Inter Press ServiceMario Osava – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 24 Sep 2018 23:21:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Kofi Annan Strengthened the U.N.’s Dignity with the Help of Two Brazilianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/kofi-annan-strengthened-u-n-s-dignity-help-two-brazilians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kofi-annan-strengthened-u-n-s-dignity-help-two-brazilians http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/kofi-annan-strengthened-u-n-s-dignity-help-two-brazilians/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 22:30:31 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157305 Kofi Annan’s stature as a global leader grew after he finished his second term as United Nations Secretary-General in 2006. Time confirmed his excellence in defending the principles and values of multilateralism, which is currently on the decline and subject to all kinds of attacks. Some of the crucial actions carried out by Annan, who […]

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Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary General from 1997 to 2007 and 2001 Nobel Peace Prize-winner, who died on Aug. 18, seen together with Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello (left), one of his right-hand men and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, who died in Baghdad in 2003. Credit: Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation

Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary General from 1997 to 2007 and 2001 Nobel Peace Prize-winner, who died on Aug. 18, seen together with Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello (left), one of his right-hand men and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, who died in Baghdad in 2003. Credit: Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation

By Mario Osava
RÍO DE JANEIRO, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

Kofi Annan’s stature as a global leader grew after he finished his second term as United Nations Secretary-General in 2006. Time confirmed his excellence in defending the principles and values of multilateralism, which is currently on the decline and subject to all kinds of attacks.

Some of the crucial actions carried out by Annan, who died on Aug. 18, such as condemning the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, had the key backing of two Brazilian diplomats.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, who died in Baghdad on Aug. 19, 2003, was U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and Annan’s right-hand man in dealing with conflicts and rebuilding shattered nations.

He was sent to Iraq as the secretary-general’s special representative in May 2003, two months after the invasion, a spectacle of violence and bombings instantly reported by the global media.

A truck bomb destroyed the Canal Hotel used as a U.N. office in Baghdad.

Vieira and 21 other U.N. officials were killed in the suicide attack by the Al-Zarqawi organisation, the seed of what would later call itself the Islamic State (IS), according to Carolina Larriera, Vieira’s Argentine widow and a member of his team who survived in the rubble.

In memory of the victims, the U.N. General Assembly decided in 2008 to designate Aug. 19 as World Humanitarian Day, dedicated to all those who risk their lives to assist people affected by armed conflicts and other crises.

Vieira, a Brazilian who worked at the U.N. since he was 21, died at the age of 55 as a hero of humanitarian and peace operations in the most dangerous situations, in Bangladesh, Sudan, Cyprus, Mozambique, Peru and Iraq.

He mediated conflicts in Cambodia, Lebanon, Rwanda and other countries, while in Kosovo and East Timor he supported the “building of new nations.”

Between 1999 and 2002 he led the U.N. peacekeeping forces that oversaw the transition to independence of East Timor, a former Portuguese colony occupied by Indonesia since 1975.

The son of a Brazilian diplomat, Vieira rose through the ranks of the United Nations, occupying positions in its refugee and human rights agencies.

He reached the peak of his career in the missions commissioned by Annan, such as the operation in East Timor. Many even pointed to him as a possible successor to the secretary general because of his proven capacity and extensive experience.

“Annan was a giant at the United Nations,” the last great promoter of multilateralism, which has recently lost momentum, overtaken by the current wave of nationalism,” said Clóvis Brigagão, a political scientist who headed the Centre for the Study of the Americas at a university in Rio de Janeiro.

Born in Ghana 80 years ago, Annan was the first black U.N. secretary-general. He held the position from 1997 to 2006.

He was recognised as perhaps the last global head of state that the powers-that-be allowed the world and as a leader who promoted human rights as a priority and strengthened the mechanisms of peace, democratisation and development.

One of his triumphs was to achieve a consensus on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that set 17 targets to reduce poverty, hunger, child and maternal mortality, among other scourges of humanity, from 2000 to 2015.

Expanded and renewed, 169 targets now make up the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDOs), the heirs to the MDGs, seeking to promote social, human, environmental and economic advances by 2030.

For his work, Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the U.N. in 2001.

But it was the tragedy in Iraq that marked his two terms at the General Secretariat, as the first career staffer to be promoted to the top post in the U.N.

During that crisis, in addition to Vieira he also had the support of another Brazilian diplomat, José Mauricio Bustani, in adopting a position against the invasion by the U.S.-led coalition that also included Great Britain, Australia and Poland.

Bustani had led the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) since it was created in 1997 to enforce the international convention that seeks to eradicate these weapons worldwide.

His reports were key to the U.S. government’s decision to attack Iraq under George W. Bush (2001-2009), in what was known as the second Gulf War (2003-2011) after the one that took place between 1990 and 1991.

The pretext for the attack was the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction, mainly chemical weapons, in the hands of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

In 2001, Bustani was negotiating Iraq’s accession to the OPCW, which would allow for inspections and would prove, according to him, the absence of such weapons in the country.

This was a challenge to the U.S. government, which exerted pressure that led to Bustani’s removal from the organisation in 2002. A year later, Iraq was bombed under a justification that was never proven, which reinforced Annan’s condemnation of the Iraq war, which he deemed “illegal”.

Bustani shared his experience in the article “Brazil and OPCW: Diplomacy and Defence of the Multilateral System Under Attack,” published in late 2002, and continued his career, as Brazil’s ambassador to Britain and France, before retiring in 2015.

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New Relationship Evolves Between Society and Energy in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/new-relationship-evolves-society-energy-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-relationship-evolves-society-energy-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/new-relationship-evolves-society-energy-brazil/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 02:08:00 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157279 “We want to make history,” agreed the teachers at the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School. They are the first to teach adolescents about generating power from bad weather in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil. The Renewable Energies course was the most popular one in the secondary education institution that began its classes in […]

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Diploma award ceremony for the 28 teenagers who completed the course on making LED lamps in a small farmers' association in Aparecida. The lamp on the ceiling is made at the "school factory" where young people study and work in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Diploma award ceremony for the 28 teenagers who completed the course on making LED lamps in a small farmers' association in Aparecida. The lamp on the ceiling is made at the "school factory" where young people study and work in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
SOUSA, Brazil, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

“We want to make history,” agreed the teachers at the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School. They are the first to teach adolescents about generating power from bad weather in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil.

The Renewable Energies course was the most popular one in the secondary education institution that began its classes in February this year in Sousa, a city in the interior of Paraiba, a state in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion.

Sixty of the 89 students chose that subject. The rest opted for the other alternative, marketing strategies, in the school named after a local engineer and entrepreneur who died in 2006.

“It was the local community that decided, in a public hearing, that these would be the two courses offered at the school,” 35-year-old Cícero Fernandes, a member of the school’s staff, told IPS.

“It’s about building a life project with the students. Renewable energies use different resources, but solar power is the predominant one here and is the focus of the course, because we have a lot of sunshine,” said Kelly de Sousa, who is the school’s principal at the age of 30.

The interest of the teenagers, most of them between 15 and 17 years old, reflects the solar energy boom they have been experiencing since last year in and around Sousa, a region considered the one with the most solar radiation in Brazil. The local Catholic church, businesses, factories and houses are already turning to this alternative source.

Energy, specifically electricity, is no longer something foreign, distant, that comes through cables and poles, at prices that rise for unknown reasons.

The municipality of Sousa, with more than 100 photovoltaic systems and a population of 70,000, 80 percent urban, is in the vanguard of the change in the relationship between society and energy that it is promoting in Brazil the expansion of so-called distributed generation, led by consumers themselves.

The share of photovoltaic generation in Brazil’s energy mix is still a mere 0.82 percent of the total of 159,970 MW, according to the government’s National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel), the regulatory agency.

Students in one of the classrooms of the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School, in the city of Sousa, where 60 students learn techniques and theories about renewable energies, especially solar power. The course was adopted after consultation with the local community at public hearings in this town in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Students in one of the classrooms of the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School, in the city of Sousa, where 60 students learn techniques and theories about renewable energies, especially solar power. The course was adopted after consultation with the local community at public hearings in this town in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

But it is the fastest growing source. In the plants still under construction, it already accounts for 8.26 percent of the total. This refers to power plants built by suppliers.

Added to these are the “consumer units of distributed generation” as Aneel calls them, residential or business micro-generators which now total 34,282, of which 99.4 percent are solar and the rest are wind, thermal or hydraulic. The total power generated is 415 MW – three times more than 12 months ago.

The Northeast, the poorest and sunniest region, still generates little solar energy, in contrast to wind power, which is already the main local source, consolidated after drought made the water supply drop over the last six years.

The acceleration of the solar revolution in Sousa has been driven by civil society, especially the Semi-Arid Renewable Energy Committee (Cersa), a network of activists, researchers, and social and academic organisations created in 2014.

This unincorporated organisation with no formal headquarters operates in three areas, as its coordinator, 60-year-old Cesar Nóbrega, who lives in Sousa, told IPS: community training and empowerment, installation of pilot project systems and lobbying for public policies on renewable energy.

Genival Lopes dos Santos stands in the garden he cultivates together with his wife thanks to a solar water pump. With this system and other technologies adopted on their farm, they were able to continue to plant crops during the six-year drought in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast, which began in 2012. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Genival Lopes dos Santos stands in the garden he cultivates together with his wife thanks to a solar water pump. With this system and other technologies adopted on their farm, they were able to continue to plant crops during the six-year drought in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which began in 2012. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The technical school of Sousa proves that Cersa’s preaching fell on fertile ground. Other activities organised by the committee include short courses, seminars, and forums with the participation of university students, government officials and community organisations.

“I want to know how the panels absorb sunlight and generate energy, and that course was what I was hoping for,” said Mariana Nascimento, 16, who attends the school with her twin sister Marina. They live in the city of Aparecida, 20 km from Sousa.

The course drew not only young people. Emanuel Gomes, 47, decided to return to school to “learn to design residential (solar) projects, save energy costs and protect the environment.” He attends class together with his 18-year-old son.

“The students are enthusiastic, thirsty for knowledge and eager for practice,” and they proved it by participating in the seminar by the Solar Parish during their holidays, said the school principal Sousa, referring to the debate that took place at the inauguration of the solar power plant in Sousa’s Catholic church on Jul. 6.

Engaging and training students on energy and its environmental and economic effects is a task taken on by Walmeran Trindade a teacher of electrical engineering at the Federal Institute of Paraíba and technical coordinator of Cersa.

On Jul. 17, 28 students graduated from his 30-hour course at the “school factory” of LED lamps, examples of energy efficiency, in a rural town near Aparecida, supported by the Catholic Breda Institute.

“It is for professional training, income generation and promoting coexistence with the semi-arid climate,” the teacher told IPS. He travels more than 400 km from João Pessoa, the capital of Paraiba, to teach classes pro bono.

The lamps, made from plastic bottles, give off less light than mass-produced lamps, but are sold for just five reais (1.30 dollars), making them affordable to poor farmers. And they are made by “young people who are also poor,” and thus earn some income, he said.

“I made four lamps, I learned how it works and I want to work with energy, although I dream of studying law to defend society,” said 16-year-old Gaudencio da Silva, a second year high school student who participates in the “School Factory.”

Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos, a farming couple, stand next to the biodigester they obtained as part of the campaign for clean energy in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. In addition to biogas, the biodigester also provides them with natural fertilisers for their orchard and garden. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos, a farming couple, stand next to the biodigester they obtained as part of the campaign for clean energy in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. In addition to biogas, the biodigester also provides them with natural fertilisers for their orchard and garden. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Renewable energy pilot plants have mushroomed, meeting the second objective of Cersa.

In addition to the Solar Parish church, the Oliveiras Community Bakery and urban and rural solar systems are positive examples of the sun as an environmentally sound source that empowers consumers and communities.

The Farmers’ Association of the Acauã Settlement, which emerged under the 1996 land reform, now has a solar plant that ensures the supply of water to its 120 families. The energy pumps water to a reservoir on a hill 800 m from the community.

“We were paying 2,000 Brazilian reais (540 dollars) a month in electricity to pump water to a tank on a hill 800 m from the community,” Maria do Socorro Gouveia, the head of the Farmers’ Association, told IPS.

Another rural example of the use of solar power is the farming couple Genival and Marlene Lopes dos Santos, both 48 years old, who were also settled on land of their own thanks to the agrarian reform. In addition to generating electricity, they use solar energy to pump water from a well and irrigate small orchards and their garden.

A biodigester, another system that is spreading in the rural part of the municipality of Sousa, provides them with cooking gas. And they fertilise their crops with manure processed to produce biogas.

“The drought didn’t stop us from planting our crops,” the farmers, who are also engaged in fishing and beekeeping, said proudly.

“There is a need for the public sector” to promote public policies in these alternative energy sources, said Nóbrega. The municipality of Sousa spends six million reais (1.6 million dollars) a year on electricity.

Adopting solar energy in public offices and street lighting would represent a great saving in terms of spending on municipal services and infrastructure and, as a result, the money paid to the electricity distributor, based in the capital João Pessoa, would give a boost to the local economy, argued the coordinator of Cersa.

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Sousa, a Solar Power Capital in an Increasingly Arid Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:55:23 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157146 Sousa, a municipality of 70,000 people in the west of Paraíba, the state in Brazil most threatened by desertification, has become the country’s capital of solar energy, with a Catholic church, various businesses, households and even a cemetery generating solar power. “We were paying about 4,000 reais (1,070 dollars) a month for electricity and that […]

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Catholic priest Paulo Diniz started the Solar Parish project in Sousa, with the support of the solar energy movement in the state of Paraiba, in northeastern Brazil. This saves the costs of conventional electricity and provides more resources for social projects, as well as being an example of the use of clean energy, as promoted by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si ‘On care for our common home’. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Catholic priest Paulo Diniz started the Solar Parish project in Sousa, with the support of the solar energy movement in the state of Paraiba, in northeastern Brazil. This saves the costs of conventional electricity and provides more resources for social projects, as well as being an example of the use of clean energy, as promoted by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si ‘On care for our common home’. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
SOUSA, Brazil, Aug 9 2018 (IPS)

Sousa, a municipality of 70,000 people in the west of Paraíba, the state in Brazil most threatened by desertification, has become the country’s capital of solar energy, with a Catholic church, various businesses, households and even a cemetery generating solar power.

“We were paying about 4,000 reais (1,070 dollars) a month for electricity and that cost fell to about 300 reais (80 dollars),” Catholic priest Paulo Diniz Ferreira, in charge of the Sant’Ana Parish of Sousa, now nicknamed “Solar Parish,” told IPS. The parish’s solar energy generating system was formally inaugurated on Jul. 6, but had been in operation since April.

The 142 photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of the Parish Centre, which includes offices, auditoriums and an indoor sports arena, also generate energy for the church, which is currently undergoing expansion work, for a chapel and for the living quarters.

The installed maximum capacity is 46.1 kW and its monthly generation is estimated at around 6,700 kWh.

“It is more than an energy issue, it is a question of being in tune with Laudato Si,” the priest explained, referring to Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, published in May 2015, and the church’s duty to be a “reference point and witness.”

With the new resources, the parish will be able to enhance evangelisation work and pastoral care for children, the elderly and prisoners, he said.

Their example is expected to inspire the other 60 parishes that make up the diocese based in the neighbouring city of Cajazeiras, says César Nóbrega, coordinator of the Semi-Arid Renewable Energy Committee (CERSA), which promotes the use of solar energy and other alternative sources in and around Sousa, a large municipality with an 80 percent urban population.

The first solar-powered school in Paraíba was inaugurated on the same day, Jul. 6.

Local farming couple Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos stand next to solar panels that are part of community-shared generation, which reduces their electricity bill and those of their urban partners, who live in the cities of Sousa and João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraiba, 400 km away, in Brazil's Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Local farming couple Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos stand next to solar panels that are part of community-shared generation, which reduces their electricity bill and those of their urban partners, who live in the cities of Sousa and João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraiba, 400 km away, in Brazil’s Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Twelve solar panels will save 350 to 400 kWh per month for the Dione Diniz primary and secondary school, in a rural district of Sousa, São Gonçalo, Brazil, which is the area with the highest level of solar radiation in Brazil and the second in the world, Nóbrega told IPS.

The aim is also to “disseminate information and promote discussions with teachers, students and the local community about the solar potential in mitigating climate change,” he said.

“We included it in the school’s Pedagogical Intervention Project, which chooses a theme for each two-month period, with renewable energy as its flagship,” said Clemilson Lacerda, the school’s science teacher.

