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Leuenberger looks at climate change realities

Moritz Leuenberger listens attentively to the scientists at the ICIPE


Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger has started his official trip to Kenya with a visit to one of the top research centres in Africa combating malaria.

Leuenberger also met his Kenyan counterpart Emilio Mwai Kibaki on Tuesday to sign a joint investment protection agreement and was entertained by school children during a visit to a Nairobi slum district.

The Swiss president is representing Switzerland at the United Nations post-Kyoto talks on climate change in Nairobi and is due to give a special message during the opening of the ministers' session on Wednesday.

Ahead of the meeting, Leuenberger took time to familiarise himself with the work of the Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), one of the leading African research centres addressing problems caused by insects and other disease carriers.

"We focus on basic and applied research and knowledge transfer to the countries," said Christian Borgemeister, ICIPE's director general. "We see ourselves as a hub to link up African scientists with the outside world."

The 37-year-old institute, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), is carrying out a number of initiatives to fight malaria, a disease which kills more than one million Africans every year.

Global warming is thought to be largely behind the increase in cases of malaria in regions which were previously safe, such as the highlands of east Africa.

"And unlike the populations from coastal regions, mountain-dwellers have not been continually exposed to malaria and come down quickly with the disease," explained John Githure, head of ICIPE's health division.

Leuenberger also heard about ICIPE's forest conservation activities. Deforestation is a huge concern in Kenya where forests now cover only 1.8 per cent of the entire territory.

"To prevent families turning trees into charcoal, we promote income-generating activities like the production of wild silk and beekeeping to empower communities, exploit forests in a sustainable manner and improve livelihoods," said Borgemeister.


Leuenberger later held talks with the Kenyan president at State House in the capital, Nairobi, and attended the signing of a joint investment protection agreement by Kenyan Finance Minister Amos Kimunya and the Swiss ambassador to Kenya, George Martin.

"This agreement will strengthen economic cooperation between both countries and encourage favourable conditions for direct investment," said a Kenyan government spokesman.

"It is particularly significant as it's a message to Swiss investors that they will enjoy full protection here in Kenya."

Leuenberger used his visit to underline the importance of giving development aid to Africa.

"We cannot allow ourselves not to help," he said, referring to the extreme poverty and climate change the continent is undergoing.

The day ended with a lively visit to Gentiana primary school in the slum district of Kwangware in Nairobi, founded by the Swiss former journalist Peter Baumgartner and supported by Caritas Switzerland and the Leopold-Bachmann Foundation.

swissinfo, Simon Bradley in Kenya

Key facts

Swiss development aid to Africa in 2005: SFr392.4 million ($314.3 million).
Switzerland donates SFr1.3 million to ICIPE annually.

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In brief

Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger is visiting Kenya and Ethiopia from November 13 to 17.

The 12th UN Climate Conference in Nairobi runs until November 17.

Around 6,000 delegates and observers from 190 countries are attending the two-week summit.

Switzerland was the 110th country to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in 2003.

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