to survives, is a Tanzanian, but can also mean an African. Bongo Fleva, thus, means the flavor of Bongo, musically.  
The last time Diamond’s music was banned was early this year when he released Hallelujah and Waka Waka. It led to a heated exchange between him and the Deputy Minister of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports. Later in April, Diamond was made to issue a public apology after video clips of him and his girlfriend(s) enjoying intimate moments were posted online. It is not like they were caught in the act, just those little things most couple would do in private: like a lap dance, for instance. Such is the level of moralism sweeping Tanzania in the age of the internet!
  
A few weeks ago, the country’s film board indefinitely banned from acting a famous socialite, Wema Sepetu, after she posted a “sexually explicit” video of her kissing a boyfriend. Tanzania has a tough law in the Cybercrimes Act, 2015which makes it criminal to post online pornographic materials that are “lascivious or obscene.” She has since been charged of the offence and could face 10 years behind bars. 

Back to Diamond Platnumz, he is just a mega star. He is the country and region’s biggest export in the music industry. He has done collabos with international artistes, such as Nigeria’s famous duo P Square, Jamaica’s legendary reggae group Morgan Heritage, America’s A-list rapper Ricky Ross, Ne-Yo, and Grammy-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari. He has 5.5 million followers on Instagram. He is constantly involved in relationship dramas where he has had multiple love affairs. He is a dream newsmaker for the notorious rumor mill. He is the country’s showbiz. 
But he is not Fela Kuti. Nor is he Vitali Maembe. Far from it.

I am a big Diamond fan. I once bumped into him in the waiting lounge at Dubai International Airport. I approached, greeted, and told him I was a fan. We shook hands graciously. I even asked for a selfie with him but his manager declined politely, saying they had denied the opportunity for a good number of people who were shoving one another to get a shot with the Bongo Fleva superstar“It’s not fair if we allowed you to take pictures with him in the presence of those we have refused,” suggested Sallam SK, Diamond’s usually boastful manager.

I understood, high-fived with the celebrity, and left. It was all cool.

As hinted above, his latest feud with BASATA follows the release of his single Mwanza. In fact, he is only featured in the song by his fellow Wasafi Classic Baby’s (WCB0 group member, the talented Rayvanny (stage name). WCB is Diamond’s label group. Mwanza was an instant hit. Two days after the release, the song was viewed nearly 2 million times on YouTube. The Mwanza fever caught the country’s youthful Environment and Union minister, January Makamba, who praised WCB for improved choreography and world-play. Hours later, the song was banned and has since been removed from YouTube, at least for Tanzanians.
Because of Diamond’s stature, anything that happens to him is equally big. It was a big ban, which ignited the debate on morality in the country, on the one hand, and the role of BASATA, on the other. Quite a good number of music releases have not escaped BASATA’s wielding axe, since the 5th phase government came to power in 2015. In March last year, rapper Ney wa Mitego was arrested after releasing a song that was deemed critical of the government. He was released after the Minister responsible for information said the President loves the song and has suggested improving its lyrics "to take on other issues, such as tax evaders, corrupt businesspeople and drug traffickers." Another song by rapper Nikki Mbishi titled I am sorry JK was also banned. In the song, the rapper artistically apologizes to the former president Jakaya Kikwete for criticizing him when he was in power, insinuating that his successor has been worse. That, in BASATA’s book of law, was equivalent to insulting President Magufuli.