“We don’t yet know how much we will save on the electricity bill, which reached 1,700 reais (450 dollars) in June, but we will invest the savings in improving the school, in teaching materials and in food for the students,” school vice principal Analucia Casimiro told IPS.

From the small rooftop terrace of the Vó Ita Hotel you can see the solar energy boom in Sousa. The rooftop of the hotel itself is covered with photovoltaic panels, as well as two large rooftops below, of a gas station and a steakhouse.

Nearby there are industrial warehouses, houses, stores, pharmacies, car dealerships and supermarkets which are also using the new source of energy, as well as companies that consume a lot of energy, such as cold storage warehouses and ice-cream parlours.

“I reduced my energy costs to zero,” young entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha, a partner in a company that has a poultry slaughterhouse, farm, dairy products factory and store, told IPS. It generates its own electricity with 60 solar panels placed over the truck parking lot at its slaughterhouse.

“In 2014, when we founded CERSA, there was not a single solar energy system in Sousa; today we have more than 100 installed,” said Nóbrega, the head of the organisation, which brings together public and private institutions, researchers and collaborators, with the mission of making “solar power the main source of energy” in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast.

School vice principal Analucia Casimiro (C) and science teacher Clemilson Lacerda (R) pose for a picture with solar power expert Cesar Nóbrega (left) in the yard of the Dione Diniz School, the first public elementary school to have solar energy in Paraíba, the Brazilian state most threatened by desertification. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

School vice principal Analucia Casimiro (C) and science teacher Clemilson Lacerda (R) pose for a picture with solar power expert Cesar Nóbrega (left) in the yard of the Dione Diniz School, the first public elementary school to have solar energy in Paraíba, the Brazilian state most threatened by desertification. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This activism, rooted in the fight against climate change that tends to aggravate local drought, succeeded in mobilising many stakeholders from universities, civil society and the public sector in seminars, forums and courses.

“CERSA was not born to install generation systems, but to debate,” raise awareness and encourage public policies, Nóbrega said.

But in practice it also acts as a disseminator of solar plants on two fronts: corporate and social.

It stimulated the creation in 2015 of Ative Energy, the largest installer of photovoltaic systems in Sousa and executor of the Solar Parish project, conceived by CERSA. Today there are five solar power companies in the city.

“By November 2017 we had installed 40 systems; now there are 196. We used to employ only five workers, now there are 30: we grew sixfold in six months,” said Frank Araujo, owner of Ative, whose operations spread over 26 cities in five states of the Brazilian Northeast.

In Brazil, solar generation represents only 0.8 percent of current installed capacity, but it is the fastest growing source of energy. According to the National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL), the sector’s regulatory body, it accounts for 8.26 percent of the energy in new construction projects.

Danilo Gadelha, one of the leading members of Sousa’s business community, is a co-owner of Ative and also its main client. He hired the company to install solar power plants in the companies of his conglomerate Vó Ita, comprising distributors of food and cooking gas, a vegetable oil factory, a hotel, a construction company, a gas station and a cemetery.

Entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha uses his cell-phone under the solar panel rooftop covering part of the truck park area at his poultry slaughterhouse. Thanks to solar energy, Gadelha reduced electricity costs to zero in the slaughterhouse, a dairy plant, a store and his family's home in the Brazilian municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of the country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha uses his cell-phone under the solar panel rooftop covering part of the truck park area at his poultry slaughterhouse. Thanks to solar energy, Gadelha reduced electricity costs to zero in the slaughterhouse, a dairy plant, a store and his family’s home in the Brazilian municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of the country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“I started trying solar energy as a user,” before offering it as an installer and “going from a large-scale energy consumer to an entrepreneur,” he told IPS. The company’s energy costs are close to 23,500 dollars a month.

Ative Energy has a major competitive advantage. As it has a great amount of capital, it finances the solar plants it installs at the lowest interest rates on the market.

This is what it did with the Parish of Sousa, which is paying off the financing in monthly installments lower than the amount saved in the electricity bill. “We will repay everything in three and a half years,” said the parish priest, because little more than a third of the project was paid for in cash with donations.

Since the equipment has a 25-year life span, the church will have free energy for more than 20 years.

The solar energy units in companies and large houses are important for the CERSA campaign as a demonstration of solar power’s viability and economic and environmental benefits, acknowledged Nóbrega.

But the campaign also succeeded in attracting the interest of funds and institutions that support social projects.

Thus, in 2016, the Solar Semi-Arid Project was born, made up of CERSA, Caritas Brazil – the social body of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference – and the Forum on Climate Change and Justice, with financial support from Misereor, the development aid body of the German Catholic Church.

This allowed the Dione Diniz School to obtain its solar plant, financed part of the Solar Parish system, and distributed water pumping devices and biodigesters in rural communities, as well as making it possible to offer training courses for “solar electricians” in Sousa and nearby municipalities.

In addition to providing cheap and clean energy, decentralised photovoltaic generation is an economic alternative for Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast which is at risk of becoming completely arid due to climate change, warned Nóbrega.

In the state of Paraíba – where Sousa is located – 93.7 percent of the territory is in the process of desertification, according to the Programme to Combat Desertification and Mitigate the Effects of Drought in that northeastern Brazilian state.

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The Sun Powers a Women’s Bakery in Brazil’s Semi-arid Northeasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 01:40:08 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157012 “The sun which used to torment us now blesses us,” said one of the 19 women who run the Community Bakery of Varzea Comprida dos Oliveiras, a settlement in the rural area of Pombal, a municipality of the state of Paraiba, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. “Without solar energy our bakery would be closed, we would […]

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Even Rocks Harvest Water in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Northeasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 10:02:00 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156776 Rocks, once a hindrance since they reduced arable land, have become an asset. Pedrina Pereira and João Leite used them to build four ponds to collect rainwater in a farming community in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. On their six-hectare property, the couple store water in three other reservoirs, the “mud trenches”, the name given locally to […]

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Beans are left to dry in the sun on Pedrina Pereira’s small farm. In the background, a tank collects rainwater for drinking and cooking, from the rooftop. It is part of a programme of the organisation Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), which aims to distribute one million rainwater tanks to achieve coexistence with the semi-arid climate which extends across 982,000 sq km in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Beans are left to dry in the sun on Pedrina Pereira’s small farm. In the background, a tank collects rainwater for drinking and cooking, from the rooftop. It is part of a programme of the organisation Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), which aims to distribute one million rainwater tanks to achieve coexistence with the semi-arid climate which extends across 982,000 sq km in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
JUAZEIRINHO/BOM JARDIM, Brazil, Jul 20 2018 (IPS)

Rocks, once a hindrance since they reduced arable land, have become an asset. Pedrina Pereira and João Leite used them to build four ponds to collect rainwater in a farming community in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast.

On their six-hectare property, the couple store water in three other reservoirs, the “mud trenches”, the name given locally to pits that are dug deep in the ground to store as much water as possible in the smallest possible area to reduce evaporation.

“We no longer suffer from a shortage of water,” not even during the drought that has lasted the last six years, said Pereira, a 47-year-old peasant farmer, on the family’s small farm in Juazeirinho, a municipality in the Northeast state of Paraíba.

Only at the beginning of this year did they have to resort to water distributed by the army to local settlements, but “only for drinking,” Pereira told IPS proudly during a visit to several communities that use innovative water technologies that are changing the lives of small villages and family farmers in this rugged region.

To irrigate their maize, bean, vegetable crops and fruit trees, the couple had four “stone ponds” and three mud trenches, enough to water their sheep and chickens.

“The water in that pond is even drinkable, it has that whitish colour because of the soil,” but that does not affect its taste or people’s health, said Pereira, pointing to the smallest of the ponds, “which my husband dug out of the rocks with the help of neighbours.”

“There was nothing here when we arrived in 2007, just a small mud pond, which dried up after the rainy season ended,” she said. They bought the property where they built the house and lived without electricity until 2010, when they got electric power and a rainwater tank, which changed their lives.

The One Million Cisterns Programme (P1MC) was underway for a decade. With the programme, the Articulation of the Semi Arid (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, is seeking to achieve universal access to drinking water in the rural areas of the Northeast semi-arid ecoregion, which had eight million inhabitants in the 2010 official census.

Two of the four stone ponds on the farm belonging to Pedrina Pereira and João Leite, built by Leite with the help of neighbours, in a farming community in Juazeirinho. The tanks store rainwater for their livestock and their diversified crops during the frequent droughts in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Two of the four stone ponds on the farm belonging to Pedrina Pereira and João Leite, built by Leite with the help of neighbours, in a farming community in Juazeirinho. The tanks store rainwater for their livestock and their diversified crops during the frequent droughts in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The network promoted the construction of 615,597 tanks that collect water from rooftops, for use in drinking and cooking. The tanks hold 16,000 litres of water, considered sufficient for a family of five during the usual eight-month low-water period.

Other initiatives outside ASA helped disseminate rainwater tanks, which mitigated the effects of the drought that affected the semi-arid Northeast between 2012 and 2017.

According to Antonio Barbosa, coordinator of the One Land, Two Waters Programme (P1+2) promoted by ASA since 2007, the rainwater tanks helped to prevent a repeat of the tragedy seen during previous droughts, such as the 1979-1983 drought, which “caused the death of a million people.”

After the initial tank is built, rainwater collection is expanded for the purposes of irrigation and raising livestock, by means of tanks like the ones built in 2013 on the farm belonging to Pereira and her husband since 2013. ASA has distributed 97,508 of these tanks, benefiting 100,828 families.

Other solutions, used for irrigation or water for livestock, include ponds built on large rocks or water pumps used by communities to draw water from deep wells.

Tanks holding up to 52,000 litres of rainwater, collected using the “calçadão” system, where water runs down a sloping concrete terrace or even a road into the tank, are another of the seven “water technologies” for irrigation and animal consumption disseminated by the organisations that make up ASA.

Pedro Custodio da Silva shows his native seed bank at his farm in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in Northeast Brazil, part of a movement driven by the Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, to promote family farming based on their own seeds adapted to the local climate. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Pedro Custodio da Silva shows his native seed bank at his farm in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in Northeast Brazil, part of a movement driven by the Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, to promote family farming based on their own seeds adapted to the local climate. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

In the case of Pereira and Leite, this water infrastructure came through the Programme for the Application of Appropriate Technologies for Communities (Patac), an organisation that seeks to strengthen family farming in small agricultural communities in Paraiba.

The tanks and terraces are made with donated material, and the beneficiaries must take part in the construction and receive training in water management, focused on coexistence with the semi-arid climate. Community action and sharing of experiences among farmers is also promoted.

Beans drying in the courtyard, and piled up inside the house, even in the bedroom, show that the Pereira and Leite family, which also includes their son, Salvador – who has inherited his parents’ devotion to farming – managed to get a good harvest after this year’s adequate rainfall.

Maize, sweet potato, watermelon, pumpkin, pepper, tomato, aubergine, other vegetables and medicinal herbs make up the vegetable garden that mother and son manage, within a productive diversification that is a widespread practice among farmers in the semi-arid region.

A pond supplied by a water source revived by reforestation on the 2.5-hectare farm of Pedro Custodio da Silva, who adopted an agroforestry system and applied agro-ecological principles in the production of fruit and vegetables, in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in the semi-arid region of Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A pond supplied by a water source revived by reforestation on the 2.5-hectare farm of Pedro Custodio da Silva, who adopted an agroforestry system and applied agro-ecological principles in the production of fruit and vegetables, in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in the semi-arid region of Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Also contributing to this diversification are eight sheep and a large chicken coop, which are for self-consumption and for sale. “Our family lives off agriculture alone,” said Pereira, who also benefits from the Bolsa Familia programme, a government subsidy for poor families, which in their case amounts to 34 dollars a month.

“I am one of the customers for Pedrina’s ‘cuzcuz’, which is not only tasty but is also made without toxic agricultural chemicals,” said Gloria Araujo, the head of Patac. She was referring to a kind of corn tortilla that is very popular in the Brazilian Northeast, an important source of income for the family.

Living in the community of Sussuarana, home to 180 families, and forming part of the Regional Collective of farmers, trade unions and associations from 11 municipalities from the central part of the state of Paraiba, offers other opportunities.

Pereira has been able to raise chickens thanks to a barbed wire fence that she acquired through the Revolving Solidarity Fund, which provides a loan, in cash or animals, that when it is paid off goes immediately to another person and so on. A wire mesh weaving machine is for collective use in the community.

In Bom Jardim, 180 km from Juazeirinho, in the neighbouring state of Pernambuco, the community of Feijão (which means ‘beans’) stands out for its agroforestry system and fruit production, much of which is sold at agroecological fairs in Recife, the state capital, 100 km away and with a population of 1.6 million.

“I’ve lived here for 25 years, I started reforesting bare land and they called me crazy, but those who criticised me later planted a beautiful forest,” said Pedro Custodio da Silva, owner of 2.5 hectares and technical coordinator of the Association of Agroecological Farmers of Bom Jardim (Agroflor), which provides assistance to the community.

In addition to a diversified fruit tree orchard and vegetable garden, which provide income from the sale of fruit, vegetables and pulp, “without agrochemicals,” a stream that had dried up three decades ago was revived on his property and continued to run in the severe drought of recent years.

It filled a small 60,000-litre pond whose “water level drops in the dry season, but no longer dries up,” he said.

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Agroecology Beats Land and Water Scarcity in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 01:26:19 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156656 “Now we live well,” say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques. Givaldo began his adult life in Rio de Janeiro, in the southeast, where he did […]

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Givaldo dos Santos stands next to a tree loaded with grapefruit in the orchard which he and his wife have planted thanks to the use of techniques that allow them to have plenty of water for irrigation, despite the fact that their small farm is in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Givaldo dos Santos stands next to a tree loaded with grapefruit in the orchard which he and his wife have planted thanks to the use of techniques that allow them to have plenty of water for irrigation, despite the fact that their small farm is in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ESPERANÇA/CUMARU, Brazil, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

“Now we live well,” say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques.

Givaldo began his adult life in Rio de Janeiro, in the southeast, where he did his military service, married and had three children. Then he returned to his homeland, where it was not easy for him to restart his life on a farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern state of Paraiba, with his new wife, Maria das Graças, whom everyone knows as Nina and with whom he has a 15-year-old daughter.

“I’d leave at four in the morning to fetch water. I would walk 40 minutes with two cans on my shoulders, going up and down hills,” recalled the 48-year-old farmer.

But in 2000, thanks to a rainwater collection tank, he finally managed to get potable water on Caldeirão, his farm, part of which he inherited.

And in 2011 he got water for production, through a “barreiro” or pond dug into the ground. Two years later, a “calçadão” tank was built on a terrace with a slope to channel rainwater, with the capacity to hold 52,000 litres.

“Now we have plenty of water, despite the drought in the last six years,” said 47-year-old Nina. The “barreiro” only dried up once, two years ago, and for a short time, she said.

The water allowed the couple to expand their fruit orchard with orange, grapefruit, mango, acerola (Malpighia emarginata) and hog plum (Spondias mombin L, typical of the northern and northeastern regions of Brazil) trees.

With funding from a government programme to support family farming and from the non-governmental organisation Assessment and Services for Alternative Agricultural Projects (ASPTA), focused on agroecology, the couple purchased a machine to produce fruit pulp and a freezer to store it.

“When the pulp sale takes off, our income will grow,” said Givaldo. “For now we earn more with orange and lemon seedlings, which sell better because they last longer than other fruits.”

Besides storing water in the “barreiro”, they also raise tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), a species of fish, for their own consumption. Meanwhile, in the garden, in addition to fruit trees, they grow vegetables, whose production will increase thanks to a small greenhouse that they have just built, where they will plant tomatoes, cilantro and other vegetables for sale, Nina said with enthusiasm.

Joelma Pereira tells visitors from Central America and Brazil about the many sustainable practices that have improved the production on her family farm, on a terrace with a slope, which now has a roof, that makes it easier to capture rainwater, which is collected in a 52,000-litre tank used for the animals and to irrigate crops in Cumaru, in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Joelma Pereira tells visitors from Central America and Brazil about the many sustainable practices that have improved the production on her family farm, on a terrace with a slope, which now has a roof, that makes it easier to capture rainwater, which is collected in a 52,000-litre tank used for the animals and to irrigate crops in Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The productive activities on their small farm are further diversified by an ecological oven, which they use to make cakes and which cuts down on the use of cooking gas while at the same time using very little wood; by the production of fertilizer using manure from calves they raise and sell when they reach the right weight; and by the storage of native seeds.

