World Bank urges climate change adaptation support for the Maldives

The World Bank has expressed the urgent need for concerted efforts to support the Maldives in adapting to climate change, due to a projected 115 centimetres of sea level rise by 2090.

This, in addition to other climate impacts posing “disastrous consequences” for livelihoods and health, were noted in a recently released scientific report that “demands bold action now”.

The World Bank’s 2012 Turn Down the Heat report concluded a 4 degree Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) global temperature increase is expected by the end of the 21st century unless concerted action is taken immediately.

This year’s Turn Down The Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience World Bank report, builds upon those findings to illustrate the range of climate change impacts the developing world is currently experiencing and outlines “an alarming scenario for the days and years ahead – what we could face in our lifetime.”

“This second scientific analysis gives us a more detailed look at how the negative impacts of climate change already in motion could create devastating conditions especially for those least able to adapt. The poorest could increasingly be hit the hardest,” stated World Bank Group President Dr Jim Yong Kim, in the report’s foreword.

“We are determined to work with countries to find solutions,” Kim continued. “But, the science is clear. There can be no substitute for aggressive national mitigation targets, and the burden of emissions reductions lies with a few large economies.”

Based on the report’s findings, the World Bank has highlighted the urgent need for concerted efforts to support the Maldives in adapting to climate change.

As one of the lowest-lying countries in the world, with an average elevation of 1.5 meters above sea level, the Maldives is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise.

“The Maldives is one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change impacts and has set best practice examples in adapting to climate change consequences,” stated Ivan Rossignol, World Bank Acting Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

“The World Bank is committed to supporting the government of Maldives. The current situation is beyond intellectual debates on climate change. A concerted effort is needed to act now while we still can make a difference,” said Rossignol.

With the average global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius expected “in the next decades”, island economies like the Maldives, will be impacted by extreme weather patterns and rising sea levels, the report determined.

“With South Asia close to the equator, the sub-continent would see much higher rises in sea levels than higher latitudes, with the Maldives confronting the biggest increases of between 100-115 centimetres,” the report warned.

The South Asian region is projected to experience a 115 centimetre sea level rise increase by the 2090s in a 4 degree Celsius world, while a 60-80 centimetre increase is expected to occur with two degrees Celsius of warming.

“[However,] the highest values (up to 10 centimeters more) [are] expected for the Maldives. This is generally around 5–10 percent higher than the global mean.” There is a 66 percent change sea level rise will exceed 50 centimeters by the 2060s, noted the report.

In addition to sea level rise, the compounded impacts of increased temperatures and extremes of heat, increased intensity of extreme weather events (including flooding and tropical cyclones), and changes in the monsoon pattern are already occurring and are anticipated to worsen, according to the study.

This will strain already vulnerable water resources, crop yields, and energy security in the Maldives, as well as the South Asian region, the report highlighted.

“Disturbances to the monsoon system and rising peak temperatures put water and food resources at severe risk. An extreme wet monsoon, which currently has a chance of occurring only once in 100 years, is projected to occur every 10 years by the end of the century,” stated the study.

“The consequences on livelihoods and health [in the Maldives] could be disastrous… Even at present warming of 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels, the observed climate change impacts are serious and indicate how dramatically human activity can alter the natural environment upon which human life depends,” it continues.

“The risks to health associated with inadequate nutrition or unsafe drinking water are significant: childhood stunting, transmission of waterborne diseases, and hypertension and other disorders associated with excess salinity [due to saltwater intrusion from sea level rise],” the report noted. “Other health threats are also associated with flooding, heat waves, tropical cyclones, and other extreme events.”

“[Meanwhile,] dense urban populations [such as the Maldives’ capital Male’] would be especially vulnerable to heat extremes, flooding, and disease,” according to the study’s findings.

The report also warns of the potential “domino effect” climate impacts can create that ultimately affect human development, such as the decimation of coral reefs creating cascading impacts on local livelihoods, and tourism.

