Inter Press Service » Food & Agriculture News and Views from the Global South Tue, 09 Feb 2016 08:11:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Small-scale Fishing Is About Much More than Just Subsistence in Chile Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:31:46 +0000 Marianela Jarroud Pedro Pascual, who has been a fisherman for 50 of his 70 years of life, prepares bait in the installations used by some 70 small-scale fisherpersons in a bay in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, Chile. This son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen is worried because very few young people are fishing today. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Pedro Pascual, who has been a fisherman for 50 of his 70 years of life, prepares bait in the installations used by some 70 small-scale fisherpersons in a bay in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, Chile. This son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen is worried because very few young people are fishing today. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
ALGARROBO, Chile, Feb 3 2016 (IPS)

“Fishing isn’t just for making a living, it’s also enjoyable,” said Pedro Pascual, a 70-year-old fisherman who has been taking his small boat out to sea off Chile’s Pacific coast in the early hours of the morning almost every day for the past 50 years, to support his family.

Impish and ebullient, he told IPS that he doesn’t like to eat much fish anymore, although he is aware of its excellent nutritional properties, which make it a key product in terms of boosting global food security. “The thing is, eating what you fish yourself is kind of boring,” he said.

“Sometimes my wife has to go out and buy fish, because I come home without a single fish – I sell all of them, so I don’t have to eat them,” he confessed, in a mischievous tone.

Pascual was born and raised in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, 100 km west of Santiago.“Artisanal fishers who used to have a quota, a share of extractive fishing activity, were left without rights, and many lost their work.” -- Juan Carlos Quezada

The son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen, he stressed that fishing is everything for him and his family, as he prepared bait on counters built on the beach, which are used by some 70 local fishers.

He and the others will sell their catch in the same place the following day, at market installations built there by the municipal government.

“We used to catch a lot of meagre (Argyrosomus regius) in this area. Now we catch hake (Merluccius) in the winter and in the summer we catch crab and some red cusk-eel (Genypterus chilensis),” he said.

As he prepared the bait, tying fish heads with twine, Pascual explained that he and his fellow fishermen go out in the afternoon, lay their lines, return to land, and head out again at 6:00 AM to pull in the catch.

“I like crabs, because there are different ways to eat them. I love ‘chupe de jaiba’ (crab quiche). You can make it with different ingredients,” he said.

He repeated several times in the conversation with IPS how much he loved his work, and said he was very worried that there are fewer and fewer people working as small-scale fishers.

“At least around here, we’re all old men…young people aren’t interested in fishing anymore,” he said. “They should keep studying, this work is very difficult,” he said, adding that he is lucky if he makes 300 dollars a month.

In response to the question “what will happen when there are no more small-scale fishers?” he said sadly: “people will have to buy from the industrial-scale fisheries.”

This is not a minor question, especially since large-scale fishing has hurt artisanal fisheries in countries along the Pacific coast of South America, which have become leaders in the global seafood industry over the last decade.

Small-scale fisheries account for over 90 percent of the world’s capture fishers and fish workers, around half of whom are women, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean, based in Santiago.

Boats anchored in a small bay in the Chilean town of Algarrobo, waiting for the local fishermen to head out to sea in the evening to put out their lines. They go out the next day at dawn to haul in their catch, in a centuries-old activity that is now threatened by overfishing and laws in favour of industrial-scale fishing.  Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Boats anchored in a small bay in the Chilean town of Algarrobo, waiting for the local fishermen to head out to sea in the evening to put out their lines. They go out the next day at dawn to haul in their catch, in a centuries-old activity that is now threatened by overfishing and laws in favour of industrial-scale fishing. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

In addition, they supply around 50 percent of all global fish catches, and fishing and aquaculture provide a livelihood for between 10 and 12 percent of the world’s population.

“Small-scale fishing makes key contributions to nutrition, food security, sustainable means of subsistence and poverty reduction, especially in developing countries,” FAO stated in response to questions from IPS.

Studies show that fish is highly nutritious, offering high-quality protein and a broad range of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A and D, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium, while saltwater fish have a high content of iodine.

Its protein, like that of meat, is easily digestible and complements protein provided by cereals and legumes that are the foundation of the diet in many countries of the developing South.

Experts say that even in small quantities, fish improves the quality of dietary protein by complementing the essential amino acids that are often present in low quantities in vegetable-based diets.

Moreover, fish oils are the richest source of a kind of fat that is vital to normal brain development in unborn babies and infants.

Chile, a long, narrow country between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes mountains to the east, has 6,435 km of coast line and a broad diversity of marine resources.

Official figures indicate that 92 percent of fishing and fish farming activity involves fish capture, five percent seaweed harvesting, and the rest seafood harvesting.

The three main fish captured in Chile are the Chilean jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi), sardines and the anchoveta, which bring in more than 1.2 billion dollars a year in revenues on average, but are facing an overfishing crisis.

Extractive fishing provides work for more than 150,000 people in this country of 17.6 million and represents 0.4 percent of GDP. Of the industry’s workers, just over 94,000 are small-scale fishers and some 22,700 are women, according to the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service.

About three million tons of fish are caught every year in this South American country. But fish consumption is just 6.9 kilos per person per year – less than eight percent of the 84.7 kilos of meat consumed annually per capita.

The low level of fish consumption in Chile is attributed to two main reasons: availability and prices.

With regard to the former, a large proportion of the industrial-scale fish catch is exported.

A controversial law on fisheries and aquaculture in effect since 2013, promoted by the right-wing government of former president Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014), has played a major role in this scenario.

The law grants fishing concessions for 20 years, renewable for another 20, and establishes that large companies can receive fishing rights in perpetuity, which can be passed from one generation to the next.

“Artisanal fishers who used to have a quota, a share of extractive fishing activity, were left without rights, and many lost their work,” Juan Carlos Quezada, spokesman for the National Council for the Defence of Artisanal Fishing (CONDEPP), told IPS.

The representative of the union of small farmers added that “ninety percent of artisanal fishers have been left without fish catch quotas, because concessions and quotas were only assigned to industrial fisheries and shipowners.”

While small-scale fishers are fighting for the law to be repealed, the government continues to support the Development Fund for Artisanal Fishing which, contradictorily, is aimed at the sustainable development of Chile’s small-scale fishing industry, and backs the efforts of organisations of small fishers.

Pascual sees things clearly: “Fishing is my life and it will always be. The sea will always give us something, even if it offers us less and less.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Rabbit Farming Now a Big Hit in Zimbabwe Tue, 02 Feb 2016 15:43:35 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo 0 TPP: Lessons from New Zealand Tue, 02 Feb 2016 12:42:44 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was an Assistant Secretary-General responsible for analysis of economic development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Feb 2 2016 (IPS)

A new paper* on the implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement for New Zealand examines key economic issues likely to be impacted by this trade agreement. It is remarkable how little TPP brings to the table. NZ’s gross domestic product will grow by 47 per cent by 2030 without the TPP, or by 47.9 per cent with the TPP. Even that small benefit is an exaggeration, as the modelling makes dubious assumptions, and the real benefits will be even smaller. If the full costs are included, net economic benefits to the NZ economy are doubtful. The gains from tariff reductions are less than a quarter of the projected benefits according to official NZ government modelling. Although most of the projected benefits result from reducing non-tariff barriers (NTBs), the projections rely on inadequate and dubious information that does not even identify the NTBs that would be reduced by the TPP!

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

The main beneficiaries in NZ will be agricultural exporters, but modest tariff reductions of 1.3 per cent on average by 2030 are small compared to ongoing commodity price and exchange rate volatility. Extensive trade barriers to agricultural exports in the Japanese, Canadian and US food markets remain, and will be locked in under TPP. TPP has also failed to tackle agricultural subsidies that are a major trade distortion. Significant tariff barriers remain in some sectors in Japan, Canada and the US likely to be ‘locked in’ under the TPP that are almost impossible to remove in the future. TPP’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures limits on labelling may also restrict opportunities for food exporters to build high quality, differentiated niche market positions.TPP has also been used to undermine negotiations in the World Trade Organization, the only forum for removing such trade distorting subsidies.

TPP’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions and restrictions on state-owned enterprises will deter future NZ governments from regulations and policies in the public interest, for fear of litigation by corporate interests. The threat, if not actual repercussions, are good enough to ‘discipline’ governments by causing ‘regulatory chill’. TPP is very much a charter for incumbent businesses, especially US transnational corporations. Thus, it inadvertently holds back the economic transformation the world needs. The agreement’s TPP’s benefits are likely to be asymmetric as it is more favourable to big US business practices and will deepen the disadvantages of small size and remoteness. Potential ISDS compensation payments or settlements could far outweigh the limited economic benefits of TPP. Even when cases are successfully defended, the legal costs will be very high.

TPP can both help and hinder ambitions to add value to raw materials and commodities, and to progress up value chains. However, it is likely to reinforce NZ’s position as a commodity producer and thus hinder progress up the value chain where greater economic prosperity lies. More analysis based on the actual agreement is required to ascertain the conditions for and likelihood of such progress. TPP will limit government’s ability to innovate and address national challenges and is likely to worsen rapidly escalating problems such as environmental degradation and climate change.

Furthermore, TPP is projected to reduce employment and increase income inequality in NZ. In its analysis, the government has not considered the likely costs, which are probably going to be very significant, and may well outweigh economic benefits.

TPP thus falls well short of being “a trade agreement for the 21st century”, as its cheerleaders claim. A more comprehensive, balanced and objective cost-benefit analysis on the basis of the October 2015 deal should be completed before ratifying the TPP.

