Posts tagged as: islamic

Age Limit Debate – Politicians Must Learn to Listen, Respect Others’ Views

opinionBy Hassan Mayambala

The age limit debate is spreading like wildfire. News about it, and not the good kind, continues to dominate headlines and will certainly rumble on for some time. The Ludicrousness of the invasion of Parliament by security operatives on September 27, the infamous Black Mambas, who stormed the High Court on March 1, 2007, and the Milton Obote’s storm that hit Ssekabaka Muteesa’s Lubiri on May 24, 1966, will never be forgotten.

So much outcry about chaos at the Parliament chambers and the absurdity of some of the ruling party members. Who is in for and who is against? Yet we have failed to consider one important question.

What happens if we joined our leaders across the political divide in ignoring efforts to unite a country divided by the age limit noise? Well, the supporters of the age limit removal and those against plans to tinker with the 1995 Constitution should learn to be tolerant to divergent views.

But as the age limit debate rages on, it js critical that we pick lessons from the leadership of Imam Hussein Ali, a 7th Century revolutionary leader, who made the ultimate stand for social justice in the face of corruption and tyranny.

He gave everything, including his life, for the dignity of his society. He was killed mercilessly in the notable battle of Karbala yet he died holding on firmly to his principles.

Hussein ibin Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) took a stand against Yazid’s illegitimate rule. Yazid was feared and despised for his ruthlessness and trickery. For that reason, Hussein vowed never to pay allegiance to him even if it meant losing his life.

In the battle of Karbala, Hussein had a choice to make. He found himself in a trick situation akin to the current age limit standoff. To endorse Yazid would no doubt mean a handsome reward and a life of luxury. To refuse would invariably lead to dingy consequences. What should he do? What would you or I do? For Hussein, the choice between the easy thing and the right thing was no choice at all. Hussein refused and stood for social justice in the face of corruption and tyranny.

Shia Muslims commemorate the Battle of Karbala every year in the Islamic month of Muharram. The mourning begins on the first day of the Islamic calendar and then reaches its climax on Muharram 10, the day of the battle, known as Ashurah.

It is a day of Majlis, public processions, and great grief in memory of Imam Hussein’s imposing death at the hands of a tyrant, his exemplary leadership and greatness. In Uganda, Sabar Islamic Da’wa Group of Uganda recently organised the first procession in the country’s history on the streets of Kampala to pay homage to Imam Hussein’s legacy.

They also discussed how Ugandans can learn from his teachings to chart away forward in the midst of squabbles over age limit issue.

In the teachings of Imam Hussein, as human beings regardless of our religious or political affiliations, we learn that humanity has been provided with many lessons to learn from the events at Karbala. It is a source of divine enlightenment and a true road to the salvation of mankind. Hussein did not attack Yazid; He was attacked and killed for keeping true to his leadership credentials, meaning he espoused peace and tolerance.

To Imam Hussein, this important tenet requires that whether you are a member of Togikwatako or Gikwateko camp, bear anything that comes your way without showing your bloody attitude because when you show attitude, it shows your arrogance which spoils the debate and breeds confrontation, which is not good for the country.

Imam Hussein was a listener and respected divergent views with humility and despised Yazid’s haughtiness.

Imam Hussein kept an open mind and kept the truth without embarrassment. Like the case of the outspoken ruling party members, who were arrested for opposing the removal of presidential age limit and on October 13 chased away from the NRM Caucus meeting by Kiboga Woman Member of Parliament Ruth Nankabirwa, open-mindedness means thinking independently and being just in one’s judgments, not simply following others blindly and keeping one’s eyes closed.

For instance, on the day of Ashura, Imam Hussein addressed Yazid’s troops: “Oh followers of Abu Sufyan! If you are not following the teachings of Islam, then as freemen, be independent of judgment…”

In the life of Imam Hussein, we learn the power of patience in adversity. He also teaches that the numerical superiority of one’s enemies does not count when it comes to truth and falsehood.

Allah tells us in the Holy Qur’an that only those who remain patient will receive reward without measure. Imam Hussein, a living example of what the Qur’an taught, was happy to “remain patient” in hardship and endurance and to await his Lords reward. His patience wasn’t out of weakness or helplessness, but it was a demonstration of his steadfastness and bravery.

