Rabat – Swiss scholar and prominent European Muslim figure Tarik Ramadan has called on Moroccan authorities “to hear the voice of the people in Rif,” who he said have legitimate social, cultural and political demands.In a video posted on Facebook, Ramadan urges Moroccan authorities to listen to the demands of the Al Hirak protests movement in the region of Al Hoceima to preserve the achievements in the Kingdom, seen as a stable country in a region in turmoil.Ramadan describes Al Hirak as a source of hope for a better future of Morocco, insisting that the state listen to protesters instead of trying to “extinguish” their voices. He went on to warn against speeches intended to discredit Al Hirak or accuse it of sowing seeds of discord in the country.“We can continue saying this is fitna [strife] and that this is an attempt to foment division and chasm in Morocco and act against it unity, but none of this true,” he said. “It is in the name of this unity of Morocco itself and transparency and democratization in the country that these voices have raised and it is for that reason too that, I believe, they should be listened to.”The highly-publicized author, who is an habitué of Morocco having appeared on national TV and been invited to give lectures in local universities, said that the reality of Rif should be taken into consideration in public policies to ensure access to education for the local population, social justice, development, and management of state funds.“These are also political demands as far as democracy [in Morocco] is concerned. If we look, for example, at the last general elections, the participation rate was less than 32 percent which is stupefying. We can’t help wondering about the reality of democratic transparency in the country and how much interest people have for politics.”According to Ramadan, this situation demands that the people in positions of responsibility, including King Mohammed VI, act to launch a real process of democratization in the Kingdom.“[Morocco] might be better than its neighbors, but this doesn’t mean it has done what it has to do in terms of democratic transparency,” said Ramadan.He pointed out that Moroccan researchers and sociologists have highlighted how much Al Hirak can be a “project of hope” because it opens up perspectives to discuss and deal with question of equality and transparency, not only in the Rif, but in Morocco as a whole.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has questioned the decision taken by the Government to give 15,000 acres of land to China for investment purposes.Speaking in Parliament today, the former President said that the land belongs to Sri Lanka and should be given to Sri Lankan investors. He said that foreign investors have land in their country to invest and they will never sell it to Sri Lanka so selling Sri Lankan land to a foreign investor is not favourable to Sri Lanka. (Colombo Gazette)
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed for immediate food aid for 400,000 people in Mauritania, where locusts and drought have obliterated agricultural production, the cornerstone of families’ survival.“The international community must respond if we are to avoid a humanitarian crisis in Mauritania,” WFP’s country representative Sory Ouane said of the appeal for $30.8 million for a 2005-07 operation covering urgent needs. “This kind of food shortage, in an already burdened country like Mauritania, can only spell further deterioration of rural households’ livelihoods unless we act now.”In the worst invasion in 15 years in the Sahel region bordering the Sahara, locusts infested Mauritania’s entire agricultural production zone. The south, the hardest hit area, is home to about a quarter of the population of nearly 3 million and families living there have virtually no access to non-agricultural income.A WFP vulnerability study shows that 60 per cent of households in the agro-pastoral zone will not have enough to eat in the coming year, and the lean season during 2005 is expected to be harsher than usual.Locusts wiped out not only cereals in Mauritania but also pulses and other vegetables. Crop assessments indicate a food deficit of 187,000 tons. Insufficient rainfall also hampered production. In addition, the locusts and drought have damaged the rangelands vital to cattle which are essential to people’s livelihoods.“Entire harvests, where the people have invested their money, time and toil for so long, are simply gone. We must act now,” Mr. Ouane said. “The right assistance now for the people of Mauritania will go a long way – not only to save lives today but also to help people avoid falling into a cycle of food crises that could last for years to come.”Despite the magnitude of the 2004 locust invasions throughout the Sahel, they did not provoke a region-wide food crisis. But in addition to Mauritania, Niger and Mali have suffered severe damage, with drought compounding the problem. The impact is localized however, and WFP will implement tailored food aid responses to those communities facing acute shortages.
Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Tim Bunting, Cider orchardsCredit:Jay Williams for the Telegraph In a tradition that dates back more than 700 years, Herefordshire is one of the biggest cider making regions in the world.But a trend toward sweeter flavoured fruit ciders is changing the face not only of the industry, but of the countryside in the West Midlands.A glut of apples means that big brewers such as Heineken are cancelling or not renewing their contracts with growers, leaving them with little options but to consider bulldozing the orchards. Some of the less traditional apple bush growers have already started to tear up their plants in favour of different crops, it is said. –– ADVERTISEMENT ––James Forbes, chairman of the Three Counties Cider and Perry Association, said: “It is a very complex picture, but fundamentally the industry is moving further and further away from the use of apple as the principle ingredient in cider.”That seems very strange to say, but that is the case.”Cider must be made of at least 35 per cent apple juice, but the move toward flavoured or fruit cider – including strawberry and passion fruit – sees brewers using more flavourings and sugars and water to make up the rest of the drink. This means the traditional bitter sweet apple varieties, which are not suitable to eat straight from the tree, are no longer needed in the process in such great quantities. “That is a real shame, your bitter sweet apples are what defines English cider and this is a fundamental shift away from that,” said Mr Forbes, who is the cider maker at Little Pomona.It is not only a change in the industry but a “change in the face of the Herefordshire countryside”, he said, adding: “Cider has been part of the Herefordshire landscape for a long time and it is a shame to see that go.”According to the Westons Cider Report 2018, regarded as the most authoritative review of the industry, the UK’s £2.98bn cider industry is the biggest in the world.But fruit ciders now make up 27 per cent of all sold, up from 0.08pc in 2005. At its current rate of growth it will represent 48per cent by 2023. Cider must be made of at least 35 per cent apple juiceCredit:Jay Williams for the Telegraph One grower who faces the prospect of having to tear up his traditional orchard is Tim Bunting, who has been at Grove Farm, in Kimbolton, Herefordshire since the 1980s.He did not plant the trees and the farm has been providing apple varieties such as Brown’s, Vilberie and Dabinet to the Bulmer cider presses for more than 60 years. He contributed up to 50 tonnes a year but was informed in February that his contract had come to an end and would not be renewed. He does not blame Bulmers – now owned by Heineken – which has had a good relationship with growers since local vicar’s son, Percy Bulmer, built the cider mill in 1887. But without the business of the big brewers, Mr Bunting and his neighbours have few choices.When they realised Heineken would not be taking their crop Mr Bunting’s son, Rory, advertised for people to come and take the apples, but whilst they have had some interest from craft cider makers they still face an uncertain future.He is loathed to bulldoze his orchard so, as not only is it part of his living it is a habitat for animals, including two varieties of woodpecker, but also importantly “it is a pick me up”. “It is a thing to see,” he said. “When in spring all the blossom comes out life goes on again.”But like many of the traditional orchard farmers in the region, he grazes his sheep under the apple trees. If the fruit is left to drop and is eaten by the animals it could prove deadly.Craft cider – like that produced by Mr Forbes – is making a comeback but the market is nowhere near the size of the mainstream market.“There are opportunities for farmers out there,” Mr Bunting said. “But they are small and will not take up the glut of apples”.A spokesperson for Heineken said: “Heineken is committed to Herefordshire, investing £58m over the past few years to upgrade our operations. “We have positive long term relationships with our growers, supporting them to improve the productivity and sustainability of their orchards. “It’s no secret that there is an oversupply of apples across the industry driven by increased lifespan of orchards, bumper crops and changing market dynamics. “We’re working closely in partnership with our growers and are committed to ensuring a sustainable long term supply of cider apples.”