*The report is available at:

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WFP’s Chief Calls for Support for Those Most Vulnerable to Climate Change Wed, 27 Jan 2016 12:30:44 +0000 Friday Phiri 0 Zero Hunger? UN Leads With Landfill Salad and Recycled Food Mon, 25 Jan 2016 23:58:24 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

When the United Nations hosted a high-level lunch for visiting world leaders at the UN dining room during the General Assembly sessions last September, they were in for an unexpected surprise.

The lunch, hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a strong advocate of “zero hunger”, consisted largely of recycled food salvaged from the kitchen before it was dumped into garbage bins.

“Every dish was made from scraps that would normally be wasted,” Ban told another group of world leaders at a dinner on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos last week.

One of the appetizers was called “landfill salad,” he said, singling it out as “a small example of sustainable solution” to eliminating world hunger.

Ban, who will be completing his 10-year tenure at the United Nations end December, is vociferously campaigning for the total eradication of extreme hunger by 2030 under the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders last September.

Ban said more than a third of the world’s food goes to waste. And “eliminating wasted food in homes and in fields is a key element in achieving Zero Hunger.”

”The United Nations,” he declared,” is ready to lead new, large-scale initiatives to end hunger,” and practice in its own backyard – and in its own kitchen– what it is preaching to the rest of the world.

Danielle Nierenberg, President and co-founder of Washington-based Food Tank, told IPS the issue of food waste is very hot right now among foodies and environmentalists alike.

“Unfortunately, food waste continues to be an issue that not enough scientists, researchers, farmers, businesses, policymakers, and funders and investors, as well as eaters like you and me, don’t know or care about enough.”

“And it is part of our job is to help change that by highlighting some of the innovations and solutions that are happening on the ground, in fields, boardrooms, kitchens, grocery stores, restaurants classrooms, and laboratories around the country, as well as town halls and the halls of Congress”, she noted.

Currently up to 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted. That’s enough food to fill a 90,000-person stadium every day. And globally, roughly 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted per year.

At the same time, said Nierenberg, at least 1 in 6 Americans are unsure of where the next meal will come from, and more than 800 million people worldwide are hungry.

In the developing world, pests, disease, and a lack of infrastructure to store and transport crops prevent food from reaching markets or the tables of the needy; in the industrialized world, retailers and consumers waste an equal amount by throwing food away.

But food waste isn’t just a moral conundrum. It’s also an environmental problem. Food waste represents about 5 percent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States and 25 percent of all water use, she noted.

Ban told the gathering in Davos: “We recently heard from aid workers who arrived in Madaya in Syria who told us people there are gaunt and fragile from such severe hunger. One family traded their car for three kilos of rice. “

Tragically, he said, this desperation is mirrored in other crises around the world. “We have a responsibility to answer the cries of people’s right to food.”

Nierenberg told IPS the good news is that the solutions for reducing food loss and waste can be surprisingly simple, inexpensive, and business-friendly.

Moreover, they can simultaneously decrease hunger, poverty, and agriculture’s carbon footprint. And youth leadership, creative solutions to food waste, and entrepreneurial development are emerging as effective ways to fight food loss and waste.

“I think some of the most exciting innovations are coming from groups like Feedback, who helped organize the lunch at the United Nations last year, are making sure that policymakers, farmers, eaters, and the funding and donor communities all realize that they have a role to play in preventing food loss and waste”.

And there are so many exciting business opportunities for small scale cooling and storage, redistribution of food that would have otherwise been wasted, and other businesses that can help both farmers and eaters prevent loss and waste.

“I think this is also an issue that will need a lot of North to South and South to North information sharing and is an opportunity for farmers and businesses all over the world to learn from one another,” she added.

Although farmers in the developing world experience different challenges regarding storage and cooling than farmers in the industrialized world, they both have to deal with unrealistic cosmetic standards that often farmers to throw away imperfect looking, but perfectly nutritious and edible produce.

Ugly produce is one of the biggest opportunities for both small and big farmers alike because they can use these ugly vegetable and fruits to make value added products and increase incomes and nutrition, she declared.

The writer can be contacted at

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After a Historic Success, Urgent Challenges Face the WTO Fri, 22 Jan 2016 07:05:26 +0000 Roberto Azevedo

Roberto Azevêdo is the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO)

By Roberto Azevêdo
GENEVA, Jan 22 2016 (IPS)

In 2015 the international community took some huge strides forward on a number of vital issues.

There was the agreement on the United Nations new Sustainable Development Goals.

There was the remarkable breakthrough in Paris in the fight against climate change.

Roberto Azevêdo

Roberto Azevêdo

And, late in December, at the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference in Nairobi, members agreed a set of very significant results. In fact, they delivered some of the biggest reforms in global trade policy for 20 years.

We must seek to capitalise on this progress in 2016.

Let me explain in a bit more detail what was delivered in Nairobi.

The Nairobi Package contained a number of important decisions ­ including a decision on export competition. This is truly historic. It is the most important reform in international trade rules on agriculture since the creation of the WTO.

The elimination of agricultural export subsidies is particularly significant in improving the global trading environment.

WTO members ­ especially developing countries ­ have consistently demanded action on this issue due to the enormous trade-distorting potential of these subsidies. In fact, this task has been outstanding since export subsidies were banned for industrial goods more than 50 years ago. So this decision corrected an historic imbalance.

Countries have often resorted to export subsidies during economic crises ­ and recent history shows that once one country did so, others quickly followed suit. Because of the Nairobi Package, no-one will be tempted to resort to such action in the future.

This decision will help to level the playing field in agriculture markets, to the benefit of farmers and exporters in developing and least-developed countries.

This decision will also help to limit similar distorting effects associated with export credits and state trading enterprises.

And it will provide a better framework for international food aid ­ maintaining this essential lifeline, while ensuring that it doesn’t displace domestic producers.

Members also took action on other developing-country issues, committing to find a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes, and to develop a Special Safeguard Mechanism.

And members agreed a package of specific decisions for least developed countries, to support their integration into the global economy. This contained measures to enhance preferential rules of origin for these countries and preferential treatment for their services providers.

And it contained a number of steps on cotton ­ helping low-income cotton producers to access new markets.

Finally, a large group of members agreed on the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement. Again, this was an historic breakthrough. It will eliminate tariffs on 10 per cent of global trade ­ that’s 1.3 trillion dollars worth of trade, making it the WTO’s first major tariff cutting deal since 1996.

Altogether, these decisions will provide a real boost to growth and development around the world.

This success is all the more significant because it comes so soon after our successful conference in Bali that delivered a number of important outcomes, including the Trade Facilitation Agreement. (TFA)

The TFA will bring a higher level of predictability and transparency to customs processes around the world, making it easier for businesses ­ especially smaller enterprises ­ to join global value chains.

It could reduce trade costs by an average of 14.5 per cent – with the greatest savings being felt in developing countries.

The Agreement has the potential to increase global merchandise exports by up to 1 trillion dollars per annum, and to create 20 million jobs around the world.

That’s potentially a bigger impact than the elimination of all remaining tariffs.

So the challenge before us is very significant.

For instance, during or the last two years, we have been trying to reinvigorate the Doha agenda on development, exploring various ways of overcoming the existing difficulties. We tested different alternatives over several months of good engagement, but the conversations revealed significant differences, which are unlikely to be solved in the short term.

But the challenge is not limited only to the question of what happens to the Doha issues, it is about the negotiating function of the WTO. It is about what members want for the future of the WTO as a standard and rule-setting body. And the challenge is urgent.

The world won’t wait for the WTO. Other trade deals will keep advancing.

The wider the gap between regional and multilateral disciplines, the worse the trade environment becomes for everyone, particularly businesses, small countries and all those not involved in major regional negotiations.

But the outlook is not bleak. I said at the outset that 2016 was full of promise. I truly believe that ­ because, while we face real challenges, there are also real opportunities before us.


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A Commercial Village Brings Business to Poor Kenyan Farmers Tue, 19 Jan 2016 06:40:26 +0000 Justus Wanzala 0 The Role of SDGs in Achieving Zero Hunger Thu, 14 Jan 2016 06:25:51 +0000 Paloma Duran

Paloma Durán, is Director Sustainable Development Goals Fund at UNDP.

By Paloma Durán

It is a well-known fact that 795 million or one in nine are undernourished in our world today. This figure only goes up to more than one in eight for the developing world. Hunger kills more people every year than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined. At the same time, the food industry is a major source of jobs and livelihoods.

The new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development recognizes that food is going to play a pivotal role in achieving sustainable development and as such in ensuring Zero Hunger. Various commentators recognize the pivotal role that Goal 2 of the SDGs (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture) plays in achieving the other goals. So what can we do facilitate the achievement of Goal 2 in practical terms?

The Sustainable Development Goals Fund, the first mechanism established for SDG achievement, is already devising new platforms for joint engagement of UN Agencies, governments, civil society, businesses and communities in sustainable development with its work on the ground. In line with its constant efforts to push for innovation in promoting dialogue and action to achieve the SDGs, the SDG Fund is bringing to the table the acclaimed chefs, Joan, Jordi and Josep Roca who run El Celler de Can Roca restaurant in Girona, Spain.

With them, next January 18th at the UN, we will initiate a dialogue on the role of food and the SDGs and what how chefs like the Roca Brothers can contribute to sustainable development. You can be a part of this dialogue by signing up here or sending your questions to

With food security and nutrition defined as one of its key focus areas the SDG Fund is already funding four joint programmes that directly contribute towards achieving Goal 2. With our support, El Salvador’s government is developing new plans and regulations to tackle food security and nutrition among the most vulnerable. In Guatemala, the SDG Fund is working in 4 municipalities to increase the participation of children, youth, women and men in food security local governance mechanisms.

In Viet Nam, we operate in 2 provinces with extremely high poverty rates to focus on nutrition policies and standards and the development of institutional capacity and systems. In Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu, the SDG Fund is engaging youth in organic farming through a farm to table chain approach.

