Inter Press ServiceAid – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 18 Jan 2019 20:26:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Davos, Inequality & the Climate Emergencyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/davos-inequality-climate-emergency/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=davos-inequality-climate-emergency http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/davos-inequality-climate-emergency/#respond Fri, 18 Jan 2019 14:39:54 +0000 Daniel Mittler http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159702 Daniel Mittler is the Political Director of Greenpeace International and is on the steering committee of the global Fight Inequality alliance.

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Daniel Mittler is the Political Director of Greenpeace International and is on the steering committee of the global Fight Inequality alliance.

By Daniel Mittler
BERLIN, Jan 18 2019 (IPS)

Four of the top five most impactful threats in this year’s World Economic Forum´s Global Risks report are related to climate change. The report warns that we are “sleepwalking to disaster” . But that is not true.

The disaster is already here, it´s not something we are still walking towards. Climate change is no future threat, it´s a current one. We have entered a new phase, one in which the impacts are coming faster, with greater intensity.

Already this year, Thailand has seen its worst storm in 30 years rip through coastal areas. In the Alps, just east of Davos, extreme weather is causing snow chaos.

The climate crisis also isn´t caused by sleep or ignorance. The rich and powerful gathered in Davos brought us to the existential brink wide awake. The “profit first” neoliberal economic model has dominated policy making around the world for too long.

It has resulted in national laws, trade and finance rules that drive our current overconsumption of resources, lead to climate disruption – and bring about more and more inequality.

The world’s richest 1% took home an obscene 82% of all new wealth last year and, according to the World Bank, almost half of all people worldwide are one medical bill or crop failure away from destitution. Inequality continues to rise as the world warms and the causes of both are linked.

As Oxfam has shown, the richest 10% are responsible for almost half carbon emissions caused by consumption. And yet all around the world it’s the poor and marginalised that are most at risk from the devastating effects of climate change.

The failure by governments to prioritize climate action and the fight against inequality is caused by state institutions and decision-makers – in South as well as North – being captured by specific corporate interests.

Statue of Justice Activity in Davos

The report Justice for People and Planet, for example, showcases 20 examples of how the rules that govern our global economy (and sometimes the lack thereof) result in environmental destruction and corporate human rights abuses.

The sad truth is, that those cases are just the tip of the iceberg. They merely illustrate the systemic problem we face.

Because the crises we face are the result of our current economic and political rules, neither the climate emergency nor inequality can be fixed by public private partnerships, as Klaus Schwab, the founder and director of the World Economic Forum tries to make us believe.

To the contrary. We only have a chance to stop walking towards catastrophe if we force our governments to adopt new rules – nationally and globally – that have ending climate pollution and inequality at their heart.

This is certainly possible. At the global level, we do have some regulations with teeth. The World Trade Organisation, for example, can sanction countries that break its rules.

Those very rules have prevented many positive laws and changes – because the threat of the WTO overruling a social or environmental measure always looms.

We need similarly strong rules to counter the climate emergency and to fight inequality. Environmental and social bodies should be able to impose sanctions and fines. Corporate accountability and liability needs to extend to all corporate impacts on people and the environment around the world. Trade rules, similarly, need to be revamped to put people and planet first.

At the national level, we need binding targets to at least halve global emissions by 2030, and we need tax rules that ensure that the corporations and the rich pay their fair share. We can take heart in some rules that are already on the statute books.

France, for example, requires corporations to identify potential risks to people and the environment as a result of their activities, and act to prevent harm to people and the environment.

The UK’s Modern Slavery Act meanwhile require businesses to tackle slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains – one extreme part of the inequality crisis.

We need more such laws, in more countries. Urgently. And that´s, luckily, what grassroots movements are demanding around the world.

As the World Economic Forum gathers in Davos, January 22-25, people are mobilizing in many countries to put an end to inequality as part of the Fight Inequality alliance week of action.

Feminists, workers, environmentalists and many more movements have come together in this alliance in the knowledge that we do not need nice words or acts of charity from the Davos elite but fundamentally different rules for our global economy if we are to survive.

As the global Fight Inequality alliance manifesto says: “We stand together to build a world of greater equality – where all people’s rights are respected and fulfilled, a world of shared prosperity, opportunity and dignity, living within the planet’s boundaries.”

That world is possible. Via collective mobilization around the world we are making it a little bit more real every day.

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Excerpt:

Daniel Mittler is the Political Director of Greenpeace International and is on the steering committee of the global Fight Inequality alliance.

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Acts of Terror Will Not Undermine Our Resolvehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve/#comments Wed, 16 Jan 2019 14:29:49 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159666 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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President Kenyatta addresses the Nation on 16 Jan 2019. “I also commend the civilians who looked after one another. For every act of evil that led to injury yesterday, there were a dozen acts of compassion, overflowing patriotism and individual courage,” Credit: KBC

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 16 2019 (IPS)

On 15 January 2019, terror struck Nairobi’s 14 Riverside Drive.

Kenya is in mourning following a senseless act on innocent and defenseless civilians by individuals preoccupied with contemptible and misplaced ideology; who hope to intimidate others through violent acts of terror. Like in their other past attempts, they have failed, and Kenya remains unbowed.

As President Kenyatta has noted in his address; “We will allow no one to derail or frustrate our progress….We have prevailed and shall always prevail over evil. Let us now go to work without fear and continue with our work of building our nation.”

Our thoughts are with all the affected and families who are experiencing the most inconsolable pain and trauma of this heinous act. The UN Country Team in Kenya stands in solidarity with the families who are suffering the most inconsolable pain and will live for a long time with the trauma of this terrible attack.

As the intelligence and security apparatus continue with investigations, our message to Kenyans remains that, we cannot give in to fear or the temptation to define the attack as a war between races or religions. That has always been the narrative that the perpetrators of terror would wish to spread.

Fortunately, they have always been on the losing side of history. The attack on 14 Riverside Drive should not deter Kenya’s resolve, but should further strengthen the country’s determination to overcome adversity and challenges that threaten its social fabric.

We applaud the work of Kenya’s security emergency rescue services and first responders, who mobilised in remarkable timeliness, demonstrated exceptional professionalism and heroism, thereby keeping the number of fatalities to a minimum. We also commend Kenyans for their heroic acts and solidarity for one another during this time.

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his message “has strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Nairobi and extends his condolences to the families of the victims and wishes those injured a swift recovery. The Secretary-General expresses his solidarity with the people and Government of Kenya(GoK)”.

Terrorism remains a global threat and presents a challenging test for intelligence and law enforcement agencies worldwide. No country is immune. Kenya has done remarkably well in preventing numerous other attacks.

The reality is that a multitude of stresses impact vulnerable populations around the world, leaving many disproportionately susceptible to extremist ideologies — driven by factors such as surging youth unemployment — which terror groups take advantage as a considerable reservoir for recruits. There is a need for concerted efforts to weaken the terror groups’ narrative and win the battle of ideas.

The UN remains steadfast in its support to Kenya’s development agenda, including commendable initiatives by the government based on a long view of the prevention of violent extremism in line with the UN Development Assistance Framework.

Together we can pursue smart, sustainable strategies that augment security with what the UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner describes as the triple nexus, “Achieving the 2030 Agenda and ensuring no one is left behind requires a pro-active, evidence-based and holistic approach to risk, resilience and prevention across humanitarian, development and peace effort.” This approach will be a long-term antidote to terrorism and the key to preventing violent extremism.

Already our partnership is underway with several local initiatives that are bearing fruit. Previously characterized by belligerence based on competition for resources, the border regions of Eastern Africa are slowly changing the narrative, replacing aggression with dialogue and socio-economic transformation.

A stand-out initiative is the Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme, launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. This initiative is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

Such initiatives represent determination and hope. They are a declaration that the soul of those on the right side of humanity can never be destroyed or prevented from living freely by terrorists.

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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We Are All DukDukDiya: Humming Bird with One Drop of Water at a Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/dukdukdiya-humming-bird-one-drop-water-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dukdukdiya-humming-bird-one-drop-water-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/dukdukdiya-humming-bird-one-drop-water-time/#respond Fri, 11 Jan 2019 12:59:09 +0000 Jamison Ervin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159580 Jamison Ervin is Manager, UNDP’s Global Programme on Nature for Development

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Community members restoring mangroves at Mikoko Pamoja in Kenya, winners of the Equator Prize in 2017. Credit: UNDP Equator Initiative

By Jamison Ervin
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 11 2019 (IPS)

There is a Quechan fable about a hummingbird named Dukdukdiya. During a fierce forest fire, while all other animals stood in stunned fear, Dukdukdiya alone took action by repeatedly carrying a single drop of water in her beak to the flames. When asked why she bothered with such paltry efforts, she replied that she was simply doing everything in her power to stop the fire.

Over the past several months, the release of three global reports, each tied to one of the three Rio Conventions, has made many of us feel like DukDukDiya, battling the dual challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change with one drop of water at a time.

The Living Planet Report, released in November, put a point on negotiations at the biennial UN Biodiversity Conference by painting a stark picture of biodiversity loss, showing an overall decline of 60 percent in population sizes of more than 4,000 species since 1970.

A new atlas on global desertification, linked to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, portrays a world struggling to cope with growing water scarcity, land degradation and desertification. And just prior to the annual UN Climate Conference, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a special climate report that sent shock waves around the world – stating unequivocally that we have just 12 years to tackle climate change before largely irreversible and profound changes shape our world.

These reports, along with droves of supporting evidence and research, have resulted in apocalyptic news stories, with headlines claiming, for example, that 2019 and 2020 are “humanity’s two most crucial years” that will determine “to what extent Earth remains habitable.“ Despite these headlines, and the global media attention to biodiversity loss and climate change, the world seems almost paralyzed to take action. 2018, for example, will be the worst year in a decade for tropical forest loss, and greenhouse gas emissions increased by 2.7 percent in 2018.

What is required is nothing less than a system transformation of three basic elements of society: how we provide enough food, water, energy and consumer goods for 7.7 billion of us; how we invest our more than $100 trillion in investable wealth and how we spend our roughly $75 trillion in annual global GDP; and how we protect, manage and restore our world’s single most important asset, worth more than $125 trillion annually in goods and services: nature.

We know that stemming the loss of biodiversity and tackling our climate crisis will require all members of society, doing all that they can, starting now. Already there are signs of change. Commodity traders such as Wilmar, which supplies 40 percent of the world’s palm oil, recently published a plan to completely eliminate deforestation from its supply chain, as part of its commitment as an endorser of the New York Declaration on Forests.

El Salvador is leading the world toward a global decade of ecosystem restoration. Recently, 415 investors worth $32 trillion in assets sent an open letter to governments at the climate conference, urging them to take climate action.

Societal transformation takes bold leadership, not only from companies, governments and investors, but from everyone. One of boldest, most memorable leaders during the climate conference this month was Greta Thunberg, a slight 15-year-old Swedish girl with Asperger’s Syndrome. Her poignant speech to UN delegates begins with a simple statement: “I’ve learned that you’re never too small to make a difference.” Her message, that system change is necessary and is upon us, has been shared on YouTube more than 250,000 times, and she’s amassed a Twitter following of nearly 70,000 since she joined in June.

Not all of us can easily transform whole businesses, government policy or large asset investments. But we can transform our own lives, and we can have transformative conversations with others. For example, we can ask ourselves, our employers and our religious institutions whether our retirement savings are invested in businesses linked to deforestation, or to fossil fuels, and whether or not they are climate proof – most aren’t.

We can ensure that events we host professionally offer vegetarian options and avoid food waste – two of the most potent ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and we can talk to others about these choices. There are so many actions we can take and so many conversations we can have in our personal and professional lives that can transform our world. Even if our beaks are very small, and we can only carry one drop of water at a time, what matters most is that we do everything in our power that we can.

