Inter Press ServiceDevelopment & Aid – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 17 Aug 2018 17:11:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Take Charge of Your Food: Your Health is Your Businesshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2018 10:22:03 +0000 Sunita Narain http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157235 Sunita Narain is Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) & Editor of Down to Earth magazine in New Delhi

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Credit: IPS

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

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

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

Sunita Narain. Credit: Center for Science and Education

Sunita Narain. Credit: Center for Science and Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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How Ghana’s Rapid Population Growth Could Become an Emergency and Outpace Both Food Production and Economic Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2018 09:27:15 +0000 Jamila Akweley Okertchiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157229 Paul Ayormah and his fellow farmers make their way home after hours spent manually weeding a friend’s one-acre maize farm in Ghana’s Eastern Region. “Tomorrow it will be the turn of my maize farm,” he tells IPS. This year, Ayormah and his colleagues who live in Donkorkrom in the Kwahu Afram Plains District of the […]

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Paul Ayormah and his friends on his maize farm in Donkorkrom in the Kwahu Afram Plains District of Ghana’s Eastern Region. Credit: Jamila Akweley Okertchiri/IPS

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
ACCRA and DONKORKROM, Ghana, Aug 17 2018 (IPS)

Paul Ayormah and his fellow farmers make their way home after hours spent manually weeding a friend’s one-acre maize farm in Ghana’s Eastern Region.

“Tomorrow it will be the turn of my maize farm,” he tells IPS.

This year, Ayormah and his colleagues who live in Donkorkrom in the Kwahu Afram Plains District of the Eastern Region, have resorted to alternative means of cultivating their farms. The farmers group together and travel to each other’s farms, where they work to prepare and weed the farmland, taking turns to do the same for everyone else in the group. They have also resorted to using cattle dung to fertilise their crop.

“We are doing this to cut down on the cost involved in preparing our land for planting our maize,” Ayormah tells IPS.

Ayormah, a father of five, inherited his two-acre maize farm from his late father. And as the breadwinner in his family, Ayormah relies solely on his produce as a source of income.

Ayormah says that in a good season he is able to harvest 40 bags of maize, which he then sells in Koforidua, the capital of the Eastern Region, for an average of USD27 per bag.

“The money I make is what I use to take care of my family. Two of my children are in tertiary [education], one is in high school, and the other two are in junior high and primary school [respectively]. So there is hardly enough money at home,” he explains.

Ayormah believes he will have a good enough harvest this season, but says “I cannot promise a bumper harvest.”

Food Security

Ghana’s economy is predominately dependent on agriculture, particularly cocoa, though the government has taken steps to ensure that the cultivation of staples such as rice, maize and soya is also enhanced.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) says that 52 percent of the country’s labour force is engaged in agriculture, which contributes 54 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. However, it notes that the country’s agricultural sector is driven predominately by smallholder farmers, and about 60 percent of all farms are less than 1.2 hectares in size and are largely rain-fed.“Already our economy is not developing at the level we want it to and then we have this huge number of people depending on a small population for survival. So the little income or food must be shared among many people and this retards our economic growth and development.” -- Dr. Leticia Appiah, National Population Council director

Last April, president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo launched Ghana’s flagship agricultural policy, Planting for Food and Jobs, a five-year plan geared towards increasing food productivity and ensuring food security for the country. The policy’s long-term goal is to reduce food import bills to the barest minimum.

The programme also provides farmers who own two to three acres of land with a 50 percent subsidy of fertiliser and other farm inputs, such as improved seedlings.

Farmers who enrol in the programme enjoy a flexible repayment method where they pay their 50 percent towards the fertiliser cost in two instalments of 25 percent prior to and after harvest. Each payment is estimated to cost USD12.

Ayormah benefited from the programme last year, and had hoped that the use of chemical fertiliser would increase his farming yield and income. However, delayed rains and an armyworm infestation caused him to lose almost half of his produce.

He says although the programme was helpful, he cannot afford to pay the final USD12 he owes the government.

“With the little I will get from my farm produce this year, I will pay the money I owe the government so I can benefit [from the fertiliser] next year and get a bumper harvest,” he explains.

“If all goes well I hope to [harvest] my 40 bags. But this year is going to be a little difficult for my family because I am not getting the government fertiliser,” Ayormah laments.

A report by the ministry of food and agriculture assessing the one-year implementation of the Planting for Food and Jobs policy, notes the negative impact of delayed rains and armyworm infestation on maize production in the country. So far, government interventions such as the routine pesticide spraying on farms is bringing the armyworm infestation under control. But 20,000 hectares of land have already been affected.

Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Ghana’s minister of food and agriculture, tells IPS the situation faced by farmers in other parts of the country, particularly the Northern Region, poses a potential threat to food security for this west African nation.

Agenda 2030

Hiroyuki Nagahama, vice chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP) at the Asian and African Parliamentarians, spoke with IPS during a three-day visit this August to learn the opportunities and challenges that Ghana faces.

Nagahama says that if the current grown rate on the continent, in excess of two percent, is not checked, U.N. Population estimates and projections put Africa at a risk of contributing 90 percent to the increase in the world’s population between 2020 to 2100.

He further notes that the population growth rate does not correspond with the food produced on the continent and this poses a threat to food security.

“According to calculations by the FAO, food security can be possible through cutting down on losses from food and engaging appropriately in farm management and production. But, economic principles compels us to ask difficult questions about how the population of Africa will have access to food supply,” Nagahama says.

A new project by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) and the JPFP, which focuses on enhancing national and global awareness of parliamentarians’ role as a pivotal pillar for achieving the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, was launched this year. The project also supports parliamentarians as they implement necessary policy, legislative changes and mobilise resources for population-related issues.

It is a platform to examine the ways in which both developed and developing countries can, in equal partnership, serve as the driving force to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and create a world where no one is left behind.

Rashid Pelpou, chair of Ghana’s Parliamentary Caucus on Population and Development, tells IPS it is estimated that 1.2 million of Ghana’s 29.46 million people are currently food insecure.

And that a further two million Ghanaians are vulnerable to food insecurity nationwide. In the event of an unexpected natural or man-made shock, their pattern of food consumption can be greatly impacted.

He says that as representatives of the people, parliamentarians’ priorities are to ensure that laws and budget allocations translates into constituents having physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

Reproductive Health

In Ghana, the National Population Council (NPC) stated last August that the country’s current 2.5 percent population growth rate was high above the global rate of 1.5 percent, calling it a disturbing trend.

Dr. Leticia Appiah, NPC director, tells IPS that population management is an emergency that requires urgent action. She previously said that the “annual population increase is 700,000 to 800,000, which is quite alarming.”

Appiah tells IPS that when people give birth to more children than they can afford, not only does the family suffer in terms of its ability to care for these children, but the government becomes burdened as it provides social services.

“Already our economy is not developing at the level we want it to and then we have this huge number of people depending on a small population for survival. So the little income or food must be shared among many people and this retards our economic growth and development,” Appiah explains.

African Development Bank Group data shows that “economic growth fell from 14 percent in 2011 at the onset of oil production to 3.5 percent in 2016, the lowest in two decades.” In April the Ghana Statistical Service announced an 8.5 percent expansion in gross domestic product.

“We have to really focus on reproductive health otherwise we will miss the investment we have made in immunisation and create more problems for ourselves,” Appiah says.

Nagahama addresses the issue of Africa’s population growth: “It is an individual’s right to choose how many children they will have and at what interval. But in reality there are many children who are born from unwanted pregnancies and births.”

“To remove such plight, it is important for us parliamentarians to legislate, allocate funding and implement programmes for universal access to reproductive health services in ways that are culturally acceptable,”Nagahama says.

Niyi Ojoalape, the U.N. Population Fund’s Ghana representative, tells IPS that strong government coordination is the way to harness demographic dividend—the growth in an economy that is the resultant effect of a change in the age structure of a country’s population.

Ghana currently has a national population policy with strategies to manage the country’s population for long term benefit, but implementation of this has lacked political will over the years.

Ojoalape notes that without sustainable implementation over the long term, Ghana will not be able to reap the benefits.

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Music: Nigeria’s New Cultural Exporthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/music-nigerias-new-cultural-export/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=music-nigerias-new-cultural-export http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/music-nigerias-new-cultural-export/#respond Thu, 16 Aug 2018 12:19:51 +0000 Franck Kuwonu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157227 It is a cold evening in Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city, famous for diamonds, beer, art and high-end fashion. Inside a small restaurant, a mix of the latest American pop and rap—clearly enjoyed by diners—is playing on a radio. Nigerians Olalekan Adetiran and Adaobi Okereke, enjoying a kebab dinner, are startled when the radio begins playing […]

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Wizkid performs in London, United Kingdom. Photo: Alamy/Michael Tubi - Nigerian music is drawing interest from beyond the borders, showcasing the vitality of a creative industry that the government is now depending on, among other sectors, to diversify the economy and foster development.

Wizkid performs in London, United Kingdom. Photo: Alamy/Michael Tubi

By Franck Kuwonu, Africa Renewal*
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 16 2018 (IPS)

It is a cold evening in Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city, famous for diamonds, beer, art and high-end fashion. Inside a small restaurant, a mix of the latest American pop and rap—clearly enjoyed by diners—is playing on a radio. Nigerians Olalekan Adetiran and Adaobi Okereke, enjoying a kebab dinner, are startled when the radio begins playing the unmistakable “Ma Lo”—a catchy, midtempo and bass-laden song by popular Nigerian artistes Tiwa Savage and Wizkid.

The song, currently a hit in Nigeria and across Africa, awakens thoughts of home; they cannot stop smiling at the pleasant surprise. They are visiting Belgium as part of a tour of European countries and their cultural landmarks.

A week earlier, barely two months after its release, the eye-popping video of the song had been viewed on YouTube more than 10 million times—and counting.

For Mr. Adetiran, hearing “Ma Lo” on a Belgian radio station not known to cater to African communities confirms that music from Naija (as Nigerians fondly refer to their country), is going places. It reflects the greater reach of a new generation of Nigerian artists.

Just like the country’s movie industry, Nollywood, Nigerian music is drawing interest from beyond the borders, showcasing the vitality of a creative industry that the government is now depending on, among other sectors, to diversify the economy and foster development.

 

 

Greater recognition

Last November, Wizkid won the Best International Act category at the 2017 MOBO (Music of Black Origin) Awards held in London, the first for an Africa-based artist. He beat back competition from more established global celebrities such as Jay-Z, Drake, DJ Khaled and Kendrick Lamar.

At the same MOBO Awards, Davido, another Nigerian artist, took home the Best African Act award for “If,” one of his hit songs—a love-themed ballad with a blend of Nigerian rhythms and R & B.

