Inter Press ServiceActive Citizens – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 17 Jan 2019 16:51:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Local Innovation Facilitates Solidarity-Based Biogas Networks in Cubahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba/#respond Tue, 08 Jan 2019 02:52:46 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159528 Black plastic pipes, readily available on the mainly empty shelves of Cuba’s shops, distribute biogas to homes in the rural town of La Macuca, buried under the ground or running through the grass and stones in people’s yards. The strong blue flame in the kitchens of the eight homes supplied by producer Yuniel Pons is […]

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Alexander López Savrán, a 32-year-old engineer who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to make it possible to create distribution networks from materials readily available in Cuba, stands next to one of these systems in the rural town of La Macuca, in Cabaiguán, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Alexander López Savrán, a 32-year-old engineer who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to make it possible to create distribution networks from materials readily available in Cuba, stands next to one of these systems in the rural town of La Macuca, in Cabaiguán, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
HAVANA, Jan 8 2019 (IPS)

Black plastic pipes, readily available on the mainly empty shelves of Cuba’s shops, distribute biogas to homes in the rural town of La Macuca, buried under the ground or running through the grass and stones in people’s yards.

The strong blue flame in the kitchens of the eight homes supplied by producer Yuniel Pons is thanks to engineer Alexander López Savran, who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to create distribution networks with the few basic materials available in this Caribbean island nation.

“A new biodigester has been designed to obtain pressure, which means that biogas can be distributed more than five kilometers away without the need for a compressor or blower. That is where the innovation lies,” the engineer, who lives in the city of Cabaiguán, capital of the municipality of the same name, where La Macuca is located, in the central province of Santi Spíritus, told IPS."Three years ago I had a big mess with animal waste, until I sought advice and began to make biogas…We are working on expanding the corrals so that another biodigester can benefit 15 more families, who have already been selected.” -- Yuniel Pons

López, 32, made headlines in 2017 when he received the Green Latin America Award in Ecuador, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology included him among the 35 young Latin Americans whose innovations improved the lives of their communities.

With a long-standing movement of biogas promoters and current regulations for private pork production favorable to its expansion, Cuba faces the challenge of creating efficient distribution networks to further exploit this ecological resource and raise the quality of life of rural localities, amidst an anemic economy.

“We started by taking a close look at the problem,” López recalled. “We had pork-raising centers that needed biodigesters, but the volume they were going to produce would be much greater than the consumption of those state facilities. On the other hand, we didn’t have the equipment to be able to distribute it.”

This fuel arises from the decomposition of organic matter, especially cattle manure and human feces. But on many farms with biodigesters there is a surplus of methane gas which, if not used, puts pressure on the equipment and is often released into the atmosphere, contributing to pollution.

In addition, biogas is most efficient for cooking because up to 70 percent of the energy is lost when it is used to generate electricity or fuel a vehicle.

“Two factors were considered: we had too much energy and there are difficulties in cooking food in the communities due to deficits in access to energy or electricity costs,” López said, referring to the dependence of most Cuban households on electric appliances.

After two years of study and design, López came up with the first prototype, which over time “has changed structurally to gain in efficiency, durability and performance,” he said, when interviewed by IPS in Pons’ home, where Pons lives with his wife Sandra Díaz and their son.

Sandra Díaz regulates the flame in her kitchen, which uses biogas from the innovative biodigester installed on her family's land, in La Macuca, Cabaiguán, in the province of Santi Spíritus, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Sandra Díaz regulates the flame in her kitchen, which uses biogas from the innovative biodigester installed on her family’s land, in La Macuca, Cabaiguán, in the province of Santi Spíritus, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Most of the biodigesters designed by López have been built as part of the Biomás Cuba project, which is coordinated by the state-run Indio Hatuey Experimental Pasture and Forage Station, located in the province of Matanzas, with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

This initiative, which seeks to bring about energy sustainability in the Cuban countryside, provides part of the inputs, while the producer provides another part, to build the biodigester, which with fixed-dome technology is expensive because it requires a large volume of building materials but is compensated with distribution and 40 years of durability.

López estimated that his 10-cubic-meter biodigester costs the equivalent of 1,000 dollars in Cuba, but with an efficiency equal to that of a standard 15-cubic-meter biodigester. Less profitable are the polyethylene biodigesters, which cost about 800 dollars, serve just one home and have a useful life of up to 10 years.

So far, 10 biodigesters have been built with this local innovation in four localities of Cabaiguán: El Colorado (two), Ojo de Agua (one), Juan González (six) and La Macuca (one), which supply 102 homes and improved the lives of 600 people, saving 65 percent of electricity consumption per household.

And the technology was also replicated in Matanzas, although the engineer lamented the lukewarm reception by decision-makers with respect to the biodigester, which could contribute to the national plan for renewable energies to provide 24 percent of electric power by 2030, compared to just four percent today.

In well-equipped corrals, Pons keeps between 100 and 150 pigs behind his house as part of an agreement between state companies and private producers that in 2017 produced a record 194,976 tons, which did not, however, meet the demand of the country’s 11.2 million inhabitants. And that total was apparently not surpassed in 2018.

“Three years ago I had a big mess with animal waste, until I sought advice and began to make biogas,” recalled the producer, who is supported by Biomás. “We are working on expanding the corrals so that another biodigester can benefit 15 more families, who have already been selected.”

Farmer Yuniel Pons and his wife Sandra Díaz stand next to the biodigester installed by their house, which with its innovative system supplies energy to the kitchens of eight homes in La Macuca, a rural settlement in the municipality of Cabaiguán, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Farmer Yuniel Pons and his wife Sandra Díaz stand next to the biodigester installed by their house, which with its innovative system supplies energy to the kitchens of eight homes in La Macuca, a rural settlement in the municipality of Cabaiguán, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

After lighting the gas stove in his kitchen, Diaz, a homemaker, explained that “cooking food like this is faster, it’s wonderful… I used to cook with an electric hotplate and pressure cooker, but they were almost always broken,” she said.

The network reaches the modest home of Denia Santos and her family, who live next door to Pons. “Now I cook with biogas and I also use it to boil (disinfect) towels and bedding, something I did with firewood that I would chop up myself,” said Santos, who takes care of her mentally disabled son.

Other benefits described by families who have biogas are that it is a better way to cook food for their animals and boil water for human consumption, and that it generates a strongersense of community as everyone is responsible for maintaining the biodigester.

José Antonio Guardado, national coordinator of the Movement of Biogas Users, which emerged in 1983 and today has more than 3,000 members spread throughout almost all of Cuba’s provinces, said he was happy with the trend in Cuban agriculture to create solidarity biogas networks.

Guardado told IPS that there is “greater awareness, political support and participative activities in the context of local development,” although obstacles to distribution persist because “materials in the market are not optimal, sufficient or affordable” and “there is a lack of institutional infrastructure to provide this service in an integrated manner.”

Meanwhile, in El Cano, outside of Havana, the solidarity plans of farmer Hortensia Martínez have come to a halt despite the fact that she used her own resources to build a biodigester with a traditional fixed 22-cubic-meter dome on her La China farm, to supply the farm itself and share with five neighboring homes.

“Now I plan to give it a boost, but we haven’t been able to implement it because we don’t have the connections to the community’s houses and it has valves, special faucets and a type of hose that makes it possible to bury the network underground,” the farmer, who is well-known for her community projects, especially targeting children, told IPS.

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Mexico’s Forests, Both Victim of and Solution to Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/mexicos-forests-victim-solution-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-forests-victim-solution-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/mexicos-forests-victim-solution-climate-change/#respond Thu, 03 Jan 2019 20:48:52 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159473 “I dream of a healthy, sustainable, well-managed forest,” says Rogelio Ruiz, a silviculturist from southern Mexico, who insists that “we have to clean it up, take advantage of the wood, and reforest.” These activities are essential for the ecosystem, especially to adapt to the impacts of climate change, the president of the La Trinidad Communal […]

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The Sierra Juárez forest in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but at the same time it can help fight the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Sierra Juárez forest in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but at the same time it can help fight the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
IXTLÁN DE JUÁREZ, Mexico, Jan 3 2019 (IPS)

“I dream of a healthy, sustainable, well-managed forest,” says Rogelio Ruiz, a silviculturist from southern Mexico, who insists that “we have to clean it up, take advantage of the wood, and reforest.”

These activities are essential for the ecosystem, especially to adapt to the impacts of climate change, the president of the La Trinidad Communal Lands Commissariat, in the municipality of Ixtlán de Juárez, in the state of Oaxaca, some 840 km south of Mexico City, told IPS.

Forest habitats are precisely one of the best natural mechanisms for mitigating climatic change, but at the same time they face the consequences, such as rising temperatures, variations in rainfall regimes and the spread of pests.

The ecoregion where La Trinidad is located, the Sierra Juárez mountains, is well aware of this. Since 2017 it has been facing an outbreak of the pine sawfly, which eats the needles of the pine tree, the most common species in this area of central Oaxaca. Local organisations estimate that some 10,000 hectares are at risk from this pest.

Ruíz explained that 106 of his community’s 805 hectares have been damaged. La Trinidad has a traditional Mexican system of government for collectively-owned and worked land, which is different from an “eijido” because the land here cannot be sold.

In September, “we applied aerial fumigation” of a biopesticide and now “we will use handpumps,” said the community leader, one of those attending the celebration in Ixtlan this month of the 35 years of struggle against the private forest concessions that were once predominant here. The struggle gave rise to community-managed forests like this one.

La Trinidad, made up of 291 community members and their families, has a permit to annually extract 5,000 cubic metres of wood during an eight-year management plan, in effect since 2014.

These undertakings exemplify the development of Mexican community forestry, considered a global model, for its success in generating social, economic and environmental benefits.

In 2016, Mexico, the second-largest country in Latin America, with 1.96 million square kilometres (196 million hectares), had 20.3 million hectares of temperate forest, 850,000 hectares of mesophilic mountain forest, 50.2 million hectares of scrubland, 7.9 million hectares of grasslands, 11.5 million hectares of rainforest and 1.4 million hectares of other vegetation, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.

A truck unloads pine logs at the sawmill of the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, which, like other local groups in the Sierra Juárez mountains, sustainably manages its community assets, including timber. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A truck unloads pine logs at the sawmill of the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, which, like other local groups in the Sierra Juárez mountains, sustainably manages its community assets, including timber. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The non-governmental Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Forestry lists 4,886 forest communities and ejidos, of which some 2,100 commercially exploit the forests.

But only seven million hectares, in the hands of some 600 communities, operate with a management and conservation plan, a requirement for obtaining approval for the harvesting programmes promoted by the state-run National Forestry Commission.

Mexico’s timber production totals seven million cubic metres annually, of which Oaxaca in the south contributes just under seven percent.

Forest ecosystems provide water to urban areas, regulate the water cycle, provide food, and capture carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas responsible for global warming, among other ecological services, according to scientific studies.

As a result, in the face of the threats posed by climate change, forests require public policies that generate better economic incentives, offer legal certainty about land tenure, expand markets and increase productivity, say silviculture organisations and experts.