Some key themes to be debated during the dialogue with the Roca brothers will include:
• Food security and improved nutritional outcomes: local food sourcing, food waste and food loss reduction, environmental aspects of food, food preparation, the role of smallholder farmers and conservation and use of food;
• Rethinking how the food and restaurant industry landscape can create more and better jobs, protect the environment, revitalize endemic culinary traditions, educate children and youth on better eating and cooking habits and encourage food-related activities as a source of sustainable livelihoods and especially women’s role along the food chain;
• Establish a stronger understanding of sustainability issues linked to boosting farm yields and offsetting farming challenges;
• In addressing access to food, looking beyond nutrition issues to recognize food as an important engine for inclusive economic growth, reducing poverty and peacebuilding;
• Analyzing the role that Climate change is adding to the challenge of achieving sustainable food production and meeting the demands of a growing population;
• Recognizing adequate feeding and care as an integral part of national strategies and programmes to reduce hunger and undernutrition. Including promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and appropriate complementary feeding, basic requirements for nutritional wellbeing.


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Jamaica’s Drought Tool Could Turn the Table on Climate Change Wed, 13 Jan 2016 07:33:35 +0000 Zadie Neufville Drought-map_

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Jan 13 2016 (IPS)

On a very dry November 2013, Jamaica’s Meteorological Service made its first official drought forecast when the newly developed Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) was used to predict a high probability of below average rainfall in the coming three months.

By February, the agency had officially declared a drought in the eastern and central parishes of the island based on the forecasts. July’s predictions indicated that drought conditions would continue until at least September.

Said to be the island’s worst in 30 years, the 2014 drought saw Jamaica’s eastern parishes averaging rainfall of between 2 and 12 per cent, well below normal levels. Agricultural data for the period shows that production fell by more than 30 per cent over 2013 and estimates are that losses due to crop failures and wild fires amounted to one billion dollars.

Jamaica’s agricultural sector accounts for roughly seven per cent of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 20 per cent of its workforce.

The Met Service’s, Glenroy Brown told IPS, “The CPT was the main tool used by our Minister (of Water, Land, Environment & Climate Change) Robert Pickersgill throughout 2015 to advise the nation on the status of drought across the island .”

It was also used but the National Water Commission (NWC) to guide its implementation of island-wide water restrictions.

A technician with Jamaica’s Met Service, Brown designed and implemented the tool in collaboration with Simon Mason, a climate scientist from Columbia University’s International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“The tool provides a Windows package for constructing a seasonal climate drought forecast model, producing forecasts with updated rainfall and sea surface temperature data,” he explained.

The innovation was one of the first steps in building resilience under Jamaica’s national climate policy. It provides drought-monitoring forecasts that allows farmers to plan their planting around dry periods and has been “tailored for producing seasonal climate forecasts from a general circulation model (GCM), or for producing forecasts using fields of sea-surface temperatures,” Brown said.

The tool combines a number of applications including Google Earth and localised GIS maps, to generate one to five day forecasts that are country and location specific. The information is broken down and further simplified by way of colour-coded information and text messages for the not so tech-savvy user.

The tool designed by Brown and Mason also incorporated IRI’s own CPT (designed by Mason) that was already being used by Caribbean countries with small meteorological services and limited resources, to produce their own up-to-date seasonal climate forecasts. The new tool combined data on recent rainfall and rainfall predictions to provide a forecast that focused specifically on drought.

“It was important for us to design a system that addressed Jamaica’s needs upfront, but that would also be suitable for the rest of the region,” Mason noted.

The scientists explained, “Because impact of a drought is based on the duration of the rainfall” and not only the amount of rainfall, looking forward is not enough to predict droughts because of factors related to accumulation and intensification.

“What we’re doing is essentially putting a standard three-month rainfall forecast in context with recent rainfall measurements,” Mason, told USAID’s publication Frontlines last May. He noted that if below-normal rainfall activity was recorded during an unusually dry period, indications were there was a “fairly serious drought” ahead.

Sheldon Scott from Jamaica’s Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) told IPS that farmers who used the SMS information were able to avoid the worse effects of the drought.

“The impacts were visible in relation to farmers who used the information and others who didn’t, because those who did were able to manage the mitigating factors more effectively,” he said.

During the period, more than 500 farmers received text alerts and about 700,000 bulletins were sent to agricultural extension officers.

Among the farmers who signed up for text messaging service, Melonie Risden told Frontlines, “The information we received from the Met office gave us drought forecasts in terms of probabilities. We still decided to plant because we were fortunate to have access to the river and could fill up water drums ahead of time in anticipation of the drought.”

Risden lost the corn she planted on the 13-acre property in Crooked River, Clarendon, one of the parishes hardest hit by the drought with only two per cent of normal rainfall, but was able to save much of the peas, beans and hot peppers.

Six months after Jamaica’s Met Service made its ground-breaking forecast, the CIMH presented the first region-wide drought outlook at the Caribbean Regional Climate Outlook Forum in Kingston. Now 23 other Caribbean and Central American countries are using the tool to encourage climate change resilience and inform decision-making.

“Regionally the tool is now a standard fixture across several countries within the region, including the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Haiti. This regional effort is coordinated by the CIMH,” Brown said.

Back in Jamaica, the tool is being hailed “a game-changer” in the climate fight by Jeffery Spooner head of the Met Service, who described the CPT as “an extremely important tool in Climate Change forecasting and specifically for the agricultural – including fisheries- and water sectors for rainfall projection .”

The CPT is now also used to provide regular monthly bulletins that are published by the Meteorological Service on their web site RADA has also continued to use the CPT in its extension service, to enhance the ability of farmers’ and other agricultural interests to improve water harvesting, planting and other activities.

Since most of the island’s small farms depend on rainfall, more farmers – including those with large holdings – are using the information to better manage water use and guide their activities, Scott said.

Local and intentional scientists have linked the extreme atmospheric conditions related to the droughts affecting Jamaica and the region to the persistent high-pressure systems that has prevented the formation of tropical cyclones to global warming and climate change.

Across the agricultural sector, Jamaica continues to feel the impacts of drought and the challenges are expected to increase with the climate change. In a 2013 agricultural sector support analysis, the Inter-American Development Bank estimated, low impact on extreme climate events on Jamaica’s agriculture sector by 2025 could reach 3.4 per cent of “baseline GDP” annually.

In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Synthesis Report (AR5) pointed to tools like the CPT to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Its importance to Jamaica’s and the region’s food security and water sector cannot be overlooked.

In addition to adaptation for the water sector, the CPT is being modified to provide early warning indicators for wind speeds and coral bleaching among among other applications, said the report.

And as showers of blessings cooled the land and brought much relief in the closing months of the year, CPT shows the drought could well be over.


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Drought Boosts Science in Dominican Republic Mon, 11 Jan 2016 23:01:11 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez Leaks in city water pipes, like this one in the Pequeño Haití (Little Haiti) market in Santo Domingo, aggravated the water shortages during the lengthy drought in the Dominican Republic. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

Leaks in city water pipes, like this one in the Pequeño Haití (Little Haiti) market in Santo Domingo, aggravated the water shortages during the lengthy drought in the Dominican Republic. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

By Ivet González
SANTO DOMINGO, Jan 11 2016 (IPS)

The recent lengthy drought in the Dominican Republic, which began to ease in late 2015, caused serious losses in agriculture and prompted national water rationing measures and educational campaigns.

But the most severe December-April dry season in the last 20 years helped convince the authorities to listen to the local scientific community in this Caribbean nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

“The National Meteorology Office (ONAMET) actually benefited because the authorities and key sectors like agriculture and water paid more attention to us,” said Juana Sille, an expert on drought, which was a major problem in the Caribbean and Central America in 2015.

The cause was the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a cyclical climate phenomenon that affects weather patterns around the world. Forecasts indicate that its effects will be felt until early spring 2016, and devastating impacts have already been seen in South American countries like Bolivia, Colombia and Peru.

As a result of this record El Niño and its extreme climatic events, the international humanitarian organisation Oxfam predicted in October that at least 10 million of the world’s poorest people would go hungry in 2015 and 2016 due to failing crops.

“The most severe droughts reported in the Dominican Republic are associated with the ENSO phenomenon,” Sille told IPS, based on ONAMET’s studies.

But the meteorologist said that unlike in past years, “there is now awareness among decision-makers about climate change and the tendency towards reduced rainfall.”

The gardens and fruit trees kept by many women in their yards to help feed their families, like this one in the rural settlement of Mata Mamón, were hit hard by drought in the Dominican Republic in 2015. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

The gardens and fruit trees kept by many women in their yards to help feed their families, like this one in the rural settlement of Mata Mamón, were hit hard by drought in the Dominican Republic in 2015. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

“The authorities are learning to follow the early warning system and to implement prevention and adaptation plans,” she stated.

Sille pointed out that, in an unusual move, a government minister asked ONAMET in 2015 to carry out a study to assess the causes and likely duration of the drought that has been plaguing the country since 2014.

One quarter of the world’s population faces economic water shortage (when a population cannot afford to make use of an adequate water source).

Effects of drought in the Caribbean

• In Cuba, 45 percent of the national territory suffered rainfall shortages, in the most severe dry season in 115 years.
• In Jamaica, people found to be wasting water can be fined or even put into jail for up to 30 days.
• Barbados, Dominica and the Virgin Islands adopted water rationing measures in the residential sector.
• St. Lucia declared a national emergency after several months of water shortages.
• Puerto Rico suffered serious shortages due to poor maintenance of reservoirs.
• Antigua and Barbuda depended on wells and desalination plants to alleviate water shortages.
• In Central America, more than 3.5 million people have been affected by drought.

This is true mainly in the developing South, where the local scientific communities have a hard time raising awareness regarding the management of drought, whose impacts are less obvious than the damage caused by hurricanes and earthquakes.

