27 February 2015 Development News Round-Up


Israeli labour union threatens major strike ahead of election


– Israel Chemicals faces escalating labour and political reaction to it’s job cuts while it remains uncommitted to Ethiopian project


borgasIsrael’s main labour union threatened on Thursday to shut down a large part of the economy just days before a parliamentary election unless one of the largest companies in the country reverses a plan to reduce its workforce.

The head of the Histadrut labour federation said a weeks-long dispute with potash maker Israel Chemicals (ICL) reflected wider problems and would be expanded into a general strike in all of southern Israel unless the job cuts are nulled.

“We need to cause shockwaves here,” said Avi Nissenkorn, whose federation represents hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, in an interview with Army Radio.

ICL, a maker of fertilizer and speciality chemicals, is Israel’s second-largest traded company and is controlled by conglomerate Israel Corp.

Opinions polls show a tight race ahead of the March 17 election, campaigning for which has been dominated by economic issues like high living costs and workers wages.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office would not comment on the threatened general strike.

Nissenkorn accused the government of neglecting Israel’s arid south — roughly half the country — and instead focusing economic support on commercial centres near Tel Aviv.

Tens of thousands of workers from government offices and private sector business would stay home if the strike goes into effect on March 12 as planned, the Histadrut said.

Nissenkorn called on the government to wield its “golden share” in ICL — one of the top three suppliers of the crop nutrient potash to China, India and Europe — to prevent the lay-offs.

ICL, which has exclusive rights to mine minerals from the Dead Sea, said it was determined to implement an efficiency plan that includes cutting 140 of 900 jobs at its bromine unit and 140 of 1,250 at its primary potash-producing Dead Sea Works.

The bromine unit has been closed since workers left their posts at the start of the month. Employees at the potash plant joined the strike a couple of weeks later.

ICL declined to say how much the strike had affected its business and accused the workers’ groups of using “violence, aggression and brutality”. “ICL’s management will not allow the committees to take over the factories,” it said in a statement.

The strike had been planned to coincide with the election to try to gain more political support, the company said.


Related story:  http://www.globes.co.il/en/article-histadrut-declares-work-dispute-in-southern-israel-1001013993


Outcome from the Innovative fertilizer solutions conference in Ethiopia


Written by Tadesse M.

sabicAs one of the world’s leading fertilizer producers, SABIC seeks improved crop yields using more efficient “smart” fertilizers, while at the same time protecting the natural environment.

Bringing that story to a wider audience is why SABIC recently sponsored the Argus FMB Africa Fertilizer 2015 conference, which took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 18-20.

Led by Khaled Al-Mana, Executive Vice President, Fertilizers, the SABIC team took part in discussion sessions and special meetings with leading African and international producers, major buyers and distributors, and all categories of service providers.

The conference focused on the latest market developments, exploring relevant business opportunities and issues such as bulk blending versus processing, multi-nutrient application and soil mapping in Africa.

SABIC is one of the top producers and exporters of urea, as well as ammonia, diammonium phosphate (DAP) and nitrogen/phosphorus/potassium (NPKs) fertilizers. It produces around seven million metric tons (MMT) of fertilizers annually.

In addition, with a strategic 30 per cent equity in the Maaden phosphate fertilizers project in northeast Saudi Arabia, SABIC has access to additional quantities of over one million MT annually of DAP.

“Being one of the leaders in terms of fertilizer production is not enough anymore,” stated Al-Mana. “We will increase our effort to develop and market new fertilizers, which reduce runoff into rivers and streams, feed the plant only when it needs to be fed, and emit fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

SABIC participated as a platinum sponsor in the Argus conference and showcased a booth that hosted industry leaders and experts, providing them with information about SABIC and its fertilizer business.

Africa is rich in both natural and human resources, with fertile land, water access and high-caliber people. Development efforts have focused on the agricultural sector, which is where meeting the challenge of food scarcity will be met.

“SABIC’s sponsorship of the Argus meeting was just one example of our commitment to support the fertilizers industry in particular, and the agriculture sector in general, in this part of the world,” Al-Mana said, adding “this conference is a strong opportunity to further engage this growing potential market, and we are determined to seize it.”

