Inter Press Service » Development & Aid News and Views from the Global South Mon, 30 Nov 2015 11:14:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 In Botswana: Leaving the Corporate Office to Work the Land – and Finding Opportunity Mon, 30 Nov 2015 11:14:24 +0000 Ngala Killian Chimtom 0 Malawi Working to Improve Nutrition Sensitive Agricultural Production Mon, 30 Nov 2015 07:53:23 +0000 Mabvuto Banda 0 Ethiopia: The Biggest African Refugee Camp No One Talks About Sun, 29 Nov 2015 21:51:31 +0000 James Jeffrey 0 Addressing Climate Change Through Sustainable Development Sun, 29 Nov 2015 08:36:59 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram

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

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

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

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

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

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

Climate Change and Development

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Public Finance Key

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

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

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

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

Key Priorities

Key elements of a feasible action plan would thus include:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

By Oishanee Ghosh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Nov 27 2015 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chile’s contribution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet why does it still happen?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

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

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

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

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

Food system: problem and solution

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

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

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

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

Healthy food systems for healthier people

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

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

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

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

Smart investment

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

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


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Drought Threatens Water-Truck Lifeline in Parched Northeast Brazil Thu, 26 Nov 2015 08:55:02 +0000 Nadia Pontes A dead cow lies on a highway in drought-hit Pesqueira, northeast Brazil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is already having devastating effects on communities like Pacheco.

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

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

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

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

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

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Women Suffer Psychological Problems After Living Under Taliban Thu, 26 Nov 2015 07:19:14 +0000 Ashfaq Yusufzai 0 World’s Poorest Nations Battle Rising Rural Poverty Wed, 25 Nov 2015 18:46:41 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer can be contacted at

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From Darkness to Light: Dramatic Rescue of Tanzanian Miners Trapped 41 Days in Rubble Wed, 25 Nov 2015 08:06:54 +0000 Kizito Makoye 0 Hunger Heralds Climate Change’s Arrival in Botswana Tue, 24 Nov 2015 15:38:23 +0000 Baboki Kayawe Cattle among drought victims. Credit: Kagiso Onkatswitse

Cattle among drought victims. Credit: Kagiso Onkatswitse

By Baboki Kayawe

A perfect storm of lower rainfall and a growing population beckons for Botswana. But others find climate change is already in the fields and paddocks. “As climate change ushers in more stress on the water sector, it is increasingly a concern that losses in rangeland productivity will result in food insecurity, especially in rural areas,” a country analysis report unveiled recently on Botswana states.

Far from the airy conference rooms where such reports are typically shared, are thousands of subsistence farmers – growing crops mainly to feed their families – for whom these words come to life in the fields and the paddocks of Botswana every harvest season.

For these farmers, the national ideals of poverty eradication and sustainable development are slipping ever further out of reach. Bathalefhi Seoroka, 65, is a subsistence farmer in Boteti, one of Botswana’s drier areas located in the central region. She mostly grows maize, sorghum, beans and melons on her six-hectare field.

Seoroka has noticed her crops have been failing because of declining rainfall since 2010. “Weather patterns have drastically changed,” she says. “I don’t know how we will be able to survive under such dry conditions.”

Another farmer, Kgasane Tsele accuses the government of responding too slowly to the 2014-2015 drought, which was declared early in June. “This is really scary for us as farmers and we eagerly wait to see how government will respond,” he says. “By now government should have announced how it is going to help farmers in alleviating the impact of this drought. The response team must always be on alert and respond early.”

The Department of Meteorological Services predicts the southeastern part of Botswana – which is already suffering from drought and water shortages – is poised to experience its driest season in 34 years.

To cope with food shortage risks, the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) ordered 1,000 tons of yellow maize from South Africa, and an additional 10,000 tons of white maize is due to arrive soon.

BAMB spokesperson, Kushata Modiakgotla says strategic grain reserves currently stand at 30,000 tons of sorghum and 3,000 tons of cowpeas left, but there is no maize. “BAMB has started the process of buying 5,000 tons of white maize from Zambia and it is exploring other avenues to import an additional 5,000 tons if necessary,” she states.