Since its release in February 2017, the official “If” video has racked up more than 60 million views on YouTube, the highest number of YouTube views for any Nigerian music video and one of the highest ever recorded for a song by an African artist.

Across the African continent, other musical groups, such as Kenya’s boy band Sauti Sol, Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz and South Africa’s Mafikizolo, have collaborated with or featured Nigerian top stars in attempts to gain international appeal. Reuters news service calls Nigerian music a “cultural export.”

The Nigerian government is now looking to the creative industries, including performing arts and music, to generate revenues.

 

A billion-dollar industry?

“When we talk about diversifying the economy it is not just about agriculture or solid minerals alone, it is about the creative industry—about the films, theatre and music,”
Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information and culture


In rebasing or recalculating its GDP in 2013, the Nigerian government included formerly neglected sectors, such as the entertainment industries led by Nollywood. As a result, the country’s GDP increased sharply, from $270 billion to $510 billion, overtaking South Africa that year as the continent’s biggest economy, notes the Brookings Institution, a US-based nonprofit public policy think tank.

Brookings reports, however, that the GDP rise didn’t show an increase in wealth and that a recent crash in the price of oil, the country’s main export, is slowing economic growth.

Nigerian music sales revenues were estimated at $56 million in 2014, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), an international accounting and auditing firm. The firm projects sales revenues to reach $88 million by 2019.

Globally, the creative industry is among the most dynamic economic sectors. It “provides new opportunities for developing countries to leapfrog into emerging high-growth areas of the world economy,” the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), a UN body that deals with trade, investment and development issues, said in a 2016 report.

Over the last decade, Europe has been the largest exporter of creative products, although exports from developing countries are growing fast too, UNCTAD reported.

According to PwC, lumped together, annual revenues from music, movies, art and fashion in Nigeria will grow from $4.8 billion in 2015 to more than $8 billion in 2019,.

Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics reports that the local music sector grew “in real terms by 8.4% for the first three months of 2016” and that in the first quarter of 2017, the sector grew by 12% compared with the same period one year prior.

The growth may be attributed to a reversal in music consumption patterns, according to local media reports. Up to the early 2000s, the music in clubs and on the radio in Nigeria was dominated by British and American hit songs.

Not anymore. Reportedly, most Nigerians now prefer songs by their local artists to those by foreigners, even the big ones in the West.

“When I go out, I want to hear songs by Davido or Whizkid or Tekno; like other people, I cannot enjoy myself listening to songs by foreign artistes anymore,” says Benjamin Gabriel, who lives in Abuja. With a population of about 180 million, Nigerian artists have a huge market to tap into. The big ones like Whizkid and Davido are feeling the love—maybe the cash too!

 

The new oil

“We are ready to explore and exploit the ‘new oil,’” Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, commented ahead of a creative industry financing conference held in Lagos last July.

“When we talk about diversifying the economy it is not just about agriculture or solid minerals alone, it is about the creative industry—about the films, theatre and music,” Mr. Mohammed said.

He was reacting to UNCTAD’s findings that the creative industry contributed £84.1 (about $115.5) billion to the British economy in 2014 and $698 billion to the US economy that same year. “Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind,” Mr. Mohammed declared.

The Nigerian government is already providing incentives to investors in the sector, including a recent $1 million venture capital fund to provide seed money for young and talented Nigerians looking to set up business in creative industries.

The government is also allowing the industry “pioneer status,” meaning that those investing in motion picture, video and television production, music production, publishing, distribution, exhibition and photography can enjoy a three- to five-year tax holiday.

Other incentives, such as government-backed and privately backed investment funds, are also being implemented.

Yet as hopes of a vibrant industry rise, pervasive copyright violations could stunt its growth.

 

Profits are “scattered”

In December 2017, the Nigerian police charged three people in Lagos with copyright violations. Their arrests had been widely reported in the country months earlier. “Piracy: Three suspects arrested at Alaba with N50 million [US$139,000] worth of materials,” Premium Times, a Lagos-based newspaper, announced in a headline.

Alaba market in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, is famous for electronics, but it is also notorious for all things fake and cheap, attracting customers from across West Africa to East Africa.

Recent efforts by the authorities to fight piracy led to police raids of Alaba and other markets in the country, resulting in the seizure of pirated items worth $40 million.

Despite such raids, the business of pirated music and movie CDs continues unabated, turning enforcement efforts into a game of Whack-A-Mole. With minimal returns from CD sales, Nigerian artists rely on ringtone sales, corporate sponsorship contracts and paid performances to make ends meet. Most Nigerian artists now prefer online releases of their songs.

Still, online release poses its own challenges. For example, Mr. Adetiran and Mr. Okereke recall visiting in March 2017 a club in Dakar, Senegal, where DJs spun Nigerian beats nonstop. The two realised only much later that those songs had been downloaded from the Internet.

“When you create your content and put it out, it’s scattered,” Harrysong, a Nigerian singer, told the New York Times in June 2017, echoing Mr. Adetiran and Mr. Okereke’s experience. He was expressing performers’ sense of powerlessness as they lose control of sales and distribution of their music.

The Times summed it up like this: “Nigeria’s Afrobeat music scene is booming, but profits go to pirates.”

*Africa Renewal, a magazine published by the United Nations, was launched in 1987. It was formerly published as Africa Recovery/Afrique Relance. 

This article was originally published here

 

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Joint Action Needed to Reform our Food Systemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/joint-action-needed-reform-food-system/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=joint-action-needed-reform-food-system http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/joint-action-needed-reform-food-system/#respond Wed, 15 Aug 2018 11:57:08 +0000 Carol Gribnau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157220 Carol Gribnau is director of the Hivos global Green Energy and Green Food programs

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Smallholder coffee farmers. Credit: SAFE Platform

By Carol Gribnau
Aug 15 2018 (IPS)

While participating in this year’s High-level Political Forum (HLPF), one thing became crystal clear to me. Come 2030, we will not have healthy and affordable food if we continue with business as usual. But no one institution can single handedly change the course of our food system. The key to ensuring a sustainable food system is involving a diverse group of actors – from smallholder farmers to government – to generate ideas for change, together.

 

Save our coffee

Look at the coffee sector. Everybody loves their cup of coffee, but will we still be able to drink it in the future? Our recently launched 2018 Coffee Barometer, which measures the sector’s sustainability, finds that coffee has a global retail value of USD 200 billion, but less than 10 percent of it stays in producing countries. Without increased investments in sustainable coffee production and a living wage for the 25 million smallholder farmers who produce that coffee, our future supply is at risk.

This is why Hivos works in multi-stakeholder partnerships in Latin America (the SAFE Platform) and East Africa (the 4s@scale program) which together – through targeted support to both male and female farmers – have already benefited over 200,000 coffee farmers.

Carol Gribnau

Carol Gribnau

How multi-stakeholder collaboration works

Everyone recognizes the need for multi-stakeholder collaboration, but it’s good to understand exactly what we’re talking about. Connecting multiple stakeholders with various interested parties within a food system allows us to look at the challenges from a whole new perspective and address them in a way we never could if everyone worked independently to solve a problem. This sort of collaboration works best with:

Tailor-made approaches

There’s not one food system but multiple, very context-specific food systems. This requires a tailored approach for each scenario, where different actors work together to gain a deep understanding of local circumstances before designing solutions. The “Lab” approach, which Hivos applies in several countries, allows for exactly that and helps the actors move from global to national and local platforms. Given the complexity of food systems, local platforms are likely to be the most effective.

 

The right people at the table

The transformation towards sustainable food systems requires involving key actors, especially those whose voices are rarely heard in policy making: small-scale producers, (low-income) consumers and women. Making their food system visible to policymakers is crucial to ensure that policy and local realities are on the same page and power imbalances are addressed. Multi-stakeholder platforms that do not truly involve these key actors are not well designed. The choices of the convener who brings everyone to the table are critical.

One Plan for One Planet

Engaging multiple actors to transform the food system was in fact a hot topic from 9 to 17 July at the HLPF. It was a significant event for us to showcase our work on SDG 12 (“Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”). Together with the World Wildlife Fund and the governments of Switzerland and South Africa, Hivos co-leads the Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) program, one of the six programs within the One Planet Network, the official multi-stakeholder network putting SDG 12 into action.

 

 

Changing the food system in Zambia

Hivos promotes local multi-actor platforms – so called Food Change Labs – in several countries through our Sustainable Diets for All program. I presented one of these at the HLPF as a concrete example of using multi-stakeholder partnerships to support implementation on the ground.

The Zambia Food Change Lab brings together low-income consumers, traders, traditional leaders, producers, and government authorities, among others, to address the limited crop diversity on Zambian farms and in local diets. It’s a facilitated, safe space for them to build a collective understanding of Zambia’s current food system, generate ideas for change, and test these innovations on the ground. It fosters long-term engagement, collective leadership, and joint initiatives. When they work together, the impact is far-reaching and long-lasting. Outcomes such as strengthened capacities, networks and trust between actors have the potential to positively influence the system for many years to come.

 

 

Food Lab campaign for food diversity in Zambia. Credit: Hivos - Joint action needed to reform our food system

Food Lab campaign for food diversity in Zambia. Credit: Hivos

 

Call to action

On our last day at HLPF 2018, Hivos Director Edwin Huizing called on national governments to speed up their transitions, the private sector to bring a business case for a more solid, sustainable, and inclusive food system, and civil society organizations to build bridges with local communities and showcase best practices. Securing the active participation of Southern actors is particularly vital.

 

This opinion piece was originally published here

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Carol Gribnau is director of the Hivos global Green Energy and Green Food programs

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Let Food Be Thy Medicinehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/let-food-thy-medicine/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=let-food-thy-medicine http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/let-food-thy-medicine/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 10:10:59 +0000 Adelheid Onyango and Bibi Giyose http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157204 Adelheid Onyango is Adviser for Nutrition at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa and Bibi Giyose is Senior Nutrition and Food Systems officer, and Special Advisor to the CEO of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

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Health is more than the absence of disease: adequate nutrition is a critical part of the equation

Typical food store in Brazzaville, Congo. Credit: WHO

By Adelheid Onyango and Bibi Giyose
BRAZZAVILLE, Congo, Aug 14 2018 (IPS)

When faced with a crisis, our natural reaction is to deal with its immediate threats. Ateka* came to the make-shift clinic with profuse diarrhoea: they diagnosed cholera. The urgent concern in the midst of that humanitarian crisis was to treat the infection and send her home as quickly as possible. But she came back to the treatment centre a few days later – not for cholera, but because she was suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Doctors had saved her life but not restored her health. And there were others too, who like Ateka eventually succumbed to severe malnutrition.  

This scene could have taken place in any of the dozen or so African countries that have suffered a cholera outbreak this year alone. Experience from managing epidemics has shown that when the population’s baseline nutritional status is poor, the loss of life is high.

