by Donovan McGrath

What the price of Zanzibari coconuts says about African development
(Economist online – UK) Islanders are chopping down trees as cities expand. Extract continues: Musa Haidar holds a coconut to his ear and shakes it from side to side. Its sloshing pleases the market trader, who puts the large brown ovoid back atop the pile at his stall on the outskirts of Zanzibar City, the main one on the east African island. His customers are less happy, however. A coconut going for 500 Tanzanian shillings ($0.20) a few years ago today sells for 1,500 shillings. That makes it more expensive to whip up curries or other dishes using coconut milk. “The prices you see,” says Mr Haidar, “they’re not normal. Coconuts have become expensive for local people.” Why have prices gone nuts? “People are chopping, chopping,” explains Omar Yusuf Juma, another coconut seller, swinging his machete for effect. A count in 2013-14 found just 3.4m coconut trees, down from 5.7m in the late 1990s. Since hungry Zanzibaris still demand creamy fish curries and beans in coconut milk, falling supply has led to higher prices. Nuts from the mainland are pricier because of high transport costs. The felling of coconut trees reflects how Zanzibar and the rest of Africa are urbanizing… As Zanzibar City has spread farther into erstwhile countryside, when people move to their new plots they chop down the coconut trees to make space for their new homes. Moreover, some houses, as well as many island hotels, have furniture made from coconut wood. Emmanuel Elias, a carpenter, explains that it is cheaper than imported alternatives. By law farmers cannot chop down fruit-bearing trees for furniture; in practice it is hard to stop them… (20 December 2022)

What Tanzania tells us about Africa’s population explosion as the world hits 8bn people
(Guardian online – UK) Dar es Salaam, which is heading for megacity status, typifies a region growing three times faster than the global average. Extract continues: As the global population reaches 8 billion … the effects of Tanzania’s rapid growth are evident. The population has increased by 37% over the past decade to almost 63 million according to the latest UN figures, and, projections suggest, is expected to grow between 2% and 3% a year until 2050. Tanzania will be one of eight countries responsible for more than half of the increase in global population over the next three decades: five of those countries will be in Africa… Dar es Salaam, the former Tanzanian capital, is one of the world’s fastest growing cities, and the number of people in the economic hub is expected to double by 2050 to more than 10 million, ranking it alongside such megacities as Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lagos in Nigeria and Cairo in Egypt. The country’s leaders have raised alarm at the numbers… [President] Samia Suluhu Hassan, called for better family planning, saying the high number of births will put pressure on education, healthcare and food… Hassan’s predecessor, John Magufuli, who died in 2021, had discouraged the use of contraceptives, saying Tanzania needed more people… For years, Magufuli suspended significant donor funding for family planning. “Family planning was not appreciated for that period of time,” said Suzana Mkanzabi, executive director of Umati, a sexual and reproductive health rights organization, adding that support for family planning has improved significantly under the new administration. But Magufuli’s policies will have a long-term impact… Tanzanian women have an average of four or five children – the global average is two. Larger families are culturally valued, and among poorer families, children provide security in old age in a country with few social protections. But with nearly half of the population under 15 or above 65, Tanzania is grappling with high dependency rates. It has fewer tax-paying citizens … The UN cites rapid population growth as a “cause” and “consequence” of slow progress development… As Tanzania grapples with its population spike, family planning will probably become a higher priority for the government. It currently spends only about 14bn shillings (£5m) on birth control each year, relying on dwindling donor resources to fill the gap. The government has pledged to increase that amount by 10% a year by 2030. Rights groups say that much more needs to be done. (15 November 2022)

‘Means of survival’: Tanzania’s booming charcoal trade drives unchecked deforestation

Cleared forest on the edge of Ruhoi reserve in eastern Tanzania. Photograph: Imani Nsamila/the Guardian