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Excerpt:

Jamison Ervin is Manager, UNDP’s Global Programme on Nature for Development

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Climate Change: Complex Challenges for Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-complex-challenges-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-complex-challenges-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-complex-challenges-agriculture/#respond Tue, 08 Jan 2019 13:55:44 +0000 Peter Luthi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159539 Peter Lüthi is in Communications at the Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, Zurich

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In the Siraro District of Ethiopia, extreme weather patterns are increasing. Since 2005, people have endured five droughts. Credit: Peter Lüthi / Biovision

By Peter Lüthi
ZURICH, Switzerland, Jan 8 2019 (IPS)

The unusually hot summer of 2018 showed that climate change affects a central part of our lives: agriculture. The severe drought in Liechtenstein led to large losses in the hay harvest.

In countries of the Global South, the consequences of climate change are already much more drastic. In Africa, for example, extreme weather conditions threaten food security for millions of people.

East Africa has encountered droughts at increasingly shorter intervals in recent years, most recently in 2005-6, 2009, 2011, 2014-15, and 2017.

Apart from drought, the conditions for agriculture are also becoming increasingly difficult due to the gradual rise in temperature, salinization and changing rainy seasons.

Serious consequences include decreasing availability of food and increasing conflicts over water–both obstacles to development opportunities of the affected states and possible triggers for migration.

Agriculture is also the cause

Agriculture and the food system are not only victims but also causes of climate change. The term “food system” refers to the entire food cycle, from production to harvesting, storage, distribution, consumption, and disposal.

This cycle produces significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Paradoxically, modern industrial agriculture aims to intensify operations to compensate for the loss of production caused by climate change.

However, using ever more fossil fuels, synthetic fertilizers, and agrochemicals increases emissions of climate-damaging gases instead of reducing them. Industrialized agriculture causes additional problems as well, including large-scale deforestation, immense water consumption, soil compaction and erosion, chemical pollution of the environment, and biodiversity loss.

This exacerbates the overexploitation of natural resources and increases climate change vulnerability.

In the project “Food security in rural Ethiopia” by Biovision and Caritas Vorarlberg, the village communities of the Siraro district dig erosion control ditches.
This is important for preserving and enhancing natural resources. Credit: Peter Lüthi / Biovision

Carrying on like in the past is no longer an option

“Industrial agriculture has reached a dead end—there is no option to continue as before,” warns Hans Rudolf Herren, winner of the World Food Prize and longtime president of the Biovision Foundation.

The renowned agronomist and entomologist urges global agriculture to embrace organic, multifunctional, healthy and sustainable practices that take agroecological principles into account, rather than striving for the highest possible yields.

This option is now also recognized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as a response to the many challenges of climate change.

Diversity increases resilience

Climate change is a complex problem involving various factors. This calls for holistic solutions. These include agroecology adapted to the local political, social, and natural conditions.

An important principle of agroecology is the promotion of diversity. The more diverse an ecosystem is, the more flexible it can react to changes, recover from disturbances, and adapt to new conditions.

Diversified agroecosystems use synergies from mixed cultivation or agroforestry systems and rely on natural fertilizers from compost and manure.

Agroecology combines traditional and new knowledge. This includes locally adapted and robust plant varieties and animal breeds. Efficiency-enhancing measures, such as irrigation systems, are becoming increasingly important.

At the societal level, fair trade conditions and market access for all producers are important, as is responsible governance. The latter is necessary to coordinate and issue appropriate political policies.

Save money for drought periods: Barite Jumba from Siraro learned how to raise and breed chickens in Biovision and Caritas Vorarlberg’s project. With the income from her egg business, she buys surplus vegetables to sell at a profit on the market.
This enables her to save money for food when her own supplies run out. Credit: Peter Lüthi / Biovision

Acting at all levels

A breakthrough for agroecology principles will require dialogue between all actors involved. Only then can the course of agriculture change towards a joint sustainable future.

This is the aim of the Biovision Foundation’s advocacy team. Together with an alliance of goal-oriented organizations and states, these agroecology advocates succeeded in establishing the demand for sustainable agriculture as part of the UN’s 17 sustainability goals in New York in 2015.

The Biovision Foundation supports the achievement of these goals both for agriculture and for climate protection at three levels:

Here at Biovision, we focus on raising public awareness for sustainable consumption and on establishing a network to implement sustainability goals.

At the international level, the advocacy team discusses agroecology with interested country representatives to position agroecology principles in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In the project “Advocacy for Agroecology,” Biovision supports countries with concrete recommendations for action and a coordinated policy dialogue to plan climate-friendly agroecological measures.

Through various grassroots projects in Africa, Biovision has demonstrated various concrete examples of successful application of these measures. LED’s support to train and inform smallholders is of crucial importance for farmers to have the ability to prepare themselves for the consequences of climate change.

*This article was first published in “Blickwechsel”, the magazine of the Liechtenstein Development Service LED.

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Excerpt:

Peter Lüthi is in Communications at the Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, Zurich

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Global Warming: Severe Consequences for Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/global-warming-severe-consequences-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-warming-severe-consequences-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/global-warming-severe-consequences-africa/#respond Fri, 04 Jan 2019 14:31:16 +0000 Dan Shepard http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159488 Dan Shepard is a UN public information officer specializing in sustainability issues--including SDGs, biodiversity & climate change.

 
Africa Renewal*

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Farmers planting during a rainy season in Dali, North Darfur, Sudan. Credit: UN Photo / Albert Farran

By Dan Shepard
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 4 2019 (IPS)

Record global greenhouse gas emissions are putting the world on a path toward unacceptable warming, with serious implications for development prospects in Africa. “Limiting warming to 1.5° C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, cochair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III.

But IPCC, the world’s foremost authority for assessing the science of climate change, says it is still possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5° C—if, and only if, there are “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.” For sub-Saharan Africa, which has experienced more frequent and more intense climate extremes over the past decades, the ramifications of the world’s warming by more than 1.5° C would be profound.

Temperature increases in the region are projected to be higher than the global mean temperature increase; regions in Africa within 15 degrees of the equator are projected to experience an increase in hot nights as well as longer and more frequent heat waves.

The odds are long but not impossible, says the IPCC. And the benefits of limiting climate change to 1.5° C are enormous, with the report detailing the difference in the consequences between a 1.5° C increase and a 2° C increase. Every bit of additional warming adds greater risks for Africa in the form of greater droughts, more heat waves and more potential crop failures.

Recognizing the increasing threat of climate change, many countries came together in 2015 to adopt the historic Paris Agreement, committing themselves to limiting climate change to well below 2° C. Some 184 countries have formally joined the agreement, including almost every African nation, with only Angola, Eritrea and South Sudan yet to join. The agreement entered into force in November 2016.

In December 2018, countries met in Katowice, Poland, for the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—known as COP24—to finalise the rules for implementation of the agreement’s work programme. As part of the Paris Agreement, countries made national commitments to take steps to reduce emissions and build resilience. The treaty also called for increased financial support from developed countries to assist the climate action efforts of developing countries.

But even at the time that the Paris Agreement was adopted, it was recognized that the commitments on the table would not be enough. Even if the countries did everything they promised, global temperatures would rise by 3° C this century. According to the IPCC, projections show that the western Sahel region will experience the strongest drying, with a significant increase in the maximum length of dry spells. The IPCC expects Central Africa to see a decrease in the length of wet spells and a slight increase in heavy rainfall.

West Africa has been identified as a climate-change hotspot, with climate change likely to lessen crop yields and production, with resultant impacts on food security. Southern Africa will also be affected. The western part of Southern Africa is set to become drier, with increasing drought frequency and number of heat waves toward the end of the 21st century.

A warming world will have implications for precipitation. At 1.5° C, less rain would fall over the Limpopo basin and areas of the Zambezi basin in Zambia, as well as parts of Western Cape in South Africa. But at 2° C, Southern Africa is projected to face a decrease in precipitation of about 20% and increases in the number of consecutive dry days in Namibia, Botswana, northern Zimbabwe and southern Zambia. This will cause reductions in the volume of the Zambezi basin projected at 5% to 10%.

If the global mean temperature reaches 2° C of global warming, it will cause significant changes in the occurrence and intensity of temperature extremes in all sub-Saharan regions. West and Central Africa will see particularly large increases in the number of hot days at both 1.5° C and 2° C. Over Southern Africa, temperatures are expected to rise faster at 2° C, and areas of the southwestern region, especially in South Africa and parts of Namibia and Botswana, are expected to experience the greatest increases in temperature.

Perhaps no region in the world has been affected as much as the Sahel, which is experiencing rapid population growth, estimated at 2.8% per year, in an environment of shrinking natural resources, including land and water resources.

Inga Rhonda King, President of the UN Economic and Social Council, a UN principal organ that coordinates the economic and social work of UN agencies, told a special meeting at the UN that the region is also one of the most environmentally degraded in the world, with temperature increases projected to be 1.5 times higher than in the rest of the world.

Largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture, the Sahel is regularly hit by droughts and floods, with enormous consequences to people’s food security. As a result of armed conflict, violence and military operations, some 4.9 million people have been displaced this year, a threefold increase in less than three years, while 24 million people require humanitarian assistance throughout the region.

Climate change is already considered a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing problems, including conflicts. Ibrahim Thiaw, special adviser of the UN Secretary-General for the Sahel, says the Sahel region is particularly vulnerable to climate change, with 300 million people affected.

Drought, desertification and scarcity of resources have led to heightened conflicts between crop farmers and cattle herders, and weak governance has led to social breakdowns, says Mr. Thiaw. The shrinking of Lake Chad is leading to economic marginalization and providing a breeding ground for recruitment by terrorist groups as social values and moral authority evaporate.

*Africa Renewal, which is published by the United Nations, reports on and examines the many different aspects of the UN’s involvement in Africa, especially within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). It works closely with the many UN agencies and offices dealing with African issues, including the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa.

The post Global Warming: Severe Consequences for Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dan Shepard is a UN public information officer specializing in sustainability issues--including SDGs, biodiversity & climate change.

 
Africa Renewal*

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Veterans of the Global Financial Crisis Pass their Wisdom on to the Next Generationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/veterans-global-financial-crisis-pass-wisdom-next-generation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=veterans-global-financial-crisis-pass-wisdom-next-generation http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/veterans-global-financial-crisis-pass-wisdom-next-generation/#respond Wed, 02 Jan 2019 14:08:56 +0000 Chris Wellisz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159458 Chris Wellisz is on the staff of Finance & Development at the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

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Credit: IMF

By Chris Wellisz
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 2 2019 (IPS)

It happened again and again in a career punctuated by upheavals: the peso crisis of 1994, the Asian crisis of 1997, and finally, the big one—the global financial crisis of 2008.

Each time he started a new government job, Timothy Geithner hoped to find a letter from his predecessor, explaining what to do and whom to call if things fell apart. The desk drawer was always empty.

“Financial crises are probably the most devastating economic events that can happen to a country,” says Geithner, who fought the last conflagration as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and later US Treasury secretary. “I’d like our successors to have a better base of knowledge.”

So every summer, Geithner takes time off from his job as president of Warburg Pincus, a private equity firm, to help teach a two-week crisis management workshop for regulators from around the world.

It’s one part of the Yale Program on Financial Stability, which also offers a master’s degree and is undertaking an ambitious project to create, on a very large scale, what Geithner never found in that desk drawer—a manual for crisis managers.

“A lot of times we’ve made the same mistakes in fighting financial crises over time simply because there was no body of knowledge that people had jointly studied and debated,” says Andrew Metrick, a professor of finance at Yale who founded and runs the program. “It’s almost like you show up at the emergency room and the doctor says, ‘It looks like a broken arm. I think I’ve seen someone once do something for a broken arm.’”

Metrick was one of those emergency room financial doctors. Six months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, he got a call from the Obama administration.

They desperately needed a financial economist. So Metrick moved to Washington to work for the Council of Economic Advisers. There, as chief staff economist, he helped develop programs to revive housing and financial markets.

When it came time to propose legislation, he discovered that academic research wasn’t very useful.

“There was no real great connection between academic knowledge, economic intuition, and what we actually could put in the law because there just wasn’t a good body of research there,” Metrick says. “I was determined that when I came back to the academy I would try to be part of something that would help to fill that gap.”

