Inter Press Service News and Views from the Global South Tue, 01 Dec 2015 01:24:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Climate Showdown Starts in Paris Mon, 30 Nov 2015 23:28:29 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz 0 Native Seeds Help Weather Climate Change in El Salvador Mon, 30 Nov 2015 22:34:40 +0000 Edgardo Ayala Domitila Reyes, 25, picks a cob of native corn in a field in the Mangrove Association, one of the two small farmer organisations that produce these seeds for the government’s Family Agriculture Plan in El Salvador. The seeds are not only high yield but are also more tolerant of the climate changes happening in this Central American country. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Domitila Reyes, 25, picks a cob of native corn in a field in the Mangrove Association, one of the two small farmer organisations that produce these seeds for the government’s Family Agriculture Plan in El Salvador. The seeds are not only high yield but are also more tolerant of the climate changes happening in this Central American country. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
JIQUILISCO /SAN MIGUEL, El Salvador , Nov 30 2015 (IPS)

Knife in hand, Domitila Reyes deftly cuts open the leaves covering the cob of corn, which she carefully removes from the plant – a process she carries out over and over all morning long, standing in the middle of a sea of corn, a staple in the diet of El Salvador.

Reyes is taking part in the “tapisca” – derived from “pixca” in the Nahat indigenous tongue, which means harvesting the field-dried corn.

The process will end, weeks later, with the selection of the best quality seeds, in order to ensure food sovereignty and security for poor peasant farmers in this Central American country of 6.3 million people.

Some 614,000 Salvadorans are farmers, and 244,000 of them grow corn or beans on small farms averaging 2.5 hectares in size, the Ministry of Agriculture and Stockbreeding reports.

In rural areas, 43 percent of households are poor, compared to 29.9 percent in urban areas, according to the latest annual survey by the Ministry of Economy.

“I see that the harvest is good, even though the rain was causing problems,” Reyes, 25, told IPS. She earns 10 dollars a day “tapiscando” or harvesting corn.

Climate change has modified the production cycles in this country, which is experiencing lengthy droughts in the May to October wet season and heavy rain in the November to April dry season. The erratic weather has ruined corn and bean crops.“High quality seeds are strategic for the country, because they make it possible for farming families to grow their crops in periods of national and global crisis, given the problem of climate change.” -- Alan González

But Reyes, covered head to toe to protect herself from the sun in jeans, a long-sleeved blouse and a hat, is relieved that the high-quality or “improved” seeds have managed to resist the effects of the changing climate.

“This corn has withstood it better…the rain hurt it but not very much. Other seeds wouldn’t have survived the blow,” she told IPS in the middle of the cornfield.

Reyes is one of the nearly two dozen workers who, under the burning sun, are harvesting corn on this seven-hectare field, one of several that belong to the Mangrove Association in Ciudad Romero, a rural settlement in the municipality of Jiquilisco in the eastern department of Usulután.

The region is known as Bajo Lempa, named after the river that crosses El Salvador from the north, before running into the Pacific Ocean. In that region there are 86 communities, with a total population of 23,000 people.

Many of the inhabitants are former guerrilla fighters of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), which fought the country’s right-wing governments in the 1980-1992 armed conflict that left a death toll of around 75,000, mainly civilians.

The Mangrove Association is one of the two producers of open-pollinated (the opposite of hybrid) native seeds in El Salvador. The other is the Nancuchiname Cooperative, also in the Bajo Lempa region.

They sell their annual output of 500,000 kilos of seeds to the government for distribution to 400,000 small farmers, as part of the Family Agriculture Plan (PAF). Each farmer receives 10 kg of seeds of corn and beans, as well as fertiliser.

“One achievement by our organisation is that the government has accepted us as a supplier of native seeds to the PAF,” said Juan Luna, coordinator of the Mangrove Association’s Agriculture Programme.

The hard-working hands of Ivania Siliézar, 55, pick improved beans she grew on her three-hectare farm on the slopes of the Chaparrastique volcano in the eastern Salvadoran department of San Miguel. Thanks to these native seeds, her output has doubled. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The hard-working hands of Ivania Siliézar, 55, pick improved beans she grew on her three-hectare farm on the slopes of the Chaparrastique volcano in the eastern Salvadoran department of San Miguel. Thanks to these native seeds, her output has doubled. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Luna told IPS that with these seeds, Salvadoran small farmers are better prepared to confront the effects of climate change and ensure food security and sovereignty.

In this country, 12.4 percent of the population – around 700,000 people – are undernourished, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The Mangrove Association and another three cooperatives in the area produce 40 percent of the improved seeds purchased by the PAF, whether native or the H59 hybrid variety developed by the government’s Enrique Álvarez Córdova National Centre for Agricultural and Forest Technology (CENTA).

The rest are produced by cooperatives in other regions of the country.

“The seeds produced by CENTA are high quality genetic material adapted to growing everywhere from sea level to 700 metres altitude,” FAO resident coordinator in El Salvador, Alan González, told IPS.

He added that the effort to promote this kind of seeds as a tool to weather the effects of climate change and strengthen food security and sovereignty are part of the Hunger Free Mesoamerica programme launched by FAO in 2014 in Central America, Colombia and the Dominican Republic.

“High quality seeds are strategic for the country, because they make it possible for farming families to grow their crops in periods of national and global crisis, given the problem of climate change,” said González.

Up to 2009, PAF purchased seeds from only five companies. But that year the FMLN, which became a political party after the 1992 peace deal, was voted into office and modified the rules of the game in order for small farmers to participate in the business, through cooperatives.

Another of the advantages of these improved seeds, besides their resistance to drought and heavy rains, is their high yields. FAO estimates that productivity has increased by 40 percent in the case of beans and 30 percent in the case of corn, which has boosted the food and nutritional security of the poorest families.

“We produce more, and we earn a bit more income,” said Ivania Siliézar, 55, who produces an improved variety of bean in the village of El Amate in the department of San Miguel, 135 km east of San Salvador.

Siliézar told IPS that she took the time to count how many bean pods one single plant produces: “More than 35 pods; that’s why the yield is so high,” she said proudly.

The variety of bean grown by her and 40 other members of the Fuentes y Palmeras cooperative is called chaparrastique, and was also developed by the CENTA technicians. The name comes from the volcano at whose feet this and six other cooperatives grow the bean, which they sell in local markets, as well as to the PAF.

Siliézar grows her crops on her farm that is just over three hectares in size, and in the last harvest of the year, she picked 1,250 kg of beans, a very high yield.

