Inter Press ServiceActive Citizens – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 23 Oct 2018 09:14:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Honduran Migrant Caravan Moves Northwards, Defying all Obstacleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/honduran-migrant-caravan-moves-northwards-defying-obstacles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=honduran-migrant-caravan-moves-northwards-defying-obstacles http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/honduran-migrant-caravan-moves-northwards-defying-obstacles/#respond Mon, 22 Oct 2018 23:17:39 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158301 A long chain of people is winding its way along the highways of Chiapas, the southernmost Mexican state. It is moving fast, despite the fact that one-third of its ranks are made up of children, and it has managed to avoid the multiple obstacles that the governments of Honduras, Guatemala and now Mexico, under pressure […]

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In the central park of the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, a camp was improvised, where thousands of migrants stopped to rest and wash before proceeding to the border with the United States, 2,000 kilometres away. People of all ages, entire families and many children are part of the caravan that began its desperate trek on Oct. 13 in Honduras. Credit: Javier García/IPS

In the central park of the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, a camp was improvised, where thousands of migrants stopped to rest and wash before proceeding to the border with the United States, 2,000 kilometres away. People of all ages, entire families and many children are part of the caravan that began its desperate trek on Oct. 13 in Honduras. Credit: Javier García/IPS

By Daniela Pastrana
TAPACHULA, Mexico, Oct 22 2018 (IPS)

A long chain of people is winding its way along the highways of Chiapas, the southernmost Mexican state. It is moving fast, despite the fact that one-third of its ranks are made up of children, and it has managed to avoid the multiple obstacles that the governments of Honduras, Guatemala and now Mexico, under pressure from the United States, have thrown up in a vain effort to stop it.

Every attempt to make it shrink seems to have the opposite effect. And on Monday Oct. 22, some 7,000 Central Americans, most of them Hondurans, kept walking northward, in defiance of U.S. President Donald Trump’s warning to do everything possible to “stop the onslaught of illegal aliens from crossing” the U.S.-Mexico border."This is giving rise to something like a trail of ants, and we don't know where it's going to end…We're going to be seeing mass exoduses much more similar to those we see from Africa to Europe." -- Quique Vidal Olascoaga

The caravan that set out from San Pedro Sula, in northern Honduras, in the early hours of Oct. 13, has put the migration policy of the entire region in check. Trump took it up as the campaign theme for the Nov. 6 mid-term elections, and via Twitter, threatened Honduras with immediate withdrawal of any financial aid.

“People have to apply for asylum in Mexico first and if they fail to do that, the U.S. will turn them away,” Trump tweeted.

The caravan isn’t stopping. In nine days it has travelled a little more than 700 kilometres to reach Tapachula, a city of 300,000 inhabitants, close to the border, which has welcomed the migrants’ arrival with food, beverages and encouraging messages.

Groups of activists and human rights defenders are preparing to meet them in different parts of the country. “This is not a caravan, it’s an exodus,” say migrant advocates.

There is still a long road ahead, however. The migrants still have 2,000 kilometres to go before reaching the nearest Mexican-U.S. border crossing, in an area governed by criminal groups, which have made migrant smuggling one of the country’s most lucrative businesses.

In addition, the Mexican government has threatened to detain them if they leave Chiapas, where local legislation allows them to be in transit with few requirements because it is a border zone.

But none of this has prevented new groups of migrants from arriving every day to join the caravan.

The number of children in the arms of their parents is striking, as they walk kilometre after kilometer, cross rivers and border barriers, or wait for hours in crowded, unsanitary conditions, in suffocating temperatures.

The stories they tell are heartbreaking.

A line of more than five kilometres of migrants walked on Sunday, Oct 21, from Ciudad Hidalgo to Tapachula, 40 kilometers inside the state of Chiapas, in southern Mexico. There are 2,000 kilometres left to the U.S.-Mexico border, along a route that is partly controlled by organised crime groups. Credit: Javier García/IPS

A line of more than five kilometres of migrants walked on Sunday, Oct 21, from Ciudad Hidalgo to Tapachula, 40 kilometers inside the state of Chiapas, in southern Mexico. There are 2,000 kilometres left to the U.S.-Mexico border, along a route that is partly controlled by organised crime groups. Credit: Javier García/IPS

“We don’t have a job, we don’t have medicine, we have nothing in our country, we can’t even afford to eat properly. I want to get to the United States to raise my children,” Ramón Rodríguez, a man from San Pedro Sula who arrived with his whole family to the Guatemalan-Mexican border on Oct. 17, told IPS in tears.

In the last decade, human rights organisations and journalists have documented the massive displacement of Central Americans toward the southern border of Mexico, and have repeatedly warned of a humanitarian crisis that is being ignored.

In 2016, the Global Report on Internal Displacement, published by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, devoted a special section to an emerging phenomenon of displacement in Mexico and the countries of the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador).

In May 2017, Médecins Sans Frontières presented the report “Forced to Flee Central America’s Northern Triangle: A Neglected Humanitarian Crisis”, in which it warned of an exodus, caused above all by criminal violence in the region.

The Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, which has organised 14 caravans of mothers of migrants who have disappeared in Mexican territory, has also described the situation in the Northern Triangle as a “humanitarian tragedy”.

The violence, along with precarious labour and economic conditions, skyrocketed a few days ago when the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez announced hikes in the electricity rates.

According to versions given by Hondurans who arrived in Mexico, it was Bartolo Fuentes, a pastor and former legislator who has participated in several caravans in Mexico, who launched the call for a collective march to the United States.

They were to gather in the Great Metropolitan Central bus station in San Pedro Sula. Around one thousand people showed up.

Hundreds of Mexicans mobilised to help Central American migrants, many giving rides in their cars and trucks to members of the caravan, to ease their journey to Tapachula, where other supportive residents provided them with food and beverages. Credit: Javier García/IPS

Hundreds of Mexicans mobilised to help Central American migrants, many giving rides in their cars and trucks to members of the caravan, to ease their journey to Tapachula, where other supportive residents provided them with food and beverages. Credit: Javier García/IPS

“Many of us thought that in a group it was easier and safer, because we know that going through Mexico is dangerous,” a member of the caravan who asked for anonymity told IPS. “Later, messages began to arrive through Whatsapp (the instant messaging network), and people began to organise to flee the country,” he said.

By Oct. 15, another group had organised in Choluteca, in southern Honduras, and yet another in Tegucigalpa.

The Honduran government tried to close the border crossings, but was unable to stop some 3,000 people from leaving the country and crossing Guatemala. The detention and deportation of Pastor Fuentes did not stop them either. On Oct. 17, the caravan arrived in the city of Tecún Umán, on the border with Mexico.

The Mexican government had stepped up security at the border and the caravan was stranded on the bridge that joins the two countries. Desperation set in: on Oct. 19, the migrants crossed the police cordon and were dispersed with tear gas.

Faced with media pressure, the Mexican authorities offered “orderly passage” for groups of 30 to 40 people who were to take the steps to apply for refuge.

But it was actually a ruse, because the migrants were taken to an immigration station where they must stay 45 days, and have no guarantees of the regularisation of their immigration status.

The border bridge became a refugee camp, without humanitarian assistance from either government. The only thing the Guatemalan government provided were buses for those who wanted to “voluntarily” return to their country.

Exhausted, many decided to turn around, the disappointment plain to see on their faces.

However, the bulk of the caravan made the decision to swim or raft across the Suchiate River.

For more than 24 hours, images of thousands of people crossing the river circled the world, while other groups of migrants continued to arrive at the border to join the caravan that today numbers more than 7,000 people, according to human rights groups.

Some activists believe that, because of its size and the form it has taken, this caravan could fundamentally change migratory movements in Central America, with people increasingly turning to a new strategy of migrating in huge groups.

“This is giving rise to something like a trail of ants, and we don’t know where it’s going to end,” Quique Vidal Olascoaga, an activist with the organisation Voces Mesoamericanas, told IPS. “We’re going to be seeing mass exoduses much more similar to those we see from Africa to Europe.”

With reporting by Rodrigo Soberanes and Angeles Mariscal, from various places in the state of Chiapas.

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Women as Liberia’s Guardians of Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-liberias-guardians-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-liberias-guardians-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-liberias-guardians-peace/#respond Fri, 19 Oct 2018 09:54:18 +0000 Franck Kuwonu Africa Renewal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158265 Not long ago, images of child soldiers and the nation of Liberia were wedded in the minds of the international community. The country was struggling to end a horrific civil war, but military efforts were going nowhere. Then the mothers, grandmothers and sisters of Liberia stepped forward and formed the Women of Liberia Mass Action […]

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Liberian women at an empowerment and leadership conference in Monrovia, Liberia. Credit: UNMIL Photo/Christopher Herwig

By Franck Kuwonu, Africa Renewal
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 19 2018 (IPS)

Not long ago, images of child soldiers and the nation of Liberia were wedded in the minds of the international community. The country was struggling to end a horrific civil war, but military efforts were going nowhere.

Then the mothers, grandmothers and sisters of Liberia stepped forward and formed the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace campaign.

They pressured Liberian men to pursue peace or lose physical intimacy with their wives. Wearing all-white clothing, the women of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, gathered at the fish market in the thousands, sitting, praying and singing. Their images were seen around the world.

“The women of Liberia say peace is our goal, peace is what matters, peace is what we need,” was their clear message, stamped on a billboard in the downtown fish market.

“The world once remembered Liberia for child soldiers,” said Leymah Gbowee, a leader of the peace group for which she won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. “They now know our country for the women in white.”

Their efforts, which continued until the nation’s first elections, were successful.

“We felt like the men in our society were really not taking a stand,” recalls Gbowee, who now heads the Women, Peace and Security Program at Columbia University in New York.

“They were either fighters or they were very silent and accepting all of the violence that was being thrown at us as a nation.… So we decided, ‘We’ll do this to propel the silent men into action.’”

The women demanded a meeting with then-president Charles Taylor and got him to agree to attend peace talks with the other leaders of the warring factions brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a subregional grouping.

The women perfected the art of “corridor lobbying,” waiting for negotiators as they entered and exited meeting rooms during breaks. Their action paved the way for negotiations taking place in Ghana, where a delegation of about 200 Liberian women staged a sit-in at the presidential palace and applied pressure for a resolution.

Dressed in white, the women blocked every entry and exit point, including windows, stopping negotiators from leaving the talks without a resolution. Their action, as well as the pressures mounted by ECOWAS leaders, led to the signing of the 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

“They would confront then-president [Charles] Taylor, insisting that he must give peace a chance; they travelled all the way to Ghana to confront the leaders of the warring factions as they were negotiating peace, urging them to sign a ceasefire agreement. Although the men of Liberia also played a role, the women were consistent and in the forefront.”

Liberian women’s political activism continued in the aftermath of the Accra peace accord through the period leading to 2005 elections, which brought Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the presidency.