SABIC’s efforts aim at finding solutions that contribute towards building a better future for the people in Africa, Al-Mana added.

SABIC has just opened its newest Africa office in Ethiopia, joining those already operating in Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia.



Commission stresses public role in fighting corruption 


Addis Ababa, 27 February 2015 –

The Federal Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission said the role of public wing and mass participation is pivotal in fighting corruption.

The Commission discussed six month performance with participants drawn from various institutions and the public sector here yesterday.

Commissioner Ali Suleiman on the occasion said that the struggle against corruption and impropriety cannot be achieved without the combined effort of the government and the society at large.

Presenting the six month performance report, Research Team Chief Adviser Begizew Yaregal said the Commission has been undertaking diverse activities as per the fiscal year plan and achieved most of them with the participation of the public and its entire staff.

According the report, after conducting detail investigation of corruption offenses, over 74.3 million Birr, over 26,000 square meters of land, three vehicles, three buildings and three residential houses and other properties have been reclaimed over the last six months.

Serious shortage of manpower, continuous turnover, delay in responding to investigation and corruption offenses with various institutions, among others, are some challenges the Commission encountered thus far, as to the report.

The participants suggested a well-defined communication and education platform which is required to enhance citizens’ awareness towards anti-corruption move.

It is also conveyed that the Commission needs to check some malpractices in the service-providing institutions such as Electric Power and Water for recurrent supply interruption that eventually resulted in public dissatisfaction.



Ethiopia to build research center to boost rice production

Addis Ababa, 27 February 2015 –
A research and training center that will help to boost rice production in Ethiopia in the coming five years will be built with the support of the government of Japan.

The agreement for the construction of the center was signed by the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).JICA and the Ethiopian government will cover the 10 million USD, which the project is expected to consume.

The center will be built in Fogera area in Amhara regional state and expects to support rice cultivation through modern technologies thereby improve production.

According to Dr Fantahun Mengistu Director of the Institute, the center will help Ethiopia to boost production and maximize benefits from rice.

He said the project will assist Ethiopia’s efforts to the realization of the 10 years national plan to boost rice production.

According to him, the project will help to double production harvested from a hectare from the current 60-70 quintals and reduce post harvest losses.

Motonori Tomitaka, Detailed Planning Study Team Leader at JAICA said the center, in which its construction will be launched this year, will work to build capacity of farmers and stakeholders.

The center will be engaged in modernizing farming technologies and disseminating them among farmers, he added



Ethiopia Plans to Revive Biodiesel Production


BiodieselEthiopia is an unlikely setting for a revived “food versus fuel” debate. As a country once overwhelmed by famine, it may seem odd that the Ethiopian government would be in favour of anything associated with food security risk. But the case for biofuels in Ethiopia is strong and it’s growing stronger.

Like many countries, the Ethiopian government was eager to realise the potential of jatropha, a biofuel crop with “green gold” credentials, ten years ago. Opinions soured in 2007 and 2008 when the global food price crisis struck and biofuel production was identified as one of the root causes. This, coupled with disappointing jatropha harvests, prompted a swift exit by Ethiopia’s biodiesel developers.

The government is keen to revive interest in biofuels and is pinning its hopes on the private sector to finance new projects. It is offering tax holidays and free land leases for up to seven years to biofuels developers. According to Nadew Tadelle who runs the recently created biofuels private enterprise unit at the Ministry of Water and Energy, the government hopes biodiesel production may reach 450m litres a year within the next five years, up from virtually zero currently.

A 15,000 litre-per-day biodiesel processing facility was scheduled to be commissioned in February. It’s the first of several planned processing units by African Power Initiative (API), with backing from Saudi Arabia’s Al Romaizan family and Pegasus Capital in the US. It plans to reach a total processing capacity of 2m litres per day by 2020.

Already, the project covers 1m acres of degraded land, which will be extended to 4m acres in the future. “We will buy seeds from the people,” says API’s Marcos Bitew. “This project is bringing together everyone – capitalists, the Ethiopian government, the development people.” The company will pay farmers for seeds at a fee determined by the price of diesel.