Climate change impacts may also increase the likelihood of conflicts occurring, according to the study.

Ultimately, climate change impacts – particularly sea level rise – may force Maldivians to migrate, which “can be seen as a form of adaptation and an appropriate response to a variety of local environmental pressures”.

“The potential for migration, including permanent relocation, is expected to be heightened by climate change, and particularly by sea-level rise and erosion,” the report stated. However, it cautioned that population relocation poses “a whole set of other risks”.

New technological solutions and international cooperation are a must to adapt to and change the current trajectory of climate change impacts on growth and poverty reduction efforts, the study concluded.

“I hope this report will help convince everyone that the benefits of strong, early action on climate change far outweigh the costs,” said World Bank Group President Dr Jim Yong Kim.

“This report demands action. It reinforces the fact that climate change is a fundamental threat to economic development and the fight against poverty,” declared Kim.

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Maldives celebrates Ramazan with food, festivities, fasting, prayer

The Maldives has seen a flurry of activities in the lead up to the holy month of Ramadan, which began today (July 9) in the tropical island nation, with festivities and devout worship to continue throughout the month.

Ramadan marks month in which the Quran was revealed to mankind, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is a time of fasting, is one of the five pillars of Islam and represents a form of worship to Allah.

During Ramadan, or Ramazan as the holy month is referred to in the Maldives, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.

Maldivians throughout the 100 percent Sunni Muslim nation will abstain from eating, drinking and sexual activity from dawn until sunset throughout ‘roadha mas’ (fasting month).

The rituals during this holy month are intended remind those who follow Islam of their duty as a Muslim, by keeping them away from worldly temptations to tame the mind and instill determination.

Extensive cleaning, home repairs, as well as shopping for foodstuffs and other household supplies are common practice in preparation for Ramazan throughout the Maldives, as is hosting banquet celebrations, traditionally referred to as ‘maahefun’ parties, to welcome the coming of Ramazan and symbolically celebrate eating the last meal before ‘roadha mas’.

Family, friends, and neighbors come together to enjoy traditional food and music, while many celebrations have ‘boduberu’ performances, a combination of traditional singing, dancing and rhythmic drumming considered one of the most high-profile examples of Maldivian culture.

Maahefun block parties have been ongoing throughout Male’ neighborhoods, particularly over the last week, in addition to events hosted by political parties, businesses, schools and government offices.

Since the exact date Ramazan begins is derived each year from phases of the moon, moving backwards an average of 10 days every year, last night (July 8 ) the Islamic Affairs Ministry held a small conference to confirm the sighting of the new moon.

During a ceremony following the meeting, the Islamic Affairs Ministry declared that today (July 9) would mark the beginning of Ramazan in the Maldives, as well as some other Muslim countries where the new moon had been sighted.

Now that Ramazan has officially begun the flurry of parties and preparations have given way to calm and quiet during the day, particularly in Male’ where there is a noticeable lack of people on the roads in the typically overcrowded capital.

Working hours have been reduced to between 9:00am to 1:30pm, as per previous years, while cafes and restaurants have been permitted to remain open until 3:00am. In previous years, many eateries and other businesses were open 24 hours, however in October 2012, the Ministry of Economic Development revoked the 24 hour licensing permits issued to businesses across the country, citing concerns over national security.

The pace of daily life has slowed to accommodate the difficulties that arise from not eating or drinking, which can be quite challenging given the tropical equatorial climate in the Maldives.

Mosques are brimming with worshipers – in some cases they are overflowing with people who can be seen praying in the street – during the five regular prayer times which fall around 5am (fajr), 12pm (dhuhr), 3:30pm (asr), 6pm (maghrib), and 7pm (isha).

There is also an special tarawih (night prayer) that takes place during Ramazan; while the exact prayer time varies it always follows isha prayers.

Another optional prayer time in the middle of the night, around 2am, is referred to as ‘dhamu namaadhu’ (midnight prayer) in the Maldives. While it takes place throughout the year, there are more attendees during this holy month.