Imports from both nations would help meet supply as local reserves are under threat, while yellow maize is used to produce animal feed. The government insists consumers are not in any danger of going hungry as more than 90 percent of the maize consumed in Botswana is sourced by local millers from South Africa. But despite the supply contracts, consumers will have to pay more for maize meal the longer drought persists.

Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) chief executive Akolang Tombale says climate risks also present challenges to beef production and exports. “We are just emerging from a very dry season and if another drought is forecast it is a problematic state as production will be reduced,” he explains. Grasslands and pasture are an important resource for Batswana who derive most of their livelihood from livestock.

The majority of the BMC’s throughput starts at natural pastures, before being prepared with feedstock. Tombale is holding out hope for showers to replenish pastures around the country, but he acknowledges this may not be a long-term solution.

BMC has been receiving higher rates of deliveries than usual this year, since the Ministry of Agriculture advised farmers to destock as means of cutting their losses. However, this is a short-lived gain because if the situation persists in the next raining cycle, beef revenues would be badly affected. The BMC is now urging farmers to change their approach from quantity to quality-based cattle production.

President Ian Khama recently urged farmers to adopt more innovative approaches to their work in order to cope with the impacts of climate change. Speaking at the 2015 National Agricultural Show ‘Practicing Smart Agriculture to Combat the Effect of Climate Change’, he pointed to Israel, where farmers have harnessed new technologies in order to maintain production in highly water stressed environments.

“This ravaging drought we are currently experiencing is an opportunity to be innovative and resort to new methods and technologies to produce under such conditions. It is for this reason that farming methods such as conservation agriculture are promoted,” he said.

Recommendations include using improved crop varieties that are drought tolerant and high yielding, investing in breeds that can withstand the current climate, as well as adoption of proper crop husbandry practices though agricultural infrastructure. Lare Sisay, United Nations Development Programme’s deputy resident representative, predicts water shortages will lead to an increase in undesirable types of grass species.

“This has a far-reaching impact on social and economic sectors, and this has not yet been quantified and factored into the country’s economic projections,” he says. He predicts this could derail Botswana’s efforts to break through its middle-income country status.

Parliamentarians – many of whose constituents are rural and peri-urban populations involved in communal farming – are expected to tackle the climate change policy, once it appears in the National Assembly. The policy is due in the November sitting and already momentum is gathering from activists to ensure robust debate and urgent approval.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Jessica Shankleman from @BusinessGreen.

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Gay Rights Activists Hope for The Pope’s Blessings in Uganda Tue, 24 Nov 2015 14:19:21 +0000 Amy Fallon 0 Searching for Nutrition in South Africa’s Food Maze Tue, 24 Nov 2015 09:24:16 +0000 Munyaradzi Makoni 0 Analysis: Are Young People the Answer to Africa’s Food Security? Tue, 24 Nov 2015 07:41:28 +0000 Busani Bafana 2 Cubans Seeking the American Dream, Stranded in Costa Rica Mon, 23 Nov 2015 22:16:50 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz A group of Cubans wait in a shelter opened by the authorities in the town of La Cruz in the northwestern Costa Rican border province of Guanacaste. Credit: National Risk Prevention and Emergency Response Commission of Costa Rica

A group of Cubans wait in a shelter opened by the authorities in the town of La Cruz in the northwestern Costa Rican border province of Guanacaste. Credit: National Risk Prevention and Emergency Response Commission of Costa Rica

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSÉ, Nov 23 2015 (IPS)

Thousands of Cubans heading for the United States have been stranded at the Costa Rican-Nicaraguan border since mid-November, waiting for the authorities in Managua to authorise their passage north.Just over 2,500 Cubans are waiting in northern Costa Rica, the majority in temporary shelters opened by the local authorities. After receiving temporary transit permits from the Costa Rican government, the Cubans ran into resistance when they reached Nicaragua, which closed the border and denied them passage.

“We’re desperate to get to the United States because we want a better future for our children and for ourselves,” said Arley Alonso Ferrarez, a Cuban migrant, in a video provided by the Costa Rican government’s National Risk Prevention and Emergency Response Commission.

Alonso and the other Cubans stuck at the Nicaraguan border are seeking refuge under the U.S. Cuban Adjustment Act’s “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which guarantees residency to any Cuban who sets foot on U.S. soil.

