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Archive for the ‘Human geography’ Category

Ghana Global Human Development Still Needs Improvement

Posted by Lindy on November 25, 2011

A summary by an article by Helena Selby

23 November 2011

The development of people or humans in the world is expected to increase as the years goes by, however, due to environmental issues, and how people choose to live their lives, bearing in mind that with every action they take concerning the environment, it has a future consequence on people around them. Human development is all about expanding the livelihood of people, in terms of freedom, to cope with the environment in a positive manner.

If people of the world really want to make the world a better place to live for generations to come, there is the need to understand the link between environmental sustainability and equity. According to the United Nations report on human development for 2011, there have been remarkable progresses in human development over recent decades. The report aims at taking a bold step towards the reduction of environmental risk and inequality in the world.

According to the Administrator of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, as a way of the UN achieving its aim on human development, the report identifies pathways for people, local communities, countries and the international community to promote environmental sustainability and equity in mutual reinforcing ways.

What is Human Development?

The report defines human development as the expansion of people’s freedom and capabilities to lead lives that they value and have reason to value. It is about expanding choices. But promoting human development requires addressing sustainability. Locally, nationally and globally, this should be done in ways that are equitable and empowering. By means of sustaining human development, there was the need to expand the substantive freedom of people today, while making reasonable efforts to avoid seriously compromising those of the future generation.

What is Human Development Index (HDI)

HDI is a combined measure of life expectancy, access to education and the standard of living.

Even though good progress has been made in basic education and health, the standard of livng in many countries is still lagging behind.

Unfortunately, much development has taken along side increasing environmental degradation – globally, nearly 40% of land is degraded due to soil erosion, reduced fertiliser and overgrazing. Land productivity is declining, with estimated yield loss at 50% in most cases. Agriculture accounts for 70-85 percent of water use, and an estimated 20 percent of global grain production uses water unsustainably, imperilling future agriculture growth. Desertification threatens the dry lands that are home to about a third of the world’s people, and some areas like the sub Saharan Africa are particularly vulnerable.

Today, around 350 million people, many of them poor, live in or near forests, on which they rely for subsistence and income. Around 45 million people, at least 6million of them women, fish for a living, and are threatened by over fishing and climate change. To the extent that women in poor countries are disproportionately involved in subsistence farming and water collection, they face greater adverse effect of environmental degradation, the report stressed.


Posted in Climate change, Human geography, Sahel | Leave a Comment »

Is Africa an area of rapid urbanisation?

Posted by Lindy on October 30, 2011

From article by Edward Paice  – 26 October 2011

Everyone knows that Nairobi’s Kibera district is the largest “informal settlement”, or slum, in sub-Saharan Africa. At least, they used to know. Politicians, journalists, NGOs and urban planning professionals routinely declared that 700,000 – 1,000,000 people lived in Kibera. But when the district was geo-statistically mapped for the first time in 2009 its population was estimated at no more than 220,000-250,000. Kibera has not exactly disappeared, but it is a shadow of its former imagined self.

In similar vein, the city of Lagos is widely believed to have about 15 million inhabitants – an estimate supported by the city authorities in the wake of Nigeria’s contested (and manipulated) 2006 census. But the 2009 Africapolis survey of West Africa’s urban population, the most sophisticated to date and compiled with the aid of satellite imagery, found that the city was home to no more than 10 million people. Even more significantly, while Nigeria’s census claimed that the country’s population was 140 million, the Africapolis team concluded that “in reality, [Nigeria] probably does not contain 100 million”. The shrinkage of Kibera, Lagos and Nigeria will prove to be unexceptional.

Why is it happening?

Governments and city authorities competing for funds, and donors and investors competing for projects, have shared a penchant for exaggeration. Despite the lack of a census in DRC since 1984, McKinsey forecasts that Kinshasa will be the 13th largest city in the world by 2025. The UN has routinely – and demonstrably – over-estimated the size of Africa’s larger cities and urban populations. Over time, errors and misinterpretations of data have become magnified, and projections less realistic. Yet it is the UN’s statistics which are most commonly cited. “They have become ‘fact’ by being constantly re-stated”, says Dr Debby Potts at King’s College, London, “instead of being recognised as guesses”.

So what is it really like?

More reliable urban population estimates and projections are increasingly available to anyone minded to heed them. They present a far from uniform picture for the continent, but challenge the received wisdom that Africa is urbanising faster than any other continent in the world. According to Africapolis, the urbanisation level in West Africa will rise by less than 3%, to 34.6% of the total population, in the period 2000-2020. Analysis by Debby Potts and other leading specialists of the 18 censuses published by sub-Saharan countries in the past decade reveals a similar picture. While urban populations are growing fast in many countries, only in four countries is rapid urbanisation occurring. According to Potts, “the most common pattern is for slow urbanisation”.