Sheikh Mayambala is the director Sabar Islamic Dawa Group of Uganda located at Gaddafi Road in Old Kampala.

Demolition of 24 Prayer Houses On Monday Fails to Take Place

By By Hellen Nachilongo

Muslims of Al-Masijid Kirumbi Islamic Centre, Kimara, have said they will not demolish or remove any property from their mosque because it is against Islamic faith.

Tanzania Roads Agency (Tanroads) expected to start demolishing 24 prayer houses on Monday October 16, but it didn’t take place.

However, The Citizen witnessed some church members at St Mary’s Church, Kimara Parish, removing from the church properties like benches, files, computers, boxes and the lectern.

The Citizen saw church members busy removing church property and, when they were asked for comment they declined to do so, saying they were not the spokesperson of the church. “If you want to cover news, please, contact the parish priest.”

An imam, Mr Ramadhan Juma, said they would not remove any property or demolish the mosque unless Tanraoads did it because their faith did not allow them to do so.

“Although the new law on road reserve shows that we are in the road reserve, we will not demolish or remove any asset from the mosque. This is our stand,” he stressed.

Tanraods senior official Johson Rutechula told The citizen that the demotion did not take off as planned because they received a phone call from one of the Islamic leaders begging them to give them more time.

He said they had only given them a few days to demolish the mosque on their own and because it was a lawful operation, demolition would continue as planned.

Tanzania

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Somalia:A Broken State Leads to Hunger

By Sandra Petersmann

Somalia has been in the grip of a civil war since 1991. The state has disintegrated, leaving powerful clans to fill the vacuum. With the government weak and dysfunctional, the country is on the verge of another famine.

Nurses at Banadir hospital in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, have rolled sheets of paper into small funnels and taped them over the hands of one of their patients. It’s a way of preventing the emaciated child from pulling the feeding tube out of his nose.

“I didn’t know what’s wrong with him,” said his mother, Faduma. “When I tried to feed him, he started vomiting immediately and he had diarrhea.” The boy has also been diagnosed with pneumonia.

In a neighboring bed, Hawa squeezed a paste of energy-rich peanut butter into the mouth of her daughter, Xamdi. The three-year-old can now swallow by herself so nurses have removed the feeding tube she needed when she first arrived at the hospital 12 days ago. In the evenings, Xamdi’s fever returns but at least she’s gained some weight. She now tips the scales at seven kilograms – half of the normal weight for her age.

“There was nothing to eat at home and our children were getting weaker and weaker. That’s when we decided to leave,” said Hawa. The family walked for eight days under the cover of darkness – for fear of encountering Islamist al-Shabab fighters.

“We live out in the countryside with our animals. There’s no hospital or help out there,” Hawa said.

The families of Hawa and Faduma are nomadic herders. Used to water shortages and harsh conditions, they traditionally pack up and move their camel and goat herds in search of fresh pastures and water. “We’re just focused on our animals. We follow the rain,” said Hawa.

But it’s raining less and less than it used to in Somalia. In the past three years, back-to-back droughts have swept the country and evidence is mounting that climate change is driving up the temperatures in the region, exacerbating the problems of the scarce rainfall. The Horn of Africa is turning into a dusty steppe.

As a result of this latest drought, Hawa and Faduma’s families have lost almost all of their livestock, like many other nomadic pastoralists in Somalia. The lack of food is driving malnutrition and the lack of drinking water is accelerating outbreaks of diarrhea.

Preventable diseases

The families of Hawa and Faduma plan on returning home when their children are better. Many others though, have left their traditional lands in search of food and water, or to escape the country’s long-running conflict.

Read more: Al-Shabab militants launch deadly attack on military base in Somalia

These internally displaced people are often living in terrible conditions, which is having devastating health effects.

“Most patients are living in overcrowded refugee camps, where there is not enough food or clean water,” said Bishara Suleiman, a health coordinator for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Between January and July 2017, the 28 clinics supported by the ICRC in Somalia treated almost 37,000 people, mostly for acute respiratory illnesses and diarrhea.

“Malnutrition destroys the immune system,” explained Bishara Suleiman. “Malnutrition itself is preventable but it is so widespread due to the collapse of the health system. Malnourished children and elderly people are particularly susceptible to infectious diseases, such as pneumonia or cholera.”