Experts in the Dominican Republic and other developing countries call for the creation of risk management plans to ward off the consequences of water scarcity crises.

“We have a National Plan Against Desertification and Drought, but some institutions apply it while others don’t,” lamented the meteorologist. “This drought demonstrated the urgent need for everyone to implement the programme, which we have been working on for a long time.”

She said 2015 highlighted the importance of educational campaigns on water rationing measures, drought-resistant crops, more frequent technical advice and orientation for farmers, more wells, and the maintenance of available water sources.

The Dominican Republic’s 10 reservoirs, located in six of the country’s 31 provinces, are insufficient, according to experts. Another one will be created when the Monte Grande dam is completed in the southern province of Barahona.

Along with rivers and other sources, the reservoirs must meet the demands of the country’s 9.3 million people and the local economy, where tourism plays a key role.

Water from the reservoirs is used first for household consumption, then irrigation of crops in the reservoir’s area of influence and the generation of electric power. But every sector was affected by water scarcity in 2015.

“The dry season was really bad. The worst of all, because it killed the crops,” Luisa Echeverry, a 48-year-old homemaker, told IPS. Her backyard garden in the rural settlement of Mata Mamón, in the municipality of Santo Domingo Norte, to the north of the capital, helps feed her family.

But her garden, where she grows beans and corn, as well as peppers and other vegetables, to complement the diet of her three children, was hit hard by the scant rainfall.

“When things were toughest, we would try to manage using our water tank, which we sometimes even used to provide our neighbours with water,” said Echeverry.

“Our concern was for the crops, in our houses we always had water,” said Ocrida de la Rosa, another woman from this rural town of small farmers in the province of Santo Domingo, where many women keep gardens and fruit trees to help feed their families.

All but two of the country’s reservoirs were operating at minimum capacity, which meant the authorities had to give priority to residential users over agriculture and power generation.

Yields went down, and many crops were lost, especially in rice paddies, which require huge quantities of water. Production in the rice-growing region in the northwest of the country fell 80 percent due to the scarce rainfall and the reduced flow in the Yaque del Norte River.

And the Dominican Agribusiness Council reported a 25 to 30 percent drop in dairy production due to the drought, while hundreds of heads of beef cattle died in the south of the country.

Production in the hydropower dams fell 60 percent, in a country where hydroelectricity accounts for 13 percent of the renewable energy supply.

The daily water supply in Greater Santo Domingo went down by 25 percent, and thousands of people in hundreds of neighbourhoods, and in the interior of the country, suffered water rationing measures. Some neighbourhoods depended on tanker trucks for water.

And in the face of rationing measures, residents of Greater Santo Domingo protested the wasteful use of water in less essential activities, as well as the many unrepaired leaks in the residential sector.

The authorities closed down local car wash businesses, which abound in the city, and people could be fined or even arrested for wasting water to wash cars, clean sidewalks and water gardens.

“Integrated water management has advanced in this country,” another ONAMET meteorologist, Bolívar Ledesma, told IPS.

To illustrate, he pointed to the National Water Observatory, which adopts water management decisions together with institutions like the Santo Domingo water and sewage company (CAASD), the National Institute of Potable Water and Sewage (INAP) and the National Water Resources Institute (INDRHI).

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Soy Boom Revives Amazon Highway Fri, 08 Jan 2016 00:09:44 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet A local small farmer, Rosineide Maciel, watches the road improvement works on highway BR-163, which runs past her house in Itaituba municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

A local small farmer, Rosineide Maciel, watches the road improvement works on highway BR-163, which runs past her house in Itaituba municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
MIRITITUBA, Brazil , Jan 8 2016 (IPS)

The BR-163 highway, an old dream of the Brazilian military to colonise the Amazon jungle, was revived by agroexporters as part of a plan aimed at cutting costs by shipping soy out of river ports. But the improvement of the road has accentuated problems such as deforestation and land tenure, and is fuelling new social conflicts.

The 350-km stretch of road between the cities of Miritituba and Santarem in the northern Brazilian state of Pará look nothing like the popular image of a lush Amazon rainforest, home to some of the greatest biodiversity in the world.

Between the two port terminals – in Santarém, where the Tapajós and Amazon Rivers converge, and in Miritituba on the banks of the Tapajós River – are small scattered groves of trees surrounded by endless fields of soy and pasture.

Cattle grazing peacefully or resting under the few remaining trees, taking shelter from the high temperatures exacerbated by the deforestation, are the only species of mammal in sight.“A common phrase heard in the area along the BR-163 is ‘whoever deforests, owns the land’ – in other words, deforestation has become an illegal instrument for seizing public land.” – Mauricio Torres

“When we came here 30 years ago this was all jungle,” local small farmer Rosineide Maciel told IPS as she and her family stood watching a bulldozer flatten a stretch of the BR-163 highway in front of their modest dwelling.

Maciel doesn’t miss the days when, along with thousands of other Brazilian migrants, she was drawn here by the then-military government’s (1964-1985) offer of land, part of a strategy to colonise the Amazon rainforest.

Thanks to the paving of the highway that began in 2009, it takes less time to transport her cassava and rice to the town of Rurópolis, 200 km from her farm.

“It’s been easier since they improved the road,” she said. “In the past, there were so many potholes on the way to Rurópolis, and in the wet season it took us three days because of the mud.”

BR-163, built in the 1970s, had become practically impassable. The road links Cuiabá, the capital of the neighbouring state of Mato Grosso – the country’s main soy and corn producer and exporter – with the river port city of Santarém.

Of the highway’s 1,400 kilometres, where traffic of trucks carrying tons of soy and maize is intense, some 200 km have yet to be paved, and a similar number of kilometres of the road are full of potholes.

Accidents occur on a daily basis, caused in the dry season by the red dust thrown up on the stretches that are still dirt, and in the wet season by the mud.

But compared to how things were in the past, it is a paradise for the truckers who drive the route at least five times a month during harvest time.

Truck driver Pedro Gomes from the north of the state of Mato Grosso told IPS: “When soy began to come to Santarém, three years ago, sometimes the drive took me 10 to 15 days. Today we do it in three days, if there’s no rain.”

The BR-163 highway runs up to the entrance of the port terminal built in Santarém by U.S. commodities giant Cargill, where the company loads soy and other grains to ship down the Amazon River to the Atlantic Ocean, and from there to big markets like China and Europe.

This and other ports built or planned by different companies in Santarém, Miritituba and Barcarena – in Belem, the capital of Pará, at the mouth of the Amazon River – are part of a logistics infrastructure which, along with the paving of the highway, seeks to reduce the costs of land and maritime transport in northern Brazil.

The river ports and the road improvement have nearly cut in half the transport distance for truck traffic from Mato Grosso, which is around 2,000 km from the congested ports in the southeast, such as Santos in the state of São Paulo or Paranaguá in Paraná.

The Mato Grosso Soy Producers Association estimates the transport savings at 40 dollars a ton.

“Shipping out of ports in the north like Santarém has boosted competitiveness,” José de Lima, director of planning for the city of Santarém, told IPS. “BR-163 is a key export corridor that was very much needed by the country and the region.”

But the country’s agroexport model has many critics.

Road works on highway BR-163 in Itaituba municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Road works on highway BR-163 in Itaituba municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

With the soy production boom in Pará, illegal occupations of land have expanded and property prices have soared.

“The paving of BR-163 has heated up the land market,” Mauricio Torres, at the Federal University of Western Pará (UFOPA), told IPS. “As this is happening in a region where illegal possession of land is so widespread and where there is no land-use zoning, it generates a series of social and environmental conflicts.”

This, in turn, has driven deforestation.

“Forests are cut down not only for agriculture but to make fraudulent land claims. A common phrase heard in the area along the BR-163 is ‘whoever deforests, owns the land’ – in other words, deforestation has become an illegal instrument for seizing public land,” he said.

In 2006, the government launched a sustainable development plan for BR-163, aimed at reducing the socioenvironmental impacts caused by the paving of the road, by means of self-sustaining projects for local communities.

“But this pretty much just petered out,” UFOPA chancellor Raimunda Nogueira explained to IPS.

“If the communities along BR-163 are not strengthened, they will undergo a radical transformation,” she said. “For example, land prices are skyrocketing and small farmers are selling out, which accentuates the phenomenon of the latifundio (large landed estates).”

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon became more widespread in the 1960s, driven by the expansion of cattle ranching and the timber industry.

However, that did not leave the land completely free of vegetation, according to Nogueira, because subsistence farming “maintained different levels of regeneration of the forest.”

“When the big agricultural producers came in, they cleared all of those areas in the stage of regeneration that maintained a certain equilibrium,” said the chancellor, who estimates that around 120,000 hectares of land have been deforested to make way for soy.

Torres, meanwhile, referred to the emergence of other social problems like prostitution, involving minors as well as adults.

“There are towns in Pará that could turn into huge brothels for truck drivers,” he said.

The residents of Campo Verde, a town of around 6,000 people located 30 km from Miritituba, who depend on the production of palm hearts and on sawmills for a living, have started to feel the effects.

The town is located near the intersection of BR-163 and the 4,000-km Trans-Amazonian highway that cuts across northern Brazil.

“Only soy is going to come through here,” Celeste Ghizone, a community organiser in the town, told IPS. “An average of 1,500 trucks are expected to pass through every day. Just think of how many accidents we’re going to have with all of these truck drivers who drive through like mad men without even slowing down,” he said, adding that he is worried about rising crime and drug abuse rates.

When the improvement of BR-163 – including widening it to a four-lane highway along one major stretch – is completed, an estimated 20 million tons of grains (Mato Grosso currently produces 42 million tons) will be shipped northward to Amazon River ports rather than on the longer routes to ports in the southeast, by 2020.