The UN thinks urbanisation is a good thing?

Rapid urbanisation is being portrayed – by the UN, the World Bank and many others – as a potential developmental “silver bullet” for Africa. Cities, we are frequently told, will be the drivers of economic growth and poverty reduction on the continent in the years to come. At present, such claims are too simplistic, and counter-productively over-optimistic.

So why are African cities not growing?

One of the explanations for the modest momentum of urbanisation in so many African countries is the lack of opportunities for individuals to improve their lot in towns and cities. Job creation, or lack of it, is the key factor here. In the absence of formal or informal employment, or better services, many rural migrants chose to return whence they came, or to come and go – a phenomenon known as “circular migration”. This is becoming more and more common, and stays in each location are of shorter duration. Natural increase among the poorest urban-dwellers, not migration, is the biggest driver of urban growth in Africa. This means slum growth, and burgeoning ranks of unoccupied young men and women.

Posted in Human geography, Population, Urban environments | Leave a Comment »

African Urban Planning. Way Forward for Africa’s Cities?

Posted by Lindy on October 20, 2011

African Urban Planning. Way Forward for Africa’s Cities?

15 October 2011

An important dimension of Africa’s demographic change is rapid urbanisation. The problem of urbanisation in Africa, however, is not merely the number of urban residents. Compared to other regions, Africa still has one of the lowest levels of urbanisation in the world. According to UN estimates, only 40 per cent of the region’s population lived in urban areas in 2010, compared to about 50 per cent globally. The concern over Africa’s urbanisation, rather, is with its speed: while the roughly 3.3 billion worldwide urban resident population is projected to double by 2050, Africa’s 373 million urban resident population is expected to more than double by as early as 2030, and much of this growth is concentrated in a few areas.

The 2010 population of Lagos Metropolitan Area, for instance, was estimated to be over 12 million, and Kinshasa-Brazzaville was 10.5 million, which now both classified as megacities. Another notable aspect of urbanisation in Africa is that it has not been accompanied by improvements in basic living standards. Unlike in some of the other regions, Africa’s urbanisation is driven by the “push” factors, too many people trying to make a living in rural areas, desertification, lack of resources and wars rather than “pull” factors that result from economic opportunities in the cities.

The region has experienced little or no industrial growth to support this rapid growth of cities, and many African cities are imploding due to infrastructure overload. African urbanisation thus runs counter to the general theory that urbanisation provides greater access to jobs, basic services, and social safety nets.

Africa’s urbanisation challenges

1. Making a living in African cities

A lack of economic opportunities compels Africa’s urban residents towards an array of creative, innovative and inventive strategies to make a living. The informal sector absorbs over 60 per cent of the urban labour force in some African countries, with women forming a large majority of proprietors. While the informal sector has always been part of the urban economy in Africa, many urban residents are now involved in “multiple livelihood strategies”, as people are compelled to employ diversified means of income generation through the acquisition of additional jobs. This practice is not only limited to those in the informal sector, but also by those sections of the population dependent on fixed wages. As a result, the informal sector is no longer the preserve of the poor, but also includes professionals, administrators and other highly ranked formal sector employees. Another activity that many urban residents, including the poor and slum residents, engage in is urban agriculture. Over a third of Kampalans, for instance, now claim to practice it.

2. Difficulty of providing infrastructure

The chaotic expansion of urban spaces in Africa limits the ability of national and local governments to provide urban security and a basic social infrastructure in areas such as health, education, water, and sewage disposal facilities. As a result slums or shanty towns grow, overcoming and swallowing what little crumbling infrastructure that already exists. Many African city dwellers do not have access to electricity or potable water. Waste disposal presents a tremendous health hazard, and indoor air pollution, poor nutrition and urban crime all pose further threats. Slums face additional environmental challenges due to the low quality of construction materials and location on marginal ground. Many slums also flood routinely, and are vulnerable to accidental or malicious fires. The emerging threat of climate change is only likely to intensify these problems.

3. Slum growth

Slums are becoming the norm in the urbanisation of Africa. Nairobi’s slums, for instance, account for about a quarter of the city’s estimated total population of around three million. Poverty, deprivation, crime, violence and general human insecurity have become more prevalent. The unhealthy environment and overcrowded housing expose the urban poor to high rates of infectious diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and diarrhoea. In some African cities, slums emerge due to the lack ownership of land, while inappropriate zoning laws and building codes seem to be the culprits in others.