Similar excellent results were obtained by all 255 members of the seven cooperatives, who founded a company, Productores y Comercializadores Agrícolas de Oriente SA (Procomao), and have managed to mechanise their production with the installation of a plant that has processing equipment such as driers.

The plant was built with an investment of 203,000 dollars, financed by Spanish development aid and support from FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the San Miguel city government, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Stockbreeding. It has the capacity to process three tons of beans per hour.

Cooperatives grouping another 700 families from the departments of San Miguel and Usulután also set up three similar companies.

“We have had pests, but thanks to God and the quality of the seeds, here is our harvest,” Siliézar said happily.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]> 1
Paris Climate Summit Opens With Dire Warning Mon, 30 Nov 2015 22:05:45 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

When the climate summit opened in Paris on Monday, the mood was overwhelmingly pessimistic — largely about the current state of the global environment.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set the tone when he warned that the impacts of climate change are growing.

“Three out of four humanitarian disasters are now climate-related. Economic losses have increased by more than half over the past decade. And ecosystems, and food and water supplies are under increasing pressure,” he said.

The hardest hit are the poor and vulnerable – including small farmers, fishing communities and indigenous peoples, he declared.

“A major disaster can wipe out decades of development gains. And as climate impacts increase, we will see greater disruption to economies and international security.”

He singled out the most vulnerable to include Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and most African nations.

US President Barack Obama was equally pessimistic. But still held out a ray of hope.

“Our understanding of the ways human beings disrupt the climate advances by the day. Fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record have occurred since the year 2000 — and 2015 is on pace to be the warmest year of all. No nation — large or small, wealthy or poor — is immune to what this means.”

He told the two-week long meeting, which continues through December 11, that he saw the effects of climate change firsthand in the northernmost state in the US, namely Alaska, where the sea is already swallowing villages and eroding shorelines; where permafrost thaws and the tundra burns; where glaciers are melting at a pace unprecedented in modern times.

“And it was a preview of one possible future — a glimpse of our children’s fate if the climate keeps changing faster than our efforts to address it. Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields that no longer grow.

Political disruptions that trigger new conflict, and even more floods of desperate peoples seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own.”

The meeting, officially designated the Conference of Parties (COP21), is being attended by more than 150 world leaders, and host of investors, business leaders, and mayors.

They are expected to announce a range of initiatives, and possibly adopt a new international treaty to protect the global environment.

Ban said a new, universal and meaningful climate agreement must contain strong provisions for all countries to strengthen their resilience.

And it must provide sufficient and timely support for those countries that need it. Solutions are available, he said, singling out the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility and the African Risk Capacity.

Other initiatives with significant potential include the G7 InsuResilience Initiative, the CREWS early warning system initiative, the Global Resilience partnership, and Partners for Resilience, he added.

Striking a positive note, Obama told delegates the global economy grew last year while global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels stayed flat. And what this means can’t be overstated.

“We have broken the old arguments for inaction. We have proved that strong economic growth and a safer environment no longer have to conflict with one another; they can work in concert with one another. And that should give us hope.”

He said one of the enemies at the Pairs conference is cynicism, “the notion we can’t do anything about climate change. Our progress should give us hope during these two weeks — hope that is rooted in collective action.”

Earlier this month in Dubai, after years of delay, the world agreed to work together to cut the super-pollutants known as HFCs. That’s progress, he said.

Already, prior to Paris, more than 180 countries representing nearly 95 percent of global emissions have put forward their own climate targets. That is progress, Obama added.

“For our part, America is on track to reach the emissions targets that I set six years ago in Copenhagen — we will reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. And that’s why, last year, I set a new target: America will reduce our emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels within 10 years from now,” he declared.

Addressing the summit, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) José Graziano Da Silva appealed to world leaders to show courage and resilience by opting for changes that promote a safer, fairer and more inclusive world.

“There will be no peace without sustainable development and there will never be sustainable development while people continue to be left behind and while people are suffering from extreme poverty and hunger,” he said, adding that “we must demonstrate that we are not afraid” of promoting the changes needed to achieve this.

Climate change “affects all of us, but especially the poorest and hungry people,” Graziano da Silva said, underscoring how smallholders and family farmers are “in the front line”.

The most vulnerable must be helped to adapt to climate change, he added, stressing that in relation to the agricultural sectors, this requires environmentally sound initiatives that must go hand-in-hand with mitigating climate change impacts.

Droughts, floods, storms and other disasters triggered by climate change have risen in frequency and severity over the last three decades.

A recent FAO study shows that in developing countries, some 25 percent of the negative economic impact of these disasters is borne by the crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry sectors alone.

Reacting to Obama and other world leader statements at the Paris climate talks, Harjeet Singh, ActionAid’s Climate Policy Manager, said: “World leaders sent a clear message today that climate change is no longer a distant reality.”

He said the damage to rising seas and increasing typhoons is the present and it’s tearing apart the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet.

“Obama and other leaders should be commended for shining a spotlight on the plight of the world’s poorest.”

Singh also said leaders have now thrown themselves a gauntlet to address the current and devastating impact of climate change over the next two weeks.

The same rich countries speaking up for the world’s most vulnerable now urgently need to match their words with action – and what they have put on the table so far is not anywhere near their fair share of that action.

He said countries must agree to keep warming to below 1.5 degrees, provide adequate money to help poor countries adapt, and include clear and unequivocal lines on tackling the current and future loss and damage in the agreement.”

The writer can be contacted at

]]> 0
On World AIDS Day 2015: HIV Orphans in India Struggle With the Disease and for Their Future Mon, 30 Nov 2015 21:46:55 +0000 Malini Shankar 0 Traditional Seeds Keep Hunger Away in Drought-Prone Zimbabwe Mon, 30 Nov 2015 17:32:28 +0000 Locadia Mavhudzi Women now actively participate in seed fairs. Credit: Locadia Mavhudzi

Women now actively participate in seed fairs. Credit: Locadia Mavhudzi

By Locadia Mavhudzi

It was all smiles as Bertha Chibhememe of Sangwe communal area in Chiredzi, south eastern Zimbabwe, showed off her traditional seed varieties at a seed fair. A 45-year-old smallholder in Zimbabwe’s lowveld region, Chibhememe told how her “nzara yapera” maize variety is thriving in a changing climate.

The name means “hunger is gone” and is traditionally peculiar to the Shangani people, explained Chibhememe, a widow who looks after eight school-going children. It allows her to protect her family from starvation in a region where it can seem impossible to survive without food aid or donations.