So, what is in Mwanza to the extent that it was deemed inappropriate for the Tanzanian public? It is not clear since the statement from BASATA only points to “immoral” content. But there are two contentious parts of the song: Mwanza is the city in the North of Tanzania on the shores of Lake Nyanza (shamelessly colonizers called it Victoria). In the song, the singers sing about “Nyegezi”, a popular suburb in Mwanza. But they first set apart “nyege” from “nyegezi,” before demanding that they are taken to Nyegezi because that is where their home is. 
It is a soothing poetic, melodic word-play that leaves the listener in a metaphoric state of mind because “nyege” is a Swahili word for horniness! In another line, Diamond sings about a girl who goes to his house and she seductively alludes to having anal sex to which he responds that he is fearful of the law, therefore, won’t be tempted. Sodomy is a serious crime in Tanzania. The backdrop to this is a leaked sex tape of a certain Amber Ruty (female) performing sodomy with a male partner, causing a national furore.  “I am fearful of the law, I am not doing an Amber Ruty,” sings Diamond. That was enough for BASATA; the mere mentioning of sodomy in a homophobic, patriarchal society can land one in trouble.
Tanzania has seen growing moral conservatism in recent years, a development that must warrant a social scientific interrogation. Public offices have introduced a conservative dress code for both their employees and visitors. In some offices, normal miniskirts are deemed too short and revealing, the wearer would be blocked at the gate. Patched jeans are prohibited for visitors. In some places, it has been reported that local governments there have introduced corporal punishment against young people with sagging pants!
  
The justification given by moralists is always suspicious: the wazungu (white people) are destroying our culture, we are a nation of men and women of God! Recently, speaking against homosexuality during a parliamentary session, the Home Affairs minister, Kangi Lugola strongly maintained that his government is not about to succumb to forces of evil by condoning homosexuality. “Tanzania is a nation of the Holy Spirit,” he announced.
This growing moralism, together with shrinking civic space in Tanzania, has created a breeding ground for homophobia, misogyny, and moral conservatism which calls for purity. I have blogged about this elsewhere


Earlier I mentioned that Diamond is not Fela Kuti. Unlike Kuti, Diamond is a regime sympathizer. Time and again he has expressed his admiration for President Magufuli and his government. The Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner who recently announced a manhunt on gay people is the WCB’s guardian. This political connection has created a wrong assumption that the country’s music prized asset is somehow untouchable. He seems to enjoy this status because he has not been outspoken when the government is wrong. To be fair to him, Tanzania now lacks militant art in the mainstream. And those in power love it.

Sometime last year, the Minister of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports advised musicians to compose songs that are not “political.” He used Diamond as an example of those whose music is not political but has reached stardom. He bizarrely warned artistes not to follow Fela Kuti’s way and end up as losers! However, the social and political context in Tanzania is leaving no one untouched. Not even Diamond. He may have avoided getting political, but the moral requirement imposed by BASATA has evidently failed him.
For an artiste of his stature, Diamond may be forced to radicalize. But only if he is aware of the power he has. It is a good sign he is now rivaling the country’s music establishment by organizing Wasafi Festival, an event that features nationwide music concerts. It is a project he says will emancipate the usually underpaid, undervalued talents of Bongo Fleva. He may want to use this platform and his stature to redefine our art. And our conservative morals, too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What's so Patriotic about Stiegler’s Gorge Project?

What is patriotic and what is not between development and conservation? The Political Ecology of Stiegler’s Gorge Hydroelectric Power Project in Tanzania


By


In June 2017, the 5th administration made public its ambitious plan to build what would become the biggest power project in Tanzania. Expected to generate 2,100 MW of electricity, the Stigler’s Gorge Hydroelectric Project (HEP) will draw its water from the Rufiji River. The rationales given were: high energy demand for yet another government's ambitious plan of transforming the country into an industrial economy; and the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project that would run on electricity.

Of course, you need reliable power to run the factories and indeed the train. That makes perfect economic sense. No objections!