Political failure worsens hunger

Since dictator Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, rival clans and warlords competing for power in Somalia have torn the country apart. Although the country has a new government since February 2017, it faces critical problems from Al-Shabab extremists seeking to establish an Islamic state to rampant corruption.

Both threaten the ability of humanitarian aid to arrive where its needed most. The Islamist militants have imposed a ban on aid in areas it controls. Elsewhere, middlemen and local authorities divert aid supplies for their own profit.

At a small market on the Via Roma in Mogadishu, for example, a 50 kilogram sack of rice intended as food aid from the World Food Program is on sale for $23 (19.50 euros). Buying in bulk earns a discount.

Michael Keating, the United Nations Special Envoy for Somalia, believes that widespread hunger in Somalia can be directly attributed to political failure.

“In functioning societies, in which the institutions work reliably and in which freedom of expression prevails, there is hardly any hunger,” he said. “It is something that always affects the poorest and weakest members of society. It is a direct product of social, economic and political processes.”

Difficult reconstruction

According to the UN, almost seven million people in Somalia, or half the population, currently depend on humanitarian aid. The Western-backed government, which has been in power since February 2017, wants to build a new, federal state. The general mood in Mogadishu is optimistic. Foreign diplomats and businessmen are flocking to the country, including crisis profiteers hoping to turn a quick profit. Rents are skyrocketing and a housing bubble has developed in the capital. Ministers and parliamentarians are also involved with construction projects.

Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman would like the international community to invest directly in the budget so as to prevent future hunger crises. “We are absolutely dependent on the trust of our international partners. If we don’t get money to build the state, we can’t be accused of corruption,” he said.

His also suggests that international aid isn’t free of corruption. “The flow of money through the many multilateral sources should also be reviewed. But the focus is always on corruption on the Somali side,” he said.

Change takes time

More than 250,000 people died in Somalia’s last major drought in 2011. Although the United Nations warned of a looming famine, the humanitarian response was late and ineffective for a variety of reasons.

Since then, the response to the drought has improved.

“We have spent four billion dollars on humanitarian aid since 2011,” said UN emergency relief coordinator Peter de Clercq.

However, international emergency aid “cannot replace a functioning state,” he warned.

“Think about where we would be today if we had invested four billion dollars in reconstructing Somalia? I am not saying that we should stop humanitarian aid. But we urgently have to invest in development,” de Clercq said.

At the same time, he stressed that it’s important to make plan for the long term.

“If we lack strategic patience, we won’t succeed in Somalia.”

Tanzania: Exim Bank Tanzania Opens New Branch in Dodoma

By Valentine Oforo

Dodoma — Exim Bank Tanzania opened another branch in Dodoma Municipality in its bid to expand its network that now boasts of 33 branches countrywide.

The branch becomes the second in the rapidly expanding municipality.

Speaking during the inauguration at the University of Dodoma’s (Udom) College of Informatics, Exim Bank Tanzania’s Human Resources head Frederick Kanga said the bank has decided to add another branch in the municipality in order to more conveniently carter to the banking needs of various people following the decision by the government of shifting its seat to Dodoma from Dar es Salaam.

He added the branch has been strategically located at the university given the huge banking needs of the 25,000 population there.

“The target also is to provide wider financial services to the Udom community which is made up of students, staff and even government servants,” he said.

For her part, Dodoma District Commissioner Christine Mndeme, who graced the inauguration, challenged the bank to assist the government in speeding up the pace of investments in the capital city.

She also underscored the need for the banks to play key role at assisting individual, and small and medium-sized entreprises in the region by enabling them access to affordable loans.

Branch manager Faiton Samwel assured that through the bank’s corporate social responsibility, the institution will play a key role on boosting varied social services in the region ranging from health, education and agriculture.

“We are a fast growing and innovative digital bank with more interesting products and services like travel and salary pre-paid cards, USD denominated Debit and Credit cards as well as Mobile Wallet,” he expressed.

He said that last year the bank, which has branches also in Djibout, Comoro and Uganda, posted a pre-tax profit of Sh83.3 billion making it the fourth biggest lender in terms of assets in Tanzania.