That was the genesis of the Yale Program on Financial Stability, which got off the ground in 2014 with donations from organizations including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Geithner joined soon after, teaching, raising money, and chairing the advisory board, which includes former central bankers such as the Federal Reserve’s Ben Bernanke, Mexico’s Agustín Carstens, and Malaysia’s Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

Geithner brought a practical focus to what became known as the New Bagehot Crisis-Response Project, named for Walter Bagehot, a 19th century British economist and author of Lombard Street: A Description of the Money Market, a bible of sorts for the guardians of financial stability.

The project’s 14 researchers compile case studies of responses to the global financial crisis and the euro crisis that followed it. Eventually, they plan to study manias and panics going back to the South Sea Bubble in the 18th century.

While the global crisis spawned countless books, articles, and memoirs, the Bagehot project seeks to analyze it in a systematic way—and determine what kinds of government actions worked, what kinds didn’t, and why. The architects of crisis-fighting programs in various countries are consultants on the project.

“Our focus is really on the technical details of the interventions,” Metrick says.

Their plan is to create an online tool that crisis managers can turn to in real time, in case they need to recapitalize a bank, say, or set up an emergency liquidity facility. They will also learn what to avoid, like Ireland’s decision to guarantee the liabilities of its banks, which transformed a bank run into a far more serious sovereign debt crisis.

“Because the classic panic happens pretty rarely in the same country, even though it happens around the world with pretty appalling frequency, there’s not actually that much institutional memory, and there certainly wasn’t at the Treasury or the Fed, about how you deal with a systemic financial crisis,” Geithner says in an interview.

The summer symposium—Geithner called it a “war college”—was a two-week workshop for central bankers and regulators. The central banks of China, Europe, Japan, and the United States all sent participants, along with agencies like the Bank for International Settlements and the European Stability Mechanism.

Another piece of the Yale program is the two-day Financial Crisis Forum, where veterans including former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson offer their insights on subjects from capital injections to frozen money markets.

“For the current generation of officials, especially the younger ones who attend the conference, learning from history is vital,” says Paul Tucker, deputy governor of the Bank of England from 2009 to 2013. “Going forward, current officials also need to learn from the crises that, believe it or not, were averted or successfully contained.”

Finally, there is Yale’s one-year master’s degree in systemic risk, which offers early career professionals a chance to hone their skills and develop new ones. A recent graduate is Özgü Özen Çavuşoğlu, who returned to her job in the financial stability division of Turkey’s central bank and is now researching an early-warning system for the country’s economy.

Just as important, she says, was the opportunity to forge bonds with colleagues from across the globe.

“We are living in an interconnected world,” Özen Çavuşoğlu says. “That’s why the network of people with the same understanding will play an important role in having a stable global economy.”

The link to the original article: https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2018/12/tim-geithner-yale-program-financial-stability-wellisz.htm?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

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Excerpt:

Chris Wellisz is on the staff of Finance & Development at the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

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From Mali: A Lesson in Tolerancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/mali-lesson-tolerance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mali-lesson-tolerance http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/mali-lesson-tolerance/#respond Wed, 02 Jan 2019 07:34:34 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159451 We all adhere to generalizations. For example, while reading and speaking about Muslims and Christians, sweeping opinions might easily become prejudices, particularily if we do not know any individual behind the labels. When I some years ago was working for a Malian NGO, I met a marabout and a Christian who proved that devotees to […]

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Interviewing a marabout in a village north of Markala, Mali. Credit: Mamadou Demblele

By Jan Lundius
Stockholm/Rome, Jan 2 2019 (IPS)

We all adhere to generalizations. For example, while reading and speaking about Muslims and Christians, sweeping opinions might easily become prejudices, particularily if we do not know any individual behind the labels. When I some years ago was working for a Malian NGO, I met a marabout and a Christian who proved that devotees to different religions might find mutual support in their individual beliefs.

Marabouts serve as imams, preaching in and taking care of mosques, they are generally teachers as well. Assisted by my friend Seydou, who translated his Mandé into English, I spoke with a respected marabout. After a while I found that Seydou only provided brief summaries of what the old man said. I asked him if he really translated everything. Seydou confessed that he found that the marabout “talked a lot of nonsense”. When asked what he found specifically disconcerting Seydou answered that the marabout had stated that people were living on the moon. Since I had asked him about his opinion about fundamentalists’ views of the Qur’an I wanted Seydou to repeat my question to the marabout, while trying to translate what he said, word by word. The marabout apparently answered:

– These young hotheads interpret the Holy Qur´an as if they are living on the dark side of the moon. Residing in the moon’s cold shadow they cannot conceive the sun’s light, nor feel it´s warmth. It´s not enough to read God´s words. In my life God is my sun and joy. Words are not enough for understanding the world. Time is a strict master. It taught me to discern what is right or wrong. The Holy Qur’an is truly the word of God, through it His Messenger, may peace be upon him, transmits God´s word to all people, in all places, all the time. By providing us with the words of God the Messenger, may peace be upon him, wanted us to change for the better, not for the worse. God gave humans free will and wants us to choose what is right. God is righteous. He does not want us to choose what hurt others. Fundamentalists do not believe in any free will. They do not know what love is. They do not want people to think. They want to stop us from making free choices. Accordingly, they place themselves above God. Only God is all-knowing and all-powerful. I believe God speaks to all people through The Holy Qur´an, but through my experiences and in my dreams He talks to me.

After our meeting with the marabout, Seydou made contact with a Christian man. We met him in the village school where he was president of the school association. I had been told that he was the only Malian Christian in the district and asked why he, in a country where almost everyone was a Muslim, had become a Christian. He explained that his father had been a Muslim, but also member of a Chiwara society, a traditional initiation organisation that through traditional teachings and rituals taught Bamana youngsters social values. While studying in Markala he had out of curiosity been reading the Bible. Feeling lonely and bewildered he eventually distanced himself from the way of life in his agrarian village. Soon he identified himself with Jesus, assuming that God´s son had told people that a person must be a conscious disciple, able to choose what to believe in and not blindly follow what others tell you to think and do.

He converted to Christianity, returned to his village and began working as a teacher. However, the villagers despised him and tried to dismiss him from teaching. For a man who was not white, rich, powerful and disrespectful, it would have been impossible to leave the faith of his ancestors. The teacher must be an idiot and on top of that outright dangerous.

When I asked him for how long he had endured being the only Christian in the village, the teacher answered that he had “followed Christ” for twenty years, considering it to be his duty to transmit his faith to others, even if villagers spat behind his back. It was the marabout I had been talking to earlier who changed the Christian´s life. One evening the marabout met with him, confessing:

– I realize you are a holy man. Someone as lonely and strong as you must have a robust faith. You have struggled for your beliefs, while I was born into my position. If you would
doubt God, you don´t have to worry about losing people’s respect, they don´t revere you anyway. In contrast, if I would expose doubts and weaknesses I may lose everything I have. People don´t believe in you, but they believe in me. When I suffer hard times, I have no one to turn to. However, I trust you. You know God, just as I assume I know God. I do not know if you need me, but I need you. I know that if I brought my doubts and worries to you, you would understand me. Likewise, when you are in trouble, you may come to me.

The two men became friends. During the Friday prayers, following their fateful meeting, the marabout sent for the Christian. In front of his congregation he declared: “This is my friend. He´s a holy man. If you respect me, you respect him”. Since that time the Christian had become an integrated part of his society. I asked him:

– Are you now respected by everyone?

He smiled:

– Perhaps respected, but not entirely accepted.

Mali is a country with a vibrant, varied and ancient culture, though its fragile democracy has been threatened by coups and jihadist insurgencies. In 2013, upon the Government´s request, France intervened militarily, reconquering Islamist strongholds and in 2015 a United Nations´ monitored ceasefire was established between the Government and Tuareg separatists, though parts of the country remain tense while al-Qaeda-linked militants sporadically carry out attacks.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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The Dark Shadows of Christmashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/dark-shadows-christmas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dark-shadows-christmas http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/dark-shadows-christmas/#respond Mon, 24 Dec 2018 08:59:26 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159434 Christmas is expected to be a peaceful celebration of the birth of Jesus. A time to express love and care for one another. Jesus preached love and compassion, but also told us to be suspicious of imposters: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep´s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves”. Wolves […]

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By Jan Lundius
Stockholm/Rome, Dec 24 2018 (IPS)

Christmas is expected to be a peaceful celebration of the birth of Jesus. A time to express love and care for one another. Jesus preached love and compassion, but also told us to be suspicious of imposters: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep´s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves”. Wolves are predators who disregard the suffering of their victims. A human wolf is an egomaniac ready to maim and murder, either to please himself or his master, often deluding himself by imagining he serves a higher purpose.

On the 11th of December, armed with a revolver and a knife, a man attacked visitors to Strasbourg´s Christmas Market, killing five and wounding eleven. Likewise was on the 19th of December 2016 a truck deliberately driven into a traditional Christmas market in the very centre of Berlin, killing twelve and injuring fifty-six. After he had forced him to do the killing, the perpetrator shot the truck-driver. Maybe these killers were just lone wolves, but their acts proved that even during Christmas one has to be aware of false prophets preaching hate and violence.

The Bible proclaimed that Jesus Christ would bring peace and justice to the World and so did the Holy Qu´ran, for example in its third Surah:

    Remember when the angels said: ´O Mary, God gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name is Christ Jesus son of Mary, greatly honoured in this world and the next, and among those drawn nearest to God. He shall speak to mankind from the cradle, and in maturity, and shall be among the righteous.1

The Kings James Version of the Bible translates the god tidings of Jesus´s birth as: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The villains in Strasbourg and Berlin were far from abiding to that message. As a matter of fact, even the story of Jesus´s birth constitutes a familiar tale of ruthless power abuse, persecution of the innocent and defenceless, as well as it tells us how migration becomes a last resort to avoid suffering and death.

Herod the Great (73 – 4 BCE2) was an energetic monarch, a shrewd manipulator investing in the winner of every Roman power struggle. He created a powerful secret police, torturing and killing countless opponents, among them forty-six members of the Sanhedrin, the highest political and religious body of the Jewish people. Lust for power, women and glory turned Herod into blood-thirsty despot. Fearing competition by his wife, he killed both her and their two sons, making the Roman Emperor Augustus joke that he would rather be Herod´s pig than his son (since Herod´s faith forbade him to eat pork). Judea was since 47 BCE a part of the Roman province of Syria. Herod was a Roman minion, with free reigns as long as he paid his levies.

This was the reason to why an aged carpenter named Joseph and his young wife, Maria, went from their hometown to Joseph´s place of birth, Bethlehem. For tax reasons, he had to register himself and his family there. After travelling for two days they reached their destination, but found that Bethlehem was filled with visitors and it was impossible to find lodging. To make matters worse, Maria went into labour and had to give birth to her son in a cave. Joseph had recently married Maria and by accepting her awaited child as his own he had saved her from shame and even lynching, this since the father of her child was unknown. Shortly after the delivery, the poor couple found shelter in a stable, where Mary placed her new-born son among the straw of a crib. Shepherds came to pay homage to the baby, assuming he was the Messiah, the future king so hotly longed for by many Jews. A presumption that seemed to be confirmed when a group of wealthy foreigners appeared, carrying gifts for the infant.

However, Joseph was through a dream told he had to flee the country. Herod had been reached by a rumour that a new-born child would become king and overthrow him. The power intoxicated despot ordered that all boys up to two years of age had to be slaughtered. As people often did in the past, Joseph took his dreams seriously. He convinced Mary that they had to seek protection and asylum in Egypt. It was the small, fugitive Syrian family´s luck that no Egyptian guards serving a chauvinist regime were blocking the border for refugees. If that had been the case, Jesus would have been killed and we would not have a Christianity, which some European nationalist rulers currently use as a reason to deny asylum for Syrian refugees.

When Herod ordered the murder of innocents in an effort to secure his power, or when two loners spread death and horror in Christmas markets, they did so in disregard of feelings of others, denying one of the essentials of human existence – communication, which comes from the Latin “to share”. They proved to be egomaniacs unable to appreciate the joy of sharing happiness with others, the message at the very heart of Christmas celebrations.

Since 2011, more than 5.6 million have fled Syria. 6.6 millions more are displaced inside the country, while 2.98 million are isolated in hard-to-reach areas. The war continues and hope is fading fast.3 In these days, while many of us are enjoying ourselves in the company of friends and family, sharing food and gifts, we might give some thoughts to those who like the infant Jesus and his parents are suffering poverty, persecution and fear of death.