Observers note that through civic education and a voter registration drive carried out by women, Liberians had their voices heard and their votes counted.

Close to 80% of the Liberian women who flooded the polls during the country’s first postwar presidential election voted to usher a woman into power for the first time on a continent that for centuries had been the world’s most patriarchal. Ms. Sirleaf’s election was hailed as historic. “We have shattered the glass ceiling theory,” the then president-elect was quoted as saying.

Addressing jubilant supporters celebrating her victory a few days earlier, she’d urged women to “seize the moment to become active in civil and political affairs.”

President Sirleaf became the first democratically elected president in Africa. All in all, Liberian women have been a force against violence in the country, and their actions contributed to the ending of hostilities after a 14-year civil war. Subsequently there was a shift in focus to peacebuilding.

The women’s continued advocacy, with clear messages to the public, has led to their being considered community watchdogs, while they have also developed the concept of “peace huts,” where women receive leadership and entrepreneurship training.

Additional reporting by Catherine Onekalit in Liberia.

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Latin American Rural Women Call for Recognition and Policieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/latin-american-rural-women-call-recognition-policies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-rural-women-call-recognition-policies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/latin-american-rural-women-call-recognition-policies/#respond Fri, 12 Oct 2018 13:39:07 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158128 This article forms part of IPS coverage of International Rural Women's Day, celebrated Oct. 15.

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Yolanda Flores, an Aymara indigenous woman, speaks to other women engaged in small-scale agriculture, gathered in her village square in the highlands of Peru's southern Andes. She is convinced that participating in local decision-making spaces is fundamental for rural women to stop being invisible and to gain recognition of their rights. Credit: Courtesy of Yolanda Flores

Yolanda Flores, an Aymara indigenous woman, speaks to other women engaged in small-scale agriculture, gathered in her village square in the highlands of Peru's southern Andes. She is convinced that participating in local decision-making spaces is fundamental for rural women to stop being invisible and to gain recognition of their rights. Credit: Courtesy of Yolanda Flores

By Mariela Jara
LIMA, Oct 12 2018 (IPS)

Rural women in Latin America play a key role with respect to attaining goals such as sustainable development in the countryside, food security and the reduction of hunger in the region. But they remain invisible and vulnerable and require recognition and public policies to overcome this neglect.

There are around 65 million rural women in this region, and they are very diverse in terms of ethnic origin, the kind of land they occupy, and the activities and roles they play. What they have in common though is that governments largely ignore them, as activists pointed out ahead of the International Day of Rural Women, celebrated Oct. 15."They play key roles and produce and work much more than men. In the orchards, in the fields, during planting time, they raise the crops, take care of the farm animals, and disproportionately carry the workload of the house, the children, etc., but they don't see a cent." -- JulioBerdegué

“The state, whether local or national authorities, neglect us,” Yolanda Flores, an Aymara woman, told IPS. “They only think about planting steel and cement. They don’t understand that we live off agriculture and that we women are the most affected because we are in charge of the food and health of our families.”

Flores, who lives in Iniciati, a village of about 400 indigenous peasant families in the department of Puno in Peru’s southern Andes, located more than 3,800 metres above sea level, has always been dedicated to growing food for her family.

On the land she inherited from her parents she grows potatoes, beans and grains like quinoa and barley, which she washes, grinds in a traditional mortar and pestle, and uses to feed her family. The surplus is sold in the community.

“When we garden we talk to the plants, we hug each potato, we tell them what has happened, why they have become loose, why they have worms. And when they grow big we congratulate them, one by one, so our food has a lot of energy when we eat. But people don’t understand our way of life and they forget about small farmers,” she said.

Like Flores, millions of rural women in Latin America face a lack of recognition for their work on the land, as well as the work they do maintaining a household, caring for the family, raising children, or caring for the sick and elderly.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) urges governments in the region to assume a commitment to reverse the historical disadvantages faced by this population group which prevent their access to productive resources, the enjoyment of benefits and the achievement of economic autonomy.

“Depending on the country, between two-thirds and 85 percent of the hours worked by rural women is unpaid work,” Julio Berdegué, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS.

Women engage in subsistence agriculture at more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the highlands of the southern department of Cuzco, in the Andes of Peru, in the municipality of Cusipata. With the support of nongovernmental organisations, they have built greenhouses that allow them to produce a range of vegetables despite the inclement weather. Credit: Janet Nina/IPS

Women engage in subsistence agriculture at more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the highlands of the southern department of Cuzco, in the Andes of Peru, in the municipality of Cusipata. With the support of nongovernmental organisations, they have built greenhouses that allow them to produce a range of vegetables despite the inclement weather. Credit: Janet Nina/IPS

Berdeguè, who is also deputy director general of FAO, deplored the fact that they do not receive payment for their hard work in agriculture – a workload that is especially heavy in the case of heads of families who run their farms, and during growing season.

Public policies against discrimination

María Elena Rojas, head of the FAO office in Peru, told IPS that if rural women in Latin American countries had access to land tenure, financial services and technical assistance like men, they would increase the yield of their plots by 20 to 30 percent, and agricultural production would improve by 2.5 to 4 percent.


That increase would help reduce hunger by 12 to 15 percent. "This demonstrates the role and contribution of rural women and the need for assertive public policies to achieve it and for them to have opportunities to exercise their rights. None of them should go without schooling, healthy food and quality healthcare. These are rights, and not something impossible to achieve," she said.

“They play key roles and produce and work much more than men,” the official said from FAO’s regional headquarters in Santiago. “In the orchards, in the fields, during planting time, they raise the crops, take care of the farm animals, and disproportionately carry the workload of the house, the children, etc., but they don’t see a cent.”

“We say: we want women to stay in the countryside. But for God’s sake, why would they stay? They work for their fathers, then they work for their husbands or partners. That’s just not right, it’s not right!” exclaimed Berdegué, before stressing the need to stop justifying that rural women go unpaid, because it stands in the way of their economic autonomy.

He explained that not having their own income, or the fact that the income they generate with the fruit of their work is then managed by men, places rural women in a position of less power in their families, their communities, the market and society as a whole.

“Imagine if it was the other way around, that they would tell men: you work, but you will not receive a cent. We would have staged a revolution by now. But we’ve gotten used to the fact that for rural women that’s fine because it’s the home, it’s the family,” Berdegué said.

The FAO regional representative called on countries to become aware of this reality and to fine-tune policies to combat the discrimination.

A global workload greater than that of men, economic insecurity, reduced access to resources such as land, water, seeds, credit, training and technical assistance are some of the common problems faced by rural women in Latin America, whether they are farmers, gatherers or wage-earners, according to the Atlas of Rural Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, published in 2017 by FAO.

But even in these circumstances, they are protagonists of change, as in the growth of rural women’s trade unions in the agro-export sector.

Afro-descendant Adela Torres (white t-shirt, front), secretary general of the National Union of Agricultural Industry Workers (Sintraingro) in the banana region of Urabá, in the Colombian department of Antioquia, sits on the floor during a meeting of women members of the union. Credit: Courtesy of Sintrainagro

Afro-descendant Adela Torres (white t-shirt, L-C, front), secretary general of the National Union of Agricultural Industry Workers (Sintrainagro) in the banana region of Urabá, in the Colombian department of Antioquia, sits on the floor during a meeting of women members of the union. Credit: Courtesy of Sintrainagro

With the increased sale of non-traditional products to international markets, such as flowers, fruit and vegetables, women have swelled this sector, says another regional study, although often in precarious conditions and with standards that do not ensure decent work.

Trade unions fight exploitative conditions

But trade unions are fighting exploitative labour conditions. A black woman from Colombia, Adela Torres, is an example of this struggle.

Since childhood and following the family tradition, she worked on a banana farm in the municipality of Apartadó, in Urabá, a region that produces bananas for export in the Caribbean department of Antioquia.

Now, the 54-year-old Torres, who has two daughters and two granddaughters, is the secretary general of the National Union of Agricultural Industry Workers (Sintrainagro), which groups workers from 268 farms, and works for the insertion of rural women in a sector traditionally dominated by men.

“When women earn and manage their own money, they can improve their quality of life,” she told IPS in a telephone conversation from Apartadó.

Torres believes that women’s participation in banana production should be equitable and that their performance deserves equal recognition.

“We have managed to get each farm to hire at least two more women and among the achievements gained are employment contracts, equal pay, social security and incentives for education and housing for these women,” she explained.

She said rural women face many difficulties, many have not completed primary school, are mothers too early and are heads of households, have no technical training and receive no state support.

In spite of this, they work hard and manage to raise their children and get ahead while contributing to food security.

Making the leap to positions of visibility is also a challenge that Flores has assumed in the Andes highlands of Puno, to fight for their proposals and needs to be heard.

“We have to win space in decision-making and come in as authorities; that is the struggle now, to speak for ourselves. I am determined and I am encouraging other women to take this path,” Flores said.

Faced with the indifference of the authorities, more action and a stronger presence is the philosophy of Flores, as her grandmother taught her, always repeating: “Don’t be lazy and work hard.” “That is the message and I carry it in my mind, but I would like to do it with more support and more rights,” she said.

With reporting by Orlando Milesi in Santiago.

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This article forms part of IPS coverage of International Rural Women's Day, celebrated Oct. 15.

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Farmers Generate Their Own Electricity in El Salvadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/farmers-generate-electricity-el-salvador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmers-generate-electricity-el-salvador http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/farmers-generate-electricity-el-salvador/#respond Mon, 08 Oct 2018 21:38:26 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158049 In Lilian Gómez’s house, nestled in the mountains of eastern El Salvador, the darkness of the night was barely relieved by the faint, trembling flames of a pair of candles, just like in the houses of her neighbours. Until now. Electricity arrived when they decided to build their own hydroelectric dam together, not only to […]

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Juan Benítez, president of the Nuevos Horizontes Association of Joya de Talchiga, rests on the edge of the dike built as part of the El Calambre mini-hydroelectric dam. The 40 plus families in the village have had electricity since 2012, thanks to the project they built themselves, in the mountains of eastern El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Juan Benítez, president of the Nuevos Horizontes Association of Joya de Talchiga, rests on the edge of the dike built as part of the El Calambre mini-hydroelectric dam. The 40 plus families in the village have had electricity since 2012, thanks to the project they built themselves, in the mountains of eastern El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
Joya de Talchiga, EL SALVADOR, Oct 8 2018 (IPS)

In Lilian Gómez’s house, nestled in the mountains of eastern El Salvador, the darkness of the night was barely relieved by the faint, trembling flames of a pair of candles, just like in the houses of her neighbours. Until now.

Electricity arrived when they decided to build their own hydroelectric dam together, not only to light up the night, but also to take small steps towards undertakings that help improve living conditions in the village.

Now she uses a refrigerator to make “charamuscas” – ice cream made from natural beverages, which she sells to generate a small income.