Beyond malnutrition’s damaging impact on bodily health, it weakens the immune system, reducing the body’s resistance to infection and resilience in illness.

Most of the diseases that entail catastrophic costs to individuals, households and national healthcare systems in Africa could be avoided if everyone was living actively and consuming adequate, diverse, safe and nutritious food. After all, a healthy diet not only allows us to grow, develop and prosper, it also protects against obesity, diabetes, raised blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

On the flipside, integrating the treatment of malnutrition in the response to humanitarian crises assures survival and recovery better than an exclusive focus on treating diseases.

As countries across the continent commit themselves to Universal Health Coverage (UHC), the same lessons need to apply. UHC is ultimately about achieving health and wellbeing for all by 2030, a goal that is inextricably linked with that of ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition.

With 11 million Africans falling into poverty every year due to catastrophic out-of-pocket payments for healthcare, no one can question the need to ensure that everyone, everywhere, can obtain the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship.

As wealth patterns and consumption habits change, the African region is now faced with the triple burden of malnutrition – undernutrition coupled with micronutrient deficiencies and increasing levels of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases.

In 2016, an estimated 59 million children in Africa were stunted (a 17 percent increase since 2000) and 14 million suffered from wasting – a strong predictor of death among children under five. That same year, 10 million were overweight; almost double the figure from 2000. It’s estimated that by 2020, non-communicable diseases will cause around 3.9 million deaths annually in the African region alone.

Yet most of the diseases that entail catastrophic costs to individuals, households and national healthcare systems in Africa could be avoided if everyone was living actively and consuming adequate, diverse, safe and nutritious food. After all, a healthy diet not only allows us to grow, develop and prosper, it also protects against obesity, diabetes, raised blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

To tackle malnutrition, achieve UHC and ultimately reach the goal of health and wellbeing for all, governments need to put in place the right investments, policies and incentives.

As a starting point, governments need to assure the basic necessities of food security, clean water and improved sanitation to prevent and reduce undernutrition among poor rural communities and urban slum populations in Africa. For example, reduction in open defecation has been successful in reducing undernutrition in Ethiopia, parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Tanzania.

Then, to influence what people eat, we need to do a better job at improving food environments and at educating them about what constitutes a healthy diet. Hippocrates asserted that “all disease begins in the gut,” with the related counsel to “let food be thy medicine.”

Current research on chronic diseases is reasserting the health benefits of consuming minimally-processed staple foods which formed the basis of traditional African diets. This information needs to be communicated to the public through the health and education sectors and complemented by agricultural innovation to increase production of the nutrient-rich grains, crickets, herbs, roots, fruits and vegetables that were the medicine for longevity among our hardy ancestors.

But until that awareness is in place, policies and programmes are urgently needed to protect and promote healthy diets right from birth. This includes regulating the marketing of breast milk substitutes and foods that help establish unhealthy food preferences and eating habits from early childhood.

In South Africa, for example, the country with the highest obesity rate in Sub-Saharan Africa, the government has introduced a ‘sugar tax’ that is expected to increase the price of sugary soft drinks. The hope is that this will encourage consumers to make healthier choices and manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their products.

Finally, governments must create incentives – and apply adequately dissuasive sanctions when necessary – to help food manufacturers collaborate in promoting healthy diets through reformulation and informative labelling, for example. In cases of food contamination, we are very quick to take products off the shelves. Yet we are much slower to react to the illnesses caused by processed foods containing high quantities of salt, sugars, saturated fats and trans fats.

A shortcut to achieving Universal Health Coverage is to reduce the need for costly treatments. And there is no better way to do that than to ensure that everyone, everywhere, preserves their health and has access to safe and nutritious food: let food be thy medicine.

*name has been changed

 

The post Let Food Be Thy Medicine appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Adelheid Onyango is Adviser for Nutrition at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa and Bibi Giyose is Senior Nutrition and Food Systems officer, and Special Advisor to the CEO of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

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When Salt Water Intrusion is Not Just a Threat But a Reality for Guyanese Farmershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/salt-water-intrusion-not-just-threat-reality-guyanese-farmers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=salt-water-intrusion-not-just-threat-reality-guyanese-farmers http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/salt-water-intrusion-not-just-threat-reality-guyanese-farmers/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 07:46:03 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157018 Mikesh Ram would watch his rice crops begin to rot during the dry season in Guyana, because salt water from the nearby Atlantic Ocean was displacing freshwater from the Mahaica River he and other farmers used to flood their rice paddies. The intrusion of salt water into the rice paddies had been happening off and […]

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Kaieteur Falls, Guyana. Guyanese farmers have been reporting salt water intrusion for a number of years. This especially happens during periods of drought and in those regions where irrigation water is sourced from rivers and creeks which drain into the Atlantic Ocean. Courtesy: Dan Sloan/CC By 2.0

By Jewel Fraser
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Aug 14 2018 (IPS)

Mikesh Ram would watch his rice crops begin to rot during the dry season in Guyana, because salt water from the nearby Atlantic Ocean was displacing freshwater from the Mahaica River he and other farmers used to flood their rice paddies.

The intrusion of salt water into the rice paddies had been happening off and on for the past 10 years, and he, like many other rice farmers in Regions 4 and 5 of Mahaica, Guyana, had sustained periodic financial losses due to the ocean overtopping the 200-year-old sea walls erected as barricades to the sea. And while 2015 was an unusually good year for Guyana’s rice harvest, the following year, 2016, saw a 16 percent drop in production.

Though the fall-off in production that year could not entirely be attributed to the salt water intrusion, expert sources say this was part of the problem. The United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service’s Commodity Intelligence Report notes that reduced rice production “was due to myriad problems including drought, water rationing, salt water intrusion, lack of crop rotation, less fertiliser input, and slower and lower returns to farmers.” It added that for the first rice crop of 2016, “about 20 percent was affected by drought and another 15 percent had salt water intrusion on fields.”“The knowledge of the [agricultural] extension officers in mitigating and adapting to the salt water intrusion is questionable, however, but a real education and awareness campaign should start with these officers who interact with farmers more frequently.” -- Heetasmin Singh

The rice-growing regions of Demerara-Mahaica and Berbice-Mahaica are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, located as they are six feet below sea level on Guyana’s Atlantic north coast.

Heetasmin Singh, who completed a master’s degree at the University of Guyana, presented a paper on the subject at the just concluded Latin America and Caribbean Congress for Conservation Biology, held Jul. 25-27 at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies, Trinidad. Following her presentation, she told IPS via e-mail of some of the concerns farmers in the region have.

She said, “Farmers have been reporting salt water intrusion for a number of years, maybe as much as 10 years (or more) in certain regions of the country. This especially happens during periods of drought and in those regions where irrigation water is sourced from rivers and creeks which drain into the Atlantic Ocean (as opposed to a water conservancy or catchment)… the salt water intrusion is not just a threat, it is a reality for many of them.”

Farmer Mikesh’s son, Mark Ram, is a colleague of Singh as well as a scientific officer at the Centre for the Study of Biological Diversity at the University of Guyana. He told IPS that salt water intrusion normally occurs during the dry season when there is less fresh water because the rains have not fallen. He said the salinity had one of two effects on growing rice plants: it could either kill them or slow down their rate of growth,

“Usually, [salt water] affects the plant when they have just been planted because…we are required to flood the fields. So what we would do, we usually wait until it rains a bit, then flood the fields and add fertiliser. Then we release the water and then try to flood it again. It is at this time [when] the water becomes saline because the rain has not fallen that it affects the crop, it kills out the rice fields.” On the other hand, he said, “it can delay harvesting time because the rice is not going to grow as fast as it should.”

Sometimes, he said, “there is actual rotting of the plant” due to the water’s salinity.

To counteract the problems caused by salt water intrusion, farmers in the Mahaica region rely on fresh water supplies from the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority. According to the USDA Commodity Intelligence Report, Guyana is “divided into water conservancy regions, [and] has developed an irrigation and dike infrastructure to help farmers use supplemental irrigation from reservoirs while protecting areas through levees from unseasonably heavy rains which could flood or erode land. To help the agricultural sector, starting in January 2016, Guyana’s National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) water authorities begin pumping available water into the drier conservancies.”

“Farmers ask the NDIA to release some of the fresh water from the major reservoirs,” Ram said.  “Once they receive this it reduces the salinity so that the water becomes usable.” However, no other adaptation or mitigation measures had so far been implemented by farmers, he said.

Singh noted via e-mail that “the knowledge of the [agricultural] extension officers in mitigating and adapting to the salt water intrusion is questionable, however, but a real education and awareness campaign should start with these officers who interact with farmers more frequently.”

She added, “Many farmers I interviewed saw the effects of the soil salinisation on their crops but many were not familiar with the term climate change or were not adapting best practices for ameliorating soil salinisation. They instead sought to solve their low crop yields issues with more fertilisers which would end up doing more harm than good for the crops.”

However, she notes that some will flush their fields and allow water and the salts to percolate through and past the root zone of the crops. Others will ensure their soils are deep ploughed to ensure faster percolation of salts past their crop root zone. With sea level rises for Guyana projected to rise anywhere from 14 cm to 5.94 metres in 2031; from 21 cm to 6.02 metres in 2051; and from 25 cm to 6.19 metres in 2071, the need for proactive adaptation and mitigation measures becomes ever more urgent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Which Way Now for Zimbabwe as Constitutional Court Receives Petition Against Election Results?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/way-now-zimbabwe-constitutional-court-receives-petition-election-results/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=way-now-zimbabwe-constitutional-court-receives-petition-election-results http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/way-now-zimbabwe-constitutional-court-receives-petition-election-results/#respond Mon, 13 Aug 2018 07:12:06 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157186 Many in Zimbabwe are questioning whether the country can break with its horrid past or embrace a new future after a watershed election that saw Emmerson Mnangagwa win the presidential race by a narrow margin and the opposition lodge a formal petition challenging the results in the Constitutional Court. Mnangagwa–a trusted and past enforcer of […]

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Voters queuing ahead of Zimbabwe's Jul. 30 general elections. The election saw Emmerson Mnangagwa win the presidential race but the opposition has lodge a formal petition challenging the results. Courtesy: The Commonwealth/CC By 2.0

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Aug 13 2018 (IPS)

Many in Zimbabwe are questioning whether the country can break with its horrid past or embrace a new future after a watershed election that saw Emmerson Mnangagwa win the presidential race by a narrow margin and the opposition lodge a formal petition challenging the results in the Constitutional Court.

Mnangagwa–a trusted and past enforcer of former president Robert Mugabe–won the vote by 50.8 percent against the 44.9 percent garnered by Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-Alliance).

Mnangagwa’s 2.46 million votes, against Chamisa’s 2.15 million, gave him the mandatory 50+1 percent required to be declared winner.

