Nigeria: Ethanol to fuel development

In a highly fertile yet inaccessible area of this West African country, agriculture and industry are teaming up for an ambitious undertaking in economic development.

The Ethanol Project is the brainchild of the Jigawa state governor, Alhaji Saminu Turaki. Its goal is to provide 1 million jobs and a sustainable economy to eradicate poverty and malaria.

The plan calls for the planting and harvesting of sugar cane in an area of about 750,000 acres. The cane is then converted into ethanol, a non-toxic, efficient and environmental friendly fuel alternative.

“Every year we spend billions of naira [local currency] importing and subsidizing oil. With the ethanol project the money goes into our palms, not outsiders. By so doing, we are creating wealth in society,” Turaki told This Day, a Lagos newspaper.

Although Nigeria is the sixth largest exporter of oil in the world, it still imports oil for domestic needs.

Argentina: Success story for workers’ control

After more than five years of struggle, Argentina’s most important ceramic factory is a model success story, reports Raul Zibechi of Brecha de Montevideo.

The factory, formerly known as Zanon, covers an area of about 20 acres and is now a cooperative run by workers. It was legally renamed Fasinpat (Fábrica Sin Patrón or Factory Without Owner).

In addition to providing a safe and productive workplace, Fasinpat has made numerous contributions to community programs, including schools, hospitals, food programs and services benefiting indigenous people. Working with neighborhood residents, it recently built a health clinic with donated labor and supplies.

In 2003, when police tried to remove the workers from the factory, thousands of neighbors surrounded the plant until the police left. Later, 9,000 people showed up for a music festival inside the factory to celebrate.

Fasinpat workers participated in the First Latin American Gathering of Worker-Recovered Factories last October in Caracas, Venezuela.

There are presently 200 such worker-owned factories in Argentina.

Worldwide: Unions fight asbestos

The Building and Wood Workers International announced plans to target Canada in a campaign to stop the aggressive marketing and promotion of asbestos to developing countries. BWI is mobilizing its members throughout the world to engage in peaceful protest actions at Canadian embassies and consulates as a joint action on International Workers’ Memorial Day, April 28.

Asbestos, used widely in cement products and building materials, is a known cause of respiratory problems and a variety of deadly cancers. It is the biggest killer of industrial workers.

BWI General Secretary Anita Normark said there is one death from asbestos every five minutes and “some jobs are effectively a death sentence. … Today’s exposures guarantee an epidemic lasting at least another generation, with the asbestos graveyards shifting from the developed to the developing world.”

Solidarity actions are expected worldwide.

China: UN report reveals social progress

The Human Development Report 2005 released by United Nations Development Program reports that China has made remarkable progress in social and human development in the past 15 years.

China’s Human Development Index has risen by 20 percent since 1990, ranking it 85 among 177 countries. The HDI is a global assessment based on an analysis of several complex factors including life expectancy, literacy and standard of living. Participating countries are placed chronologically in one of three levels: high, medium and low. China ranks in the medium category along with Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, among others.

The report’s findings were announced at a meeting led by representatives of the China Development Research Foundation, UNDP China and the Center for Peace and Human Security, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Palestine: Access to water equals survival

A recent United Nations report reveals that, in addition to facing food shortages, Palestinians in the occupied territories face an acute shortage of clean water.

While one-third of the Palestinian economy is dependent on agriculture, only 5 percent of the land is irrigated. By comparison, 70 percent of Israeli and settlement land is irrigated, although only 2 percent of that land is used for agriculture.

Control of water is increasingly in the hands of the Israelis. Palestinian lands have been even further cut off by the Israeli separation wall, critics say. Wells on the outskirts of Palestinian villages and towns are frequently controlled by Israelis.

According to Agence France-Presse, more than one-third of all drinking water in the occupied territories is contaminated by sewage and pesticides originating from Israeli settlements. As a result, newborn deaths and water-borne infections in Palestinian children are unusually high, doctors say. May infections lead to chronic illnesses.

World Notes are compiled by Pamella Saffer (