“With the money from the charamuscas I pay for electricity, food and other things,” the 64-year-old Gómez, head of one of the 40 families benefiting from the El Calambre mini-hydroelectric plant project, told IPS.

This is a community initiative that supplies energy to La Joya de Talchiga, one of the 29 villages in the rural municipality of Perquín, with some 4,000 inhabitants, in the eastern department of Morazán, which borders to the north with Honduras.

During the 1980-1992 civil war, this region was the scene of fierce battles between the army and the then-guerrilla Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), now a political party, in power since 2009 after winning two consecutive presidential elections.

When the war ended, the largest towns in the area were revived thanks to ecotourism and historical tourism, where visitors learn about battles and massacres in the area. But the most remote villages lack basic services, which keeps them from doing the same.

The El Calambre mini-hydroelectric power plant takes its name from the river with cold turquoise water that emerges in Honduras and winds through the mountains until it crosses the area where La Joya is located, dedicated to subsistence agriculture, especially corn and beans.

A small dike dams the water in a segment of the river, and part of the flow is directed through underground pipes to the engine house, 900 metres below, inside which a turbine makes a 58-kW generator roar.

La Joya is an example of how local inhabitants, mostly poor peasant farmers, didn’t stand idly by waiting for the company that distributes electricity in the area to bring them electric power.

The distribution of energy in this Central American country of 6.5 million people has been in the hands of several private companies since it was privatised in the late 1990s.

During the days IPS spent in La Joya, locals said they own the land where they live, but they lack formal documents, and without them the company that operates in the region doesn’t supply electricity. It only brought power to a couple of families who do have all their paperwork in order.

In this Central American nation, households with electricity represent 92 percent of the total in urban areas, but only 77 percent in rural areas, according to official data released in May.

Without much hope that the company would supply power, the residents of La Joya set out to obtain it by their own means and resources, with the technical and financial support of national and international organisations.

One of these was the association Basic Sanitation, Health Education and Alternative Energies (SABES El Salvador), which played a key role in bringing the initiative to La Joya, where it was initially met with reservations.

“People still doubted when they came to talk to us about the project in 2005, and even I doubted, it was hard for us to believe that it could happen. We knew how a dam works, the water that moves a turbine, but we didn’t know that it could be done on a small river,” Juan Benítez, president of Nuevos Horizontes, the community development organisation of La Joya, told IPS.

Carolina Martínez and her children stand in front of their house, where a light bulb can be seen, in the village of Joya de Talchiga in the eastern Salvadoran department of Morazán. The 36-year-old teacher is one of the beneficiaries of the community hydroelectric project, which since 2012 has provided electricity to more than 40 local families. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Carolina Martínez and her children stand in front of their house, lit inside by a light bulb, in the village of Joya de Talchiga in the eastern Salvadoran department of Morazán. The 36-year-old teacher is one of the beneficiaries of the community hydroelectric project, which since 2012 has provided electricity to more than 40 local families. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The small hydroelectric plant, in operation since 2012, was built by local residents in exchange for becoming beneficiaries of the service. Paid workers such as electricians and stonemasons were only hired for specialised work.

The total cost of the mini-dam was over 192,000 dollars, 34,000 of which were contributed by the community with the many hours of work that the local residents put in, which were assigned a monetary value.

The charge for the service is based on the number of light bulbs per family, at a cost of 50 cents a month each. Thus, if a family has four light bulbs, they pay two dollars a month, lower than what is charged commercially.

Local residents still remember how difficult life was when they had no hopes of getting electric power.

“When I was a girl, things were so hard without electricity, we had to buy candles or gas (kerosene) to light candles,” one of the beneficiaries, Leonila González, 45, told IPS as she rested on a chair in the hallway of her house, located in the middle of a pine forest, 30 metres from the river.

The small generator in the engine room built by the residents of Joya de Talchiga. Men from the village carried the heavy turbine that moves the 58-kW generator on their shoulders, since there is no access by vehicles where the mini-community dam was installed in the mountainous municipality of Parquín, in eastern El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The small generator in the engine room built by the residents of Joya de Talchiga. Men from the village carried the heavy turbine that moves the 58-kW generator on their shoulders, since there is no access by vehicles where the mini-community dam was installed in the mountainous municipality of Parquín, in eastern El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Most residents, she recalled, used to use “ocotes,” the local name for pieces of pine wood, whose resin is flammable.

“We would put two splinters in a pot, and that’s how we lived, with very dim light, but that’s how it was for us,” she said.

Meanwhile, Carolina Martinez, the teacher who works at the village preschool, pointed out that in those days the children’s homework was stained with charcoal soot from the ocote.

She and her family used to buy car batteries to run some appliances, which implied significant costs for them, including payment for the appliances and the person who brought them from nearby towns.

Others who needed to work with more powerful devices, such as saws for carpentry, had to buy gasoline-powered generators, she said. And those who had a cell phone had to send it to Rancho Quemado, a nearby village, for recharging.

“Now we see everything differently, the streets are illuminated at night, it’s no longer dark,” Martínez said.

For the village carpenters or welders, working is much easier with a power socket at hand.

A boy from La Joya, a village in eastern El Salvador, takes a charamusca, a fruit-based ice cream, from the refrigerator of Lilian Gómez, who, thanks to the arrival of electricity, has set up a small business making charamuscas, which are already popular among her neighbors. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

A boy from La Joya, a village in eastern El Salvador, takes a charamusca, a fruit-based ice cream, from the refrigerator of Lilian Gómez, who, thanks to the arrival of electricity, has set up a small business making charamuscas, which are already popular among her neighbors. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

For María Isabel Benítez, 55, a homemaker, one of the advantages of having electricity is that you can watch the news and find out what’s going on in the country. “I like the 6:00 a.m. news programme, I see everything there,” she said, holding her little granddaughter Daniela in her arms.

Elena Gómez, a 29-year-old psychology student, said she can now do her homework on the computer at home. “I no longer have to go to the nearest cybercafé,” she said.

The project was considered binational from the outset, since the surplus energy generated in La Joya is distributed to the village of Cueva del Monte, four km away, in Honduras.

Additional power lines were installed so the plant can benefit another 45 families, 32 of whom are already connected.

“The Hondurans deceived us, they told us they were going to set into operation the energy project, but they didn’t, and we were only left with the blueprint,” Mauricio Gracia, the community leader of the Honduran village, told IPS.

The people of Cueva del Monte are Salvadorans who from one moment to the next found themselves living in Honduras, in September 1992, following a ruling by the International Court of Justice, which resolved a lingering border dispute that included the area north of Morazán.

Benitez, the president of the La Joya association, said the generator sometimes fails, especially when there are thunderstorms, so the organisation is looking for more support to purchase a second generator, which could operate when the first one turns off.

Also, as a community they hope to little by little generate development initiatives, with the electricity they already have, to give the local economy a boost.

For example, they have discussed the possibility of promoting rural tourism, taking advantage of the natural beauty of the area’s pine forest and the pools and waterfalls of the Calambre River.

The plan is to build mountain cabins, which would have electricity. But the idea has not come to fruition because it has not been possible to reach an agreement with the owners of the land, said Benítez.

Meanwhile, Lilian Gómez is happy that there is strong local demand for her charamuscas, which she could not make if electric power had not come to La Joya.

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Cyber Attacks Growing Problem in Developing Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/cyber-attacks-growing-problem-developing-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cyber-attacks-growing-problem-developing-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/cyber-attacks-growing-problem-developing-nations/#respond Mon, 08 Oct 2018 14:00:30 +0000 Silvia Baur-Yazbeck http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158038 Few experiences undermine a digital financial services (DFS) customer’s finances and trust in DFS like becoming the victim of a cybercrime. This is especially true of low-income customers, who are least able to rebound from the losses, and of the newly banked, whose trust in financial services may be fragile. Unfortunately, cybercrime is a growing […]

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Credit: Dinh Manh Tai, 2012 CGAP Photo Contest

By Silvia Baur-Yazbeck
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 8 2018 (IPS)

Few experiences undermine a digital financial services (DFS) customer’s finances and trust in DFS like becoming the victim of a cybercrime. This is especially true of low-income customers, who are least able to rebound from the losses, and of the newly banked, whose trust in financial services may be fragile.

Unfortunately, cybercrime is a growing problem in developing countries, where customers often conduct financial transactions over unsecure mobile phones and transmission lines that are not designed to protect communications.

In Africa, the number of successful attacks against the financial sector doubled in 2017, with the biggest losses hitting the mobile financial services sector. DFS providers must adopt stronger cybersecurity measures to protect themselves and their customers. But which threats pose the greatest risk today?

In 2017, CGAP surveyed 11 DFS providers operating in Africa to understand how they perceive and mitigate cyber risks. We learned that all of them have been affected by cybersecurity incidents and are at various stages of implementing cybersecurity measures in their organizations.

While they are still most concerned about better-known types of fraud in DFS, such as malicious employees and agents, they are seeing themselves confronted with four types of risks emerging in cyberspace.

Social engineering

In a social engineering attack, the criminal tricks the victim into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware, which opens the doors to physical locations, systems or networks. The idea is to exploit a vulnerable person rather than a vulnerable system. DFS providers from Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia told us that fraudsters had duped their employees into sharing their user login details and then accessed corporate information systems.

Most DFS providers consider careless or unaware employees to be a major factor in their organization’s cyber risk exposure. But DFS customers are a vulnerability, too. The newly banked are more likely to fall victim to this type of scheme because of their limited experience with digital fraud.

Providers can guard against social engineering through regular awareness and education campaigns. It is also important to appropriately manage user access rights, introduce system log monitoring processes and require two individuals for completing sensitive transactions (i.e., maker-checker controls).

Data breaches

Using malware or social engineering, hackers can gain access to valuable information, such as credit card numbers, customer personal identification numbers, login credentials and government-issued identifiers. Weak patch management, legacy systems and poor system log monitoring were cited as the main reasons why DFS providers’ systems are susceptible to hacking attacks.

In addition to financial losses that can result from a data breach, providers’ reputation and customers’ trust are at risk. In 2017, thieves breached a DFS provider’s systems in Kenya and stole hundreds of customers’ identities. The fraudsters accessed sensitive customer information, such as account types and last transactions, which allowed them to pass as legitimate customers and apply for loans in the victim’s name.

To protect against data breaches, DFS providers need to regularly update their systems and software, patch their systems, use strong encryption for data at rest and in transit and implement 24/7 system log monitoring.

Outages & denial of service attacks

DFS providers sometimes experience system outages during routine system upgrades or patches. Earlier this year, an upgrade gone awry left DFS users in Zimbabwe without access to their digital money for two days. Systems unavailability can also be the result of a cyberattack.

For example, in 2017, M-Shwari customers in Kenya were left without access to their savings and loan products for five days. And, after the outage, several found inconsistencies in their account balances. The most frequent form of attacks that cause system unavailability are denial-of-service attacks.