One of the most significant aspects of Ramazan is Laylat al-Qadr, the anniversary of the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Mohamed, which falls on one of the last nights of roadha mas although the exact date is unknown. It is believed that an individual who prays with devout sincerity on this day will have all their past sins forgiven.

The spiritual oneness of island communities in the Maldives is palpable during Ramazan, especially when most of the community comes together to pray in the quiet, peaceful hours of the night, while the Imam’s Quran recitation can be heard echoing on the breeze.

While the religious significance and ritual practice of Ramazan makes this an extremely important month for Maldivians – and Muslims worldwide – it is also very festive.

Maldivians break fast as soon as the call to magrib prayers is heard in the evening, eating delicious traditional foods during ‘roadha villun’ (fast breaking). Dates and fresh juice – watermelon and young coconut are particularly popular – are followed by sweet and savory ‘hedhika’ (short eats).

Although the hedhika varies by household, a surprising variety of dishes can be derived from the basic ingredients of tuna, shredded coconut, chilies, onions, and flour. ‘Haaru’ (supper) is also taken sometime in the middle of the night, with many traditional dishes served during Ramazan.

This year a Male’ City Ramadan Fresh Market consisting of 24 stalls selling fresh fruits and vegetables is being held in the capital’s Henviru ward, near the Artificial Beach. The market will be open daily from 8am until 1am until the end of the Eid holidays in mid-August.

Unfortunately, the increased demand during Ramazan also drives up food prices throughout the country each year.

The sundown to sunrise festivities are not limited to food. There is also an increase in evening sports events, such as football tournaments, as well as entertainment programs on TV, like the popular boduberu challenge that has been broadcast annually in recent years.

Given the importance of the holiday, President Mohamed Waheed issued a Ramazan greeting to the nation, noting that the holy month was an occasion to strengthen communal relations and an opportunity to restore peace and order in the society.

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Bangladeshi waiter stabbed while delivering food

A Bangladeshi waiter was stabbed with a knife on the island of Hinnavaru in Lhaviyani Atoll whilst delivering food, local media reports.

A council member from Hinnavaru told local media that the victim had worked at “Ibiza” restaurant on the island, and was stabbed while delivering food to a house.

The councillor said that the Bangladeshi man was stabbed in the stomach, and is currently being treated in the island medical centre. His condition is not serious, the councillor said.

Police told local media that a 17-year-old had been taken into custody in relation to the attack.

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Maldives world’s most vulnerable country to climate-change related impacts on food security

The Maldives is the world’s most vulnerable country to the food-security related impacts of climate change, a new report has found.

According to ‘Ocean-Based Food Security Threatened in a High CO2 World’, produced by global ocean protection NGO Oceana, the Maldives ranks alongside Togo and Comoros as the most vulnerable to climate-change related food security threats, due to its near total reliance on fish for protein.

The rankings were calculated by combining each nation’s exposure to climate change and ocean acidification, dependence on and consumption of fish and seafood, and level of adaptive capacity based on socioeconomic factors.

“Many of the high-ranking nations based on climate change indicators are located in the tropics and low latitudes,” the report notes.

“This reflects the general trend that fish species are predicted to be migrating toward the poles as water temperatures continue to rise. Tropical countries are the most dependent on coral reef fisheries which are severely threatened.

“Island and coastal nations depend more heavily on fish for protein, especially the poorest nations, increasing their vulnerability. Many of the poorest places are already struggling with hunger issues which will be made worse with high population growth rates and limited additional options for food.”

Half the protein consumed in the Maldives is derived from fish, the report observed, and besides providing direct food protein, countries such as the Maldives also benefited from marine tourism jobs associated with coral reefs and marine life.

“This multi-billion dollar industry could also be threatened by climate change. Therefore, further assessments should incorporate the risks to food security that come from losses in income due to the disappearance of fisheries and tourism related jobs. Local changes to marine resources from ocean acidification and climate change could ripple up through the global economy,” the report found.