Ixtlan, which means “place of threads or fibers” in the Zapotec language and where 600 hectares have been damaged, has undertaken the fight against pests by experimenting with five species of pine in the community nursery.

“In November and December, we do seed selection. We want faster-growing, pest-resistant species. We are confident that the new species will be more resistant,” explained Sergio Ruiz, forestry advisor for the community enterprise Santo Tomás Ixtlán Forest Union.

The community of Ixtlán, also in the municipality of the same name, owns 19,125 hectares, of which 30 percent is used for forestry.

Its activities also include ecotourism, a gas station, a shop, a furniture factory and a water bottling plant. In 2018, the community nursery provided 360,000 seedlings, 100,000 of which went to reforestation while the other 260,000 were donated to nearby communities. The hope is to create a seed orchard.

A study under preparation by the state-run Technical University of Sierra Juárez analyses climatic factors such as temperature, moisture and soil conditions in Ixtlán.

Workers from the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez inspect seedlings to be planted in the forest they manage within the municipality of the same name, in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Their plan is to build a seed orchard to generate pine species more resistant to climate change. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Workers from the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez inspect seedlings to be planted in the forest they manage within the municipality of the same name, in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Their plan is to build a seed orchard to generate pine species more resistant to climate change. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In 2015, Mexico emitted 683 million tons of CO2, making it the second largest polluter in the region after Brazil. Of that total, 20 million tons came from the loss of forest lands.

This Latin American country adopted its own goal of zero deforestation by 2030, a real challenge when average annual logging represents 200,867 hectares lost between 2011 and 2016, according to estimates by the Superior Audit of the Federation, the Mexican government comptroller’s office.

Other sites in the Sierra Juarez mountains are also exposed to climate change, although their height above sea level temporarily protects them from insects. Such is the case in the municipality of San Juan Evangelista, where silviculturists are preparing to adapt their forests to the phenomenon.

“It is important to clean up the forest, because it takes away combustion power and the risk of pests. In addition, managed forests allow more carbon sequestration than unmanaged forests. They can help prevent climate change from accelerating,” Filemón Manzano, technical adviser to the forestry community in that municipality, told IPS.

Analco, which means “on the other side of the river” in Nahuatl, consists of 150 community members, the owners of 1,600 hectares, of which 1,000 are covered by forests and 430 of which are exploited. The community operates a nursery for 3,000 seedlings.

Manzano and academics from the state-run Postgraduate College of Agricultural Sciences are preparing research on CO2 absorption by managed forests, estimated at five tons per year per managed hectare.

Under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Mexico pledged to reduce, by 2030, up to 14 million tons of annual CO2 emissions from land use, land use change and forestry, by promoting sustainable forest management, increasing productivity in forests and jungles and promoting forest plantations.

But the outlays needed to implement mitigation measures would total 11.789 billion dollars up to that year, at a cost of 53 dollars per ton of CO2. Zero deforestation would require 7.923 billion dollars and sustainable forest management would require 3.861 billion dollars.

In July, the Mexican forestry sector proposed a long-term policy, greater investment, an adequate legal framework, strengthening community forest management, community participation in the design of measures and a link to climate change, as part of the “Forests with people, forests forever” campaign.

Rogelio Ruiz called for more support to better care for the ecosystem and thus reap more benefits.

The study “Toward a Global Baseline of Carbon Storage in Collective Lands”, published in September by the Rights and Resources Initiative, a Washington-based global network of 15 partners, estimated that Mexican community forests trap 2.8 million tons of CO2.

Manzano called for more forest management. “We want to show how managed forests contribute to the conservation of the planet. It’s going to be important to have more resistant species and create a good mix of species,” he said.

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Women in Argentina Are Empowered as They Speak Out Against Gender Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/women-argentina-empowered-speak-gender-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-argentina-empowered-speak-gender-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/women-argentina-empowered-speak-gender-violence/#comments Sat, 22 Dec 2018 03:38:04 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159423 “In 2001 I was raped. I was 31 years old, had two university degrees and was still doing postgraduate studies, I had family, friends, a job. Many more resources than most rape victims have. Even so, it was the start of an ordeal whose scars I still feel today.” Stories like this one, published on […]

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"Without equality there is no justice" reads a mural with an image of that justice, demanding greater protection for women's rights, painted in the Caballito neighborhood in Buenos Aires. The women's movement gained great visibility this year in Argentina, with campaigns, for example, for the decriminalisation of abortion, although it was defeated in parliament. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

"Without equality there is no justice" reads a mural with an image of that justice, demanding greater protection for women's rights, painted in the Caballito neighborhood in Buenos Aires. The women's movement gained great visibility this year in Argentina, with campaigns, for example, for the decriminalisation of abortion, although it was defeated in parliament. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 22 2018 (IPS)

“In 2001 I was raped. I was 31 years old, had two university degrees and was still doing postgraduate studies, I had family, friends, a job. Many more resources than most rape victims have. Even so, it was the start of an ordeal whose scars I still feel today.”

Stories like this one, published on Twitter on Dec. 13 by Ana Castellani, a sociologist and professor at the University of Buenos Aires, are popping up all over Argentina’s social networks these days.

At the same time, public and private institutions dedicated to the defence of women’s rights are overwhelmed by an unusually heavy stream of demands."Her public statement broke down the common idea that these issues should not be talked about in public…In the case of sexual assaults on women in Argentina, the shame was not on the side of the aggressor but on the side of the victim, because it was thought that she had surely done something to turn him on." -- Eleonor Faur

This South American country is experiencing an explosion of reports of sexual violence against women and children, following a shocking public event that occurred on Dec. 11.

That day, at a Buenos Aires theater, more than 200 actresses surrounded a young colleague, Thelma Fardín, who reported that in 2009, when she was 16, she was raped by a well-known soap opera star, Juan Darthés, almost 30 years older, during a tour of Nicaragua with a children’s television programme.

“Thanks to the fact that someone broke the silence, I can now talk about what happened,” said Fardín in tears, referring to two other actresses who had reported weeks earlier that they were the victims of sexual harassment by Darthés. In the days prior to this public revelation, Fardín had traveled to the Central American country to file a criminal complaint against the actor.

“The public repercussion was much greater than we expected. What Thelma said encouraged thousands of women to who were silent to speak out,” Mirta Busnelli, a renowned actress with more than 40 years of experience in film, theatre and TV, told IPS. She is part of the group that backed the complaint with her presence.

“When you talk to women, inside and outside the arts scene, almost all of them have suffered a situation of sexual harassment or abuse, which they silenced even in their own conscience,” said Busnelli.

She added: “This doesn’t happen by chance. It happens because the person who dares speak out is usually revictimised. The veracity of her story is questioned or people wonder whether the woman herself has not provoked the problem because of how she was dressed or because of her attitude. We trust that things will begin to change.”

The magnitude of the wave of reports of sexual violence was such that political leaders felt compelled to take an active stance.

Just a few hours after Fardín spoke out publicly, President Mauricio Macri announced the inclusion, during an extraordinary session of Congress, which usually holds a recess in December, of a bill that establishes mandatory training on the gender perspective for public officials of all branches of power.

The bill was presented by an opposition congresswoman in 2017 after the rape and murder in the eastern province of Entre Ríos of 17-year-old Micaela García by a man who had already served time for rape and was on parole.

A picture from the end of the year party of the Argentine Actresses collective, which came out in full support of the public revelation by a colleague who said she was raped at the age of 16, in 2009, by a famous soap opera star almost 30 years older than her. Credit: Facebook-Actrices Argentinas

A picture from the end of the year party of the Argentine Actresses collective, which came out in full support of the public revelation by a colleague who said she was raped at the age of 16, in 2009, by a famous soap opera star almost 30 years older than her. Credit: Facebook-Actrices Argentinas

Like Macri, the deputies and senators acted quickly, because in their first extraordinary session, on Wednesday Dec. 19, they passed the law with only one vote against, from Deputy Alfredo Olmedo, who a few hours earlier had traveled to Brazil, where he was photographed with far-right president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro.

“I was the only deputy who voted against gender ideology. I will continue to maintain that God created man and woman,” Olmedo boasted on the social networks.

As a sign of the current climate, the Dec. 19 session in the Senate began with the half-hearted defence of a senator of the governing alliance Cambiemos, Juan Carlos Marino, who after Thelma Fardín’s revelation was denounced by a congressional employee, who said he molested her in an office of Congress and harassed her with Whatsapp messages.

The cases that touched on politics and entertainment were many, in reality, but none was as shocking as that of Luis María Rodríguez, sports director of the city of San Pedro, 170 kilometers northwest of Buenos Aires.

Rodriguez was denounced on Dec. 16 by a young woman who uploaded a video to Youtube in which she said that he had raped her when she was 13 years old and he was her dance teacher. Hours later Rodriguez was found hanged in his home.

The 2015 murder of a teenage girl by her boyfriend was the spark that gave birth to the movement #NiUnaMenos (Not One Woman Less), which has obtained several victories and raised public awareness about femicides – gender-based murders.

“In the last few days, our phones have blown up,” said María Soledad Dawson, one of the coordinators of the Ministry of Justice’s Victims Against Violence Programme, which receives reports of abuse and ill-treatment.

“After the Thelma Fardín case, a lot of people started calling who had never before dared, or who thought that, after several years, they couldn’t report a case,” she told IPS.

“We usually received the bulk of the calls between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.. Now we continue to answer the phone into the wee hours of the morning,” she added.

The National Child Sexual Abuse Hotline reported that the day after the actress’s complaint, 214 calls were received, compared to 16 the day before.

For its part, the government’s National Women’s Institute revealed that the hotline for women in situations of violence received 6008 calls in the four days prior to the Fardín case and 12,855 in the four subsequent days.

The sociologist Eleonor Faur, who specialises in gender issues, said the impact is due to the fact that “the presentation by the Argentine Actresses collective was very solid. It was very well-organised, with advice from lawyers and feminist journalists.”

“Above and beyond the specific case, they showed that sexual violence is a completely accepted modus operandi in show business,” she told IPS.

Figures from organisations that address male violence indicate that in this country of 44 million people, some 300 women are murdered each year because they are women. In 2017 there were 295 femicides, indicating that the #NiUnaMenos movement did not manage to reduce these crimes.

The Argentine Actresses, a group made up of more than 300 artists, was formed in April, when the country mobilised for the legislative debate on the decriminalisation of abortion, which in August was narrowly defeated by the Senate (by 38 votes to 31), after it was approved in the Chamber of Deputies.

In fact, when Thelma Fardín made her public statement, the actresses surrounding her wore green scarves on their wrists or necks – the local symbol of the struggle for the legalisation of abortion.

“Her public statement broke down the common idea that these issues should not be talked about in public,” Faur added.

The sociologist explained that “in the case of sexual assaults on women in Argentina, the shame was not on the side of the aggressor but on the side of the victim, because it was thought that she had surely done something to turn him on.”

“Now the most interesting thing will be to see how the public institutions and the different social organisations react, which after this cultural change are going to have to do a lot of back-pedalling,” she said.