1 The Qur´an. A new translation by Tarif Khaladi (2009) London: Penguin Classics.
2 Before Common Era. A dating system taking as departure the birth of Jesus was devised in 525 ABE. However, it was not consistent with probable dates for the birth of Jesus and not widely used until after 800 ABE.
3 https://www.unhcr.org/syria-emergency.html

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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The Movement Fighting Inequality is Growinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/movement-fighting-inequality-growing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=movement-fighting-inequality-growing http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/movement-fighting-inequality-growing/#respond Thu, 20 Dec 2018 18:59:22 +0000 Jenny Ricks http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159391 Jenny Ricks is the global convenor of the Fight Inequality Alliance.

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Eva sitting near the Dandora dumpsite. Credit: Joy Obuya / Fight Inequality Alliance

By Jenny Ricks
JOHANNESBURG, Dec 20 2018 (IPS)

The world’s political and economic elites, that will once again gather at the Swiss mountain resort of Davos for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) 22-25 January, have become all too predictable. It’s not difficult to predict what they will say, because they always say what’s in their interests.

They will again say that they understand why people in so many parts of the world are angry about inequality and once again they will promise to fix the enormous gap between the elite few and the rest of us. But they will not fix the inequality crisis because inequality isn’t a flaw in the system, it’s in the design, and those at the top intend to keep it that way.

But what history has taught us is that all major equalising change, from fighting against slavery to fighting for women’s rights, comes about when people outside the elites organize and challenge those in power.

The solutions to tackling inequality therefore rests instead with a very different group of people from those in Davos, those who will be holding protests and events on mountains of a very different sort – the mountains of garbage and of open pit mines that millions of the world’s people call home.

And the number is growing. In cities from Manila to Guadalajara, ordinary people will mobilise and gather in their thousands to demand and present solutions to rising inequality. They are demanding an end to the age of greed that has seen extreme wealth and power skyrocket to epidemic proportions.

Tackling inequality will take a step forward during that week, but it will happen because people are not waiting for answers, they are organising for change – in spite of Davos, not because of it.

Their solutions will include jobs, minimum living wages, decent public services, fair taxes, land rights for women and much more.

The people leading the change are part of an emerging global grassroots movement, the Fight Inequality Alliance, that aims to counter the excessive concentration of power and wealth in the hands of elites, and advance a more just, equal and sustainable world.

Beth speaking with children on the streets of Dandora, Nairobi. Credit: Joy Obuya / Fight Inequality Alliance

The alliance unites social movements, environmental groups, women’s rights groups, trade unions and NGOs across the world.

In Mexico, the city of Guadalajara will host a walk called ‘From el Colli to Davos’. It starts from a hill where rural and indigenous migrants settle informally, expelled from the city and deprived of opportunities and services for a better life. It will culminate with a number of cultural activities, including a hip-hop and art contest and gathering people’s demands for change.

Speaking from Guadalajara, Fight Inequality campaigner Hector Castanon says: “Guadalajara has the second richest municipality in Mexico and is home to Central American migrants and displaced rural and indigenous communities that have left everything behind due to a lack of opportunities and organised crime.

Salaries are under the poverty line, there is limited access to basic resources, poor public services and high crime rates. All of this has moved people to organise to solve their needs and exercise their rights.”

In Zambia, there will be a festival in Shang’ombo, one of the poorest and most neglected districts of Zambia. The festival will highlight how politicians and elites make promises here during election campaigns and then forget the people, as well as people’s stories of inequality and their solutions.

It will feature music stars Petersen Zagaze, BFlow and Maiko Zulu. In explaining why she will be part of the event, Zambian youth activist, Mzezeti Mwanza, says that despite the country’s natural resources, the majority of Zambians live below the poverty line and that “none of us are equal until all of us are equal”.

In Kenya, Dandora slum in Nairobi will play host to the Usawa Festival (or Equality Festival), where hip hop star Juliani will perform, and alliance members will create a space for people to bring forward their solutions to inequality.

Njoki Njehu, Africa Co-ordinator for Fight Inequality said, “Kenyans living the realities of inequality are organising together – rural and urban, young and old, women and men. We understand the problems and have concrete proposals to end inequality. The solutions start with us. We have the answers.”

In the Philippines, there’ll be a festival between two adjoining communities, Baseco and Parola in Manila, that contrast starkly with the high-rise landscape of the city centre. Through music, cultural activities and discussion, people will raise their experiences of inequality and their demands for change.

The Fight Inequality Alliance’s third global week of action, takes place from 18-25 January 2019, with events like these in more than thirty countries across the globe. For solutions to inequality, adjust your gaze from Davos to the other mountains.

Follow the alliance on Twitter at https://twitter.com/FightInequalit1

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Excerpt:

Jenny Ricks is the global convenor of the Fight Inequality Alliance.

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As Climate Change Pummels Agriculture, Irrigation Offers the Best Protectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/climate-change-pummels-agriculture-irrigation-offers-best-protection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-pummels-agriculture-irrigation-offers-best-protection http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/climate-change-pummels-agriculture-irrigation-offers-best-protection/#respond Wed, 19 Dec 2018 11:58:13 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159357 The changing climate and extreme weather events are affecting agricultural productivity in Africa to such an extent that a panel of experts are urging governments to prioritise and invest in irrigation to ensure food security. Increased heat spells, coupled with flash flooding and frequent droughts, are making farming impossible and unprofitable as many African smallholder […]

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A farmer waters her plot at the Tjankwa Irrigation Scheme, in Plumtree District, 100km west of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS.

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Dec 19 2018 (IPS)

The changing climate and extreme weather events are affecting agricultural productivity in Africa to such an extent that a panel of experts are urging governments to prioritise and invest in irrigation to ensure food security.

Increased heat spells, coupled with flash flooding and frequent droughts, are making farming impossible and unprofitable as many African smallholder farmers rely on rain-fed agriculture.

Irrigation development can increase food security while extending the growing season, securing more income and jobs, said the Malabo Montpellier Panel, a group of international experts guiding policy to boost food and nutrition security in Africa.

Irrigation the best investment

In a study launched this week, the Malabo Montpellier Panel said Africa has the potential to irrigate 47 million hectares. This can boost agricultural productivity, improve livelihoods and accelerate economic growth.

“A number of economies in Africa depend on agriculture,” said Ousmane Badiane, Malabo Montpellier Panel co-chair and Africa director for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). “That is why water control and irrigation are important to reduce poverty and to eradicate hunger across Africa.”

About 20 percent of cultivated land worldwide is irrigated and this contributes to about 40 percent of total food output, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Africa is one of the regions in the world with the highest number of people who are hungry. It also has the lowest crop yields in the world as only six percent of cultivated land is irrigated on the continent, compared to 14 percent in Latin America and 37 percent in Asia.

“Irrigation must be made a priority in Africa because it works,” Badiane told IPS. “Once you commit to irrigation as a high-level priority, you put into place the institution mechanisms to deliver that effectively within government but in partnership with private sector and local communities.”

In 2014, 54 African governments signed the Malabo Declaration committing to halve the number of people in poverty by 2025. They sought to do this through agriculture growth that creates job opportunities for young people and women.

A study, Water-Wise: Smart Irrigation Strategies for Africa found that irrigated crops can double yields compared to rain-fed yields on the continent.

Furthermore, the economic benefits of expanding areas under irrigation would be double the costs of rain-fed agriculture under climate change.

Greater levels of irrigation have led to better and longer harvests, higher incomes and better prospects for farmers in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Niger and South Africa.

These six countries are success models for either having the largest irrigated areas or for achieving the fastest growth in expanding irrigation agriculture. For example, Ethiopia increased the area under irrigation by almost 52 percent between 2002 and 2014, achieving the fastest growth in irrigation in Africa. Morocco has nearly 20 percent of its arable land currently equipped for irrigation.

A member of the 8-hectare Tjankwa Irrigation Scheme, in Plumtree District, 100km west of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS.

Success in the crop yields

In Zimbabwe, FAO has implemented a 6.8 million dollar Smallholder Irrigation Programme (SIP) programme in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development (MAMID) funded by European Union (EU) to improve income, food and nutrition security of communal farmers involved in small-scale irrigation. The programme has seen the rehabilitation of 40 irrigation schemes has benefitted 2,000 households in Manicaland and Matabeleland South Province.

Smallholder farmers in Matabeleland South Province are benefitting from irrigation schemes, which have allowed them to increase productivity even during droughts.

Landelani Ndlovu, a member of the 8-hectare Tjankwa Irrigation Scheme, says she earns 400 dollars from growing vegetables under a community irrigation project that started in 2012.

“Irrigation has helped us produce more vegetables and crops and to increase our income which we would not do if we relied on the seasonal farming when we have rain,” Ndlovu said.

In West Africa, Patience Koku, who farms with a pivot irrigation system, tells IPS, “the importance of irrigation in increasing grain yields cannot be over emphasised.”

“We are currently able to grow two crop cycles a year, meaning we double our output annually. In addition to this our grain yields are always higher in our irrigated crop. Corn cobs fill up completely to the tip, translating in higher yields,” Koku said.

Filling the funding gaps

“The profitability of irrigation is proven and in most cases there are high rates of return,” said Badiane. “A commitment was made by African leaders in Maputo in 2003 for countries to allocate 10 percent of their national budgets for agriculture. If they did so, a fraction of that could fund the 47 million hectares of irrigation. The funding gap for irrigation is huge because the potential is large.”

Badiane said by making irrigation a high-level priority, African governments can attract private sector investment and innovation and facilitate the uptake of technologies in growing agriculture to drive economic growth. Improved regulations for safe and sustainable use of water are also a driving factor in promoting irrigation development.

Irrigation allows farmers to produce crops over extended periods, particularly in areas where there is one rainy, Badiane said, noting that there was a business case for investing in irrigation as a way to pull farmers out of poverty while securing food and income.

Expanding what works

Badiane said irrigation development will help deliver on the food security and nutrition targets under the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Malabo Declaration. A critical factor was getting the buy-in of decision makers at the highest level of government who need proof that irrigation works.

Decision makers do not take innovation lightly because they know the cost of failure is extremely high, said Badiane, adding that scaling up irrigation development will aid agricultural transformation.

Africa, in particular, will require nothing short of a complete water transformation,” says Nathanial Matthews, Programme Director at the Global Resilience Partnership a partnership of public and private organisations that work together to build a resilient, “sustainable and prosperous future for vulnerable people and places”.

He urged Africa to transform its water use by scaling up traditional practices, deploying new technologies and improving governance.

“Taking action is urgent, with 95 pe cent of the continent relying on rain-fed agriculture and 25 countries already experiencing widespread hunger, poverty and under nutrition,” Matthews told IPS.

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“No One Listened to Us!” The Ixiles of Guatemalahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 13:32:06 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159268 According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. […]

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By Jan Lundius
Stockholm/Rome, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. This is not new, in 1995 I visited Ixil and Ixcan, two Guatemalan areas mainly inhabited by Ixiles. My task was to analyse the impact of a regional development programme aimed at supporting post-conflict indigenous communities. United Nations has estimated that between 1960 and 1996 more than 245,000 people (mostly civilians) had been killed, or “disappeared” during Guatemalan internal conflicts, the vast majority of the killings were attributed to the army, or paramilitary groups.

A rainy day I visited a camp for returnees. After living in Mexico, Ixiles were awaiting land distribution. Behind wire and monitored by soldiers, they huddled among their meagre belongings, sheltered by plastic sheets stretched across wooden poles. They expressed their hopes for the future. They wanted to be listened to, allowed to build up their villages, gain respect and become accepted as coequal citizens in their own country. While asked what they wanted most of all, several returnees answered: “We need a priest and a church.” I wondered if they were so religious. “No, no,” they answered. “We need to rebuild our lives, finding our place in the world, be with our ancestors. The priest will make us believe in ourselves and trust in God. That will give us strength. We need a church so we can build our village around it. We all need a centre and every village needs one as well.”

