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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

These are tough times, and we must act tough

20th January 2012
Editorial cartoon

Some years ago, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ‘slapped’ the world with a number of stark facts and projections, some of them disquieting.

The UN agency talked of the likelihood of the world population hitting the 8 billion mark by 2030, at which time the Earth will have to feed an additional 2 billion people – a whole 90 per cent of them living in resource-starved developing countries.

It reported that three-quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas, the population including most of the world’s 800 million undernourished people, 850 million illiterate adults and 130 million children out of school.

Especially appalling is the fact that two-thirds of those illiterate adults are women and two-thirds of the out-of-school children are girls. Ironically, it is women who produce most of the food consumed locally and account for significant labour for export crops.

With respect to the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS, it is understood that some 95 per cent of those living with the pandemic are to be found in developing countries – particularly the countryside.

Few scenarios could be grimmer than these as it is undeniable that no country or community can realise sustainable development if it is devastated by AIDS, which is known to strike down children and adults in the prime of their lives and therefore wreaking havoc on food security.

The eight UN Millennium Development Goals are meant to reserve this trend and thus help humankind live better. Unfortunately, the 2015 deadline for achieving the goals is practically impossible to meet.

Granted, mainly owing to constraints related to financial and other resources and inputs, the MDGs may have been beyond the reach of most countries from the very beginning. But their endorsement ran alongside promises that national governments would inject enough political will into initiatives that would be concrete evidence of serious implementation.

It is human nature to want to believe that things are on track and victory is around the corner even when the contrary is true. But one should feel obliged to ask oneself whether indeed one is playing one’s role to the fully and the future is promising, and change tack when things don’t go according to plan.

Politicking has its place but it can do little to move the mountains we need to conquer on our way to a better life. As a nation, we seriously need to put our heads together and agree on realistic ways of dealing with the various factors that make things uncomfortable for our people while also devising strategies to forestall those likely to crop up in worst-case scenarios.

Wishing those problems away won’t help. Pretending that they are not there and therefore continuing with ‘business as usual’ attitude would have catastrophic consequences. Yet, how many of us don’t every so often behave like this? And for how much longer should we be warned, alerted and reminded before we act and behave responsibly enough?


Things are bad. Our fate is in our hands. We must plan for a future that will both enrich and reward us and posterity – or we shall surely be in deep trouble. The choice is ours. 


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