16 April 2021

Restoring intactness of land ecosystems: Defining an intact ecosystem as one where all species known to have occurred in an area 500 years ago are still present and sufficiently abundant to play their ecological roles (e.g. as top predators or seed dispersers), a new study finds that “only 2.8% of the planet’s land surface fits this description. These patches (…) are scattered in various places around the world”. African examples are the Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Congo and the Serengeti-Ngorongoro in Tanzania. Worldwide, “only 11% of them fall within a protected area.” According to the study, up to 20% of Earth’s land could be restored to historical levels of abundance and activity.

South Africa: Corruption is endemic in the ANC. When Ramaphosa became president of the ANC in December 2017 and of the country in February 2018, he promised to fight corruption. “But he has met with resistance, especially within the ANC.” Things came to a head between the two main ANC factions (around Ramaphosa and around Zuma, to put things simply) at the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) virtual meeting at the end of March. It seems that Ramaphosa has won against ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule who was given 30 days to step down. This means that Ramaphosa is finally strong enough to abandon his compromise-oriented “unity is paramount” stance within the ANC. But Magashule & Co will fight on – against Ramaphosa & Co, in their eyes “stooges of white monopoly capital”.

Nigeria: The agricultural sector is not one of Nigeria’s priorities. It thus comes as no surprise that the food supply is insufficient. Covid has worsened things and more than 70% of Nigerians have suffered hunger during the pandemic. The author makes recommendations for improvement, starting from focussing on domestic demand, strengthening local production and food security.

Nigeria: The third Boko Haram attack in only a week on Damasak, a town in the very north near the Niger border, has killed 18 and 65,000 people (residents, internally displaced people and refugees) have fled, about 80% of the town’s population. But the army says it is in control “and has told people to stay calm”. “The attacks were targeted on humanitarian compounds and stocks, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Norwegian Refugee Council and Action Against Hunger”.
BBC Africa Live 16 April 2021. 15:24

Nigeria: Five women and three men have been arrested by Islamic police in the state of Kano for eating in the afternoon despite it being Ramadan when fasting (food and drink) is obligatory for adult Muslims except those who are sick or ill or whose health would be affected (this includes pregnant and breastfeeding women; travellers are also exempted). The executive director of the Kano State Hisbah Board (which is enforcing Islamic law in Kano) has promised more raids across the state to ensure people adhere to religious rules.
BBC Africa Live 16 April 2021. 11:27

Nigeria: YouTube has suspended the account of TB Joshua – “one of Africa's most influential evangelists, with top politicians among his followers” – after his claims that his prayers can cure gayness.
BBC Africa Live 16 April 2021. 10:35

Mali: The transitional government has fixed the dates of elections. A referendum will be held on 31 October 2020, council elections on 26 December 2020, the first round of legislative and presidential elections on 27 February 2022 and the second round in March 2022.
BBC Africa Live 16 April 2021. 6:10

Rwanda: Béatrice Munyenyezi, a Rwandan who got political asylum in the US, was stripped of her US citizenship for having lied in order to get it and punished by ten years of prison. Now that her jail term is over, she has been deported to Rwanda where she will no doubt be arrested upon arrival and tried for her role in the genocide.
BBC Africa Live 16 April 2021. 17:23

15 April 2021

South Africa: Despite several laws to that effect, communities are not protected well enough against mining companies. The author’s research in Xolobeni showed that “traditional leaders or community representatives did not adequately represent the interests of the community” because they “did not consult properly with the affected members of the community, and thereby failed to adequately represent their interests”. There was added to this a problem of corruption. Also, the Traditional and Khoi San Leadership Act gives too much power to the traditional leaders. Communities need to become fully aware of their rights. The authorities need to intervene when traditional leaders abuse their authority. And finally, “there is a need for more transparency and accountability regarding the awarding of mining licences”;

Plant communication: Depending on conditions, plants are independent or interdependent. They can collaborate and support each other.
Mycorrhizal symbiosis: “The vast majority of plants have fungi that live on or within their roots. Together, the fungi and roots form structures known as mycorrhizae, which resemble a netlike web. Mycorrhizae increase their host plants’ ability to absorb water and nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphate, through their roots. In return, the plants share sugars that they produce through photosynthesis with their fungal partners.” Through these fungi, plants can share sugars (if they produce more than they themselves need) with other plants. They can also pass on “defensive chemicals”, e.g. substances that promote resistance against insect pests. Through these connections, “a plant that has been attacked by aphids or other such pests (can also) signal to neighboring plants to preemptively activate their own defense responses”.
When conditions are unfavourable and no surplus sugars are produced, the plant will stop to share with others, it will “limit mycorrhizal connections and development by restricting how many materials they exchange with their fungal partners and avoiding making new connections. This is a form of physical distancing that protects the plants’ ability to support themselves.”
Kin recognition: Plants recognize related plants and share more sugars with the fungi in their network with these closely related plants than with more distantly related plants.
Collaborative environmental transformation: Plants can joint together and make their roots “grow in the same direction, in a collaborative process known as swarming that is similar to bee swarms or bird flocks. Such swarming of roots enables the plants to release a lot of chemicals in a particular soil region, (thus freeing) up more nutrients for the plants’ use.”

Uganda: The government has finally had to admit that it had arrested more than 1,000 during the campaign for the January elections and that most of them are still in detention. Some have been released without charge and dumped in the middle of the night near their homes. Some say they were tortured. There is still no certainty about how many people are still in prison and it is not known what they are accused of.
BBC Africa Live 15 April 2021. 16:56