Ixil tradition emphasizes the importance of land and ancestry. A few days before my visit to the camp I had interviewed an aj’kin, a Maya priest. Aj means “master of” and kin “day”. Aj´kines perform rituals and keep track of the time – the past, the present and the future. Like many old Ixiles the aj´kin did not speak any Spanish and the Ixil engineer who accompanied me translated his words. The engineer suggested that I would ask the aj´kin to “sing his family”. The old man then delivered a long, monotonous chant, listing his ancestors all the way back to pre-colonial days. When I asked him what the singing was about the aj´kin explained: “The world belongs to those who were here before us. We only take care of it, until we become one of them. All the ancestors want from us is that we don´t abandon them, making them know that we remember them. Memory and speech is the thread that keeps the Universe together.”

In the camp, Ixiles told me they had been ignored for hundreds of years and that this was the main reason for the violent conflict. Uniformed men had arrived in their villages and first, people had assumed they were government soldiers, becoming enthused when the strangers declared that it was time for Ixiles to have their voices heard, their wishes fulfilled. However, the “liberators” could not keep their promises. They did not represent the Government, they were guerilleros, proclaiming they had “freed” the peasants, when all they had done was to “speak a lot” and create “revolutionary committees”, only to retreat as soon as the Government troops arrived. These were much stronger and more ruthless than the guerilleros and stated that Ixiles had become “communists”. They murdered and tortured them, burned their fields. What could they do? They asked their Catholic priests for help, but the Government accused the Church of manipulating them through its ”liberation theology”; by preaching that Jesus had been on the side of the poor. The soldiers even killed priests. One woman told me that she and her neighbours one morning had found the parish priest’s severed head laying on the church steps. Some peasants joined the guerrilla, others organized militias to keep it at a safe distance:

    “Some of the guerilleros were our own sons and daughters, but what could we do? As soon as guerrilleros appeared and preached their socialism, the army arrived, killing us. The guerrilleros were not strong enough to fight the soldiers. We were left to be slaughtered. The only solution we could find was to arm ourselves and with weapons in hand ask the guerrilleros to stay away from our villages. However, all over the world they declared that we were supporting a corrupt and oppressive regime. We found ourselves between two fires, solutions were almost non-existent. No one listened to us”

A Catholic priest living in the camp explained: “They tend to be very religious, but their faith is mostly about human dignity. Ixiles want to be masters of their lives. They need to be listened to. Every day I sit for hours listening to confessions. They talk and talk. It makes them content when someone is listening to them. This is one of the problems we Catholics face. Ixiles are abandoning our faith for the one of the evangelicals.”

For centuries the Church had told Ixiles what to do, but finally both Catholics and peasants had been persecuted. In 1982, under the presidency of Ríos Montt, violence reached its peak. A scorch earth campaign lasting for five months resulted in the deaths of approximately 10,000 indigenous Guatemalans, while 100,000 rural villagers were forced to flee their homes, most of them over the border, into Mexico. Ríos Montt was a “born-again Christian” and in the aftermath of the violence evangelical sectarians appeared in the Ixil areas. Many of the remaining Ixiles became evangelicals, stating this was their only way to avoid persecution and come in contact with the “High Command” of the unconstrained army forces.

The loudspeakers of evangelical churches amplified their voices, allowing Ixiles to confess their sins and praise the Lord. However, were their voices finally heard? Their well-being improved? Do they have a say in the governing of their country? Many Ixiles are once again leaving their homes, hoping to reach the US. Research indicates a difference between migration patterns of El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala. In the former two countries migration decision is more often the result of immediate threats to safety, while in Guatemala it stems from chronic stressors; a mix of general violence, poverty, and rights violations, especially among indigenous people.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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Q&A: Many African Countries Already Live the Future of 2°C Warmerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-many-african-countries-already-live-future-2c-warmer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-many-african-countries-already-live-future-2c-warmer http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-many-african-countries-already-live-future-2c-warmer/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 11:01:50 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159249 As the United Nations climate conference nears an end, all eyes are on the negotiators  who have been working day and night for the past two weeks to come up with a Rulebook for implementation of the Paris Agreement. However, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), climate change is also a humanitarian issue. According […]

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Gernot Laganda, Chief of the Climate and Disaster Risk Reduction Programmes at the World Food Programme says that because of climate change the number of natural disasters in the world have doubled since 1990. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 14 2018 (IPS)

As the United Nations climate conference nears an end, all eyes are on the negotiators  who have been working day and night for the past two weeks to come up with a Rulebook for implementation of the Paris Agreement.

However, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), climate change is also a humanitarian issue.

According to the humanitarian organisation, natural disasters such as droughts, storms and floods, have doubled since the 1990s.

“So nowadays there are so many people who require food assistance and other humanitarian aid after disasters than it was a few decades ago,” Gernot Laganda, Chief of the Climate and Disaster Risk Reduction Programmes at WFP, tells IPS at the sidelines of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Kotowice, Poland.

“We are also concerned because with humanitarian aid, we cannot run fast enough as the problem of hunger in the world is running away from us,” Laganda says.

According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018, the number of hungry people increased to over 820 million in 2017 from approximately 804 million in 2016. And Laganda says the ‘trend is on the rise”.

“When we look into a future of 2 degrees Celsius warmer world, it means we will have over a billion people who are at risk of hunger and food security,” he says. Excepts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): How is climate change impacting on food security?

Gernot Laganda (GL): Climate change affects food security in two principle ways. First, there is the whole question around agriculture from production of crops, to the storage to the transport to the market. Climate change can affect each of these stages.

The other one is about extreme events that keep throwing people back into poverty. Each year, 28 million people fall back into poverty because of extreme weather events. That means no matter how much development progress we are making to achieve zero hunger by 2030, every year we slide back, and that is a concern.

IPS: Will women’s ownership of land be of good value especially for climate adaptation?

GL: Having ownership of land certainly increases sustainability of agriculture production because people look after their land. In many cases, development projects fail also because land ownership and who has the right to use the land for how long has not been considered. So it is a big factor in development.

Of course when you mention the issue of ownership of land, then the whole issue of gender comes in, in various ways. On one side, there is a discussion about women being vulnerable in general. But we see it in slightly a different way.  We see it as women being agents of change in many countries and in many communities, so when you want to invest in a sustainable manner, it is a very good idea to have women saving groups. They have very good experiences in building risk reserves. And whenever there are little problems for example when the rains come late, it becomes very efficient to go through such crises. But when it comes to catastrophic shocks, we look more at insurance based models.

IPS: Do you see this COP solving some of the climate problems in relation to food security?

GL: This COP is primarily about implementing the Paris agreement and maintaining the global average of temperature increases well below two degrees Celsius. I think in all the discussions about temperature ranges we tend to forget that many countries, especially in Africa, are already experiencing two degrees Celsius of temperature increase. So the reality in these countries look like what we are still discussing here. Indeed, many African countries already live the future that we are collectively still trying to avoid.

IPS: How has climate change contributed in terms of displacing families?

GL: Statistics from the last 10 years tell us that on average 22 million people are driven from their homes every year because of climate extremes. Migration is actually a traditional adaptation mechanism because people move to other places in search of greener pastures, job opportunities and so on. But we are talking about forced displacement due to climate related disasters. Climate related events can also aggravate conflicts at local levels between farmers and herders for example, or it can still happen between countries especially where we have large international river basins.

IPS: What does the latest  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report mean to Africa in terms of food security?

GL: All countries are affected by climate change but agrarian countries feel it the most. In Africa, many countries have a huge percentage of their GDP coming from agriculture. That makes such economies very vulnerable because agriculture is about climate sensitive resources such as water, crops, fish-stock, livestock among others. All poor countries that heavily depend on natural resources are the most impacted.

IPS: What are your expectations for COP24?

GL: Everybody’s expectation is that we will have a Rulebook by the end of the COP. But there is also a recognition that this is not an easy task because for one it is difficult enough to agree on what we want to do. But [the Rulebook] is about how we are going to hold ourselves accountable.

In the Rulebook, I expect to see a regime by which countries can track and report on the degrees of their progress against their self set targets or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

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Decoding Article 6 of the COP24 Climate Negotiationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/decoding-article-6-cop-24-climate-negotiations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decoding-article-6-cop-24-climate-negotiations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/decoding-article-6-cop-24-climate-negotiations/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 07:11:02 +0000 Sohara Mehroze Shachi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159242 It is close to curtain call for the United Nations’ Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland, with ministers from around the world negotiating the text for a “rulebook” to implement the historic 2015 Paris Agreement for climate action. Amidst the various issues being debated, one of the most technical and complicated is Article 6 of the […]

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The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) side event at COP24 that discussed transparency and NDC implementation. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 14 2018 (IPS)

It is close to curtain call for the United Nations’ Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland, with ministers from around the world negotiating the text for a “rulebook” to implement the historic 2015 Paris Agreement for climate action. Amidst the various issues being debated, one of the most technical and complicated is Article 6 of the agreement, which focuses on the country plans for climate action.

While the world has been having climate conferences since 1992, the tide turned with the Paris Agreement when all countries agreed to play their part to undertake climate action.

“Developing countries now have a strong political will to contribute to the greenhouse gas reduction,” said Hyoeun Jenny Kim, Deputy Director General at the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an international organisation that promotes balancing economic growth without harming the environment. This political will was manifested in Paris with countries voluntarily submitting their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for reducing carbon emissions and building climate resilience, taking into account their respective circumstances.

“But at the same time, they need support to affectively implement their NDCs,” Kim said, at a side event at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), which was organised by GGGI and focused on transparency and NDC implementation.

In order to get support from outside, Measuring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of a country’s carbon emissions reduction is almost a precondition as many donor agencies and even private sector organisations want to know how much greenhouse gases a developing country is emitting before they make a decision to support it.

“MRV is key for developing countries to get access to financial, technical and capacity building support, and that’s why we are supporting developing countries to set up more proper and internationally acceptable MRV scheme,” Kim said.

GGGI’s interventions in this area include preparing a low emissions development strategy for Fiji, Colombia’s national green growth strategy and Mongolia’s national energy efficiency plan. The organisation is also working on building capacity to implement MRVs in various countries around the globe, including, Mozambique, Senegal, Nepal and Laos.

“We will continue to support our members and partners in their efforts of effectively implementing NDCs with robust MRVs, so they can access more finance,” Kim said.

“We are committed to reminding countries that green growth can happen.”

One of the speakers at the panel was Ariyaratne Hewage, Special Envoy of the President on Climate Change, Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, in Sri Lanka, which is on track to become a member of the GGGI. He said Sri Lanka anticipates extensive support from GGGI in the years to come for its preparation of various project proposals to fight climate change.

“The present situation in Sri Lanka is severe droughts in one part of the country and heavy floods in another,” Hewage said. During a 2016 survey conducted by the Bonn-based NGO Germanwatch, Sri Lanka was awarded the fourth place in terms of climate vulnerability.

“We are severely affected by climate change, so we are very keen in developing climate change programs to ensure these problems are properly addressed,” Hewage said.

The proposed emission reduction i.e. mitigation targets of Sri Lanka’s NDCs include 30 percent reduction in the energy sector and 10 percent reduction in transport, industry and waste by 2030.

“For energy and transport sector we already have developed MRV systems, but for the other sectors – industry, waste, agriculture, livestock, forestry – we need help,” he added.

The need for support was also stressed by Ziaul Haque who leads the Bangladesh delegation’s COP24 negotiations on Article 6.

“Our main issue is lack of capacity to address this enhanced transparency framework under the Paris Agreement at both the institutional level and the individual level,” said Haque, highlighting the need for accurate data.

“We need to bring data on green house gas emissions from different institutions and whether they are collecting and archiving the data in the right manner is an issue that needs to be looked at. In this regard our institutional arrangement is not very strong at the national level,” he said, stating that strengthening the capacity of institutions and individuals who will be dealing with the transparency issue is crucial.

Rajani Ranjan Rashmi, a Distinguished Fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and former Special Secretary of India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, said at the side event that one of the fundamental issues to deciding a transparency framework is that of flexibility.

“Developing countries should be able to make gradual progression on the quality of data,” he said. “We have so far not been able to agree in the discussions on this level of flexibility.”