In a denial-of-service attack, cyber criminals overwhelm a server by flooding it with simultaneous access requests, depriving legitimate users of access to the system. In most cases, the objective is to harm the business. Yet, in some cases, cyber criminals have launched denial-of-service attacks to distract attention from an attempt to gain access to the system.

Effective countermeasures include continuous network traffic monitoring to identify and detect attacks while allowing legitimate traffic to reach its destination, a solid and tested incident response plan that allows for quick reaction in an emergency and strong change management processes and disaster recovery planning.

Third-party threats

DFS providers rely on third parties for a range of services, such as mobile network, information technology and data storage solutions. Sometimes, these providers misuse their system rights to access confidential customer information that they can sell or use for social engineering.

Also, a third party that handles sensitive information may not have appropriate safeguards against cyberattacks, putting at risk the confidentiality and integrity of the DFS provider’s customer data.

To address third-party threats, DFS providers should implement due diligence reviews of current and potential partners, including reviews of their security policies and practices.

Impact on low-income customers

If physical money used to be kept safe in bank vaults, what is protecting money now that it is digital? This is a financial inclusion question because the answer is especially important for low-income customers. In developed countries, it is usually the financial services provider that is legally responsible for bearing the cost of fraud. In developing countries, it is often the customer.

The experience of fraud and rumors of fraud experienced by others causes mistrust in DFS, especially among lower-income consumers. The DFS providers we spoke with in Africa recognize their need to invest more in cybersecurity for both themselves and their customers. They acknowledge that better safeguards are needed to mitigate threats and be better prepared to respond to incidents.

Failure to take the relevant steps could deter people from entering the formal financial system and significantly harm consumers and markets.

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G20 Women’s Summit Pushes for Rural Women’s Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/g20-womens-summit-pushes-rural-womens-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=g20-womens-summit-pushes-rural-womens-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/g20-womens-summit-pushes-rural-womens-rights/#respond Fri, 05 Oct 2018 14:52:59 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158026 Rural women play a key role in food production, but face discrimination when it comes to access to land or are subjected to child marriage, the so-called affinity group on gender parity within the G20 concluded during a meeting in the Argentine capital. The situation of rural women was one of the four themes of […]

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Maldives Envoy tells UN About Peaceful Transfer of Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/maldives-envoy-tells-un-peaceful-transfer-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=maldives-envoy-tells-un-peaceful-transfer-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/maldives-envoy-tells-un-peaceful-transfer-power/#respond Wed, 03 Oct 2018 15:47:23 +0000 Arul Louis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157956 Maldives is currently going through a peaceful transfer of power to opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who was elected president last month, the nation’s Permanent Representative Ali Naseer Mohamed assured the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Speaking at the high-level General Debate of the UNGA Oct 1, he said that September 23, the day the presidential […]

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A view of the ravaged village of Vilufushi, on the southeastern Kolhumadulu Atoll, where 17 have died and 28 are still missing after the tsunami swept across their island. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Arul Louis
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 3 2018 (IPS)

Maldives is currently going through a peaceful transfer of power to opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who was elected president last month, the nation’s Permanent Representative Ali Naseer Mohamed assured the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Speaking at the high-level General Debate of the UNGA Oct 1, he said that September 23, the day the presidential election took place, was an “extraordinary day for the country and it “was a moment that makes every Maldivian proud of how far we have come and the excellent progress the country has achieved.”

“Following the election, the Maldives is currently going through the process of transfer of power from one elected government to the other,” he said.

On Saturday, September 29, the country’s Election Commission declared Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Solih the winner of the presidential election, overruling the defeated President Abdulla Yameen’s efforts to delay the announcement of the results.

“The accelerated process of democracy in the Maldives is going in tandem with faster growth in social and economic development,” Mohamed said.

The elections came after a tumultuous period during which Yameen had imposed a state of emergency earlier this year and had arrested former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as well as Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed and charged them with treason.

Solih was also arrested along with scores of opposition leaders.

Maldives Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim was scheduled to address UNGA last Saturday, September 29, but after the president’s defeat he did not show up and Mohamed, who spoke in his stead, was the last speaker at the concluding session of the high-level General Debate.

Without naming any countries, Mohamed said “the principle of international law that governs the friendly relations and cooperation among states are being challenged at a fundamental level.”

“There is therefore a need for countries big and small to return to the right side of law,” he said.

During the country’s turmoil, the tug of war over the Maldives between the Asian giants, India and China came to the fore. As New Delhi insisted on Maldives adhering to democracy, Yameen began a drift towards Beijing and also reached out to Islamabad.

Unlike last year’s speech by Mohamed at the General Debate, Soli’s address this year hardly gave any importance to climate change, which the archipelago nation has presented to the world as a mortal danger to its very existence because of rising sea levels.

He mentioned in the passing that the UN should be the place where the “combined power of many ideas, many solutions, and many voices thrive to address challenges of climate change, ocean degradation, poverty, exclusion, and discrimination.”

Another mention of climate change came when he spoke of the construction of a bridge connecting the capital with its airport and the suburb of Hulhumalé and said it helped “better adaptation to climate change.”

The Maldivian envoy also gave a lot of importance to the value of the UN as “the engine room of multilateralism” and its role in helping the smaller nations.

“For the small islands developing States, such as the Maldives, the United Nations will always remain the indispensable partner in building our national resilience. We see the UN as the key in determining our place, and our voice, in the global discourse,” he said.

“Ensuring the relevance of the UN, must mean ensuring that everyone, from the biggest to the smallest, play their part,” he added. “It must mean, offering everyone a place, in finding shared solutions for our shared future.”

Mohamed spoke proudly of the nation’s strides in development and in ending poverty.

“From the humble beginning, as one of the poorest countries in the world at independence in 1965, to an upper middle-income country today, is a success story by any measure,” he said.

The per capita gross domestic product shot up from $1,470 in 1980 to $19,120 last, the International Monetary Fund data show, putting it firmly in the middle income countries category.

In per capita terms, Maldives is the richest nation in South Asia.

Mohamed gave his country’s scorecard: “The Maldives has one of the highest human development indicators in our region, with nearly universal literacy rates, universal immunization, and the lowest infant-mortality, and maternal-mortality rates. The country has eradicated diseases, such as polio, measles, malaria, and lymphatic filariasis, although various types of non-communicable diseases, are emerging as new challenges.”

He praised Yameen for what he said was the progress recorded by the Indian Ocean archipelago nation during the last five years under his rule.

He made an appeal for support to small island developing states like his for capacity building, through transfer of technology, and access to finance in order to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals.

“The United Nations can assume a greater level of leadership in fostering such support,” he said.

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Local Communities in Mexico Show Ways to Fight Obesityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/local-communities-mexico-show-ways-fight-obesity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-communities-mexico-show-ways-fight-obesity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/local-communities-mexico-show-ways-fight-obesity/#respond Tue, 02 Oct 2018 00:09:22 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157913 Manuel Villegas is one of the peasant farmers who decided to start planting amaranth in Mexico, to complement their corn and bean crops and thus expand production for sale and self-consumption and, ultimately, contribute to improving the nutrition of their communities. “Amaranth arrived in this part of the country in 2009, and some farmers were […]

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A farmer harvests amaranth in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. This grain, of which two of the varieties originated in Mexico, is part of the country's traditional diet and can help boost nutrition among Mexicans, who have been affected by skyrocketing consumption of junk food. Credit: Courtesy of Bridge to Community Health

A farmer harvests amaranth in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. This grain, of which two of the varieties originated in Mexico, is part of the country's traditional diet and can help boost nutrition among Mexicans, who have been affected by skyrocketing consumption of junk food. Credit: Courtesy of Bridge to Community Health

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Oct 2 2018 (IPS)

Manuel Villegas is one of the peasant farmers who decided to start planting amaranth in Mexico, to complement their corn and bean crops and thus expand production for sale and self-consumption and, ultimately, contribute to improving the nutrition of their communities.

“Amaranth arrived in this part of the country in 2009, and some farmers were already growing it when I began to grow it in 2013. It’s growing, but slowly,” Villegas, who is coordinator of the non-governmental Amaranth Network in the Mixteca region, in the southern state of Oaxaca, told IPS.

This crop has produced benefits such as the organisation of farmers, processors and consumers, the obtaining of public funding, as well as improving the nutrition of both consumers and growers."There was an increase in availability and accessibility of overly-processed foods. The State failed to implement public prevention policies. Children live in an obesogenic environment (an environment that promotes gaining weight and is not conducive to weight loss). It's a vulnerable group and companies take advantage of that to increase their sales," -- Fiorella Espinosa

“We have made amaranth part of our daily diet. It improves the diet because of its nutritional qualities, combined with other high-protein seeds,” said Villegas, who lives in the rural area of the municipality of Tlaxiaco, with about 34,000 inhabitants.

The peasant farmers brought together by the network in their region plant some 40 hectares of amaranth, although the effects of climate change forced them to cut back production to 12 tons in 2017 and six this year, due to a drought affecting the area. To cover their self-consumption, they keep 10 percent of the annual harvest.

Native products such as amaranth, in addition to defending foods from the traditional Mexican diet, help to contain the advance of obesity, which has become an epidemic in this Latin American country of nearly 130 million people, with health, social and economic consequences.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) states in “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018,” published in August, that the prevalence of overweight among children under five fell from nine percent to 5.2 percent between 2012 and 2017. That means that the number of overweight children under that age fell from one million to 600,000.

On the other hand, the prevalence of obesity among the adult population (18 years and older) increased, from 26 percent to 28.4 percent. The number of obese adults went from 20.5 million to 24.3 million during the period.

The consequences of the phenomenon are also clear. One example is that mortality from diabetes type 2, the most common, climbed from 70.8 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013 to 84.7 in 2016, according to an update of indicators published in May by several institutions, including the health ministry.

Another impact reported in the same study is that deaths from high blood pressure went up from 16 per 100,000 inhabitants to 18.5.

Members of the Alliance for Food Health, a collective of organisations and academics, called in Mexico for better regulation of advertising of junk food aimed at children and of food and beverage labelling, during the launch of the report "A childhood hooked on obesity" in Mexico City in August. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Members of the Alliance for Food Health, a collective of organisations and academics, called in Mexico for better regulation of advertising of junk food aimed at children and of food and beverage labelling, during the launch of the report “A childhood hooked on obesity” in Mexico City in August. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

But the most eloquent and worrying data is that one in three children is obese or overweight, according to a report published in August by the non-governmental Alliance for Food Health, a group of organisations and academics.

What lies behind

Specialists and activists agree that among the root causes of the phenomenon is the change in eating habits, where the traditional diet based on age-old products has gradually been replaced by junk food, high in sugar, salt, fats, artificial colorants and other ingredients, which is injected from childhood through exposure to poorly regulated advertising.