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Local Communities in Mexico Question Benefits of Mayan Trainhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 22:43:47 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159298 “If thousands of people flock to this town, how will we be able to service them? I’m afraid of that growth,” Zendy Euán, spokeswoman for a community organisation,said in reference to the Mayan Train (TM) project, a railway network that will run through five states in southern Mexico. Euán, a Mayan indigenous woman living in […]

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The Mayan Train megaproject in southern Mexico will affect key ecosystems of the Yucatan Peninsula, which is home to 25 protected natural areas, such as this lake in the SíijilNohá community reserve, next to the Sian Ka'an protected area. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Mayan Train megaproject in southern Mexico will affect key ecosystems of the Yucatan Peninsula, which is home to 25 protected natural areas, such as this lake in the SíijilNohá community reserve, next to the Sian Ka'an protected area. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
FELIPE CARRILLO PUERTO, Mexico, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

“If thousands of people flock to this town, how will we be able to service them? I’m afraid of that growth,” Zendy Euán, spokeswoman for a community organisation,said in reference to the Mayan Train (TM) project, a railway network that will run through five states in southern Mexico.

Euán, a Mayan indigenous woman living in the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto (FCP), told IPS that they lack detailed information about the megaproject, one of the high-profile initiatives promised during his campaign by the new leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known by his acronym AMLO.

“It’s not clear to us. We don’t know about the project,” said Euán, who also questioned the benefits promised by the president, who was sworn in on Dec. 1, for the local population, as well as the mechanisms for participation in the project and the threats it poses to the environment."They are violating our indigenous rights. We don't agree with how the consultation was carried out, and we don't see the benefits for the local communities. This is aimed at tourist spots. Those who will benefit are the big businesses." -- Miguel Ku

“What will be the benefit for the local community members, for the craftswomen? As ecotourism communities, will we be able to promote our businesses and goods?” said the spokeswoman for the Community Tourism Network of the Maya Zone of Quintana Roo, one of the states in southeastern Mexico that share the Yucatan Peninsula, on the Atlantic coast, with 1.5 million inhabitants.

The network, launched in 2014, brings together 11 community organisations from three municipalities of Quintana Roo and offers ecotourism and cultural tours in the area, its main economic activity.

In the municipality of FCP, home to just over 81,000 people, there are 84 ejidos,areas of communal land used for agriculture, where community members own and farm their own plots, which can also be sold.

One of them, of the same name as the municipality, FCP, covering 47,000 hectares and belonging to 250 “ejidatarios” or members, manages the ejidal reserves Síijil Noh Há (“where the water flows,” in the Mayan language) and Much’KananK’aax (“let’s take care of the forest together”).

Euán’s doubts are shared by thousands of inhabitants of the peninsula, which receives almost seven million tourists every year.

IPS travelled a stretch of the preliminary TM route through Quintana Roo and the neighboring state of Campeche and noted the general lack of detailed information about the project and its possible ecological, social and cultural consequences in a region with high levels of poverty and social marginalisation.

The government’s National Tourism Fund (Fonatur) is promoting the project, at a cost of between 6.2 and 7.8 billion dollars. The plan is for it to start operating in 2022, with 15 stations along 1,525 kilometers in 41 municipalities in the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Yucatán.

The locomotives will run on biodiesel -possibly made from palm oil- and the trains are projected to move about three million passengers annually, in addition to cargo.

Zendy Euán, spokesperson for a community tourism network, explains in the Mayan Museum of the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the state of Quintana Roo, that the Mayan Train will run through key environmental areas of southern Mexico. Social and indigenous organisations question the benefits of the megaproject, one of the star projects of the new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Zendy Euán, spokesperson for a community tourism network, explains in the Mayan Museum of the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the state of Quintana Roo, that the Mayan Train will run through key environmental areas of southern Mexico. Social and indigenous organisations question the benefits of the megaproject, one of the star projects of the new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The new government argues that the project will boost the region’s socioeconomic development, foster social inclusion and job creation, safeguard indigenous cultures, protect the peninsula’s Protected Natural Areas (PNA), and strengthen the tourism industry.

Ancient ecosystems

The railway will cut through the heart of the Mayan jungle, an ecosystem that formed the base of the Mayan empire that dominated the entire Mesoamerican region – southern Mexico and Central America – from the 8th century until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.

This is the most important rainforest in Latin America after the Amazon region and a key area in the conservation of natural wealth in Mexico, which ranks 12th among the most megadiverse countries on the planet.

The region belongs to the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor consisting of habitats running from southern Mexico to Panama, the southernmost of the seven Central American countries, and is home to about 10 percent of the world’s known species.

In the Yucatan Peninsula, shared by the states of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatan, there are 25 PNAs, with a total area of 8.5 million hectares.

In fact, two TM stations will be contiguous to the 725,000-hectare Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and the 650,000-hectare Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

“What’s going to happen? We don’t know the route, we don’t have information. We have to study this closely,” Luís Tamay, the indigenous president of the Commissariat of Common Assets of the Nuevo Becal ejido in the municipality of Calakmul, in Campeche, told IPS.

Like Euán, Tamay fears the arrival of crowds of tourists, for which Calakmul “is not prepared; this is a high-impact project” for a municipality of just over 28,000 people.

Nuevo Becal has 84 landowners, covers 52,800 hectares and carries out six projects of timber exploitation, agroforestry, seeds and environmental conservation.

Although the TM will not pass through the immediate vicinity of Nuevo Becal, the megaproject will have impacts on the area.

In Calakmul, the government will carry out technical and environmental impact studies in 2019, with the idea of starting construction the following year in the locality.

To build the railway network, the government must negotiate with the ejidatarios, who own most of the land in the five states along the planned railway, as there are 385 in Campeche, 279 in Quintana Roo and 737 in Yucatán.

The government has already asked for 30 hectares in the Felipe Carrillo Puerto ejido to build a station, as a contribution to the project, which was first proposed in 2007 by the then governor of Yucatan, Yvonne Ortega, who projected the Transpeninsular Rapid Train in 2007.
Shortly after taking office in December 2012, AMLO’s predecessor, conservative Enrique Peña Nieto, adopted it as a national plan to connect the region. But public spending cutbacks in 2015 put the project on hold.

To the original project which will be added more than 300 kilometers of rundown railroads that functioned between 1905 and 1957, first for military transport and then also for passenger traffic.

On Nov. 24-25, before AMLO took office, his team obtained support for the railway network, along with a new refinery in the state of Tabasco and the execution of other projects, during a National Consultation on 10 Priority Social Programmes.

But this support, in a consultation that was only carried out in certain localities through a process that was not very representative, did not appease the criticism of the TM in the region.

On Nov. 15, a group of academics asked López Obrador to stop the works because of their ecological, social, cultural and archaeological impacts.

Three days later, a collective of indigenous organisations rejected the project, demanded respect for their forests and jungles, and called for free, prior, informed and culturally appropriate consultation.

“They are violating our indigenous rights. We don’t agree with how the consultation was carried out, and we don’t see the benefits for the local communities. This is aimed at tourist spots. Those who will benefit are the big businesses” in the sector, Miguel Ku, representative of the Network of Environmental Service Producers, told IPS.

This organization brings together 3,756 ejidatarios from 33 agrarian communities in the municipality of José María Morelos, and three more in the municipality of FCP, all of which are in Quintana Roo. Together, they own 257,000 hectares that are used for forestry, agriculture, beekeeping and livestock.

Local organisations are seeking another socioeconomic model. “We have shown that conservation allows for good development. We have natural resources, let us take advantage of them, that’s how we can support ourselves,” said Tamay.

Ku protested what he called a repeat of what has happened with previous projects. “We are sick and tired of others taking the benefits even though we own the land. The government could do something else. We want the ejidos to develop their own projects,” he said.

But López Obrador appears to be in a hurry to move forward with the Mayan Train, and on Dec. 16 he laid the first stone in the city of Palenque, Chiapas, without waiting for Fonatur to present the environmental impact assessment to the environment ministry.

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Tunisia – the Exceptionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/tunisia-the-exception/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tunisia-the-exception http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/tunisia-the-exception/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 16:44:11 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159283 Eight years have passed since the Arab Spring. In many countries, the uprising was crushed, but in Tunisia democracy gained a foothold. Arbetet Global travelled to the small country town Side Bouzid to find out why. Through the car window, two boys around the age of 10 can be seen pushing a hen to the […]

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Global Migration Compact May Help Combat the Myth that Migrants are Liabilitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-migration-compact-may-help-combat-myth-migrants-liabilities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-migration-compact-may-help-combat-myth-migrants-liabilities http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-migration-compact-may-help-combat-myth-migrants-liabilities/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 15:23:32 +0000 Kingsley Ighobor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159280 Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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Rescue operations of African migrants carried out in the Channel of Sicily, Italy. Credit: IOM / Malavolta

By Kingsley Ighobor
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

In August 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May visited countries in Africa, sparking hope of increased foreign direct investments (FDI) in the continent.

Mr. Macron was in Nigeria, Ms. Merkel visited Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, and Ms. May made stops in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

Apart from the question of FDI, these influential leaders were looking at how to stem the flow of African migrants traveling to Europe in search of jobs and better lives.

“I believe in a win-win game. Let’s help Africa to succeed. Let’s provide new hope for African youth in Africa,” President Macron said in Nigeria, explaining that it was in Europe’s interest to tackle migration from Africa at its roots.

New York Times writers Eduardo Porter and Karl Russell echoed the French president’s sentiments: “If rich countries want fewer immigrants, their best shot might be to help poor countries become rich, so that fewer people feel the urge to leave.”

Africans on the road
Every day hundreds of Africans, including women and children, strike out in search of real or imagined riches in Europe or America. About a million migrants from sub-Saharan Africa moved to Europe between 2010 and 2017, according to the Pew Research Center, a Washington, D.C.–based nonpartisan fact tank.

While Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia and South Africa are the top way stations for sub-Saharan migrants moving to Europe and the US, Pew lists South Sudan, Central African Republic, São Tomé and Príncipe, Eritrea and Namibia as having some of the fastest-growing international migrant populations living outside their country of birth.

Africans are on the move because of “conflict, persecution, environmental degradation and change, and a profound lack of human security and opportunity,” states the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in its World Migration Report 2018.

Migration corridors mostly used by Africans are Algeria to France, Burkina Faso to Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt to the United Arab Emirates, Morocco to Spain, and Somalia to Kenya.

Of the 258 million international migrants globally, 36 million live in Africa, with 19 million living in another African country and 17 million in Europe, North America and other regions, Ashraf El Nour, Director of IOM, New York, informed Africa Renewal.

When unregulated and unmanaged, migration can create “false and negative perceptions of migrants that feed into a narrative of xenophobia, intolerance and racism,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted at an event in New York last September.

“The narrative of migrants as a threat, as a source of fear, which has colored international media coverage on migration, is false,” said Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), a UN body that deals with trade, investment and development issues, in an interview with Africa Renewal.