Moreover, whether the same guidelines regarding MRV of greenhouse gases should be applied to all countries is also an issue of contention at COP24, he added.

Jae Jung, Deputy Director of the Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Research Center (GIR), another panelist at the side event, said having common metrics and structured summary is crucial.

“At this moment we don’t have the final text of the Paris rulebook, but we do have a very clean text of the common metric with no bracket, so there might be agreement on that,” Jung said.

“In terms of global stock take of emissions we don’t have to have a common metric in our inventory. But when we do the global stock take every five years there has to be someone doing the conversion applying the same common metric to all countries’ inventories,” he added.

He also stressed the importance of “structured summary” – a form of presentation of aggregated presentation of data that makes it possible to see the level of carbon emissions of one country – stating that helps to avoid double counting issue.

“There is opposition to structured summary because some parties want to use qualitative indicators and narrative descriptions of their NDCs,” he said, “But how does it make sense logically to have qualitative results when you have a quantitative target?”

One way to address the multifaceted challenges to NDC implementation would be through engagement of the private sector, according to experts.

“Many people think Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is about the market itself, but it is about increasing cooperation,” said Dr. Suh-Young Chung, Director of Center for Climate and Sustainable Development Law and Policy (CSDLAP).

“If you look at the Paris landscape to meet the 2-degree Celsius temperature target, you realise it is not enough and you need to bring in private sector investment. And countries need to work together on this,” he said, adding that Article 6 eventually needs to promote cooperation with the private sector, via incentive mechanism to engage businesses and addressing the risks they face.

“Article 6 is about bringing more opportunities for developing countries, but to do so, you need MRVs first,” he said.

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Bamboo — the Magic Bullet to Rapid Carbon Sequestration?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bamboo-magic-bullet-rapid-carbon-sequestration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bamboo-magic-bullet-rapid-carbon-sequestration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bamboo-magic-bullet-rapid-carbon-sequestration/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 06:58:20 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159177 As thousands of environmental technocrats, policy makers and academics work round the clock to come up with strategies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change at the United Nations’ conference in Katowice, Poland, one scientist is asking Parties to consider massive bamboo farming as a simple but rapid way of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. […]

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Dr. Hans Friederich, the Director General of the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) is calling on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiators to acknowledge bamboo as an important crop that can rapidly sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

As thousands of environmental technocrats, policy makers and academics work round the clock to come up with strategies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change at the United Nations’ conference in Katowice, Poland, one scientist is asking Parties to consider massive bamboo farming as a simple but rapid way of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.

“According to the Guinness Book of Records, bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world,” said Dr. Hans Friederich, the Director General of the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR).

Bamboo is actually a giant grass plant in the family of Poaceae. Some species grow tall and many people refer to them as bamboo trees.

And because it is a grass, if you cut it, it grows back so quickly, making it one of the most the ideal crop for rapid actions in terms of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, according to Friederich, who has a PhD in groundwater hydrochemistry.

Depending on the species, bamboo can reach full maturity in one to five years, making it perhaps the only tree-like plant that can keep up with the rate of human consumption in terms of fuel, timber and deforestation, according to experts. This is unlike hardwood trees, which can take up to 40 years to grow to maturity.

The latest International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report points out that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.

That calls for mitigation measures. And currently many countries prefer investment in forestry and reforestation mitigation.

Under normal circumstances, trees absorb carbon, and therefore it forms part of the weight of its biomass, but they take several years to do so. But when they are cut down and burned for fuel, the carbon escapes back into the atmosphere.

But now, Friederich believes that with bamboos in place people will not need to cut down trees for charcoal production because despite of it being a grass, it produces excellent charcoal that has been equated to charcoal from trees such as the acacia, eucalyptus and Chinese Fir.

“Apart from charcoal, there are many other long-lasting products that can be made from bamboo, and while they remain intact, they hold onto carbon the giant grass sequestered while still on the farm,” he told IPS in an interview at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24). Today on Dec. 12 INBAR hosted a side event at COP24 titled “Bamboo and Rattan for Greening the Belt and Road where the organisation shared its successful experiences and Xie Zhenhua, China’s Special Representative on Climate Change, said that bamboo could become part of China’s new Emissions Trading Scheme.

At the event, Director of Policy and Programme at United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Martin Frick, said that bamboo and the Sustainable Development Goals and climate change agenda went hand in hand. He also emphasised the importance of bamboo as a source of income: 10 million people in China alone are employed in the bamboo sector. 

In China, bamboo is used for making drainage pipes, shells for transport vehicles, wind turbine blades, and shipping containers, among other things. It can also be used for making long-lasting furniture, parquet tiles, door and window frames and can even be used in the textile industry, among many other things.

Already, bamboo is slowly gaining popularity in some parts of the world due to its fast growth, and ability to produce long-lasting products.

Victor Mwanga retired from Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi in 2007 where he was a transport manager for a private company. He decided to start a bamboo seed production business which he called Tiriki Tropical Farms and Gardens. He is currently based in Tiriki, Vihiga County in Kenya’s Western Province.

“I receive customers from different parts of the county,” he told IPS in a telephone interview. “This thing [bamboo] has really gained popularity to a point that we are not able to satisfy the market,” said the farmer who sells each bamboo seedling for two to three dollars, depending on the size.

Wilbur Ottichilo, the Governor of Vihiga County, told IPS that his government is already investing in bamboo production. “We have started by training communities in various parts of the county on the importance of growing bamboo, and how they can make easy money from the crop,” he said.

And now, because of its fast growth and ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, Friederich is calling on theUNFCCC negotiators to acknowledge bamboo as an important crop that can rapidly sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

“We are already discussing with the secretariat of the UNFCCC and the IPCC to include bamboo into the language,” he said. In some cases, he added, countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana have included bamboo in their environment, climate change and renewable energy strategies.

However, said the scientist, this calls for governments to develop policy frameworks that will allow things to happen, looking at incentives to support the private sector, build capacity – train people so they know better how to make bamboo products and roll out small and medium enterprises.

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70 Years since the Universal Declaration on Human Rights – Hope Against Hopehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/70-years-since-universal-declaration-human-rights-hope-hope/#comments Mon, 10 Dec 2018 09:41:01 +0000 Prince Al Hassan bin Talal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159109 “Save the Children estimates that 84,701 children under five have died in Yemen from untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition between April 2015 and October 2018.” “The grim analysis of United Nations data comes as intense fighting has again erupted in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeidah.” Meanwhile, the UN considers Yemen the world’s biggest […]

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By HRH Prince Al Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
GENEVA, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

“Save the Children estimates that 84,701 children under five have died in Yemen from untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition between April 2015 and October 2018.”

“The grim analysis of United Nations data comes as intense fighting has again erupted in Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeidah.”

Meanwhile, the UN considers Yemen the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis and warns that without an end to the fighting, the country, in which more than half the population is already at risk of famine, faces the worst famine in decades.

Such have been the headlines day after day since the start of the war in Yemen in 2015. The tragedy is that statistics, coupled with the sensationalism of news, swiftly lose their impact. We become inured to the human catastrophe unfolding before our eyes as we turn the pages of our newspapers or flick channels on our television sets in search of something less distressing (OR less demanding).

This year sees the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, proclaimed in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly on the 10th December 1948. Following the unmitigated horrors of the Second World War, it was a milestone in the history of human rights. Yet, seventy years on, the river of human history continues to be poisoned by injustice, starvation, displacement, fear, instability, uncertainties and politicised sectarian and ethnic divisions.

Today it seems we are moving further away from the concept of Universal rights, in favour of my rights, even if at the expense of yours (although the other may be you yourself), with a callous disregard for the Declaration’s two key ethical considerations: a commitment to the inherent dignity of every human being and a commitment to non-discrimination.

The schisms in the world today have become so numerous, the inequities so stark, that a universal respect for human dignity is something that must be brought back to the consciousness of the international community.

Recognition of religion and individual cultural identities are a crucial part of the mix. Unlike citizenship – the legal membership of a sovereign state or nation, identity encompasses the totality of how one construes oneself, including those dimensions that express continuity with past ancestry and future aspirations, and implies affinity with certain groups and the recognition of common ties. In brief, it demands the recognition of the totality of the self, of one’s human dignity, irrespective of background, ethnicity or financial clout. A call to be empowered to fulfil one’s potential, without kowtowing to a social construct or relinquishing any part of one’s heritage.

We need to be proactive in addressing the growing global hunger for human dignity for it goes to the very heart of human identity and the polarity / plurality divide, and without it, all the protections of the various legal human rights mechanisms become meaningless.

We have gone from a world of symmetries and political and military blocs, to a situation of fearful asymmetries and violent, armed non-state actors.

The polarity of hatred among people is corrosive, not only in the Mashreq/Levant, but across the globe. The retrenchment into smaller and smaller identities is one of the most striking paradoxes of globalisation. Binary fallacies lead nations to dead ends; to zero sum games.

Cross border themes of today, water, energy and human dignity, must be discussed at a regional level, as a creative common, rather than country by country. The neglect of these themes has meant that the West Asia area has become a breeding ground for rogue and extremist actors. The complex dynamics among the three greatest forces shaping our planet – man, nature, technology – require a whole new outlook. Yet there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

In drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its proponents [OR the drafting committee] sought to underpin a shared ideal, a common standard for all peoples and all nations, a code of conduct of rights and responsibilities if you will.

I should like to pay tribute to my late mother-in-law, the Begum Shaista Ikramullah. When she, the first Muslim Indian (as she then was) woman to gain a PhD from the University of London, working in 1948 with Eleanor Roosevelt on the Declaration of Human Rights and Convention Against Genocide, declared:

It is imperative that there be an accepted code of civilized behaviour.

Adding later:

The ideas emphasized in the [Declaration] are far from being realized, but there is a goal which those who believe in the freedom of the human spirit can try to reach.

To date we have fallen far short. Nonetheless the UDHR, not only provided the first step towards the creation of the International Bill of Human Rights (completed 1966, came into effect 1976), but gave rise to numerous conventions and international agreements which should give us cause for hope. I would like to mention but a few.

Of personal interest is the 1948 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which was worked on and signed by the late Begum Ikramullah. She strongly supported the work of Professor Raphael Lemkin who lost 24 members of his family in the Holocaust. Raphael Lemkin defined genocide as “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves“.

Some years later, the Helsinki Final Act (1975) “provided a basis for creating conditions favourable to peace in Europe and made human rights a common value to be respected by all nations in a world which was divided into East and West camps in that period”. It gave rise to the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, a non-governmental organisation of people in Europe, dedicated to the promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms, peace, democracy and pluralism and to our own Middle East Citizens’ Assembly.

More recently I had the honour to serve on the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, whose fundamental purpose was to empower those living in poverty through increased protections and rights – thereby addressing simultaneously, exclusion, loss of dignity, and the link between poverty and lack of access to the law.

The basic premise of its report (published in 2008) was that the law should work for everyone, and included as a key underpinning, state/governmental investment in the conditions of labour.

Despite these positive steps, the three main challenges identified by the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues (ICIHI): man against man, man against nature and man-made disasters, summarised in the title of our report: Winning the Human Race? continue to prevail (OR there is much much more to be done.)

In a world where nearly one person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution, and where 85% of the worlds’ displaced are being hosted by developing countries, ill-equipped to do so, of which Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Jordan and Lebanon are in the forefront and in which 15% of all mankind live in areas somewhat euphemistically described as ‘fragile states’, the moral lobby that is still strong across the world must act in cohesion. Together we must ensure that equal citizenship rights and human dignity are at the forefront of all development efforts. Further that the shift towards viewing human dignity as an individual, and not collective attribute, is realised.

This means placing human welfare firmly and definitively, at the centre of national and international policy-making.

We continue to hear of a security order or an economic order, neither of which have succeeded in creating a Universal order from which all of humanity benefits. In the face of this disharmonious logic, it is time for an humanitarian order based on the moral and ethical participation of the peoples of the world, as well as an intimate understanding of human nature.

We have, in the reports mentioned above and in other projects, a well-honed tool box of critical issues and agendas which should form the multi-stakeholder platform of our commitment to the universal ideals we all cherish. As with the UDHR, these reports are a clarion call to action – it is up to us to ensure they also represent a continuation of imaginative thinking for a universally beneficial creative process.