‘So long and thanks for all the fish’

Minivan News has earlier reported on the decline of the fishing industry in the Maldives due to an array of factors, notably high-tech and efficient purse seiner vessels from other nations ringing the country’s exclusive economic zone. The traditional – and sustainable – pole and line method used by Maldivian fishermen has left them unable to compete with GPS enabled, sonar-equipped fish aggregation devices of these vessels.

Local fisheries have also been affected by market impacts, particularly the move by major fisheries companies in the Maldives to ship tuna to Thailand for canning and processing despite the presence of local factories – many tins sold locally in shops now have ‘packed in Thailand’ on the label.

Former head of the Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO), Adhil Saleem, previously informed Minivan News that changing sea surface temperatures due to climate change were also driving fish deeper, reducing the stocks within reach of the traditional pole and line method.

“Our [pole and line] method only works near the surface,” he said. “But with changes in weather and sea temperature, fish will not surface.”

According to figures from the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), tuna fishing is the second largest export earner at US$52 million and the country’s largest employer at 40 percent, but in the last three years contributed only 2 percent of the country’s GDP, dwarfed by the tourism industry. Catches meanwhile declined eight percent in 2011.

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Planning statistics show surge in unhealthy eating

Statistics for Maldives household food expenditure show a disturbing shift towards an “adverse dietary pattern”, with increased intakes of high-fat and sugary products, the Planning Department has revealed.

Health experts in the country have blamed the unhealthy diet of Maldivians for the high prevalence of cardiovascular diseases and metabolic disorders such diabetes among Maldivians, which account for almost 50 percent of the all deaths in the country. The comparative figure for the US is 25 percent.

According to the Household Income and Expenditure Survey, the structure of the Maldivian diet has shifted towards a “higher energy density diet with a greater role for fat and added sugars in foods, greater saturated fat intake, reduced intakes of complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber, and reduced fruit, vegetable and fish intakes.”

Eating less vegetables, fruits and fish

Overall, household expenditure on all the food groups has increased except for fruits and nuts, fish and vegetables.

The food expenditure on fruits and nuts reduced by 41.8 percent in the Maldives, although the percentage of the decline was higher among atolls, where a 45 percent reduction in fruits and nuts was recorded compared to the 30 percent decline in the capital Male’.

Within this group, food expenditure on bananas, tender coconut, papayas, coconut and apples declined by 50 percent or more in in 2010 compared to 2003, while the statistics further flagged a growing trend of substituting natural fruits with preserved or canned fruits.

“The household food expenditure on fruit cocktail and other canned and preserved fruits has increased over the period significantly,” the report read.

Household expenses on vegetables meanwhile recorded a 4 percent decline nationally, although an 18 percent and 33 percent increase was recorded in the atolls and Male’ respectively.

The Planning Department explained that expenditure on vegetables such as breadfruit, curry leaves and green chilli had reduced significantly, while spending on vegetables such as cabbage, onion and other fresh vegetables had “increased significantly.”

The department concluded: “If the changes in the prices are taken into account, in real terms, there is a decline in the household expenditure on fruits and vegetables. It is likely that there is an under-reporting of the consumption of own-produced fruits and vegetables such as breadfruits, green chili, curry leaves, coconut, papaya, etc, particularly in the atolls, as there is a difficulty valuing them in monetary terms.”

In the fish category – the traditional source of food for Maldivians – a net decrease of eight percent was recorded nationally in 2010.

In the same period, the spending patterns shows that eating fish declined by 23 percent in the atolls and in Male’ by 28 percent.

According the Planning department, the decline has most likely been caused by the decline in the overall fish catch since 2007 – therefore, shifting the people’s demand to the available alternative, imported meat.

“The household expenditure on frozen chicken and chicken products increased by 105 percent while the demand for sausages has increased by 306 percent,” the report observed.