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High Interest Rates – President Museveni Turns Up Heat On Banks

Photo: The Daily Observer

Yoweri Museveni

By Ismail Musa Ladu

Kampala — The cost at which the country’s private sector borrows is not only prohibitively high but it also doesn’t make sense, according to President Yoweri Museveni.

Lashing out at commercial banks last week while officially opening the 25th Uganda International Trade Fair, President Museveni said interest charged on loans is unreasonably high, describing it as idiotic.

Just recently, Bank of Uganda (BoU) reduced the Central Bank Rate (CBR) from 10 to 9.5 per cent hoping that the move will persuade commercial banks into relaxing interest rates to allow private sector access affordable credit.

However, commercial banks have since then not responded in the way the Central Bank anticipated.

Most financial institutions continue to impose interest rates at an average of 24 per cent, leaving the private sector with no option but to shun borrowing.

This, according to Private Sector Foundation Uganda executive director Gideon Badagawa, is bad for the economy because it constrains the private sector ability to generate economic activities.

Speaking at the event organised by Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA), Mr Museveni said with such high cost of credit, it is unlikely that the country’s private sector will break-even.

He said: “Borrowing at the interest of 24 per cent is idiotic.”

He added: “You cannot have high cost of interest rate, then high cost of power and then say you have minister of planning. What are they planning? These ministers should come here and explain themselves to you.”

Before the President took a swipe at the commercial banks and his ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic development, the chairperson of the UMA board of directors, Ms Barbara Mulwana, pointed out several challenges manufacturers face, including the cost of borrowing.

She said: “The high cost of capital in Uganda which is about 24 per cent per annum on average compared to less than eight per cent in major competing countries continues to render Uganda’s manufacturers uncompetitive.”

She added: “The high interest rate persists in spite of the fact that the manufacturing sector having the least default rate–non performing loans within the banking sector.”

As a result of high interest rate on loan, domestic borrowing is at an all-time low of eight per cent today.

Mr Museveni pleaded with the manufacturers to bear with him on the issue of high cost of power, saying this is a matter that will be history in a short while.

The President also blamed his predecessors, particular the late Milton Obote and Idi Amin Dada for committing policy mistakes.

He said Obote’s 1970 Nakivubo pronouncement which saw government take control of 60 per cent (up from at most 51 per cent) of more than 80 corporations in Uganda was a policy mistakes that should not have happened.

He also blamed former President Idi Amin Dada for expelling the entrepreneurial class (mainly the Indians) in 1972, saying the decisions by the two former leaders explain why Uganda which was at the same level of development with South Korea is still lagging behind.

Way forward

According to President Museveni, Islamic Banking will go a long way in solving the interest rate challenge.

He said the principle of Islamic Banking which is rooted in sharing profit and losses incurred is a good idea, describing it as a more friendly finance packaging.

As for Ms Mulwana, fast tracking roll-out of Islamic Banking here will enable the diversification of the credit market as well as provide an alternative to the expensive credit her members are grappling with and also break the monopoly the local commercial banks are enjoying.

In her remarks, Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde noted that security restored by the current government explains all the progress registered in the economy thus far.

“We are seeing key sector of the economy showing good growth. BUBU policy has been successful so far. We have put in place national development strategy and although we are still struggling with Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) we believe we will get there,” she said.

Malawi: Malawi Approves Islamic Banking, Sharia-Compliant Services

Malawi government has approved to embrace the Islamic banking system which doesn’t demand any interest from the borrowers as is the case with non-Islamic banking systems.

Registrar of Financial Institutions Dalitso Kabambe , who is also Reserve Bank Governor, says in the approval document seen by Nyasa Times that this will only be through “Window Model Only.”

“This shall entail banks offering Islamic (non-interest) Banking products alongside conventional banking facilities,” says Kabambe.

He says in this regard; bank supervisors will shortly be engaging with each bank to prove guidance on reporting requirements of Sharia-compliant products and services.

“Once developed, the guidelines will be shared with each bank,” says Kabambe.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its recent report that Islamic finance has potential to spur inclusive growth but calls for its proper regulation and supervision.

In relation to this, the Muslim Association of Malawi recently invited an expert in Islamic Finance that during the meeting facilitated by a South African Mufti Ismail Ebrahim Desai, a renowned scholar in Islamic Finance and Banking.