Many people are now shunning traditional seeds in favour of modern genetic hybrid varieties, but Chibhememe said nzara yapera grew better in dry conditions.

“That is my secret,” she added. “This traditional short season maize variety together with other traditional small grains like sorghum, millet and rapoko are the best in this area. They secure our future food and nutrition for our families. We receive low rainfall and frequent flash floods and extreme temperatures.”

Bertha’s example has invigorated community members to adapt to shifting weather patterns as the planet warms. Through traditional seed fairs and workshops, farmers have a platform to share best farming practices.

A recent study by Care International-Zimbabwe found that female farmers were more receptive to these ideas than their male counterparts. But they could not always use such information to their advantage due to a culture of male dominance of the household. Women did not get to decide what crops to grow and when.

This is proving to be a setback in the quest to embrace climate change adaptation techniques. But it is slowly changing, as the Zimbabwean government has started issuing land rights to women smallholders, previously a taboo.

Records show that Zimbabwe is already feeling the effects of climate change, notably with more variable rainfall and extreme weather. Barnabas Mawire, country director for regional organisation Environment Africa described the situation as worrisome.

“These conditions, combined with warming trends, are expected to render land increasingly marginal for agriculture, which poses a major threat to the economy and the livelihoods of the people,” said Mawire.

Zimbabwe depends heavily on rain-fed agriculture and climate sensitive resources. Farmers, who make up 62% of the population, are expected to feel the effects.

Yields from rain-fed farming in Africa could halve by 2020, according to a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Semi-arid and arid areas will be worse affected, raising the risk of malnutrition and hunger.

Micro community initiatives can help, however. A water harvesting system in the Zvishavane, Mberengwa and Chivi districts, some of the hottest and driest in Zimbabwe, is one. It is as simple as digging pits to capture water in the rainy season and save it for drier periods.

A communal farmer in Zvishavane, Akwenziwe Maseko, said water conservation was essential to get strong crop yields. Farmers had been able to keep vegetable gardens going for more of the year and have more secure food supplies.

Zephaniah Phiri, a local conservationist who championed the water harvesting idea, stressed the importance of sustainable ways of managing and exploiting natural resources. Measures like planting vativa grass for windbreaks and sand traps were “very crucial,” he said.

Environmental Management Agency midlands manager Benson Bhasera added there was a link between sustainable farming practices and environmental preservation.

“Farmers who yield highly in their fields actively implement environmental education and awareness information,” said Bhasera.

With rainfall forecasts for the 2015/2016 farming season anticipated to be below normal, there is no time to lose.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Megan Darby and Climate Home.

]]> 0
In Botswana: Leaving the Corporate Office to Work the Land – and Finding Opportunity Mon, 30 Nov 2015 11:14:24 +0000 Ngala Killian Chimtom 0 Malawi Working to Improve Nutrition Sensitive Agricultural Production Mon, 30 Nov 2015 07:53:23 +0000 Mabvuto Banda 0 Addressing Climate Change Through Sustainable Development Sun, 29 Nov 2015 08:36:59 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Jomo Kwame Sundaram is the Coordinator for Economic and Social Development at the Food and Agriculture Organization and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
ROME, Nov 29 2015 (IPS)

Climate change impacts are already upon us. Sea levels are rising, glaciers and ice are melting. People in poor countries are struggling to cope and adapt. Even developed countries are facing adverse consequences, taxing their own adaptive capacities to increased flooding, drought and fires. We cannot afford to wait.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Climate change is severely compromising development prospects. Failure to act effectively could significantly reduce the size of the world economy by mid-century despite continuing population growth.

Addressing climate change will be costly, but not as costly as inaction. We have waited too long to take serious action, and the delay — e.g. the slow pace at which carbon-based energy is being replaced by renewable energy — has been costly in terms of adverse impacts.

Climate Change and Development

To address climate change, the international community needs to make simultaneous progress on inclusive sustainable development and climate change. This is the only ethically defensible and politically feasible approach. In the near term, for low carbon development and for developing countries to meet their people’s basic energy needs, renewable energy generation will need to be subsidized.

Effectively addressing climate change and development will require a big investment push, particularly for renewable energy, with a strong public sector role, supported by international financial and technology transfers. Public investments need to be “front-loaded” to shape developing countries’ long-term energy infrastructure and development.

As the most vulnerable are already suffering the impacts of climate change, there is an urgent need for developed country governments to greatly increase, fast-track and front-load financial and technology support for adaptation measures.


Developing countries do not see sufficient evidence that developed countries are willing to bear a fair share of responsibility for adaptation and even mitigation despite their far greater contemporary and historical contribution to the climate change problem.

Developing countries have long resisted taking on quantified emission targets, insisting on the Kyoto Protocol distinction between Annex 1 (developed) and other countries. Nevertheless, powerful developed countries have successfully pressurized developing countries to do so before the forthcoming Paris Conference of Parties (CoP).

Nevertheless, from a climate justice perspective, most developing countries have made significant enough voluntary commitments to mitigate climate change. However, commitments by developed countries have fallen far short, and which are simply not enough to keep the average global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. Yet, developing country actions have not been matched by efforts from Annex 1 countries to provide promised financial and technological support.

Some developing countries, such as China, have not only implemented domestic policies to slow their emissions growth in the coming years, but have invested heavily in renewable energy and other low-carbon energy sources. These initiatives have accelerated the decline in renewable energy costs in recent years, but instead of being encouraged, some developed countries have erected non-tariff barriers to their exports, thus effectively slowing down the switch to renewable energy.

Public Finance Key

However, rather than rely on market forces and the profit motive to address a clear market failure, adequate public finance for a major ‘front-loaded’ public investment push to induce private investment – rather than carbon markets and private finance – can rise to the climate challenge.

Renewable energy is not affordable to most in poor countries, so there is little incentive for investment by the private sector. Hence, international transfers are needed for some public investment in key infrastructure and to provide incentives for private investment.

Feed-in tariffs offering guaranteed prices to renewable power generators have worked well in Europe and elsewhere. In developed countries, consumers effectively pay for this subsidy, but in developing countries, that is less feasible.

Thus, international financial transfers for feed-in tariff programs could quickly induce renewable energy investments in developing countries. Cost reduction will come with increased scale, while greater ability to pay will come with increased incomes. In time, the subsidies become unnecessary.

Key Priorities

Key elements of a feasible action plan would thus include:

· International technology cooperation, knowledge-sharing and adequate finance for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

· A global program of support for renewable energy in developing countries, including support for feed-in tariffs, to enable poor developing countries to ‘leapfrog’ the fossil-fuel energy stage of economic development.