“Sugar high”

According to the planning department, the food category that showed a “huge increase” in expenditure was sugar, jam, honey, syrups, chocolate and confectionery.

The major food products in this category that had a huge increase in the household expenditure included ice-creams, accounting to a staggering 4,630 percent increase in 2010, while chocolate increased by 1,071 percent, jelly by 1,332 percent and honey by 719 percent.

Although the planning department’s report does not specify, demand for caffeine, and energy drinks made with high fructose syrups or added sugar is on the rise among young.

Studies have concluded that added sugar is one of the greatest factors in the rise in obesity and other health conditions such as diabetes, tooth decay, poor nutrition and elevated triglycerides.

Furthermore, recent studies have also found eating too much sugar can make people forgetful and potentially cause permanent brain damage.

Meanwhile, spending on spices, short-eats and other snacks such as chicken rings, potato chips, popcorn – high in saturated fats –  increased substantially over the period.

Health concerns

Growing consumption of high-fat and sugary products, combined with behavioral risk factors such as physical inactivity and tobacco use,  has put a high number of people at the risk of non-communicable diseases such as heart and blood-related diseases, diabetes mellitus and other degenerative and chronic diseases, according to health experts.

Statistics from Health Mininstry show that in 2009, a total of 459 people (39 percent) died from circulatory system diseases which includes strokes, placing it at as the most common cause of death among all age groups, followed by respiratory diseases (12.3 percent).

Speaking to Minivan News, Internist Dr Ahmed Razee noted that consumption of healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits never reached the “preference levels” in the Maldives.

“Spending on vegetables or fruits have not declined. In fact, the truth is that it never increased,” Dr Raazee argued. “Junk food is commercially marketed and made available easily while the same thing has not be done for the vegetables and fruits,” he added.

Meanwhile, with unhealthy eating habits more people are in the having high levels of cholesterol and blood glucose, resulting in a higher risk of endocrine abnormalities leading to strokes and metabolic disorders among young people, said Dr Raazee, who has a special interest in diabetes and kidney diseases.

In an earlier interview to Minivan News, Public Health Programme Coordinator for the Center for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC), Dr Fathmath Nazla Rafeeq, also observed that malnutrition in the country was “quite alarming” considering the number of medical advances made in the country over the last few years.

Her comments, made on World Health Day, related specifically to fears over the national promotion of healthy diets, including issues of vitamin deficiency in expectant mothers and children, to the consumption of high-calorie junk food and energy drinks by young people.

According to figures published in 2009 by the World Health Organisation (WHO), 17.8 percent of children under five years of age were found to be underweight in the Maldives according to international standards for ascertaining health in young people. The same figures found that 6.5 percent of children were classed as overweight in the country. 20.3 percent of children in the same age group were found to be suffering from ’stunting’, a term describing children suffering growth retardation as a result of poor diet and infection.

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Civil Court issues injunction against Male City Council’s public referendum on the reopening of Fantasy Bakery

The Civil Court has issued an injunction to halt a public referendum planned by the Male’ City Council concerning the reopening of Fantasy Bakery, which was closed by health inspectors in October 2011 for selling expired food products.

The court’s injunction said if Male’ City Council held a public referendum that was not stipulated in any laws or regulations, it will hurt the business as well as making the public lose confidence in any verdict the court may deliver in Fantasy’s countersuit.

The Bakers Fantasy Private Limited had requested the court issue the injunction to halt the referendum, the Civil Court said.

The Civil Court’s injunction was delivered by Judge Abdulla Adheeb and a copy of the injunction was sent to Male’ City Council, Bakers Fantasy Private Limited and the Maldives Food and Drug Authority.

Male’ City Council was sued by Bakers Fantasy Private Limited following a decision of the council to withhold the license of the company to sell food products.

The company has claimed that they have paid the Rf 6500 (US$420) fine imposed on the company and have corrected issues noted by the council.

When Minivan News contacted Bakers Fantasy, the receptionist said no one was present who could speak with the media and would not provided a contact for management.