The dream of agribusiness corporations is to continue expanding the soy corridor, by building a railway to Miritituba.

But Torres complained that “It’s important to stress that a paved BR-163 is not local infrastructure but is for the big soy producers of Mato Grosso. The state of Pará will become merely a transport corridor for soy exports.”

Edited by Verónica Firme/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Hail to the Cowpea: a Blue Ribbon for the Black-Eyed Pea Tue, 05 Jan 2016 14:48:42 +0000 Nteranya Sanginga

Nteranya Sanginga is the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

By Nteranya Sanginga
IBADAN, Nigeria, Jan 5 2016 (IPS)

2016 is the International Year of Pulses, and we at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture are proud to be organizing what promises to be the landmark event, the Joint World Cowpea and Pan-African Grain Legume Research Conference.

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

The March event in Zambia should draw experts from around the continent and beyond and offer an opportunity to share ideas into the edible seeds – cowpeas, common bean, lentils, chickpeas, faba and lima beans and other varieties – now enjoying their well-deserved 15 minutes of fame as nutritional superstars.

Pulses may look small, but they are a big deal.

Nutritionists consistently find that their low glycemic profiles and hefty fiber content help prevent and manage the so-called diseases of affluence, such as obesity and diabetes. And the protein they pack holds great potential to assist the world in managing its livestock practices in a more sustainable way, so that more people can enjoy better and more varied middle-income diets without placing excess strains on natural resources.

First and foremost, we must make more pulses available. Global per capita availability of pulses declined by more than a third in the four decades following the 1960s. But production has been growing sharply since 2005, especially in developing countries. Cowpeas have been one of the specific leaders of this trend, which has been marked by very welcome increases in yield as well as more hectares being planted.

Importantly, almost a fifth of all pulses today are traded, up almost three-fold from the 1980s, a pace that vastly outstrips the growing trade in cereals. Moreover, while North America is an exporting powerhouse, so is East Africa and Myanmar; more than half of all pulses exports now come from developing countries.

There is a serious opportunity to scale up these protean protein sources.

The good news for the millions of small family farmers is that this may be more about reclaiming a traditional virtue than revolution. After all, the prolific Arab traveler Ibn Battuta wrote about Bambara nuts fried in shea oil while on a trip to Mali and the Sahel back in 1352. The cowpea fritters, known as akara in Nigeria and often seen at roadside stands around West Africa, are their direct descendants, and the elder siblings of acarajés, declared part of the cultural heritage of Brazil – where they are eaten with shrimp – and where their Yoruba name survived the dreadful middle passage of the slave trade.

We at IITA have been cowpea champions for decades. Just this month Swaziland’s Ministry of Agriculture released to local farmers five new cowpea varieties we developed – seeds that mature up to 20 percent faster and yield up to four times more. That latest success comes in great measure, thanks to IITA’s gene bank, which holds, for the world community, 15,112 unique samples of cowpea hailing from 88 countries.

Why so many cowpeas? Our question is why aren’t more being grown!

After all, cowpea contains 25 percent protein, is an excellent conveyor of vitamins and minerals, adapts to a broad range of soil types, tolerates drought as well as shade, grows fast to combat erosion, and as a legume pumps nitrogen back into the soil. We can eat its main product – sometimes known as black-eyed peas – and animals enjoy the residual stems and leaves.

So why don’t we hear more about it? Well, perhaps the world wasn’t listening, but it’s about to have another chance.

Seriously, though, cowpeas come with problems. First of all, the plant is subject to assault at every point in its life cycle, be it from aphids, mosaic virus, pod borers, rival weeds, or the dreaded weevils that fight with fungi and bacteria to consume the seeds while in storage. These are things IITA scientists try to combat, through seed breeding or spreading innovative technologies such as the PICS bags that keep the weevils out.

There is much more to learn, about the plant, how to grow it, and how to bolster its role in the food system. I’lll wager that in the Year of Pulses much will be learned about processing, a critical phase, and one that is already allowing many Nigerian businesses to prosper. Perhaps big global food manufacturers will find new ways to grind pulses into their grain products to produce healthier foods with more complete proteins.

As for farming cowpea, the plant can serve to reduce weeds and fertilizer for the cash crops. It is also harvested before the cereal crops, offering food security and also flexibility, as farmers can choose to let the plants grow, reducing bean yields but increasing that of fodder.

The plant’s epicenter – genetically and today – is West Africa. Nigeria is the big producer, but is also the main importer from neighboring countries. Niger is the world’s biggest exporter. But its ability to deal with dry weather and help combat soil erosion might be of interest elsewhere, such as in Central America’s dry corridor.


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Credit Innovation has a Key Role in Bangladesh’s Climate Change Adaptation Thu, 31 Dec 2015 08:39:25 +0000 Sumon Dey 0 Kitchen Gardens are Victory Gardens in Boosting Nutrition and Incomes in Western Kenya Wed, 30 Dec 2015 15:35:22 +0000 Justus Wanzala 1 Women Inmates Sow Hope in Prisons in El Salvador Tue, 29 Dec 2015 18:58:02 +0000 Edgardo Ayala Jannete Salvador and Doris Zabala plant chives on the Izalco prison farm for women in the western Salvadoran department of Sonsonate. The government is extending the use of farm work and other activities in prisons to keep inmates active and productive. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Jannete Salvador and Doris Zabala plant chives on the Izalco prison farm for women in the western Salvadoran department of Sonsonate. The government is extending the use of farm work and other activities in prisons to keep inmates active and productive. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
IZALCO, El Salvador, Dec 29 2015 (IPS)

Doris Zabala squats down in the field to pull up radishes. She is working on a prison farm in El Salvador, where more and more penitentiaries are incorporating agricultural work and other activities to keep prisoners busy.

“The harvest has been good – nice, big red radishes,” Zabala told IPS. She is one of 210 inmates at the Centro Penitenciario para Mujeres Granja Izalco – a prison farm for women in the municipality of Izalco in the western department of Sonsonate.

This facility is only for minimum-security women prisoners who already have weekend leave to visit their families.

Of the 210 prisoners, 80 work in the fields, while the rest are active in other areas, such as cooking in the prison kitchen or taking care of the inmates’ children.

On the 26 hectares of land used by the prison farm, the women use agroecological methods to grow radishes, sesame, tomatoes, corn, papaya and other fruit and vegetables. A small chicken farm has also begun to operate, and a tilapia fish farm is on the cards.

“At my house there is land for growing things, so when I’m free I plan to continue gardening because I like it,” said 32-year-old Cecilia Méndez, who has spent six years in prison. She told IPS she is set to be released in eight months.

The farm was inaugurated in January 2011 as part of the government’s efforts to offer occupational alternatives in the country’s overpopulated prisons, to gradually ease the problems of idle prisoners, overcrowding, violence and crime that have reigned supreme in the penitentiaries for decades.

This Central American country’s 21 prisons were built for a combined total of 8,100 prisoners, but currently hold 32,300 – four times the capacity – according to official figures.

There is an “enormous humanitarian crisis in the penitentiary system” says the report “The Salvadoran Prison System and its Facilities”, published in November this year by the University Institute for Public Opinion (IUDOP) at the catholic José Simeón Cañas Central American University (UCA), under the auspices of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

The Izalco prison farm is part of the government programme Yo Cambio (I Change), which includes a number of measures aimed at boosting the reintegration of prisoners and reducing recidivism.

The programme offers skills training, activities and work to keep inmates busy and improve their reinsertion into society once they are released. Projects also include rebuilding, enlarging and refurbishing existing prisons and the construction of new facilities, to ease the serious problem of overcrowding.

“Everyone thinks we don’t do anything, that we sit around thinking abut things that we shouldn’t, but we actually keep busy,” said Méndez, walking between rows of chives (Allium schoenoprasum).

The use of environmentally-friendly farming techniques, such as organic fertiliser, is a key part of the process.

“The idea is to teach the inmates new practices,” Óscar Menéndez, the farm administrator, told IPS.

“Anyone who likes to work keeps busy here,” María Cristina Vásquez, 53, who is in charge of the papaya crop and the small chicken coop with 100 chicks that arrived recently, which she cares for with dedication.

The farm’s output is for internal prison consumption and the surplus is sent to other penitentiaries.

On Dec. 22, the government signed a 4.2 million dollar contract with a construction company to refurbish the facilities in Izalco, to improve conditions.

A similar prison farm is located outside the city of Santa Ana in the department of the same name in western El Salvador.

The programme is not limited to farms but also includes other employment activities, in other prisons, such as carpentry and shoe production and repair.

In the Centro Penal Apanteos prison, 72 km west of San Salvador, also in the department of Santa Ana, the inmates set up a novel laboratory where they produce 60,000 tilapia fish in the larval stage per month.

They also created a factory that produces bleach and disinfectant, based on the expertise passed along by a former prisoner.

“He knew how to do this, and our motto here is that whoever knows something teaches it to others who don’t know,” said Rolando Artiaga, 24, who is in charge of running the small factory. They produce 200 gallons of disinfectant and 150 gallons of bleach a month, which are sold inside the prison itself.

The programme also includes activities like sports, education, healthcare, religion, art and culture.

But not all the inmates have access to these benefits.

Of the 32,300 prisoners in the country, only one-third benefit from the project, in 12 prisons around the country, Orlando Elías Molina, assistant director of the government’s prison administration agency, the DGCP, told IPS.

In the biggest prison, La Esperanza, to the north of San Salvador, the authorities tried to launch some of the activities used by the programme, in mid-2015, but the efforts were frustrated because of the gangs that control the prison, he added.

“If we let the criminal structures run this, it’s not going to work,” Molina said.