The boundaries of their farm are marked by fences made of gliricidias (Gliricidia sepium), a tree native to Mexico and Central America, which offers good animal feed. The Dos Santos family hopes that they will serve as a barrier to the agrochemicals used on the corn crops on neighbouring farms.

Some time ago, the couple stopped raising chickens, which were sold at a good price due to their natural diet. “We had 200, but we sold them all, because there are a lot of robberies here. You can lose your life for a chicken,” Givaldo said.

Organic production, diversified and integrated with the efficient utilisation of water, turned this small farm into a showcase for ASPTA, an example of how to coexist with the semi-arid climate in Brazil’s Northeast.

This is why they frequently receive visitors. “Once we were visited by 52 people,” said the husband.

In the last week of June, the couple received 20 visitors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, mostly farmers, in an exchange promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Brazil’s Articulation of the Semi-Arid (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, including ASPTA.

Another farm visited during the exchange, accompanied by IPS, was that of Joelma and Roberto Pereira, in the municipality of Cumaru, in the state of Pernambuco, also in the Northeast. They even built a roof over the sloping terrace that collects rainwater on their property, to hold meetings there.

Givaldo and Nina dos Santos stand next to the small machine used to extract pulp from the fruit they grow, and the freezer where they store the fruit pulp in units ready for sale at their farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Givaldo and Nina dos Santos stand next to the small machine used to extract pulp from the fruit they grow, and the freezer where they store the fruit pulp in units ready for sale at their farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Three tanks for drinking water and one for production, a biodigester that generates much more gas than the family consumes, a system for producing liquid biofertiliser, another for composting, a small seedbed, cactus (Nopalea cochinilifera) and other forage plants are squeezed onto just half a hectare.

“We bought this half hectare in 2002 from a guy who raised cattle and left the soil trampled and only two trees. Now everything looks green,” said Joelma, who has three children in their twenties and lives surrounded by relatives, including her father, 65, who was born and still lives in the community, Pedra Branca, part of Cumaru.

The couple later acquired two other farms, of two and four hectares in size, just a few hundred metres away, where they raise cows, sheep, goats and pigs. The production of cheese, butter and other dairy products are, along with honey, their main income-earners.

On the original farm they have an agro-ecological laboratory, where they also have chicken coops and a bathroom with a dry toilet, built on rocks, in order to use human faeces as fertiliser and to “save water”.

“We reuse 60 percent of the water we use in the kitchen and bathroom, which passes through the bio water (filtration system) before it is used for irrigation,” Joelma said, while reciting her almost endless list of sustainable farm practices.

Joelma (in the picture) next to a biodigester, one of 23 donated by Caritas Switzerland to Brazilian farmers. Joelma and Roberto Pereira are family farmers from Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. The biodigester uses manure from five cows to produce more than twice the amount of biogas consumed by the family. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Joelma (in the picture) next to a biodigester, one of 23 donated by Caritas Switzerland to Brazilian farmers. Joelma and Roberto Pereira are family farmers from Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. The biodigester uses manure from five cows to produce more than twice the amount of biogas consumed by the family. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

It all began many years ago, when her husband became a builder of rainwater collection tanks and she learned about the technologies promoted by the non-governmental Sabiá Agro-ecological Development Centre in the neighbouring municipality of Bom Jardim. Sabiá is the name of a bird and a tree that symbolise biodiversity.

Some tobacco seedlings stand out in a seedbed. “They serve as a natural insecticide, along with other plants with a strong odor,” she said.

“Joelma is an important model because she incorporated the agroforestry system and a set of values into her practices,” Alexandre Bezerra Pires, general coordinator of the Sabiá Centre, told the Central American farmers during the visit to her farm.

“The exchanges with Central America and Africa are a fantastic opportunity to boost cooperation, strengthen ties and help other countries. The idea of coexisting with the Semi-Arid (ASA’s motto) took the Central Americans by surprise,” he said.

The biodigester is the technology of “greatest interest for Guatemala, where they use a lot of firewood,” said Doris Chavarría, a FAO technician in that Central American country. She also noted the practices of making pulp from fruit that are not generally used because they are seasonal and diversifying techniques for preparing corn as interesting to adopt in her country.

“We don’t have enough resources, the government doesn’t help us, the only institution that supports us is FAO,” said Guatemalan farmer Gloria Diaz, after pointing out that Brazilian farmers have the support of various non-governmental organisations.

Mariana García from El Salvador was impressed by the “great diversity of vegetables” that the Brazilians grow and “the fairs 130 km away, an opportunity to sell at better prices, with the cost of transportation cut when several farmers go together.”

She was referring to family farmers in Bom Jardim who sell their produce in Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco, with a population of 1.6 million.

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Solar Energy in Social Housing, a Discarded Solution in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/solar-energy-social-housing-discarded-solution-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solar-energy-social-housing-discarded-solution-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/solar-energy-social-housing-discarded-solution-brazil/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 19:21:33 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156419 “Our main challenge is to get the project back on track,” agreed the administrators of two affordable housing complexes, where a small solar power plant was installed for social purposes in Juazeiro, a city in northeast Brazil. Gilsa Martins, re-elected for the third time to a two-year stint as manager of the Morada do Salitre […]

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Brazil’s Agricultural Heavyweight Status Undermines Food Supplyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/brazils-agricultural-heavyweight-status-undermines-food-supply/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brazils-agricultural-heavyweight-status-undermines-food-supply http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/brazils-agricultural-heavyweight-status-undermines-food-supply/#respond Sat, 16 Jun 2018 00:45:50 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156253 Brazil is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and exporters, but its food supply has become seriously deficient due to food insecurity, unsustainability and poor nutrition, according to a number of studies. A week-long nationwide strike by truck drivers, that began on May 21, revealed the precariousness of the food supply, which practically collapsed […]

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A soybean plantation in Tocantins, a state in central Brazil, where this monoculture crop is beginning to cover the best lands, following in the footsteps of the neighbouring state of Mato Grosso, the largest producer and exporter of soy and maize in the country, which "imports" the food it consumes from faraway areas. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A soybean plantation in Tocantins, a state in central Brazil, where this monoculture crop is beginning to cover the best lands, following in the footsteps of the neighbouring state of Mato Grosso, the largest producer and exporter of soy and maize in the country, which "imports" the food it consumes from faraway areas. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 16 2018 (IPS)

Brazil is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and exporters, but its food supply has become seriously deficient due to food insecurity, unsustainability and poor nutrition, according to a number of studies.

A week-long nationwide strike by truck drivers, that began on May 21, revealed the precariousness of the food supply, which practically collapsed in the large Brazilian cities, at least in terms of perishable goods such as vegetables and eggs, said the National Agroecology Alliance (ANA).

Brazil ranks 28th out of 34 countries in the Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by the Italian Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition, together with the British magazine The Economist’s Intelligence Unit."Monoculture agriculture, without interaction with the ecosystems, is based heavily on imports of inputs, including oil; it degrades the environment, causes erosion and deforestation, in contrast to agriculture as it was practiced in the past, which valued soil nutrients." -- Paulo Petersen

In Latin America, Colombia (13), Argentina (18) and Mexico (22) are the best rated, according to this index based on 58 indicators that measure three variables: sustainable agriculture, nutritional challenges and food waste.

But the United States, the world’s largest producer of agricultural products, also ranks only 21st in the FSI, reflecting the same discrepancy between agriculture and sustainable food, which is also not directly related to the countries’ per capita income levels.

“The Brazilian food system is unsustainable in environmental, social and economic terms,” said Elisabetta Recine, head of the National Council for Food and Nutritional Security (Consea), an advisory body to the president of Brazil, with two-thirds of its 60 members coming from civil society.

“Production has become increasingly concentrated, as well as trade. This means food has to be transported long distances, driving up costs and increasing the consumption of durable, industrialised and less healthy food in the cities,” Recine, who teaches nutrition at the University of Brasilia, told IPS.

This is well illustrated by the four supermarkets of the Kinfuku chain in the region of Alta Floresta, in the northern part of the state of Mato Grosso, located on the southern border of the Amazon rainforest.

They sell food transported weekly by truck from the southern state of Paraná, more than 2,000 km away, owner Pedro Kinfuku told IPS at one of their stores.

Mato Grosso is the country’s largest producer of maize and soy, monoculture crops destined mainly for export or for the animal feed industry, which monopolise local lands, driving out crops for human food.

This “long cycle of production and consumption” is part of the system whose insecurity was highlighted by the truck drivers’ strike over the space of just a few days, said Recine.

A group of children eat lunch at a school in Itaboraí, 45 km from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where thanks to the National School Meals Programme (PNAE) the students in public schools eat vegetables and fresh food from local family farms. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A group of children eat lunch at a school in Itaboraí, 45 km from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where thanks to the National School Meals Programme (PNAE) the students in public schools eat vegetables and fresh food from local family farms. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This phenomenon also concentrates wealth, generates little employment and increases social inequality in the country, while environmentally it exacerbates the use of agrochemicals, she said.

Brazil, which had managed to be removed from the United Nations Hunger Map in 2014, has once again seen a rise in malnutrition and infant mortality, in the face of “budget cuts in social programmes, growing unemployment and the general impoverishment of the population,” the nutritionist lamented.

At the same time, “obesity is increasing in all age groups throughout the country, directly related to the poor quality of food and the lack of preventive actions, such as the creation of healthy food environments, with regulations that restrict certain products,” said the president of Consea.

“We have to consider the food system from the soil and the seed to post-consumption, the waste,” she said.

The “structural problem” of the mode of production, the transport, distribution and consumption of food in the world today, particularly in Brazil, is the result of “two disconnects, one between agriculture and nature and the other between production and consumption,” said agronomist Paulo Petersen, vice-president of the Brazilian Association of Agroecology.

Monoculture agriculture, “without interaction with the ecosystems, is based heavily on imports of inputs, including oil; it degrades the environment, causes erosion and deforestation, in contrast to agriculture as it was practiced in the past, which valued soil nutrients,” he said in an interview with IPS.

For Petersen, consumption is increasingly moving away from agricultural production in physical distance, and also because of the processing chain, which is generating waste and “homogenising habits of consumption of ultra-processed foods and excess sugar, sodium, fats and preservatives, leading to obesity and non-communicable diseases.”

A large line of trucks slows down traffic in Anápolis, a logistics hub in central Brazil, at an intersection, where thousands of trucks circulate daily transporting food, industrial products and supplies, in all directions in this enormous country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A large line of trucks slows down traffic in Anápolis, a logistics hub in central Brazil, at an intersection, where thousands of trucks circulate daily transporting food, industrial products and supplies, in all directions in this enormous country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

All of this, he said, has to do with climate change, the loss of biodiversity, growing health problems, the concentration of land ownership and the dominant power of agribusiness and large corporations.

“It is necessary to reorganise the food system, to change its logic, and that is the State’s obligation,” said Petersen, also executive coordinator of the non-governmental organisation Advisory Service for Alternative Agriculture Projects (ASPTA)- Family Agriculture and Agroecology, and member of the executive board of the National Agroecology Alliance (ANA) network.

Brazil launched positive actions in the food sector, such as the government’s School Meals Programme, which establishes a minimum of 30 percent of family farming products in the food offered by public schools to its students, thus improving the nutritional quality of their diet.

In addition, family farming was recognised as the source of most of the food consumed in the country, and a low-interest credit programme was created for this sector.

The problem, according to Petersen, is that this financing sometimes foments the same vices of industrial large-scale agriculture, such as monoculture and the use of agrochemicals.

There is a growing awareness of the negative aspects of agribusiness and the need for agro-ecological practices, as well as initiatives scattered throughout the country, but the dominant agricultural sector exercises its power in a way that blocks change, he said.

The bulk of agricultural credit, technical assistance, land concentrated in the hands of a few large landowners, and influence on state power all favour large-scale farmers, who also have the largest parliamentary caucus to pass “their” laws, Petersen said.

A vegetable garden in Santa Maria de Jetibá, of the 220-member Cooperative of Family Farmers of the Serrana Region, the largest supplier of vegetables and fruit to schools in the municipality of Vitoria, in the southeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A vegetable garden in Santa Maria de Jetibá, of the 220-member Cooperative of Family Farmers of the Serrana Region, the largest supplier of vegetables and fruit to schools in the municipality of Vitoria, in the southeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

In Brazil, there are 4.4 million family farms, which make up 84 percent of rural establishments and produce more than half of the food, according to official figures.

But they have little influence in the government in the face of the power of a few dozen large producers.

Food banks are also an example of good, albeit limited, actions to reduce waste and the risks of malnutrition in the most vulnerable segments of the population.

They emerged from isolated initiatives in the 1990s and were adopted as a government programme in 2016, with the creation of the Brazilian Network of Food Banks, under the coordination of the Ministry of Social Development.

In 1994, the Social Trade Service (SESC), made up of companies in the sector, also began to create food banks in its own network, which it named Mesa Brasil (Brazil Board). By the end of 2017, it had 90 units in operation in 547 cities.

That year, the network served 1.46 million people per day and distributed 40,575 tons of food.

It is the largest network of such centres in the country, but it has proven insufficient in a country of 208 million people and 5,570 cities.

Mesa Brasil makes use of food that would no longer be sold by stores, because of commercial regulations, but which is in perfect condition, and delivers it to social institutions.

“It also promotes educational actions for workers and volunteers from social organisations and collaborators from donor companies,” on food and nutritional security, according to Ana Cristina Barros, SESC’s manager of aid at the national level.

“One of our biggest difficulties is the legal obstacles that prevent food companies from making donations, which are increasingly interested in doing so,” she told IPS.

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A Natural Climate Change Adaptation Laboratory in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/natural-climate-change-adaptation-laboratory-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=natural-climate-change-adaptation-laboratory-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/natural-climate-change-adaptation-laboratory-brazil/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 23:19:23 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155880 The small pulp mill that uses native fruits that were previously discarded is a synthesis of the multiple objectives of the Adapta Sertão project, a programme created to build resilience to climate change in Brazil’s most vulnerable region. The new commercial value stimulates the conservation and cultivation of the umbú (Spondias tuberosa) and umbú-cajá (Spondias […]

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Two workers manually select umbús-cajás, in the factory of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, in Pintadas, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, while the fruit is washed. It is the slowest part of the production of fruit pulp from fruits native to the semi-arid ecoregion, in a project with only female workers. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Two workers manually select umbús-cajás, in the factory of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, in Pintadas, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, while the fruit is washed. It is the slowest part of the production of fruit pulp from fruits native to the semi-arid ecoregion, in a project with only female workers. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
PINTADAS, Brazil, May 22 2018 (IPS)

The small pulp mill that uses native fruits that were previously discarded is a synthesis of the multiple objectives of the Adapta Sertão project, a programme created to build resilience to climate change in Brazil’s most vulnerable region.

The new commercial value stimulates the conservation and cultivation of the umbú (Spondias tuberosa) and umbú-cajá (Spondias bahiensis) fruit trees of the Anacardiaceae family, putting a halt to deforestation that has already devastated half of the original vegetation of the caatinga, the semi-arid biome of the Brazilian northeast region, covering 844,000 square km.

“I sold 500 kilos of umbú this year to the Ser do Sertão Cooperative,” Adelso Lima dos Santos, a 52-year-old farmer with three children, told IPS proudly. Since he owns only one hectare of land, he harvested the fruits on neighbouring farms where they used to throw out what they could not consume.

For each tonne the cooperative, which owns the small factory, pays its members 1.50 Brazilian reals (42 cents) per kg of fruit and a little less to non-members. In the poor and inhospitable semi-arid interior of the Northeast, known as the sertão, the income is more than welcome.

“A supplier managed to sell us 3,600 kg,” the cooperative’s commercial director and factory manager, Girlene Oliveira, 40, who has two daughters, told IPS.

Pulp production also generates income for the six local women who work at the plant. It contributes to women’s empowerment, another condition for sustainable development in the face of future climate adversities, said Thais Corral, co-founder of Adapta Sertão and coordinator of the non-governmental Human Development Network (REDEH), based in Rio de Janeiro.

The pulp mill began operating in December 2016 in Pintadas, a town of 11,000 inhabitants in the interior of the state of Bahia, and its activity is expanding rapidly. In 2017, it produced 27 tonnes, a figure already reached during the first quarter of this year, when it had orders for 72 tonnes.

