Dried, mopane worms are traditionally offered to foreigners visiting Zimbabwe as a welcoming snack. Not really worms at all, they are the caterpillars of the Emperor moth (Gonimbrasia belina), hand-picked from mopane trees in the wild, their names “madora” in Shona and “amacimbi” in Ndebele a testament to their local popularity.
Africa’s unique natural assets—its iconic wildlife, snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, rapids, majestic forests, unique bird populations, pristine beaches and coral reefs—represent tremendous value. Wonders of nature such as Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt Kenya, and the Victoria Falls, as well as Zanzibar’s Stone Town and its beautiful beaches, and the wildebeest migration between the Masai Mara and Serengeti, are some of the world’s best-known tourist attractions.
As my plane lands in Maputo, I am welcomed home by blankets of turquoise waters edged in creamy ribbons of sand, and swaths of greens in every shade, from scrubby mangroves to unique coastal forests endemic to Maputaland. But I also see rapidly sprawling human settlements and degraded areas where forests once flourished.
I was raised in a small town called Hornsea on England’s east coast, a magnificent place that attracts tourists but is eroding faster than the rest of Europe. Some of the impressive, clay cliffs are literally crumbling. Local roads and the old settlement and have fallen into the sea. More than once, forward-planning residents have demolished and rebuilt their houses from salvaged materials as their coast recedes.
It’s not every day that one is welcomed to a school sporting event by a large, horned mammal dressed in a soccer jersey, but on a warm, sunny day in Mozambique’s southern city of Xai-Xai, I met a rhino called Xibedjana. From the spectators’ stand at the XIII National Festival of School Sports Games, opened by Mozambique’s president, Filipe Nyusi, I noticed the rhino dancing through a parade of students.
Some say natural resources are a curse, others say they are neither curse nor destiny (see here and here for examples). The jury may still be deliberating on the evidence but, in the meantime, resource-rich, income poor countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone and others need to find their way forward. They have to be responsive to the enormous needs of their populations or face dire consequences.
For post-conflict countries, the policy learning curve must of necessity be steep, since they neither have the luxury of time nor the expanse of fiscal space to benefit from learning by doing over the longer-term. A primary challenge for policy makers in these countries is to identify a “a fail-safe” model that can, with few degrees of freedom on the political, social, and economic dimensions, deliver sustained, inclusive growth and poverty reduction at levels that will appease a youthful, impatient population.
In East Africa and West Africa, about 300 million people living in dryland areas rely on natural, resource-based activities for their livelihood. By 2030, this number could increase to 540 million. At the same time, climate change could result in an expansion of Africa’s drylands by as much as 20%.
Much of West Africa’s population lives along its coastline, where many of its capital cities are located. But though rising seawaters erode it, a study says the “sand river” they create can also protect it.
During my recent trip to Malawi, I saw that the expansion of agriculture, of illegal logging, and of charcoal production are decimating the country’s once-forested hillsides, causing soil to wash into rivers, wetlands, and lakes. This loss of topsoil is reducing crop yields, putting stress on agriculture-dependent communities, and leading to increasingly intense land use.
Over half of the 12 million people living in Somalia are acutely food insecure. This adds to the development challenge for Somalia after more than two decades of civil war and political instability. In particular, the urgent need for humanitarian assistance bears the risk of fostering aid dependency. To embark on a sustainable pathway toward development instead, intervention should rely on markets (whenever possible), and react dynamically to changes in market equilibria.
Therefore, we started to monitor 14 Somali markets and publish the data in near real-time using something similar to what we use for South Sudan, the innovative survey and analysis methodologies.