Orderly migration
The Global Compact for Migration, the first-ever inter-governmentally negotiated agreement on international migration, which was adopted in Marrakesh last week, could counter negative perceptions of migrants, experts say.

The IOM states the compact will help achieve “safe, orderly and regular migration,” referring to it as an opportunity to “improve the governance on migration, to address the challenges associated with today’s migration, and to strengthen the contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development.”

The compact consists of 23 objectives, among them mitigating the adverse drivers and structural factors that hinder people from building and maintaining sustainable livelihoods in their countries of origin; reducing the risks and vulnerabilities migrants face at different stages of migration by respecting, protecting and fulfilling their human rights and providing them with care and assistance; and creating conditions that enable all migrants to enrich societies through their human, economic and social capacities, and thus facilitating their contributions to sustainable development at the local, national, regional and global levels.

The compact also refers to enabling faster, safer and cheaper transfer of remittances and fostering the financial inclusion of migrants; ensuring that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation; and providing migrants with access to basic services.

The Global Compact for Migration is not legally binding, but its provisions can be a powerful reference point for those formulating immigration policies as well as for human rights advocates in the face of mistreatment of migrants.

Negative attitudes or even violence against migrants typically stem from fears that they take jobs away from native-born citizens or that they engage in criminal activities, according to a study by the South Africa–based Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), a statutory research agency.

In the HSRC study, which focused on South Africans’ attitudes toward immigrants, 30% of the public blamed foreigners for “stealing jobs from hardworking South Africans,” while another 30% pointed to immigrants’ criminal activities.

But IOM South Africa countered that “immigration does not harm the long-term employment prospects or wages of native-born workers,” adding that “migrants are twice as likely to be entrepreneurs [as] South African nationals.” The South African government regularly condemns xenophobic attacks.

Economic perspective of migration
Mr. Kituyi said that most migration studies focus on “the plight of migrants, the crisis of international solidarity or humanitarian challenges.” He wished that more attention were paid to migration from the perspective of economic development.

Ms. Lúcia Kula, an Angolan migrant who is a researcher in the UK, concurred, adding that conversations about migration should shift to the migrants’ contributions to their new society.

“One of the main things they [immigrants] do in the economies they get into is create value. They enter niches where they are more competitive…and it can boost the local economy,” Mr. Kituyi elaborated.

Many migrants are talented professionals and offer expert services in their new countries. Iso Paelay, for example, left Liberia in the heat of the war in the 90s and resettled in Ghana, where he became a star presenter for TV3, a leading media house in the country. Apparently, Liberia’s loss was Ghana’s gain.

Mr. Kituyi points to a phenomenon of migrants going to other countries to engage in the ethnic food business. “They start creating routes to get food from their home country,” he said. Ethiopian restaurants in Nairobi, Kenya, including Abyssinia, Habesha and Yejoka Garden, serve Ethiopian dishes such as injera.

Abuja International Restaurant in Union, New Jersey, sells Nigerian food such as eba, amala and fufu and the popular beer Gulder. In New York, Africans and others throng “Little Senegal,” a single street in Harlem, to shop for anything African—foodstuffs, music CDs, hair products, religious items and finely tailored clothes.

While working hard, earning money and making contributions to their new countries, African migrants also “remit small monies back home to support their families,” explained Mr. Kituyi. “Eighty-five percent [of immigrants’ earnings] goes to the host country and 15% to the country of origin through remittances.”

“A good chunk of the money I make here [in the US] I spend here; I pay my bills and get things for myself. I remit some to upkeep my parents,” concurs Ms. Christy Emeagi, a lawyer who left Nigeria “because I wanted a better life for my unborn children.”

The inclusion in the Global Compact for Migration of ways to make remittances faster and safer will be sweet music to African migrants.

In 2017, remittance flows from migrants to sub-Saharan Africa were $38 billion, reports the World Bank. That is more than the $25 billion official development aid (ODA) to the region that year.

Currently, says Mr. Kituyi, “it is painful to see an overly high cost of transaction mostly going to international payment services like Western Union, PayPal and so on.”

Achieving the objectives of the Global Compact for Migration may take some time, experts believe. Nevertheless, the compact’s immediate impact is that safe, orderly and regular migration is currently at the forefront of global conversation. And that is a step in the right direction.

*Africa Renewal is published by the United Nations

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Excerpt:

Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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Not Just the Big Guys Are Against the Compacthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/not-just-big-guys-compact/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-just-big-guys-compact http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/not-just-big-guys-compact/#respond Thu, 13 Dec 2018 22:40:19 +0000 Souleymane Brah Oumarou http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159239 A few hours after the adoption of the United Nation’s Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Marrakech, a consortium of Moroccan human rights organisations—La Vie Campesina—held a sit in protest in front of Marrakech’s Grand Post Office. In the statement issued on December 11, the leaders of the 15 organisations denounced the […]

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A few hours after the adoption of the United Nation’s Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Marrakech, a consortium of Moroccan human rights organisations—La Vie Campesina—held a sit in protest in front of Marrakech’s Grand Post Office, denouncing the compact. Credit: Souleymane Brah Oumarou/IPS

By Souleymane Brah Oumarou
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 13 2018 (IPS)

A few hours after the adoption of the United Nation’s Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Marrakech, a consortium of Moroccan human rights organisations—La Vie Campesina—held a sit in protest in front of Marrakech’s Grand Post Office. In the statement issued on December 11, the leaders of the 15 organisations denounced the compact.

“It is a setback, not only for the free movement of people and their goods, but also a violation of human rights, protection of migrants and their families as provided for in international conventions already approved by the United Nations and other institutions,” says Federico Daniel, a member of the consortium, adding that La vie Campesina proposes an alternative compact “to restore the primacy of the rights of men, women, children and peoples.”

This can be achieved, he explains, by “building local economies that are sustainable, united and just, while a state’s responsibility is to prevent criminalisation, repression or detention of migrants on their migratory routes before they reach their country of destination and settlement.”

The consortium’s stance echoes that of a number of UN member countries that made last minute withdrawals from the compact. Hungary, Australia, Israel, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Latvia, Italy, Switzerland and Chile have all either refused to sign it or expressed reservations. The United States, one of the first to bridle against the U.N.’s push for the Compact, has gone as far as labelling it a violation of state sovereignty.

“We believe the Compact and the process that led to its adoption, including the New York Declaration, represent an effort by the U.N. to advance global governance at the expense of the sovereign right of States to manage their immigration systems in accordance with their national laws, policies, and interests,” read a statement released by the U.S. on the eve of the conference.

But the U.N. insists that the compact is voluntary and cooperative, not legally binding, and fully respects the sovereignty of states. 

“The Global Compact respects the sovereignty of countries,” says U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.  “And I believe that, reading carefully the Compact, countries will be able to understand that there are no reasons to be worried about the Compact. And I am hopeful that in the future they will join us in a common venture to the benefit of their own societies of the world as a whole and of the migrants.”

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AI to map Chinese strikeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/ai-map-chinese-strikes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ai-map-chinese-strikes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/ai-map-chinese-strikes/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:38:41 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159166 29 years ago, Han Dongfang survived the hail of bullets at Tiananmen Square. Now, he lives in Hong Kong and maps Chinese labour market strikes. Arbetet Global caught up with him at the ITUC World Congress in Copenhagen. Between meetings at Bella Center in Copenhagen, Arbetet Global gets a chat with the man who’s been […]

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Water, an Environmental Product of Agriculture in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/water-environmental-product-agriculture-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-environmental-product-agriculture-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/water-environmental-product-agriculture-brazil/#respond Sat, 08 Dec 2018 00:19:26 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159092 For the first time in her life, retired physical education teacher Elizabeth Ribeiro planted a tree, thorny papaya, native to Brazil’s central savanna. The opportunity arose on Nov. 28, when the Pipiripau Water Producer Project, which is being carried out 50 km from Brasilia, promoted the planting of 430 seedlings donated by participants in the […]

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Citizen Action in Europe’s Periphery: “An Antidote to Powerlessness”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/citizen-action-europes-periphery-antidote-powerlessness/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=citizen-action-europes-periphery-antidote-powerlessness http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/citizen-action-europes-periphery-antidote-powerlessness/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 13:54:42 +0000 Daan Bauwens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159076 Unjustified extra charges on drinking water, exploitation of labourers in the countryside and uncontrolled property speculation. In Europe’s periphery, citizens’ initiatives show how all too prevalent modern-day ailments can be tackled successfully. More often than not with the help of artists. Spring 2014. Pressured by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European […]

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Polish Mothers in Krakow. Polish artist Cecilya Malik began a campaign against the removal of the obligation for private landowners to apply for permission to cut down trees. Credit: Tomasz Wiech

By Daan Bauwens
GHENT, Belguim, Dec 6 2018 (IPS)

Unjustified extra charges on drinking water, exploitation of labourers in the countryside and uncontrolled property speculation. In Europe’s periphery, citizens’ initiatives show how all too prevalent modern-day ailments can be tackled successfully. More often than not with the help of artists.

Spring 2014.

Pressured by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, the government of an Ireland suffering from imposed austerity measures decides to introduce an additional levy on drinking water. Spontaneous protest ensue. A single woman, waking up in the middle of the night when workers are installing a water meter outside her house, comes out and blocks their way whilst still her night gown. She manages to get them to leave without finishing the job.

The meter fairy

Thousands follow her example in the following weeks. Some are arrested and convicted. In the southern coastal town of Cobh, citizens set up guard posts on bridges and boats to inform other citizens when the water company is arriving and where exactly it’s heading. Soon the protest receives the support of the trade unions and political parties, leading up to a demonstration march of 120,000 people in October of the same year. Mass demonstrations are subsequently held all through the country, often ending in concerts by popular Irish artists.

The largest protest campaign the country had ever seen forced the government to reduce the proposed water tax by 75 percent. The water tax is currently still on the table, but the Irish now have got the “meter fairy”. Residents of a house where a new water meter has just been installed can text their address to a certain number. The same night craftsmen will come over and remove the meter.

Property speculation

“Let me conclude with a warning,” says Brendan Ogle, one of the leading activists in the protests, “while we are progressing in some ways, we are at the same time slipping back to the darkest of ages.” Ogle refers to the housing emergency in his hometown Dublin, where rents have risen so sharply that this year the city has become most expensive place to live in the Eurozone, leaping ahead of both Paris and London.

“We squatted in an empty building and started a community centre for homeless people where they could stay and sleep,” says Ogle. “The court finally ordered we leave building, stating that while the homeless emergency is important, it is not more important than the right to property. Last Thursday, the 24th person that we housed in the building died on the streets. This in only 16 months.”

It seems to be a trend in cities all over Europe: a housing market under pressure causes speculation, leading to growing numbers of homeless people. The state doesn’t act and the law is not on the side of those who want to solve the problem.

Summit for activists

The same happened to Maria Sanchez of Cerro Liberdad, an citizen’s initiative which occupied an empty Andalusian farm owned by a bank. Sanchez put local labourers to work in decent conditions in a region that suffers from poverty and exploitation, and in March of this year she was arrested. All traces that her movement had left in the farm were erased.