But its capacity to process 8,000 tonnes per day remains underutilised. It currently operates only eight days a month on average. The limitation is in sales, on the one hand, and of raw material, whose supply is seasonal and therefore requires storage in a cold chamber, which has a capacity of only 28 tons.

Girlene Oliveira, commercial director of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, monitors the fruit pulp packaging machine, with a capacity to fill a thousand one-litre containers per hour, but which is underutilised by a limitation in sales and in the storage of frozen fruit. But the initiative is still a success for family farmers from Pintadas in Bahia, in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Girlene Oliveira, commercial director of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, monitors the fruit pulp packaging machine, with a capacity to fill a thousand one-litre containers per hour, but which is underutilised by a limitation in sales and in the storage of frozen fruit. But the initiative is still a success for family farmers from Pintadas in Bahia, in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

In addition to umbú and umbú-cajá, harvested in the first quarter of the year, the factory produces pulp from other fruits, such as pineapple, mango, guava and acerola or West Indian cherry (Malpighia emarginata), available the rest of the year. Also, it has five other kinds of fruit for possible future production and is testing another 16.

The severe drought that hit the caatinga in the last six years caused some local fruits to disappear, such as the pitanga (Eugenia uniflora).

The Productive Cooperative of the Region of Piemonte de Diamantina (Coopes), whose members are all women, is another community initiative born in 2005 in Capim Grosso, 75 km from Pintadas, to process the licuri palm nut (Syagus coronate), from a palm tree in danger of going extinct.

More than 30 food and cosmetic products are made from the licuri palm nut. Its growing value is also helping to drive the revitalisation of the caatinga, vital in Adapta Sertão’s environmental and water sustainability strategies.

This programme, focused on adapting family farming to climate change, has mobilised nine cooperatives and some twenty local and national organisations over the last 12 years in the Jacuipe River basin, which encompasses 16 municipalities in the interior of the state of Bahia.

It was terminated in April with the publication of a book that tells its story, written by Dutch journalist Ineke Holtwijk, a former correspondent for Dutch media in Latin America and for IPS in her country.

Having more than doubled milk production on some of the farms assisted by the programme, winning 10 awards and introducing technical innovations to overcome the six-year drought in the semi-arid ecoregion are some of the programme’s achievements.

 Thais Corral, co-founder of the Adapta Sertão project, autographs a copy of the book that tells the story of the initiative, for Josaniel Azevedo, director of the Itaberaba Agroindustrial Cooperative. The programme "broadened our horizons," based on a vision of environmental sustainability, says the farmer in Pintadas, in the northeast Brazilian state of Bahia. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


Thais Corral, co-founder of the Adapta Sertão project, autographs a copy of the book that tells the story of the initiative, for Josaniel Azevedo, director of the Itaberaba Agroindustrial Cooperative. The programme “broadened our horizons,” based on a vision of environmental sustainability, says the farmer in Pintadas, in the northeast Brazilian state of Bahia. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Brazil’s semi-arid region covers 982,000 square km, with a population of 27 million of the country’s 208 million inhabitants. The region’s population is 38 percent rural, compared to a national average of less than 20 percent, who depend mainly on family farming.

The programme’s legacy also includes the training of 300 farming families in innovative technologies, the strengthening of cooperativism and a register of family farms to sustain production throughout at least three years of severe drought.

A focus on the long term, with adjustments and the incorporation of factors discovered along the way, was key to success, said Thais Corral about the programme, which was broken down into four phases over the last 12 years.

Starting in 2006, under the title Pintadas Solar, it tried to introduce and test solar pump irrigation, to meet the demands of women tired of transporting heavy buckets to water their gardens.

“But the solar panels and equipment were too expensive at the time,” said Florisvaldo Merces, a technician working for the programme since its inception and now an official of the municipality of Pintadas in the agricultural sector.

Problems such as salinisation of the soil because of the brackish water from the wells and the difficulty in maintaining the equipment were added to the emergence of other agricultural issues to extend assistance to small farmers and the area of intervention to other municipalities in addition to Pintadas.

Problems such as the salinisation of the soil by brackish water from the wells and difficulty in maintaining the teams were added to other agricultural issues of emergency to extend the assistance to small farmers and the area of intervention to other municipalities, in addition to Pintadas.

Credit, the production chain, cooperatives, water storage and climate change dictated other priorities and transformed the programme, including its name, which was replaced by Adapta Sertão in 2008, when the Ser do Sertão Cooperative was also created.

Florisvaldo Merces is an agricultural technician who has worked in the Adapta Sertão programme since its creation in 2006 and has specialised in water issues. Simplifying complex technologies ensures the success of the project to improve productivity and the lives of family farmers in the inhospitable Sertão, in Brazil's semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Florisvaldo Merces is an agricultural technician who has worked in the Adapta Sertão programme since its creation in 2006 and has specialised in water issues. Simplifying complex technologies ensures the success of the project to improve productivity and the lives of family farmers in the inhospitable Sertão, in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Research, conducted in partnership with universities, found that the temperature in the Jacuipe basin increased 1.75 degrees Celsius from 1962 to 2012, compared to the average global rise of 0.8 degrees Celsius, while rainfall decreased 30 percent.

The programme had to test its strategies and techniques in the midst of the longest drought in the semi-arid region’s documented history, as a formula capable of sustaining production and maintaining quality of life as climate problems worsen.

It tries to respond to the challenge with the Intelligent and Sustainable Smart Agro-climatic Module (MAIS), the model for planning, productivity improvement, mechanisation and optimisation of inputs, especially water, in which Adapta Sertão trained 100 family farmers.

The aim is to “turn farmers into entrepreneurs, who record all production costs,” said Thiago Lima, a MAIS technician in sheep-farming, who now intends to apply his knowledge to his 12-hectare farm.

“Transforming complex technologies into simple ones” is the solution, Merces told IPS.

“The promoters’ sensitivity to talking with local people, carrying out research and not coming with already prepared proposals, favouring actions in tune with local forces,” was the main quality of the programme, acknowledged Neusa Cadore, former mayor of Pintadas and now state representative for the state of Bahia.

“But there was a lack of alignment with the government. We did everything with private stake-holders, foundations, cooperatives and local authorities, always hindered by the government. Ideally, Adapta Sertão should be adopted as a public policy for climate-resilient family farming,” Corral told IPS.

The company Adapta Group, created by the other founder of the programme, Italian engineer Daniele Cesano, will seek to spread the MAIS model as a business.

But Corral disagrees with the emphasis on dairy farming, which has presented the best economic results, but which requires 18 hectares and large investments, excluding most families and women, who prefer to grow vegetables. Also, she says that not enough importance is placed on the environment and thus long-term resilience.

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Optimal Use of Water Works Miracles in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/optimal-use-water-works-miracles-brazils-semi-arid-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=optimal-use-water-works-miracles-brazils-semi-arid-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/optimal-use-water-works-miracles-brazils-semi-arid-region/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 15:49:14 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155678 Cattle ranching has been severely affected by drought in Brazi’s Northeast region, but it has not only survived but has made a comeback in the Jacuípe river basin thanks to an optimal use of water. José Antonio Borges, who owns 98 hectares of land and 30 cows in Ipirá, one of the 14 municipalities in […]

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José Antonio Borges is surrounded by the forage cactus, ready to be harvested, that he planted on his farm. It is the basis of the diet of their 30 cows, which allows them to produce 400 litres of milk per day, using an automatic milking system twice a day, in Ipirá, in the Jacuípe basin, in Brazil’s northeastern semi-arid ecoregion, where the optimal use of water is transforming family farms. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

José Antonio Borges is surrounded by the forage cactus, ready to be harvested, that he planted on his farm. It is the basis of the diet of their 30 cows, which allows them to produce 400 litres of milk per day, using an automatic milking system twice a day, in Ipirá, in the Jacuípe basin, in Brazil’s northeastern semi-arid ecoregion, where the optimal use of water is transforming family farms. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
IPIRÁ-PINTADAS, Brazil, May 8 2018 (IPS)

Cattle ranching has been severely affected by drought in Brazi’s Northeast region, but it has not only survived but has made a comeback in the Jacuípe river basin thanks to an optimal use of water.

José Antonio Borges, who owns 98 hectares of land and 30 cows in Ipirá, one of the 14 municipalities in the basin, in the northeastern state of Bahia, almost tripled his milk production over the last two years, up to 400 litres per day, without increasing his herd.

To achieve this, he was assisted by technicians from Adapta Sertão, a project promoted by a coalition of organisations under the coordination of the Human Development Network (Redeh), based in Rio de Janeiro.

“If I wake up and I don’t hear the cows mooing, I cannot live,” said Borges to emphasise his vocation that prevented him from abandoning cattle farming in the worst moments of the drought which in the last six years lashed the semi-arid ecoregion, an area of low rainfall in the interior of the Brazilian Northeast.

But his wife, Eliete Brandão Borges, did give up and moved to Ipirá, the capital city of the municipality, where she works as a seamstress. Their 13-year-old son lives in town with her, in order to study. But he does not rule out returning to the farm, “if a good project comes up, like raising chickens.”

Borges, who “feels overwhelmed after a few hours in the city,” points out as factors for the increased dairy productivity the forage cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica Mill), a species from Mexico, which he uses as a food supplement for the cattle, and the second daily milking.

“The neighbours called me crazy for planting the cactus in an intensive way,” he said. “We used to use it, but we planted it more spread out.” Today, at the age of 39, Borges is an example to be followed and receives visits from other farmers interested in learning about how he has increased his productivity.

Normaleide de Oliveira stands in front of the pond on her farm that did not even run out of water during the six years of drought suffered by Brazil's Northeast region. Water availability is an advantage of family farmers in the Jacuípe river basin, compared to other areas of the country's semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Normaleide de Oliveira stands in front of the pond on her farm that did not even run out of water during the six years of drought suffered by Brazil’s Northeast region. Water availability is an advantage of family farmers in the Jacuípe river basin, compared to other areas of the country’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

He started after being taken to visit another property that used intensive planting, in an effort to convince him, said Jocivaldo Bastos, the Adapta Sertão technician who advised him. “Actually I don’t use cacti,” Borges acknowledged when he learned about the innovative tecnique.

The thornless, drought-resistant cactus became a lifesaving source of forage for livestock during drought, and is an efficient way to store water during the dry season in the Sertão, the popular name for the driest area in the Northeast, which also covers other areas of the sparsely populated and inhospitable interior of Brazil.

Also extending through the semi-arid region is the construction of concrete tanks designed to capture rainwater, which cost 12,000 reais (3,400 dollars) and can store up to 70,000 litres a year. With this money, 0.4 hectares of cactus can be planted, equivalent to 121,000 litres of water a year, according to a study by Adapta Sertão.

But that requires attention to the details, such as fertilisers, drip irrigation, clearing brush and selecting seedlings. Borges “lost everything” from his first intensive planting of the Opuntia forage cactus.

Parched, hard-packed land without vegetation is now green and fertile thanks to farmer and livestock breeder José Antonio Borges, who regenerated the land, supported by technicians from Adapta Sertão. It is now what he refers to as "the forest" where he grows watermelons and fruit trees, in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Parched, hard-packed land without vegetation is now green and fertile thanks to farmer and livestock breeder José Antonio Borges, who regenerated the land, supported by technicians from Adapta Sertão. It is now what he refers to as “the forest” where he grows watermelons and fruit trees, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Then he received advice from agricultural technician Bastos and currently has three hectares of cactus plantations and plans to expand.

At the beginning, he was frightened by the need to increase investments, previously limited to 500 Brazilian reais (142 dollars) per month. Now he spends twelve times more, but he earns gross revenues of 13,000 reais (3,700 dollars), according to Bastos.

The second milking, in the afternoon, was also key for Normaleide de Oliveira, a 55-year-old widow, to almost double her milk production. Today it reaches between 150 and 200 liters a day with only 12 dairy cows, on her farm located 12 km from Pintadas, the city in the centre of the Jacuípe basin.

“It is the milk that provides the income I live on,” said the farmer, who owns 30 more cattle. “I used to have 60 in total, but I sold some because of the drought, which almost made me give it all up,” she said.

The Jacuípe basin is seen as privileged compared to other parts of the semi-arid Northeast. The rivers have dried up, but in the drilled wells there is abundant water that, when pumped, irrigates the crops and drinking troughs.

This concrete tank is being built on a large rock on the farm of Normaleide de Oliveira, in the municipality of Pintadas, to be used for fish farming. Stones were used to make the walls using cement, on top of a rock in order to facilitate irrigation by gravity, in an example of agricultural development that optimises the use of the scarce water in the Sertão eco-region in Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

This concrete tank is being built on a large rock on the farm of Normaleide de Oliveira, in the municipality of Pintadas, to be used for fish farming. Stones were used to make the walls using cement, on top of a rock in order to facilitate irrigation by gravity, in an example of agricultural development that optimises the use of the scarce water in the Sertão eco-region in Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Oliveira has the advantage of having two natural ponds on her property, one of which never completely dried up during the six years of drought.

Now she is building a concrete tank on a large rock near her house that she will devote to raising fish and irrigating her gardens. Its location up on a rock will allow gravity-fed irrigation for the watermelon, squash and vegetables that Oliveira, who lives with her daughter and son-in-law, plans to grow.

The pond was proposed by Jorge Nava, an expert in permaculture who has been working with Adapta Sertão since last year, contributing new techniques to optimise the use of available water.

Adapta Sertão’s aims are to diversify production and strengthen conservation, and incorporate sustainability and adaptability to climate change in family farming.

In Ipirá, Borges has a pond one metre deep and six metres in diameter, with 23,000 litres of water, surrounded by his cilantro crop. In the pond he raises 1,000 tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), a species increasingly popular in fish farming.

Nearby is what he calls “the forest” – several dozen fruit trees on sloping ground with contour furrows, where he already used to plant watermelons using drip irrigation, which now coexist with the new project.

José Antonio Borges' family members enjoy themselves in the 23,000-litre concrete pond built on his farm to irrigate the orchards and raise fish, taking advantage of the water in boreholes drilled on his land in Ipirá , in the semi-arid region of Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Courtesy of Jorge Nava.

José Antonio Borges’ family members enjoy themselves in the 23,000-litre concrete pond built on his farm to irrigate the orchards and raise fish, taking advantage of the water in boreholes drilled on his land in Ipirá , in the semi-arid region of Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Courtesy of Jorge Nava.

“In 70 days he harvested 260 watermelons” and soil that was so dried up and hardened that the tractor had to plow several times, by thin layers each time, is now covered in vegetation, said Nava. “In 40 days the dry land became green,” he stated.

Contour furrows contain the water runoff and moisten the soil evenly. If the furrows were sloping they would flood the lower part, leaving the top dry, which would ruin the irrigation, the expert in permaculture explained.

This “forest” will fulfill the function of providing fruit and regenerating the landscape as well as making better use of water, boosting soil infiltration and acting as a barrier to the wind which increases evaporation, he said.

These are small gestures of respect for natural laws, to avoid waste and to multiply the water by reusing it, making it possible to live well on small farms with less water, he said.

In critical situations it is only about keeping plants alive with millilitres of water, until the next rain ensures production, as in the case of Borges’ watermelons.

Nava attributes his mission and dedication to seeking solutions in accordance with local conditions and demands to what happened to his family, who migrated from the southern tip of Brazil to Apuí, deep in the Amazon rainforest, in 1981, when he was three years old.

To go to school sometimes he had to travel nine days from his home, through the jungle. He became aware of the risk of desertification in the Amazon. The shallow-rooted forests are highly vulnerable to drought and deforestation, he learned.

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From Mega to Micro, a Transition that Will Democratise Energy in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/mega-micro-transition-will-democratise-energy-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mega-micro-transition-will-democratise-energy-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/mega-micro-transition-will-democratise-energy-brazil/#respond Tue, 24 Apr 2018 02:32:26 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155425 An energy transition is spreading around the globe. But in Brazil it will be characterised by sharp contrasts, with large hydroelectric plants being replaced by solar microgenerators and government decisions being replaced by family and community decision-making. “The future is solar, but it will be a difficult and slow process, because electricity concessionaires will not […]

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Pre-election Tension Threatens Free Speech in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/pre-election-tension-threatens-free-speech-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pre-election-tension-threatens-free-speech-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/pre-election-tension-threatens-free-speech-brazil/#respond Sat, 14 Apr 2018 21:26:57 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155277 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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A bullet hole (right), in one of the buses hit on Mar. 27 by gunfire during a caravan for former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s campaign tour to the south of Brazil, in the tense days before his imprisonment on corruption charges. The caravan suffered attacks and harassment along its journey. Credit: AGPT / Public Photos

A bullet hole (right), in one of the buses hit on Mar. 27 by gunfire during a caravan for former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s campaign tour to the south of Brazil, in the tense days before his imprisonment on corruption charges. The caravan suffered attacks and harassment along its journey. Credit: AGPT / Public Photos

By Mario Osava
RÍO DE JANEIRO, Apr 14 2018 (IPS)

Gunshots, eggs and stones thrown, blocked roads and other forms of aggression against politicians and journalists in recent weeks generated fears that the violence will increase the uncertainty over the October elections in Brazil.