Government strategy

In 2013, the government established the National Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Overweight, Obesity and Diabetes.

Its measures include the promotion of healthy habits, the creation of the Mexican Observatory on Non-Communicable Diseases (OMENT), the timely identification of people with risk factors, taxes on sugary beverages and the establishment of a voluntary seal of nutritional quality.

But the only progress made so far has been the creation of the observatory and the tax on soft drinks, since neither the regulation of food labels or advertising has come about.

In 2014, the state-run Federal Commission for Protection against Sanitary Risks created guidelines for front labeling of food and beverages, but did so without the participation of experts and civil society organisations and without complying with international World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.

For this reason, the non-governmental The Power of Consumers took legal action in 2015, and the following year a federal judge ruled that the measures violated consumers' rights to health and information. The Supreme Court is now debating the future of labelling.

For Simón Barquera, an authority in nutrition research in the country, the solution is "complex" and requires "multiple actions.” "Society is responsible for attacking the causes of disease. The industry cannot interfere in public policy," he said.

The latest National Health and Nutrition Survey found low proportions of regular consumption of most recommended food groups, such as vegetables, fruits and legumes, in all population groups. For example, 40 percent of the calories children ages one to five eat come from over-processed foods.

For Fiorella Espinosa, a researcher on dietary health at the civil association The Power of Consumers, the liberalisation of trade in Mexico since the 1990s, the lack of regulation of advertising and nutritional labels of products, the displacement of native foods and the prioritisation of extensive farming over traditional farming are factors that led to the crisis.

“There was an increase in availability and accessibility of overly-processed foods. The State failed to implement public prevention policies. Children live in an obesogenic environment (an environment that promotes gaining weight and is not conducive to weight loss). It’s a vulnerable group and companies take advantage of that to increase their sales,” she told IPS.

The 2017 Food Sustainability Index, produced by the Italian non-governmental Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation (BCFN), showed that this country, the second-largest in terms of population and economy in Latin America, has indicators reflecting a prevalence of over-eating, low physical activity and inadequate dietary patterns.

The index, which ranks France first, followed by Japan and Germany, analyses 34 nations with respect to sustainable agriculture, nutritional challenges and food loss and waste.

Obesity “is an epidemic that cannot be solved by nutrition education alone. It has structural determinants, such as the political environment, international trade, the environment and culture. It has social and economic barriers,” Simón Barquera, director of the Nutrition and Health Research Centre at the state-run National Institute of Public Health, told IPS.

Therefore, the Alliance for Food Health proposes a comprehensive strategy against overweight and obesity, which includes a law that incorporates increased taxes on unhealthy products, adequate labelling, better regulation of advertising and promotion of breastfeeding, among other measures.

The contribution of lifesaver crops such as amaranth

The organisations dedicated to the issue also highlight the recovery underway in communities in several states of traditional crops such as amaranth, a plant present in local food for 5,000 years and highly appreciated in the past because its grain contains twice the protein of corn and rice in addition to being rich in vitamins.

“We are looking for ways to generate changes at the community level in agriculture, food and family economy, focused on the cultivation of amaranth. We have realised that there has been a devaluation of the countryside and its role in adequate nutrition,” said Mauricio Villar, director of Social Economy for the non-governmental organisation Bridge to Nutritional Health.

Villar, also the coordinator of the Liaison Group for the Promotion of Amaranth in Mexico ,explained to IPS that “we are increasing our appreciation of peasant life and production, with impacts at different levels on nutrition,” to correct bad eating habits.

But according to Yatziri Zepeda, founder of the non-governmental AliMente Project, these local experiences, no matter how valuable their contribution, are limited in scope.

“These initiatives may generate changes at the local level and address some of the problems, but they are not sufficient to protect the right to health, among others. Obesity is not a matter of individual decisions, but of public policy. It is a political issue, there are very important corporate interests. It is multicausal and systemic,” she told IPS.

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In Argentina, Agriculture Ignores the Right to Foodhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/argentina-agriculture-ignores-right-food/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentina-agriculture-ignores-right-food http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/argentina-agriculture-ignores-right-food/#respond Mon, 24 Sep 2018 23:16:56 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157743 In front of one of the busiest railway stations in the capital of Argentina, there are long lines to buy vegetables, which farmers themselves offer directly to consumers, at prices several times lower than those seen in stores. This scene taking place in Plaza Once, across from the railway station that connects with western Greater […]

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Crisis Drives Nicaragua to an Economic and Social Precipicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/crisis-drives-nicaragua-economic-social-precipice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-drives-nicaragua-economic-social-precipice http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/crisis-drives-nicaragua-economic-social-precipice/#respond Mon, 17 Sep 2018 18:07:02 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157649 Five months after the outbreak of mass protests in Nicaragua, in addition to the more than 300 deaths, the crisis has had visible consequences in terms of increased poverty and migration, as well as the international isolation of the government and a wave of repression that continues unabated. Álvaro Leiva, director of the non-governmental Nicaraguan […]

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Preservation of the Klamath River – a Life or Death Matter for the Yurok Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/preservation-klamath-river-life-death-matter-yurok-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preservation-klamath-river-life-death-matter-yurok-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/preservation-klamath-river-life-death-matter-yurok-people/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 16:48:29 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157602 Fishermen are scarce in the Klamath River delta, unlike other fishing season, because climate change has driven up water temperatures which kills off the salmon, the flagship species of this region in northern California. The increase in temperatures favours the proliferation of lethal fish diseases and the absence of fish has devastating effects on the […]

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Yurok lawyer Amy Cordalis (L) explains the impacts of climate change on the Klamath River, such as the drop in the number of salmon, a key species in the traditions and economy of this Native American tribe in the western U.S. state of California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Yurok lawyer Amy Cordalis (L) explains the impacts of climate change on the Klamath River, such as the drop in the number of salmon, a key species in the traditions and economy of this Native American tribe in the western U.S. state of California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
KLAMATH, California, USA , Sep 13 2018 (IPS)

Fishermen are scarce in the Klamath River delta, unlike other fishing season, because climate change has driven up water temperatures which kills off the salmon, the flagship species of this region in northern California.

The increase in temperatures favours the proliferation of lethal fish diseases and the absence of fish has devastating effects on the Yurok, the largest group of Native Americans in the state of California, who live in the Klamath River basin.

“The river level is dropping at a time when it shouldn’t. The water warms up in summer and causes diseases in the fish. This changes the rhythm of the community and has social effects,” lawyer Amy Cordalis, a member of the tribe, told IPS during a tour of the watershed.

Cordalis stressed that the community of Klamath, in Del Norte county in northwest California, depends on fishing, which is a fundamental part of their traditions, culture and diet.

The Yurok, a tribe which currently has about 6,000 members, use the river for subsistence, economic, legal, political, religious and commercial purposes.

This tribe, one of more than 560 surviving tribes in the United States, owns and manages 48,526 hectares of land, of which its reserve, established in 1855, covers less than half: 22,743 hectares.

Conserving the forest is vital to the regulation of the temperature and water cycle of the river and to moisture along the Pacific coast.

The Yurok – which means “downriver people” – recall with terror the year 2002, when the water level dropped and at least 50,000 salmon ended up dead from disease, the highest fish mortality in the United States.

The Yurok are working to conserve and restore the Klamath River basin, to which they are spiritually and economically linked. Part of the restoration involves placing logs in the river, such as these ones that have been prepared on its banks, to channel the water and retain sediment and thus recreate the habitat needed by salmon, the species that is key to the Yurok culture. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Yurok are working to conserve and restore the Klamath River basin, to which they are spiritually and economically connected. Part of the restoration involves placing logs in the river, such as these ones that have been prepared on its banks, to channel the water and retain sediment and thus recreate the habitat needed by salmon, the species that is key to the Yurok culture. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

And in 2015 no snow fell, which affects the flow of water that feeds the river and is fundamental for the fishery because in March of each year the salmon fry come down from the mountain, Cordalis said. This species needs cold water to breed.

The federal government granted the Yurok a fishing quota of 14,500 salmon for 2018, which is low and excludes commercial catch, but is much higher than the quota granted in 2017 – only 650 – due to the crisis of the river flow that significantly reduced the number of salmon.

The migration of fish downriver has also decreased in recent years due to sedimentation of the basins caused by large-scale timber extraction, road construction, loss of lake wood and loss of diversity in the habitat and fishery production potential.

As a result, the number of chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris) and Pacific lamprey (Lampetra tridentata) have dropped in the Klamath River, while Coho or silver salmon (O. kisutch) are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The Klamath River in California, the natural and spiritual sustenance of the Yurok people, is facing threats due to climate change, such as reduced flow and increased temperatures, which kill salmon, a species that requires cold water for breeding. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Klamath River in California, the natural and spiritual sustenance of the Yurok people, is facing threats due to climate change, such as reduced flow and increased temperatures, which kill salmon, a species that requires cold water for breeding. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A reflection of this crisis, in Cordalis’ words, is the ban on commercial fishing for the third consecutive year, with only subsistence fishing allowed.

Faced with this, the Yurok have undertaken efforts for the conservation of the ecosystem and the recovery of damaged areas to encourage the arrival of the salmon.

In 2006, they began placing wood structures in the Terwer Creek watershed as dikes to channel water flow and control sediment.

“We had to convince the lumber company that owned the land, as well as the state and federal authorities. But when they saw that it worked, they didn’t raise any objections. What we are doing is geomorphology, we are planting gardens,” Rocco Fiori, the engineering geologist who is in charge of the restoration, from Fiori Geo Sciences, a consulting firm specialising in this type of work, told IPS.

Tree trunks are placed in the river bed, giving rise to the growth of new trees. They last about 15 years, as they are broken down and begin to rot as a result of contact with the moisture and wind.

But they generate more trees, giving rise to a small ecosystem. They also facilitate the emergence of vegetation on the river ford, explained Fiori, whose consulting firm is working with the Yurok on the restoration.

Salmon is basic to the diet of the Yurok people, who live in northern California. But the catch has fallen drastically due to a lower water flow in the Klamath River and the increase in water temperature. In the picture, a member of the Yurok tribe seasons fish for dinner on the riverbank. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Salmon is basic to the diet of the Yurok people, who live in northern California. But the catch has fallen drastically due to a lower water flow in the Klamath River and the increase in water temperature. In the picture, a member of the Yurok tribe seasons fish for dinner on the riverbank. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Starting in the fall, this strip is flooded every year, which favours the abundance of organic matter for the salmon to feed on, allowing them to grow and thrive in the new habitat.

In addition, four of the six dams along the Klamath River and its six tributaries, built after 1918 to generate electricity, will be dismantled.

The objective is to restore land that was flooded by the dams and to apply measures to mitigate any damage caused by the demolition of the dams, as required by law.