· A global program of support to reduce emissions and sequestration capacity due to deforestation and forest degradation, notably through sustainable forestry and by rewarding forest-dependent communities for sustainable forest management.

· An adequately funded program of support for rapid action for urgent adaptation measures in vulnerable developing countries.

There is broad consensus on all these areas, and progress on such a global program of cooperation is eminently feasible. Experience has shown and will continue to show what works best and what actual costs are, proving that stronger actions are possible and affordable. Cooperative action between developed and developing countries will, in turn, rebuild trust on the road to Paris and beyond.


]]> 0
African Countries Feeling Exposed to Extreme Weather Changes Sat, 28 Nov 2015 08:29:12 +0000 Justus Wanzala 0 Seaweed Cultivation Ushers Waves of Change in the Sundarbans Fri, 27 Nov 2015 22:41:19 +0000 Oishanee Ghosh Algaculture is Mondal’s empowering new source of revenues. Credit: Oishanee Ghosh

Algaculture is Mondal’s empowering new source of revenues. Credit: Oishanee Ghosh

By Oishanee Ghosh

In Bengal’s mangrove forests, the effects of climate change are forcing men to leave their families in search of work. But now, seaweed farming is offering the women left behind financial stability and empowerment.

At sunset, Kanchan Mondal would set off every evening to find odd jobs, leaving her children at home. Like many women in her village in Sundarbans of Bengal, her husband left to find work in the city, forced away by the ever-encroaching seawater that has left their farmlands barren.

“Now, I am also their father,” 35-year-old Mondal said, as she hurriedly ladled out potato broth for her 6-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. “If I don’t leave for work, I don’t earn enough to feed them. When I come back I have to cook dinner, and sometimes it gets late.”

Cocooned by the tidal rivers and the mangrove forests of the southeast Sundarbans, Mondal’s village of Saatjelia, alongside two other villages Kumirmari and Jhorkhali, have been plagued by coastal erosion, repeated cyclones and floods – thanks to climate change. As much as 200 meters of coastline is disappearing annually, according to a 2013 Zoological Society of London study.

This has spelled disaster for rice farming – the main occupation in the region. Some paddy fields are submerged under 2 feet of brackish water throughout the year, and increasing salinity is poisoning the soil – meaning nothing can grow there.

And as men migrate further west to the city of Kolkata in search of work, their wives and children are left behind to fend for themselves in this dangerous terrain.

To make ends meet, many women have taken up the dangerous job of crab fishing, which entails setting off into the estuaries on boats, sometimes for days on end where they are at the mercy of the region’s unpredictable tides – and tigers.

But now, Mondal and the other women of Saatjelia, Jhorkhali and Kumirmari are being trained in a sustainable, safe and empowering alternative to taking to the treacherous waters.

The Asia Pacific Network-Global Change Research and the South Asian Forum for Environment, a civil society organization working throughout the Indian subcontinent, are promoting algaculture in fields covered by seawater.

The project, which launched in 2012 with around 100 beneficiaries, involves farming commercially viable algae like Ulva intestinalis and Ulva lactuca.

“The ability of women to be major algae producers and collectors cannot be ignored,” Dipayan Dey, a project leader, told Deutsche Welle. “We conducted series of capacity building workshops at all three project sites. Women in groups were taught about harvesting, identification of the algal species, pond preparation and cultivation management.”

Algae cultivation requires little technical know-how and almost no startup costs, so it is relatively easy to implement. And the product is in demand in India as a raw material for products such as soaps and shampoo.

Such algae can fetch around 35 rupees (0.50 euro) per kilogram on the domestic market and 70 rupees (1 euro) internationally if marketed properly, added Dey.

That’s compared to around 1,300 rupees (18 euros) per 100 kilograms of rice – but prices vary with production and rainfall. Paddy prices depend on the monsoon.

The green seaweed is also a promising source of biofuel, according to a 2010 United Nations Food and Agriculture report. And many farmers are using it as an organic fertilizer for crops.

“Usually, I prepare my soil with urea and potash – but I used the algae fertilizer this time,” said Diganta, a farmer from Jhorkhali who recently switched over. “I was initially worried – but the plants are healthy.”

Climate adaptation measures such as the algaculture project have improved transport, education and communications in this part of Sundarban, say local officials. And the lives of women have been transformed.

For instance, Mondal’s son was able to return to school, having dropped out to help out with the chores and look after his sister after his father left. Mondal’s daughter has started primary education. The mother has also built a solid kitchen, to replace the one made of mud and thatch that would collapse every monsoon.

“A couple of years back I would wake up and be worried about what to cook for my children at night. My husband would bring me some money every four months – but that was barely enough,” relates Mondal.

After starting in algaculture in 2013, Mondal says she is now able to save money for a rainy day. She now also no longer has to do odd jobs and leave her children at home alone.

It’s been an empowering experience for many women. Mondal holds meetings every other evening at her house. Issues discussed range from cooperative banking, to building an unpaved road through the village post-monsoon.

The women in Satjelia have started manufacturing non-timber forest products like honey and neem oil – a vegetable oil pressed from the fruit and seeds of the neem tree. This in turn helps to preserve forest.

Many men who left their ancestral homes are now coming back to join algaculture movement and their families. That includes Kanchan Mondal’s husband.

“I always thought algae were some kind of nuisance growing on pond,” says Bhabasindhu Mondal, back from Kolkata. “I had to see with my own eyes to believe that it can be grown like a crop.”

“I was used to our green paddy fields – and now I come back to a different kind of greenery.”

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Jennifer Collins from Deutsche Welle.


]]> 0
“París Is Not the End of a Climate Change Process but a Beginning” Fri, 27 Nov 2015 15:45:32 +0000 Marianela Jarroud Chilean President Michelle Bachelet during an exlusive interview with IPS in the Blue Room in the Moneda Palace, the seat of government, in Santiago, before flying to Paris to participate in the Nov. 30 inauguration of the climate summit, to be hosted by the French capital until Dec. 11. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet during an exlusive interview with IPS in the Blue Room in the Moneda Palace, the seat of government, in Santiago, before flying to Paris to participate in the Nov. 30 inauguration of the climate summit, to be hosted by the French capital until Dec. 11. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Nov 27 2015 (IPS)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet says the climate summit in Paris “is not the end of a process but a beginning,” and that it will produce “an agreement that, although insufficient with respect to the original goal, shows that people believe it is better to move ahead than to stand still.”

In this exclusive interview with IPS, held shortly before Bachelet headed to the capital of France, the president reflected on the global impacts of climate change and stressed several times that the accords reached at the summit “must be binding,” as well as universal.