Before going to prison, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was the main target, during the caravan he led through the country’s three southern states, which suffered attacks from adversaries that culminated in gunshots against two buses on Mar. 27, without any injuries.

On the other hand, the demonstrations in support of Lula in the days before he began serving his 12-year sentence on Apr. 7 targeted journalists."The main source of aggressions against journalists since 2013 has been the State, its security forces, as well as the judiciary, with actions that restrict freedom of the press." -- Maria José Braga

In the space of a few days there were “17 cases of attacks, intimidation and curtailment of professional activity,” said the Brazilian Press Association (ABI), in an official note of protest.

The threat to freedom of expression affects journalists and politicians alike, victims of harassment in the months leading up to the official start in August of the electoral campaign for the presidential, parliamentary and regional elections.

“The tendency seen in recent years has been a reduction in violence against journalists,” acknowledged Maria José Braga, president of Brazil’s National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj).

In 2017, there were 99 cases of attacks against journalists, 38.5 percent less than in 2016, when there were 161 acts of violence, according to Fenaj’s annual report on violence against reporters.

In fact, the violence had returned to the levels seen before 2013, when the figure had climbed to 181 attacks, against 81 in the previous year. The outbreak that year coincided with massive protests, throughout the country, against poor urban public services, which turned violent towards the end.

“In 2018 we have a different political scenario, with the country in a de facto state of emergency, in which the judicial branch and part of the media have been taking part, and this may result in an increase in attacks against journalists,” Braga told IPS.

The president of Fenaj shares the view of much of the left, especially of the Workers Party (PT), founded by Lula, and which ruled the country between 2003 and 2016, that the removal of former president Dilma Rousseff two years ago amounted to a coup d’état, with the complicity of judges and the major media outlets.

“Since then, institutions and the rule of law have been subject to threats, including freedom of expression, social movements, society in general, and that is a factor leading to more violence,” said the journalist.

“The main source of aggressions against journalists since 2013 has been the State, its security forces, as well as the judiciary, with actions that restrict freedom of the press,” she said.

A "democratic vigil" held Apr. 11 by supporters of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, near the headquarters of the federal police where he has been imprisoned since Apr. 7, in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba. Some journalists who covered events in defense of the leftist leader, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges, have been victims of assaults. Credit: Ricardo Stuckert / Public Photos

A “democratic vigil” held Apr. 11 by supporters of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, near the headquarters of the federal police where he has been imprisoned since Apr. 7, in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba. Some journalists who covered events in defense of the leftist leader, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges, have been victims of assaults. Credit: Ricardo Stuckert / Public Photos

For years, the police have been the main perpetrator of such violence, accounting for 19.2 percent of the total, Fenaj’s 2017 report says.

Two journalists arrested by the Military Police, one when covering a traffic accident in Campo Grande, capital of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, and another while recording the way agents treated people suspected of harassing a woman in Vitoria, capital of the state of Espírito Santo, are examples mentioned in the report.

The second group of perpetrators of aggression are politicians, sometimes through their aides, and the third are judicial authorities, who use their power to restrict freedom of the press.

“We are now, six months before the elections, at the height of political tension,” which increases the abuses, violence and fears, said Fatima Pacheco Jordão, a sociologist who specialises in public opinion.

“The strong polarisation between the left and the right, aggravated by the great unpopularity of the government of President Michel Temer and the uncertainty with respect to the elections, accentuate the pessimism, but once it is clear who the candidates will be, and the electoral process is on track, the tension and violence will decrease,” Jordão told IPS.

In general terms, “elections contribute to freedom of expression, and reduce censorship in newspapers and newscasts,” she said. But when this is not the case, what happens is that the violence is accentuated and this can prevent the elections themselves, “which is worse for everyone,” she said.

The absence of Lula, who has become legally ineligible after his conviction was upheld on appeal, “reduces the polarisation since he exited the electoral battle at a moment of decline (of his leading role on the political scene), as his PT has been losing electoral strength for years,” she argued.

Supporters of Lula as candidate to president – about 35 percent of respondents according to the polls – “will be divided between several possible candidates, not just from the left,” when it is confirmed that the former president is out of the race, said the sociologist.

For Jordão, this confirms that Lula’s popularity is due more to his personal leadership than to a leftist idea or programme, since he is the poll favorite.

In addition, society in this country of 208 million people has shifted toward more conservative positions, as evidenced by the fact that 60 percent did not approve progressive ideas in recent polls, she said.

A change that, in her opinion, “seems natural in rich countries, such as in Europe, but not in Brazil, where we have so much inequality, violence against women and violations of rights, where the voice of society is outside the parties, which do not address their most pressing demands.”

Violence against politicians and journalists sometimes becomes lethal. One victim who shook the country was Marielle Franco, a city councilor for the leftist Socialism and Freedom Party in Rio de Janeiro, who was shot dead on Mar. 14, near the center of the city.

The apparent motive was her denunciation of crimes committed by police against poor Rio communities, although the investigations have not made progress in clarifying the murder of the emerging political leader.

“Violence tends to happen more in municipal elections than in national or state elections,” said Felipe Borba, who teaches politics at the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro and is the author of a study that identified 79 candidates killed in Brazil from 1998 to 2016.

Of them, a majority of 63 were running for the municipal councils in small cities.

This year’s elections should be less violent because the heads of the executive and legislative branches are chosen at a national and state level, but the situation “is unpredictable, given the polarisation between ideologically opposed currents, which fosters violence,” he told IPS.

“It will depend on the attitude of the more radical candidates, who can fuel animosities,” said Borba, mentioning the case of Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right candidate who ranks second in the polls, where Lula is still favorite even after being imprisoned.

Bolsonaro is a retired army captain who openly defends the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, including its torturers.

That freedom of expression is often a victim of electoral violence, as well as of police repression against political demonstrations, is reflected by the notable increase in attacks suffered by journalists in 2013 and 2016, years of massive street protests in Brazil.

The post Pre-election Tension Threatens Free Speech in Brazil appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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New Platform Will Support Youth Projects on Water and Climatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate/#respond Fri, 23 Mar 2018 22:53:41 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155014 Young people around the globe with good ideas on how to deal with water and climate challenges now have a platform to show their projects to the world and attract funding and other contributions to realise their dreams. The Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform was formally launched during the 8th World Water […]

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People participate in the launch of the Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform during the World Water Forum in Brasilia. The initiative is promoted by the Global Water Partnership and other organisations, to connect young people from around the world dedicated to social and environmental projects that promote water security and climate change solutions. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

People participate in the launch of the Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform during the World Water Forum in Brasilia. The initiative is promoted by the Global Water Partnership and other organisations, to connect young people from around the world dedicated to social and environmental projects that promote water security and climate change solutions. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Mar 23 2018 (IPS)

Young people around the globe with good ideas on how to deal with water and climate challenges now have a platform to show their projects to the world and attract funding and other contributions to realise their dreams.

The Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform was formally launched during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia with the participation of a dozen country leaders.

The aim is to connect creative young people keen on helping to solve major environmental problems, in their communities or in wider areas, with potential funders and technical allies.

The idea is to promote “love at first sight” between these young people and potential supporters, that is, to accelerate the pairing between the two parties, according to a game that illustrates the idea of digital marketing of projects, the promoters of the initiative explained.

Marly Julajuj Coj, a 19-year-old indigenous woman from Guatemala, participated along with other young people from several continents in launching the platform, promoted by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and other partners of the initiative, on Thursday Mar. 22 at Switzerland’s country pavilion at the 8th World Water Forum.

Representatives from donor agencies in Europe and Africa were also at the event, to explain the support they offer and what kind of projects they are interested in. For example, they give priority to ones that involve gender issues, said the representative of Switzerland’s development aid agency.

The young Guatemalan woman’s project seeks to build “rainwater harvesting systems, tanks made of recycled and new materials, to provide clean water for 20 families, those in greatest need in a community of 80 families,” she told IPS.

“The local rivers are polluted, we have to find alternative sources of drinking water,” said the young high school graduate who learned English with a missionary from the U.S. This is her second trip outside of Guatemala; earlier she received training in public speaking in Belgium.

Economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, together with Pierre-Marie Grondin, of the French Water Solidarity Programme (pS-Eau), which will finance water and climate projects for young people around the world. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, together with Pierre-Marie Grondin, of the French Water Solidarity Programme (pS-Eau), which will finance water and climate projects for young people around the world. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“#YWC is a very useful tool, it helps to make my project known and to seek financing,” she said.

The platform is supported by a consortium of nine organisations from various regions and is operated by a Secretariat comprising the GWP, the International Secretariat for Water and AgroParisTech.

It is open to anyone who wants to submit a project or offer support. A committee evaluates the quality of the projects and gives a stamp of approval, after which they are published in order to attract funders and technical assistance.

This process enables the young social entrepreneurs to improve their projects, share tools and meet requirements, while ensuring results for donors.

On the platform people and organisations are free to choose their preferences and interests.

The advice, training and connection with supporters offered to young people is a fundamental part of #YWC, said Vilma Chanta from El Salvador, focal point in her country of GWP Central America, and a researcher in territorial development with El Salvador’s National Development Foundation.

“Young people are an important part of change in the world, they are committed, that is why it is important to train youth leaders, to help them perhaps to formulate a theory of change that every project must have, that helps to identify where to focus their efforts,” Chanta told IPS.

Vilma Chanta, a researcher in territorial development for the non-governmental National Development Foundation of El Salvador, and focal point in that country of GWP Central America, worries about the pollution and deterioration of the Lempa river, key to the generation of energy and water consumption in the Central American nation. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Vilma Chanta, a researcher in territorial development for the non-governmental National Development Foundation of El Salvador, and focal point in that country of GWP Central America, worries about the pollution and deterioration of the Lempa river, key to the generation of energy and water consumption in the Central American nation. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

With regard to water problems in El Salvador, she mentioned the Lempa River, shared with Honduras and Guatemala, countries for which the river “is not as important as it is to us as a source of energy and water,” she said.

A drought in 2017 left cities without water for three weeks, although the worst effects occurred in rural areas where “there is water but no access to it,” she said.

“It is a limiting factor for women and girls who spend a large part of their days getting water for their households,” one of the vital gender issues in territorial development, said the young Salvadoran.

On the other side of the world, the young economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, also tries to promote rainwater harvesting and training for women, but with an emphasis on income generation and the creation of companies to achieve economic growth.

“Water is a basic resource, indispensable for everything, even to obtain an income,” she told IPS. “In Bangladesh, water shortages prevent poor girls from going to school,” and guaranteeing access to water is essential to women’s education and financial future, she added.

“#YWC connects very diverse people, and is an opportunity for exchanging ideas and sharing know-how, which is important in my country,” she said.

Marly Julajuj Coj, a young indigenous woman from Guatemala, who at the age of 19 was one of the participants in the launch of the Youth Platform for Water and Climate in Brasilia, as leader of a project that seeks to ensure drinking water for her community of 80 families by harvesting rainwater. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Marly Julajuj Coj, a young indigenous woman from Guatemala, who at the age of 19 was one of the participants in the launch of the Youth Platform for Water and Climate in Brasilia, as leader of a project that seeks to ensure drinking water for her community of 80 families by harvesting rainwater. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Jelena Krstajic, president of the Youth Water Community, based in Slovenia and active in central and eastern Europe, sees #YWC primarily as a tool to seek financial support.

It is important “because we are all volunteers,” she told IPS in reference to the professionals who participate in the organisation.

A project in her community is the clean-up of the Ishmi river, in Albania, where there is an accumulation of plastic waste. Another project is to encourage the “voice of young people in the selection of policies” so that they can participate in decisions on social inclusion in Eastern Europe.

Young people will be decisive in the face of water and climate challenges, “they have energy and are more sensitive to the issues” and will be able to do more if they are connected internationally, said Pierre-Marie Grondin, director of the Water Solidarity Programme, a network of French organisations that finance projects in the developing South, especially Africa.

“#YWC is a good idea, it disseminates new ideas, promoting dialogue and coordination,” he told IPS, speaking as a donor.

The digital platform and the decision to support young people’s capacity for innovation are the result of ties forged among several national and international organisations since the December 2015 climate summit in Paris.

At the summit – the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), which gave rise to the Paris Agreement – the youth-led White Paper on Water and Climate, based on interviews in 20 countries from all continents, was presented.

During the World Water Forum, there were several initiatives aimed at young activists in water issues. One was the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, sponsored by Sweden, which chose a Brazilian project to attend the Water Week in Stockholm, in August of this year.

Meanwhile, participants in the Brazilian National Youth Parliament for Water presented their studies and projects at the Citizen Village, venue of the Alternative World Water Forum (FAMA), a parallel event.

The World Water Forum, organised by the World Water Council and the Brazilian government, drew 10,500 delegates from 172 countries, according to the organisers. They took part in 300 thematic sessions, and an Expo that was visited, according to their estimates, by more than 85,000 people.

FAMA focused on environmental education and attracted some 3,000 people from 34 countries, mostly students, plus tens of thousands of visitors who visited the fair.

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Working Together Is Key to Meeting Water Targets by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030/#respond Thu, 22 Mar 2018 21:44:52 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154996 Mutual collaboration and coordination among the various stakeholders are tools to accelerate the actions necessary to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the 2030 Agenda, which states the need to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all. The Global Water Partnership (GWP), an international network created in 1996 to promote integrated […]

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A crowd, mainly of students, has filled the Citizen Village, the building where the new generations are educated in environmental and water issues, with cinema, facilities, toys and talks, every day during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A crowd, mainly of students, has filled the Citizen Village, the building where the new generations are educated in environmental and water issues, with cinema, facilities, toys and talks, every day during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Mar 22 2018 (IPS)

Mutual collaboration and coordination among the various stakeholders are tools to accelerate the actions necessary to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the 2030 Agenda, which states the need to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all.

The Global Water Partnership (GWP), an international network created in 1996 to promote integrated water resources management (IWRM), calls for working and thinking together as a key to fulfilling SDG number 6, of the 17 goals that make up the Agenda, agreed in 2015 by the world’s governments within the framework of the United Nations.

To this end, on Mar. 20 it launched the campaign “Act on SDG 6” in Brasilia, during an event emphasising the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships to promote water security, in the context of the Eighth World Water Forum, hosted by Brasilia Mar. 18-23.

“To integrate the different sectors and organisations at the national and regional levels, to implement solutions and improve water indicators” is what we are seeking in order to advance towards the targets, said Joshua Newton, senior GWP network officer in charge of coordinating the work of SDG 6 and global water political processes, governance and stakeholder engagement.

“We facilitate, through partnerships, the search for funds for projects, connecting governmental actors, international organisations, and leaders,” he told IPS.

The campaign is close to concluding an initial phase of monitoring indicators to identify “where we are” in relation to SDG 6, Newton explained.

The second phase, which “is about to begin” is to “design responses, how to act to meet the goals,” followed by the third, the implementation phase, which requires financing: “the most difficult part,” he said.

Nor is it easy to drum up political will, integrate human beings and sectors with different interests, reconcile different uses of water, such as for agriculture, energy and human consumption, but “we try to bring people together to address water problems,” he added.

Another difficulty arises from the diversity of conditions: “IWRM is not present in all countries and water governance varies greatly between countries, and these are things that we seek to harmonise,” concluded Newton, an expert in international relations who has been dedicated to water issues since 1995, when he was living in Argentina.

For the GWP, the 5th of the six specific targets included in SDG 6 is of particular importance, as it states the need to “implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate,” by 2030, coinciding with the mission of the network, which has more than 3,000 members worldwide.