4. Disease

Urbanisation generally has positive effects on overall human health. African cities, however, have mixed effects on the spread of diseases. On the one hand, urban areas in Africa have better health status because of the availability of healthcare facilities and lower malaria infection rates, due in part to the availability of bed-nets. On the other hand, HIV infection rates are generally higher in urban areas and especially high in slums, where sexual coercion and violence against women accelerate its spread.

5. Urban environmental problems

As African cities become overcrowded, the pollution of the urban environment exacerbates environmental disasters and contributes to health problems. Heavy traffic and emissions are the cause of respiratory problems, heavy noise pollution, road accidents and stressful journeys, as well as other urban nuisances. Industrial and residential emissions, domestic wood and coal fire emissions, crude dumping of solid waste and improper landfills, sewers, septic or fuel tank leakages and water effluents all contribute to the degradation of environmental health in already overcrowded cities. Food and other contaminants, as well as communicable diseases – cholera, malaria, and diarrhoea, amongst others – also threaten the life and health of urban dwellers. These areas are also more vulnerable to health hazards like natural disasters.

Posted in Human geography, Population, Urban environments | Leave a Comment »

Providing an Agricultural Answer to Nature’s Call

Posted by Lindy on October 18, 2011


Posted in Appropriate technology, Development, Fragile environments, Global warming, Human geography, IGCSE, Kibera, Solution to problems | Leave a Comment »

Bangladesh Diary – letter 1

Posted by Lindy on January 23, 2011

Bangladesh Diary will appear  regularly over the coming weeks. Why? Because it is one of the remaining case studies we need to look at – an example of a country under threat from climate change

The Economics of Global Warming

Key points:

  • Need to reduce climate change
  • Need to help poor countries cope
  • Worst impact is rising sea levels
  • Most likely impact food production – especially in poor countries where more people depend on production


2 million people live on less than $2 a day – these depend on food production. If half of them  lost half their income, it would only cost the world $365 billion a year – a mere 1% of world GDP – but to them disaster

Key points:

  • In HICs agriculture makes up 5% of GDP, and many HICs may benefit from climate change.
  • World incomes will rise as will population
  • Need for meat will rise with development
  • 1 calorie of meat uses 4 -10 calories of feed – this will lead to higher feed prices, so the rich may eat a little less
  • It will also lead to rice/wheat prices rising – a disaster for the poor.
  • Glacier melt may appear to be a problem, but that is not really the issue. The precipitation is still there, but coming as rain, it is not stored for the spring melt, but falls and runs off when the crops are not in the ground. This means the spring flood is not there for irrigation, a serious problem in SE Asia for example.
  • Climate change will be primarily a threat to the poor in poor countries.
  • Understanding this may make it hard to persuade the non-poor in the developed world to take the problem seriously.

Maybe we should not be saying this!

Hasina’s call

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is calling on the developed countries to make a carbon-free world. For her climate change is no distant threat but an ever-present reality.

Bangladesh is especially vulnerable to climate change because of geographic exposure,

  • low incomes, and
  • greater reliance on climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture.
  • Climate-related disasters such as floods, droughts, and tropical storms are increasing in Bangladesh along with frequent depression in the Bay of Bengal.
Future impacts

Sea level rise is of grave concern to a developing country like Bangladesh with a vast, low-lying, densely-populated deltaic coast. One metre sea-level rise will inundate about one-fifth area of Bangladesh which will displace 25-30 million people – equivalent ot half the UK population.

Posted in Bangladesh, Climate change, Food supply, Human geography, IGCSE | Leave a Comment »

Scientists roll out innovative system for producing vegetables

Posted by Lindy on September 9, 2010

Referred to as the African Market Garden, the new system will be implemented with about 7,000 small-scale farmers at 100 locations in Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso and Senegal, with the aim of extending the success of 3,000 gardens already established in countries of the Sahel during recent years. Support for the expansion comes from the governments of Israel, Italy, Switzerland and the USA and from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Bank, and various international foundations and NGOs.
“The African Market Garden combines efficient drip irrigation to save water, energy and labour with improved crop management to boost farmers’ vegetable yields and economic returns. The African Market Garden is a promising technology for smallholder farmers, which builds on a vegetable-growing tradition in the Sahel that dates back at least to colonial times,”