The Copco 1 and 2, Iron Gate and JC Boyle dams will be demolished in January 2021, at a cost of 397 million dollars. The owner of the dams, the PacifiCorp company, will cover at least 200 million of that cost, and the rest will come from the state government.

“The removal of the dams is vital. It’s a key solution for the survival of salmon,” biologist Michael Belchik, of the Yurok Tribe Fisheries Department, who has worked with the tribe for 23 years, told IPS.

The four reservoirs hold between five million and 20 million cubic metres of sediment, and their removal will provide 600 km of suitable habitat for salmon.

It is estimated that salmon production will increase by 80 percent, with benefits for business, recreational fishing and food security for the Yurok. In addition, the dismantling of dams will mitigate the toxic blue-green algae that proliferate in the reservoirs.

Water conservation projects exemplify the mixture of ancestral knowledge and modern science.

For Cordalis, salmon is irreplaceable. “Our job is not to let (a tragedy) happen again. The tribe does what it can to defend itself from problems and draw attention to the issue. We continue to fight for water and the right decisions. Our goal is to restore the river and get the fish to come back,” the lawyer said.

The Yurok shared their achievements and the challenges they face with indigenous delegates from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Mexico and Panama in the run-up to the Global Climate Action Summit, convened by the government of California to celebrate in advance the third anniversary of the Paris Agreement, reached in Paris in 2015. The meeting will take place on Sept. 13-14 in San Francisco, CA.

This article was produced with support from the Climate and Land Use Alliance .

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Equality and Territory: the Common Struggle of Indigenous Women in the Andeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 18:57:59 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157456 This article is published ahead of the International Day of Indigenous Women, celebrated September 5, which marks the execution of indigenous guerrilla leader Bartolina Sisa.

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Excerpt:

This article is published ahead of the International Day of Indigenous Women, celebrated September 5, which marks the execution of indigenous guerrilla leader Bartolina Sisa.

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Land, Water and Education, Priorities for Chile’s Mapuche Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people/#respond Thu, 30 Aug 2018 23:16:26 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157417 The right to land and water, as well as to multicultural education, are the top priority demands of Mapuche leaders working with their communities in the Araucanía region and in Santiago, Chile’s capital. “We, the entire Cheuquepán Colipe family, are originally from communities in Lautaro (649 km south of Santiago). We’re here today because our […]

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Amid Chronic Violence, Millions of Afghans Face Risks of Drought Related Displacementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement/#respond Thu, 30 Aug 2018 16:07:12 +0000 Enayatullah Azad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157410 Enayatullah Azad is Media, Information & Advocacy Coordinator, Norwegian Refugee Council

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Drought-affected IDP children from Badghis in front of their makeshift shelter in Kahdestan area or Injil district. Credit: NRC/Enayatullah Azad.

By Enayatullah Azad
HERAT, Afghanistan, Aug 30 2018 (IPS)

Amid a precarious security situation in Afghanistan, the worst drought in recent history, that hit two out of three provinces in Afghanistan in July, has destabilized the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, some of whom have already been displaced.

The United Nations has predicted that over two million people are expected to become severely food insecure in the coming period.

The West Region of conflict-stricken Afghanistan has been hardest hit by the drought, and over 60,000 people have been displaced to Herat and Badghis provinces, as a result.

Families that fled to Herat are living in dire conditions in makeshift shelters, where they are exposed to the scorching sun and summer temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius. Many families are subsisting on a single meal a day. Many get by on just bread and water.

Herat has become the closest refuge for about 60,000 people, who have been displaced from their homes due to the drought. Conflict has also prompted many to flee their homes to the relative safety of province.

Over 1700 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the first half of 2018, according to UNAMA. It is the highest recorded number, compared to the same periods for the past decade. The combination of drought and conflict has made tens of thousands of families destitute. They live with few long term prospects or means of regaining stability.

Among the most vulnerable are women and children. Many of the children show visible signs of malnutrition and illness, including skin diseases and eye infections due to dust and the hot weather.

Ayesha Halima is one of thousands of such children, who fled her home for Herat.  Leaning against the wall of a distribution center, she patiently awaits her next meal, as he mother moves through the growing crowd to get their rationed supplies.

 

Halima at the NRC’s cash for food distribution center in Herat.
Credit: NRC/Enayatullah Azad

 

The lack of sufficient nutrition is visible in the pallid faces of children like Soraya Hawa Gul and FatimaPari Gul, who have become neighbors in Herat. They bake bread together in a clay oven in the open air. The mothers make about ten loaves of bread a day, which they wash down with boiled water or tea.

“We cook together because we share a bag of flour,” said Hawa Gul. “Neither of us could afford a bag of flour alone. We have spent all the money we had and have taken many loans from relatives.”

Given such meagre resources, the unconditional cash grants from ECHO and NRC have become life lines for tens of thousands of the impoverished households. Despite the rapidly deployed assistance, drinking water, food and medical supplies are falling short.

Over 1700 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the first half of 2018, according to UNAMA. It is the highest recorded number, compared to the same periods for the past decade. The combination of drought and conflict has made tens of thousands of families destitute. They live with few long term prospects or means of regaining stability.

The blazing temperatures are testing the endurance of those who are in the IDP settlements. Many people are suffering from dehydration, with children and older IDPs particularly susceptible. With few water resources around, drinking water is a prized commodity in the settlements.

“We can’t get enough water to drink or to clean ourselves and our clothes,” displaced Afghans in Herat told staff of the Norwegian Refugee Council.  “There hasn’t been any change to our life situation. We fled our homes because there was no water and it is the same here. At least we a had shelter back home in Badghis.”

With illnesses such as diarrhea, skin diseases and eye infections on the rise, many children are in need of comprehensive medical care. One-year-old Ahmad Mohammed has diarrhea, and a skin and eye infection. He lives in a makeshift shelter with his family after they were forced to leave their home in Badghis city/region/province. “It’s been 70 nights since we arrived. My children and my wife are all sick, and I don’t have the money to buy them enough food or medicine,” Mohammed’s father Ziauddin told NRC.

Shelter is another pressing issue, with families residing in makeshift shelters for the time being. While protection from the scorching sun and the high summer temperatures are the present concern, staying warm and winterisation of homes will become a need, if they remain displaced into the winter months.

But, despite the challenges, women like 57 year old Khanim Gul, who have been displaced several times, show remarkable resilience. Gul was forced to leave her family behind in Badghis. “This isn’t the first year we are suffering from drought. Last year we had almost nothing on the table. This is the fifth tent that I am setting up – the heavy wind keeps tearing it apart,” she said.

Amid the struggles of daily survival, protection has been scant, with women and girls facing heightened risks of harassment and gender-based violence. In the absence of regular schooling and safe spaces where they can grow, learn and play, children are more prone to child labour and child marriage.

Amid scarce resources and lack of livelihood opportunities, including daily labour, many of the displaced men in Herat, try to travel to Iran in search of work.

With regular wages a far fetched notion for most of the displaced populations, Karim is counting his blessings these days. With loans from family members, he has set up a vegetable stall and sell onions and potatoes to the rest of the displaced community near his tent in Herat.

 

Karim selling onions and potatoes near his tent in Kahdestan. Credit: : NRC/Enayatullah Azad.

 

For thousands of families displaced from Herat the few items they carried on their backs are the only remnants of their homes. For many, this is not the first instance of leaving their homes and belongings because of drought.

While news of peace talks and bombings in Afghanistan make the headlines, the IDP communities suffering chronic, long term displacement feel “forgotten” by their government and the international community. They are in desperate need of long term assistance.

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Excerpt:

Enayatullah Azad is Media, Information & Advocacy Coordinator, Norwegian Refugee Council

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The Fight for the Right to Abortion Spreads in Latin America Despite Politicianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/fight-right-abortion-spreads-latin-america-despite-politicians/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2018 22:41:33 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157331 The Argentine Senate’s rejection of a bill to legalise abortion did not stop a Latin American movement, which is on the streets and is expanding in an increasingly coordinated manner among women’s organisations in the region with the most restrictive laws and policies against pregnant women’s right to choose. Approved in Argentina by the Chamber […]

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Q&A: A New Leader with a Vision to Redefine Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-new-leader-vision-redefine-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-new-leader-vision-redefine-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-new-leader-vision-redefine-human-rights/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 20:42:57 +0000 IPS Correspondents http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157299 The human rights movement must be bigger, bolder, and more inclusive if we are to tackle today’s challenges, said Amnesty International’s first South African Secretary General. Laying out his ambitious goals for the organisation and the global human rights movement as a whole is Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s newest Secretary General. “In my first message […]

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The worst drought in 40 years has forced thousands in Sri Lanka to abandon their livelihoods and seek work in cities. Amnesty International says that they will be taking on climate change as a human rights issue. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By IPS Correspondents
JOHANNESBURG/UNITED NATIONS, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

The human rights movement must be bigger, bolder, and more inclusive if we are to tackle today’s challenges, said Amnesty International’s first South African Secretary General.

Laying out his ambitious goals for the organisation and the global human rights movement as a whole is Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s newest Secretary General.

“In my first message as Secretary General, I want to make clear that Amnesty International is now opening its arms wider than ever before to build a genuinely global community that stretches into all four corners of the world, especially in the global south,” Naidoo said as he took up his position.

“I want us to build a human rights movement that is more inclusive. We need to redefine what it means to be a human rights champion in 2018. An activist can come from all walks of life,” he continued.

Hailing from South Africa, Naidoo got his start in social justice while protesting apartheid in his home country and has since worked on issues of education, inequality, and climate change.

“Our world is facing complex problems that can only be tackled if we break away from old ideas that human rights are about some forms of injustice that people face, but not others. The patterns of oppression that we’re living through are interconnected,” said Naidoo.

IPS spoke to Naidoo about the importance of intersectionality, climate change, and his vision for one of the biggest human rights organisations in such divisive times.

Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s newest Secretary General, says climate change is a human rights issue that the organisation will now also focus on. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

IPS: Why is it so important for intersections and the coming together of human rights organisations, and how do you envision this happening?

Naidoo: Well firstly, I think people would be being somewhat delusional if they think individual organisations are going to deliver results. Part of whether Amnesty is able to be successful is that we depend upon the quality of the relationships and alliances that we build with organisations working on the ground.

The good thing is that because of Amnesty’s moving-to-the-ground strategy, which was to move more capacity from London to the different regions, means now we’ve got on-the-ground capacity so those partnerships can happen more easier.

But more than that, it is about the intersection of the agendas.

Say you are taking up the issue of gender equality, you can’t take up the issue of gender equality without understanding that economic exclusion of women is much greater so it brings in economic rights as well as gender rights.

So part of our success will depend on how good we are at making common cause with issues where they are intersecting.

Part of the problems in the past is that people only wanted to form an alliance if they agreed on everything, and that’s not what alliances are about and not what coalitions are about.