“I did what the government fails to do,” she says, “I told that to the judge. This was not a crime.”

Ogle and Sanchez were just two of the 90 activists from all over Europe present at the summit “The Art of Organising Hope” that was held in early November in the Belgian town of Ghent. At the summit they showed each other how exactly they realised their plans to fight injustice, with the emphasis on the practical side of things.

The summit was the culmination of a research all across Europe that a fellowship of volunteers, journalists, artists and activists undertook in 2016 and 2017. Thoroughly documenting 60 grassroots and civil society organisations, they looked for hopeful discourses, methods and practices to counter the present-day upsurge of Euroscepticism and indifference.

Radical imagination

In the final selection of activists to be present at the summit, the majority turned out to be from Europe’s periphery with an especially large representation from the Balkans. That was no coincidence according to initiator and organiser Dominique Willaert, artistic leader of the Ghent-based social-artistic movement Victoria Deluxe.

“Activism and imagination at Europe’s external borders is much more radical than in Western Europe,” he says, “we brought them here especially to fertilise us with their imagination. During our trips around Europe we noticed that people in the periphery don’t feel as though they belong to Europe. That is most noticeable in countries that have fallen victim to European austerity measures.”

“The difference between them and us is striking,” he continues, “in Western Europe we strive for consensus and negotiation with the government, many organisations depend on the government for funding, so they become policy implementers. The activism and imagination of the external borders is much more radical.”

According to Willaert, it is exactly that imagination and radicalism that Western Europe needs. “We must give citizens the feeling that they have power and can create movements that bring change. Powerlessness can mean the end of Europe.”

Polish mothers on tree stumps

In the citizen’s projects at the summit it was moreover apparent that a large number was led by artists. “In order to develop deep democracy, new methods and symbols are needed,” Dominique Willaert explains his team’s choice, “we must go beyond the idea of parliaments and elected representatives. There is a need for new stories and images that can fertilise communities and mobilise people. That requires the help of artists.”

And social media seem to be quite an effective to tool in bringing that about, it seems. At the main stage, Polish Anna Alboth and Belgian Leen Van Waes told the story of how their Facebook solidarity campaign for for Syrian civilians led to a march that mobilised more than 4000 participants from 62 countries. The Civil March For Aleppo lasted eight and a half months, passing through Europe on foot from Berlin to Syria, an action that got the organising team nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The most mobilising image came from the Polish artist Cecilya Malik. In the beginning of January a controversial new law removed the obligation for private landowners to apply for permission to cut down trees, pay compensation or plant new trees, or even inform the authorities of the plans to cut down trees. Up until now, more than one million trees have been reported cut down with newly cleared spaces in cities, towns and countryside as a consequence.

“I knew I had to do something,” Malik says, “but I had a six-month-old baby. So I came up with the plan to sit on one of the stumps every day, let someone take a picture of me while I was breastfeeding and share that image on social media.” The Polish government did not reverse the law despite the hundreds of mothers following Malik’s example. But the media attention on breastfeeding mothers on tree stumps did lead to a surge in environmental consciousness with the general public. This way, a new draft law excluding the vast majority of NGOs from the consultation process on environmental projects, was shelved for the time being.

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Central America: Eradicating Gender Violence is Vital to State Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 08:08:55 +0000 Richard Barathe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159067 Richard Barathe is Director, UNDP Regional Center for Latin America and the Caribbean

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Credit: Caroline Trutmann / UNDP

By Richard Barathe
PANAMA CITY, Panama, Dec 6 2018 (IPS)

María is a 35-year old Salvadoran woman with three young children. Growing up, María knew her mother but never met her father. When María was six, she started working at the Central Market of San Salvador and at the age of 12 she was raped and became pregnant for the first time.

Later, María was expelled from her home once her mother got married for a second time, “My stepfather did not want to take care of me, even less with a son”, she told the researcher for “Resilient Youth, The Opportunity for Central America”, a study developed by the Regional Project Infosegura, a UN Development Programme-USAID joint initiative.

María lived in many different places until she met the father of her second daughter- who was killed years later. After his passing, María had a third child with a third partner whom she soon separated from, due to domestic violence. Currently, María’s teenage son lives with her father, uncle, and grandmother since she simply could not take care of him while also working full time.

Richard Barathe

Women all across El Salvador, women just like María have a life expectancy of around 75 years. It is safe to say that about half of María’s life has been deeply marked by the violence that women experience in Northern Countries of Central America, a region that for the past two decades has seen chronic violence despite Central America not having a regional war in decades.

When speaking of violence in the Northern Countries of Central America, it is assumed to be a problem concerning young men, since “only” 11 percent of the victims of violent deaths are women. However, the story of María is more common than is realized.

María is just another example of how women of this region live surrounded by a violence that affects them differently and specifically just because they are women.

This violence is not necessarily lethal, and victims often survive, but these women continue to be subjected to the same cycle of violence throughout their whole lives, impacting families and communities through generations, affecting their economy and sustainability, and distorting their capacities for development.

Data shows that in María’s home country, 93 percent of the victims of sexual crimes are women. Over two in every five the victims are under the age of 18. We also know that domestic violence is present throughout the adulthood of a woman and that a woman between 12 and 50 years old is at high risk of “disappearing”.

Over 3,500 women have been killed between the years 2010-2017, while nearly 2,700 were reported as Enforced Disappearances around the same period (201-2016) with 43 percent of them being minors.

We know this because the Salvadoran State has made progress in the management of information on citizen security with a focus on gender and has oriented public policies to guarantee evidence-based analysis.

Migration is a phenomenon that also characterizes this region, and data indicates that violence against women is an important factor to be considered. Our initiative also analyzed returnees data: migrants detained in transit who were sent back to their place of origin.

We know that 26 percent of these ‘returnees’ are women and 30 percent of all women say they have migrated due to violence, compared to only 18 percent of men who say violence is the main reason for leaving their country.

Every November, national, regional, and global actors campaign to eradicate violence against women. It is crucial to recognize violence against women as an essential element of citizen security: tackling it is a key step to build more cohesive and peaceful societies.

Addressing general societal violence with a special focus on violence against women must be at the foundation of comprehensive public policies on citizen security, that aim to eradicate all types of violence. Understanding everyday violence that women experience in their homes and streets is a security problem for communities and nations.

No nation will be safe unless women can live safely and develop their full potentials.

In this spirit, the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals provide a holistic model for a comprehensive approach to ensure that women have a life free from all types of violence. All of society thrives with firm steps towards development when no one is left behind.

At UNDP, we are systematizing good practices and success stories of the work in Central America within the framework of the UNDP-USAID Infosegura Regional Project, which is dedicated to the development of capacities for the formulation of public policies based on evidence and with a gender approach. We are, thus, establishing standards, methodologies and scalable processes.

An essential part of the process has been to build trust and coordinate our work with national institutions producing and analyzing data, leveraging new technologies, national experts and innovation.

This coordination has resulted in regional accomplishments in information management with a gender focus, such as specialized surveys and standardized reports on acts of violence against women.

In El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras, understanding the context of María’s story as accurately as possible will allow us to efficiently eradicate violence against women as well as all other types of violence. If countries are to achieve the 2030 Agenda, boosting gains in the economic, social and environmental realms, this can only be done if we ensure that no “Marías” are left behind.

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Excerpt:

Richard Barathe is Director, UNDP Regional Center for Latin America and the Caribbean

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Thermal Houses Keep People Warm in Peru’s Highlandshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/thermal-houses-keep-people-warm-perus-highlands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thermal-houses-keep-people-warm-perus-highlands http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/thermal-houses-keep-people-warm-perus-highlands/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 03:14:36 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159061 Thirty families from a rural community more than 4,300 meters above sea level will have warm houses that will protect them from the freezing temperatures that each year cause deaths and diseases among children and older adults in this region of the southeastern Peruvian Andes. José Tito, 46, and Celia Chumarca, one year younger, peasant […]

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Legal Weapons Have Failed to Curb Femicides in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/legal-weapons-failed-curb-femicides-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=legal-weapons-failed-curb-femicides-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/legal-weapons-failed-curb-femicides-latin-america/#respond Sat, 01 Dec 2018 03:00:08 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158975 This article is part of IPS coverage of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which began on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

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Susana Gómez, who was left blind by a beating from her then husband, says in a park in the city of La Plata, Argentina that she did not find support from the authorities to free herself from domestic violence, but a social organisation saved her from joining the list of femicides in Latin America - gender-based murders of women, which numbered 2,795 in 2017 in the region. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Susana Gómez, who was left blind by a beating from her then husband, says in a park in the city of La Plata, Argentina that she did not find support from the authorities to free herself from domestic violence, but a social organisation saved her from joining the list of femicides in Latin America - gender-based murders of women, which numbered 2,795 in 2017 in the region. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
LA PLATA, Argentina, Dec 1 2018 (IPS)

Left blind by a beating from her ex-husband, Susana Gómez barely managed to avoid joining the list of nearly 2,800 femicides committed annually in Latin America, but her case shows why public policies and laws are far from curtailing gender-based violence in the region.

“I filed many legal complaints (13 in criminal courts and five in civil courts) and the justice system never paid any attention to me,” Gómez told IPS in an interview in a square in her neighborhood in Lisandro Olmos, a suburb of La Plata, capital of the province of Buenos Aires.

Although they already existed in Argentina in 2011, when the brutal attack against her took place, the specialised women’s police stations were not enough to protect her from her attacker.

Her life was saved by La Casa María Pueblo, a non-governmental organisation that, like others in Latin America, uses its own resources to make up for the shortcomings of the state in order to protect and provide legal advice to the victims of domestic violence.

Gómez, her four children and her mother, who were also threatened by her ex-husband, were given shelter by the NGO.

“We had nothing. We went there with the clothes on our back and our identity documents and nothing else because we were going here and there and everyone closed the door on us: The police didn’t do anything, nor did the prosecutor’s office,” said Gómez, who is now 34 years old.

“Without organisations like this one I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale, the case wouldn’t have made it to trial. Without legal backing, a shelter where you can hide, psychological treatment, I couldn’t have faced this, because it’s not easy,” she said.

In April 2014, a court in La Plata sentenced her ex-husband, Carlos Goncharuk, to eight years in prison. Gómez is now suing the government of the province of Buenos Aires for reparations.

“No one is going to give me my eyesight back, but I want the justice system, the State to be more aware, to prevent a before and an after,” said Gómez, who once again is worried because her ex will be released next year.

Lawyer Darío Witt, the founder of the NGO, said Gómez was not left blind by an accident or illness but by the repeated beatings at the hands of her then-husband. The last time, he banged her head against the kitchen wall.

“The aim of the reparations is not simply economic. What we want to try to show in the case of Susana and other victims is that the State, that the authorities in general, whether provincial, municipal or national and in different countries, have a high level of responsibility in this. The state is not innocent in these questions,” Witt told IPS.

“When I went blind and realised that I would no longer see my children, I said ‘enough’,” Gómez said.