It is time to take off the blinkers of thinking only of ourselves – of our tribe and of our nation against all others – and consider how much can be achieved by drawing on the whole pool of our talents and resources to address common concerns on the basis of our shared humanity. We need an inclusive approach to meeting challenges, one that accounts for both the natural and the human environment. Only thus can we attain the desired organic unity between man and nature and the ethics of universal responsibility. This may sound idealistic; it is, but whether we are talking about water scarcity, food security, poverty, education, the ability for everyone to fulfil their potential, we need to focus on human dignity both in its ontological dimension by virtue of our very humanity and in its operative dimension as enhanced by our self-accomplishment.

We were not put on this earth to go forth and multiply, desecrate and destroy, but to bring life as well as hope for future generations.

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Poor Progress and No Finance Commitments at COP24 in Katowicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/poor-progress-no-finance-commitments-cop24-katowice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poor-progress-no-finance-commitments-cop24-katowice http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/poor-progress-no-finance-commitments-cop24-katowice/#respond Sat, 08 Dec 2018 17:13:23 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159098 Implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change is in limbo as developed countries remain noncommittal to financial obligations at the ongoing negotiations in Katowice, Poland. Professor Seth Osafo, the Advisor to the Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN), said today, Dec. 8, that his colleagues from the developed world were shifting goals to put the […]

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Members of African civil society express their frustrations about the climate change negotiations during a press conference held at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 8 2018 (IPS)

Implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change is in limbo as developed countries remain noncommittal to financial obligations at the ongoing negotiations in Katowice, Poland.

Professor Seth Osafo, the Advisor to the Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN), said today, Dec. 8, that his colleagues from the developed world were shifting goals to put the burden of financing the implementation of the Paris Agreement on the private sector.

Osafo was addressing the Pan African Parliament and civil society organisations under the umbrella of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) during COP 24.

“A man who is drowning has no luxury of a choice. Africa is drowning and we have no choice, other than using all means to salvage the continent.” -- Augustine Njamshi, the executive director of the Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme in Cameroon.

The Paris Agreement is an agreement reached at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris, France, where the world’s nations undertook a determined course to reduce climate change. Among the commitments was to keep the increase in global temperatures under 2 degrees Celcius.

Osafo’s concerns were confirmed by Mohamed Nasr, Chair of the AGN. He said that during this past week there had been very little progress with regards to financial commitments from the developed world to address loss and damages related to past injustices, adaptation, gender equality, and the empowerment of women, among other issues. The seeking of a commitment from developed nations on this is being spearheaded by the African team.

“The progress so far is not up to expectations, and if this is the way [negotiations will] go, it means we will not be able to implement what we agreed to in Paris,” said Nasr. “We should not choose parts of the agreement to implement and leave other parts behind,” he told IPS in an interview on Friday.

Despite the challenges, a document for negotiation must be drawn up by tonight.

This past week, negotiators representing different Parties (countries) have been discussing the outline of what is known as the ‘Rulebook’ for the Paris Agreement. This includes the rules, procedures and guidelines that countries should follow to enable them implement the Paris Agreement at national level.

The outcome of the week-long negotiations will then be submitted to ministers of the various countries on Monday for deliberations to decide whether or not to adopt positions taken by technical teams.

“We are hoping that we will finish drafting the rules of implementation today, so that we have a document to show to the ministers when they arrive for political engagements next week,” said Osafo.

In 2017 drought ravaged almost half of Kenya’s 43 counties, with the Turkana region in northern Kenya being the worst affected. The region mostly consists of pastoralists who lost livestock during the drought. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

Under the Paris Agreement, developed countries committed to availing 100 billion dollars by 2020 to finance implementation of the accord through the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

However, there have been setbacks. During the Paris negotiations the United States, which is considered to be one of the main polluters of the environment, pledged to deposit three billion dollars to the GCF. Under former President Barrack Obama’s administration, the country delivered one billion dollars. But since President Donald Trump assumed power he has rejected the agreement, adding that climate change is a hoax.

At the Katowice negotiations, the U.S. and the European Union are asking for a Rulebook that will not demand they divulge the exact amounts of money they provide to poorer nations for climate finance, especially to cater for loss and damages.

This has not gone down well with African civil society organisations who have demanded the fulfilment of the pre-2020 climate finance commitments at the onset of the negotiations earlier this week.

“We see a clear intent from the developed country parties to shift their convention obligations on the provision of climate finance to private institutions and, worse still, to developing countries. This is not, and will not be, acceptable,” said Mithika Mwenda, the Executive Director at PACJA.

“If it continues like this, we will be forced to protest or even pull out from the negotiations altogether,” he told IPS.

Augustine Njamshi, the executive director of the Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme in Cameroon, said: “We have no option, but to use all available means to make things happen.”

“A man who is drowning has no luxury of a choice. Africa is drowning and we have no choice, other than using all means to salvage the continent,” he told IPS.

Nasr said that the African negotiators have been forced to send messages through informal discussions with colleagues from the developed world to salvage the situation.

“We are just telling them that if we do not have the components that we have asked for, the package will not be for Africa, and Africa will not be part of it,” he said.

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The Revolution of Renewable Energy Needs Political Leadershiphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/revolution-renewable-energy-needs-political-leadership/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=revolution-renewable-energy-needs-political-leadership http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/revolution-renewable-energy-needs-political-leadership/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 11:29:51 +0000 Rachel Kyte http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159073 *Interview with Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All, and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All. She was also the World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, leading the Bank Group’s efforts to campaign for the Paris Agreement.

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*Interview with Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All, and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All. She was also the World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, leading the Bank Group’s efforts to campaign for the Paris Agreement.

By Rachel Kyte
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 6 2018 (IPS)

The cost of renewable energy is low, and at times, less than fossil fuels. What are the barriers to switching to renewables?

Where current energy systems exist, they will need to be upgraded to be able to draw power from modern renewables and to exploit storage solutions that they require.

Rachel Kyte

The institutions and mindsets of current systems are still comfortable with the systems of the past, those that prioritized fossil fuels in centralized grid systems.

The revolution of renewable energy is not just that it’s clean, but that it can be delivered both through the grid as well as decentralized solutions, allowing it to reach those who have never enjoyed access to reliable and affordable energy before.

Yet this change requires political leadership and policy certainty for the levels of investment needed, and we need that renewable investment now.

Q: The recent Cooling for All report highlighted an issue many people didn’t speak of until recently. How does it relate to climate?

A: As the world warms and populations rapidly grow, particularly in the cities of the developing world, we risk creating ‘heat islands’ that could substantially increase energy demands as people seek cooling access for their own health and safety, as well as the safety of medical supplies, fresh food and safe work environments.

At the same time, if we rely on today’s cooling technologies that use high hydroflourocarbons (HFCs) in air conditioning, we will exasperate climate impacts from a growing use of short-lived climate pollutants.

In policy terms, providing everyone with access to the sustainable cooling they need, is the opportunity at the intersections of the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement and the Kigali Amendment.

In human terms, finding a way to provide hyper efficient pollutant free cooling for people, their vaccines and food is about making sure we leave no one behind. While the Paris Agreement reached almost universal ratification in record time, we now need member states to move with the same swiftness and determination to ratify the Montreal Protocol’s Kigali Amendment.

Q: Can governments, businesses and communities that embrace clean energy solutions survive economically, and where do you see the greatest impact of green energy solutions?

A: The scientific evidence presented in the IPCC report means that all governments, through meeting their fundamental responsibilities in providing a duty of care to their citizens, need to ensure that aggressive and comprehensive policies are in place to speed energy transitions towards clean, affordable and reliable energy for all.

For business, being able to be on the leading edge of this transition means being positioned for profitability, success in attracting and retaining talent, and ensuring that inevitable regulation – and in some cases litigation – is a risk that is understood and well managed.

All businesses must regard carbon as a toxin which needs to be avoided, mitigated and managed to not only support climate action, but help ensure their business is resilient to the ever-growing impacts of climate change.

Q: Can we realistically meet the needs of the just under 1 billion people who don’t have regular access to electricity through renewable energy?

A: Yes. As an immediate step, we all have to be much more efficient in our use of energy. We can provide for many more needs with much less energy through technological innovation and business models. Renewable energy gives us a cost-effective way to meet the needs of those who have never had energy before to help them become economically productive.

By putting the needs of the last mile first, we can build decentralized, digitalized and decarbonized energy systems that meet everyone’s needs. This is not beyond human ingenuity – the cost is estimated at just over US$50 billion a year.

Yet it requires political will and determination. When we consider that US$50 billion leaves the African continent through illegal financial flows, money laundering and tax evasion each year, we must work harder to ensure that the energy needs of these vulnerable populations – women, children, remote rural populations – can be met.

Q: How can we support low-income countries when it comes to innovation and strengthening infrastructure that allow for modern technology approaches?

A: First, we need to support countries put in place robust policy frameworks and investment climates that will spur both domestic investment as well as attract international investment. Secondly, development finance, in partnership with these countries, has to be directed to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.

Our recent Energizing Finance report clearly shows that finance is still not reaching the top 20 countries with the largest electricity and clean cooking access gaps – dramatically slowing down progress to meet global energy goals and our promise to these populations.

Thirdly, we need specific initiatives that provide energy to the growing number of displaced people around the world.

Finally, the 3 billion that don’t have access to clean cooking deserve an urgent response from the international community at scale that connects industries around different fuel sources with new financial innovation that means the billions of women living on low incomes have a range of clean fuel choices, as opposed to the dangerous choice to cook a family meal while putting their health and the health of their children at risk.

*The interview is part of an editorial package from the SDG Media Compact and released by the UN’s Department of Public Information.

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Excerpt:

*Interview with Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All, and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All. She was also the World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, leading the Bank Group’s efforts to campaign for the Paris Agreement.

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Q&A: Creating an African Bamboo Industry as Large as China’shttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas/#respond Wed, 05 Dec 2018 09:57:24 +0000 Jamila Akweley Okertchiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159042 IPS correspondent Jamila Akweley Okertchiri interviews DR. HANS FRIEDERICH, Director General of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)

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Hans Friederich at a Chinese bamboo plantation. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
ACCRA, Dec 5 2018 (IPS)

The bamboo industry in China currently comprises up to 10 million people who make a living out of production of the grass. But while the Asian nation has significant resources of bamboo — three million hectares of plantation and three million hectares of natural forests — the continent of Africa is recorded to have an estimated three and a half million hectares of plantations, excluding conservation areas.

This means that there is a possibility of creating a similar size industry in Africa, according to International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) director general Dr. Hans Friederich.

“In China, where the industry is developed, we have eight to 10 million people who make a living out of bamboo. They grow bamboo, manufacture things out of bamboo and sell bamboo poles. That has given them a livelihood and a way to build a local economy to create a future for themselves and their children,” he tells IPS.

INBAR is the only international organisation championing the development of environmentally sustainable bamboo and rattan. It has 44 member states — 43 of which are in the global south — with the secretariat headquarters based in China, and with regional offices in India, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Ecuador. Over the years, the multilateral development organisation has trained up to 25,000 people across the value chain – from farmers and foresters to entrepreneurs and policymakers.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Africa is estimated to have three and a half million hectares of bamboo. While China has about six million hectares of natural forests, almost double the size of Africa’s, experts say there is potential for developing the industry on the continent. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Inter Press Service (IPS): What has been INBAR’s Role in the South-South Cooperation agenda?

Dr. Hans Friederich (DHF): In fact, a lot of our work over the last 21 years is to link our headquarters in China with our regional offices and our members around the world to help develop policies, put in place appropriate legislation and regulations to build capacity, train local people, provide information, and carry out real field research to test new approaches to manage resources in the most efficient way.

I think we [have been] able to help our members more effectively and do more in the way of training and capacity building. I also hope we can develop bamboo and rattan as vehicles for sustainable development with our member countries around the world, especially in the Global South.

IPS: What are the prospects for Africa’s bamboo and rattan industry?

DHF: The recorded statistics say that Africa has about three and half million hectares of bamboo, which excludes conservation [areas].

