CARE Learning Tour to Ethiopia by Morgana Wingard

Narrated by Kojo Nnamdi of the Kojo Show

Ethiopia has one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. Yet, the inability to access food and proper nutrition remains a reality in many communities. Ten percent of the population suffers from chronic food insecurity. 85 percent of Ethiopians are dependent on subsistence agriculture. Its fast-growing population and dependence on subsistence agriculture puts tremendous pressure on the land and natural resources that are the cornerstones for the country's growth.

During a four-day CARE Learning Tour, we visited several U.S.-supported programs that are feeding millions of people throughout the country and helping people to feed themselves. Around the world there are more than 850 million people who do not have enough to eat. Most of them are women and girls.

The United States government is the largest provider of humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa, providing over $1.8 billion since 2011. Despite the best of intentions, we learned that American food aid can be slow to reach people in need, inefficient, and not cost effective.  On average, U.S.-grown emergency food aid can take more than two months longer to reach its destination than locally procured food aid.  Local and regional procurement is a lower cost alternative and a more efficient method for virtually all U.S. food aid commodities.

This trip gave us an opportunity to witness how smart, strategic, and coordinated emergency food and nutrition initiatives create long-term food security and boost local economies.  With this experience, we hope to continue to be a voice for the poor and continue the fight with CARE to end global hunger.

Ethiopia: Saving Livelihoods by Morgana Wingard

Ethiopia has one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. Yet, the inability to access food and proper nutrition remains a reality in many communities. 2.7 Million people in Ethiopia need food assistance. That’s the size of the population of Chicago.

Recently I flew to Ethiopia with the poverty-fighting organization CARE to see first hand how purchasing locally is boosting the local economy and increasing food security in the region.

The United States government is the largest provider of humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa, providing over $1.8 billion since 2011. Despite the best of intentions, we learned that American food aid can be slow to reach people in need, inefficient, and not cost effective. On average, U.S.-grown emergency food aid can take more than two months longer to reach its destination than locally procured food aid.  Local and regional procurement is a lower cost alternative and a more efficient method for virtually all U.S. food aid commodities.

The World Food Program's new initiative, Purchase for Progress (P4P) is working with the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) to buy produce from local farmers for their food aid programs. In 2012 33,000 smallholder farmers represented by 17 cooperative unions participated in P4P. Since 2010, P4P has purchased nearly 55,000 metric tons of haricot beans and maize for use in all WFP programs in Ethiopia, generating over US $16 million for Ethiopian smallholders as a result.

As a technical experts said in one of our briefing, "Food aid is not about saving lives. It's about saving livelihoods." Purchasing commodities for food aid in Africa is not only saving lives, it's also saving the livelihoods of local farmers and increasing regional food security.

Words Mightier Than The Sword by Morgana Wingard

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(Our latest piece for Forbes Africa with Clair MacDougal)

By Clair MacDougal

"I like to talk to the common people, I don’t like politics.”

Mae Azango sits on the edge of her bed in her old home that is wedged in a rocky enclave between the gray United States embassy and the modern apartments occupied by expatriate workers in Mamba Point, the poshest part of Monrovia, Liberia. Azango’s larger-than- life personality fills every inch of the dim, cramped, lemon-colored room where she lives with her 11-year-old daughter, Madasi. Within five minutes Azango has hijacked the interview and is yelling out the story of how she came to be one of the best-known female journalists in Liberia. Without a hint of irony, Azango refers to herself in the third person, claims to be a household name and universally feared by Liberia’s political establishment; then announces to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that she will never compromise herself by taking a job from her. { Read the full article below }

Liberia's motorbike taxi ban cuts accidents, but revs up other problems by Morgana Wingard

Musa Sayee Konneh stands on a street corner in Monrovia amid a fleet of parked motorbikes, with faded Liberian dollars folded around his middle finger. On a good day, grubby bills would fan from his hands. But since the government banned motorbike taxis from the capital city's main roads this month, Konneh's work has been curtailed. So far today he has earned just 90 Liberian dollars (70p) for half a day's work, a quarter of his usual take.

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Accountability in Liberia: How the music industry is creating change by Morgana Wingard

By: Blair Glencorse, Accountability Lab Executive Director, and Nora Rahimian, Hip Co organizer. This post was originally published by ONE.

“If we don’t speak up against the ills in society, who will?” asks Takun J, Liberia’s Hip Co King, in front of thousands of screaming fans at a concert in Monrovia. He then launches into “Police Man” a song about police corruption, which several years ago had the artist arrested and beaten by the authorities.

Hip Co – which emerged in the 1980s – blends hip hop with Liberian English.  Born in the streets, the music has always been inherently political, making it especially popular with young people who can relate to both its catchy beats and African rhythms and its messages of struggle and change. The annual Hip Co Festival recently attracted over 20,000 Liberians for two days of concerts in different parts of Monrovia; and artists like Takun J and Nasseman are national celebrities within the growing music industry.

Accountability Lab has teamed up with 12 of the most prominent Hip Co artists, producers, DJs and radio personalities (including Takun JNassemanJD DonzoShining Man and JB of the group Soul FreshLil BishopDr. CSantosBlackest 305Uncle ShaqPicardor, and Pochano) to form the Hip Co Accountability Network.

“The people, they listen to us.  And we, as musicians, we have a responsibility to talk about these things, the corruption, rape, poverty… all the things that are wrong in our country.  So we knew we had to come together to strengthen our voice and make ourselves heard, to better impact our society,” Takun J explained.

The Lab is supporting creative, low-cost tools to make decision-makers more responsible and build accountability in Libera, with an emphasis on concrete actions and movement away from tired, expensive, aid driven approaches.

Many of these artists already have a history of working on accountability issues.  Many have written songs against corruption and have been vocal about the changes they’d like to see in their country.  Rather than replicating their work, the Network is working on the core accountability issues that impact the music industry the artists are part of. These include strengthening and enforcing copyright laws to protect their music, establishing minimum play laws to ensure local music does not get overlooked, and mobilizing artists to create effective mechanisms to represent their interests.

Events like the Hip Co Festival help establish an infrastructure for the growing music industry while also giving artists a platform to spread their message.  In addition to radio and television appearances and, increasingly, social media, concerts are the main mode of communication between hip co artist and their fans.

The Lab has been helping the artists to think about and discuss experiences from other countries that might be relevant, such as the Y’En A Marre movement in Senegal’s music industry. The network now meets weekly to discuss the issues, strategise and plan next steps.

There is a long way to go, but the network has created a real sense of positive movement. As Pochano points out “We can’t wait for the government to do everything. We have a voice and we need to lead change in our society.”

Listen to more of the Hip Co Accountability Network’s music on their Soundcloud page; and see photos on the Lab’s Facebook page. Follow Blair at @accountlab and Nora at @norarahimian.

Also checkout the article, Battle Hymns, on HIPCO and the festival in The Economist.