“In recent decades, the demand for fresh tomatoes, onions, hot peppers and other vegetables has grown dramatically, as a result of rapid population growth and urbanization, and this has given rise to vibrant local and regional markets. But traditional vegetable farming has proved unable to keep pace, partly because of inefficient use of water and other resources.”
The African Market Garden benefits women particularly, who handle much of the region’s vegetable production and marketing, raising their incomes and enhancing family nutrition in a region where vitamin A deficiency is widespread.
To irrigate a traditional vegetable garden of 500 square meters using the conventional system takes one man, lifting two watering cans at a time, about 4 hours a day or one woman, lifting only one watering can, about 8 hours a day, compared to just 10 minutes for drip irrigation. Using a solar-powered pump or other renewable energy source to provide water allows further savings and makes the system more sustainable. The new system uses water more efficiently which is necessary if the water table is not to drop and salt pans are not to develop.

In Benin, three women’s groups have managed communal market gardens successfully, producing vegetables year-round for the last 3 years. Each woman generates, on average, just over US$200 per year from a plot measuring just 120 square meters. The profits are twice those for traditional gardening, plus the nutritional benefits of having more vegetables in the family diet. Young girls are especially happy with the new system, because they no longer have to spend hours fetching water for irrigation.
Improved locally adapted varieties of okra, tomato and other vegetables resulting from their work are spreading rapidly in Niger and other countries of the Sahelian region. For the first time ever, markets in the nation’s capital, Niamey, were well supplied with vegetables, especially tomatoes, during the last rainy season. A new line derived from a local onion variety shows promise, yielding 60 tons per hectare, nearly twice as much as other varieties grown by farmers.
In a further effort to diversify farming in the Sahel, ICRISAT scientists are promoting vegetable intercropping with fruit trees. One especially suitable tree species is the Apple of the Sahel, or Pomme du Sahel in French (Ziziphus mauritania), whose apple-shaped fruit possesses ten times more vitamin C than apples and is also rich in iron, calcium, phosphorous and essential amino acids. Another is the Moringa tree (Moringa oleifera), whose leaves have seven times more vitamin C than oranges, four times more vitamin A than carrots, four times more calcium than milk (plus double the protein) and three times more potassium than bananas.
To find out more go to:
For photos, please visit

Posted in Appropriate technology, Food supply, Fragile environments, Human geography, IGCSE, Renewable, Sahel, Solution to problems, Y7/8 | Leave a Comment »

Outrage over Peru-Brazil Energy Agreement

Posted by Lindy on June 18, 2010

Six Dams will displace indigenous communities and threaten Amazon ecosystems

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signed an energy agreement with Peruvian President Alan Garcia yesterday, which includes building around six hydroelectric power plants in the Peruvian Amazon to supply more than 6000 MW of power to Brazil.

“This accord will not guarantee clean and renewable energy for Peru. On the contrary, it will impose a series of negative environmental and social impacts such as displacement of indigenous people and deforestation in at least 5 departments of Peru, putting at grave risk the future of the Peruvian Amazon;” said Mariano Castro, former Executive Secretary of the Peruvian National Environment Council (CONAM) and lawyer with the Peruvian Society of Environmental Rights (SPDA).

One of the first projects to be built under the accord would be the Paquitzapango Dam on the Ene River, which would impact close to 17,000 Ashaninka indigenous people and threaten the Ashaninka Communal Reserve, as well as the Otishi National Park, both of which are legally,protected areas.

“The Paquitzapango dam is being planned without a dialogue between the Peruvian government and the people that would be impacted by those projects,” said Ruth Buendia Mestoquiari, an Ashaninka indigenous leader. “The Ene River is the soul of our lands, the river that feeds our forests, animals, plants, crops and, especially, our children.”

“Peru does not need these dams, we have close to 50,000 MW of renewable energy potential, such as wind, solar and geothermal, that does not include large dams. This deal will only benefit Brazil, and we are not going to let this happen,” said Engineer Alfredo Novoa Pena, the founder of Peruvian environmental organization Pro-Naturaleza.

Although the agreement has been signed by the presidents, it is likely to face legal hurdles in Peru. “As this agreement implies establishing changes in the legal framework for the construction of hydroelectric dams in Peruvian lands, it should be reviewed by Congress before approval,” said Cesar Gamboa, a lawyer with legal NGO Environmental Rights and Natural Resources (DAR).

The agreement does not contain provisions for the well-being of communities affected by the projects, their rights and participation in benefits of the projects.