Alarming statistics

According to the Gender Equality Observatory (OIG) of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), at least 2,795 women were murdered in 2017 for gender-based reasons in 23 countries in the region, crimes classified in several countries as femicides.

The list of femicides released this month by OIG is led by Brazil (1,133 victims registered in 2017), in absolute figures, but in relative terms, the rate of gender crimes per 100,000 women, El Salvador reaches a level unparalleled in the region, with 10.2 femicides per 100,000 women.

Charts showing absolute numbers of femicides by country in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the rate of gender-based murders per 100,000 women. Credit: ECLAC Gender Equality Observatory

Charts showing absolute numbers of femicides by country in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the rate of gender-based murders per 100,000 women. Credit: ECLAC Gender Equality Observatory

Honduras (in 2016) recorded 5.8 femicides per 100,000 women, and Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Bolivia also recorded high rates in 2017, equal to or greater than two cases per 100,000 women.

The OIG details that gender-based killings account for the majority of murders of women in the region, where femicides are mainly committed by partners or ex-partners of the victim, with the exception of El Salvador and Honduras.

“Femicides are the most extreme expression of violence against women. Neither the classification of the crime nor its statistical visibility have been sufficient to eradicate this scourge that alarms and horrifies us every day,” said ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena as she released the new OIG figures.

Ana Silvia Monzón, a Guatemalan sociologist with the Gender and Feminism Studies Programme at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (Flacso), pointed out that her country has had a Law against Femicide and other Forms of Violence against Women since 2008 and a year later a Law against Sexual Violence, Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons.

“Both are important instruments because they help make visible a serious problem in Guatemala, and they are a tool for victims to begin the path to justice,” she told IPS from Guatemala City.

However, despite these laws that provided for the creation of a model of comprehensive care for victims and specialised courts, “the necessary resources are not allocated to institutions, agencies and programmes that should promote such prevention, much less specialised care for victims who report the violence,” she said.

In addition, “prejudices and biased gender practices persist among those who enforce the law” and “little has been done to introduce educational content or programmes that contribute to changing the social imaginary that assumes violence against women as normal,” and especially against indigenous women, she said.

#NiUnaMenos, #NiUnaMás

In the region, “significant progress has been made, which is the expression of a women’s movement that has managed to draw attention to gender-based violence as a social problem, but not enough progress has been made,” Monzón said.

Five-year-old Olivia holds up a sign with the slogan against femicide, #NiUnaMenos (Not One Woman Less), which has spread throughout Latin America in mass mobilisations against gender violence. Olivia participated in a neighborhood activity in the Argentine city of La Plata on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, celebrated Nov. 25. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Five-year-old Olivia holds up a sign with the slogan against femicide, #NiUnaMenos (Not One Woman Less), which has spread throughout Latin America in mass mobilisations against gender violence. Olivia participated in a neighborhood activity in the Argentine city of La Plata on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, celebrated Nov. 25. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

According to U.N. Women, a total of 18 Latin American and Caribbean nations have modified their laws to punish sexist crimes against women such as femicide or gender-based aggravated homicide.

But as Gómez and other social activists in her neighborhood conclude, much more must be done.

The meeting with the victim took place on Nov. 25, during an informal social gathering in the Juan Manuel de Rosas square, organized by the group Nuevo Encuentro.

The activity was held on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which launched the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. This year’s slogan is #HearMeToo, which calls for victims to be heard as part of the solution to what experts call a “silent genocide.”

María Eugenia Cruz, a neighborhood organiser for Nuevo Encuentro, said that despite the new legal frameworks and mass demonstrations and mobilisations such as #NiUnaMenos against machista violence and feminicide, which have spread throughout Argentina and other countries in the region, “there is still a need to talk about what is happening to women.”

“In more narrow-minded places like this neighbourhood, it seems like gender violence is something people are ashamed of talking about, the women feel guilty. Making the problem visible is part of thinking about what tools the State can provide,” she told IPS.

“Or to see what those tools are,” said Olivia, her five-year-old daughter who was playing nearby, and who proudly held a sign that read: “Ni Una Menos,” (Not One Woman Less) the slogan that has brought Latin American women together, as well as #NiUnaMás (Not One More Woman).

She exemplifies a new generation of Latin American girls who, thanks to massive mobilisations and growing social awareness, are beginning to speak out early and promote cultural change.

“Today women are becoming aware, starting during the dating stage, of the signs of a violent man. He doesn’t like your friends, he doesn’t like the way you dress. Now there’s more information available, and that’s important,” said Gómez, who is a volunteer on a hot-line for victims of violence.

“Now they call you, they ask you for advice, and that’s good. In the past, who could you call? Besides the fear, if they promise to conceal your identity, that prompts you to say: I’m going to file a complaint and I have a group of people who are going to help me,” said the survivor of domestic abuse.

The post Legal Weapons Have Failed to Curb Femicides in Latin America appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of IPS coverage of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which began on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

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President-Elect’s Security Plan Disappoints Civil Society in Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/president-elects-security-plan-disappoints-civil-society-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=president-elects-security-plan-disappoints-civil-society-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/president-elects-security-plan-disappoints-civil-society-mexico/#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 07:41:50 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158911 “Setback” and “disillusionment” were the terms used by Yolanda Morán, a mother whose son was the victim of forced disappearance, to describe the security plan outlined by Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who takes office on Dec. 1. “We are not convinced, because we believed it when he said in the campaign that he […]

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‘A Turtle is Worth More Alive Than Dead’http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/turtle-worth-alive-dead/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=turtle-worth-alive-dead http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/turtle-worth-alive-dead/#respond Mon, 26 Nov 2018 13:30:13 +0000 Nalisha Adams http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158874 On the north-eastern shores of Trinidad and Tobago, on the shoreline of Matura, more than 10,000 leatherback turtles climb the beaches to nest each year. But there the local community is keenly area of one thing: ‘a turtle alive is worth more than a turtle dead.” It’s a lesson the community learned almost three decades […]

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A leatherback turtle on the beach. Communities in Trinidad and Tobago are actively conserving the leatherback. Courtesy: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region Follow/CC by 2.0

By Nalisha Adams
NAIROBI, Nov 26 2018 (IPS)

On the north-eastern shores of Trinidad and Tobago, on the shoreline of Matura, more than 10,000 leatherback turtles climb the beaches to nest each year. But there the local community is keenly area of one thing: ‘a turtle alive is worth more than a turtle dead.”

It’s a lesson the community learned almost three decades ago when the government of Trinidad and Tobago first created a tour guide training course in the north-eastern region. Dennis Sammy, Treasurer of the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), also a community leader from Matura, was part of the course. But instead of just working as tour guides, the community had a bigger vision of conservation, at a time when people were “killing lots of turtles”.

The area of Matura is one of the few places in the world where the leatherback turtles nest. Sammy tells IPS that it is also easily accessible via a beach road, something which places the turtles at risk to poachers.

But in four years the community residents, who had formed a conservation organisation, were able to stop the slaughter of turtles, Sammy tells IPS. The residents themselves had been part of the problem initially, he adds.

“They changed because the community became part of the solution.”

By 2000, the population of turtles rose as a result of the conservation efforts, thereby creating a problem for local fishers as up to 30 turtles a day became caught in their nets.

Now, ecotourism is practiced and people pay to come watch the turtles nesting.

Sammy is one of the participants at the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, which is currently being held in Kenya and spoke to IPS alongside a side event on blue enterprises.

He uses the above example of turtle conservation as a key example of a community-led intuitive during the discussion on the blue enterprise titled “SIDS inclusive economic development through community-led conservation and social enterprise”.

“We have seen one turtle, by documenting and tagging it, come up so many times and we have been able to identify the number of people seeing this turtle. And we have traced back the value that these people pay to come and look at this turtle, and it’s a very high value,” Sammy says.

He explains that this is clear to the local communities that, “a turtle is worth more alive than dead”.

Nicole Leotaud, Executive Director of CANARI, a non-profit technical institute which facilities and promotes participatory natural resource management, says that in order to engage further community engagement, the Local Green-Blue Enterprise Radar, a tool that engages small enterprises by questioning them about their sustainability.

The radar is a list of questions, with each question being an indicator related to the SDGs. It looks particularly at poverty, environmental sustainability, well-being, and good governance.

This happens through a facilitated process where each and every member of the enterprise, not just business leaders, are asked probing questions.

“The blue economy and green economy are very top-down concepts being imposed on us. How do we make it real and how do we involve local communities and recognise small and micro enterprises as part of economic development?

“Very much you are hearing about big sectors, tourism and shipping and [seabed] mining and how do you involve the real enterprises that are there and always doing it?”

Nicole Leotaud, Executive Director of CANARI, a non-profit technical institute which facilities and promotes participatory natural resource management. Credit: Nalisha Adams/IPS

CANARI asked the questions how local, rural and marginalised communities could become part of the movement that was not only delivering economic benefits to communities but also asked how these communities could practice environmental sustainability.

“The radar is really designed for community enterprises that are using natural resources,” Leotard tells IPS.

“They are already starting to make changes. We are not telling them to make changes, it is a self-discovery.”

Leotaud explains that the organisation Grande Riviera Turtle Conservation experienced a similar process of discovery.

“One community enterprise working on turtle conservation have big tanks where they keep baby turtles, if these have been born in the day,” Leotaud says. She says thanks to the radar, the organisation then looked into not merely conserving turtles but also conserving water and using renewable energy.

“They said can we think about renewable energy. It would not only be good for the environment but it would be a steady energy supply because [they are based] in a remote village where they are cut off [from electricity] all the time.

“They realised that they can do better in terms of energy and water. And they realised they have a few powerful leaders but they are not doing enough to engage other members of the enterprise and bring them in, they are not doing enough to build partnerships,” says Leotaud.

“They said: ‘Ah now we see how we are part of the blue economy.’”

Mitchell Lay of the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisation says that in order to help community enterprises become part of the blue economy and to become even stronger, the actors already operating in the space have to be recognised.

The small fisheries sector, he says has “across the globe operating in the aqua environment over 90 million individuals. In the Caribbean region, the Caribbean community alone, we have in excess of 150,000 operating in the entire production already in the blue economy space.”

He says their contributions should be recognised. These contributions include “not only to SDG 14, but to the other SDGs. Their contribution to eradicating poverty, in terms of job creation, their contribution to human health and wellness. The contribution to ending hunger.”

Lay says support is critical because of the nature of the enterprises as they are small and micro and that their sustainable development needed to be promoted.

“So support from a policy perspective, support from other perspectives as well, capacity development etc.”

Meanwhile Leotaud says that “Community enterprises especially because they are informal they are marginalised. They are not part of the decision making they are not part of the discussion. So how can we get them to feel a part of this movement, for them to make their own transformation? And for them to call on governments?”

She explains more enabling policies were needed and that CANARI was working on building a more enabling environment for the micro enterprises.

She says that community enterprises don’t have access to finance, and that the technical capacity available in countries for enterprise development was not tailored for them.