The breaking news coincided with a backlash from local and international conservation groups who regarded implementing the project as signing a death warrant to the Selous Game Reserve (UNESCO’s heritage site) and socio-ecological systems, which are primarily dependent on the Rufiji River, especially in the lower course of the river. This is where livelihoods of hundred of thousand of people depend on irrigated paddy farming and where fishing and mangroves ecosystem flourish. A huge tension between the two sides was thus sparked and it is no secret that conservationists and environmentalists are now regarded as enemy to the project, in particular, and to the country or state, in general.
In this reflection, I attempt to make sense of claims from both sides of the debate and propose a compromise. In view of that, I argue that the move by the government to bring back the Stiegler’s HEP project on board comes as a desperate attempt to ensure that there is reliable energy supply after the recent drastic reforms in the energy and extractive sectors’ regulatory regimes. Similarly, the position that has been taken by conservationists and environmental experts does not necessarily imply conspiring with “imperialists” who wishes to see that Tanzania is economically doomed. Rather, they have been advocating for conservation policies and regulations that we, as a country, have embraced and even been praised for. 

As the 4th administration was about to enter its second and last term, Tanzania witnessed a bold move by the government to adopt what was then dubbed a “gas driven economy”. Legal and institutional reforms were made and the tone was set. It was then a high gear on gas and a lower one on hydro and thermal as sources of power. The cheerleader of the movement was the then Minister responsible for energy, Professor  Sospeter Muhongo.
 The country, therefore, witnessed a series of news headlines about discoveries of commercially exploitable natural gas deposits and it was high time Tanzania shifted to gas as a major source of energy, forsaking hydro and thermal ones, which were deemed burdensome given the siltation in our HEP dams. Global warming was aptly blamed for extreme low water levels and this resulted in high costs of running/hiring diesel generators. This is around the same period when we saw the plan (then) to build Stiegler’s HEP under the Rufiji Basin Development Authority (RUBADA) abandoned. 

In the first two years of the 5th administration, we have witnessed a radical shift in management of the economy, which I dare equate to undoing of the preceding administration’s economic outlook. It became very clear from the outset that the government was embarking on a state-led (or dominated, if I may) economic model. This is what Thabit Jacob, a Tanzanian researcher currently based at Roskilde University in Denmark and who has done extensive research on role of the state in the extractive sector, term as “The Return of the State.” 
Well, it was not declared as such, but the move to shake up tax and fiscal regimes, legal and institutional reforms in productive sectors, especially extractives, left no doubt that that is the way we were going. What most of us were told, is that this was a move to curb grand tax evasion, corruption, theft of the country’s natural wealth, and other forms of economic malaise. Natural gas exploration and extraction is one of sub-sectors that felt the impact of the reforms the most. For example, just recently, a global leader in the sector, Exxon Mobil, expressed its wish to sell its stakes in Tanzania. Coupled with recent oil and gas discoveries in neighbouring Mozambique, and possibly fairer business environment (in the investors perspective), facts are not so hard to find as to the current situation in Tanzania regarding the oil and gas economy. 

The TZS 700 billion ($308 million) allocated in the 2018-2019 budget for the Stiegler’s HEP is insignificant when one considers investment costs in gas exploration and, that is, if  the exploration are successful. I personally don’t see how the current regime can smoothly continue with gas exploration without joining hands with private investors (with financial and technological capital) whom seem to be quite displeased with the current developments. This only leaves the country with HEP as the most viable option given the current economic situation and our urgent need for energy. 

In May 2018, it was in the news that a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on Stiegler’s HEP has been undertaken and completed. This brought to rest speculations that the 2009 EIA would be used for the project as currently proposed. Good news (to the project proponent) was that the new EIA has given a green light for construction work to proceed. According to the lead researcher for the EIA, Professor Raphael Mwalyosi, the proposed project’s impacts found were preventable. The researcher was quoted saying that "Our assessment has revealed that the project can be implemented without any form of fear. The only best approach is to set strategies that will prevent such environment impacts," (Daily News, 13 June 2018)

Despite the good news, the EIA findings were later lambasted as unrealistic. Its lead researcher was accused of being unpatriotic, probably for airing some reservations (mitigation measures) regarding how the project should proceed with minimum negative impacts to the people and the environment. From the look of things, one would understand that the issue here is not about environmentalists not being patriotic. Rather, the urgency with which the country needs energy to feed its ambitious projects that are underway.
Hence, it seems, the government will stop at nothing to make sure there is reliable energy (let’s bother about sustainability later). It is quite unfortunate that this time around, it was environmentalists colluding with imperialists to derail the country’s development agenda. Ooh, so many enemies we have now! 