But the MDC-Alliance on Friday afternoon, Aug. 10, lodged a petition with the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe challenging the results, halting the inauguration of Mnangagwa that had been slated for Sunday, Aug. 12.

The Constitutional Court will consider the matter over 14 days but political watchers say that what the ruling will be, remains unclear. The court could reject the MDC-Alliance petition and confirm Mnangagwa’s win, or it could confirm Chamisa’s presented evidence and rule in the opposition’s favour. The court could also order another election, which could be held within the next 60 days.“The future of Zimbabwe lies in a negotiated settlement now because of what the country stands to lose [rather] than gain if a political resolution is not found soon.” -- Political analyst and human rights activist, Effie Ncube.

Political analyst and human rights activist, Effie Ncube, says that should the court rule in favour of Chamisa and order a rerun, this could stoke tensions. He says that a preferred solution would be inclusive discussions out of court between Mnangagwa and Chamisa.

“Keeping away from a re-run is the best solution for Zimbabwe because the tension on the ground now is not ideal for an election without triggering violence,” Ncube tells IPS. “The future of Zimbabwe lies in a negotiated settlement now because of what the country stands to lose [rather] than gain if a political resolution is not found soon.”

Mugabe may have been ousted, but his brutal legacy lingers over a country desperate for a fresh start. Zimbabwe’s Jul. 30 elections–the first since Mugabe was toppled last November–did not disappoint on the dearth of harmony. Violence, in all its forms, has been emblematic of Mugabe’s rule and is something that president-elect Mnangagwa sought a clean break from.

But violence, intimidation, killings and disputed results soiled the elections.

Two weeks ago police clashed with opposition supporters who staged a demonstration outside the offices of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) over the delayed announcement of the presidential election results. The army fired on protesting supporters, killing six people and injuring scores more. The tragedy stained the polls despite pleas from both the ruling Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) and the opposition MDC for a violence-free election.

“Mugabe’s legacy of brutality has returned to haunt us again but at least it was clear who was in charge,” Dumisani Nkomo, director of Habakkuk Trust, a civil rights advocacy organisation, notes. “Right now it is not clear who is charge and many centres of power seem to have emerged and even within the army there appears to be many centres of command as evidenced by the mystery of who deployed soldiers in Harare.”

Nkomo says the credibility of the electoral process has been severely eroded by issues around the voters roll, postal voting and election results.

“This is a really complex situation because contested election outcomes have been an issue since 1980 and more visibly in 2000, 2002 and 2013 and we seem to be moving in circles,” Nkomo tells IPS. “The election result cannot in all honesty be termed free and fair because of the uneven playing field and the clampdown on civil liberties after the announcement of the results.”

The elections had a semblance of being free on many fronts; the polls were relatively peaceful, there was a new biometric voters’ system, a well-organised and resourceful ZEC, and a plethora of candidates and parties vying for power.

While observers from the Southern African Development Community and African Union have endorsed the elections as free and fair, the European Union has pointed to irregularities.

Economist and lawmaker, Eddie Cross, says he expects the presidential ballot to stand up to the court challenge.

“Any legal challenge should therefore be short lived,” Cross said in post-election commentary on his website. “The big challenge facing Emmerson Mnangagwa is now to unite the country under his leadership and heal the wounds of past battles–the struggle for independence… the struggle against the MDC since 2000 with 5,000 abductees, tens of thousands beaten and tortured, hundreds of deaths and the near total destruction of the economy, all in the name of fighting the restoration of real democracy.”

Time to build bridges

Mnangagwa has scoffed at the idea of a government of national unity, an arrangement his predecessor, was forced to enter into in 2008 with the opposition MDC, which had been led at the time by the late Morgan Tsvangirai.

“I have two-thirds majority and you are talking about me abandoning my two-thirds majority to set a government of national unity?” Mnangagwa commented on Skye News television during an interview last week.

“Not that it’s a bad idea, but it doesn’t show that there is any need. I am saying politics should now take the back seat because the elections are behind us. We should now put our shoulders to the wheel for purposes of modernising our economy, growing our economy together. Those who have voted against me, those who voted for me, we say Zimbabwe is ours together.”

In spite of the violence that has marred the election outcomes, Zimbabwe was banking on a smooth assumption of power as a ticket into the fold of the international community.

However, in a move set to pile pressure on the new government to double its effort to reengage the international community and institute a raft of political and economic reforms, the United States last week renewed sanctions on Zimbabwe, which have been in place since 2001.

The economy remains a key challenge Mnangagwa has to address swiftly.

Mnangagwa has been on an international investment charm offensive, promoting Zimbabwe’s new open business approach.

The country needs an economic vision to ensure growth, unlock business opportunities, jobs, restore trust in the banking sector and hopefully bring back a local currency.

“Mnangagwa has the opportunity to turn the country round, he has made the right pronouncements on the economy that he needs to follow up with action. I think he wants to play a [Nelson] Mandela come in as a person who transforms the country and moves it to democracy and move away from the dictatorship,” says Ncube.

“Should the court confirm Mnangagwa as the winner, there could be less tension. But the credibility and legitimacy of the regime will be questioned and that will challenge its ability to organise international investment and undermine political stability.”

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Children and Women with Disabilities, More Likely to Face Discriminationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/children-women-disabilities-likely-face-discrimination/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-women-disabilities-likely-face-discrimination http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/children-women-disabilities-likely-face-discrimination/#comments Mon, 13 Aug 2018 06:46:05 +0000 Carmen Arroyo and Emily Thampoe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157190 This article is part of a series of stories on Disability inclusion.

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Women with disabilities in Afghanistan protest for their rights. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS.

By Carmen Arroyo and Emily Thampoe
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 13 2018 (IPS)

Children with disabilities are up to four times more likely to experience violence, with girls being the most at risk, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“Children with disabilities are among the most marginalised groups in society. If society continues to see the disability before it sees the child, the risk of exclusion and discrimination remains,” Georgina Thompson, a media consultant for UNICEF, told IPS.

According to the World Health Organisation, 15 percent of the global population lives with disabilities, making it the largest minority in the world—with children and women numbering higher among those disabled.

Last month, more than 700 representatives of non-governmental organisations, private companies and governments got together to address the systemic discrimination that exists against people with disabilities at the Global Disability Summit in London.

“Creating a more equal world where children with disabilities have access to the same opportunities as all children is everyone’s responsibility,” Thompson said.

More than 300 organisations and governments signed an action plan to implement the U.N. International Convention on Disability, which included 170 commitments from multiple stakeholders to ensure disability inclusion. The summit was organised by the governments of Kenya and the United Kingdom, along with the International Disability Alliance. The most important topics discussed during the meetings included passing laws to protect disabled citizens and promoting access to technology for people with disabilities.

Women and children face the most discrimination within the disabled community. A report presented to the U.N. Secretary-General on the situation of women and girls with disabilities stated that while 12 percent of men present a disability, a slightly higher amount of women—19 percent—have a disability.

In addition, girls are much less likely to finish primary school than boys, if both present disabilities. And girls are more vulnerable to sexual violence.

According to the U.K.’s Department for International Development, mortality for children with disabilities can be as high as 80 percent in states where child mortality has significantly decreased.

There is a strong consensus regarding the risk that both children and women face. “Women with disabilities are especially vulnerable to discrimination and violence (three to five times more likely to suffer from violence and abuse that the average [female] population),” André Félix, external communications officer at the European Disability Forum, told IPS.

When asked what to do to address this issue, A.H. Monjurul Jabir, co-lead of the U.N. Women’s Global Task Team on Disability and Inclusion, explained his viewpoint on establishing a targeted gender agenda: “The implementation of strategy requires a bottom-up approach by offices, colleagues, and partners on the ground.”

According to Jabir, U.N. Women’s strategy is “to support U.N. Women personnel and key stakeholders to facilitate the full inclusion and meaningful participation of women and girls with disabilities.”

“This would be done across all U.N. Women’s priority areas through our operational responses and internal accessibility to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls with disabilities,” he said.

Thompson suggested the following strategy for UNICEF: “We must increase investment in the development and production of assistive technologies. Assistive technologies, such as hearing aids, wheelchairs, prosthetics, and glasses, give children with disabilities the chance to see themselves as able from an early age.”

The aforementioned strategy was one of the goals of the Global Partnership for Assistive Technology, a collaboration launched during the summit to accomplish the sustainable development goals and offer technology to those who with disabilities. “And yet, in low-income countries, only five to 15 percent of those who need assistive technology can obtain it,” Thomson added.

And, as 80 percent of the population with disabilities live in developing countries, emergency situations and lack of education are also crucial issues to be addressed when launching policies for disability inclusion.

“We must make humanitarian response inclusive. In emergency situations, children with disabilities face a double disadvantage. They face the same dangers as all children in conflicts or natural disasters do, including threats to their health and safety, malnutrition, displacement, loss of education and risk of abuse.

“But they also face unique challenges, including lack of mobility because of damaged infrastructure, difficulty fleeing harm and the prejudices that keep them from accessing the urgent assistance they need,” Thompson said.

According to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, 90 percent of children who live in developing countries that have educational opportunities available do not attend school.

“We must make education inclusive. Around half of all children with disabilities do not go to school because of prejudice, stigma or lack of accessible learning. Of those who do go to school, about half do not receive quality education because of a lack of trained teachers, accessible facilities, or specialised learning tools,” Thompson urged. “Excluding children with disabilities from education can cost a country up to five percent of its GDP due to lost potential income.”

But, who is responsible?

As was seen during the summit, member states are not the only stakeholders taking responsibility for disability inclusion. U.N. agencies, NGOs, and private firms are constantly launching programmes to reduce the gap and erase discrimination.

However, Félix explained what each stakeholder would be responsible for: “Member States are the policymakers. They need to guarantee that all the population is included and benefits from international development and inclusive policies. They also need to make sure that they consult civil society in the process.”

As for civil society, he said: “Civil society’s role is to monitor and advise the project and while they need to be included and part of international development (especially local civil society), the resources should come from member states.”

Thus, their work is intrinsically linked: “Structures of support for persons with disability must be community-based, which means no support for institutions that segregate persons with disabilities.”

Thompson added that those actors must work so closely that it would be hard to separate roles.

Agreeing with her, Jabir concluded: “It is the responsibility of everyone, all actors and stakeholders, we must work together, cohesively, not separately. The days of only standalone approach, or silo mentality is over.”

The post Children and Women with Disabilities, More Likely to Face Discrimination appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories on Disability inclusion.

