Why are male farmers out-performing women in Africa? | 

Tanzanian farmers
Gates Foundation

The gap between men and women in some African countries is easily seen in agriculture. Male-managed farm plots consistently out-perform those of their female counterparts by as much as 66% in Niger and 25% in Malawi.

The long-held belief was that a lack of access to the necessary inputs (seed, fertilizer, labor) to make a farm successful were less available to women. That is the case to some extent, but there are more ways that women are put at a disadvantage as to their male counterparts.

“Despite the centrality of agriculture in the economies of most African nations, relatively little is known about why farms managed by women are on average less productive. This “knowledge gap” in turn translates into a “policy gap” in the steps that African governments, their development partners, business leaders and civil society can take to equalize opportunities for female and male farmers,” writes Makhtar Diop, Vice President for the Africa Region for the World Bank.

In fact, equal access to inputs does not necessarily mean that men and women will have the same levels of agricultural productivity. Doip’s comments come as a part of a joint-report on gender and agriculture led by Michael O’Sullivan from the World Bank and Arathi Rao from the ONE Campaign. A closer look at six African countries that are responsible for more than 40% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa helps to make sense what is happening.

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African agriculture threatened by funding drought & bad trade policies | 

Morgana Wingard

African countries are making promising agricultural gains, but the progress remains in the balance due to a $4.4 billion funding shortfall, warns a new report by the ONE Campaign. That is in addition to $11 billion in agriculture funding pledged by G8 nations that has yet to be disbursed.

The ONE report cites 2013 as an important year for agriculture in Africa because it is a time when international and domestic funding agreements come to an end.

“African leaders have the opportunity to deliver on their goals of lifting millions from extreme poverty and hunger and preventing chronic malnutrition by meeting these commitments,” write the report’s authors.

Edward Carr of the University of South Carolina was generally supportive of the report, but noted that the problem of agriculture may be one that is about markets rather than production.

“There is no discussion on the massive rate of loss between farm gate and market in this region,” said Carr. “The report raises further questions. Is there really a production shortfall or a marketable crop shortfall?” Continue reading

Without more money, it’s the end of the beginning of the end of AIDS | 

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day and most organizations that had something to say about this have already said it.

Most said: “We can end AIDS.”

Flickr, by Roger H. Goun

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for creating an “AIDS-free generation” and on Thursday released the Obama Administration’s blueprint aimed at describing how we can achieve this. Unfortunately, as the Washington Post noted:

The document, however, contains no specific targets or a schedule for achieving them. It also doesn’t estimate how much more money it would cost to reach the “tipping point” in high-prevalence countries, or where the money would come from.

Michele Sidibé, head of UNAIDS (the UN’s program on HIV/AIDS), also released a report and a suggested game plan for ending the AIDS pandemic.

The UNAIDS report celebrated major gains in reducing new HIV infections in many countries, some of them in sub-Saharan Africa, and called for “Getting to Zero” in terms of new HIV infections worldwide. Most of these gains have been in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV in newborns.


Michel Sidibé

“It is becoming evident that achieving zero new HIV infections in children is possible,” said Sidibé. “I am excited that far fewer babies are being born with HIV. We are moving from despair to hope.”

Others celebrated some of the scientific gains such as more conclusive evidence that getting people on anti-HIV treatment also prevents the spread of disease by significantly reducing viral loads in HIV-infected persons.

And though a vaccine still seems a distant hope, researchers have made progress and are making headway on the basic immunology in ways that have recently also moved the vaccine community from despair to hope.


A Positive Trend, new HIV infections vs people getting treatment to prevent AIDS

We can end AIDS. It’s true.

It is also true to say we can end hunger and extreme poverty, if only we put enough resources, talent and political will into those efforts. But we don’t.

And until we put in the effort needed to truly suppress HIV/AIDS, calling for an end to the global AIDS pandemic will be, despite some amazing progress made in the past decade, wishful thinking. Continue reading

How much do you pay to help the poor overseas? | 

The answer is not much, if it is all based on your taxes. The ONE campaign put out this neat tool a few weeks ago that allows you to calculate what proportion of your taxes goes to foreign aid and development and it’s worth drawing attention to again.

Below is a screen grab. Go here to calculate how little of your taxes now go to reduce poverty and provide assistance overseas.

Somalia: Famine, death and suffering continues | 

The deadly, tragic situation in Somalia persists.