On Monday Nov. 30 Bachelet will take part in the inauguration of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will run through Dec. 11. At the summit, the 196 countries that are parties to the treaty are to agree on a new climate accord aimed at curbing global warming.

The president also said the Paris summit will have a different kind of symbolism in the wake of the terrorist attacks that claimed 130 lives: “It sends out an extremely clear signal that we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated,” she said.

Q: Latin America is a region where the countries face similar impacts from climate change. But it is negotiating with a fragmented voice. Has the region missed a chance for a leadership role and for a better defence of its joint interests?

A: Sometimes it is very difficult to achieve a unified position, because even though there are situations that are similar, decisions must be taken that governments are not always able to adopt, or because they find themselves in very different circumstances.

We belong to the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC) in the negotiations on climate change, along with Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. All of these countries did manage to work together, and we have a similar outlook on the question of climate change.

The countries in this region are not the ones that generate the most emissions at a global level. And above and beyond the differences we may have, the important thing is that we will all make significant efforts to reduce emissions and boost clean energies and other mechanisms and initiatives.

Q: Will the COP21 manage to approve a new universal climate treaty?

A: COP21 is not the end but a beginning of a process where the countries will turn in their national commitments [Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCS)]. After that will come the mechanisms to assess the implementation of these contributions, and, from time to time, propose other targets, which would be more ambitious in some cases.

This will be the first climate change summit, after the Copenhagen conference [in 2009] where no accord was reached even though the Kyoto Protocol was coming to an end, where we will be able to reach some level of agreement.

It might not be the optimal level; apparently the contributions so far publicly submitted by the states parties would not achieve the objective of keeping global warming down to two degrees Celsius. Nevertheless, it is a major advance, when you look at what has happened in the past.

That said, what Chile maintains is that the contributions should be binding, and we are going to back that position which is clearly not supported by everyone.

Q: So you include yourself among those who believe Paris will mark a positive turning point in the fight against climate change?

Chile’s contribution

Q: Chile carried out a much-praised citizen input process for the design of its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCS), to be included in the new treaty. But media and business sectors were not pleased with some of the voluntary targets that were set. Will this hinder implementation?

A: Not everyone always agrees, we’ve seen that in different processes. I hope that awareness grows, and that is a task that we also have, as government. Climate change is a reality, not an invention, which will have disastrous consequences for everyone, but also for the economy.

For us it is indispensable, on one hand, to reduce emissions by 30 percent, by 2030. There are some who believe our commitment falls short, but it is what we can commit to today, understanding the economic situation that the country and the world find themselves in. It is a serious, responsible commitment. And obviously, if the economic situation improves, we will set more ambitious goals later.

On the other hand, Chile has an adaptation plan that includes, among other things, the reforestation of more than 100,000 hectares of native forest and an energy efficiency programme.

A: Yes, in the sense that a concrete, definitive agreement will be reached.

But it is, I insist, the start of a path. Later other, more ambitious, measures will have to be adopted, to further reduce global temperatures.

Q: Will the treaty currently being debated include the financing that the Global South and Latin America in particular will need in order to help prevent the planet from reaching a situation that is irreversible for human life?

A: I have a hope that the Green Climate Fund will grow and give more countries access to technology and resources. In this region we will always have the contradiction that we are considered middle-income countries, and thus we are not given priority when it comes to funding, while at the same time our economies are often unable to foot greater costs. And on the other hand, we are the smallest emitters [of greenhouse gases].

This is why in Chile we have set two targets, one without external support and the other with external financing, to reduce emissions by 45 percent. But there is also a possibility of financing through cooperation programmes for the introduction and transfer of new technologies to our countries, which will allow us to live up to the commitments.

Q: As the first executive director of U.N.-Women [2010-2013], you helped establish the idea that women must be taken into account in climate negotiations and actions, because they bear the impacts on a day-to-day basis and are decisive in adapting to and mitigating global warming. What is the central role that women should have in the new treaty?

A: There are a number of day-to-day decisions made by women, which have an influence. For example, energy efficiency is essential when it comes to reducing emissions, and it is often a domestic issue, in questions such as turning off lights, for example.

But in many parts of the world women are also the ones hauling water or cooking with firewood, especially in the most vulnerable areas.

So the importance of women ranges from these aspects to their contribution as citizens committed to the fight against climate change, with the conviction that a green, inclusive and sustainable economy is possible, and to the political role of women at the parliamentary and municipal level, where they are working hard for the adoption of measures and to ensure a livable planet.

Q: As president, and as a Chilean, what worries you most about the current climate situation? What would you see as the highest priority?

A: There are many things that worry me about climate change, ranging from severe drought and flooding to islands that could disappear under water – in other words, how natural events linked to climate change affect the lives of people.

I’m also concerned about two things that are essential for people: clean drinking water and food, two elements that can be profoundly affected by climate change. We have seen that there are areas of the country where people depend on rationed water from tanker trucks.

This not only affects the daily lives of people but also, in agricultural areas, it affects production and incomes. And think about the marvelous variety of fish and seafood that we have in our country, which depends on the temperatures in our oceans.

All of this could be modified. It is all very important, and ends up affecting people’s lives.

Q: Paris was the victim of a Jihadist terrorist attack on Nov. 13, which left 130 people dead. Did these attacks affect the climate surrounding the summit? Will the participation by the heads of state and government also serve as a response to the terrorism?

A: More than 160 heads of state and government have confirmed their attendance at the Paris conference, which sends out an extremely clear signal that we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated.

We are going to Paris first, because the issue to be addressed and discussed is important, but also because we are sending a message that we will not tolerate this kind of action and that we will continue moving forward in the defence of the values that we believe are essential. And we will give a hug of solidarity to our sister republic, France, to President François Hollande and to the French people.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]> 0
Zimbabwe’s Long Road in Ending Poverty and Hunger Fri, 27 Nov 2015 08:16:22 +0000 Ignatius Banda 0 Opinion: Ending Child Marriage – What Difference Can a Summit Make? Thu, 26 Nov 2015 23:08:31 +0000 Samuel Musyoki

Samuel Musyoki is currently the Country Director of Plan International Zambia and the Chair for 18+ Ending Child Marriage in Southern Africa Programme.

By Samuel Musyoki
LUSAKA, Zambia, Nov 26 2015 (IPS)

The long-awaited African Girls’ Summit on Ending Child Marriage is here.

It presents an opportunity to share experiences and reflect on what we need to do differently if we want to step up our efforts towards ending child marriage, an issue close to my heart.