I still regard EIA as a very important component in any development project and, therefore, part of the development process. EIA is not anti-development as most would think but an assurance that what we do is sustainable and for the greater good. And, if I were to propose, a project of such magnitude as 2,100 MW HEP Dam warrants a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) as its impacts will spill over several sectors of the economies and socio-ecological subsystems.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Married Man

A Married Man

Contiguous is his smile, bright his brain
He smells sexy, and sounds sophisticated, too elitist to turn decent women on,
Smart and handsome, just like a movie star version 
He is the man I have met in my dreams and imagination since the day love is known
But he is married, Now that I have met him in person, 

I am not ashamed to admit, I am helplessly in love with him. 
I love his eyes, his ears, his style, 
The height of his neck and the stretch of his legs, 
The accuracy of his brain, his balanced sense of morality, 
The punch of his voice and calmness of his composure,
God, do I have to say it more …. Nampenda

But I am that girl, who believes not in being a mistress, 
Not because I am selfish and I need him to be my own – that is not pointless, 
But I can’t stand a thought of a tearing wife as he waits for him spending time with his mistress
Or the despair of his children – dad can no longer play games, busy being loved in secrecy 

A friend told me, all men cheat, 
If not with you, it will be with someone else, so if I love him, better be me!  That make sense, right? 
But would I be able to call him first thing in the morning when all I wanted to hear is his smooth voice to turn my sanity and make my day bright? 
Or it will be a life of steering on my phone hoping he will sneak a text between his meetings or wife's kitchen surveillance rights? 

The say, married men don’t love, they use, but I disagree, 
All I have seen in him is the loving of the highest degree. 
He doesn’t love me because there is trouble in paradise but simply because he loves … me-ee
Truth is I feel the same way. But our crime, meeting in odd times, the world condemns me-ee         

If you should know
Gallons of tears I have shed before God begging to make us connect  
Here he is, just like I prescribed with one minor mistake 99% correct
Can I real go back to God complaining that, he got one thing to correct?
How, will that not make me an ungrateful brat? 

I have met many men to surely know he is the one 
But I have not lived to enjoy the pain of anyone 
Should I love him as mine or let go and fight my feelings on my own. 
Brothers and sisters tell me am not insane! 

@Mwanahamisi 'Mishy' Singano

Hasira ni Udhaifu

Hasira ni Udhaifu

Hasira hazijengi, wahenga walitwambia
Mbona sasa huzitengi, mwenzangu wazikumbatia
Tena kwa makeke mengi, bila hata kujutia
Hasira ni udhaifu

Ulitongoza kwa pole, huku ukinyenyekea
Ahadi tele na tele, na nyimbo kuniimbia
Nikakuchagua tule, dume nimejipatia
Hasira ni udhaifu

Ndoa ya kisheria, dunia ikashangilia
Mizinga na zumaria, vyote wakatupigia
Wadini walihudhuria, baraka kutupatia
Hasira ni udhaifu

Ndani tumeingia, hasira waniletea 
Hila zimekuingia, kila kitu wakemea 
Vitisho wanitishia, tena kwa kunionea 
Hasira ni udhaifu

Wanangu wawachukia, waziwazi wawambia
Vita wawatangazia, eti adabu kuwatia 
Huku ukiwatambia, ubabe ulojitwalia 
Hasira ni udhaifu

Wewe si mume wa kwanza, wanne wametangulia 
Ubabe utakuponza, wana watakuchukia
Hakika watakubeza, dharau kukujazia
Hasira ni udhaifu