Last year when the issue came to light, police conducted an operation to close down the bakery and remove expired items from the store.

Police involvement came after the store disregarded orders from Community Health Services which had the legal authority to close food outlets.

The police at the that time went to the administrative office with a search warrant, but the staff refused to open the door stating that they did not have the authority to do so, according to police. Police called senior management, but they did not answer calls. Police waited outside for two hours before Fantasy management came to open the doors.

The Fantasy store was popular among locals as well as foreigners living in Male’, and was widely patronised.

Bakers Fantasy was closed by Male’ City Council on October 28. The council subsequently inspected three storehouses and Aioli Restaurant, which is also owned by Fantasy Pvt Ltd.

Male’ City Council’s head of health section Hassan ‘Jambu’ Afeef told local media at the timethat  expired products were found in two of three storehouses, and that storehouses were not properly lit. All expired products were destroyed, he said.

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Addu Hubasaana 2011 Arts, Crafts and Food festival boosts local entrepreneurs

Minister for Economic Development Mahmood Razee inaugurated the Hubasaana 2011 Arts, Crafts and Food festival in Maradhoo Feydhoo of Addu City on Thursday, October 20. The festival, which was organized by Ministry for Economic Development (MED), will be a platform for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME).

The fair, which runs through October 22, is the culmination of a yearlong pilot project for developing local products that was conducted in the South and North of Maldives.

“The festival will showcase authentic high quality Maldivian products,” said Hamza Imad, MED’s international consultant for the project. In addition to the display of local products ranging from handicraft and woodwork to food produce, there will also be demonstrations of the making of regional delicacies like bondi (a sweet made of coconut) and kudhi gulha (fried short eat).

“The project will be expanded to other areas of Maldives next year,” said Imad.

Over 50 SMEs of nearby atolls GA, Gdh, and Fuvamulah are participating in the three-day festival, along with Addu City. Hubasaana 2011 will also be held in Hanimadhoo of Hdh atoll in early December. The event will enable SMEs from the northern atolls of HA, Hdh, Shaviyani to participate and promote their products.

Aishath Raniya Sobir, Monitoring and Evaluation Consultant for MED’s Private Sector Development Project said two Business Development Service Centers (BDSC) were set up last year in Hithadhoo of Addu City and Kulhudufushi of Hdh, to facilitate the project’s operations.

The centers provided business trainings in planning, marketing, start-up plans and technical expertise to over 5000 people from the project’s target atolls. Raniya said participants share the cost of training with MED “so that they can take ownership of this.”

Hobbies to businesses

The trainings were an important outlet for a thriving talent pool. “The islanders are very enthusiastic and talented, and a lot of time the people who came for the trainings had already been doing some handiwork as a hobby,” said Raniya.

One such person is Addu City housewife, Mariyam Naazly.

Naazly had attended various handiwork courses over the years. During a fabric painting course, Addu’s BDSC consultant gave a talk on start-up business cooperatives. Naazly said the talk motivated her to become an entrepreneur.

Joined by 10 other attendees of the course, Naazly formed the Addu Arts and Crafts Cooperative Society (AACCS), of which she is the president. The cooperative creates handicraft, like baskets of eekle broom, coconut art, bracelets from nuts found in trees and decorative items from empty rice sacks among others.

Today, Naazly’s hands are full. “We have been producing products for this fair over the past days, and we also have an order to produce 300 brooches for the Feydhoo Maradhoo schools prize giving day.”

Naazly is excited at the prospect of selling AACCS products to the resort representatives and shop owners that will come to the fair. But showing her products to fellow islanders is just as thrilling. “This is all so new here, people don’t even know what a cooperative is, I hope this fair will give us exposure and let people see the things we create.”

Discussion among islanders has innovated the crafts market.

“A participant brought a lions head done in from a pillow case, and we oriented them towards making things that exist in Maldives,” said Imad. The result was a totally new product on the market: a stuffed replica of Maldivian marine life including eels and sharks, that can be taken home as a souvenir.