The exodus was fuelled once again this year by the fear that the thaw between the Cuban and U.S. governments, which began in December 2014 and has led to the restoration of diplomatic ties, would result in the modification or elimination of the special treatment received by Cuban immigrants to the United States.

Cubans have been making their way to the United States through Central America for several years now, but the phenomenon had gone unnoticed until the Costa Rican government adopted measures in early November to fight the trafficking of persons through this country.

That cut short the flow of undocumented immigrants and revealed the scale of the movement of Cubans from Ecuador to the United States.

“The current crisis was triggered by the dismantling of the (trafficking) ring, which has brought to light the situation which we had already warned about, with regard to the increase in the number of Cuban migrants,” Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González told IPS.

“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, not even my worst enemy,” Cuban migrant Ignacio Valdés told the local newspaper La Nación, referring to the dangers faced along the lengthy journey. “We’ve been robbed, we were forced to jump into the sea between Colombia and Panama, some girls were even raped, and the police stole from us.”

After the Nov. 10 arrest of members of the trafficking ring which smuggled migrants through Costa Rican territory, Cubans began to be stranded in groups along the southern border of the country.

That forced the authorities to issue seven-day safe conducts, to regulate their passage to Nicaragua. But that country completely sealed its border on Nov. 15, and blocked the entrance of Cubans when it reopened the border the next day.“The current crisis was triggered by the dismantling of the (trafficking) ring, which has brought to light the situation which we had already warned about, with regard to the increase in the number of Cuban migrants.” - Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González

The migrants are awaiting the results of a meeting to be held Tuesday Nov. 24 in El Salvador, where the countries of Central America, as well as Mexico, Ecuador and Colombia, will try to hammer out a joint regional response.

The meeting will explore options to create a “humanitarian corridor” to facilitate the passage of Cubans to the United States – which has not been invited to the meeting, while Cuba has failed to confirm its participation, the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry reported.

In recent years, more and more Cubans have been going through Ecuador, which grants them three-month tourist visas and to which they arrive by plane. The route – by land and sea – is much less frequently used and less well-known than the Florida Straits.

It is 5,000 km as the crow flies between Ecuador and the U.S. border, but the routes used by the trafficking gangs are much longer.

In April 2014, the Ecuadorean government eliminated the requisite that Cubans applying for visas present a letter of invitation, thus allowing them to remain in the country for up to three months without any additional requirements.

Once they make it to the South American continent, the migrants go by land across the border between Ecuador and Colombia, before taking a boat along Colombia’s Pacific coast to Panama, where they are smuggled, once more by land, to the Costa Rican border.

“These people are brought in by the mafias, the international people trafficking networks; without a doubt they are risking their lives,” said the foreign minister. “We have received reports of women who have been raped, who have crossed through jungles, and of children who are put in danger. The conditions are deplorable.”

According to Costa Rica’s immigration office, around 13,000 Cubans have travelled through this country since last year.

But they have mainly gone unnoticed, because most of them are smuggled by people traffickers, who charge between 7,000 and 13,000 dollars per person.

Carlos Sandoval, an expert on immigration issues, told IPS that the trafficking rings operate throughout Central America, and are also involved in smuggling migrants from the region who are trying to make it into the United States.

And, he added, while a solution for the stranded Cubans is urgently needed, Central America has long been in debt to its own citizens who try to reach the United States.

“An ironic aspect of this humanitarian corridor initiative is that it’s happening in a region that spits out migrants. Around 300,000 people a year set out from Central America in an attempt to make it to the United States,” said Sandoval, a researcher at the University of Costa Rica’s Social Research Institute.

The Central American migrants heading towards the United States face situations just as complex as what the Cubans are going through.

“The case of the Cubans is just one more instance of what is a day-to-day reality in Central America,” said the Costa Rican expert, who for years has studied Central American migration to the United States, carrying out fieldwork in this region, in Mexico, and in the U.S.

Sandoval said the situation requires a regionwide response – something Costa Rica should have had in mind when it issued the first safe-conduct passes. He argued that it is the region’s governments themselves that create the conditions that allow trafficking networks to operate.

“What makes their business possible? It is possible to the extent that the borders are closed: it is so difficult to get there that without the support of these people (traffickers), it is even more complicated and dangerous,” Sandoval said.