I’ve seen what being a child bride can do to a girl.

I have five sisters, three of whom were married as children. As such, my sisters did not get a good education. They gave birth at an early age and now they are faced with challenges and limited opportunities. Now I am a father to three girls. I want a different life for them and for all the other girls growing up across Africa – and the rest of the world.

The summit, hosted by the Government of the Republic of Zambia, is taking place in Lusaka this week. It follows the launch at the May 2014 Africa Heads of State meeting in Addis Ababa of the campaign to end early and forced child marriage.

Both the campaign and summit are significant for a continent, home to an estimated 7 million child brides.

While we have made good progress working in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and national levels to influence policy and legal changes, more needs to be done at the grassroots level.

Long-term engagement with communities is key if we want to end child marriage across Africa.

Child rights organisation Plan International is dedicated to tackling child marriage and we’ve learnt time and time again, the perception of this issue is almost universally negative.

Yet why does it still happen?

Marriage for a 14 year old girl should not be seen as the only option for parents or for children. That’s fundamentally flawed.

If we want to make a difference, we need to look at how governments and civil society can change with communities to help them realise the impact of child marriage. We need to work with girls to help them understand the value of education and the benefits of the life they can have if they stay in school. But transforming attitudes and practices that have become acceptable over time requires investment in innovative approaches that draw on and build on the knowledge of all relevant actors at policy and grassroots levels.

Plan International has been working against child marriages alongside community-based organisations, regional traditional leaders, media and national governments. By creating local and regional platforms to raise awareness, to discuss and to take action, the pressure is building up to eliminate early child marriage in Africa.

Focusing on Southern Africa, Plan International´s “18+ Programme” on ending child marriages in Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique has been engaging with and transforming communities and societies. It contributed significantly to convince the Malawian Parliament, which recently passed a law to declare 18 as the minimum legal age for marriage.

Now, more than ever, is the time to bring all actors together and tackle the issue of early child marriage across the continent. After all, we can neither keep the promise of the African Children’s Charter, nor attain the new Sustainable Development Goals if young girls and women continue to suffer early child marriage.

Progress is being made and it’s heartening to seeing discussions taking place across the board. It gives us hope that it is possible to end child marriage within a generation.


]]> 0
New York Vows to Stop Terrorist Attacks on City Thu, 26 Nov 2015 19:48:35 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Nov 26 2015 (IPS)

When New York city launched a new counter terrorism unit, immediately following the terrorist attacks in Paris, Mayor Bill de Blasio was emphatic in his reaction: “We can say more certainly than ever before that no city in America is better prepared to defend against terrorism.”

Speaking at a news conference during the launch of the new Critical Response Command (CRC), based in Randall’s Island, De Blasio said New York city was using “every tool in our arsenal to stop the terrorists and protect the safety of the people of this city.”

The heavily-armed new unit has been described as a standby force ready for emergency operations at short notice and operating round the clock.

Although there were no threats against the city, the New York Police Department (NYPD) is training its entire 35,000-member force to thwart any Paris-style attacks. With the upcoming Christmas holidays, security in the city has been tightened –even as there are fears of a marked drop in tourists next month.

As part of its counter terrorism operations, the Police performed a drill in an abandoned subway station, as an exercise responding to a potential terrorist attack.

Responding to a video from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Police Commissioner William Bratton said the video had been pieced together from old footage of some of the tourist spots in the city.

“Quite frankly, there is nothing new about this video”, Bratton told a press conference, and advised New Yorkers: “Beware, but do not be afraid.” And emphasizing the safety of the city, he took a subway ride.

Still, despite the assurances, several schools in neighouring New Jersey and Long Island, have cancelled plans for visits to the city by students – primarily due to safety concerns.

Reacting to the Paris attacks, the 15-member UN Security Council adopted a unanimous resolution November 20 urging member states to take “all necessary measures” against attacks by ISIS.

But such action should be taken “in compliance with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, on the territory under the control of the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL)”, also known as ISIS.


]]> 0
Opinion: Better Nutrition for Better Lives Thu, 26 Nov 2015 14:16:57 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Jomo Kwame Sundaram is the Coordinator for Economic and Social Development at the Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
ROME, Nov 26 2015 (IPS)

Food systems are increasingly challenged to ensure food security and balanced diets for all, around the world. Almost 800 million people are chronically hungry, while over two billion people suffer from “hidden hunger,” with one or more micronutrient deficiencies. Meanwhile, over two billion people are overweight, with a third of them clinically obese, and hence more vulnerable to non-communicable diseases.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Overcoming hunger and malnutrition in the 21st century does not simply involve increasing food availability, but also improving access, especially for the hungry. Creating healthy, affordable and sustainable food systems for all is the most effective way to achieve this.

Since 1945, food production has tripled as average food availability per person has risen by 40 per cent. But despite abundant food supplies, almost 800 million still go hungry every day, of whom most live in developing countries. Many more go hungry seasonally or intermittently. Hunger affects their ability to work and to learn. Clearly, the problem is not just one of food availability, but also of access.

The health of over two billion people is compromised because their diets lack essential micronutrients, which prevents them reaching their full human potential. “Hidden hunger,” or micronutrient deficiencies, undermine the physical and cognitive development of their children, exposing them to illness and premature death.

Ironically, in many parts of the world, hunger co-exists with rising levels of obesity. Over two billion people are overweight, with a third of them deemed obese. This, in turn, exposes them to greater risk of diabetes, heart problems and other diet-related non-communicable diseases.

Food system: problem and solution

Food systems must become more responsive to people’s needs, including food insecure, socially excluded and economically marginalized households. Mothers, young children, the aged and the disabled are especially vulnerable. Adequate nutrition during the “first thousand days,” from conception to the child’s second birthday, is especially critical.

Our challenge then is not simply to produce and supply more food, but to ensure that better food is consumed by all, especially those most in need. And this has to be sustainable in terms of the environment and natural resources to ensure the capacity of future generations to feed themselves.

Increasingly intensive industrial farming systems and massive food wastage are often simply unsustainable. Food production has often put great stress on natural resources – exhausting fresh water supplies, encroaching on forests, degrading soils, depleting wild fish stocks and reducing biodiversity.

We need to recognize and deal with these challenges urgently. Fortunately, we also have the means to transform food production systems to make them more sustainable and healthy by empowering local communities.

Healthy food systems for healthier people

Strong political commitment is required to prioritize nutrition and to improve food systems. Food system policies, programmes and interventions should always strive to improve diets, nutrition and people’s access to and consumption of foods adequate in quantity and quality – in terms of diversity, nutrient content and safety.