Ethiopia is particularly keen to substitute biofuels for imported diesel. “Every fuel is imported and so currently around 75 per cent of our export earning goes towards the import of oil,” says Tadelle. Ethiopia’s fuel bill weighs heavily on its current account and foreign currency reserves. It currently has reserves to cover only 2.2 months’ worth of imports – almost half the 4.3 months it had in 2010-11.

The Ethiopian government is carrying out demonstration projects in the hope of attracting international investment. According to Michael Tesama, head of projects at Ethiopia’s biofuel directorate, 24m jatropha seeds have been distributed this year and there are already around 100m jatropha trees in Ethiopia. “We want to show the farmers how they can collect the product and at some point we will show this to private investors,” says Tesama.

It is well established that jatropha can grow in Ethiopia, even in arid areas. It’s been grown for non-biodiesel purposes for many years and is referred to locally as “ayderkie” and “yedinber shimagilie”, meaning “drought resistant” and “border mediator”, indicating its use as a hedge.

However, biofuel crop cultivation is only allowed on “marginal land”, which tends to be very arid. While jatropha can grow in arid areas, yield and the oiliness of seeds can be badly affected. Indian biofuel company Emami Biotech found that while its jatropha trees planted in Ethiopia’s Oromia region in 2009 survived, they grew very slowly. The company was allocated 11,000 hectares and planned to invest $83m in jatropha plantations, but the project was abandoned in 2011.

The UK’s Sun Biofuels had a similar experience in the Benishangul Gumz region. It was granted 80,000 hectares in 2006 to grow jatropha but abandoned its plans three years later citing low rainfall and poor soil quality as the main reasons for bad harvests.

API is confident that biofuel yields will be sufficiently high for its biodiesel project. “Our yields are very high. Even if we got small yields per tree, the sheer scale [of the project] will make up the difference,” says Marcos Bitew. The project’s partners are working with Yale University Green Chemistry Department on research and development.

The government insists that only marginal land is used for biofuels cultivation so that it does not compete with agriculture. However, the definition of “marginal” is far from exact.

“They do not have a stated criteria for what is marginal land,” says Brigitte Portner from the Centre for Development and Environment at the University of Bern. “Marginal land in their sense is just land that is not being used agriculturally but in most cases it is used – it’s just that it’s being used by pastoralists to graze cattle or the local people use it to collect firewood. It’s just that it’s not intensive agriculture there.”

It’s also difficult to enforce rules on where biofuels can be cultivated. Food crops tend to take precedence over biofuels as they command a higher price, but research by the Environment for Development initiative found that cash crop production can be negatively affected by biofuel crops as growers allocate up to a third of their land to biofuels.

This can wipe out the trade balance benefits of biofuels as cash crops are targeted at the export market. The researchers found that “although both exports and imports show a decreasing trend following biofuel expansion, the decline in exports is greater than imports, indicating worsening of the trade balance”.

This may pose a national policy dilemma, but for individual farmers biofuels may help food security. Research has found that calorie intake is higher in households that also produce castor beans, a biodiesel crop. These households also experience 25 per cent shorter periods of food shortage between harvests, as biofuels can be grown when food crops cannot. At a micro level at least, biofuel crop cultivation may be a complement, rather than competitor to food in Ethiopia.



Diageo’s Meta Abo tripled production


Diageo’s Meta Abo tripled productionAddis Ababa  February 26, 2015 – 
Expansion of Diageo’s Meta Abo brewery in Sebeta town of Oromia regional state, which enables the company triple production capacity was inaugurated yesterday.

The 119 million USD expansion project helped to increase production capacity to 1.7 million hectoliters from 500,000 hectoliters three years after acquisition of the Meta Abo Brewery.

The government of Ethiopia supports projects, which widely utilizes agricultural products, since they crate market opportunities for farmers and chain between agriculture and industry, said Dr. Debretsion Gebremichael, Minister of Communication Information Technology.

Breweries are among these kinds of projects as they widely utilize locally produced agricultural inputs.

Apart from supporting companies to expand their businesses locally, the government will help them with a desire to export products abroad, he added. The government is ready to create market ties for those companies.

Noting Ethiopia’s fast economic growth, Chief Executive of Diageo said the company will continue to invest here for the growth of their brand.