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

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How the Lack of Affordable Vegetables is Creating a Billion-Dollar Obesity Epidemic in South Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/lack-affordable-vegetables-creating-billion-dollar-obesity-epidemic-south-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lack-affordable-vegetables-creating-billion-dollar-obesity-epidemic-south-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/lack-affordable-vegetables-creating-billion-dollar-obesity-epidemic-south-africa/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 10:51:04 +0000 Nalisha Adams http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157170 Every Sunday afternoon, Thembi Majola* cooks a meal of chicken and rice for her mother and herself in their home in Alexandra, an informal settlement adjacent to South Africa’s wealthy economic hub, Sandton. “Vegetables is only on Sunday,” Majola tells IPS, adding that these constitute potatoes, sweet potato and pumpkin. Majola, who says she weighs […]

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The number of young South Africans suffering from obesity doubled in the last six years, while it had taken the United States 13 years for this to happen.

Fruit and vegetable prices in South Africa have increased to the point that poorer people have had to remove them from their grocery lists. Credit: Nalisha Adams/IPS

By Nalisha Adams
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 10 2018 (IPS)

Every Sunday afternoon, Thembi Majola* cooks a meal of chicken and rice for her mother and herself in their home in Alexandra, an informal settlement adjacent to South Africa’s wealthy economic hub, Sandton.

“Vegetables is only on Sunday,” Majola tells IPS, adding that these constitute potatoes, sweet potato and pumpkin. Majola, who says she weighs 141 kgs, has trouble walking short distances as it generally leaves her out of breath. And she has been on medication for high blood pressure for almost two decades now.“It is precisely a justice issue because at the very least our economy should be able to provide access to sufficient and nutritious food. Because, at the basis of our whole humanity, at the very basis of our body, is our nutrition." -- Mervyn Abrahams, Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group

“Maize is a first priority,” she says of the staple item that always goes into her shopping basket. “Every Saturday I eat boerewors [South African sausage]. And on Sunday it is chicken and rice. During the week, I eat mincemeat once and then most of the time I fill up my stomach with [instant] cup a soup,” she says of her diet.

Majola is one of about 68 percent of South African women who are overweight or obese, according to the South African Demographic and Health Survey. The Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition’s Food Sustainability Index (FSI) 2017 ranks 34 countries across three pillars: sustainable agriculture; nutritional challenges; and food loss and waste.  South Africa ranks in the third quartile of the index in 19th place. However, the country has a score of 51 on its ability to address nutritional challenges. The higher the score, the greater the progress the country has made. South Africa’s score is lower than a number of countries on the index.

Families go into debt to pay for basic foods

Many South Africans are eating a similar diet to Majola’s not out of choice, but because of affordability.

Dr. Kirthee Pillay, lecturer of dietetics and human nutrition at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, tells IPS that the increase of carbohydrate-based foods as a staple in most people’s diets is cost-related.

“Fruit and vegetable prices have increased to the point that poorer people have had to remove them from their grocery lists.”

The Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa), a social justice non-governmental organisation, noted last October in its annual food barometer report that while the median wage for black South Africans is USD209 a month, a monthly food basket that is nutritionally complete costs USD297.

The report also noted that food expenditure from households arise out of the monies left over after non-negotiable expenses, such as transport, electricity, debt and education needs have been paid first. And this resulted in many families incurring debt in order to meet their food bills.

“Staples are cheaper and more filling and people depend on these, especially when there is less money available for food and many people to feed. Fruit and vegetables are becoming luxury food items for many people given the increasing cost of food. Thus, the high dependence on cheaper, filling staples. However, an excessive intake of carbohydrate-rich foods can increase risk for obesity,” Pillay tells IPS via email.

Majola works at a national supermarket chain, with her only dependent being her elderly mother. She says her grocery bill comes to about USD190 each month, higher than what most average families can afford, but agrees that the current cost of fruit and vegetables are a luxury item for her.

“They are a bit expensive now. Maybe they can sell them at a lesser price,” she says, adding that if she could afford it, she would have vegetables everyday. “Everything comes from the pocket.”

Monopoly of Food Chain Creating a System that Makes People Ill

David Sanders, emeritus professor at the school of public health at the University of the Western Cape, says that South Africans have a very high burden of ill health, much of which is related to their diet.

But he adds that large corporates dominate every node of the food chain in the country, starting from inputs and production, all the way to processing, manufacturing and retail. “So it is monopolised all the way up the food system from the farm to the fork.”

“The food system is creating, for poor people anyway, a quite unhealthy food environment. So for well-off people there is sufficient choice and people can afford a nutritionally-adequate diet, even one of quite high quality.

“But poor people can’t. In most cases, the great majority, don’t have a kind of subsistence farming to fall back on because of land policies and the fact that in the 24 years of democracy there hasn’t been significant development of small scale farming,” Sanders, who is one of the authors of a report on food systems in Brazil, South Africa and Mexico, tells IPS.

According to the report, about 35,000 medium and large commercial farmers produce most of South Africa’s food.

In addition, Sanders points out that a vast majority of rural South Africans purchase, rather than grow, their own food.

“The food they can afford tends to be largely what we call ultra processed or processed food. That often provides sufficient calories but not enough nutrients. It tends to be quite low often in good-quality proteins and low in vitamins and minerals – what we call hyper nutrients.

“So the latter situation results in quite a lot of people becoming overweight and obese. And yet they are poorly nourished,” Sanders explains.

The Sugar Tax Not Enough to Stem Epidemic of Obesity

In April, South Africa introduced the Sugary Beverages Levy, which charges manufacturers 2.1 cents per gram of sugar content that exceeds 4g per 100 ml. The levy is part of the country’s department of health’s efforts to reduce obesity.

Pillay says while it is still too early to tell if the tax will be effective, in her opinion “customers will fork out the extra money being charged for sugar-sweetened beverages. Only the very poor may decide to stop buying them because of cost.”

Sander’s points out “it’s not just the level of obesity, it is the rate at which this has developed that is so alarming.”

A study shows that the number of young South Africans suffering from obesity doubled in the last six years, while it had taken the United States 13 years for this to happen.

“Here is an epidemic of nutrition, diet-related diseases, which has unfolded extremely rapidly and is just as big and as threatening and expensive as the HIV epidemic, and yet it is going largely unnoticed.”

Overweight people have a risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and hypertension, which places them at risk for heart disease. One of South Africa’s largest medical aid schemes estimated in a report that the economic impact on the country was USD50 billion a year.

“Even if people knew what they should eat there is very very little room for manoeuvre. There is some, but not much,” Sanders says adding that people should rather opt to drink water rather than purchase sugary beverages.

“Education and awareness is a factor but I would say that these big economic drivers are much more important.”

Sanders says that questions need to be asked about how the control of the country’s food system and food chain can “be shifted towards smaller and more diverse production and manufacture and distributions.”

“Those are really the big questions. It would require very targeted and strong policies on the part of government. That would be everything from preferentially financing small operators [producers, manufacturers and retailers]…at every level there would have to be incentives, not just financial, but training and support also,” he says.

Pillay agrees that the increase in food prices “needs to be addressed as it directly influences what people are able to buy and eat. … Sustainable agriculture should assist in reducing the prices of locally-grown fruit and vegetables and to make them more available to South African consumers.”

Mervyn Abrahams, one of the authors of the Pacsa report, now a programme coordinator at the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, tells IPS that the organisation is campaigning for a living wage that should be able to provide households with a basic and sufficient nutrition in their food basket. The matter, he says, is one of economic justice.

“It is precisely a justice issue because at the very least our economy should be able to provide access to sufficient and nutritious food. Because, at the basis of our whole humanity, at the very basis of our body, is our nutrition. And so it is the most basic level by which we believe that the economy should be judged, to see whether there is equity and justice in our economic arena.”

*Not her real name.

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2017 Global Findex: Behind the Numbers on Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/2017-global-findex-behind-numbers-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2017-global-findex-behind-numbers-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/2017-global-findex-behind-numbers-bangladesh/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 09:11:19 +0000 Joep Roest http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157167 Joep Roest is Senior Financial Sector Specialist, Inclusive Markets, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)

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Credit: Md Shafiqur Rahman, 2016 CGAP Photo Contest. 2017 Global Findex: Behind the Numbers on Bangladesh

Credit: Md Shafiqur Rahman, 2016 CGAP Photo Contest

By Joep Roest
WASHINGTON DC, Aug 10 2018 (IPS)

On the face of it, the 2017 Global Findex shows that Bangladesh has made great strides toward financial inclusion since the previous Findex was released in 2014.

In that time, the percentage of adults with financial accounts rose from 31 to 50 percent — a gain almost entirely due to a 20 percent increase in bKash mobile money accounts. As remarkable as these advances are, the data also reveal some challenges Bangladesh faces around financial inclusion.

To start with, Bangladesh has a lot going for it that help explain these overall gains. Its economy has done well over the past decade, with annual growth of 5 to 7 percent.

Roughly 20.5 million Bangladeshis escaped poverty between 1991 and 2010, more than halving the poverty rate from 44.2 to 18.5 percent. The increase in spending power likely fuels the growing demand for financial services.

Findex shows that 65 percent of Bangladeshi men have accounts while only 36 percent of women have accounts. Intermedia’s Financial Inclusion Insights survey bears this out, too. Of all its measured demographics, women saw the least growth in financial inclusion. Why are women being left behind?

The fact that Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world (three times more so than India) also works to its advantage when it comes to financial inclusion.

Banks, mobile network operators and other providers can cover large portions of the country’s 161 million people with relatively little infrastructure.

According to Intermedia, the percentage of the population living within 5 km of an access point jumped from 89 percent in 2013 to 92 percent in 2017, putting Bangladesh far ahead of other countries in South Asia.

This is important because studies show that proximity to an agent greatly increases the likelihood of use of financial services.

Bangladesh also enjoys rapidly improving mobile phone and internet connectivity, which has no doubt fueled the remarkable 20 percent surge in mobile money account ownership. In 2010, just 32 percent of the population subscribed to mobile services.

That number rose to 54 percent in 2017. Over the same period, mobile internet connectivity grew from 26 to 33 percent. Of course, there is still a lot of room for improvement. More than 70 million people still do not subscribe to mobile services at all.

Nevertheless, the growing popularity of cell phones is creating new opportunities for a new class of providers like bKash to reach customers with mobile financial services.

For all of these impressive gains, Findex also points to significant challenges for Bangladesh. A stark gender gap stands out. As my colleague Mayada El-Zoghbi discussed in an earlier post, Bangladesh is among a number of countries like Pakistan, Jordan and Nigeria whose overall advances in financial inclusion have left women behind.

In fact, Bangladesh’s gender gap in financial access grew a whopping 20 percentage points from 2014 to 2017. At 29 percentage points, it is now one of the largest gender gaps in the world.

 

Source: Mayada El-Zoghbi, “Measuring Women’s Financial Inclusion: The 2017 Findex Story”

Source: Mayada El-Zoghbi, “Measuring Women’s Financial Inclusion: The 2017 Findex Story”

 

Overall, Findex shows that 65 percent of Bangladeshi men have accounts while only 36 percent of women have accounts. Intermedia’s Financial Inclusion Insights survey bears this out, too. Of all its measured demographics, women saw the least growth in financial inclusion.