(Guardian online – UK) Extract: Large swathes of Ruhoi forest reserve in eastern Tanzania now lay bare … The forest is being cut down at an alarming rate to meet the growing demand for charcoal in the nearby city of Dar es Salaam. As a result of high gas prices, about 90% of Tanzanian households now use charcoal or firewood to cook, which is fueling rapid deforestation across the country. Between 2015 and 2020, the country lost almost 470,000 hectares (1.16. acres) of forest a year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The situation mirrors what is happening across much of Africa, where wood collection and charcoal production account for nearly half of the continent’s forest degradation. Deforestation is contributing to the climate crisis, says Saidi Mayoga, an army reserve officer who patrols Ruhoi’s 79,000-hectare reserve. “We’ve had a real problem with the heat and there’s very little rain.” For many loggers, however, environmental concerns take a back seat to more immediate economic needs. Almost 45% of Tanzanians live on about $2 (1.70) a day. “If I clear all the trees over here,” says Muharram Bakari, an illegal logger, pointing to the edges of the reserve, “I’ll just have to find another forest where I can harvest [them].” … Loggers can earn about 8,500 Tanzanian Shillings (£3) for a large bag of charcoal from brokers, who then sell it to wholesalers at a profit. But it’s the wholesalers who make the most money. They can sell the bag for up to 82,000 shillings in Dar es Salaam: almost 10 times the price it was bought for. As well as supporting families, the charcoal trade provides the government with a significant income stream. Local leaders say this is one of the biggest barriers to conservation efforts. According to government sources, the Tanzania Forest Services Agency makes about 11,300 shillings from the sale of a bag of charcoal. In 2019, earnings from the forestry sector – which includes trade in charcoal, firewood, logs, poles, honey, seeds and seedlings – contributed about 3% to GDP, with charcoal accounting for 44% of that figure. As such, the government gives out permits to loggers and has set targets on the number of bags each area of the country needs to produce each year. “We are being told on the one hand, that we need to meet certain thresholds of charcoal production, and on the other, to protect the forests,” says Mayoga. There are few checks by local or central government on how many trees are felled… Sixbert Mwanga, the executive director of Climate Action Network Tanzania, says: “If someone has a permit to harvest five tonnes, there is no mechanism to crosscheck whether that person has harvested five tonnes or 25, especially at the source.” The government attempted to ban charcoal production and trade in 2006, in an effort to reduce deforestation, but failed… However, the country’s leaders are now exploring ways to address the issue at its roots, by reducing the country’s dependency on biomass fuels… (13 December 2022)

Tanzania drops murder charges against 24 Maasai leaders
(Guardian online – UK) Extract: The officer died in June during protests against government plans to evict them from their ancestral land in Loliondo, in Ngorongoro District, to make way for conservation and a luxury hunting reserve… [C]harges for trespassing were dropped against 62 Maasai involved in the protests. The men’s lawyer, Paul Kisabo, said their detention was “politically motivated” and that there was “no legal justification” for it. “The charges and detainment were a misuse of the public system,” he said, adding that the director of public prosecutions gave no explanation for the decision to drop the charges. Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s regional director for east and southern Africa, said: “They should never have been arrested in the first place. Their only ‘crime’ was exercising their right to protest while security forces tried to seize land from them in the name of ‘conservation’.” Reports from the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders coalition said the Maasai leaders were taken into custody under false pretences, interrogated and then detained in an Arusha prison… The land in Loliondo has been subjected to a long dispute between the Maasai and the Tanzanian government. The government says that it falls within the boundaries of the Serengeti national park, and that the Maasai’s growing population is encroaching on its wildlife habitat. The Maasai dispute both claims… (25 November 2022)

Tanzania’s president calls for better birth control in country
(Guardian online – UK) Extract: Samia Suluhu Hassan, the president of Tanzania, has called for better birth control in the east African country in a dramatic reversal of the stance of her authoritarian predecessor, John Magufuli… Magufuli had described users of contraceptive as “lazy” and said that birth control was unnecessary because “education is now free” and food cheap. A committed Roman Catholic, the former president also banned young women from returning to school after pregnancy. Samia’s call for more birth control came after a visit to the west of Tanzania, where she learned that more than 1,000 children had been born in a single clinic in one month… Low levels of contraceptive use is one reason for high birth rates in Tanzania, where women have almost five children each on average, according to the World Bank. The number has dropped dramatically over recent years, down from nearly six 20 years ago and seven in 1980, but is still considered far too high… (19 October 2022)

‘Monstrous’ east African oil project will emit vast amounts of carbon, data shows
(Guardian online – UK) Extract: An oil pipeline under construction in east Africa will produce vast amounts of carbon dioxide, according to new analysis. The project will result in 379m tonnes of climate-heating pollution, according to an expert assessment, more than 25 times the combined annual emissions of Uganda and Tanzania, the host nations. The East African crude oil pipeline (EACOP) will transport oil drilled in a biodiverse national park in Uganda more than 870 miles to a port in Tanzania for export. The main backers of the multibillion dollar project are the French oil company TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC)… Richard Heede, at [the Climate Accountability Institute], said: “It is time for TotalEnergies to abandon the monstrous EACOP that promises to worsen the climate crisis, waste billions of dollars that could be used for good, bring mayhem to human settlements and wildlife along the pipeline’s path.” Heede described EACOP as a “mid-sized carbon bomb”… [T]he Guardian revealed that world’s biggest fossil fuel firms were quietly planning scores of carbon bomb oil and gas projects that would drive the climate past internationally agreed temperature limits, with catastrophic global impacts. Omar Elmavi, coordinator of the Stop EACOP campaign, said: “EACOP and the associated oilfields in Uganda are a climate bomb that is being camouflaged … as an economic enabler to Uganda and Tanzania. It is for the benefit of people, nature and climate to stop this project.” … Some African countries argue they have the right to use fossil fuels to grow their economies, as rich western nations have done… EU lawmakers called for EACOP to be stopped … (27 October 2022)