As the ONE Campaign notes in an overview Update on Horn of Africa:

Four million people remain food insecure in Somalia and 250,000 in Southern Somalia continue to face famine conditions. These conditions are expected to persist at least through December 2011 and depending on the favorability of rains in spring 2012, could be prolonged.

Also featured by ONE is this excellent Al Jazeera Fault Lines documentary describing the current situation:

Bono uses the F word | 

Bono, U2′s lead singer and perhaps the world’s leading (or at least most celebrated) advocate in the fight against global poverty, has been known to use the F word on occasion.

Here, in this post for the ONE campaign (which Bono co-founded as a grassroots lobbying campaign to urge governments to fund the fight on poverty), he says another F word should be even more offensive.


Says Bono:

The food crisis in the Horn of Africa is nothing short of a humanitarian catastrophe, but it is getting less attention than the latest Hollywood break-ups and make-ups.

What makes this so offensive, the rock star writes, is that famines are man-made. Droughts, crop failure and so on may have natural causes, Bono notes, but there is no reason anyone should starve to death in the 21st Century. There is enough food on the planet to feed everyone.

Here’s Bono and some of his well-known friends discussing the even-more-offensive F word:

ONE answer on shutting off questions to Living Proof | 

Earlier this week, Bill and Melinda Gates held an event in collaboration with the ONE campaign called Living Proof in London.

I wrote about that event and also about the ONE campaign abruptly shutting off the ability for people to submit questions to the Gateses — just after I posted a reminder to folks that this event was coming up and (half-jokingly) suggested people ask about ONE’s finances.

I assumed them shutting off the ability for people to ask questions just after my post was a coincidence, but I asked ONE for an explanation. Continue reading

Bill & Melinda Gates: The world is, in fact, getting better | 

Flickr, Visions photgraphiques

World getting better

Bill and Melinda Gates want people to stop being such gripes and start paying attention to success.

Yeah, yeah, it’s easy to poke fun at that kind of talk – especially from the super-rich.

But some things, in fact, are getting better. And unlike most of the world’s super-rich, the Gateses are actually “investing” in making the world a better place. They also want to convince skeptics why this is actually a good investment for all of us.

That was the point of their “Living Proof” event, webcast live today from London.

The event was done in collaboration with the ONE campaign, an organization co-founded by Bono which advocates on matters of global health and poverty — and which, apparently, doesn’t like to answer questions from the media regarding its finances, but that’s another story.

(Oops, there I go again being a typical journalist and focusing on the negative.)

Frankly, I expected this Living Proof event to be another one of those sappy sob-sister things in which the super-rich and celebrities talk about how moved they are by the plight of poor moms and sick kids. There was a bit of that, but not too much. (The event video is below)

Instead, the world’s top philanthropists focused on providing hard data to back up their claims that the world is getting better:

  • – Bill Gates talked about the success the world has had in reducing child mortality rates. Child deaths have been cut in half since the 1960s.
  • – Melinda Gates added that when child mortality is reduced, parents have fewer children — because the ones they have survive. It may seem counter-intuitive, but she says many studies show that reducing child deaths reduces birth rates and helps increase the economic strength of poor families.
  • – Polio has almost been eradicated, knocked down from 1,000 cases occurring every day to only a few per day now. Bill Gates says it is critical to carry this to completion, to rid the world of this crippling disease and to instill confidence in other disease-fighting efforts.

The Gates Foundation provides evidence on their Living Proof website of many other stories of success, such as the increasing life expectancy in poor countries. Success with improved child nutrition. Millions of lives, and families, saved by the “humanitarian” provision of treatment against AIDS, TB, malaria and other diseases that disproportionately afflict the poor.

Yes, the Gateses say, we still have problems — including some fundamental problems with and disagreements over how the developed world provides assistance to developing countries.

But foreign aid done right is making a difference, they say.

“The overall trend is that the world is getting better,” Melinda Gates said.

And, as her less emotional and more business-minded husband emphasized, making the world a better place is actually in our interest. Latin America and some parts of Asia used to depend upon foreign aid, Bill Gates noted, and now many of these countries are key players in the global economy.

Sub-Saharan Africa, Gates said, is on the cusp of experiencing similar growth and is already attracting international investment and interest. Foreign aid, he says, speeds that up and benefits everyone.

(NOTE: The actual event starts at 21 minutes in …)

Watch live streaming video from onecampaign at