Why are women being left behind? It has often been noted that cultural norms play a role in Bangladesh, limiting women’s access to accounts and agents. While these constraints certainly play a big role, another related factor is the disparity in access to mobile phones.

According to Intermedia, 76 percent of Bangladeshi men own a phone, but just 47 percent of women can say the same. Since most of the country’s gains in financial inclusion have been driven by mobile financial services, this is a significant constraint for women.

Another challenge in Bangladesh, and a likely reason why overall financial inclusion numbers are not even higher, is the fact that its mobile financial services ecosystem has yet to mature to the point where a stream of innovative offerings entice more people to use digital financial services.

Although 18 mobile financial services providers are active in Bangladesh, bKash claims 80 percent market share. Its main competitor, Dutch-Bangla Bank Limited, has enjoyed moderate success but not enough to make much of an impression on the overall market.

As Findex shows, having such a dominant player in the market is a blessing and a curse. bKash has considerably increased people’s access to financial services. At the same time, the lack of competition has stifled innovation. There are few compelling mobile financial services in Bangladesh beyond person-to-person (P2P) transfers, which are the bread and butter of bKash’s business.

The lack of use cases beyond P2P transfers may be one of the reasons why over-the-counter transactions — in which people use agents’ accounts to transfer money so they don’t have to sign up for their own accounts — comprise 70 percent of total transactions, even though they are officially not permitted. People just don’t see good enough reasons to sign up for their own accounts.

Government policy has played a significant role in both driving these advances in financial inclusion and holding them back. On the one hand, the government’s “Digital Bangladesh” initiative and government-to-person (G2P) digitization programs have increased the number of people with financial accounts.

For example, in just six months, payments provider SureCash and the Ministry of Education enrolled 10 million poor women with accounts, into which they receive stipends. Programs like this can help close the gender gap.

Even more encouraging, the government has been exploring interoperable payments infrastructure that works beyond G2P. There is also momentum to clarify electronic know-your-customer requirements, which would make it easier for providers to use biometric identity verification and extend services to the poor.

On the other hand, mobile financial services regulations have been partly responsible for the lack of competition and innovation in the mobile financial services space. The market is open to banks and bank subsidiaries, but not nonbanks in general.

For instance, mobile network operators have a long-standing interest in directly providing mobile financial services to customers but have not been allowed to do so. As a result, bKash sits atop the market with only lackluster competition from banks.

A key question for the future of financial inclusion in Bangladesh will be to what extent FinTech players will be allowed to capitalize on the country’s generally favorable conditions around connectivity, scale and distribution. Another important question is to what extent international actors will shape the market.

Ant Financial’s recent stake in bKash may shake up the entire space. If their entry into other Asian markets is any indication, they take an active approach to their investments and will inject a much-needed stimulus into Bangladesh’s sleepy digital financial services space.

 

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Excerpt:

Joep Roest is Senior Financial Sector Specialist, Inclusive Markets, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)

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Undertaking One of the Largest Solar Water Initiatives in Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/undertaking-one-largest-solar-water-initiatives-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=undertaking-one-largest-solar-water-initiatives-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/undertaking-one-largest-solar-water-initiatives-yemen/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 15:28:03 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157165 Yemen has one of the lowest supplies of freshwater per capita in the world. The effects of a growing population and limited water resources have been exacerbated a great deal by climate change and the escalating conflict. An estimated 90 per cent of Yemen’s population does not have access to sufficient water and only 40 […]

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IOM engineers inspect recently installed solar panels on a Sana’a school rooftop, located near a well. Credit: Saba Malme/IOM 2018

By International Organization for Migration
Aug 9 2018 (IOM)

Yemen has one of the lowest supplies of freshwater per capita in the world. The effects of a growing population and limited water resources have been exacerbated a great deal by climate change and the escalating conflict.

An estimated 90 per cent of Yemen’s population does not have access to sufficient water and only 40 per cent have access to safe drinking water.

Many Yemenis have no option but to drink unsafe water.

In 2017, this led to Yemen suffering the worst cholera outbreak in recorded history — over 1 million cases, more than half of which were children. New outbreaks constantly threaten people in Yemen.

Children in a displacement site in an extremely dry part of Yemen. Credit: Muse Mohammed/IOM 2017

How is Solar Energy Helping Yemen Access New Water Sources?

In response to severe water scarcity, IOM, the UN Migration Agency, is utilizing solar energy to provide reliable and affordable access to clean water for communities affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in areas where fuel and electricity supply is either nonexistent, erratic or just too expensive. Solar powered deep wells and pumps have been installed in three communities. As there is no State generated electricity for these communities at the moment, the power generated from solar panels activates a pump that extracts water from the wells and then brings it into people homes.

Nearly a million litres are now being pumped by solar power every day through this project.

“After assessing a number of different solar pumping schemes in other humanitarian settings and evaluating the feasibility to solarize local water points in critical areas, we decided to adopt this renewable energy in our water projects across Yemen,” said Abdulmalek Al-Mogahed, IOM Yemen Engineer. “This not only cuts dependency and high recurrent costs of the fuel-based technology that we previously used, but also ensures essential water provision in places where supply and prices of fuel and other basic commodities are affected by the ongoing conflict and are erratic at best. The only way to continue to provide essential life-saving services, such as clean water, to people affected by Yemen’s conflict is by finding creative solutions that reduce service provision costs,” he added.

School rooftop in Sana’a being fitted with solar panels. Credit: Saba Malme/IOM 2018

Using the roof space of three high schools in the Amanat Al Asimah and Sana’a Governorates, 940 strategically-installed solar panels are supporting two 120 kilowatt (KW) and one 65 KW power systems, providing 834,000 litres of water every day by pumping water for 7 hours from three different wells into the water systems in seven neighbourhoods. Some 55,000 people can now access adequate safe water on a daily basis. In addition to the immediate public health and livelihood benefits of having more reliable and affordable water, this initiative is helping save an estimated 162,000 litres of diesel worth 58.3 million Yemeni Rials or USD 121,0000 (at current prices) and 400 tonnes of carbon emissions every year.

During the development of the project, IOM consulted with local communities to get their feedback on the plans, as well as with local authorities and school administrations. IOM also plans to run community awareness raising campaigns on the importance of renewable energy and capacity building in terms of maintenance and servicing in the next phase of the project.

This solar water initiative in Yemen gives IOM an opportunity to contribute to a more effective and sustainable use of natural resources, connecting humanitarian responses to sustainable development.

“We hope this solar water project encourages others in the country to follow suit,” added Al-Mogahed.

This initiative is supported through funding from the United States Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the Government of Germany. In July 2018, IOM handed the project over to the local authorities and communities, while still providing support to ensure its sustainability. IOM plans to continue to work towards solarization across Yemen.

This story was posted by IOM’s team in Yemen.

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New Agreement with China: Opportunity to Save Mozambique’s Forestshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/new-agreement-china-opportunity-save-mozambiques-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-agreement-china-opportunity-save-mozambiques-forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/new-agreement-china-opportunity-save-mozambiques-forests/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 14:32:14 +0000 Duncan Macqueen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157160 Duncan Macqueen is a principal researcher on forests at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)*

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Vast quantities of logs being unloaded in the port of Zhangjiagang, South-East China. China’s commitment to invest in establishing timber processing plants in Mozambique means it can help end the export of whole logs to China, introduce modern, efficient processing facilities that are less wasteful and so use fewer trees, create jobs for local people and increase much needed tax revenue. Credit: Simon Lim/IIED

By Duncan Macqueen
LONDON, Aug 9 2018 (IPS)

Mozambique’s forests are disappearing at an alarming rate, with most of the destruction caused by excessive logging, corruption and weak laws.

Better enforcement and improving regulations, including in its trade with China, are key to reversing this trend as ‘China in Mozambique’s forests: a review of issues and progress for livelihoods and sustainability’, a new report from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) shows.

About 10,000 square metres of Mozambique’s forests are being cut down every minute. And almost all of the 93% of its timber that it exports to China is from just five species. According to customs import and export data, the rate of harvesting these species exceeds even the highest limit permitted under Mozambique’s forest law. Some analysts are concerned that this could lead to the complete depletion of these commercial species over the next 15 years.

The country’s forests cannot sustain this rate of destruction. Not only will it devastate the country’s environment, it will also damage its development.

In June, China and Mozambique signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which has the potential to help save Mozambique’s forests and make its timber industry more sustainable.

One crucial aspect is that it commits China to invest in establishing timber processing plants within Mozambique. This will help put an end to the practice of shipping either whole logs or poorly cut timber to China, which in some cases are not useable by the time it arrives. Or due to outdated technology, has resulted in unnecessary and significant waste.

In China, state of the art industrial processing plants are standard. With China adopting a ‘go global’ investment strategy it has an opportunity to transfer high-tech processing technology to Africa. The new processing facilities that have already been established in Mozambique can cut the timber with minimal waste.

New giant drying warehouses allow freshly cut wood to dry properly stopping it from warping en route to China where it is turned into furniture, flooring, panelling and a range of other household items.

A Chinese worker at the timber depot of Green Timber, a Chinese-owned timber concession operating in Mozambique’s Nampula and Zambezia provinces. Green Timber has a concession area in excess to 200,000 hectares. Some of their timber is sawn and used in Mozambique but much of it is exported uncut. Credit: Mike Goldwater

The more processing that can take place in Mozambique, the more the timber industry can provide local jobs, while also increasing the amount of tax that is paid to the Mozambique government. Better processing also means that fewer trees are cut for each item created because the processing is more precise and wastes less wood.

This type of increased investment also acts as an incentive for Chinese companies to care about the health of the forest. In committing significant amounts of money, they will expect to see a sustainable supply of timber over the long term in order to pay back their investments. This will not be possible if the forests are depleted by over logging.

The Memorandum of Understanding also calls for the two governments to work together to increase such investments and develop a bilateral verification system to combat illegal logging and sustainably manage forests. Cutting out low-cost, illegal operators is an important part of making sustainable forestry pay.

One frequent problem has been that the volume of timber leaving Mozambique has been recorded as significantly lower than the amount recorded on arrival. According to UN Comtrade, in 2013 Mozambique reported exporting 280,796 cubic metres of timber to China. The amount recorded on arrival was more than double that at 601,919 cubic metres.

By jointly developing a bar-coded, internet-based, electronic timber tracking system that allows real-time data entry and checking throughout the supply chain, Mozambique’s ability to control legal and illegal logging can be increased.