The cooperative’s first workshop was held in a friend’s sitting room. Now, they share a workspace along with another cooperative provided by the BDSC. “I am also attending marketing classes at the center, for the first time I can actually make a living out of all the things I have learned,” said Naazly.

The BDSC is providing a unique professional opportunity for women, the majority of whom don’t work in the Maldives’ lucrative tourism sector due to social and religious expectations. Of the BSDC trainees, 40% have been women.

Hurdles and Opportunities

In a country that creates very little, starting a project like this had not been easy, stakeholders said. Imad and Raniya said bureaucracy and administrative work had proved to be very difficult in the initial phases. “We had to go for a change of mindset on the way people do business,” says Raniya.

But change can be a difficult lesson. “Market needs, tourist needs, we had to teach people to take this into account,” explained Raniya. Speaking of a popular Maldivian snack common in most cafes, Imad identified customer control of food as a new concept. “We can do frozen short eats, so that a person can grill it or fry it when they want to eat it,” said Imad.

A total of 60 new businesses have been started via this project, including set up of businesses and cooperatives for agriculture, arts, crafts, hydroponics, aqua culture, food processing and packaging, wood carving and goat rearing.

PADI open water certificates have enjoyed new popularity–80 locals signed up for the course. “The demand was overwhelming and we couldn’t accommodate everyone,” said IMAD. “We asked the participants to bear 20% of the costs while the government bore 80%.” Maldivians with PADI training is expected to be a huge asset to the mid-market tourism envisaged by the government.

Meanwhile, barriers between locals and resorts persist. “locals would complain that resorts had no interest in buying their product, while resorts would complain about the quality and consistency,” Raniya said.

To bridge that gap and achieve success, MED joined efforts with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Tourism, UNDP and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“We also had a lot of help from Women’s Entrepreneurs Association, especially its former president late Aiminath Arif,” said Rainya.

MED will provide ongoing support to the small businesses via the BDSC in each region according to Raniya. “We will help draw up contracts and facilitate talks between the businesses and buyers. We also have introduced a loan scheme of 3 million dollars, for which we have already identified 40 beneficiaries.”

A bill that has been submitted to parliament could end up giving a huge boost to the newborn SMEs and change the face of the souvenir market in Maldives, which is at the moment flooded with foreign products. “If the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Act is passed, within 3 years 50% of products in all souvenir shops should be local,” said Raniya.

‘Made in Maldives’ could become a common thing, enabling Naazly and dozens of others like her to make a profitable business. Imad said, “We want to see a day where Maldivian local delicacies, could be marketed like Swiss chocolate.”
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Hubasaana 2011 festival will be held Maradhoo Feydhoo Social Centre in Addu city on 20-22 Oct 2011, at the SAARC Summit in Addu City from 8-10 November, and in Hanimadhoo of Hdh Atoll from 1-3 December.

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MFDA raises concerns over poor hygiene during city-wide food inspections

Eateries and restaurants across Male’ are this month coming under city-wide inspection by the Maldives Food and Drug Authority (MFDA) for the first time in four years over hygiene standards, an area the government body claims “generally remains poor.”

Shareefa Adam, Director General for the MFDA, which forms part of the remit for the Maldives Health Ministry, told Minivan News that so far 32 premises had been inspected since the beginning of the month as part of plans to visit every registered and unregistered property before July.

At present, the MFDA said that two premises have been shut down on the basis of its latest inspections.

The inspections have been criticised by some Male-based catering groups, who claim to have been unfairly punished by MFDA officials they allege apply high-end resort standards to local businesses.

Accusations that inspectors are being too strict in their criteria was denied by the MFDA’s director general, who claimed they were using “basic” minimum hygiene standards such as cleanliness and preventing foreign materials from getting into food.

According to Adam, these standards were not fully understood by a wide number of proprietors in the capital, though any premises that were shut down could reapply to open again once they had corrected issues raised with their business.