Key features of Islamic banking include a prohibition on interest, an emphasis on ethical standards that embrace moral and social values, and the overarching principle of fairness when handling liability and business risk. The system’s popularity in many North African and Middle Eastern countries stems from the less speculative nature of its products.

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Drive Launched to Keep Youth Away From Crime

By Caro Rolando

The Kenya Red Cross has embarked on a programme aimed at preventing the youth from joining gangs and terror groups by helping them get jobs.

The “Conflict Prevention, Peace and Economic Opportunities for Youth in Kenya” drive focuses on school dropouts and those without any education, the most vulnerable for gang recruitment.

In Kenya, approximately five million youth are unemployed.

Criminal groups in the Coast region such as Wakali Wao and Gaza Boys tend to recruit the youth.

TEENAGERS

On December 2016, 89 gangs in Kenya — including 42 Brothers, Wakali Kwanza and Islamic State — were outlawed.

These startling figure caught the attention of politicians at the highest level.

Mr Mohammed Rajab, the Kenya Red Cross county coordinator for Mombasa, said President Uhuru Kenyatta approached the organisation to find the underlying factors and come up with ways of taking the teenagers off the streets.

“We decided to approach the youth, sit down with them and engage in dialogue. They cited many challenges,” Mr Rajab told the Nation.

FUNDS

Unemployment was the major factor.

“They are joining the gangs so that they can earn a living,” Mr Rajab said.

The Kenya Red Cross then applied for a European Union grant to carry out its project, and was given an equivalent of Sh669,098,468 over four years.

The funds will be used in working with a total of 2,500 youth in the five coastal counties — Kwale, Mombasa, Kilifi, Tana River and Lamu — as well as Garissa, Wajir and Mandera in northeastern Kenya.

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Uganda: Row Over Revenue-Sharing Could Delay Uganda Agency Banking

By Bernard Busuulwa

Ugandan banks are dissatisfied with a revenue sharing format linked to a joint agency banking platform designed by the industry lobby.

The dispute may now delay the rollout of agency banking services and also test banks’ appetite for shared business infrastructure.

The Uganda Bankers Association (UBA) in partnership with Eclectic International, a financial services company that specialises in the development and management of transaction platforms in more than five countries, has invested in a joint agency banking tool meant to serve the country’s 24 commercial banks.

This rare move is aimed at achieving cost-effective delivery of agent banking services.

This initiative represents a major shift from the “do it yourself” attitude that has dominated the local banking industry for many years, leading to rapid expansion of branch and Automated Teller Machine (ATM) networks and relatively high operating costs.

But depressed economic growth and the rise of new, cutting edge financial technology that allows consumers to transact between mobile money and banking channels has forced banks to embrace cheaper, shared platforms that suffer few disruptions.

Though local banks contributed capital towards the establishment of the agency banking platform based on their asset values, figures related to specific contributions made by each lender, projected growth in volume and value of transactions processed on the platform and expected return on investment were not available.

50:50 revenue sharing ratio

However, some commercial banks have objected to a 50:50 revenue sharing ratio proposed by UBA and Eclectic International for every transaction done on the joint agency banking platform.

The disgruntled players argue this ratio is insufficient to cater for commission charges due to agents and also secure a return on investment.

Whereas agents are mandated to serve clients belonging to different banks that subscribe to this platform, each lender is required to pay individual agents for transactions done on its behalf, sources said.

The aggrieved banks feel a 60:40 revenue-sharing ratio would offer more room to absorb agents’ commissions, operational overhead costs and yield a handsome return on investment.

Unfair

“It would be unfair to banks to give away a bigger revenue margin to a platform operator and their principal after sinking so much money in their operations.

We believe a 60:40 revenue sharing ratio in favour of the banks would offer us a better deal,” said a senior executive at DFCU Bank Ltd who requested anonymity, citing confidentiality obligations.

Agency banking and bancassurance regulations were issued by the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in July this year, following amendments to the Financial Institutions Act (FIA) of 2004 at the beginning of 2016. Now, even the issuance of Islamic banking regulations provided for in the amendments remain uncertain.

While big banks that own large branch networks are said to be keen on reaping higher revenue margins from the agency banking platform, smaller lenders seem more interested in widening access to banking services among niche clients than enjoying huge income margins derived from the platform.