Beyond the Memorandum, inspection and monitoring also need to be improved. Mozambican forest experts have calculated that the number of forest inspectors needs to be more than doubled from 630 to 1,800 to help implement any new timber tracking system.

Mozambique also needs to implement substantial reforms to its forest law. Legal reforms began in 2015 but have stalled. Critical is the need to change how concessions for logging are granted. There are two types of licences: Long-term industrial-scale concessions and short-term simple licences.

Simple licences, which are granted for up to 10,000 hectares of forest designated for logging, are particularly destructive.

Loading logs on a flatbed lorry. Credit: Mike Goldwater

Renewable every five years, the short licence period and minimal management requirements makes these forests especially vulnerable to wholesale plundering of valuable species, as there is no incentive for companies to give smaller trees time to mature for future harvests.

And in 2017, geo-referenced mapping revealed that some of the concession areas are more than six times larger than officially allowed.

It is crucial that simple licences are scrapped and that all concessions are granted for 50 years, with mandatory regular compliance assessments and sustainable management plans.

The forest law also needs to grant commercial forest rights to communities that already have land rights. Currently, local forest communities are required to abide by the same expensive and complicated process as industrial companies when applying for concessions – including having to build a processing plant.

Because of this, many communities collaborate with illegal loggers to earn at least some money from the rapidly diminishing forests. In a couple of cases, local NGOs have helped communities apply for concessions, but the costs and complexities of running a processing industry is far beyond their means. More needs to be done to secure their commercial rights.

This could include establishing new community forest concessions that are conditional on keeping the forest intact. By giving local women and men the right to make money from timber sales to third parties, they will have more incentive to protect the forests.

Mozambique and China are in a position to make the changes needed to establish a sustainable forest industry that will benefit local forest communities and the country as a whole. Now it is just a question of whether they have the political and practical will.

For IIED’s video ‘China’s Investment, Africa’s forests’ and for more information on China in Africa’s forests see: https://www.iied.org/finding-green-path-for-china-africa

*The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is a policy and action research organisation based in the United Kingdom. It promotes sustainable development to improve livelihoods and protect the environments on which these livelihoods are built. For more information please see www.iied.org

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Excerpt:

Duncan Macqueen is a principal researcher on forests at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)*

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Indigenous Peoples Least Responsible for the Climate Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/indigenous-peoples-least-responsible-climate-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-least-responsible-climate-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/indigenous-peoples-least-responsible-climate-crisis/#comments Thu, 09 Aug 2018 07:43:06 +0000 Jamison Ervin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157153 Jamison Ervin is Manager, UNDP’s Global Programme on Nature for Development

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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Photo - UNDP/ PNG-Bougainville People celebration

By Jamison Ervin
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 9 2018 (IPS)

Indigenous peoples, who comprise less than five percent of the world’s population, have the world’s smallest carbon footprint, and are the least responsible for our climate crisis. Yet because their livelihoods and wellbeing are intimately bound with intact ecosystems, indigenous peoples disproportionately face the brunt of climate change, which is fast becoming a leading driver of human displacement.

In Papua New Guinea, for example, residents of the Carteret Islands – one of the most densely populated islands in the country – have felt the effects of climate change intensify over recent years. With a high point on their islands of just 1.2 meters above sea level, every community member is now at risk from sea level rise and storm surges.

Moreover, the community depends almost entirely on fishing for their food and livelihoods, but the health of sea grass beds and coral reefs has gradually deteriorated from warming waters and coral bleaching.

The residents of these islands faced a stark choice – to be passive victims of an uncertain government resettlement program, or to take matters into their own hands. They chose the latter. In 2005, elders formed a community-led non-profit, called Tulele Peisa, to chart their own climate course. In the Halia language, the name means “Sailing the Waves on our Own,” an apt metaphor for how the community is navigating rising sea levels.

In 2014, the initiative won the prestigious, UNDP-led Equator Prize, in recognition for their ingenuity, foresight and proactive approach in facing the challenges of climate change, while keeping their cultural traditions intact.

Earlier this month, Jeffrey Sachs published an article entitled “We Are All Climate Refugees Now,” in which he attributed the main cause of climate inaction to the willful ignorance of political institutions and corporations toward the grave dangers of climate change, imperiling future life on Earth. 2018 will likely be recorded as among the hottest year humanity has ever recorded.

Yet a slew of recent articles highlight that we are not on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. We have not shown the collective leadership required to tackle this existential crisis.

Carteret Islanders have been broadly recognized as the world’s first climate refugees, but they are not alone. Arctic indigenous communities are already facing the same plight, as are their regional neighbors from the island nation of Kiribati.

According to the World Bank, their plight will likely be replicated around the world, with as many as 140 million people worldwide being displaced by climate change within the next 30 years or so.

But the Carteret Island leaders are more than just climate refugees. They have done something precious few political leaders have done to date – they recognized the warning signs of climate change as real and inevitable, they took stock of their options, and they charted a proactive, realistic course for their own future that promised the most good for the most people. Therefore, they could also be called the world’s first true climate leaders.

Let’s hope that our world’s politicians and CEOs have the wisdom, foresight and fortitude of the elders of Carteret Islanders. Because like it or not, we will all be sailing the climate waves on our own, with or without a rudder and a plan.

The post Indigenous Peoples Least Responsible for the Climate Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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States Must Act Now to Protect Indigenous Peoples During Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/states-must-act-now-protect-indigenous-peoples-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=states-must-act-now-protect-indigenous-peoples-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/states-must-act-now-protect-indigenous-peoples-migration/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 19:13:13 +0000 UN experts on Indigenous Peoples http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157142 States around the world must take effective action to guarantee the human rights of indigenous peoples, says a group of UN experts. In a joint statement marking International day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the experts say it is crucial that the rights of indigenous peoples are realised when they migrate or are displaced from […]

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Indigenous men and women of Nuñoa in Puno, Peru, spin and weave garments based on the fiber of the alpacas. Credit: SGP-GEF-UNDP Peru/Enrique Castro-Mendívil

By UN experts* on Indigenous Peoples
GENEVA/NEW YORK, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

States around the world must take effective action to guarantee the human rights of indigenous peoples, says a group of UN experts. In a joint statement marking International day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the experts say it is crucial that the rights of indigenous peoples are realised when they migrate or are displaced from their lands:

“In many parts of the world, indigenous peoples have become migrants because they are fleeing economic deprivation, forced displacement, environmental disasters including climate change impacts, social and political unrest, and militarisation. Indigenous peoples have shown remarkable resilience and determination in these extreme situations.

We wish to remind States that all indigenous peoples, whether they migrate or remain, have rights under international instruments, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

While States have the sovereign prerogative to manage their borders, they must also recognise international human rights standards and ensure that migrants are not subjected to violence, discrimination, or other treatment that would violate their rights. In addition, states must recognise indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination; lands, territories and resources; to a nationality, as well as rights of family, education, health, culture and language.

The Declaration specifically provides that States must ensure indigenous peoples’ rights across international borders that may currently divide their traditional territories.

Within countries, government and industry initiatives, including national development, infrastructure, agro-business, natural resource extraction and climate change mitigation, or other matters that affect indigenous peoples, must be undertaken with the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples, such that they are not made to relocate against their will. States must recognise that relocation of indigenous peoples similarly triggers requirements including free, prior and informed consent, as well as restitution and compensation under the Declaration.

We are concerned about human rights violations in the detention, prosecution and deportation practices of States. There is also a dearth of appropriate data on indigenous peoples who are migrants. As a result of this invisibility, those detained at international borders are often denied access to due process, including interpretation and other services that are essential for fair representation in legal processes.

We call on States immediately to reunite children, parents and caregivers who may have been separated in border detentions or deportations.

In addition, States must ensure that indigenous peoples migrating from their territories, including from rural to urban areas within their countries, are guaranteed rights to their identity and adequate living standards, as well as necessary and culturally appropriate social services.

States must also ensure that differences among provincial or municipal jurisdictions do not create conditions of inequality, deprivation and discrimination among indigenous peoples.

We express particular concern about indigenous women and children who are exposed to human and drug trafficking, and sexual violence, and indigenous persons with disabilities who are denied accessibility services.

We look forward to engagement in the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration regarding indigenous peoples’ issues.

On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we urge States, UN agencies, and others, in the strongest terms possible, to ensure indigenous peoples’ rights under the Declaration and other instruments, and to recognise these rights especially in the context of migration, including displacement and other trans-border issues.”

(*) The experts: The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a subsidiary body of the Human Rights Council. Its mandate is to provide the Council with expertise and advice on the rights of indigenous peoples as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to assist Member States in achieving the ends of the Declaration through the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the rights of indigenous peoples. It is composed of seven independent experts serving in their personal capacities and is currently chaired by Ms Erika Yamada.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council, with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. The Forum is made up of 16 members serving in their personal capacity as independent experts on indigenous issues. Eight of the members are nominated by governments and eight by the President of ECOSOC, on the basis of broad consultation with indigenous groups. It is currently Chaired by Ms Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine. 

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. 

The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples was established by the General Assembly in 1985. The Fund provides support for indigenous peoples’ representatives to participate in sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Human Rights Council, including its Universal Periodic Review, and UN human rights treaty bodies. Its Board of Trustees is currently Chaired by Mr. Binota Dhamai.

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Along with Peace, Eritreans Need Repression to Endhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/along-with-peace-eritreans-need-repression-to-end/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=along-with-peace-eritreans-need-repression-to-end http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/along-with-peace-eritreans-need-repression-to-end/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 14:50:43 +0000 Laetitia Bader http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157137 Laetitia Bader is a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch

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The rugged landscape of Tigray, Ethiopia’s most northern region, stretches away to the north and into Eritrea. Once Eritrea was Ethiopia’s most northern region until gaining independence in 1991. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

The rugged landscape of Tigray, Ethiopia’s most northern region, stretches away to the north and into Eritrea. Once Eritrea was Ethiopia’s most northern region until gaining independence in 1991. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Laetitia Bader
ROME, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

“Military service was the only prospect on my horizon — I didn’t want that,” a 20-year-old Eritrean who fled the country last year told me. “My dad had spent his whole life in military service.”

The young man, whom I recently met at an informal settlement in Rome, dreaded Sawa camp, where most Eritrean students spend their final year of high school before indefinite national service. To avoid that system, which has destroyed citizens’ lives since the border war with Ethiopia began in the late 1990s, hundreds of thousands of people, including children, have fled into exile. One young Eritrean we recently spoke to described national service as “bad treatment without any end in sight.”

On July 9, in a significant turn of events, Eritrea’s long-serving president, Isaias Afewerki, and Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, signed a declaration announcing “a new era of peace and friendship” between the countries.

Since then, each government has appointed an ambassador to the other country and reopened telephone, road and air connections for the first time in decades. Officials now discuss the possibility of land-locked Ethiopia using Eritrea’s Red Sea ports, unimaginable only a year ago. Ethiopia’s official news agency even announced a friendly football match scheduled for late August.