An example I use is when I was the chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty which IPS was part of. One of the big tensions there was how do you, in that broad movement keep the religious folks and the women’s movement together? The women’s movement wanted very explicit commitment by the Global Call to Action Against Poverty that we are committed to reproductive rights. And then the religious folks said if you put that there, then we are leaving the coalition.

So what we did was put them in the same room, and said come up with a solution. And at the end, they came up with language that said we support reproductive health. So it was less than what the feminist movement wanted, but it was more than what the religious movement wanted but they found a way to actually live with that.

Because on everything else—on women’s employment, on stopping violence against women and all of that—they had no disagreement.

Let’s be honest the problem is so many fault lines and divisions that are emerging on religious ground, on race, class, migration and so on and unless we can create safer and more spaces for dialogue to talk about differences, and how do we manage difference, we will end up with more and more conflicts.

IPS: What does that mean for the Global South? You said that Amnesty is now on the ground in many countries. What does that mean for these regions and these people to see Amnesty International more on the ground?

Naidoo: What I hope it means is that Amnesty’s being on the ground means that it is more sensitive to on the ground knowledge, taking its lead from local people and being more humble in how it analyses and understands its own role.

For people on the ground, hopefully it means it gives them a great sense of confidence that a well-known organisation that has a long track record, has won the Nobel Peace Prize and all of that, is an ally that will strengthen their struggles.

And sadly, you know, I’ve seen it happen a thousand times, many of our leaders on the continent: if a local NGO says I want to meet with you about about A,B,C, they will say no. If some international organisation that is a big brand says they want to meet, they will get the meeting.

So part of what it hopefully means is we will help amplify the voices of the people that we partner with.

IPS: IPS has been covering climate change for decades. Could you tell us why climate change is a human rights issue to Amnesty?

Naidoo: Let’s put it in the words of Sharan Burrow, the first woman to lead the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). She and I were having a meeting with former Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, and we were waiting for him and so we swapped each other’s notes around. She was doing the climate change pitch and I did the labor and decent worker pitch. And you could see Ban Ki-moon looking at his [notes]—is this the Greenpeace person or is the labour person?

And [Burrow] said to him, “You know Mr. Secretary General, you must wonder why me as a trade unionist, where I supposed to fight for decent work and better working conditions, am so passionate about climate change?”

And she said, “it is because as a mother, as a human being, and as a worker leader, I recognise there are no jobs on a dead planet. And so if there are no jobs on a dead planet, there are no human beings on a dead planet. If there are no human beings on a dead planet, then there are no human rights on a dead planet.”

So I mean, there is no more important human right than the right to life, right?

And that is why I always say, our struggle is not to save the planet. The planet does not need saving. Because the end result is that if we continue on the path that we are, we warm the planet to a point where we become extinct. The planet will still be here. And in fact once we become extinct as a species, the forests will recover, the oceans will replenish themselves.

So the struggle we are engaged in is whether humanity can fashion a new way to mutually co-exist with nature in an interdependent relationship for centuries and centuries to come.

And that is why the human rights movement has to take climate change seriously.

*Interview has been edited for clarity and length

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Use of Water for Electricity Generation Triggers Outcry in Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/outcry-use-water-electricity-generation-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=outcry-use-water-electricity-generation-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/outcry-use-water-electricity-generation-mexico/#respond Sat, 18 Aug 2018 01:46:35 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157253 One of the fears of the people of the Sierra Huasteca mountains in the state of San Luis Potosi in northeast Mexico is the construction of combined cycle power plants, which would threaten the availability of water. “We have heard rumours about the installation of two more plants, but we have no information. They operate […]

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Non-governmental organisations in Mexico are promoting a citizen water law to guarantee the human right to water. In the picture, social activists take part in a national workshop on watersheds on Aug. 11-12 in Tlalmanalco, a city in the south-central part of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Non-governmental organisations in Mexico are promoting a citizen water law to guarantee the human right to water. In the picture, social activists take part in a national workshop on watersheds on Aug. 11-12 in Tlalmanalco, a city in the south-central part of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
TLAMANALCO, Mexico, Aug 18 2018 (IPS)

One of the fears of the people of the Sierra Huasteca mountains in the state of San Luis Potosi in northeast Mexico is the construction of combined cycle power plants, which would threaten the availability of water.

“We have heard rumours about the installation of two more plants, but we have no information. They operate with very obscure mechanisms,” said Esther Peña, an advisor to the non-governmental Coordinator of Peasant and Indigenous Organisations of Huasteca Potosina, which was founded in 1994 and which brings together 12 organisations of indigenous people and small farmers in six municipalities.

Peña told IPS that the Tamazunchale combined cycle plant, which has been operating since 2007 with a capacity of 1,187 megawatts (MW), is polluting the environment and damaging coffee and citrus plantations, as well as cattle ranching.

The Spanish company Iberdrola, which owns the plant, plans to build two additional plants, Tamazunchale I and II, with a total capacity of 1,187 MW, which are still in the design phase.

The expansion of these natural gas-fired thermal power plants, whose waste gases are reused to produce more energy from steam, is a concern for defenders of water and enemies of fossil fuels because of the social and environmental impacts.

The threats identified by these groups also include the extraction of unconventional hydrocarbons from shale and the use of water by mining companies, soft drink and brewery plants, and other industries.

They were all discussed this month by experts and community leaders in Tlamanalco, a city in the state of Mexico, in the south-central part of the country

During the National Workshop of Promoters of Water and Basin Councils, 121 representatives from 51 Mexican organisations analysed how to redress the impact of these activities on access to water, as well as how to promote solutions that put water management in the hands of citizens.

The emphasis of this vision is on community management of water, the human right to water access, the care of water and water quality, as laid out in the proposed General Water Law, drafted since 2014 by civil society organisations, academics, local communities and indigenous peoples.

The organisations elected representatives from 28 basin councils, who will carry out the local work of disseminating the citizens’ initiative and mobilising support.

From this perspective, the link between water and energy becomes relevant, above and beyond the construction and modernisation of hydroelectric power plants and amidst the impacts of climate change caused by the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

“Today, the vision of using water to produce energy, such as in hydropower plants, combined cycle power plants and natural gas, has taken hold. Water is being misused,” said Óscar Monroy, president of the non-governmental Amecameca and La Compañía River Basin Commission.

 For two days, representatives of 51 Mexican non-governmental organisations debated measures to defend water at a meeting in the city of Tlalmanalco, in the state of Mexico, in the centre-south of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS


For two days, representatives of 51 Mexican non-governmental organisations debated measures to defend water at a meeting in the city of Tlalmanalco, in the state of Mexico, in the centre-south of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The activist told IPS that “the problem is getting worse, because the current law considers water a commodity. The government subsidises water for the big polluters.”

Monroy was one of the participants in the meeting in Tlalmanalco – which means “place of flat land” in the Nahuatl language – a city of 47,000 people about 50 km southeast of Mexico City.

Encouraged by the importation of natural gas from the United States, the state-owned Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and private companies are working on the assembly of combined cycle power plants, favoured by the opening of the energy sector to private capital in 2014.

The 2017 report “Neoliberal threat to common goods: national outlook for electricity megaprojects,” prepared by the non-governmental company Geocomunes, indicates that the CFE currently operates at least 27 thermoelectric, combined cycle and turbo-gas power plants, while there are at least 22 others in private hands.

Another 16 plants of this type are currently in the project stage and the CFE is building at least six additional plants that will come into operation in the coming years, according to data from the state agency.

In the second electricity auction, in September 2016, the Mexican government awarded a CFE combined cycle project in the northern state of Sonora and another private project along the border with the United States, in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, while in the 2017 electricity auction, two other private facilities were awarded.

By 2017, the autonomous public Energy Regulatory Commission had granted 645 permits for fossil fuel power generation – including combined cycle thermoelectric plants – equivalent to half of the authorised total.

In the first quarter of 2018, combined cycle plants, whose consumption of water for driving steam turbines is unknown, contributed 30,920 MW of the national total of 75,570 MW.

A future water crisis

Several studies predict a water crisis in Mexico by 2040, especially from the centre to the north of the country.

Of the 653 national aquifers, 105 are overexploited. Data from Oxfam Mexico indicate that almost 10 million people, out of the 130 million who live in this country, lack water in their homes, so that using water for generating energy conflicts with these needs.

The last straw for critics was the decision by the government of conservative Enrique Peña Nieto in June to lift the ban on water in 10 of the country’s watersheds to encourage its use for electricity generation, manufacturing, mining, brewing and other industrial uses, which would leave some 51 billion litres of water under concession for 50 years.

In response, communities of indigenous peoples and non-governmental organisations filed 36 applications for a writ of amparo – an action brought to enforce constitutional rights – against the decision: 12 were accepted by the courts, 12 were rejected and 12 are still pending.

In Tamaulipas, “we face the threat of energy projects,” such as hydraulic fracturing, said Ricardo Cruz, a member of that state’s Association of Environmental Lawyers.

This technique, also known as “fracking,” releases large volumes of oil or gas from deep rock by injecting massive amounts of water and chemical additives that pollute the air and water, according to environmentalists.

“We are very alarmed, because it could have a negative impact on health, agriculture and livestock farming,” Cruz told IPS.

For those who attended the workshop, the solution lies in the approval of the citizen-initiated bill on water. To comply with the constitutional reform of 2012 that guarantees the human right of appeal, the government was supposed to endorse new legislation in 2013, a deadline it failed to meet.

Therefore, its promoters will present the initiative next September, when the next Congress, elected in July, begins its session.

“The solution to the megaprojects is the citizen law, because it stipulates that water cannot be used for these megaprojects,” said Peña, in whose region people complain that the state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos oil giant intends to exploit gas with fracking, at the expense of people in at least 12 municipalities.

The 2016 report “Territorialisation of energy reform: control of energy exploitation, transport and energy transformation in northeastern Mexico,” by Geocomunes, says the construction of combined cycle plants “weakens the traditional main activity, agriculture,” in San Luis Potosi.

The organisation dedicated to mapping social conflicts also says that state “is consolidating its position as an energy-producing region for the central industrial areas of the country.”

The citizens’ initiative promotes the elimination of the state-owned National Water Commission and its replacement by a National Water Council made up of Regional Basin Councils.

In addition, it creates the Office for the Defence of Water, which has the power to punish anyone who wastes or pollutes water, or uses the resource for agricultural and environmental activities.

“A balance is needed for there to be water for all. Other types of projects are possible, with citizen organisations,” Monroy said.

Cruz concurred with Monroy, saying that “it is important to prioritise and water is not for profit. The goal must be to protect the human right” to water, he said.

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Take Charge of Your Food: Your Health is Your Businesshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2018 10:22:03 +0000 Sunita Narain http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157235 Sunita Narain is Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) & Editor of Down to Earth magazine in New Delhi

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Credit: IPS

By Sunita Narain
NEW DELHI, Aug 17 2018 (IPS)

The minimum we expect from the government is to differentiate between right and wrong. But when it comes to regulating our food, it’s like asking for too much. Our latest investigation vouches for this. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)’s pollution monitoring laboratory tested 65 samples of processed food for presence of genetically modified (GM) ingredients.