Ulezi ni kuwafunda, pale wanapokosea
Kwa mapenzi bila inda, heshima utajijengea
Nasi tutakupenda, mapenzi kufurahia 
Hasira ni udhaifu

Hasira ni udhaifu, si sifa wala ujanja 
Watu kuwatia hofu, kamwe hutakidhi haja
Waonesha upungufu, wa ubaba wenye tija 
Hasira ni udhaifu

Unanipa fadhaiko, ndoani mtikisiko
Kucha huishi vituko, vyenye kuleta sikitiko
Walitafuta anguko, maafa mtiririko
Hasira ni udhaifu

Nakuomba kwa hisani, acha ubabe wako
Amani ilete ndani, nifaidi mke wako
Watoto wawe furahani, Jenga familia yako
Hasira ni udhaifu

@Mwanahamisi 'Mishy' Singano

Resolving the Cyclic Cashew Crisis in Tanzania


Resolving the Cyclic Cashew Crisis in Tanzania

Chambi Chachage

Tanzania has just witnessed a tale of the sacking of two Charles. One, the Minister who was responsible for agriculture and, another, for industries. What has been dubbed 'koroshow' is behind this, not least because the cashew board has also been dissolved alongside other related reshuffles. Korosho is the Swahili word for cashew.

For politicians from the opposition camp, this is that moment when they remind both the electorate and the government that 'we told you so.' Zitto Kabwe, the leader of ACT Wazalendo, continues to be a 'thorn in the flesh' of the ruling party and its government as he boldly presents facts after facts to shows what it takes to resolve the cashew crisis. As for the President, apart from firing and hiring, he has also asked the military to get ready to ship thousands of tons of unprocessed cashew if traders won't buy them for the stipulated price by Monday. The 'koroshow' has turned into a 'koroshodown.'

My task here is not to gauge their prospective solutions as I don't really know what they will actually achieve. In that regard, the best I can do is to wait and see. For me, the interest is to revisit potential solutions from scholars who have researched the matter in the past with the hope that we will be more attentive to the likes of them.
Let us start with Dr. Blandina Kilama whose PhD dissertation was on 'The diverging South: comparing the cashew sectors of Tanzania and Vietnam.' In an article aptly entitled 'Crisis Responses in the Cashew Industry: A Comparative Study of Tanzania and Vietnam', the economist looks at the impact of the global financial crisis on the crop. She shows how, compared to Vietnam, Tanzania only managed to protect the cashew farmers and not the processors.

One may argue that her article is outdated as it was published in 2009. However, the effects of the economic crisis she was referring to continue to linger. Moreover, it seems we are repeating some of the same mistakes. At that time, this is what she sharply observed:

"In Tanzania kernels production has fallen from 2006/07 to 2008/10, same with earnings falling in 2007/08 season.... As cashew continued to loose its price in the world market, processors found it difficult to buy cashew, while auctioning together with exporters. For example, the Premier Cashew Industries (PCI) halted processing cashew in 2009; similar option was thought by BUKO in Masasi."

Dr. Kilama wrote that nearly a decade ago but it sounds as if she is writing it now. In the case of Vietnam, in contrast to Tanzania, she notes, everyone made profit then. Why? Mainly because of an "incentive of 4% reduction in interest rates on loans taken for productive purposes that was introduced to curb for the credit tightening occurring due to decline in international trade."

Now let us go back a decade earlier. Dr. Joyce Nyoni and the late  Prof. Seithy Chachage published a research report on the 'Economic Restructuring and the Cashewnut Industry in Tanzania.' Among other things, they observed that the "buying of the crop was delayed and exporters could not export...." It is interesting to note that they referred to this as  a "crisis of cashewnut marketing in the buying season 2000/2001." They also quoted one farmer saying:

  “The government announced that we should not sell cashewnuts below the set price of Tsh.540/=. So we listened to them and when buyers came offering between Tsh300/= - 350/= we did not sell since we were already told that “walanguzi” will come to swindle us. Now they have left and we still have nuts in the house not knowing what we will do. It would have been much better if we had sold, even at a low price than having no money, while cashew is the main source of our income. The government has betrayed us and decided to let us suffer.”
Yes, that is not a farmer who is being quoted today - it is one who was quoted nearly two decades ago. Such cases from the past indicate that what we have is not simply a cashew crisis but a cyclic cashew crisis. And how do you resolve something that is cyclic?