So, if I were to make a guess, Africa has as much bamboo as China [excluding China’s natural forests] and that means theoretically, we should have the possibility of creating an industry as large as China’s in Africa. That means an industry of 30 billion dollars per a year employing 10 million people.

IPS: How is INBAR helping to develop such a huge potential in Africa?

DHF: The returns we are seeing in China may not happen overnight in Africa, China has had 30 to 40 years to develop this industry.

But what we are doing is working with our members in Africa to kick off the bamboo value chain to start businesses and help members make the most out of these plants.

IPS: Working with countries from the global south means replication of best practices and knowledge sharing among member states. Are there any good examples worth mentioning?

DHF: China is the world’s leading country when it comes to the production and management of bamboo so we have a lot to learn from China. Fortunately China has the financial resources that makes it easy to share that information and knowledge with our members …Looking at land management activities in Ghana, as an example, I think bamboo can really help in restoring lands that have been damaged through illegal mining activities.

Maybe that is actually where we can learn from other African countries because we are already looking at how bamboo can help with the restoration of degraded lands in Ethiopia.

Also, when we had a training workshop in Cameroon last year and we looked at architecture, we brought an architect from Peru who shared his experience of working with bamboo in Latin America, which was quite applicable to Cameroon. So we are using experience from different parts of the world to help others develop what they think is important.

IPS: What is the most important thing in the development of the bamboo and rattan value chain for an African country like Ghana?

DHF: There are a number of things that we can do. One area that Ghana is already working on with regards to bamboo and rattan, is furniture production. I know that there is fantastic work being done with skills development.

The value chain of furniture production is an area where Ghana already has a lot to offer. But if we can improve quality, if we can make the furniture more interesting for consumers, through skills training [of artisans], then that is an area where we can really help.

IPS: Which other opportunity can Ghana look at exploring in the area of Bamboo and Rattan value chain?

DHF: Another area of opportunity is to use bamboo as a source of charcoal for household energy. People depend on charcoal, especially in rural areas in Ghana, but most of the charcoal comes from often illegally-cut trees.

Instead of cutting trees we can simply harvest bamboo and make charcoal from this, which is a legally produced source.

The great thing about Bamboo is that it re-grows the following growing season after harvesting, so it is a very sustainable source of charcoal production.

IPS: What does the future look like for INBAR?

DHF: Two months ago Beijing hosted the China Africa Forum and we were very, very pleased to have read that the draft programme of work actually includes the development of Africa’s bamboo industry. There is a paragraph that says China and Africa will work together to establish an African training centre.

We understand this will most likely be in Ethiopia and it will happen hopefully in the coming years.

Another thing is that China and Africa will work closely together to develop the bamboo and rattan industry. They will also develop specific activities on how to use bamboo for land restoration and climate change mitigation and to see how bamboo can help with livelihood development in Africa in partnership with China.

This is a very exciting development, a new window of opportunity has opened for us to work together to develop bamboo and rattan in Africa.

 

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Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Jamila Akweley Okertchiri interviews DR. HANS FRIEDERICH, Director General of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)

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African Countries Deserve an Enhanced Climate Ambitionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/african-countries-deserve-enhanced-climate-ambition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-countries-deserve-enhanced-climate-ambition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/african-countries-deserve-enhanced-climate-ambition/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2018 14:07:23 +0000 Robert Muthami http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159021 Robert Muthami is a Programme Coordinator at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Kenya Office. He coordinates work around socio-ecological transformation

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Credit: Benny Jackson on Unsplash

By Robert Muthami
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 4 2018 (IPS)

African countries have been at the climate-change negotiating table for more than 20 years. The continent faces some of the most severe impacts of climate change, but questions remain over its adaptive capacity despite this engagement.

African civil society organizations, trade unions and governments have advocated for three main means of implementation: climate finance for adaptation and mitigation; technology transfer; and capacity building.

The latter is aimed at facilitating and enhancing the ability of individuals, organizations and institutions in African countries to identify, plan and implement ways to adapt and mitigate to climate change. African countries are participating in the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention Climate Change (UNFCCC) currently taking place in Katowice, Poland from 2 to 14 December.

Through the Paris Work Programme (PAWP) expected to be adopted in Poland, African countries expect that COP 24 will deliver on the continent’s expectations with regards to facilitating climate resilience.

Climate finance for adaptation and mitigation
Climate change is impacting all economies in Africa, a continent highly dependent on agriculture. The impact is increasing the already high inequality, as resources meant for investment in social amenities are being channelled into climate-change adaptation.

In this case, due to climate change related disasters like droughts and flooding, there is an adverse impact on agricultural production—namely food insecurity. Therefore, resources meant to provide other services like universal and affordable health care, expansion of infrastructure and other social services for the poor are channelled to climate change response initiatives.

Panel Discussion for Kenyan Delegation Reflecting on the Progress of Agenda Items after UNFCCC-SB48. Credit: FES Kenya

During the COP 16, the world’s developed countries agreed to mobilize 100 billion US dollars per year by the year 2020 for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. This is still a pipe dream as only 10 billion US dollars have been mobilized so far since the establishment of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in 2006 to date.

Additionally, African countries continue to face difficulties in accessing the funds as they are on a perpetual treadmill of paperwork to even qualify to receive any of the funds earmarked for them. Is imperative of global social justice that this funding be fast-tracked.

As countries head to Poland, African nations approach the negotiations with the hope that issues dealing with transparency and accountability on climate financing will be made clearer and smoother.

Otherwise, African countries will be obliged to divert more domestic resources to meeting their commitments under their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), which could affect other development priorities.

If promised international funding is not forthcoming and the shortfall needs to be made up from scarce domestic resources, this can mean these resources are no longer available at national level for example for social protection measures or food security. The decision in Poland should therefore be clear on provision, transparency and accountability of climate financing.

Technology transfer and capacity building
Many adaptation and mitigation solutions will require technology as well as financing, for the purposes of innovation and upscaling across various sectors. Technology transfer, therefore, is critical for African countries.

One of the concerns for African countries is the sheer lack of capacity to implement new technologies for climate-change responses. But Africa has the potential to also transfer technology to the north if the existing low carbon technologies that incorporate the already existing indigenous knowledge of African countries are expanded.

Therefore, a provision for reverse transfer from South to North with regard to technology should also be provided. At the moment the discussion is being handled as North–South transfer only.

Robert Muthami engaging Kenyan Participants during the Post UNFCCC-SB48 Reflection Workshop. Credit: FES Kenya

Africa is also cautious of becoming a testing ground for new technologies. Therefore, technologies from the north should be tried and tested before being transferred to Africa—for example short-lived solar panel technologies that end up being very expensive in the long run—a key issue that needs to be part of the discussions at COP 24.

Finally, the means of implementation, especially climate finance and capacity building on uptake and implementation, are critical for technology transfer to work in Africa.

Climate change needs to be tackled on a global level and in a just manner
The climate-change crisis is now being felt in developed countries. As Europe and America battle wildfires amid massive heat waves over the past year, the impact in Africa is felt even stronger.

The increasing frequency of droughts and flooding, and consequently increased risk of violent conflict in already volatile regions, present a major threat to livelihoods on the African continent. Looking ahead to Poland, it is the hope of African countries that these impacts will be reflected in the outcome document.

Lastly, as parties move towards operationalization of the Paris Agreement, it is important to ensure that the commitments towards promoting decent work and a just transition are properly articulated in the Paris Work Programme.

This is key because climate change is already having significant impacts on the world of work in Africa. Over 60 per cent of Africa’s economically active population works in and lives off the agricultural sector, which is adversely affected by climate change.

The transition to low-carbon economies offers great potential for green jobs creation, in areas such as the renewable-energy sector. This transition process however means that current existing jobs that do not offer sustainable production methods will be at a risk. It is important to ensure that this transition happens in a socially just and inclusive manner.

Therefore, a socially and ecologically just outcome from COP 24 must take into consideration the African demands on the means of implementation (climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building) for adaptation and mitigation as well as the necessity of a just transition.

This outcome should also facilitate the realization of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), especially goals 8, 10 and 13, which focus on promoting decent work, addressing inequality and climate action.

*For more information on the work by FES in Kenya visit the country office website and follow the official Facebook fan page.

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Excerpt:

Robert Muthami is a Programme Coordinator at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Kenya Office. He coordinates work around socio-ecological transformation

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Fostering Green, Made-In-Africa Innovationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/fostering-green-made-africa-innovations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fostering-green-made-africa-innovations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/fostering-green-made-africa-innovations/#respond Fri, 30 Nov 2018 10:39:52 +0000 Emmanuel Hitimana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158949 Over 1000 policy makers, experts, investors and financial specialists from across Africa are gathered this week in Kigali, at a week-long Africa Green Growth Forum 2018 to discuss how to foster green, made-in-Africa innovations to meet the needs of the continent.  There is no doubt that green growth is a number one priority for governments […]

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Frank Rijsberman Director-General, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) speaking in Kigali, at a week-long Africa Green Growth Forum 2018 to discuss how to foster green growth. Credit: Emmanuel Hitimana/IPS

By Emmanuel Hitimana
KIGALI, Nov 30 2018 (IPS)

Over 1000 policy makers, experts, investors and financial specialists from across Africa are gathered this week in Kigali, at a week-long Africa Green Growth Forum 2018 to discuss how to foster green, made-in-Africa innovations to meet the needs of the continent. 

There is no doubt that green growth is a number one priority for governments but many are mistaken if they believe green growth is more costly, Frank Rijsberman Director-General, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) told delegates at the high level policy dialogue session.

Rwanda’s new Bugesera airport, will be the first-ever green airport in Africa, and the government’s biggest-ever project. It will have rain water harvesting and cut water use by 50 percent, and will have enough solar panels to make it zero carbon emission facility said Rijsberman.

“Did the airport become expensive by adopting these changes? No. It became cheaper by five million US dollars,” he said.

The over 800 million dollar project is being funded through a public private partnership, and is one of many green projects the GGGI is working on with the government of Rwanda. GGGI is also supporting the implementation of the government’s plan for green development of six secondary cities as well as eco-friendly tourism by introducing electric motorbikes or e-motorbikes.

The e-motorbikes will be cheaper than petrol-powered ones demonstrating that green products do not have to be expensive said Josh Whale, the Chief Executive Officer of Ampersand, a company that is building electric vehicles and charging stations in East Africa. Supported by GGGI, it has introduced e-motorbikes into Rwanda and has plans for other electric vehicles.

“Assembling all the e-motorcycles in Rwanda will certainly result in several thousand new jobs and will also green existing jobs. So motorcycle and taxis mechanics will become green jobs,” said Whale.

The Forum is showcasing a number of other green-friendly initiatives that promote  environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economic growth.

There are many opportunities for green entrepreneurship and private investment in transport, infrastructure and agriculture in Africa, said Rijsberman.

“Involving the private sector more, helping to drive innovation, helping to drive entrepreneurship, creating green jobs has to be a growing part of government green growth strategies,” he says.

During different panels and sessions there were comments about a large gap in youth interests in the environment and green technology and the difficulty accessing funding for innovations that could bring affordable green technologies to Africa.

Academic training is one of the best investments to be made right now said Stephen Rodriques, Rwanda’s Country Director at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). “We have to start preparing the young generation for green jobs,” Rodriques told delegates. “Many of the industries we have now are based on what we call the brown economy, where people are doing things and in ways that are destroying the environment.”

Rodriques also called for investment in innovative green projects and for stakeholders to improve their understanding and use of finance as a tool for climate resilience.

A common issue is quality projects in need of financing while financial institutions say they have the money for quality projects but can’t find them said Pablo Vieira, Global Director at NDC Partnership. This is a coalition of countries and institutions dedicated to strengthening collaboration among nations to help implement countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris Agreement.

“We work in 36 countries right now with governments saying they have many projects ready for financing but find it hard to get finance,” said Vieira. Meanwhile financial institutions are looking to finance quality projects.

Acknowledging that governments afford to support all projects, Vieira calls for a new system to help entrepreneurs build quality projects. He also appealed to financial institutions to change their “business as usual” approach for the way environmental funds are delivered.

The forum started on Monday 26 November and is set to close on Friday November 30.

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