Posted in Development, Fragile environments, Human geography, IGCSE, Sustainability | 1 Comment »

Storm blows a 200ft hole in Guatemala City, swallowing a building

Posted by Lindy on June 1, 2010

What has been going on here?

This was the scene in Guatemala yesterday after a 200ft deep sink hole swallowed up a three-storey building. The enormous crater appeared in the Central American country’s capital, Guatemala City, as it was being ravaged by torrential rain and mudslides during Tropical Storm Agatha. Agatha, the first named storm of the 2010 Pacific season, slammed into Guatemala and neighbouring El Salvador at the weekend, dumping more than three feet of rain in the region.

The enormous crater appeared while the city was being ravaged with high winds, torrential rain and deadly mudslides. Witnesses claim at least one man was in the three-storey building when it was swallowed up at a downtown intersection, and others remain missing.

Agatha has killed at least 146 people across Central America, and has sparked fears for the economies of Guatemala and El Salvador – as there has been widespread damage to the coffee crop in both countries.

Posted in Fragile environments, Human geography, IGCSE, Urban environments, Weather | 2 Comments »

When the Promised land isn’t all promising By Silvano Ateka

Posted by Lindy on May 30, 2010

It was a journey reminiscent of the Israelites leaving Egypt for the Promised Land – if fact some people are beginning to call the flats Canaan.

On that dusty September afternoon, last year, residents like Ruth Njeri left their mud hovels in the sprawling Kibera slum, and took a 20-minute ride to their ‘paradise’, where more than 300 little palaces awaited them.

The relocation was the first in the slum, and part of a series of slum upgrading projects in the country that are hoped to phase out informal settlements.

Although months have passed since that exciting afternoon for Njeri and dozens others who left their shacks for high-rise flats, an aura of nostalgia still hangs thickly over the new estate. Njeri misses the camaraderie she once shared with her neighbours in the slum, that she misses most. “I miss my old friends,” she says.


1. For Njeri, life in the new flats has been smooth but coupled with the challenges of adjusting to an ‘unfriendly’ environment. She says she is yet to get used to sharing a house with people she can hardly get along with. Njeri isn’t alone in the predicament. Many residents have  to live with what they describe as ‘unfriendly housemates’, with whom they have to share facilities like kitchen and bathrooms.

2. More than six months down the line, some flats are yet to be supplied with electricity.

3. Ben Nyongesa admits to finding life in the new estate ‘a bit harder’ compared to that of the slums, where his small business thrived, thanks to the droves of people trekking in and out of the vast slum. Here the population is relatively smaller. “I now rely on luck to put food on the table. But it is a better home, nonetheless. More secure and comfortable,” he says.

4. Although glad to have benefited from the programme, Wanjala is disturbed by what he sees as ‘outsiders’ bribing their way into the new houses. A quick look around the houses lends some credence to his claims. An array of expensive vehicles line the parking lot, a sign there may be more than just former slum dwellers who now occupy the flats.

Posted in Development, Human geography, IGCSE, Kibera, Urban environments | Leave a Comment »

The informal economy is saving Africa? Really?

Posted by Lindy on May 28, 2010

The informal sector is economic activity that is neither taxed nor monitored by a government, and is not included in that government’s Gross National Product (GNP), as opposed to a formal economy.

So how come it could save Africa? It is estimated that the informal economy is equivalent to 40% of the GDP of most African countries. That is a bit like taking the GDP of the USA but forgetting to count California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois! It seriously under-values how much money is being made.

The trouble with working off the books like this is that when it comes time to distribute official resources for development, like digging a well or building a school or paving a road the government can overlook those in the informal sector because they do not exist in the formal records. .  It’s easy to get trapped in a sort of official limbo.  You don’t get help you need because you’re not really there. But they do not choose to chase those on the informal economy to pay taxes because they perform a vital function in society and so must be tolerated and encouraged insofar as possible.  The answer in most countries is for governments to ignore the informal economy altogether.  Of course they admit it exists, but they plead a long list of difficulties when it comes time to count, tax, regulate or otherwise officially acknowledge it.  It’s simply cheaper and easier to let it go and try to tap some of the benefits indirectly.

The reason this is the best hope for Africa is that informal economies everywhere survive and thrive against the odds.  Lack of capital, education and in many cases the absence of basic services and utilities do not deter people from taking risks, even prevent them making a profit on small ventures at the bottom of the economic pyramid.  Every country in Africa depends on its informal economy to supply the needs and fill the gaps of the official one.

The link to the full article

Posted in Development, Economic geography, Human geography, IGCSE, Urban environments | Leave a Comment »