According to him, the company is desirous to be part of the growing economy of the country and utilize the opportunity.



Statement on the UK’s development relationship with Ethiopia

February 26, 2015 –

Ethiopia is delivering impressive progress towards the Millennium Development Goals meaning the needs of the country are changing as it experiences strong economic growth and increasing domestic revenue.

Recognizing Ethiopia’s growing success, the UK will now evolve its approach by transitioning support towards economic development to help generate jobs, income and growth that will enable self-sufficiency and ultimately end poverty.

This will go alongside additional funding for specific health, education and water programmes – where impressive results are already being delivered – resourced by ending support for the Promotion of Basic Services programme.

The UK remains firmly committed to poverty reduction in Ethiopia. This transition in approach does not affect the amount of aid DFID will provide to Ethiopia in 2015/16.


Montero declines participation in Ethiopian graphite project


26th February 2015

TORONTO  – TSX-V-listed Montero Mining and Exploration on Thursday announced that it had declined participation in the Moyale graphite project, in Ethiopia.

Montero had in August entered into a binding agreement with Ethiopia-based Hulager General Import and Export to acquire up to an 80% interest in its fully owned Moyale project. The agreement provided Montero six months to complete legal and technical due diligence to its satisfaction and was also subject to regulatory approval.

“The Moyale graphite project is a property that merits exploration with good geological and metallurgical characteristics but did not meet our due diligence criteria. We continue to focus on our high quality REE [rare earths element] and phosphate assets and advance these via strategic partners,” Montero president and CEO Dr Tony Harwood said.

Toronto-based Montero is focused on the Wigu Hill REE project, in Tanzania, and its phosphate properties in South Africa.



Experts discuss reducing negative impacts of pesticides


Addis Ababa, 26 February 2015 

Various experts drawn from the Ministry of Agriculture, Birdlife International, Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS), Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre and Network as well as other Non Governmental Organizations extensively deliberated on how to reduce the negative impacts of pesticides on migratory soaring birds and other biodiversity in the Central Rift Valley Ecosystem of Ethiopia.

They as well discussed the safe use and mitigation of pesticides in a recently held four-day workshop at the Haile Resort, Hawassa.

During the workshop, EWNHS Executive Director Mengistu Wondafrash told participants that migratory soaring birds, along the flyway of Rift Valley/ Red Sea, are under threat due to illegal hunting, poor waste management, tourism, agricultural intensification and the like.

According to Mengistu, birds are good indicators of climate change. Hence their flyway should be protected from any dangers with a view to conserving and perpetuating the biodiversity and ecosystem of world.

“Globally banned pesticides like persistent organocholorine such as DDT and Endosulphan are being used across the country. As such bans are often ignored due to lack of awareness and information,” he added.

Regarding the level of awareness of the side effects of pesticides in Ethiopia, Mengistu noted that as it did not go deep into society, extensive awareness building is crucial for smallholders.

Presenting a paper on challenges associated with obsolete pesticides, an expert from the Ministry of Agriculture Shimelis Hassen pointed out that inadequate storage and poor stock management, donation or purchase in excess of requirement, product bans, pest resistance, weak enforcement, among others are the main reasons for the stockpiling of obsolete pesticides.

“So far Ethiopia has avoided and disposed of 3,050 tons of obsolete pesticides in cooperation with international donors,” he reiterated.

At the workshop, Dr. Bayeh Mulat on his part presented a paper on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as a means to reduce negative impacts of pesticides in the environment as part of Sustainable Agriculture. In his paper, he noted that IPM is the best option to reduce the harmful effects of pesticides throughout the country.

A number of research papers on Pest and Pesticide Management, Registration and Monitoring of Pesticides in Ethiopia, Policy on Safe Use and Legal Frameworks, among others were presented for discussion in the course of the workshop.

At the end of the workshop, the experts agreed to enhance awareness raising activities towards the negative impacts of pesticides on human beings, the environment and migratory soaring birds, promote the concept of safe use of pesticides and Integrated Pest Management (IPM), among others.

It was learnt that the Rift Valley/Red Sea flyway is the second most important flyway for migratory soaring birds in the world. Among over 1.5 million soaring birds of 37 species, five are globally threatened.



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