By going back to the root cause and uprooting it once and for all! 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Kwa Nini Waandishi Mahiri wa Safu Wanapungua?


Kwa Nini Waandishi wa Safu Wanapungua?

Na Ezekiel Kamwaga

MIAKA kumi ya utawala wa Rais Jakaya Kikwete itakumbukwa kwa kuwa na kada maarufu ya waandishi wa safu mahiri ambao waliongeza sana mauzo ya magazeti na kulisha maarifa na taarifa mbalimbali kwa wasomaji wake.

Ingawa ni utawala wa Ali Hassan Mwinyi ndiyo uliofungua milango kwa vyombo vya habari binafsi kufanya kazi zake, kilele cha utendaji na kufahamika kwake kilikuwa wakati wa utawala wa Kikwete ambapo mitandao ya kijamii ilisaidia kupaisha umaarufu wa waandishi hao wa safu.

Katika miaka ya awali ya Rais Mwinyi, waandishi kama Stanley Kamana (RIP), Ndimara Tegambwage, na Kajubi Mukajanga walikuwa maarufu kwa sababu ya kazi zao murua kwa wasomaji.

Kwenye utawala wa Rais Benjamin Mkapa, gazeti maarufu zaidi lilikuwa RAI ambapo wanasafu kama Jenerali Ulimwengu, John Rutayisingwa (RIP), Johnson Mbwambo, na wengine wengi walikuwa wakitimiza wajibu wao wa kiuandishi ipasavyo.

Kuna wakati watu walikuwa hawanunui RAI kwa sababu ya kilichoandikwa nje (habari) bali walinunua kwa sababu walitaka kuwasoma wanasafu mahiri waliomo ndani.

Sitasahau namna watu walivyokuwa wakinunua RAI mwaka 2005 wakati Mhariri Mtendaji wa Habari Corporation wakati huo, Salva Rweyemamu, alipokuwa akifanya uchambuzi wa wasifu wa waliokuwa wamejitokeza kutaka kuwania urais wa Tanzania kupitia CCM. 

Kwenye utawala wa Kikwete, magazeti yaliyokuwa na wasomaji wengi kwa sababu ya wanasafu yalikuwa ni MwanaHALISI, Raia Mwema, na Tanzania Daima ambapo waandishi kama Privatus Karugendo, Joseph Mihangwa, Ansbert Ngurumo, Ulimwengu, Msomaji Raia, M.M Mwanakijiji, Saed Kubenea, na wengine walijipambanua kwa uandishi wao wenye kalamu kali.
Katika utawala wa Rais John Magufuli – walau kwa miaka hii mitatu ya kwanza, hakuna gazeti jipya wala wanasafu wapya waliojitokeza katika magazeti wanaosisimua watu kama ilivyokuwa huko nyuma.

Kimsingi, kama kuna mtu anayesomwa na watu wengi hivi sasa basi atakuwa ni Mange Kimambi ambaye si mwandishi kitaaluma lakini anaandika taarifa zake kupitia mitandao ya kijamii.

Mimi ninaamini kwamba umaarufu wa Mange unatokana na hali halisi iliyopo nyumbani. Wakati wa utawala wa Kikwete kulikuwa na Bunge lililooneshwa mubashara, vyama vya siasa viliweza kuzunguka mikoani kufanya kampeni na vyombo vya habari vilikuwa na uhuru mkubwa zaidi wa kukosoa kuliko ilivyo sasa.