Kate Ritchie awards Ramadhani brothers the Golden Buzzer after breath taking acrobatic act on Australia’s Got Talent leaves judges stunned
(Daily Mail online – UK) Extract: On … Australia’s Got Talent, two acrobats left the judges stunned and saw them awarded the Golden Buzzer. Tanzanian-based performers Ibrahim and Fadi Ramadhani, known as the Ramadhani Brothers, wowed the audience with a death-defying acrobatic act. The judges were visibly shocked by their feats, with Kate Ritchie grabbing her face in amazement… Kate was unable to keep her excitement to herself, slamming the Golden Buzzer and pushing the acrobats through to the Semi Final. ‘I can’t even string a sentence together because I’ve never seen anything like it ever in my life,’ Kate said to the pair… Ibrahim, 36, and Fadi, 26, have previously said they hope to win AGT and help children in their community. The pair are also aiming for a Guinness World Record for the most consecutive stairs climbed while balancing a person on the head… (16 October 2022)

State Department BLOCKED arrest of Peace Corps worker in Tanzania over drunk driving spree that left woman dead after he spent night with prostitute: US officials ‘thought he had diplomatic immunity’
(Daily Mail online – UK) Extract: Bombshell documents have revealed how the State Department blocked the arrest of a Peace Corps worker who left one woman dead and another seriously injured after a drunk driving spree – by claiming he had diplomatic immunity when he didn’t. John Peterson was ushered back to the US hours after fatally slamming his Toyota Rav4 into street-food seller Rabia Issa on the morning of August 24 2019, avoiding arrest by authorities in Dar es Salaam. He had spent the night before with a prostitute before embarking on the drink-driving spree, which also saw Peterson strike and injure a second woman. Now hundreds of pages of documents seen by USA Today give the clearest picture yet of the carnage Peterson caused and how the State Department falsely claimed he had diplomatic immunity from a breathalyser test after the drunken rampage. Peace Corps workers are not automatically granted diplomatic immunity while working abroad, unlike State Department workers. The US State Department claims its officials were confused about a diplomatic identification card he was issued by the Tanzanian government… Peterson was driving a sex worker he had paid $50 in exchange for oral sex from his US government-rented home back to her neighbourhood shortly after 5am when he claims a woman suddenly jumped in front of the car. Tanzanian authorities claim the unnamed victim was left ‘crushed and severely injured’ by the impact. That unidentified woman was not killed, with the woman Peterson did kill struck shortly afterwards. Escaping an angry crowd around his car after the first impact, Peterson claims he was heading for the nearby US embassy when he barrelled off the street and fatally struck another woman. That victim was Rabia Issa, a married mom-of-three who was setting up her food stall for the day. Her body was thrown over the hood of Peterson’s car, which continued to smash through a fence and other roadside stands. Despite the multiple collisions, Peterson carried on about half a mile further before his vehicle slammed into a light pole and came to a final stop. Furious bystanders gathered around the car and a tow truck repeatedly lifted and dropped the mangled Toyota Rav4 while a blood-soaked Peterson was still inside. Issa’s devastated brother even reached through the window and punched Peterson in the face. At the police station, Tanzanian police prepared a breathalyser test and shoved the tube into Peterson’s mouth while he resisted. However the US embassy staffers that joined Peterson at the station insisted he was a diplomat who did not have to comply, sensational records obtained by USA Today show. Peterson was told he was free to go as long as he returned to the station two days later. But Peterson was quickly flown back to America on the grounds that he needed surgery to his injured hand. This was despite one embassy worker noticing Peterson did not have immunity before his flight and raising it as a ‘point of clarification’ with an agency worker. He faced a grilling from federal state department investigators. But they could not charge him over lack of evidence, because other state department colleagues had allowed Peterson to leave the country before Tanzanian police could complete their investigation…. Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesman, blamed the confusion over Peterson’s immunity on a diplomatic identification card Peterson had been issued by the Tanzanian government… Peterson even continued to collect pay checks from Peace Corps for 18 months. His salary, unused vacation time and bonuses totalled more than $258,000. His victims – who signed settlements with Peace Corps to receive pay-outs for not making legal claims against the company of Peterson – received a lot less. Rabia Issa’s family were paid just $13,000. Her death certificate recorded just one word for her cause of death – ‘unnatural’. The first woman Peterson hit was paid roughly $6,500. The sex worker received about $2,200. (25 October 2022)

Tanzania scraps independence celebration, diverts funds to kids
(Al Jazeera online – UAE) Extract: Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan has cancelled Independence Day celebrations … and directed that the budget instead be used to build dormitories for children with special needs. The 61st Independence Day event was to cost $445,000, money that will be used to build eight dormitories in primary schools around the country. Tanzania’s Minister of State, George Simbachawene … said that instead of having parades and other national celebrations, the East African country will commemorate Independence Day by having public dialogues on development… This is not, however, the first time Tanzania has cancelled the celebrations. In 2015, then-President John Magufuli cancelled celebrations and diverted funds towards the building of a road in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. In 2020, he did the same and directed that the budget be used to buy medical facilities… (6 December 2022)

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