Gladys Villarreal, in charge of the care of water basins in Panama’s Environment Ministry, believes that water unites people despite their diversity and helps them to understand each other. She believes it will not be difficult for Panama to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal, which seeks to make access to clean water and sanitation universal by 2030. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Gladys Villarreal, in charge of the care of water basins in Panama’s Environment Ministry, believes that water unites people despite their diversity and helps them to understand each other. She believes it will not be difficult for Panama to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal, which seeks to make access to clean water and sanitation universal by 2030. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The GWP is made up of governmental and intergovernmental institutions, international, non-governmental and academic organisations, companies and public service providers.

“I do not think it is difficult to reach SDG 6 in my country, we have already collected a great deal of information about our water and we started to implement IWRM in surface and underground sources,” said Gladys Villarreal, director of Hydrographic Basins at Panama’s Environment Ministry, at the launch of the GWP campaign.

In addition, “we have a 2015-2050 Water Security Plan,” with five strategic goals to guarantee water for domestic use, sanitation, healthy basins, with monitored water quality, all of which are sustainability targets, she told IPS.

But there is much to be done, she admitted. Of the 51 basins in Panama, there are organised water committees in only 14, and groundwater resources have hardly been studied. However, Villarreal pointed out that Panama has a Water Law, in force since 1965, and in the process of being updated.

Guatemala, on the other hand, does not have a specific law and has been facing water conflicts since 2016, between local communities, the government and private companies.

But “the tension is decreasing” and solutions are moving forward with technical committees oriented by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the creation of committees in micro-basins, said Álvaro Aceituno, head of the Department of Water Resources and Watersheds.

There are 38 basins in Guatemala, with numerous sub-basins and micro-basins. For the latter, community-based monitoring has begun, with complaints filed in the Ministry, in the attempt to ensure quality water for the communities, he told IPS.

The country also has a Basin Authority in the existing 38 basins, which works together with the micro-basins committees, establishing a monitoring system in the headwaters. The National Forestry Institute also works to prevent deforestation, requiring permits for logging, and protecting endemic plant species.

Chilean Aldo Palacios, who chairs GWP South America, takes part in the launch of the "Act on SDG 6" campaign by the World Water Partnership (GWP) in Brasilia, in the context of the eighth World Water Forum. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Chilean Aldo Palacios, who chairs GWP South America, takes part in the launch of the “Act on SDG 6” campaign by the World Water Partnership (GWP) in Brasilia, in the context of the eighth World Water Forum. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“In Guatemala, indigenous culture has considerable weight. In indigenous areas, forests are protected and we know that taking care of them means caring for water,” which favours agriculture, said Aceituno.

In this respect, he noted that there are communities where indigenous pressure benefits the water and the environment, but added that they also generate problems because their communities are independent “and follow their own laws.”

Villarreal and Aceituno consider the campaign beneficial for promoting actions to fulfill SDG 6. “Some countries, including Panama, seek to stand out,” and obtain incentives and support to achieve the goals, said Villarreal.

In South America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Peru are the countries that have shown the greatest progress with regard to SDG 6, said Aldo Palacios, president of GWP South America.

However, there are still major challenges. “There are cities where the drainage systems stopped working four or five decades ago, leading to heavy floods. In Chile, the loss of drinking water is close to 48 percent. We must accelerate management mechanisms, there are ideas but the answers are slow in coming,” he told IPS.

Climate change aggravated everything, with extreme weather events, such as more intense, longer droughts, excessive rainfall in short periods, and water-borne diseases.

“Many are entrenched, irreversible problems, against which reactions or attempts to adapt have fallen short. That is why we propose changing the mindset in our countries and adopting a resilience approach,” said Palacios.

That means ongoing, rather than isolated actions, with a medium to long-term – and preventive if possible – focus, with the aim of recovering or maintaining good living conditions.

As an example, he cited the actions taken by Germany and the Netherlands against the rising ocean level, which coastal cities around the world must undertake before they are flooded due to global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps.

He anticipated that resilience, at the core of IWRM, is a concept that goes beyond risk management, insofar as the risks are permanent. That, as well as the decentralisation of approaches, are ideas that the region intends to take to the GWP, as part of a reflection process.

“We are the region with the most rivers and the greatest water reserves, which is a distinctive factor to enhance, through shared leadership,” Palacios concluded.

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We Must Take Care of Nature, Because Without Rain There Is No Fresh Waterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/must-take-care-nature-without-rain-no-fresh-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=must-take-care-nature-without-rain-no-fresh-water http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/must-take-care-nature-without-rain-no-fresh-water/#respond Wed, 21 Mar 2018 16:02:37 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154931 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Water Day on Mar. 22.

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"Waters of the Planet," an installation of the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, exhibited in the Citizen’s Village at the 8th Water Forum, held in the capital of Brazil, is a large cube with satellite photos showing the Earth’s seas, rivers and lakes from space. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

"Waters of the Planet," an installation of the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, exhibited in the Citizen’s Village at the 8th Water Forum, held in the capital of Brazil, is a large cube with satellite photos showing the Earth’s seas, rivers and lakes from space. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Mar 21 2018 (IPS)

Confidence in large rivers and giant aquifers plummeted in many parts of the world, in the face of the expansion of water crises after intense and prolonged droughts in the last decade.

Water resources in the soil and subsoil do not hold up if the dry season lasts longer than usual for several years, as seen in several parts of Brazil and in other countries such as India, South Africa and Australia.

Brasilia, which hosts the 8th World Water Forum on Mar. 18-23, is a prime example, because no one could have imagined that the Brazilian capital, nicknamed the “birthplace of the waters” for its three large basins, would have to endure water rationing since early 2017.

“High levels of population growth, scarce investment in infrastructure and three years of below-average rainfall caused a water crisis,” said the governor of the Federal District, Rodrigo Rollemberg, at the official opening of the Forum, on Mar. 19, before highlighting works carried out by his government to ensure supply in the near future.

“Rain is the source of fresh water, sometimes moisture in the air is overlooked, because it’s not visible to the eye,” said Gerard Moss, a pilot who from 2007 to 2015 conducted the Flying Rivers project, which studied the air currents that carry water vapour through the Amazon basin.

“It is essential to maintain the rains and forests are indispensable in this sense, helping the moisture from the ocean to reach the interior of the continent. The ocean water would not travel 2,500 or 3,000 km to produce the rains that allow estate owners in Mato Grosso (in east-central Brazil) to produce two or three harvests a year,” he told IPS.

Moss’s research, which identified “flying rivers” in the Amazon rainforest that supplied several cities in Brazil, was discontinued, but it serves as a tool for the environmental education of children and adults, promoted by his wife Margi Moss, an initiative that will be moved to Europe.

Knowledge of the phenomenon of humid air currents that carry water to the rainforest provides a further argument to the theme adopted by UN-Water this year for World Water Day, which is celebrated on Mar. 22: “Nature for Water”.

UN-Water says nature-based solutions are the answer to many problems related to water, such as droughts and floods that are alternating with increasing frequency around the world, and to pollution.

The 8th World Water Forum began on Monday, Mar. 19, in the Ulysses Guimarães Convention Centre in the capital of Brazil. Credit: EBC

The 8th World Water Forum began on Monday, Mar. 19, in the Ulysses Guimarães Convention Centre in the capital of Brazil. Credit: EBC

Reforesting and conserving forests, restoring wetlands and reconnecting rivers with floodplains are some of its recommendations.

It’s about “not reinventing the wheel to deal with extreme weather events,” Glauco Kimura, a World Water Forum consultant, said regarding the campaign. “There is natural infrastructure, such as mangroves and other ecosystems, that help curb the impacts of hurricanes and excess rainfall,” he told IPS.

“Without forests around the springs and aquifers, there is less water, as discovered by São Paulo,” which was hit by severe shortages in 2014 and 2015, Kimura said.

To coexist with drought, the consultant recommended learning from the inhabitants of Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, who have built tanks to collect and store rainwater to get them through the dry season. “In central and southern Brazil that culture does not exist,” he lamented.

During the drought that has lasted since 2012 in the Northeast, there has been no massive exodus of desperate people to cities to the south, where they even looted shops during earlier, less severe, droughts.

This is largely due to social programmes such as Bolsa Familia and pensions for workers and disabled people, but also to the more than one million water tanks built mainly by the Articulação no Semi-Árido Brasileiro (roughly, Networking in Brazil’s Semiarid Region – ASA), a movement of some 3,000 social organisations working on behalf of rural families vulnerable to drought.

Another example of nature-based solutions is the Cultivating Good Water Programme, promoted by Itaipú Binacional, the company that operates the second largest hydroelectric plant in the world (in terms of installed capacity), shared by Brazil and Paraguay on the Paraná River.

Some 23 million trees were planted, restoring 1,322 km of riverbank forests, and 30,000 hectares of land received protection, on the Brazilian side, said Newton Kaminski, director of coordination in Itaipu.

Protests against the governor of the Federal District, Rodrigo Rollemberg, accused of being responsible for water rationing in Brasilia. The water crisis broke out after he took office in 2014, but it was an inherited problem, which now resonates in the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in the capital of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Protests against the governor of the Federal District, Rodrigo Rollemberg, accused of being responsible for water rationing in Brasilia. The water crisis broke out after he took office in 2014, but it was an inherited problem, which now resonates in the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in the capital of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“The key was the river basin management, with integrated actions on all fronts, not just restoration of water sources and groundwater recharge areas. Reforestation without conservation of the soil does not bring about major results. Also necessary are social participation, education, and agriculture that does not deteriorate the soil,” Kaminsky told IPS.

The president of Cape Verde, Jorge Carlos Fonseca, stressed in his speech before nine other government leaders participating in the opening of the World Water Forum that learning to “live in symbiotic harmony with nature” was fundamental to overcoming the hunger and thirst suffered by his people in recent years because of drought.

“Preserving nature and making rational use of the resources that it provides us, changing the relation of human beings with nature,” is the lesson learned from this experience, he said. “We broke the dry season-hunger tandem,” he said.

Sea water desalination and rainwater collection contributed to the improvement of the water situation, and the goal is to ensure 90 liters per person per day, below the 110 liters recommended by the United Nations.

Reforesting and conserving recharge areas and combating the degradation of soil due to change in use are the recommendations of Fabiola Tábora, executive secretary of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) in Central America.

Droughts in Central America have a worse impact along the Pacific west coast, which concentrates 70 percent of the sub-region’s population and is known as “the dry corridor”. That hurts food security and hydropower generation, which accounts for half of the national energy supply, she told IPS.

Another positive experience was the recovery of the La Poza micro-basin, in the southwest of El Salvador, involving broad community participation in integrated management, Tábora mentioned.

In Costa Rica and Guatemala, she highlighted the work with private companies and the government to generate environmental funds, which are invested in the management and conservation of watersheds.

These were cited as solutions in response to numerous references to world tragedies during the initial sessions of the 8th World Water Forum: nearly 700 million people without access to water in the world, two billion people drinking contaminated water, 3.5 billion without sanitation, a thousand children dying a day because of poor water quality and projections that the situation will worsen in the future.

The government leaders that were present followed the World Water Forum theme “Sharing Water”,by making continuous calls for cooperation and exchange of knowledge and experiences, since 40 percent of the world’s population depends on transboundary waters.

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Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Water Day on Mar. 22.

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Women Lead the Fight for Housing in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/women-lead-fight-housing-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-lead-fight-housing-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/women-lead-fight-housing-brazil/#respond Wed, 07 Mar 2018 18:24:35 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154687 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, which this year has as a theme: “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women's lives.”

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Cheila Patricia Souza, who participated in the São João 588 Occupation of an old hotel converted into housing for 80 families, stands in front of a collage of photos of the protagonists of the struggle for a home of their own, in the centre of São Paulo, Brazil. As in similar battles, most of the people involved were women. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Cheila Patricia Souza, who participated in the São João 588 Occupation of an old hotel converted into housing for 80 families, stands in front of a collage of photos of the protagonists of the struggle for a home of their own, in the centre of São Paulo, Brazil. As in similar battles, most of the people involved were women. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
RÍO DE JANEIRO/SÃO PAULO, Mar 7 2018 (IPS)

“Here we empower women and we do not tolerate domestic violence, which we treat as our own, not as an intra-family, issue,” says Lurdinha Lopes, a leader of the squatting movement in Brazil.

She emphasises the rules of the Charter of Principles governing the Manoel Congo Occupation, through which decent housing was secured for 42 poor families, in the heart of the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Other rules encourage children to stay in school and prohibit drugs and alcoholic beverages in the hallways and common areas of the 10-story occupied building, she told IPS at the site. The more than 120 residents include 27 children.

Women make up the immense majority and “about 90 percent of the owners” of the apartments in the building, which was a squat when it was occupied in 2007 by the National Housing Struggle Movement (MNLM).

“Some of the women were escaping abuse from their ex-partners,” others have gone back to school, said Lopes, ahead of International Women’s Day, on Mar. 8, given the theme this year by UN Women: “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.”

The squatting movement in Rio de Janeiro is less well-known than the one in São Paulo. They occupy abandoned buildings, arguing that the Brazilian constitution of 1988 stipulates that all property must fulfill a social function.

“Rio de Janeiro has a tradition of squatting, but the occupations are not very visible because they occur outside the city centre,” said Lopes, local coordinator of the MNLM, most of whose activists are women.

The Manoel Congo Occupation, named in honour of the leader of a black slave rebellion in 1838, is a milestone for its success in settling poor families in a key central part of the city. The building is right next to the city council, and just 30 metres from Cinelândia, the popular name of a major public square where the largest political demonstrations are held in the centre of Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s a miracle to win a place in the capital’s central corridor,” said Elizete Napoleão, a member of the MNLM’s national leadership and one of the heads of the movement in Rio.

The building originally belonged to the National Social Security Institute (INSS).

The 42 apartments have been renovated and have all the necessary amenities. All that remains is to rebuild the ground floor, which Lopes believes will be ready “in a month or a month and a half.”

 Elizete Napoleão (L) and Lurdinha Lopes, coordinators of the National Housing Struggle Movement (MNLM), lead the Manoel Congo Occupation, which provided a home for 42 poor families in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS


Elizete Napoleão (L) and Lurdinha Lopes, coordinators of the National Housing Struggle Movement (MNLM), lead the Manoel Congo Occupation, which provided a home for 42 poor families in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

It is the result of a long battle that included numerous street marches, invasions of the Caixa Econômica Federal – a state bank that is an agent of federal government social policy – and occupations of the INSS offices.

After occupying the property, resisting pressure and eviction orders, and winning ownership for social housing purposes, the movement finally obtained financing to reform the building and adapt it for housing.

In 2007, the political scenario was favourable. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, of the leftist Workers’ Party, was beginning his second consecutive term and two years later he would launch the “My House My Life” programme, a new attempt to reduce the housing deficit in Brazil, currently estimated at six million units.

Finding alternatives in vacant buildings in the centre or central neighborhoods of large cities is the approach taken by the MNLM and similar movements.

“In the port area and the centre of Rio de Janeiro there are two or three hundred unoccupied buildings,” Napoleão told IPS.

In the city centre there is access to services, schools, hospitals, jobs and the best places for working as street vendors, said Lopes.

Meanwhile, neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, where the poor are generally forced to move, are controlled by drug traffickers and militias – armed bands led by former police officers who control services and demand monthly “protection” payments by merchants.

Women also lead the struggle for housing in São Paulo

Repopulating the centre helps to revitalise run-down historic districts in the big cities of Brazil, said Antonia Ferreira Nascimento, a coordinator of the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) in São Paulo.

Her group occupied the old Columbia Hotel in 2010, on Avenida São João, a key reference point in Brazil’s largest city. Of the 80 families living in the hotel, “70 percent are headed by women,” estimated Ferreira, a married mother of three who has been involved in the struggle for housing for homeless families for 24 years.

“Our goal is not just housing itself, but to denounce the housing deficit, demand public policies, ensure rights, health and education for everyone,” she told IPS during a visit to the building, explaining her organisation’s struggle for urban reform.

The facade of the building occupied by 42 homeless families since 2007 in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to low-cost housing, its residents celebrate having escaped from the poor outlying neighbourhoods that are at the mercy of the violence of drug trafficking and vigilante gangs of former or off-duty police. Now they have access to public services, schools and better jobs. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The facade of the building occupied by 42 homeless families since 2007 in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to low-cost housing, its residents celebrate having escaped from the poor outlying neighbourhoods that are at the mercy of the violence of drug trafficking and vigilante gangs of former or off-duty police. Now they have access to public services, schools and better jobs. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

She estimates that the centre of São Paulo has 20,000 available housing units that have been empty for years and can thus be expropriated by the public authorities to serve “the social interest” of offering housing to those who need it.