Kwa sababu hali hiyo ya uhuru imebadilika hapa nchini, mfumo umeamua kutafuta njia nyingine ya kupumua ambayo sasa ndiyo amekuwa Kimambi. Mange alikuwa anaandika tangu wakati Kikwete akiwa madarakani lakini hakuwa maarufu sana kwa sababu aliyokuwa akiyasema yalikuwa yakisemwa hapa pia.
Hata hivyo, hii ni mada nyingine tofauti na mada ya leo. Turejee kwenye hoja yangu mahususi kuhusu kupotea kwa wale wanasafu mashuhuri au kupungua kwa makali ya safu zao.

Hakuna sababu moja pekee ambayo ndiyo imesababisha wanasafu wapungue. Nimekuwa nikiulizwa maswali kuhusu kutoonekana kwa Mbwambo kwenye gazeti la Raia Mwema lakini huyu ni mwandishi ambaye aliaga kabisa wakati akiandika makala yake ya mwisho.

Mbwambo ambaye ni mmoja wa wakurugenzi wa kampuni ya Raia Mwema, ameamua kwenda kuishi kijijini kwao wilayani Same mkoani Kilimanjaro tangu mwaka 2015. Huu ni uamuzi wa tofauti na wengine.

Wapo wanasafu ambao wameacha kuandika kwa sababu malipo wanayopewa na vyombo vya habari vya hapa nchini ni kiduchu na mbaya zaidi sasa hawalipwi kwa wakati au hawalipwi kabisa.

Vyombo vya habari vya Tanzania vinapita katika kipindi kigumu kimapato na hivyo vingi vinashindwa hata kulipa mishahara wafanyakazi wake. Chukulia kampuni kama Sahara Communications ambayo ina tatizo la mishahara kwa wafanyakazi wake kwa takribani miaka miwili sasa. 
Kampuni ambayo haiwezi kuwalipa wafanyakazi wake, inawezaje kuwalipa wanasafu ambao mara nyingi si waajiriwa wake? Kwa sababu ya kutolipwa, wapo wanasafu ambao wameamua kuacha kuandika ili kutumia muda wao kufanya mambo mengine.

Wanasafu wengine hawaonekani kwenye magazeti kwa sababu magazeti ambayo yangeweza kukubaliana na uandishi wao yamefungiwa na serikali. Wiki moja iliyopita nilikutana na aliyekuwa Mhariri wa MwanaHALISI, Jabir Idrissa, ambaye alinieleza kwamba kwa mwaka mzima sasa amekosa nafasi kwenye magazeti kwa sababu makala zake ‘zinaogopwa’ kwa kuwa zinaweza kusababisha gazeti kufungiwa.

Kwa hiyo, kama huoni makala za Jabir Idrissa, ujue sababu mojawapo ni hiyo.

Wapo pia wanasafu ambao wameamua kuacha kuandika kwa kuhofia kwamba wanaweza kuingia matatizoni na vyombo vya dola. Wameamua kutulia hadi pale watakapoona mazingira yamebadilika.

Kuna mwanasafu mmoja mashuhuri ambaye ameacha kuandika kwa madai kwamba siku hizi akiandika, makala zake huwa zinahaririwa kiasi cha kubadili kabisa alichotaka kukisema.

Badala ya kuandika na kushuhudia makala zake zikibomolewa na kuundwa upya, ameamua aache kuandika ili abaki na heshima yake ya nyuma.
Wapo wanasafu ambao sasa wamepata vyeo serikalini na kwa sababu hiyo hawawezi tena kuendelea na aina yao ya uandishi wa kukosoa iliyowapa umaarufu huko nyuma.

Kimsingi, kila anayepunguza makali au kuacha kabisa kuandika ana mojawapo ya sababu nilizozitaja hapo juu.

Karibu kwenye ulingo wa kutafakari kuhusu tunapotoka,tulipo,tuendako na namna ambavyo tutafika huko tuendako/Welcome to a platform for reflecting on where we are coming from, where we are, where we are going and how we will get there

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