“There is not enough training in food hygiene and we need to find ways to spread this message. For instance there are a large number of Bangladeshi workers in the food industry here and we need to find ways of communicating with them on this,” she said.

“Existing regulation is very simple and sometimes quite insufficient, so we are focused on minimum hygiene standards at present.”

Adam claimed that the month-long inspections would remain focused in Male’, before possibly being expanded to other islands at a later date. The MFDA director general said she believed that further inspections of all the catering establishments in the capital would take the entire month to complete.

“It takes quite a long time to complete these inspections as our staff numbers do not increase, yet the number of restaurants certainly does. We are looking at the standards of all food outlets, which are very poor in some places,” she claimed. “Some are not even registered with the MFDA at all and these must be closed down and then registered with us.”

Food outlet criticism

Hassan Muhaimin of Buruzu Catering Services, which was shut down this week following an MFDA inspection, alleged that the company had been punished for issues outside of the quality of its kitchens.

“We have a storage facility on the second floor of our building that is a locked room where we keep broken items and utensils. Although it was locked, the room was an issue [for inspectors],” he said.

Muhaimin said that despite some minor everyday issues in the kitchen, he felt the company had been judged mainly on the presence of materials like rat droppings in the locked storage room that had not been used in some time by the business.

“If there is someone operating a catering business downstairs, but someone else is living on another floor that isn’t being used by the business, should the company still be punished for issues on that floor? That is how I see it,” he added.

Muhaimin claimed that the store room inspected by the MFDA has since been cleaned out and the company kitchen was in the process of being refurbished, and said that Buruzu Catering Services would be hoping to appeal against the MFDA decision.

“I’m not aware of any other specific food outlets that have been closed down [during the ongoing inspections], but it is a huge blow for our company and will require some good PR plans to turn it around,” said Muhaimin. “We think it’s really unfair of the MFDA and raises questions about their own standards. For example, we purchase headgear [such as hairnets] from a company that supplies major resorts, yet [the MFDA] did not approve of them, saying they don’t cover the whole head area or the back of the neck.”

Muhaimin claimed it was his belief that the inspectors in some cases may be enacting top-range resort standards onto local companies and eateries.

Local teashop the Shabnam Café has also been closed after inspectors allegedly found rat droppings in the kitchen.

The owner complained to newspaper Haveeru that Shabnam Cafe that the droppings were not found in the cafe’s kitchen, but in a salted fish brought by an employee.

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Letter on food safety

To the Maldives Food and Drug Authority:

It has been repeatedly noticed that foodstuffs like eggs and fish sold at various shops in Hulhumale’ have been found rotten. These shop owners know that customers don’t take rotten eggs back to the shops and that they can easily make money out of the old stock they purchase from Male’ shops at very cheap prices.

Let me also share a similar information regarding cooking oil found in yellow cans (20 litres) and in bottles (2 litres) coming under OKI brand. Normally products packed in the Free Trade Zone in Singapore are labeled as a product of Singapore. But it seems import of this product has been rejected by Singapore’s Food & Drug Authority (FDA) and is exported to Somalia and Maldives where FDA surveillance is poor.

I understand from an importer of food items that many times he receives egg shipments containing numerous rotten ones but he receives no complaints from customers. This means either people are using such food without knowing the danger or taking it easy and simple.

I believe this is a critical issue because we hear doctors saying they are concerned over the very high number number of cancer, kidney and heart problems diagnosed with causes unknown.

I think it’s very irresponsible if we wait and see if these problems relate to lifestyle changes. We must make our FDA work in line with the times, and with today’s technology.

In the old days we used very fresh eggs and very fresh fish which we did not even need to refrigerate. We used eggs direct from the nests and fish we used a few minutes after catching them.

I believe this is a health hazardous issue that has to be brought to your notice so that you can discuss the issue with relevant agencies or stakeholders.

Mohamed Saeed

All letters are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write a letter piece, please submit it to [email protected]

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