Dar es Salaam. Good morning! The Chanzo is here with a rundown of major news stories reported in Tanzania on Tuesday, May 2, 2023.
Thousands of artisanal miners in Tanzania are at risk of mercury poisoning
A new investigation by Health Policy Watch shows that miners in Geita and Mbeya routinely burn mercury-gold nuggets at their homes, exposing themselves and their families to hazardous fumes.
Some of the miners in Geita told the network that they know the risk involved but believe they are immune to the adverse effects of the liquid metal as they have been using it for a long time without feeling any side effects.
Health Policy Watch, an independent network of journalists reporting on the leading global health issues, reported that miners in the said regions use mercury for gold extraction because it is cheap and easily obtained.
“While developed nations have adopted safe, cleaner alternatives for gold extractions and enforced tougher mercury use rules, African authorities often turn a blind eye to the health risks posed by mercury, citing low capacity and a lack of expertise to deter its use,” the network reported.
Mercury is a toxic substance that attacks the central nervous system. Exposure to the shiny liquid metal may cause neurological problems, including impaired coordination, slurred speech, memory loss, and life-long disability, the network said, quoting medical experts say.
The toxic substance can cripple the cardiovascular and immune systems, attack kidneys and affect the gastrointestinal tract and lungs.
Mercury poisoning, with symptoms that include twitching, tremors and blurred vision, may also reduce women’s fertility and cause miscarriages, Health Policy Watch reported, citing doctors at the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH).
Mercury poisoning, which the doctors call “the invisible epidemic,” is hard to detect and can harm children.
Health Policy Watch reports that estimates of mercury usage vary from between 13.2 and 214.4 tonnes in Tanzania every year, with approximately 1.2 million artisanal miners being the largest number of users.
Between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of all the gold produced in Tanzania is produced by small-scale miners, about 30 per cent of whom are women, the network reports.
It quotes Zuhra Ahmed, an environmental activist at the Youth Biodiversity Network, who accuses the government of allowing the practice to continue by “doing almost nothing” to regulate the import or use of mercury.
But Dotto Benjamin, Chief Mine Inspector in the Vice President’s Office for Environment, denies the allegations.
He said the government has been working to eliminate the worst practices, notably the open burning of amalgam and processing of mercury-contaminated tailings with cyanide to recover gold. It has also been working on awareness-raising on the effect of mercury and promoting alternative technologies.
“A national action plan has been developed to meet the requirement of the Minamata Convention and serves as a national framework for fostering sound management of mercury use and, where possible, eliminate its use,” Benjamin said.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and mercury compounds releases.
Tanzania’s biotech company NovFeed awarded $1m for Advancing agritech
A biotech company from Tanzania, NovFeed, has won a US$1 million grand prize for its proprietary technology to upcycle organic waste into nutritious, sustainable, and traceable plant-based protein ingredients and concentrated natural biofertilisers for the food system.
Based in Dar es Salaam, NovFeed uses natural microbes and industrial biotech to turn organic waste into a concentrated protein product. It focuses on making nutritious, customisable inputs for the food system, thus enabling meat and aquaculture sectors to get food products.
NovFeed emerged as the first winner in the Milken-Motsepe Prize in AgriTech, organised by the Milken Institute and the Motsepe Foundation, whose winners were announced on Tuesday in Los Angeles, United States.
The $300,000 award for second place was presented to Karpolax, an Uganda-based company, for its nanotechnology solution that helps fruits and vegetables stay fresh longer without losing nutritional value.
The $150,000 award for third place was presented to a Philippines-based organisation, IRRI-AfricaRice, for its biotech innovation to help rice farmers protect their crops from flooding, one of the most damaging effects of climate change.
Full story here.
New factions are forming in CCM. Or are old ones re-strategising?
When concluding the 10th National Congress of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) on December 8, 2022, the party’s chairperson, Samia Suluhu Hassan, warned of factions within the second longest-ruling party in Africa.
Samia, who doubles as the president of Tanzania, told her fellow CCM members not to allow elections and activities accompanying them to divide them and enable cracks to form in the party that has ruled Tanzania since 1961.
“There is pettiness in our party,” CCM’s first female chairperson intoned. “CCM members who originated from our party would not focus on pettiness and destroy their party.”
Samia must already have observed what was building up in the ranks of CCM that, as days passed, it revealed itself for everyone else to see. Paying attention to what has been happening lately, either new factions are emerging, or the old ones are re-strategising.
For a while, there have been observable attacks between CCM top brass holding vital ministerial positions. Strangely, it is a conflict without official allies and is fought covertly.
Full analysis here.
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