Tag Archives: poverty

Working for the common good: Ketumile Masire,1925-2017

Emily Langer in the Independent has written an obituary of Ketumile Masire – a statesman who described himself as ‘a farmer who has been drawn into politics’.

A summary with added links and photographs

Masire herded cattle before enrolling in a primary school at 13 and receiving a scholarship to attend a high school in South Africa that trained many leaders of the first government of independent Botswana. When his parents died he supported his siblings, becoming a headmaster. He later earned a Master Farmers Certificate, and having saved enough money to buy a tractor,  became a BBfarmer, using modern agricultural techniques.

Botswana cattle

He served on tribal and regional councils and was a founder and secretary-general of the Botswana Democratic Party, now the country’s leading political party. He once travelled 3,000 miles of the Kalahari desert to attend two dozen meetings over two weeks.

After serving as minister of finance and development planning and Vice President, Ketumile Masire became President of Botswana (1980-1998): roads and schools were built, healthcare improved, access to clean water expanded, farming techniques advanced and life spans extended.

The discovery of diamond reserves had transformed the country’s prospects and Masire continued to use the revenues for the public good after the death of his predecessor Seretse Khama.  He became ‘a model leader in a model nation on a continent where poverty, corruption and violence had crushed the hopes of many for stability and prosperity’. 

After leading Botswana through a drought that persisted for much of the 1980s, he shared the Africa Prize for Leadership awarded by the Hunger Project in recognition of the food distribution efforts that helped the country avoid starvation during the crisis.

Though South Africa was Botswana’s major economic partner, Botswana opposed apartheid. “He had to walk a fine line in a really rough neighbourhood,” said Chester Crocker, a former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs. “He had to get along with everybody, without sacrificing his principles.”

After leaving office, in addition to tending the cattle on his ranch, Masire advised other African leaders and chaired an international panel that investigated the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He made important contributions to peace efforts in Congo and, more recently, Mozambique. He established a foundation which seeks to improve agriculture, governance and children’s health in the region.

He once said: “We have a saying in Botswana: A man is never strong until he says what he believes and gives other men the chance to do the same. I am proud to say without a doubt – we are a strong democracy.” 

A more chequered account of his life is given in Wikipedia.

 

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Antidotes were hard to find this week as one cheering message after another was debunked – only Positive News was buoyant

The message in so many headlines: “From January 1st this year, all Dutch electric trains are being powered by renewable energy – wind power. Not so, it is claimed: 100% wind power because it has a contract with various wind farms to produce enough energy to power its rail system, but this is just an accounting transaction. Only a small fraction of the power delivered to its trains actually comes from wind. 

global-fossil-fuel-subsidies-graphThen Jonathan Ford in the FT (former chairman of the Cameron generation of the Bullingdon Club, now responsible for writing and commissioning the FT’s editorials) argued that green jobs are not valuable because of public subsidy (How subsidy culture keeps Britain’s green industry in the black – leaving the uniformed or prejudiced reader to assume that fossil fuels receive no subsidy. Statistics for the UK are not readily available here – but the IMF reports that America is the world’s second biggest culprit overall, spending $669 billion this year—mostly by “post-tax” systems which fail to factor the costs of environmental damage into prices.

Leonie Greene, Head of External Affairs, Solar Trade Association replied in the FT that the UK subsidy is required only because the “polluter pays” principle has not been fully applied to fossil fuels.

She adds that despite the global market failure to tax carbon pollution, there are increasing parts of the world where solar and onshore wind compete with the cheapest fossil fuels even without subsidy or “polluter pays” taxes.

renewables-en-gen-2010-2015-graphic

Lucy Purdy of Positive News writes cheeringly: “It was a tough year by many measures but 2016 also saw some reasons for celebration. We look behind the headlines for signs of progress”. (First republished on a sister site):

right-in-2016Illustration by Spencer Wilson: the fact that some conflicts have ended has helped reduce world hunger

  1. World hunger is at its lowest point for 25 years
  2. The Rio Olympics featured more female athletes than ever before
  3. The Paris Climate Change Agreement came into force
  4. For the 24th year in a row, teenage pregnancy rates declined in the UK and US
  5. Wild tiger numbers increased for the first time in 100 years
  6. The number of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes has almost halved since 1990
  7. Evidence suggests that major diseases, from colon cancer to heart disease, are now starting to wane in wealthy countries
  8. India turned on the world’s largest solar power plant – spanning 10 sq km – in the state of Tamil Nadu
  9. Public smoking bans appear to have improved health in 21 nations
  10. Black incarceration rates fell in the US
  11. Measles has been eradicated in the Americas – the first time the disease has been eliminated from an entire world region
  12. An HIV cure may be a step closer after a trial cleared the virus in a British man
  13. Italy became the last large Western country to recognise same-sex unions
  14. China installed 20 gigawatts of solar in the first half of 2016
  15. Volunteers in India planted 50m trees in 24 hours
  16. Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since 2000, it was announced this year
  17. The amount of money it would take to eliminate extreme poverty is now lower than the annual foreign aid spend
  18. Giant pandas are no longer endangered
  19. The number of deaths from malaria is at a global record low
  20. The World Bank says we are now one generation away from achieving universal literacy

and

uk-electricity

                                                 Another sign of progress