Hey Colorado, where do you get your African news from?

In the age of the Internet, information is everywhere. One might think it is  easy to be well informed on current events, however with the barrage of information via social media, or sites like reddit or news aggregators that tailor your news feed to your interests – it can be hard to get a complete picture of what is going on in the world.

Africa has been a historically underreported continent in the media. Horrific events like the Rwandan 1994 genocide saw weeks go by without adequate media coverage or foreign assistance, despite the incredibly high death toll.

The African continent has also gotten a reputation for being a giant, homogenous place where everyone is poor and starving, with nothing but bad news. So it’s coverage, especially its good news – is not worth reporting on. With inevitable cultural relativity and bias that comes with Western media reporting on Africa, it is important to understand that what we read about the African continent might not be an accurate representation all the time. 

On average, people are getting more educated in Africa as time goes on. Is this the kind of news about Africa you are used to hearing?

Africa Agenda, a Denver-based non-profit held a summit to discussaccurate reporting of Africa last Friday, for a “fun and meaningful night of great discussion. Journalists, political, nonprofit and business leaders and other specialists on Africa…(will) explore the challenge of African news and craft news agendas to benefit both Africans and Americans…Drawing inspiration from the Obama Administration’s historic and highly successful 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, Africa Agenda believes that African communities need to work with their counterparts around the world to foster understanding that strengthens the foundations of a purposeful African continent.

This year–after the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea met in July following 22 years of rivalry between the two countries – many said it was a historic moment. When the nation of Ghana produced a stream of consistent positive developments, including appearing in the top ranks of the 2018 World Press Freedom index, many said Ghana had crossed the mark.

Yet…the news was drowned out because U.S. President Donald Trumphad denigrated ALL African nations as ‘s##holes’. Except for a few complaints, nothing was done to deal with the lingering falsehoods about an entire continent” – Africa Agenda

It is important to remain informed of Africa’s triumphs and tribulations. It’s not all bad, and it’s not all good, but it is a continent that is diverse and huge. Over 1 billion people call Africa home. 

“Immigration to the US from Africa has grown steadily in the past four decades, according to the Census, especially from 2008 to 2012. Today, there are over 1.6 million African-born immigrants living in the US, up from just 80,000 in 1970. Aurora (Colorado) has seen a steady spike in the number of Africa-born residents.

In the 2010 Census, more than 8,000 Aurora residents were born in Africa. (Aurora) is a central hub of Colorado’s African community, with more than one third of the state’s African immigrants calling Aurora home. The African-born population is also Aurora’s fastest growing immigrant group, growing faster in that decade than immigrants from Latin America or Asia. The Census report also said immigrants from Africa had more education than most immigrants — 41 percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher compared with 28 percent of immigrants overall” – Sentinel Colorado.

The overlap between Africa and the United States very much exists, and issues in Africa like women’s rights, LGTBQ rights, xenophobia and politics draw some interesting parallels to the USA. In many ways, we are not so different at all. The information we receive about Africa shapes the way we look at the continent – from African immigrants we know, to policies we support or products we buy.

We recommend adjusting the news you get on your phone/social media to include African coverage from credible sources. You can follow African news groups on Facebook, subscribe to r/Africa on Reddit, head over the Africa BBC news section or check out Africanews.com. 

Lastly, we would love to know where you get your news from. Does it include Africa?

How Coloradans Can Help Stop the Unsustainable Palm Oil Industry.

Africa is a new frontier region for large-scale palm oil production. The palm oil industry is one of the world’s biggest industries, projected to be worth $88 billion by 2022. While it has pumped billions into the local economies of countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, the rapid expansion has also become synonymous with widespread environmental and community destruction.

Palm Oil trees on a plantation. Image source: World Wildlife Fund

Palm oil is in a massive number of supermarket products that Coloradans buy everyday including soaps, ice cream, microwave popcorn, candy, chocolate, butter, cosmetics, packaged bread, frozen pizzas and even instant noodles. A large amount is now being used in biofuel as well.

Palm oil  is only found in a range about 10 degrees north or south of the equator. However, this range is also home to the greatest biodiversity of species in the world, as well as many developing countries.

The process required to make palm oil uses tons of crude oil, produces huge amounts of carbon and methane gas and additionally produces large amounts of waste water. Palm oil-based biofuels currently have 3 times the climate impact of fossil fuels. 

As the demand for palm oil increases, rainforests across the globe are being destroyed and putting even more pressure on the many endangered species living there, such as primates in Africa. While production is highest in Indonesia and Malaysia, palm oil production is now quickly growing in African countries as well. Investors are finding it legally easier to develop plantations in Africa with growing global demand. This is highly problematic for African wildlife. Habitat destruction is one of the primary reasons that all great apes face an uncertain future in terms of survival.

Dr Giovanni Strona of the European Commission Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, commented on palm oil in Africa,

“The main message is that, due to the large overlap between areas that are suitable to grow palm oil and areas that host many vulnerable primates, it will be extremely challenging to reconcile oil palm expansion and African primate conservation” 

“Investment and expansion in palm oil is growing – and growing fast – in Africa,” said Abraham Baffoe, Africa regional director at Proforest, an environmental rights and responsible sourcing NGO.“If palm oil is planned and implemented very well then it has the potential to provide jobs and economic development – but if planning and implementation is poor, it has the potential to create deforestation, loss of habitat and loss of livelihood in local communities”

Going by acreage of land, palm oil trees are up to 10 times more productive than other types of vegetable oil producers, like sunflower oil or soybean oil. In other words, if we stopped using palm oil completely, the problem would only be transferred to a new crop and the impact would likely be much worse.  Additionally, in developing countries where palm oil is produced, millions of people depend on palm oil for their income.

There is action you can take to help!