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Solar Energy Drives Social Development in Brazil’s Favelashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/solar-energy-drives-social-development-brazils-favelas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solar-energy-drives-social-development-brazils-favelas http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/solar-energy-drives-social-development-brazils-favelas/#respond Wed, 21 Nov 2018 00:26:18 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158766 “We can’t work just to pay the electric bill,” complained José Hilario dos Santos, president of the Residents Association of Morro de Santa Marta, a favela or shantytown embedded in Botafogo, a traditional middle-class neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. The high cost of electricity in the favela is due to consumption estimates made by Light, […]

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Women Make the Voice of Indigenous People Heard in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/women-make-voice-indigenous-people-heard-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-make-voice-indigenous-people-heard-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/women-make-voice-indigenous-people-heard-argentina/#respond Wed, 14 Nov 2018 21:38:52 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158673 The seed was planted more than 20 years ago by a group of indigenous women who began to gather to try to recover memories from their people. Today, women are also the main protagonists of La Voz Indígena (The Indigenous Voice), a unique radio station in northern Argentina that broadcasts every day in seven languages. […]

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Climate of Repression a Dark Cloud over Upcoming Elections in Fijihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/climate-repression-dark-cloud-upcoming-elections-fiji/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-repression-dark-cloud-upcoming-elections-fiji http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/climate-repression-dark-cloud-upcoming-elections-fiji/#respond Tue, 13 Nov 2018 12:45:58 +0000 Josef Benedict http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158651 Josef Benedict is a civic space research officer for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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A semi-submerged graveyard on Togoru, Fiji. The island states in the South Pacific are most vulnerable for sealevel rise and extreme weather. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

By Josef Benedict
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 13 2018 (IPS)

Powdery white beaches. Crystal clear turquoise water. Palm trees swaying in the breeze.

This is the postcard picture of paradise that comes to mind when tourists think of Fiji. But for many citizens of the South Pacific’s largest island nation, and its media, the reality is anything but blissful.

And the repressive climate in which elections are about to take place serves to highlight the decline in democracy there in recent years.

In fact, since incumbent Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama seized power a coup in 2006, Fijians have seen their civic freedoms increasingly restricted through repressive laws and policies.

The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe, says these restrictions have also created a chilling effect within Fijian media and civil society.

Voters in this country of 900,000 people go to the polls on November 14 in the second national elections since the return to parliamentary democracy in 2014. But given the state of afffairs, serious questions have been raised about the poll’s legitimacy.

Bainimarama’s FijiFirst government took the reins democratically following the 2014 vote – after eight years of ruling by decree. To hold on to power, Bainimarama has tried to muzzle the media and any criticism.

For several years after the coup, a regime of heavy censorship was imposed, where officially-appointed censors roamed newsrooms, deciding what could and could not be published.

In 2010, the government introduced a media decree that imposed excessive restrictions on the right to freedom of expression with hefty penalties. It also barred foreign investors from owning more than 10 percent of a Fijian media outlet.

That law has since become a noose around the neck of the media sector, giving the authorities the license to imprison journalists or bankrupt editors, publishers and news organisations.

Three years ago, the noose tightened when the decree was amended to prohibit the airing of local content including news by subscription-based television services. Early this year, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein raised concerns about this law saying it “has the effect of inhibiting investigative journalism and coverage of issues that are deemed sensitive, as well as discouraging a plurality of views.”

Some outlets have tried to challenge the official suppression and paid for it. In 2012, The Fiji Times, one of the very few independent news outlets that has refused to toe the government line, and its editor-in-chief, Fred Wesley, were found guilty of contempt of court for reprinting an article first published in New Zealand, that criticised Fiji’s judiciary.

Four years later, four Fiji Times officials, including Wesley, were charged with sedition for a letter published in the weekly vernacular Nai Lalakai newspaper, that authorities found to contain inflammatory views about Muslims.

This, even though the letter was not written by any Fiji Times staff. Human rights groups believe the charges were politically motivated. Despite the judicial harassment, they were acquitted by the Fiji High Court in May 2018.

The sedition law has also been used by the Fijian authorities to target opposition politicians. In March, the Fiji United Freedom Party’s former leader, Jagath Karunaratne and former opposition parliamentarian, Mosese Bulitavu were convicted of spray painting anti-government slogans in 2011 – charges they have denied. Both were sentenced to almost two and a half years in prison.

The government has also in recent years tried to systemically weaken the power of trade unions, which has a strong voting bloc. Felix Anthony, the Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC) National Secretary, has blasted Bainimarama for preaching respect for human rights and painting a picture of Fiji for the international community that is in stark contrast to the reality on the ground.

Anthony has accused the government of ignoring workers’ collective bargaining rights and imposing individual contracts on civil servants, teachers, nurses and other workers in direct violation of labour laws and international conventions that Fiji has ratified. Over the last year, the trade union has been denied permission to hold peaceful marches on at least three occasions, without a valid reason.

Fiji’s draconian laws have compelled civil society organisations (CSOs) to tread carefully, fueling frustration at a narrow civic space and the suppression of dissenting voices. Nevertheless, rights groups have continued bravely to organize and demand reforms and accountability for rights violations.

While CSOs often play a crucial role in election preparations and promoting participatory democratic culture in many countries, this is not the case in Fiji. A 2014 Electoral Decree, which does not allow any CSO that receives foreign funding “to engage in, participate in or conduct any campaign, including organising debates, public forum, meetings, interviews, panel discussions, or publishing any material that is related to the election”, has effectively barred civil society participation in elections.

Clearly unjustified, this ban is a violation of freedom of expression and undermines civil society, a key pillar of any democratic society.

Despite these worrying restrictions, Fiji was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in October 2018 for a three-year term. Among its commitments was that Fiji ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – a treaty that clearly outlines legal obligations to respect and protect the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Demonstrated respect for these rights must begin with the upcoming elections and upheld by the winning party after it.

The next administration must take steps not only to ratify all human rights treaties but to ensure that all laws and decrees – such as the sedition and media laws – are revised or repealed to keep national legislation in step with international human rights law and standards.

Law enforcement officials, such as the police, who are seen to be controlled the executive, must be re-trained to ensure that they operate independently, respect the right to free speech and assembly and allow peaceful protests.

The incoming administration must take steps to foster a safe, respectful and enabling environment for civil society and swiftly remove measures that limit their right to participate in elections.

During the pledging event by candidate states to the UNHRC in Geneva in September, Fiji’s representative at council, Nazhat Shameem, committed to giving the South Pacific region a voice in world’s main human rights body.

A lofty promise for a government not in the habit of giving voice to interests beyond its own. Fiji should start by allowing its own citizens to speak out and express themselves at home, without fear of reprisals.

The post Climate of Repression a Dark Cloud over Upcoming Elections in Fiji appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Josef Benedict is a civic space research officer for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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Empowering Women in Post-Conflict Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/empowering-women-post-conflict-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=empowering-women-post-conflict-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/empowering-women-post-conflict-africa/#respond Thu, 08 Nov 2018 10:43:25 +0000 Amber Rouleau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158594 Amber Rouleau is with the communications office for African Women Rising

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African Women Rising AWR’s programs focus on providing people with access to capital to be able to invest in farming or businesses, working in partnership with farmers to sustainably improve yields and reduce vulnerability to environmental challenges, and providing adult and girls’ education to empower people to take action in their communities

This school was started by one of African Women Rising’s adult literacy groups. The government-run school is far away and children are not able to join until they are older as it is too far away for them to walk. Parents decided to take action, pool their resources and start their own school so their children would not fall behind. This demonstrates the power of community organizing. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

By Amber Rouleau
SANTA BARBARA, California, USA, Nov 8 2018 (IPS)

While its conflict ended in 2007, Northern Uganda struggles with its legacy as one of the most aid-dependent regions in the world.

Linda Cole, founder of African Women Rising (AWR), who has vast experience working in conflict and post-conflict regions, realized that programs don’t always reach the people who need it the most: those living in extreme poverty.

Couple this with the fact that most post-conflict programs are geared toward men, Cole created African Women Rising with the belief that there is a better way to impart meaningful and long-term change for women in these communities.

Rooted in the conviction that women should be active stakeholders in defining their own development strategies, AWR’s programs focus on providing people with access to capital to be able to invest in farming or businesses, working in partnership with farmers to sustainably improve yields and reduce vulnerability to environmental challenges, and providing adult and girls’ education to empower people to take action in their communities.

In order to become a better farmer, businesswoman, or simply a more productive member of society, women must know how to read, write and calculate. AWR is helping over 9,000 of the most vulnerable women and girls reclaim their lives, and empower future generations, building on initiatives which allow for self-sustaining solutions.

The majority of the women African Women Rising works with are widows, abductees, girl mothers, orphans or grandmothers taking care of orphans and other vulnerable children. For women who were forced to participate in the war against their own people, the return home is often a grim experience.

Many return to areas where access to primary health care, education or arable land to farm is tenuous at best. Accordingly, throughout the last twelve years, AWR has been working to break this paradigm of extreme dependency and create a foundation of self-sufficiency and sovereignty for women in these rural communities, with three foundational programs: micro-finance, education, and agriculture.

Brenda is 24 years old. She has 3 children, the two older ones go to school. Brenda is a participant in African Women Rising’s organic Field Crop program. Using local resources and simple methods for improving the soil and water conservation, she has been able to double her yield. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

In the last number of years, Northern Uganda has seen a dramatic increase in refugees coming from South Sudan. Over one million people have crossed the border, approximately 80% are women and children, some arriving into the communities where AWR is working. AWR is currently working with 6,600 refugees in Palabek settlement camp, helping them start and maintain permagardens to increase access to food and income.

Their micro-financing program is founded on proven Village Savings and Loan methodology, with an approach based on savings, basic business skills, and access to capital. AWR achieves this through rigorous capacity building and mentorship. The training classes focus on basic business knowledge and accounting to provide women with the tools to be successful.

The viability of AWR’s model lies in its use of community mobilizers who provide technical support and mentoring for each group over a three year period. This year, AWR groups will save over $2 million, all coming from women’s weekly savings of 25 to 75 cents.

“With the money I saved from the Micro Finance group in 2013 I hired a tractor to plow my land and plant simsim. With the income I bought cattle. I now have more than 80 cattle. African Women Rising has changed my life.” Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

As the largest provider of adult literacy in Northern Uganda, AWR’s 34 adult literary centers provide education to more than 2,000 adults. However, they are more than a place to become literate. Participants identify issues that are relevant to them and discuss how to solve them.

For example, the lack of trustworthy candidates in a recent election made over 50 students to run for public office. Centers have also repaired boreholes, opened up new roads, started marketplaces and community schools for children.

African Women Rising is the largest provider of adult literacy in Northern Uganda. Their centers are more than a place to learn to read and write. Building upon the teachings of Paul Freire, they help communities organize, identify, and solve the challenges they are facing. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

Their education programs for girls focuses primarily on children of AWR members who participate in their livelihoods programs and are reaching a financial status where they can begin to sustainably afford school fees. In some of these regions, not a single girl graduates from primary school – and in Palabek refugee camp, AWR has built a structure, so teachers have a building in which to prepare and teach lessons.