The results are both bad and somewhat good. Of the food samples tested, some 32 per cent were positive for GM markers. That’s bad. What’s even worse is that we found GM in infant food, which is sold by US pharma firm, Abbott Laboratories, for toddlers with ailments; in one case it was for lactose intolerant infants and the other hypoallergenic—for minimising possibility of allergic reaction.

Sunita Narain. Credit: Center for Science and Education

Sunita Narain. Credit: Center for Science and Education

In both cases, there was no warning label on GM ingredients. One of the health concerns of GM food is that it could lead to allergic reactions. In 2008 (updated in 2012), the Indian Council of Medical Research issued guidelines for determining safety of such food, as it cautioned that “there is a possibility of introducing unintended changes, along with intended changes which may in turn have an impact on the nutritional status or health of the consumer”.

This is why Australia, Brazil, the European Union and others regulate GM in food. People are concerned about the possible toxicity of eating this food. They want to err on the side of caution. Governments ensure they have the right to choose.

The partial good news is that majority of the food that tested GM positive was imported. India is still more or less GM-free. The one food that did test positive is cottonseed edible oil. This is because Bt-cotton is the only GM crop that has been allowed for cultivation in India.

This should worry us. First, no permission has ever been given for the use of GM cottonseed oil for human consumption. Second, cottonseed oil is also mixed in other edible oils, particularly in vanaspati.

Under whose watch is GM food being imported? The law is clear on this. The Environment Protection Act strictly prohibits import, export, transport, manufacture, process, use or sale of any genetically engineered organisms except with the approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

In fact, they will say, there is no GM food in India. But that’s the hypocrisy of our regulators–make a law, but then don’t enforce it. On paper it exists; we are told, don’t worry. But worry we must.

The 2006 Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) reiterates this and puts the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in charge of regulating use. The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules 2011 mandate that GM must be declared on the food package and the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act 1992 says that GM food cannot be imported without the permission of GEAC. The importer is liable to be prosecuted under the Act for violation.

Laws are not the problem, but the regulatory agencies are. Till 2016, GEAC was in charge–the FSSAI said it did not have the capacity to regulate this food. Now the ball is back in FSSAI’s court. They will all tell you that no permission has been given to import GM food.

In fact, they will say, there is no GM food in India. But that’s the hypocrisy of our regulators–make a law, but then don’t enforce it. On paper it exists; we are told, don’t worry. But worry we must.

So, everything we found is illegal with respect to GM ingredients. The law is clear about this. Our regulators are clueless. So, worry. Get angry. It’s your food. It’s about your health.

What next? In 2018, FSSAI has issued a draft notification on labelling, which includes genetically modified food. It says that any food that has total GM ingredients 5 per cent or more should be labelled and that this GM ingredient shall be the top three ingredients in terms of percentage in the product.

But there is no way that government can quantify the percentage of GM ingredients in the food—this next level of tests is prohibitively expensive. We barely have the facilities. So, it is a clean chit to companies to “self-declare”. They can say what they want. And get away.

The same FSSAI has issued another notification (not draft anymore) on organic food. In this case, it says that it will have to be mandatorily “certified” that it does not contain residues of insecticides. So, what is good needs to be certified that it is safe.

What is bad, gets a clean bill of health. Am I wrong in asking: whose interests are being protected? So, take charge of your food. Your health is your business.

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Excerpt:

Sunita Narain is Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) & Editor of Down to Earth magazine in New Delhi

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Scientists Warn of the Imminent Depletion of Groundwater in Chile’s Atacama Deserthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert/#comments Tue, 14 Aug 2018 03:54:03 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157200 Eighteen national science prize-winners in Chile have called for a halt to the over-extraction of water in the four regions over which the Atacama Desert spreads in the north of the country, a problem that threatens the future of 1.5 million people. In their Tarapacá Manifest, which takes its name from one of the affected […]

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Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

By Orlando Milesi
OVALLE, Chile, Aug 14 2018 (IPS)

Eighteen national science prize-winners in Chile have called for a halt to the over-extraction of water in the four regions over which the Atacama Desert spreads in the north of the country, a problem that threatens the future of 1.5 million people.

In their Tarapacá Manifest, which takes its name from one of the affected regions, the scientists call for water in the area to be treated as a non-renewable resource because mining companies, agriculture and large cities consume underground reservoirs of water that date back more than 10,000 years and are not replenished with equal speed.

According to the experts, the current rate of water extraction for mining, agriculture, industry and cities “is not sustainable.”

Chile is the world’s leading exporter of copper and of fruit and vegetables, two water-intensive sectors."In the manifest we have proposed the possibility of improving our technology in the use of water harvested from fog. We also propose implementing a water recovery policy. For example, increasing the greywater system. It is not an expensive solution, but it requires a State policy.” -- Claudio Latorre

In the small rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, 400 km north of Santiago, teacher Marleny Rodríguez and her only four students installed gutters to collect rainwater in a 320-litre pond to irrigate a vegetable garden.

“The children are happy. They tell me that we were losing a vital resource that we had at hand and were not using. They replicated what they learned at school at home,” Rodríguez told IPS.

The two girls and two boys, between the ages of six and 10, including three siblings, attend the tiny school in an area of ancestral lands of the Atacama indigenous people.

“We have a year-round cycle. What we harvest we cook in the cooking workshop where we make healthy recipes. Then we eat them at school,” said the teacher of the school in Punitaqui, near Ovalle, the capital of the Coquimbo region, on the southern border of the desert.

“The children help to sow, clean the garden, harvest, and water the crops. We have a scientific workshop to harvest the greywater with which we irrigate a composter of organic waste and other materials such as leaves, branches and guano, used as fertiliser” she said.

Calogero Santoro, an archaeologist and promoter of the Tarapacá Manifest, which was delivered to the government of President Sebastián Piñera on Jun. 29, believes that citizens and large companies do not have the same awareness as these children about water scarcity.

“Private companies do not see this as a necessity, because they do not have any problem. On the contrary, the whole Chilean system is designed to make businesses operate as smoothly as possible, but the problem is just around the corner. It is the Chilean government that invests in scientific and technological research,” he told IPS.

The scientists’ manifest calls for raising awareness about the serious problem of the lack of water, in-depth research into the issue, and investment in technologies that offer new solutions rather than only aggravating the exploitation of groundwater.

“The first step is to generate cultural change. As awareness grows, other technological development processes are developed, new technologies are created and these are adapted to production processes,” explained Santoro, of the government’s Research Centre of Man in the Desert.

“Unfortunately, the private sector in this country does not invest in this kind of things,” he said.

The Atacama Desert is the driest desert on earth. It covers 105,000 sq km, distributed along six regions of northern Chile and covering the cities of Arica, Iquique (the capital of Tarapacá), Antofagasta and Calama.

 Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation


Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

It is home to 9.5 percent of the population of this long, narrow South American country of 17.5 million people.

In a normal year, only between 1.6 to 2.5 mm of water fall on the regions of the so-called Norte Grande, which covers the Atacama Desert, and so far in 2018 the deficit is 100 percent in some of the cities and 50 percent in others, according to Chile’s Meteorological Agency.

Hugo Romero, winner of the national geography prize, and a professor at the University of Chile and president of the Chilean Society of Geographic Sciences, told IPS that “groundwater is today the most important source of water for both mining and urban development in the northern regions.”

That means the problem is very complex, he said, because “there is some evidence that much of the groundwater is the product of recharge probably thousands of years ago, and therefore is fossil water, which is non-renewable.

As an example, Romero cited damage already caused in the desert area, “such as those that have occurred with the drying up of Lagunillas, and of the Huasco and the Coposa Salt Flats, adding up to an enormous amount of ecological effects.”

They also affect, he said, “the presence of communities in these places, given this close relationship between the availability of water resources and the ancestral occupation of the territories.”

“All of this is creating an extraordinarily complex system with respect to which there is a sensation that the country has not taken due note and decisions are often taken only with economic benefits in mind, which are otherwise concentrated in large companies,” he added.

Romero also warned that the level of research “has been minimal and, unfortunately, many of the academic resources that should be devoted to providing society and social actors with all the elements to reach decisions are committed to consulting firms that, in turn, are contracted by large companies.”

Claudio Latorre, an academic at the Catholic University of Chile and an associate researcher at the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, believes that “there is not just one single culprit” for the serious situation.

“It is simply the general economic activity of the country that is causing this problem. The more activity, the more the country grows and the more resources are required, and the more industrial activity, the more work. But urban needs are also increasing and that also puts pressure on water resources,” he said.

“In the manifest we have proposed the possibility of improving our technology in the use of water harvested from fog. We also propose implementing a water recovery policy. For example, increasing the greywater system. It is not an expensive solution, but it requires a State policy,” he explained.

According to Calogero, “in addition to cultural changes, there have to be technological changes to make better use of water. We cite the case of Israel where it is our understanding that water is recycled up to seven times before it is disposed of. Here, it is recycled once, if at all.”

Latorre stressed that “we are already experiencing the consequences of climate change and over-exploitation of water resources that lead to an unthinkable situation…but in the Norte Grande area we still have time to take concrete actions that can save cities in 20 or 30 years’ time.”

He called for improved access to scientific information “so that we can be on time to make important decisions that take a long time to implement.”

According to Romero, there is also “an atmosphere of uncertainty that has often led to decisions that have subsequently led to environmental damage” as in the case of many salt flats, bofedales (high Andean wetlands) and some lagoons and lakes.

“There is no transparent public knowledge available to society as needed, given the critical nature of the system,” he said.

In his opinion, “on the contrary, the greatest and best information is of a reserved nature or forms part of industrial secrecy, which gives rise to much speculation, ambiguity and different interpretations by users or communities affected by the extraction of water.”

Romero also warned that “there is not only very significant ecological damage, but also a steady rural exodus to the cities, as the people leave the area.”

There are Quechua, Aymara, Koyas and Atacama communities – the native peoples of northern Chile – in the cities of Arica, Iquique, Alto Hospicio and Antofagasta as a result of their migration from their Andes highlands territories, he said.

That’s why only four students are now attending the rural school in El Llanito de Punitaqui, the teacher said.

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Campaigns Promote Women’s Participation in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/campaigns-promote-womens-participation-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=campaigns-promote-womens-participation-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/campaigns-promote-womens-participation-latin-america/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 22:04:43 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157184 An alternative network in Brazil promotes women’s participation in elected offices with media support. This campaign, like others in Latin America, seeks to reverse a political landscape where, despite being a majority of the population, women hold an average of just 29.8 percent of legislative posts. It is the first meeting in Rio de Janeiro, […]

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