“We have had a number of meetings with the UBA team over the matter but there is no compromise yet,” said Sam Ntulume, the managing director at NC Bank Uganda, a small lender with less than five branches in its portfolio.

Mr Ntulume added: The issue of revenue sharing is influenced by two schools of thought. Some banks with many branches are focused on a wide foot print established by the joint agency banking platform operator that will attract massive transaction volumes and enable them close many branches and cut down on running costs.

Better access

On the other hand, small banks like us prefer securing better access to transaction outlets for our clients in strategic places due to few branch networks.

Making money off the agency banking platform is therefore irrelevant to us.”

UBA’s executive director Wilbrod Owor said the institution was committed to the effective rollout of the joint agency banking platform.

“The banks have invested in it and are eagerly waiting for its commissioning. The amount of money contributed by local banks is private information held by our members and is not for public consumption,” he said.

Agency banking promises wider penetration for Uganda’s banking industry. Currently, there are about six million bank accounts held in the country out of a total population of more than 34.6 million people.

However, poor quality financial reporting among targeted agents including supermarkets, mobile money vendors, fuel stations, restaurants and retail shops — involving the use of multiple financial records meant for shareholders, banks and the tax authority respectively — poses a challenge to commercial banks seeking growth opportunities in agency banking, experts claim.

‘Terror Groups Pose Biggest Threat to Kenya’s Security’

By David Mwere

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) has singled out terrorism as the biggest threat to Kenya’s national security and development.

In a report presented during the induction of MPs Wednesday, NIS Deputy Assistant Director Alexander Muteshi said that the threat remains high in border counties of Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Lamu.

Mr Muteshi told the MPs that the threats are propagated by terrorist organisations like the Al-Shabaab that has its cells in neighbouring Somalia and the Islamic State (IS) group that operates in Puntland, Libya, Syria and Iraq.

“What makes the threats dangerous is that they are targeting churches, malls, schools and other public places. But the success against this is the multi-agency approach we have adopted to deal with them,” Mr Muteshi said.

He pointed out that the threats have been pushed away from the cities to the border areas.

COUNTER TERRORISM

He also noted that the National Counter Terrorism Centre has helped in building resilience through educating the youth, the masses and religious groups.

According to Mr Muteshi, the country is already dealing with over 200 returnees from Somalia in South Coast, who are targeting Nyumba Kumi elders, locals and the police.

Some of these gangs are said to operate in groups christened as the Gaza boys, Wakali Wao and Wakali Kwanza, among others.

RADICALISATION

He also said that online radicalisation, which is a global problem, is another threat.

It is propagated by IS and targets the youth tertiary learning institutions like universities and colleges.

“We are facing an enemy [who] is highly radicalised, [who] has no value for human life, highly idealised and highly trained both militarily and intelligence-wise. They have logisticians who are responsible for transporting weapons and their other logistical requirements,” he said.

LOCAL POLITICS

Mr Muteshi also warned politicians that ethnic local politics has affected cohesion, development and unity of the country and that it is polarising.

“If it is not dealt with, it will always be there every election year,” he said.

Other external threats, according to the NIS report, include espionage, regional instability like in Somalia and South Sudan and the competition for benefits arising from national interests.

The MPs, more so the new ones, were advised on how they should engage with diplomats as they may fall into the trap of espionage.

“Be very careful with what you share with diplomats, they are intelligence officers,” Mr Muteshi told them.

Senegal: Success Against Salt – Farmers Battle Major Climate Change Threat

Dioffior — Climate change makes life harder for Senegalese farmers in many different ways: shorter rainy seasons, more frequent and longer dry spells and droughts, a lower water table, floods, coastal erosion, destruction of mangroves, and disruption of fish stocks. But most pernicious of all is the salinization of soil across large tracts of coastal and riverine farmland.

In the village of Dioffior, some 150 kilometres southeast of the Senegalese capital, Dakar, residents have mounted a protracted battle against salt: an enemy that contaminates their land, decimates their crops and, as agriculture is the mainstay of the region’s economy, drives up poverty and food insecurity.

Rising sea levels brought about by climate change have greatly increased the salt content of the nearby Sine River. In the vast Sine-Saloum delta, between 700,000 and one million hectares of land have been affected over the last 30 years. The Fatick region, where Dioffior is located, and which is the birthplace of President Macky Sall, has suffered more than most.