Costa Rica plans to open new shelters in the northern town of Upala, because the ones already set up are full, the minister of human development and social inclusion, Carlos Alvarado, told IPS.

“Many of these people (the Cubans) are professionals, others are skilled workers. They are between the ages of 20 and 45. There are more men than women, some 30 children, and around 10 women who are pregnant,” said Alvarado.

Cubans continue pouring into the country, said the minister. On Friday Nov. 20, for example, some 200 people arrived.

On Saturday Nov. 21, Costa Rica’s authorities reported that there are more than 2,500 Cubans in transit in this country.

“Most of them report that they came using their own funds – they sold all they had and left everything behind to go to the United States,” the minister said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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OPINION: Keep Family Farms in Business with Youth Agripreneurs Mon, 23 Nov 2015 19:48:06 +0000 Nteranya Sanginga Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

By Nteranya Sanginga
IBADAN, Nigeria, Nov 23 2015 (IPS)

Finding a way to allow youth to contribute their natural and ample energies to productive causes is increasingly the touchstone issue that will determine future prosperity.

It is a tragic irony that today’s youth, despite being the most educated generation ever, struggle to be included.

That’s true in advanced countries. But it is even more true in Africa, where almost two-thirds of the jobless are young adults, whose ranks swell by 10 to 12 million new members each year. The challenge is staggering in scale: Today there are 365 million Africans aged 15 to 35, and over the next 20 years that figure will double.

There is no magic wand. It is youth themselves who must find a solution.

Everyone else – governments, international organizations, the private sector, social groups and parents – has a huge stake in their success and so must not stand in the way. Normally one hears about the need to help cast in elaborate theories based on the need for redistribution. But the truth is, we need a step change.

That’s the spirit the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is adopting with our “agripreneur” coaching programmes. These aim to use self-help groups so that people can indeed help themselves. As I bluntly told a group of youth in Uganda, we will provide support in the form of technology, knowledge and advocacy, but the real activity has to be done by themselves. Another message was: “be aggressive.”

It is well known that Africa is a vast land of family farmers, many living in rural areas and regularly struggling with poverty and hunger. Figures can also be easily made to show how most family farms are exercises in subsistence, and don’t always succeed without external help.

Family farming is a way of life, to be sure. But that does not mean, when you really think about it, that it cannot be done as a business. Doing so would represent a change, but the time has come. Making agriculture a commercial trade offers a set of new tools to entice talented youth to a sector we all know they tend to run away from.

As Akinwumi Adesina, formerly Nigeria’s agriculture minister and now the president of the African Development Bank, likes to say, “Africa’s future millionaires and billionaires will make their money from agriculture.”

And it is quite likely that youth, being in a proverbial rush, will accelerate the transformations that will lead to better lives than a mad rush to cities where employment prospects aren’t keeping pace with urban population. Moreover, agriculture has been the weak link in terms of productivity growth across the continent – that means there is an enormous upside to doing it better.

Knowledge needs pollinators. While extension services are excellent and should be upgraded, young people are natural communicators when they think something is cool and useful. That’s what agriculture has to be.

IITA’s agripreneur campaign hinges on our version of a Silicon Valley hackathon. Incubators are created to allow youth to learn and exchange ideas of a practical nature – about how to keep accounts, new crops and farming techniques, the myriad possibilities of agricultural value chains that include roles for seed traders, food processors, weather forecasters, insurance salespeople, marketing specialists.

One of our agripreneur “interns” told me that what he took away was that success is not in fact all down to money. An enterprise really needs ideas, of course, and the ability to plan.

To be clear, his enthusiasm – as so many of our alumni say – was about the possibility of enterprise. Call it agribusiness. Agricultural commodity value chains provide just that, a series of transactional opportunities that work to improve efficiency for all and reward the talented. This is a major catalyst for youth. After all, it opens the door for the professionalization of agriculture.

To be sure, the agribusiness model crucially requires inclusive efforts to make sure credit is available to youth, to assure that gender equity becomes an operational assumption rather than just a goal, and a host of public goods including scientific research. Yet it begins with a changed mind set.

People must learn how to apply for a loan. Bankers always say they wish to fund on the basis of a business plan rather than collateral. It is time to put that to the test. IITA’s focus on agripreneurs is a well-placed bet on the idea that nobody learns faster than youth.


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