Food production research and development should focus on ensuring more diverse, balanced and healthy diets, including more nutrient-rich foods, as well as ecological and resource sustainability. Natural resources must be used more efficiently, with less adverse impacts, by getting more and better food from water, land, fertilizer and labour.

Nutrient dense foods, such as milk, eggs and meat, are improving diets for many, while livestock continues to provide livelihoods for millions. Yet, livestock production and consumption need to be more sustainable, with far less adverse effects on climate change, disease transmission and overall health.

Such food system reforms need to be accompanied by needed complementary interventions, including public health, education, employment and income generation, as well as social protection to enhance resilience. Governments, consumers, producers, distributors, researchers and others need to be more involved in the food system.

Smart investment

Better nutrition also makes economic sense. About five per cent of global economic welfare is lost due to malnutrition in all its forms owing to foregone output and additional costs incurred. Expenditure to address malnutrition offers very high private and social returns. Yet, only about one per cent of the total aid budget is allocated for this purpose.

The follow-up to the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in Rome late last year provides a historic opportunity for political decisions and concerted interventions to enhance nutrition for all through better policies and international solidarity. Currently, less than one per cent of foreign aid goes to nutrition. It is hard to justify not making the desperately needed investments in better nutrition for better lives.


]]> 0
Uganda, Tanzania Need Gender Sensitive Climate Change Policies Thu, 26 Nov 2015 09:24:57 +0000 Wambi Michael 1 Drought Threatens Water-Truck Lifeline in Parched Northeast Brazil Thu, 26 Nov 2015 08:55:02 +0000 Nadia Pontes A dead cow lies on a highway in drought-hit Pesqueira, northeast Brazil.

A dead cow lies on a highway in drought-hit Pesqueira, northeast Brazil.

By Nadia Pontes
São José Dos Campos, Brazil, Nov 26 2015 (IPS)

For the rural community of Pacheco in northeastern Brazil, the local school has never been so important. It is now the only place in the drought-stricken area that has water on tap.

But to fill the school’s tank, water must be trucked from a reservoir some 40 km away – and it is shrinking fast.

“This is the only way to get access to water here. We don’t have any natural source of fresh water available – everything is dry. We are facing a very difficult situation,” said teacher and community leader Josilânia de Fátima dos Santos.

Local residents go to the school each day to fill three or four large buckets with water. The distribution runs smoothly, with everybody cooperating and taking home just enough to supply their family’s drinking, cooking and hygiene needs.

“We wish we could have fresh water to drink. We pray for rain – we are desperate,” said dos Santos.

“We notice the climate has changed, but we don’t know what to do to fight this problem.”

Along with Pacheco, nearly 18,000 inhabitants in the sprawling municipality of Pesqueira in Pernambuco state have no water on tap.

Brazil’s northeast is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years, which scientists link both to the current strong El Niño weather phenomenon and longer-term climate change.

The semi-arid region has a history of drought, and is vulnerable to hunger and displacement. When crops fail, local people are forced to sell their possessions to pay for new seeds in the hope that rain will come.

Jonas Brito, Pesqueira’s secretary for the environment, said drought had forced the authorities to truck water into rural areas since 2010. But in the past two years, the situation has worsened and is now at crisis point.

“We are on the verge of collapse,” he said.

Seventy water trucks ply more than 800 km of dirt roads to supply rural communities in a service provided by the local government to meet the basic needs of the poor. Wealthy landowners pay for private deliveries.

According to official data, 20 to 50 litres per capita are delivered each day. Yet there is not enough water to irrigate crops, which are the main source of local income.

Corn, bean and cassava plantations are ruined. Milk production has fallen from 150,000 litres per day to 35,000 litres, as animals die of thirst.

The dam that supplies the water trucks is now operating at half its capacity, Brito said.

“Maybe it will be empty next month,” he added. If that happens, the trucks will need to travel further and the cost will rise.

Rainfall in northeastern Brazil is highly irregular, leading to catastrophic droughts – a problem that has occurred every decade or so since the 16th century.

Despite this, the city of Pesqueira, 215 km from the Pernambuco state capital of Recife, does not have a plan to deal with the loss of its productive land.

In this region, availability of water is among the lowest in the northeast, at around 40 litres per capita per day.
The drought is also affecting city dwellers, as the storage level of another dam that provides water for urban areas has dropped to 10 percent.

In 2014 the federal government launched an online tool to monitor droughts in the northeast. The map shows a dark red stain covering the city of Pesqueira, which means “exceptional drought”.

This is also the case in some parts of Piauí, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte and Paraíba states. The rest of the map shows “severe drought”.

Pesqueira had already drawn the attention of scientists in 2007, when José Marengo and Guillermo Obregón of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) conducted research on Brazil’s climate in the 20th century.

The researchers looked at 22 localities across five Brazilian regions: North, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast and South. They found the largest temperature rise in Pesqueira, where it increased around 0.6 degrees Celsius per decade from 1981 to 2000.

These local temperature rises are linked to global warming, said the first report of the Brazilian Panel on Climate Change (PBMC), released in January.

“The impacts of climate change in Brazil are more evident in the Northeast region,” said Marengo, also an author of reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In addition, droughts in this region have been associated with El Niño, a large-scale interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere linked to periodic warming in Pacific sea surface temperatures.

El Niño can influence the regional and global climate, changing wind patterns and affecting rainfall in the tropics and mid-latitudes.

If average temperatures continue to rise across continents and oceans, El Niño could occur more often and become more intense, Marengo noted.

Models suggest surface water temperatures in the east-central tropical Pacific Ocean are likely to exceed 2 degrees Celsius above average through the end of this year, potentially placing the 2015-16 El Niño among the four strongest events since 1950.

It is already having devastating effects on communities like Pacheco.

“We notice the rainfall has decreased, the drought is more intense and it is warmer than before,” said Brito.

To address water shortages in the region, the federal government is implementing a plan to divert part of the flow of the São Francisco River along a canal that will bring water to Pesqueira.

Construction is due to be finished by the end of 2016, but that will not bring the urgent relief the people of Pacheco are desperately hoping for.

“We need help – we need public policy to fight this problem,” said Brito. “We cannot wait.”

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Megan Rowling from the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

]]> 0
Women Suffer Psychological Problems After Living Under Taliban Thu, 26 Nov 2015 07:19:14 +0000 Ashfaq Yusufzai 0 Terrorism Index Shows Nine-Fold Increase Since 2000 Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:48:00 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

In 2014, the number of lives lost to terrorism around the world increased by 80 percent, the highest level ever. The majority of such terrorist activity occurred in the largest refugee-producing nations, a Global Terrorism Index (GTI) showed.