Next year, he added, they will try to get activities going even in those prisons that specifically hold gang members, such as the one in Chalatenango, in the north of the country, which houses members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang. It is one of the most violent gangs along with Barrio 18.

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Insecurity in Dominican Countryside Threatens Local Food Supply Mon, 28 Dec 2015 16:39:47 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez Cecilia Joseph is a small farmer in Mata Mamón who says she crossed the border from Haiti “when I was just a girl.” Credit: Dionny Matos

Cecilia Joseph is a small farmer in Mata Mamón who says she crossed the border from Haiti “when I was just a girl.” Credit: Dionny Matos

By Ivet González
MATA MAMÓN, Dominican Republic , Dec 28 2015 (IPS)

“Sometimes we have too much water, which washes everything away,” Cecilia Joseph, originally from Haiti, said in heavily accented Spanish while pulling up a ñame root (a kind of yam) on her farm in the municipality of Santo Domingo Norte in the Dominican Republic.

Joseph was referring to the frequent flooding caused when the Ozama, Cabón and Tosa rivers, which run through the rural area of Mata Mamón 30 km north of the Dominican capital, overflow their banks.

The heavy rains hurt her subsistence crops – corn, banana, papaya, avocado, ñame and mango – which sometimes produce a surplus that she sells, complained this small, thin, agile 70-year-old.Today, 1.5 million of the Dominican Republic’s 9.3 million inhabitants are still malnourished.

Cecé, as she is known here, depends completely on her one-hectare farm for a living, because her son and her husband are both dead.

This community of 1,714 inhabitants, where most people are small farmers like Joseph, is one of 1,100 that are registered by the civil defence agency in the province of Santo Domingo as vulnerable to flooding and landslides due to the overflowing of rivers and the lack of stormwater drainage systems.

The overwhelming consensus in the scientific community is that climate change and global warming are to blame for erratic weather patterns such as what is being seen in this country today.

Besides the threats posed to their health – and to their very lives – local farmers consulted by IPS say the environmental problem has reduced their production levels, and as a result they don’t have enough food anymore to feed their families.

“Five years ago I stopped planting rice and pumpkin on the land next to the river, because it overflowed its banks more and more frequently, to the point that it wasn’t worth investing there, just to lose everything,” said 56-year-old José Corcino, who also works as a skilled construction worker to support his family.

To feed his family, José Corcino plants crops and raises pigs in his backyard, which the floodwaters reach when the nearby river overflows its banks. Credit: Dionny Matos

To feed his family, José Corcino plants crops and raises pigs in his backyard, which the floodwaters reach when the nearby river overflows its banks. Credit: Dionny Matos

“We have made several requests through the United Hearts Association of Farmers of Mata Mamón for the state to dredge the rivers so they won’t overflow their banks. But everything has been in vain. We still can’t plant our crops,” complained Corcino, one of the more than 100 members of the organisation.

“We are going hungry because we don’t grow enough to be able to swap products with other local farmers,” he said. “And we don’t have markets here. Sometimes people come in trucks, selling vegetables and things, or we have to go and shop at La Victoria, which is six km away.”

Corcino, a father of three, grows banana, guava, soursop, avocado and mango to feed his family, on the one-hectare plot of land where his house is located. And farther away, on a 1.5-hectare plot where he used to grow rice, he grazes his 15 head of cattle, mainly dairy cows.

“Every afternoon I bring the cattle to my yard because the thieves take everything,” he said, referring to another factor that is a hindrance to agriculture. In his view, what the farmers in Mata Manón need is less vandalism and rustling, and more environmental services and investment, to boost local food production.

Today, 1.5 million of the Dominican Republic’s 9.3 million inhabitants are still malnourished, even though the country managed to reduce the number of people suffering from hunger in the last 20 years, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FA0).

As they chat, local men point to the town, which is mainly populated by people originally from neighbouring Haiti or descendants of Haitians. Credit: Dionny Matos

As they chat, local men point to the town, which is mainly populated by people originally from neighbouring Haiti or descendants of Haitians. Credit: Dionny Matos

Food insecurity and poverty are largely rural phenomena in this Caribbean nation which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, according to the Panorama of Food and Nutritional Security in Central America and Dominican Republic 2014, published for the first time this year by FAO.

In fields in the Dominican Republic, where food availability is determined, it is small farmers and blacks who suffer the most, according to the study.

“Peasant farmers have to feel security for themselves and their families in terms of labour, income, food, and access to school and healthcare. And environmental security is also important, because sometimes heavy rains fall and wipe away their crops,” said Manuel Rodríguez at the Labour Ministry’s Agriculture Office.

He said the office offers advice to help generate more secure jobs, as part of a larger government programme aimed at increasing employment in agriculture from the current 20 percent to 40 percent of the total workforce.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, only 609,197 people work in this sector: 559,428 men and 49,769 women.

“Peasants are abandoning their land today because there isn’t any money or work. But in the next few years, the Dominican countryside is going to undergo a radical change,” the official predicted.

The project will also involve technological modernisation projects like the expansion of greenhouse areas, initiatives for incorporating more women in farming, reduced interest payments to the agricultural bank, and more credit for farmers.

The Dominican Republic is a major exporter of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers, while production of Chinese vegetables is growing, said Rodríguez. This country is also one of the world’s leading exporters of organic tropical products like bananas.

However, Dominican society is marked by a high level of inequality, and hunger and malnutrition are still top-priority problems, as recognised by the authorities when parliament approved a law on food and nutritional sovereignty and security in 2014.

Mata Mamón, a “batey” – a term that refers to rural shantytowns that originally sprung up on sugarcane plantations, as well as to urban slums surrounding cities and populated mainly by Haitians and Dominican-Haitians – is an area of potted roads lined by earth-floored wooden shacks and a few modest cinder-block dwellings.

“We have made some progress in education and among the youth, who have calmed down,” said Cornelio Guzmán, chairman of the Human Rights Committee for the last 15 years, with regard to the declining rates of juvenile delinquency and the construction of a local school.

“With respect to economic questions, the community has almost no income because the rivers destroy the crops and it’s impossible to fight the theft of cattle, goats and pigs, because we only have one policeman,” lamented the 44-year-old activist.

Edited by Verónica Firme/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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WTO: Giant Steps in the World Conference Wed, 23 Dec 2015 18:50:42 +0000 Roberto Azevedo

Roberto Azevêdo is the director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

By Roberto Azevêdo
NAIROBI, Dec 23 2015 (IPS)

World Trade Organization (WTO) members concluded the Tenth Ministerial Conference in Nairobi on 19 December by securing an historic agreement on a series of trade initiatives. The “Nairobi Package” pays fitting tribute to the Conference host, Kenya, by delivering commitments that will benefit in particular the organization’s poorest members.

Roberto Azevêdo

Roberto Azevêdo

The decision on export competition is truly historic. It is the WTO’s most significant outcome on agriculture.

The elimination of agricultural export subsidies is particularly significant.

WTO members, ¬especially developing countries,¬ have consistently demanded action on this issue due to the enormous distorting potential of these subsidies for domestic production and trade. In fact, this task has been outstanding since export subsidies were banned for industrial goods more than 50 years ago.

WTO members’ decision tackles the issue once and for all. It removes the distortions that these subsidies cause in agriculture markets, thereby helping to level the playing field for the benefit of farmers and exporters in developing and least-developed countries.

This decision will also help to limit similar distorting effects associated with export credits and state trading enterprises.

And it will provide a better framework for international food aid ¬ maintaining this essential lifeline, while ensuring that it doesn’t displace domestic producers.

There are also important steps to improve food security, through decisions on public stockholding and towards a special safeguard mechanism, as well as a package of specific decisions for Least Developing Countries (LDCs).

This contains measures to enhance preferential rules of origin for LDCs and preferential treatment for LDC services providers.

And it contains a number of steps on cotton, such as eliminating export subsidies, and providing duty-free-quota-free market access for a range of LDC cotton products immediately.

In addition, we have approved the WTO membership of Liberia and Afghanistan, and we now have 164 member countries.
And I think we are all committed to supporting these two LDCs to boost their growth and development.

We also saw continued commitment to help build the trading capacity of LDCs through the excellent support shown at the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) pledging conference.

And, finally, a large group of members agreed on the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA). Again, this is an historic breakthrough. It will eliminate tariffs on 10 per cent of global trade ¬ making it our first major tariff cutting deal since 1996.

While we celebrate these outcomes, we have to be clear-sighted about the situation we are in today.

Success was achieved here despite members’ persistent and fundamental divisions on our negotiating agenda – ¬ not because those divisions have been solved.

We have to face up to this problem.

The Ministerial Declaration acknowledges the differing opinions. And it instructs us to find ways to advance negotiations in Geneva.

Members must decide, the world must decide, about the future of this organization.

The world must decide what path this organization should take.

Inaction would itself be a decision. And I believe the price of inaction is too high.

It would harm the prospects of all those who rely on trade today ¬ and it would disadvantage all those who would benefit from a reformed, modernized global trading system in the future ¬ particularly in the poorest countries.

So we have a very serious task ahead of us in 2016.

We came to Nairobi determined to deliver for all those we represent ¬ and particularly for the one billion citizens of Africa.

At the outset, I warned that we were not looking at a perfect outcome. And what we have delivered is not perfect. There are still so many vital issues which we must tackle.

But we have delivered a huge amount. The decisions taken in Nairobi this week will help to improve the lives and prospects of many people ¬ around the world and in Africa.

When we left Geneva, the international media had already written their headlines:

-‘WTO talks break down’

-‘Another failure at the WTO’

That’s exactly how it was in the Ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali two years ago. And we saw it again this year.

Well, we’re getting used to proving those catastrophic headlines wrong.

In the past, all too often, WTO negotiations had a habit of ending in failure.

But, despite adversity ¬ despite real challenges ¬ we are creating a new habit at the WTO: success.