Cole and her organization are working together with parents, caretakers, schools, and government officials to create sustainable change. The program provides academic mentorship and life skills to 1,150 girls in 11 remote schools in Northern Uganda, increasing access and removing obstacles to schooling.

This includes providing washable menstrual pads for girls, so they can stay in school when they are menstruating, one of the biggest barriers for girls in continuing their studies.

With each missed week, girls fall farther behind, often eventually dropping out entirely, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. AWR is building awareness and support for girls’ education in communities, and aims to have 55% of girls graduating their grade level this year.

The organization’s agricultural training program teaches community members how to create, manage, and maintain their gardens (allowing for not only food, but income), over a year’s seasonal cropping cycle, tracking 25 different agroecological based indicators (most agencies track 2 to 3 in a development setting).

Women learning how to use an A-frame to help dig swales to collect water for their Perma Garden. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

The Perma garden and Field crop programs increase soil fertility, water conservation, and crop yields, teaching farmers in a participatory approach designed to maximize exposure to practical lessons, ensuring year-round access to nutritious vegetables and fruit. A better diet and nutritional intake, means increased income for participants and increased access to healthcare and schooling.

Perma Gardens are designed to produce food year-round. This helps people through the hunger period and, for many, it is also a source of income. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

These programs are symbiotic, and while there are no quick fixes, simple, community-based solutions wholly learned over time changes lives. AWR believes in a just and equal world where all people have the opportunity and right to live their lives with dignity.

Through their programs they are working to break the cycle of poverty and dependence: as parents and caregivers are becoming financially stable they invest in the education of their children, and as children learn, a cycle of empowerment and self-sustainability begins. Like a seed planted in a garden, the cultivation of education provides opportunities for the entire community, for generations to come.

AWR depends on grants and donations. For more information on African Women Rising, or to donate, please visit http://www.africanwomenrising.org/

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Excerpt:

Amber Rouleau is with the communications office for African Women Rising

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Rainwater Harvesting Eases Daily Struggle in Argentina’s Chaco Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rainwater-harvesting-eases-daily-struggle-argentinas-chaco-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rainwater-harvesting-eases-daily-struggle-argentinas-chaco-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rainwater-harvesting-eases-daily-struggle-argentinas-chaco-region/#comments Tue, 06 Nov 2018 23:22:31 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158571 “I’ve been used to hauling water since I was eight years old. Today, at 63, I still do it,” says Antolín Soraire, a tall peasant farmer with a face ravaged by the sun who lives in Los Blancos, a town of a few dozen houses and wide dirt roads in the province of Salta, in […]

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Mariano Barraza (L), a member of the Wichi indigenous people, and Enzo Romero, a technician with the Fundapaz organisation, stand next to the rainwater storage tank built in the indigenous community of Lote 6 to supply the local families during the six-month dry season in this part of the province of Salta, in northern Argentina's Chaco region. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Mariano Barraza (L), a member of the Wichi indigenous people, and Enzo Romero, a technician with the Fundapaz organisation, stand next to the rainwater storage tank built in the indigenous community of Lote 6 to supply the local families during the six-month dry season in this part of the province of Salta, in northern Argentina's Chaco region. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
LOS BLANCOS, Argentina, Nov 6 2018 (IPS)

“I’ve been used to hauling water since I was eight years old. Today, at 63, I still do it,” says Antolín Soraire, a tall peasant farmer with a face ravaged by the sun who lives in Los Blancos, a town of a few dozen houses and wide dirt roads in the province of Salta, in northern Argentina.

In this part of the Chaco, the tropical plain stretching over more than one million square kilometres shared with Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, living conditions are not easy."I wish the entire Chaco region could be sown with water tanks and we wouldn't have to cry about the lack of water anymore. We don't want 500-meter deep wells or other large projects. We trust local solutions." -- Enzo Romero

For about six months a year, between May and October, it does not rain. And in the southern hemisphere summer, temperatures can climb to 50 degrees Celsius.

Most of the homes in the municipality of Rivadavia Banda Norte, where Los Blancos is located, and in neighbouring municipalities are scattered around rural areas, which are cut off and isolated when it rains. Half of the households cannot afford to meet their basic needs, according to official data, and access to water is still a privilege, especially since there are no rivers in the area.

Drilling wells has rarely provided a solution. “The groundwater is salty and naturally contains arsenic. You have to go more than 450 meters deep to get good water,” Soraire told IPS during a visit to this town of about 1,100 people.

In the last three years, an innovative self-managed system has brought hope to many families in this area, one of the poorest in Argentina: the construction of rooftops made of rainwater collector sheets, which is piped into cement tanks buried in the ground.

Each of these hermetically sealed tanks stores 16,000 litres of rainwater – what is needed by a family of five for drinking and cooking during the six-month dry season.

 

 

“When I was a kid, the train would come once a week, bringing us water. Then the train stopped coming and things got really difficult,” recalls Soraire, who is what is known here as a criollo: a descendant of the white men and women who came to the Argentine Chaco since the late 19th century in search of land to raise their animals, following the military expeditions that subjugated the indigenous people of the region.

Today, although many years have passed and the criollos and indigenous people in most cases live in the same poverty, there is still latent tension with the native people who live in isolated rural communities such as Los Blancos or in the slums ringing the larger towns and cities.

Since the early 20th century, the railway mentioned by Soraire linked the 700 kilometres separating the cities of Formosa and Embarcación, and was practically the only means of communication in this area of the Chaco, which until just 10 years ago had no paved roads.

Dorita, a local indigenous woman, stands in front of a "represa" or pond dug near her home, in Lote 6, a Wichí community a few kilometres from the town of Los Blancos, in Argentina's Chaco region. The ponds accumulate rainwater and are used to provide drinking water for both animals and local families, posing serious health risks. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Dorita, a local indigenous woman, stands in front of a “represa” or pond dug near her home, in Lote 6, a Wichí community a few kilometres from the town of Los Blancos, in Argentina’s Chaco region. The ponds accumulate rainwater and are used to provide drinking water for both animals and local families, posing serious health risks. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

The trains stopped coming to this area in the 1990s, during the wave of privatisations and spending cuts imposed by neoliberal President Carlos Menem (1989-1999).

Although there have been promises to get the trains running again, in the Chaco villages of Salta today there are only a few memories of the railway: overgrown tracks and rundown brick railway stations that for years have housed homeless families.

Soraire, who raises cows, pigs and goats, is part of one of six teams – three criollo and three indigenous – that the Foundation for Development in Peace and Justice (Fundapaz) trained to build rainwater tanks in the area around Los Blancos.

“Everyone here wants their own tank,” Enzo Romero, a technician with Fundapaz, a non-governmental organisation that has been working for more than 40 years in rural development in indigenous and criollo settlements of Argentina’s Chaco region, told IPS in Los Blancos. “So we carry out surveys to see which families have the greatest needs.”

The director of Fundapaz, Gabriel Seghezzo, explains that “the beneficiary family must dig a hole 1.20 metres deep by five in diameter, in which the tank is buried. In addition, they have to provide lodging and meals to the builders during the week it takes to build it.”

“It’s very important for the family to work hard for this. In order for this to work out well, it is essential for the beneficiaries to feel they are involved,” Seghezzo told IPS in Salta, the provincial capital.

Fundapaz “imported” the rainwater tank system from Brazil, thanks to its many contacts with social organisations in that country, especially groups working for solutions to the chronic drought in the Northeast region.

Antolín Soraire, a "criollo" farmer from the Chaco region of Salta, stands in front of one of the tanks he built in Los Blancos to collect rainwater, which provides families with drinking water for their needs during the six-month dry season in northern Argentina. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Antolín Soraire, a “criollo” farmer from the Chaco region of Salta, stands in front of one of the tanks he built in Los Blancos to collect rainwater, which provides families with drinking water for their needs during the six-month dry season in northern Argentina. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Romero points out that so far some 40 rooftops and water tanks have been built – at a cost of about 1,000 dollars each – in the municipality of Rivadavia Banda Norte, which is 12,000 square kilometres in size and has some 10,000 inhabitants. This number of tanks is, of course, a very small part of what is needed, he added.

“I wish the entire Chaco region could be sown with water tanks and we wouldn’t have to cry about the lack of water anymore. We don’t want 500-meter deep wells or other large projects. We trust local solutions,” says Romero, who studied environmental engineering at the National University of Salta and moved several years ago to Morillo, the capital of the municipality, 1,600 kilometres north of Buenos Aires.

On National Route 81, the only paved road in the area, it is advisable to travel slowly: as there are no fences, pigs, goats, chickens and other animals raised by indigenous and criollo families constantly wander across the road.

Near the road, in the mountains, live indigenous communities, such as those known as Lote 6 and Lote 8, which occupy former public land now recognised as belonging to members of the Wichí ethnic group, one of the largest native communities in Argentina, made up of around 51,000 people, according to official figures that are considered an under-registration.

In Lote 6, Dorita, a mother of seven, lives with her husband Mariano Barraza in a brick house with a tin roof, surrounded by free-ranging goats and chickens. The children and their families return seasonally from Los Blancos, where the grandchildren go to school, which like transportation is not available in the community.

Three children play under a roof next to goats in Lote 6, an indigenous community in the province of Salta in northern Argentina. It is one of the poorest areas in the country, with half of the population having unmet basic needs, and where the shortage of drinking water is the most serious problem. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Three children play under a roof next to goats in Lote 6, an indigenous community in the province of Salta in northern Argentina. It is one of the poorest areas in the country, with half of the population having unmet basic needs, and where the shortage of drinking water is the most serious problem. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

About 100 metres from the house, Dorita, who preferred not to give her last name, shows IPS a small pond with greenish water. In the region of Salta families dig these “represas” to store rainwater.

The families of Lot 6 today have a rooftop that collects rainwater and storage tank, but they used to use water from the “represas” – the same water that the animals drank, and often soiled.

“The kids get sick. But the families often consume the contaminated water from the ‘represas’ because they have no alternative,” Silvia Reynoso, a Catholic nun who works for Fundapaz in the area, told IPS.

In neighboring Lote 8, Anacleto Montes, a Wichi indigenous man who has an 80-square-metre rooftop that collects rainwater, explains: “This was a solution. Because we ask the municipality to bring us water, but there are times when the truck is not available and the water doesn’t arrive.”

What Montes doesn’t say is that water in the Chaco has also been used to buy political support in a patronage-based system.

Lalo Bertea, who heads the Tepeyac Foundation, an organisation linked to the Catholic Church that has been working in the area for 20 years, told IPS: “Usually in times of drought, the municipality distributes water. And it chooses where to bring water based on political reasons. The people in the area are so used to this that they consider it normal.”

“Water scarcity is the most serious social problem in this part of the Chaco,” says Bertea, who maintains that rainwater collection also has its limits and is experimenting with the purchase of Mexican pumps to extract groundwater when it can be found at a reasonable depth.

“The incredible thing about all this is that the Chaco is not the Sahara desert. There is water, but the big question is how to access it,” he says.

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