The efficiency of production between different palm oil plantations is huge, meaning if all plantations became more efficient, a lot of rainforest could be saved. It is also possible for palm oil plantations to be expanded on non-rainforest land that is not the home to endangered species. Check the labels of products you consume and if a product contains palm oil, try to only buy if it has been determined to be sustainably produced. Currently, RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) is the major certification body for palm oil plantations and all the products approved will have a “Certified Sustainable Palm Oil” label on the packaging.

RSPO has faced tough criticism that their standards for certification are not very rigorous.  However, if public awareness and demand for sustainable oil remain low, certification organizations like RSPO will find it difficult to make it worthwhile for plantation farmers to use sustainable methods.

The bottom line is this industry is unsurprisingly driven by the consumer. If we demand sustainable palm oil, companies will respond.

Look for the RSPO label  to ensure you purchase products made with certified sustainable palm oil. This label gives you the confidence that the palm oil was produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

If you can’t find an RSPO label, look for the Green Palm label. This label indicates products in support of the transition to certified palm oil. Proceeds from Green Palm certificates help growers fund the transition to sustainable palm oil.

Most packaged products are labeled with their companies’ contact information. Call or write the company and urge them to use certified sustainable palm oil if they are not already.  

The Reality of Being Disabled in Africa – and How You Can Help

Having a disability is hard anywhere in the world. But it is especially hard in Africa.

Human Rights Watch examines what happens to people with disabilities when conflict intensifies in the Central African Republic.

“Fewer than 5% of adults living with disabilities across Africa are able to read or write. People living with disabilities deserve, need and want the chance to fully participate in and contribute to their community, and education is an important step in helping them do so” -Africa Educational Trust

“70 million people worldwide need a wheelchair. 80% of disabled people in developing countries live in poverty. 90% of disabled children in the developing world do not go to school” -Uhambo

People living with disabilities in Africa face a great number of challenges and barriers that profoundly impact their day-to-day lives:

  • Community education, awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities is limited.
  • Families can be embarrassed or overwhelmed by disability and keep children or relatives with disabilities at home.
  • Many people living with disabilities in Africa are faced with neglect and abuse in their household.
  • Widespread poverty means the needs of ‘healthy’ children are prioritized.
  • Conflict increases the number of people with disabilities, while decreasing the available support.
  • Lack of care, community programs, services, medical devices and medical support to treat or manage disabilities.

These challenges make accessing education, employment and medical care extremely difficult. Negative attitudes combined with poverty and a lack of support creates a situation where:

  • Families do not send children with disabilities to school.
  • Children and adults living with disabilities are thought incapable of learning and ignored or discriminated against in classrooms or in a work environment
  • Teachers and employers do not know how to incorporate children and adults living with disabilities into their classes or work environment.
  • Schools lack the resources and infrastructure to accommodate the learning needs of children living with disabilities.
  • Lack of transportation to schools or work for those with physical disabilities.

How you can help:

We have had the pleasure of meeting with the amazing people who run Uhambo and Crutches4Africa, two Colorado based non-profits that work to  empower and transform the lives of people in Africa with disabilities. We are inspired by their work, and want to spread the word. If you have crutches, wheelchairs, or other mobility devices, please contact  Crutches4Africa.

If you would like to donate to Uhambo, a non-profit that provides social workers, therapists and program facilitators to children with disabilities in South Africa, please contact Uhambo.


Where to Buy Sustainable African Products in Colorado

Africa in the Rockies supports sustainable African products sold in a fair way – with the goal being for artisans to get as much of the profit from their goods as possible. It is unfortunate that many goods made in Africa are sold at a dramatic mark-up without much of the profit benefiting African artisans and workers. 

Below is a list of Colorado-based companies that sell African products in a fair way, aiming to empower the people who create the products. Do you have a business that sells sustainable African products? We’d love to hear from you. 

Zambeezi Lip Balm – Located in Boulder, Colorado, this lip balm is made with beeswax from Zambia and is fair-trade, with the workers who help create the product earning a fair wage. Additionally, the company’s profits are used to benefit African communities.

Agile International  – Based in Boulder, Agile sells bags made by women in Mali. The profits are used to buy land, grow food and feed families. Agile empowers women by breaking the cycle of poverty that most women in West Africa face.

Yobel Market – Yobel Market sells products that empower artisans in 21 nations through fair wages and ethical employment. Be sure to check them out in Colorado Springs.  

Africa Bags. – Africa Bags are a non-profit organization that sells hand-crafted bags made in Malawi. Volunteers help market the bags in America. The profits from each sale are sent back to Malawi.

African Market Baskets – Based in Boulder Colorado, African Market Baskets creates handcrafted Bolga baskets in Ghana. Proceeds from the sale of the baskets provide healthcare, education and financial support to over 1,000 African villagers and their families.

Momentum – A boutique located at 1625 Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado, that sells fair-trade items handmade by artisans from all over the world, including Africa.

Bead for Life – Based in Boulder, Bead for Life has created numerous ‘Street Business Schools’ that train business-savvy women in Africa living in poverty about how to run their own businesses, selling fair-trade beaded products to an international market.

Zimbo Arts Co-Op – Based in Fort Collins, Zimbo Arts strives to give Zimbabweans the education needed to lift themselves out of poverty. Through the development of Art Cooperatives, they create steady and stable employment for struggling families creating culturally traditional artworks. The art created in the Co-Ops is not only beautiful but helps fund a number of community programs around Zimbabwe.

Madagascar Hat Company – A nonprofit company that creates eco-friendly hats made from sustainable natural raffia. A portion of the sales is donated to Hope for Madagascar

Elephant Coffees – Based in Denver, Elephant Coffees is committed to promoting equitable, cooperative and sustainable practices. They source directly from producers and cooperatives in the highlands of Kenya and East Africa.