Nazaré Brasil, a painter, promotes cultural life in the new community. Her unit is an example of how to adapt a simple hotel room into a comfortable apartment where she and her elderly mother live.

At her initiative, the squat receives artists and activists who stay for a few weeks to learn about the experience and, eventually, reflect it in art or articles.

A larger-scale and more complicated case is the so-called Mauá Occupation, in a hotel near the Luz railway station, where 237 families lived for 10 years under threat of eviction, until they were finally granted permission to live there in November 2017.

The city government agreed with the former owner to purchase the six-story building which has three U-shaped wings, for the families squatting there. The struggle was headed by Ivanete Araujo, of the Movement for Housing in the Struggle for Justice (MMLJ).

There are dozens of activist groups in São Paulo, a good part of them assembled in the Front for Housing Struggles (FLM), which launched an offensive in October 2017, when 620 homeless families occupied eight buildings in and around São Paulo.

Many of the leaders at the forefront of the movement are women, who are the main victims of the housing deficit and the main interested parties in public sector housing policies.

Felicia Mendes, an activist for 40 years, coordinates the FLM on the south side of São Paulo.

She is currently leading the struggle to obtain land to settle 868 families living in precarious conditions in the so-called Parque do Engenho Occupation, actually a wooden shack camp in Capão Redondo, a neighbourhood of almost 300,000 people at the southern end of the city of São Paulo.

Mendes obtained housing in a previous occupation, of Chácara do Conde, also in the south, but closer to the city centre than Capão Redondo.

“In addition to housing, people need to be offered a livelihood,” said the activist who “ran away from home at age 17,” lived in several Brazilian states, had “the privilege of studying theatre” and lost her husband because of her dedication to the struggle for housing, but remains committed to the cause of the homeless.

The post Women Lead the Fight for Housing in Brazil appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, which this year has as a theme: “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women's lives.”

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Wars, Crises and Catastrophes Drive Immigration to Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/wars-crises-catastrophes-drive-immigration-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wars-crises-catastrophes-drive-immigration-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/wars-crises-catastrophes-drive-immigration-brazil/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 00:13:58 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154125 The war in Angola, the earthquake in Haiti, Venezuela’s political crisis and shortages and the political repression in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the main driving factors behind the recent waves of immigration to Brazil. The largest and most populous Latin American country is no longer the major recipient of immigrants that it […]

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Haitian cultural producer Bob Montinard and his French wife, Melanie, are seen at the Haitian food stand they run at the monthly refugee food fair in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, where the couple and their two children have been living since 2010 and where they created Mawon, an organisation dedicated to helping immigrants. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Haitian cultural producer Bob Montinard and his French wife, Melanie, are seen at the Haitian food stand they run at the monthly refugee food fair in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, where the couple and their two children have been living since 2010 and where they created Mawon, an organisation dedicated to helping immigrants. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 2 2018 (IPS)

The war in Angola, the earthquake in Haiti, Venezuela’s political crisis and shortages and the political repression in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the main driving factors behind the recent waves of immigration to Brazil.

The largest and most populous Latin American country is no longer the major recipient of immigrants that it was until the mid-twentieth century, which gave it its well-known ethnic and cultural diversity, with large European, Arab and Asian inflows.

Brazil, with a current population of 208 million inhabitants, had only 713,568 foreign residents in 2015, equivalent to just 0.3 percent of its population at that time, according to the World Migration Report 2018 published in December by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Almost nothing compared to Argentina and Venezuela, where immigrants represent 4.5 and 4.8 percent of the population, respectively, IOM Brazil project coordinator Marcelo Torelly told IPS.

But Brazil again became an attractive destination this century, especially in the current decade, when the number of foreign-born inhabitants grew 20 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to the IOM.

“The main flow of immigration is now South-South from Haiti, Africa and Asia, not the flows from bordering nations, and surpassing those from the North,” academic Leonardo Cavalcanti, scientific coordinator of the Observatory of International Migration (OBMigra), a joint studies group of the Ministry of Labour and the University of Brasilia, told IPS.

There was an upsurge after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which claimed more than 220,000 lives, displaced 1.5 million people and destroyed the local economy.

Tens of thousands of Haitians sought a chance to rebuild their lives in Brazil, making up the largest foreign group in the formal labour market since 2013.

Brazil already had close relations with Haiti prior to the earthquake. In addition to sending thousands of soldiers and being in charge of the military command of the multinational United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, between 2004 and 2017, it also carried out social projects in the Caribbean island nation.

Among the Brazilians killed in the earthquake was Zilda Arns, who brought to Haiti the experience of the Pastoral Care of Children, a Catholic organisation that she founded, and which was instrumental in reducing child mortality in Brazil.

Bob Montinard, a 42-year-old Haitian, was working in Port-au-Prince on disarmament, conflict mediation and reintegration projects for juvenile offenders after their release, promoted by the U.N. and the Brazilian non-governmental organisation Viva Río, when the earthquake destroyed his house and his left leg was broken as debris fell.

Worried about the malnutrition of their children – including their unborn baby - due to food shortages in their country, this Venezuelan woman - who asked to preserve her anonymity – and her husband decided to migrate to Brazil. They sold their home to finance their trip to Rio de Janeiro, where she received excellent healthcare in childbirth, her husband has already found work, and the children are impressed with the number of playgrounds. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Worried about the malnutrition of their children – including their unborn baby – due to food shortages in their country, this Venezuelan woman – who asked to preserve her anonymity – and her husband decided to migrate to Brazil. They sold their home to finance their trip to Rio de Janeiro, where she received excellent healthcare in childbirth, her husband has already found work, and the children are impressed with the number of playgrounds. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Surgeries in France and the need for ongoing physiotherapy made him decide to move to Río de Janeiro, where he has lived since 2010 with his French wife and their children aged eight and nine, as a cultural producer and activist.

Last year he founded an organisation called Mawon, which in the Haitian Creole language means chestnut colour but was also the name given to black slaves who fled to freedom, like the “quilombolas” in Brazil.

“Mawon is neither black nor white, it is Creole, meaning escape and now migration, diversity, mixture, and against racism,” defined Montinard, explaining that the organisation is active in social issues, welcoming immigrants and helping them get settled in Brazil, and also has a business side.

“Migrants bring their culture, their food and their music. It is what they produce, share and sell in the destination country. Everyone wins: immigrants get an income, while they offer enriching knowledge for all,” he told IPS.

Cultural production is the best way to integrate immigrants, especially in Rio de Janeiro, he said while frying typical Haitian plantain snacks at a food stand.

Aryadne Bittencourt is legal protection agent for refugees in Caritas in Rio de Janeiro, a Catholic organisation that assists some 150 foreigners per week, to whom it provides a small financial aid stipend, job training and Portuguese language courses, to help them survive and integrate in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Aryadne Bittencourt is legal protection agent for refugees in Caritas in Rio de Janeiro, a Catholic organisation that assists some 150 foreigners per week, to whom it provides a small financial aid stipend, job training and Portuguese language courses, to help them survive and integrate in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

He was at the refugee food fair, held monthly in Botafogo, a Río de Janeiro neighbourhood, with support from the local Anglican church, which provides outdoor patios, from the Catholic organisation Caritas, and from the Local Board, a group that connects producers and consumers, to offer healthy meals at fair prices.

In recent years there has also been an increased influx of Africans, such as Congolese and Senegalese, as well as Syrians, while more recently there has been an inflow of Venezuelans, all fleeing poverty or violence.

In the past, the largest number of African immigrants came from Angola, a country that shares the Portuguese language, fleeing from the civil war that ended in 2002 after 27 years of conflict.

There are also economic reasons behind the shift in immigration flows, since the 2008 international financial crisis weakened the appeal of the United States and Europe, while Brazil’s booming growth offered many employment opportunities, said Cavalcanti, who is also a graduate studies professor at the University of Brasilia.

However, that scenario changed when Brazil fell into recession in 2015, and employment fell, which reduced the flow of immigrants, except for Africans. It also failed to curb the wave of Venezuelans, who, sometimes hungry, cross the border into the state of Roraima.

Garcia Malunza, 25, together with her year and a half old daughter, fled the war in Angola and took refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which she left in 2006 to migrate to Brazil, "for personal reasons." She sells African dresses and fabrics at the refugee fair held monthly in the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Botafogo. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Garcia Malunza, 25, together with her year and a half old daughter, fled the war in Angola and took refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which she left in 2006 to migrate to Brazil, “for personal reasons.” She sells African dresses and fabrics at the refugee fair held monthly in the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Botafogo. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

This was the case of the couple who, with two young children and with her pregnant, sold their house in Venezuela to travel overland to Roraima, and from there by plane to Río de Janeiro, where they were assisted by Caritas, which helps refugees and migrants in several Brazilian cities.

“We decided to leave because I didn’t have the food or vitamins to prevent my baby from being undernourished, and the children were only eating cassava and sardines. Our business went bankrupt because of inflation and we suffered threats because we were not supporters of the government,” said the woman, who preferred to remain unidentified because they still have family in Venezuela.

“I do not see any crisis in Brazil, nothing compared to what we experienced in Venezuela,” she said, praising the good treatment she received during her daughter’s birth, the possibility of freely buying enough food and “of living without fear.”

Initially they received aid from Caritas, equivalent to 95 dollars a month for a few months, and Portuguese language courses. With her husband employed in a hotel, she hopes to “settle down and provide a decent life for our children,” who love the many playgrounds and beaches that they were unable to enjoy in their country.

The IOM, which only opened its office in Brasilia in 2016, opened another one in 2017 in the capital of Roraima, Boa Vista, in the face of the humanitarian emergency situation arising from the mass flight of Venezuelans.

Its Displacement Tracking Matrix platform began to be used in that northern state in January, to help the Brazilian authorities manage the influx, with clear data on the immigrants, Torelly reported.

Of the 33,865 refugee claims in Brazil last year, 52.7 percent were filed by Venezuelans.

Refuge for political or humanitarian reasons offers a path to legal residency in Brazil. It has been the means of entry for about one-third of foreigners in recent years. But few applications are approved.

The National Committee for Refugees, the interministerial body responsible for the approvals, only granted refuge to a little over 9,000 people, and has more than 55,000 pending applications, according to Aryadne Bittencourt, legal protection agent for Caritas Rio refugees.

A new law, passed in 2017, aims to facilitate immigration and refugee status, but the way it is being regulated would tend to continue imposing obstacles, as does the red tape, she lamented.

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Expansion of Soy Resurrects Key Railway Line in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/expansion-soy-resurrects-key-railway-line-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=expansion-soy-resurrects-key-railway-line-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/expansion-soy-resurrects-key-railway-line-brazil/#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 21:44:44 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153893 The railroad can contribute to the economy, making transportation cheaper, but it is unlikely to foment equitable development in and of itself, apart from facing complex construction obstacles in countries like Brazil. The North-South Railway (FNS) is an excellent example. Thirty years after the start of its construction and three years after the central stretch […]

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A train and biofuel storage tanks seen in the yard of the North-South Railway in Porto Nacional, final point of the stretch in operation since 2013, which is using only half of its capacity, most of it to carry soybeans and by-products for export. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A train and biofuel storage tanks seen in the yard of the North-South Railway in Porto Nacional, final point of the stretch in operation since 2013, which is using only half of its capacity, most of it to carry soybeans and by-products for export. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
PORTO NACIONAL, Brazil, Jan 16 2018 (IPS)

The railroad can contribute to the economy, making transportation cheaper, but it is unlikely to foment equitable development in and of itself, apart from facing complex construction obstacles in countries like Brazil.

The North-South Railway (FNS) is an excellent example. Thirty years after the start of its construction and three years after the central stretch began to operate, its viability is uncertain, even though it runs across an area of expanding soy production, which requires large-scale logistics to export.

“It only strengthens agribusiness, it offers nothing to family farms but environmental impacts,” said Messias Vieira Barbosa, one of the coordinators of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) in Tocantins, a state in north-central Brazil, crossed from end to end by the FNS.

Nor does it benefit the population in general, since it does not provide the passenger transport demanded by a movement to that end, said the activist, a geographer with postgraduate studies on land reform.

Tocantins is a new agricultural frontier, where soy accelerates the concentration of land in the hands of a few landowners, in a process that will intensify with the railway, whose primary function is to transport grains to the northern port of Itaqui to be exported across the Atlantic Ocean.

But even those who benefit directly complain about this new means of transport.

“The freight is still expensive, farmers are not happy because it has not brought down their costs,” complained Mauricio Buffon, president of the Association of Soy and Corn Producers of the State of Tocantins (Aprosoja).

A sea of soy is seen near the city of Porto Nacional, on the right bank of the Tocantins River. The expansion of soy in Tocantins resurrected the North-South Railway, designed in the 1980s with the abstract objective of integrating railway lines east to west, crossing the centre of Brazil, which had little production at that time. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A sea of soy is seen near the city of Porto Nacional, on the right bank of the Tocantins River. The expansion of soy in Tocantins resurrected the North-South Railway, designed in the 1980s with the abstract objective of integrating railway lines east to west, crossing the centre of Brazil, which had little production at that time. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“It is necessary to end the monopoly” of the concessionaire that operates the railway, said the farmer, who moved eight years ago to the city of Porto Nacional from Mato Grosso, the neighbouring state to the west, that produces the most soy and corn in Brazil.

“I came here because the land is cheaper,” he explained. Despite this, Tocantins is not producing soy at lower final prices than Mato Grosso, and the railway did not help in that, he lamented.

Modifying the existing model or making it more flexible, opening the rails to independent logistics operators, is necessary to boost rail transport in Brazil, currently limited to 25 percent of total cargo, and even to reactivate lines that are now abandoned because the companies that control them are not interested in using them.

For the North-South railway, change is indispensable because it is a rail line designed as a “backbone” of the networks in the centre of the country, depending on other lines to deliver their cargo to the port.

“From the middle of nowhere to nowhere” would be its route, according to the sarcastic reaction by experts and the press to the announcement of the project by then president José Sarney in 1986.

At that time the states that it crossed, Maranhão, Tocantins and Goiás, did not have production levels to justify a railway in any foreseeable future. Soy was a crop almost unknown in those territories.

Despite everything, construction began in 1987 and then faltered, with lengthy interruptions, allegations of corruption and decay of stretches already built. But it became a reality along two stretches that total 1,574 km.

It seemed destined to become another white elephant among the many megaprojects that have failed in the last ten years in Brazil, but it started to make sense with the agricultural boom, led by soy, in Tocantins and neighbouring states, such as Bahia, Goiás and Maranhão.

In 1988, Tocantins produced only 47,000 tons of soy, according to the National Supply Company (CONAB) under the Ministry of Agriculture. Twenty years later, by 2008, it climbed to 911,000 tons, and this year the total reached 2.82 million tons.

This is little compared to the 30.5 million tons produced in Mato Grosso, whose exports are transported by truck traveling about 2,000 km to Santos Port, to the southeast, or just over 1,000 km north to Miritituba, a river port from where they continue by waterway to the Atlantic Ocean.

“The current demand (in Tocantins) still does not make the railway financially viable,” but having that infrastructure promotes new productive investments; it depends on how it is managed, said Lilian Bracarense, a professor at the Federal University of Tocantins (UFT) who has a PhD in transport.

Milton Cavichioli Junior, business manager of Granol’s industrial plant in Porto Nacional, estimates the savings made possible with the FNS at 20 percent. That is why the company exports soy bran by train and uses trucks only when there is an express delivery.

Soy producer Elio Rossato, who together with two brothers, all from the extreme south of Brazil, grow the crop on more than 6,000 hectares in Tocantins, after 15 years in the state of Bahia, where the lack of electricity and roads frustrated their goals. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Soy producer Elio Rossato, who together with two brothers, all from the extreme south of Brazil, grow the crop on more than 6,000 hectares in Tocantins, after 15 years in the state of Bahia, where the lack of electricity and roads frustrated their goals. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Granol can be an important user of the FNS because it has another plant in Anapolis, next to the rails, and demands double-track railway, since it buys grains and sells bran and biodiesel, he said.

The logistics in Porto Nacional have an additional cost for those who cross the Tocantins River to transport their products to the railway on the left bank.