The GTI, developed by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), comprehensively studies the patterns and impacts of terrorism globally.

The 2015 GTI, released on 17 Nov, has recorded the rise in terrorism, with a nine-fold increase in terrorism-related deaths since 2000. In total, 32,658 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 67 countries in 2014.

Even in the wake of the 13 Nov Paris attacks, the majority of terrorism-related deaths do not occur in the West. Most of these deaths, over 78 percent, transpired in just five countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.

In Nigeria alone, deaths by terrorism increased over 300 percent to 7,512, the largest increase ever recorded by any country. This has allowed Boko Haram to surpass the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to become the deadliest terrorist group in the world. The index also highlighted the link between countries with terrorist activity and levels of internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees.

“Ten of the eleven countries most affected by terrorism also have the highest rates of refugees and internal displacement,” said IEP Executive Chairman Steve Killelea. “This highlights the strong inter-connectedness between the current refugee crisis, terrorism and conflict,” he continued.

From just the five countries with the highest levels of terrorism, there were over 16 million refugees and IDPs in 2014. This includes Syria which has seen a surge in terrorism and conflict since 2011, displacing and forcing millions to escape.

There are currently over seven million IDPs and four million refugees from Syria. Syrians also constitute the majority of asylum applicants in the European Union (EU).

In response to Hungary’s border closure and violent reaction to refugees, Amnesty International’s (AI) Deputy Director for Europe Gauri van Gulik stated: “For refugees fleeing from terrifying conflict zones to be met by such an intimidating show of militarized force is shocking, and a woefully irresponsible response to people already traumatized by war and brutality.”

Most recently, Turkey has closed its borders to Syrian asylum seekers, pushing them back into the war-torn country. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that in some cases, Turkish border guards beat refugees before expelling them.

“The sheer exhaustion and desperation Syrian families go through after fleeing for their lives and literally scrambling their way to safety through the night across the Turkish border is written all over their faces,” said HRW’s Senior Refugee Researcher Gerry Simpson. “Turkey should not be putting people escaping war through such hardship,” he continued.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also expressed similar concerns over the anti-refugee responses, stating that profiling asylum seekers on the basis of their nationality, collective expulsion and refoulement infringes on human rights and are prohibited under international law.

In the 2015 GTI, Khalid Koser and Amy Cunningham from the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) called for the rehabilitation of returning European foreign terrorist fighters and the sustainable integration of asylum seekers and refugees to deter the fueling of terrorism.

However, to tackle terrorism successfully, the underlying drivers of extremism must be addressed, the study underscored.

“This includes reducing state-sponsored violence, diffusing group grievances, and improving respect for human rights and religious freedoms, while considering cultural nuances,” stated Killelea.

Senior Programme Advisor and Senior Fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) Christina Schori Liang also cautioned against the use of air strikes in defeating terrorist groups such as ISIL. In the GTI, she noted that air campaigns have contributed to civilian causalities and thus increased recruitment of fighters.

“Alternative solutions must be found,” Liang stated.

On 20 Nov, the Security Council stated that ISIL “constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security” and voted to take “all necessary measures” against the group. France’s parliament has since voted to extend air strikes in the country.


]]> 0
World’s Poorest Nations Battle Rising Rural Poverty Wed, 25 Nov 2015 18:46:41 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The world’s 48 least developed countries (LDCs), described as the poorest of the poor, are fighting a relentless battle against rising rural poverty.

More than two thirds of the population of LDCs live in rural areas, and 60 per cent work in agriculture.

As a result, there is an urgent need for structural changes focused on the fight against poverty, says a new report released November 25 by the Geneva-based UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

“This means developing the synergies between agricultural modernisation and diversification of the rural economy.”

Currently, the total population of the 48 LDCs is estimated at over 932 million people.

UNCTAD’s Least Developed Countries Report 2015, subtitled “Transforming Rural Economies”, presents a road map to address rural poverty, lack of progress in rural transformation and the root causes of migration within and from LDCs.

The migration of poor people from the countryside into cities fuels excessive rates of urbanisation in many of the 48 LDCs, while many international migrants come from rural areas, says the report.

The theme of World Food Day last October was “Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty:” in line with FAO’s annual State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report that called for “sustained private and public investments and social protections for the rural poor.”

Rural women, the majority of whom depend on natural resources and agriculture for their livelihoods, make up over a quarter of the total world population, according to the United Nations.

And in developing countries, rural women represent approximately 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force, and produce, process and prepare much of the food available, thereby giving them primary responsibility for food security.

Since 76 per cent of the extreme poor live in rural areas, rural women are critical for the success of the new Sustainable Development agenda for 2030, according to the United Nations.

The eradication of poverty by 2030 is one of the main objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders last September.

Gauri Pradhan, the Nepali-based, International Coordinator of LDC Watch, an umbrella group of NGOs in LDCs, told IPS the means of Implementation in the SDGs is key to transforming rural economies and enhancing productive capacity in LDCs, which is primarily based on agriculture.

SDG 2a recognises this, and “it is imperative that we have both international cooperation and effective domestic measures that focus on LDCs,” he said.

SDG2 calls to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

The LDCs cover a wide range of countries, extending from Afghanistan, Angola and Bangladesh to Vanuautu, Yemen and Zambia.

Of the 48 LDCs , 34 are in Africa, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia Sudan and Uganda, among others.

Since the LDC category was initiated by the UN General Assembly in 1971, only four countries have graduated to developing country status based on their improved economic performance: Botswana in 1994, Cabo Verde, in 2007, Maldives in 2011, and Samoa 2014.

At least two more countries — Equatorial Guinea and Vanuatu – are expected to graduate in the coming years.

UNCTAD recommends placing more importance on non-farm rural activities instead of primarily focusing on increasing agricultural productivity, as well as increasing the production of higher-value agricultural products.

Since 2012, economic growth in LDCs has continued to slow, reaching 5.5 per cent in 2014 as compared to 6.1 per cent in 2013.

Demba Dembele, LDC Watch President based in Senegal, told IPS the UNCTAD report comes at a time when agricultural policies and migration issues are high on the African agenda, with a recent African Development Bank Conference on African agricultural policies, and an Africa-European Union Summit on Migration.

“So it is hoped that this report will gives direction on how to deal more effectively with these issues, particularly in Africa”, he added.

The writer can be contacted at

]]> 0