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Despite Health Risks, Many Argue GMOs Could Help Solve Food Security Wed, 23 Dec 2015 13:52:03 +0000 Mbom Sixtus By Mbom Sixtus
YAOUNDE, Cameroon, Dec 23 2015 (IPS)

Cameroon is on the path to introduce genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). This would be overseen by the Cameroon Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with the National Biosafety Committee, if the Cameroon Cotton Corporation successfully implements a three-year test cultivation of cotton.

The introduction of GMOs is seen by many as a measure to improve Cameroon’s agricultural yields and guarantee food security, despite health risks.

“Genetically modified organisms will help Cameroon solve many problems which researchers of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have not been able to solve using conventional selection and cross breeding. It will definitely guarantee food security and safety,” Dr. David Akuroh Mbah, Chief Research Officer at the Cameroon Academy of Sciences, told IPS.

He says though Cameroon hasn’t begun using genetic engineering to modify food crops and livestock, “There are a good number of them which will be modified to increase yield. Some health problems will equally be solved. A lot of drugs and pharmaceutical products are produced by genetically modification of organisms, either plants or animals.”

According to Dr. Mbah, insulin which is required almost on a daily basis by a good proportion of the Cameroon population is now produced by use of bacteria and animals. “If it is done in Cameroon, it would be cheaper,” he said.

To further his point, Dr. Mbah cites examples such as the African swine fever, bird flu and a toxic element in cassava tubers which he says can all be eliminated through genetic modification.

“When we introduce this technology, we would be able to introduce genes that will eliminate the toxins in cassava which is currently being consumed heavily by a majority of Cameroonians. Genetic modification has been developed to eliminate the spread of bird flu virus among humans, while increasing the production of chickens. GMO chickens are more resistant to the virus. A technique has also been discovered to make pigs immune to the African swine fever virus, but this is only done out of Cameroon for now,” he said.

The country held its first national forum on GMOS from September 8 to 10, 2015 bringing together biotechnologists, academics, government officials, businessmen and experts from research institutions to brainstorm and pave the way for an effective introduction of use of bioengineering in the country’s agro sector.

Emmanuel Mbonde, the country’s Minister of Mines, Industry and Technological Development says that participants’ contributions to the forum will later on enable the government to take needed measures to guarantee the security of its economic, social, cultural and environmental space and to make prudent decisions in the face of challenges of modern biotechnology.

A 2014 report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, (ISAAA), shows Cameroon is among seven African countries (which include Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Egypt) engaged in test cultivation of GMOs.

Dr. Mbah says besides the forum, Cameroon had already adopted a law in 2003, to control modern biotechnology, genetic engineering or DNA technology and cloning.

“Now that the text of the application for the law has been signed, a National Biosafety Committee has been set up to guide the Ministry of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development on what type of biotechnology to authorize or prohibit.”

The Cameroon Academy of Science and the National Biosafety Committee would examine applications of private companies vying to use GMOs in Cameroon’s agriculture and livestock sectors.

Cameroon is currently testing the use of GMOs on cotton in three localities in the northern part of the country. The first phase of the testing was carried out in 2012, unannounced to the public. According to Celestin Klassou, a researcher at Cameroon Cotton Development Corporation, cotton produced during the first phase was resistant to pest and disease, and produced higher yields.

“There is a gene which is genetically engineered into the cotton. It is an experimental stage being carried out by the Cameroon Cotton Development Corporation in accordance with the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Cameroon law,” said Dr. Mbah.

He equally notes that the same procedure would be used to improve agricultural production, adding that “people who are protesting against this system have insufficient information. We would not import GMOs from abroad. We will develop them here. However, there is a law which obliges traders to label products in shops so that citizens can choose freely between GMOs and natural products.”

Dr. Mbah also told IPS GMOs would be introduced widely in Cameroon if the three-year-long second phase which is on-going in three localities in the northern region is successful. The cotton corporation also produces edible cotton oil for commercialization.

Professor Vincent Titanji, a Cameroonian biotechnologist and Vice Chancellor of the Cameroon Christian University Institute, reaffirms that the benefits of GMOs are greater than any negative affects they might have in future.

“Remember that fire was discovered. It is both useful and harmful. ICTs are the same. I have been in the domain of bioengineering for over 30 years and none of the predicted effects have materialized. It was predicted that weeds will invade the entire ecosystems of countries like Brazil, the US, South Africa and China which produce GMOs massively. Even the toxic substances predicted, have not materialized,” said Proffessor Titanji.

The bio-technician urges Cameroonians to embrace the technology and master it, in order to be able to make the best out of it, and to effectively and efficiently handle any effects which may come up in future.

He says GMOs have been used on crops like maize, soya beans, sorghum, rice and cotton and that the trials on cotton in the north of Cameroon have proven to be better yielding and resistant to pest.“One or two negative effects such as a possible allergy should not scare people away from biotechnology.

Samson Tetang, Coordinator of a Cameroon-based NGO, Sustainable Society International says GMOs are needed for the development of agriculture and livestock. He however insists there must be a mechanism for bio-surveillance put in place to follow the risks. “Food shortage can be fought through the use of GMOs, but serious health hazards could be registered if no one monitors the plants and animals,”he said.

Marcel Moukend, an agro-engineer in charge of a National Support Program for Maize producers at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development tells IPS that the introduction of GMOs in Cameroon is not an emergency solution to food crisis.

He argues that there are programs at the Ministry of Agriculture which can guarantee food security.

“In our program, farmers only need to show us their land and we provide maize seeds to them free of charge. We provide natural composite seeds which yield between five to six tons per hectare and imported improved hybrid seeds which yield between eight to ten tons per hectare. There are programs for other crops,” he argued.

Some of the programs, such as a national program to strengthen solanum potato sub sector, was introduced in 2008.

The program aimed at helping farmers increase and maintain a high quality production of solanum potatoes only went functional this year and was effective, according to reports from the agriculture ministry.

The program targets 250,000 farming families in the West, North West, Adamawa, Far North and South West regions of Cameroon.

The Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development launched 9 billion FCFA-worth agricultural programs this year, the programs dubbed, ‘Agropoles’, cover 17 projects which include the production of avocados, rice, pork, soya-bean oil as well as chicken in the Center, West, South, North and Littoral regions.

Emmanuel Mbom, Monitoring Officer at Counterpart International, told IPS that figures from the National Institute of Statistics show Cameroon is a food deficient country where one third of children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition.

Mbom whose NGO is implementing a U.S government sponsored program which provides food to some 74,000 school children in underprivileged regions of Cameroon, insists yearly food shortages are growing and represent a threat to children and their communities.

In relation to the use of GMOs, to fight hunger and poverty in Africa, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which once owned shares in Monsanto, a top GMO producer, states in its annual letter African farmers could theoretically double their yields using new farming innovations such as the use of high yielding seeds resistant to droughts and disease.

It adds that “With the right investments, we can deliver innovation and information to enough farmers in Africa to increase productivity by 50 per cent for the continent overall.”

UNICEF says hunger is a great problem in Sub-Saharan Africa, where Cameroon is found, despite the fact that the region is home to abundant cultivatable land. It says 70 per cent of the population in the region practice farming but ironically the prevalence of hunger is highest in the world with one in five people underfed. Forty per cent of children under the age of five (25 million children) suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition.

But in the face of these nutrition problems, some conservatives and civil society activists in Cameroon still believe traditional methods of farming used over the years can be a solution.

Joshua Konkankoh, founder of the Better World Cameroon NGO tells IPS “GMOs account for a great deal to the loss of food sovereignty in Africa and in no way can become a solution.”

He shares the school of thought that the introduction of GMOs is an initiative of private seed companies to kill off Africa’s seed systems. He equally believes GMOs threaten the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers who rely on recycling seed for their livelihoods.

During the opening of Cameroon’s first national forum on GMOs in September 2015, civil society leaders stormed the venue of the meeting with placards.

Led by Bernard Njonga, a politician and former president of a farmers association, l’Association Citoyenne de Défense des Interest Collectives, (in French) they carried messages suggesting GMOs are cancerous herbicides and a threat to small scale farmers. Dr. Mbah however dismissed their claims, saying that they are not scientific and emanate from baseless presumptions.

While the debate on the introduction of GMOs in Cameroon is still going on with researchers urging farmers to dialogue with experts and understand the initiative before jumping to unscientific conclusions, a study by Dr. Wilfred Mbatcham, a biotechnology researcher, reveals 25 per cent of imported goods in Cameroon contain GMOs.

The Chief Research Officer at the Cameroon Academy of Sciences tells IPS that the National Biosafety Committee is yet to confirm such reports and identify importers of these products.


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Coffee Rust Aggravates Poverty in Rural El Salvador Fri, 18 Dec 2015 17:39:39 +0000 Edgardo Ayala Ilsy Membreño separates green and red coffee beans, part of the tasks involved in the harvest on the Montebelo farm in El Salvador. The drop in production caused by coffee leaf rust has driven wages down to just three dollars a day. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Ilsy Membreño separates green and red coffee beans, part of the tasks involved in the harvest on the Montebelo farm in El Salvador. The drop in production caused by coffee leaf rust has driven wages down to just three dollars a day. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
EL CONGO, El Salvador , Dec 18 2015 (IPS)

Sitting in front of a pile of coffee beans that she has just picked, Ilsy Membreño separates the green cherries from the ripe red ones with a worried look on her face, lamenting the bad harvest on the farm where she works in western El Salvador and the low daily wages she is earning.

As it spread through this country and the rest of Central America, the fungus (Hemileia vastatrix) that causes coffee leaf rust infected the farm where she works.

“There is less coffee to pick, and in the end there is less money for us,” lamented Membreño, one of 30 people working in the harvest on the Montebelo farm in the municipality of El Congo in the western Salvadoran department (province) of Santa Ana.