The bridge built in 1979 withstands only 30 tons. Today’s large trucks, which carry more than twice that weight, have to go over a sturdier bridge in Palmas, the capital of Tocantins, 60 km away.

“A new bridge will be built in 2018 and will be completed in 1,000 days,” said Olimpio Mascarenhas, secretary of Production and Development in the Porto Nacional city government.

“What increases costs is not the distance, but crossing Palmas in limited hours and at the risk of fines,” complained Elio Rossato, who together with two brothers has grown more than 6,000 hectares of soy on lands that they own or lease, 20 km from the city of Porto Nacional, for the past five years.

The brothers, who migrated from the extreme south of Brazil, lived for 15 years in the state of Bahia, east of Tocantins. “We used to suffer there, without roads or electricity; this is the best place in the world,” he said, praising the roads and the railroad that are now available.

But he pointed out obstacles to growing soy in the low-lying state of Tocantins, about 260 m above sea level in average, which is less than the ideal altitude that soy needs, and the presence of nematodes or roundworms, a disease still without proven remedy.

Solutions may be on the way, as five agricultural research companies are carrying out studies in Porto Nacional and will be able to overcome these problems and diversify production, especially of fruit, he said.

And according to Mascarenhas, the future of the municipality is promising, because it has a great deal of land for agricultural expansion, water to irrigate three crops a year, people trained by three local universities and ideal logistics, with railways, an airport and roads within a radius of 60 km.

But Tocantins will not be “another Mato Grosso”, where soy dominated the countryside, displacing peasants and food production. “Here family agriculture is still resisting: 520 agrarian settlements were created with 28,448 families, from 1987 to 2015,” said Messias Barbosa.

“It depends on public policies to diversify the economy, which are still timid,” argued Thiago de Oliveira, who has a PhD in Regional Development from the UFT. He pointed out that the Belém-Brasilia highway, inaugurated in 1960, dictated the direction taken by Tocantins, with landowners taking over land and displacing peasants to the cities.

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Tocantins, a River of Many Dams in Central Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/tocantins-river-many-dams-central-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tocantins-river-many-dams-central-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/tocantins-river-many-dams-central-brazil/#respond Fri, 12 Jan 2018 02:12:26 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153844 Tocantins, the newest of Brazil’s 26 states, which was created in 1988 to seek its own paths to development in central Brazil, fell into the common plight of expanding borders, based on soy and hydroelectricity. The area owes its name to a river that crosses the state from south to north, but which has been […]

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Access stairway to the Tocantins River in the central Brazilian state of Tocantins, which no longer has flowing water since it was dammed to generate electricity, mostly to be used in other parts of the country, and which contributes very little to local development. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Access stairway to the Tocantins River in the central Brazilian state of Tocantins, which no longer has flowing water since it was dammed to generate electricity, mostly to be used in other parts of the country, and which contributes very little to local development. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
PALMAS and PORTO NACIONAL, Brazil, Jan 12 2018 (IPS)

Tocantins, the newest of Brazil’s 26 states, which was created in 1988 to seek its own paths to development in central Brazil, fell into the common plight of expanding borders, based on soy and hydroelectricity.

The area owes its name to a river that crosses the state from south to north, but which has been converted into a sequence of dams to generate electricity, almost entirely for other states. With no industries and with a population of just 1.5 million, consumption in this state is very limited.

“The lake is beautiful, but it left us without the tourism potential of the river and the electricity is more expensive for us than elsewhere,” complained journalist and writer Edivaldo Rodrigues, editor-in-chief of the newspaper O Paralelo 13, which he founded in 1987 in Porto Nacional.

The Lajeado hydroelectric power plant, with a capacity of 902.5 megawatts and which is officially named after former member of parliament Luis Eduardo Magalhães, who died in 1998, submerged beaches, crops and houses with its 630 square km reservoir, along a 170-km stretch of the Tocantins river.

“We had beaches in the dry season, islands of white sand that attracted many tourists”, and it was all lost when the water level rose, Rodrigues lamented, at his home in the city’s historical district, a few metres from the shore of the lake.

The journalist, who is the author of 12 books, chronicles, memoirs and novels, is a privileged witness to the transformations in Tocantins, especially in Porto Nacional, the cultural cradle of the state, with a population of about 53,000 people.

His historical novels show the violence of old landowners, the “colonels” appointed by the National Guard, a paramilitary militia that was disbanded in 1922, who dominated the region of Tocantins, as well as the advance in education brought by Dominican priests who came from France in 1886 to spread Catholicism from their base in Porto Nacional.

“They brought knowledge from Europe, they created schools, turning Porto Nacional into a cultural centre, and today a university town, with three universities and students from all over the country,” said the journalist who studied Communication and History in Goiania, capital of the neighboring state of Goiás.

Edivaldo Rodrigues, editor-in-chief of the newspaper O Paralelo 13, from Porto Nacional, a cultural and university centre in central Brazil with a population of 53,000 located on the right bank of the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Edivaldo Rodrigues, editor-in-chief of the newspaper O Paralelo 13, from Porto Nacional, a cultural and university centre in central Brazil with a population of 53,000 located on the right bank of the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The river, which was part and parcel of the city, more than doubled in width when it became a lake, but now it is farther away from the population. Now there are ravines between the coastal avenue and where the water starts, accessed only through two stairways.

Some old families from the city were resettled away from the shore of the lake and indemnified, but most of the displaced were peasant farmers who lived on the other side, on the left bank, where the reservoir was extended the most across the plain.

Anesia Marques Fernandes, 59, is one of those victims.

“We lost the river, the beaches, the tourists, the nearby fish and the fertile lands which we sowed in the dry season,” recalled the peasant farmer, who was resettled along with her mother 21 km from the river in 2000, before the reservoir was filled the following year.

“My mother is the one who suffered the most and still suffers today, at 80 years of age,” after having raised her five children on her own in the flooded rural community, Carreira, because her husband died when she was pregnant with their fifth child, Fernandes said.

In the Flor de la Sierra Resettlement community, home to 49 displaced families, the four hectares of land that were given to them are not even a tenth of what they had before, she said. “But the houses are better,” she acknowledged.

The most important thing, however, was community life, the solidarity among “neighbours who helped each other, shared the meat of a butchered cow. We were one big family that was broken up,” she lamented. In the resettlement community there are only three families from her old village.

Bernardete Batista de Araujo stands in front of the house where she was relocated in Palmas, together with others displaced by the Lajeado hydroelectric dam in central Brazil. The high walls and a street muddy because of the rain make her miss Vila Canela, her old village on an island that no longer exists on the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Bernardete Batista de Araujo stands in front of the house where she was relocated in Palmas, together with others displaced by the Lajeado hydroelectric dam in central Brazil. The high walls and a street muddy because of the rain make her miss Vila Canela, her old village on an island that no longer exists on the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

That is the same complaint voiced by Maria do Socorro Araujo, a 56-year-old retired teacher, displaced from Canela, a submerged beach community, 10 km from Palmas, the capital of the state of Tocantins.

“The community was fragmented, it dispersed, it forgot its culture, its unity and its way of live,” said Araujo, who was resettled in 2001 on block 508 in the north of Palmas, with her husband and three children.

“We lost our land, tranquillity and freedom, there were no fences there; here we live behind high walls,” complained her neighbour Bernardete Batista de Araujo, referring to the house where she was resettled in the capital.

She is pleased, however, to have a roof over her head, a solid three-bedroom house, better than her rustic dwelling in Canela, which had been rebuilt after the river flooded and destroyed it in 1980.

In her small yard, she now tries to compensate for the loss of the many fruit trees in the village flooded by the reservoir, planting papaya, mango and pineapple.

“The bad thing here is the dust in the dry season and the mud when it rains because of the unpaved roads,” a long-standing complaint by the inhabitants of La Cuadra, who are demanding that the road be paved.

Palmas, with a current population of 290,000, is an artificial city, planned according to the model of Brasilia, with wide avenues and squares to accommodate large numbers of cars and blocks arranged by numbers and cardinal points.

Founded in 1989, it took years of construction before becoming in practice the administrative capital of Tocantins.

Antonio Alves de Oliveira, 63, is proud to have been “the third taxi driver” in Palmas, when the city, in its second year, “had nothing but dust and huge numbers of mosquitoes.”

“Fried fly” was the nickname given to an improvised restaurant, he recalled.

Where Palmas is located, the Tocantins River now has an 8.4-km bridge which crosses the reservoir – almost eight times the width before the construction of the Lajeado dam, 50 km downstream (to the north).

The environmental impact study carried out by Investco, the company that built the Lajeado hydropower plant between 1999 and 2001 and has a concession for 35 years, registered only 1,526 families, of which 997 are rural, directly affected by the dam and reservoir.

But Judite da Rocha, local coordinator of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), believes that the real number is close to 8,000 families.

Many groups were not recognised as affected, such as the Xerente indigenous people, boatmen, fishermen, potters, dredgers who extracted sand from the river and seasonal workers, such as “barraqueros” who set up stands to sell beach products in the tourist season, she argued.

But the “worst and most complex situation” is that of the Estreito hydroelectric plant, inaugurated in 2012 in the north of the state of Tocantins, with an installed capacity of 1,087 megawatts.

There are “almost 1,000 families displaced and without compensation”, scattered in seven camps, so that the total number of people affected could reach 12,000, according to Rocha.

MAB estimates that there are 25,000 families in total who suffer the consequences of the hydroelectric power plants built in the state of Tocantins, four of which are on the Tocantins River. Added to three other large plants built in other states, the Tocantins River has a generation capacity of 12,785 megawatts.

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Landlocked, a Railway Remains Idle in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/landlocked-railway-remains-idle-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=landlocked-railway-remains-idle-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/landlocked-railway-remains-idle-brazil/#respond Sat, 06 Jan 2018 00:13:37 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153765 The rails have been laid – thousands of km of rails deteriorating due to lack of use, to the despair of those who believe that a country as vast as Brazil can only be developed by means of trains. Brazil built 37,000 km of railways up to six decades ago, but their use has declined […]

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Several underused tracks of the North-South Railway near Anápolis, an industrial city in Brazil that can expand its economy as a logistics hub, thanks to the confluence of rail, road and air transport, together with its proximity to Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Several underused tracks of the North-South Railway near Anápolis, an industrial city in Brazil that can expand its economy as a logistics hub, thanks to the confluence of rail, road and air transport, together with its proximity to Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
ANÁPOLIS, Brazil, Jan 6 2018 (IPS)

The rails have been laid – thousands of km of rails deteriorating due to lack of use, to the despair of those who believe that a country as vast as Brazil can only be developed by means of trains.

Brazil built 37,000 km of railways up to six decades ago, but their use has declined since then. Today about one- third of the network is abandoned and another third is underutilised.

This stands out in the North-South Railway (FNS). Its longest stretch, in Brazil’s geographical centre, was inaugurated in May 2014, but it still does not operate regularly in this country of 8,515,770 square km and 208 million inhabitants.

The 855-km FNS, which runs from the north-central state of Tocantins toAnápolis, 130 km from Brasilia, will be extended by an additional 682 km – a project that is in the final phase of construction and will reach Estrela D’Oeste, in the interior of São Paulo, the most developed state in Brazil.

“It’s a mess, a series of errors and bottlenecks,” according to Edson Tavares, former superintendent of the Anapolis Dry Port and transport consultant. With terminals far from the sea, the FNS depends on more railways to become viable, he told IPS.

The Dry Port is an inland port or multimodal logistics centre or terminal connected to seaports by rail.

The chosen route of the FNS includes “curves that make it necessary to cut in half the intended speed of 80 km per hour” and moves away from busy loading areas such as mines and cement factories, complained the expert, who believes it will take “much more time” for the new railway to take off.

Construction began in 1987 and suffered frequent interruptions and allegations of corruption. The first section, to the north,did not start operating until 2013, and the concession is held by VLI, a logistics company controlled by Vale, the world’s largest exporter of iron ore.

Trucks fill the streets of the Anápolis Agribusiness District, in Brazil, loading or unloading products and raw materials, next to the North-South Railway, which is practically unused, waiting for the concession to be granted to an operator in 2018. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Trucks fill the streets of the Anápolis Agribusiness District, in Brazil, loading or unloading products and raw materials, next to the North-South Railway, which is practically unused, waiting for the concession to be granted to an operator in 2018. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

This 720 km-stretch is able to operate thanks to having “right of passage” through the Carajás Railway, which reaches the Port of São Luis, through which Vale ships iron ore from the Carajás range, in the north of Brazil.

This makes it possible to transport to a port soy and other products from Tocantins, a state in the northern region of Brazil, which contrasts with the other six northern states because only nine percent of its territory is in the Amazon rainforest and the rest in the Cerrado, the Brazilian savanna.

But the southern stretch of the FNS has been left unresolved.

“With the railway operating, Anápolis will become the main logistics centre in Brazil, since it is also the kilometre zero (start) of the Belém-Brasilia highway, crossing two other national roads, and it will have an important cargo airport which in its final phase of construction”, said Vander Barbosa, secretary of Development and Agriculture in the city government.

That city in the state of Goiás also has the most important industrial district in the west-central region of Brazil, with a pharmaceutical hub of 20 companies, a car-making and engine factory run bySouth Korea’s Hyundai and food, beverage and construction materials firms.

Many of these companies produce their own heavy and bulky goods for railway transport. The Granolcompany, for example, processes soybeans and was the first of the few companies that used the new railway to sporadically export their bran.

Since its plant is right next to the rails, it can load the trains through a short pipeline that carries the bran directly to the wagons. Biodiesel is another of its products transportable through the FNS.

A plant belonging to the Granolcompany, which produces soy branand biodiesel, next to the North-South railroad, in Brazil, where a pipeline from the factory makes it possible to load the wagons directly. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A plant belonging to the Granolcompany, which produces soy branand biodiesel, next to the North-South railroad, in Brazil, where a pipeline from the factory makes it possible to load the wagons directly. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Anapolisis also set to be a storage and shipment point of grains for much of the central-west, the region with the highest agricultural production, especially of soy, corn and cotton. For this purpose, the FNS Intermodal terminal still has plenty of available space.

The military defense equipment industry is also strong in the city, which has a strategic air base for the protection of Brasilia, 130 km away as the crow flies.

The idea that transport routes, whether roads or railways, “attract development” does not always automatically come true; “it requires other policies in an integrated manner to generate economic growth,” said Lilian Bracarense, a professor of post-graduate studies in Regional Development at the Federal University of Tocantins.

“The Central-West, North and Northeast regions of Brazil have a lack of infrastructure, but that does not always justify private investments in the sector, as occurs in the South and Southeast, where there is an established demand,” she told IPS.

“The vicious circle that without demand infrastructure is not built, and without infrastructure demand is not generated”, according to the researcher who has a PhD in transport, seems to be broken by the government decision to introduce the railway that runs across the centre of the country from north to south.

Tocantins, with a population of 1.5 million, has an agricultural production limited to about 4.5 million tons of various grains, but the state of Goiás, population 6.8 million, recorded a harvest this year of almost 22 million tons, according to the National Supply Company (Conab) attached to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The idea behind the FNS is to create loading and unloading terminals throughout Goiás, especially in Anápolis due to the importance of industry there, and to attract productive investments as well. But that is where rail transport runs into obstacles.

The city and state of Goiás is more integrated with the economy of the Brazilian Southeast, more developed and closer to the port of Santos, more than 1,000 kilometers away by road, than with the northern ports, which are all at least 1,600 km away.

As a railway without an outlet to the sea, but with an “extensive area of influence”, the North-South railway, and the Brazilian rail system in general, need three conditions to operate satisfactorily, according to José Carlos Medaglia, CEO of the Planning and Logistics Company, attached to the Transport Ministry.

“The right of passage”, which allows logistics operators and a railroad concession company to transport cargo by rail from another company, is already legal but has to be fulfilled in practice, that is the first requirement, Medaglia told IPS.

To be effective, the railways must also have “surplus”transport capacity to provide to third parties, and standardised operation, with rails, equipment, personnel and other uniform technical requirements, of the same level of quality and training, so that they can operate on the railways of other companies, he said.

“All that was unimaginable in the past in Brazil”, which has a tradition of a “vertical” railway system, where the company that holds the concession for the infrastructure is its only operator.

This does not prevent competition, said Medaglia, who added that what is needed in any case is “good regulation,” to enforce the right of passage, and investments to expand capacity and modernise the system.

This can be achieved by negotiating with the country’s five railway networks new operating conditions to extend their concessions that will expire in the coming years.

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