 

Peace has been a long time coming

In May 1998 a bloody border war erupted, and an estimated 100,000 people, mainly soldiers, are believed to have died and countless civilians were displaced, detained or summarily deported.  While active fighting ended in December 2000, enmity did not: Ethiopia rejected an international border commission’s ruling that the town of Badme, where the war began, was Eritrean territory.

Laetitia Bader - Along with Peace, Eritreans Need Repression to End

Laetitia Bader

President Isaias and Eritrea’s ruling elite have used this “no war no peace” as a justification to hold much of the country’s population largely hostage. Many of those with contrary or critical views of governance were jailed or forced to flee, deemed to have undermined Eritrea’s national security.

Repression is well-entrenched. The president has refused to hold elections since independence in 1993 and to implement the constitution with its bill of rights. The country has no functioning legislature nor independent judiciary.

Eritrea’s horrific prison system is bursting with political prisoners. The government has effectively eliminated independent public criticism. It is one of the leading jailers of journalists in Africa,  and does not permit independent domestic media, non-governmental groups, or opposition political parties. Rare public protests – such as November 2017 protests at a private Islamic school in Asmara against the arrest of the school’s nonagenarian honorary president – are met with mass arrests and occasionally with lethal force.

Freedom of religion, seen as a threat to loyalty to the nation, is severely restricted. Members of “unrecognized” religions are regularly incarcerated until they renounce their faith.

Eritrea’s horrific prison system is bursting with political prisoners. The government has effectively eliminated independent public criticism. It is one of the leading jailers of journalists in Africa, and does not permit independent domestic media, non-governmental groups, or opposition political parties.

Indefinite endless national service — which channels Eritreans, some underage, into either the military or civilian positions — is ultimately the government’s main system of control over the population. Inside, they face serious abuses, including torture, lack of food, and insufficient pay to support a family.  In 2016, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry characterized national service as “enslavement.”

But with the July 9 declaration, the Eritrean government’s– never legitimate justification for its repressive policies and system suddenly disappeared.

In recent weeks, there have been unconfirmed reports in the media of a handful of releases of detainees, including Jehovah’s Witnesses.

But the jury is still out as to whether the government will start to dismantle the systematic repression. Many Eritreans have taken to social media calling for key rights reforms, but so far, such reforms have not occurred.

President Isaias has often been impervious to condemnation for this human rights record, but regional and international entities reengaging with Eritrea should encourage him to take concrete steps to end government repression.

They should urge the government to immediately release the surviving members of a group of 21 journalists and prominent government officials held incommunicado since September 2001, at least 10 of whom are believed to have died in detention, and confirm the whereabouts and conditions of other political prisoners held incommunicado.  The government should also immediately release prisoners held for their religious beliefs, including the patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox church and at least 53 Jehovah’s Witnesses, 3 of whom have been held for 24 years.

International actors should call on the government to cooperate with United Nations’ and African Commission’s independent experts and allow them to visit the country to monitor detention facilities. The government should also make a public commitment to abide by the 1997 constitution, which would provide a framework for more substantial reforms.

Finally, it should announce a timetable for demobilizing national service conscripts and start by immediately releasing those who have served more than five years.

High-level public rapprochement is important, but if Eritrea wants the full benefits of peace, it needs allow its citizens the freedom to enjoy them and give its youth the chance to hope again.

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Excerpt:

Laetitia Bader is a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch

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Beyond Boundaries – Cultural Literacy in Indiana & Rwandahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/beyond-boundaries-cultural-literacy-indiana-rwanda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-boundaries-cultural-literacy-indiana-rwanda http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/beyond-boundaries-cultural-literacy-indiana-rwanda/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 12:08:02 +0000 Vera Marinova http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157129 Vera Marinova is Associate Director of Indiana University's Global Living-Learning Community and director of Books & Beyond

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Vera Marinova is Associate Director of Indiana University's Global Living-Learning Community and director of Books & Beyond

By Vera Marinova
BLOOMINGTON, Indiana, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

For ten years now, in special partnership with the community of Musanze, Rwanda, Indiana University (IU) has created meaningful programs and connections across the country. It is an unlikely partnership, one that formed over 10 years ago with a university alum recognizing an opportunity for not only cultural literacy but friendship.

It was 2005 and IU alumna Nancy Uslan was traveling in Rwanda when she noticed none of the school children in the local primary school had books. She came back to the states and turned to her alma mater to create a program that would not only provide high-quality books to students at the Kabwende Primary School, but would also provide a cultural exchange between U.S. elementary-school students and Rwandan students.

Fast forward 10 years later, and IU’s impact in Rwanda has grown exponentially. For the past 6 years, we have expanded the program in a variety of ways and this summer (Aug. 10-18, 2018), in efforts to commemorate our 10 years of service in Rwanda, we have invited a number of faculty and professionals who will each work on specific projects associated with the promotion of literacy and education.

We still provide books — 20,000 total this year — but we have grown to include teacher training; a three-week, literacy-focused camp for students; the school’s first library and three playgrounds.

And we’re not done. This year, we are providing eye exams and glasses for hundreds of students. We will also be providing 3-D prosthetic hands to four young people in the area, along with partnering with a local high school to teach 3-D printing and bring those vocational skills to the community to create tools needed in construction, that are hard to find locally in Rwanda.

In essence, this holistic approach has helped us to look “beyond” as the program continues to grow and find new ways to share and partner with communities in Rwanda. We remain committed to create, grow, and further educational opportunities for children in both Rwanda and America.

I am extremely proud of the work IU is doing in Rwanda and the commitment and enthusiasm our students and faculty have for making a difference both at home and abroad. In celebrating ten years of successful engagement between our two nations, we have created lasting partnerships and friendships that will last a lifetime to come.

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Excerpt:

Vera Marinova is Associate Director of Indiana University's Global Living-Learning Community and director of Books & Beyond

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The Legalization of Abortion in Argentina will Benefit Thousands of Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/legalization-abortion-will-benefit-thousands-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=legalization-abortion-will-benefit-thousands-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/legalization-abortion-will-benefit-thousands-women/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 09:19:39 +0000 Nelly Minyersky http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157123 The author of this oped, Nelly Minyersky, is a lawyer and family law specialist, writing for Amnesty International

The post The Legalization of Abortion in Argentina will Benefit Thousands of Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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A demonstration in support of legal abortion in Argentina. Credit: Demian Marchi/Amnesty International

A demonstration in support of legal abortion in Argentina. Credit: Demian Marchi/Amnesty International

By Nelly Minyersky
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

We are at an historic moment in Argentina, a turning point in the path of women’s rights.

Although women in Argentina enjoy a regulatory framework that can be considered progressive in Latin America (regardless of its efficiency and/or effectiveness), it is clear that criminalization of abortion (Art. 86 of the Criminal Code of the Nation) constitutes a flagrant violation of a plethora of rights that are legitimately ours and which are enshrined in the National Constitution and Human Rights Treaties. These texts form a body of constitutional rules and regulations that include the right to freedom, equality, autonomy, to freedom from discrimination, to public health, family planning, etc.

For decades, Argentine women have been fighting to break the iron fist that attempts to decide our destiny and our life choices for us. One sector of society and the state exercise power over the lives and autonomy of women without mentioning the illegitimacy and immorality of their position, turning legitimate behaviour (such as sexual relations) into potentially criminal action.

These people do not understand that when the human rights platform is expanded (such as through the decriminalization and legalization of abortion), no-one is forced to exercise those rights. The beliefs and conscience of each individual empowers them to invoke such rights or not, as they see fit. Maintaining the current situation therefore involves imposing beliefs on a wide sector of society, with the state interfering in the private lives of pregnant women.

Through their action, the anti-rights or “pro-life” sector, as they call themselves, imposes authoritarian restrictions on the life and destiny of a majority of women in our country. They prevent women from enjoying human rights that relate fundamentally to the most intimate, private and deep aspects of their personality: their sexual freedom, family planning, when, how and with whom to have children.

The tragedy is that these positions are held without any minimum or essential basis in the biological or legal sciences. They have tried, vexatiously, to place the embryo and/or fetus on an equal footing with women in all rights and aspects, and to give equal weight to the embryo and to the life of the woman, even though this latter physically exists and is a legal and moral person. In their presentations, they show videos which, in reality, are premature births and not abortions, they falsify statistics and refer to techniques that neither exist nor are practised in this country, with the sole aim of deceiving society.

Nelly Minyersky

They also incorrectly refer to Human Rights Treaties, particularly the Pact of San José, with regard to references to the right of a person as from the moment of conception. The proper interpretation of this article, as noted in the Pact itself and in the way in which the Convention was approved, makes it clear that this wording was intended to protect norms that already respected terminations taking place in Latin America.

We must also not forget that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the CEDAW Committee have both repeatedly called on the Argentine State to protect women and adolescents of all ages by making available to them the legal and other means that will help to prevent forced pregnancies and by amending abortion laws.

The draft Law on Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy is an enormous step forward in the recognition of women’s autonomy. It accepts the principles of bioethics, which are based on express recognition of human dignity as a founding principle. It completely decriminalizes consensual abortion up to and including week 14.

It maintains that women should not be penalized when they have been the victim of rape or where there is a risk to the mother’s life, and includes norms such as informed consent and the right of adolescents to seek medical care even without the presence of an adult (on the understanding that it is a bioethical duty to treat any person within the health system who, when faced with rejection, would clearly opt for the worst solution). It also includes a duty on the part of the health service to prevent, inform and support. In the context of a plural society, neither bioethics nor the law can be subordinate to “a moral duty”.

After decades of fighting for the decriminalization and legalization of abortion, spearheaded by members of the “National Campaign for the Right to Legal, Safe and Free Abortion” (Campaña Nacional por el Derecho al Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito) which, in recent years, has been calling for laws to be passed in this regard and has submitted draft bills on seven opportunities,  a debate and preliminary approval have finally been achieved in Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies, with more than a million people of different genders and ages protesting in the streets of the city.

In accordance with our legislative procedure, the draft is now therefore being considered in the Senate, with a vote due on the 8th of this month. On that day, there will be two million people on the streets of Buenos Aires to support and demand approval of a law that the women of Argentina deserve.

Approval of this law, which already has preliminary legislative approval, will offer health and quality of life benefits to thousands upon thousands of girls, teenagers and women. We must not be afraid when debates result in an extension of rights, and in full equality before the law and in life.

The post The Legalization of Abortion in Argentina will Benefit Thousands of Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

The author of this oped, Nelly Minyersky, is a lawyer and family law specialist, writing for Amnesty International

The post The Legalization of Abortion in Argentina will Benefit Thousands of Women appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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