The parasitic fungus feeds off the leaves of the plants, infecting them with yellow and brown spots. The leaves fall off and the beans are unable to mature.

Coffee production generates some 150,000 direct jobs and 500,000 indirect jobs, according to the report “Coffee Cultivation in El Salvador 2013”, drawn up by the governmental Salvadoran Coffee Council (CSC). Between 1995 and 2012, coffee represented 7.5 percent of the country’s total exports.

The fungus threatens to further impoverish El Salvador’s rural areas, where 36 percent of households already live in poverty, according to the government’s Multiple-Purpose Households Survey 2013.

Membreño told IPS that before the coffee leaf rust outbreak ravaged the farm, she picked two quintals (92 kilos) a day, earning around eight dollars a day during the three-month harvest.“The disease caught us with our pants down.” -- Julio Grande

“But now I don’t even manage to pick one quintal, and I earn just three dollars a day,” she said with resignation.

The other day labourers who talked to IPS described a similar situation when we visited the privately-owned farm, which is 116 manzanas (a manzana is equivalent to 0.7 hectare) in size.

Climate change has also hurt the coffee crop, with lengthy droughts in the rainy season and heavy rains in the dry season.

“The rain has knocked the coffee beans off, and we lose time picking them up,” said Sonia Hernández, a mother of three who is also working on the Montebelo farm, told IPS.

Official figures published on the CSC web site show that output plunged from 1.7 million quintals in the 2012-2013 harvest to just 700,000 in the 2013-2014 harvest, due to the coffee leaf rust outbreak.

In the period in question, the total payments to temporary harvest workers dropped from 21.6 million dollars to 8.7 million dollars.

Production rallied somewhat during the 2014-2015 harvest, to 925,000 quintals. The CSC’s forecast for the 2015-2016 harvest is 998,000 quintals – still below the output obtained prior to the outbreak.

“Without a harvest, these poor people don’t have work,” Manuel Morán, the foreman, told IPS.

Montebelo is in the Apaneca-Lamatepec mountains, where conditions are perfect for coffee cultivation. But neither corn nor beans, the staples of the Salvadoran diet, are grown in the area.

And without land to grow subsistence crops or money to buy food, the people in this rural community face threats to their food security.

“We don’t have anywhere to plant corn or beans, we depend on our work on this farm for a living,” said Membreño.

There are approximately 19,500 coffee growers in the country, 86 percent of whom are small farmers with less than 10 manzanas of land, who represent 21 percent of the total national output, according to the CSC.

“Outside of harvest time, we gather firewood, that’s how we support ourselves, because there isn’t anything else here,” said Membreño, who has an eight-year-old son. Her husband works in the same activities.

Coffee leaf rust, found in El Salvador since the late 1970s, began to spread rapidly in 2012. But the devastating effects were not felt until 2013, and caught coffee growers as well as the government off guard.

“The disease caught us with our pants down,” Julio Grande, a researcher at the governmental National Centre of Agricultural and Forest Technology (CENTA), told IPS.

In one area of the Montebelo farm, he is studying the biology of the parasite and the epidemiology of the disease, while testing fungicides.

The idea is integral treatment of the disease, simultaneously focusing on fertilisation of the plant, pruning, and the use of fungicides, he said.

These three elements together can bring good results, he added.

In fact, in the areas where he used fungicides, the coffee bushes are relatively healthy, and out of danger.

“The fungicides work, but if the other aspects of the equation are neglected, the effect is limited,” he added.

Renewing coffee plantations is an effective technique, because the older the plants, the more vulnerable they are to the fungus, the researcher added. El Salvador’s coffee trees are considered old – over 30 years old.

Besides technical assistance, fungicides and other inputs, the government distributed around eight million coffee rust-resistant plants to 4,200 farmers, to begin a process of renewal of their fields, Adán Hernández, manager of Centa’s coffee division, told IPS.

And on their own, farmers have planted another eight million, he added.

But large-scale renovation would require heavy government investment, to buy from private nurseries the 300 million seedlings needed to plant the 217,000 manzanas of coffee bushes in the country. And at any rate, there are not enough seeds available to do that.

Meanwhile, sitting next to the pile of coffee cherries, Ilsy Membreño has just one thing on her mind: how to get by on three dollars a day.

Edited by Verónica Firme/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Mexico to Export Nixtamalisation of Grains to Africa Fri, 18 Dec 2015 03:12:23 +0000 Emilio Godoy The corn is cooked with limewater to eliminate aflatoxins that cause liver and cervical cancer. Here a worker at the Grulin company is stirring the corn before it is washed, drained and ground, in San Luís Huexotla, Mexico. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The corn is cooked with limewater to eliminate aflatoxins that cause liver and cervical cancer. Here a worker at the Grulin company is stirring the corn before it is washed, drained and ground, in San Luís Huexotla, Mexico. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
TEXCOCO, Mexico , Dec 18 2015 (IPS)

Every day in the wee hours of the morning Verónica Reyes’ extended family grinds corn to make the dough they use in the tacos they sell from their food truck in Mexico City.

Sons, daughters-in-law and nephews and nieces divide the work in the family business that makes and sells cecina (dried, salted meat) tacos, longaniza (a kind of Spanish sausage), quesadillas and tlacoyos (thick stuffed oval-shaped corn dough tortillas).

“We cook the corn the night before and we grind it early in the morning, to serve people at 8:00 AM,” said Reyes, who has made a living selling food for years.

The family loads up the metal countertop, gas cylinders, tables, chairs, ingredients and over 60 kg of corn dough in their medium-sized truck before heading from their town of San Jerónimo Acazulco, some 46 km southwest of Mexico City, to whatever spot they have chosen that day to sell their wares.

When the taco truck packs up, it has sold just about all the food prepared that day.

The cooked corn dough takes on a yellow tone, an effect caused by a process called nixtamalisation – the preparation of corn or other grain, which is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, and hulled.According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 25 percent of world food crops are contaminated with aflatoxins.

This technique dates back to before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in Mexico in the 15th century, when local indigenous people cooked corn this way.

Nixtamalisation significantly reduces aflatoxins – any of several carcinogenic mycotoxins produced by molds that commonly infect corn, peanuts and other crops.

“In Mexico aflatoxins are a serious problem,” Ofelia Buendía, a professor at the department of agroindustrial engineering at the Autonomous University of Chapingo, told IPS. “A major effort has been made to eliminate them. The most effective is the traditional nixtamalisation technique.”

She has specialised in “nixtamalising” beans, quinoa, oats, amaranth, barley and other grains, and in producing nutritional foods.

Mexico’s corn dough and tortilla industry encompasses more than 78,000 mills and tortilla factories, over half of which are concentrated in just seven of the country’s 31 states.

Nearly 60 percent of the tortillas sold were made with nixtamalised dough.

Corn is the foundation of the diet in Central America and Mexico, where the process of nixtamalisation is widely used.

But consumption of tortillas has shrunk in Mexico, from 170 kg a year per person in the 1970s to 75 kg today, due to the inroads made by fast food and junk food.

Mexico is now cooperating with Kenya in east Africa to transfer know-how and technology to introduce the technique, to help that country reduce aflatoxins.

Mexico and Kenya signed two cooperation agreements, one of which offers technical support and involves the sending of mills by Mexico’s International Development Cooperation Agency.

Kenya needs 45 million 90-kg bags of corn a year, and only produces 40 million.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 25 percent of world food crops are contaminated with aflatoxins, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 4.5 billion people in the developing world have chronic exposure to them.

Studies by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) suggest that approximately 26,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa die every year of liver cancer associated with chronic exposure to aflatoxins.

At 3:00 AM, the machines are turned on in the processing plant of the Comercializadora y Distribuidora de Alimentos Grulin food processing and distribution company in the town of San Luís Huexotla, some 50 km east of Mexico City.

The work consists of washing the corn cooked the night before, draining it, and grinding it to produce the dough for making tortillas and toast, which are packaged and distributed to sales points in the area.

“Nixtamalisation respects the nutrients in the corn, although some are lost in the washing process,” José Linares, director general of Grulin, told IPS. “There are faster systems of nixtamalisation, but they’re more costly. The technology is shifting towards a more efficient use of water and faster processing.”

His father started out with one tortilla factory, and the business expanded until the Grulin company was founded in 2013.

Grulin processes between 32 and 36 50-kg balls of dough a day. One kg of corn produces 1.9 kg of dough.

The corn is cooked for 90 minutes and then passes through a tank of limewater for 30 seconds before going into tubs with a capacity of 750 kg, where it remains for 24 hours. It is then drained and is ready for grinding between two matching carved stones.

Officials from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) have visited Mexico to learn about nixtamalisation and test corn products.

The experts who talked to the Kenyan officials said the technique could be adopted by nations in Africa.

“In Africa they want to know about the process, because of its tremendous uses for food. Some variables can be influenced, such as texture and taste,” said Buendía. “The Chinese eat tortillas, so this technique could be adopted. These opportunities cannot be missed.”

Besides cultural questions, the availability of water and generation of waste liquid – known as ‘nejayote’ – can be problems. For every 50 kg of corn processed, some 75 litres of water are needed. The nejayote, which is highly polluting because of its degree of alkalinity, is dumped into the sewer system.

Academic researchers are investigating how to make use of the waste liquid to produce fertiliser, to reuse it in washing the corn, and to make water use more efficient.

“It would be necessary to overcome the cultural barriers, and make sure the taste of lime isn’t noticeable….The technique is replicable,” said Grulin’s Linares.

In 2009, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service developed a biological control technology called AflaSafe, to fight aflatoxins in corn and peanuts. It is so far available in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Kenya, Senegal and Zambia.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez and Verónica Firme/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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