“For decades in Sine-Saloum, the soil, which used to be known for its quality and productivity, has been badly damaged by climate change, which has led to the salinization of the waterways of the delta,” explained Seydou Cissé, who works at Senegal’s National Institute of Pedology (the study of soils).

Unfortunately, soil salinization is just one of several harmful effects of climate change in Senegal.

In a thesis for his master’s degree in climate change and sustainable development, Charles Pierre Sarr, who now works for Senegal’s environment ministry, noted reduced rainfall and rising temperatures around Dioffior and predicted further decreases of rainfall of 5.4 percent and 12 percent by 2025 and 2050 respectively.

Senegal is “perpetually confronted with the adverse effects of climate change because of its 700-kilometre coastline which is impacted by the rising level of the sea, with the corollary of coastal erosion, the saline intrusion on farmland, the salinization of water resources and the destruction of infrastructure,” Sarr wrote. “Because agriculture is primarily rain-fed, climate change risks compromising efforts to fight poverty and efforts to reach food self-sufficiency.”

Dioffior residents say the rice fields around the village were abandoned some 30 years ago. Since then, locals have worked tirelessly, carrying endless baskets of sand and rock to build dykes that turn lost fields into arable land again. The dykes keep the salty river water at bay and protect bodies of fresh water.

Among those involved are some 200 women, members of an association called Sakh Diam, (“sow peace” in the Wolof language) who have recovered more than 100 hectares of land. They have their eyes set on a much larger area: in 2015 the local authorities allocated them 1,000 salty hectares of farmland.

Sakh Diam has won financial support for its endeavours not only from the government of Senegal but also from those of Belgium and Japan.

“These rice paddies used to be tans,” Marie Sega Sarr, the group’s president, told IRIN as she worked away in her paddy, using the Wolof word for salty land.

“Nothing grew here until the Support Project for Small Local Irrigation (PAPIL) started. The anti-salt dyke you can see over there is Baboulaye 1. Where we are now is Baboulaye 2. There is another one at [the nearby commune of] Djawanda. In all, there are nine dykes around Dioffior built to combat the salinization of our agricultural land.”

PAPIL was set up in the early 2000s by Senegal’s government, with help from partners such as the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Islamic Development Bank.

PAPIL ran until 2015 and has been replaced by the Multinational Programme for Resilience to Food and Nutritional Insecurity in the Sahel region. The many objectives of the programme include reclaiming thousands more hectares of salinised land in the Fatick region by 2020.

“Our grandparents used to cultivate here and fed themselves from their crops,” said Marie. “Between the arrival of the salty waters and the irrigation project, we had trouble feeding ourselves. Agriculture is our main activity. We were forced into unemployment.”

Sakh Diam wants it work to rejuvenate the region, allowing the community to provide for itself once again.

“We helped gather sand and rocks to build the dykes you can see. That’s been going on for six years. You can see for yourself that wild grass is growing here,” Marie said. “If we get enough rain, we hope we can harvest on this area so as to feed our families as our ancestors did.”

Sakh Diam’s secretary general Omar Faye told IRIN: “It is paying off, beginning to show results. We have started to reuse this land to grow rice. Right here, some 80 hectares have been reclaimed.”

In the greater Dioffior area, “we harvested 30,500 tonnes of rice in 2015”, he added.

After growing rice, Marie said the villagers plan to diversify into market gardening, growing potatoes, and peppers. “Last year, poor rains scuppered our plans for market gardens,” she said. “But we still hope we can grow vegetables here.”

In all, almost 60 anti-salt dykes have been built across four regions of Senegal, allowing some 7,000 hectares of once-toxic land to be farmed.

According to the AfDB, this has led to “improved food insecurity, diversified economic activity, higher incomes, less isolated regions, better protected and regenerated ecosystems and stronger communities.”

All the more reason to keep going with such projects, urged Abdoulaye Thiam of the African Collective for Research, Action and Training, an NGO that works on land management issues in Dioffior.

“The battle against salinised land requires a lot of money and long-term programming,” he told IRIN. “What’s also needed is to mobilise the spirit of citizenship and more systematic support from the state, especially of local associations.”

cl-am/ag

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