Inter Press ServiceFood & Agriculture – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 21 Aug 2018 15:05:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Take Charge of Your Food: Your Health is Your Businesshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2018 10:22:03 +0000 Sunita Narain http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157235 Sunita Narain is Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) & Editor of Down to Earth magazine in New Delhi

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Credit: IPS

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

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

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

Sunita Narain. Credit: Center for Science and Education

Sunita Narain. Credit: Center for Science and Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agenda 2030

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reproductive Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Smallholder coffee farmers. Credit: SAFE Platform

By Carol Gribnau
Aug 15 2018 (IPS)

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

 

Save our coffee

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

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

Carol Gribnau

Carol Gribnau

How multi-stakeholder collaboration works

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

Tailor-made approaches

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

 

The right people at the table

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

One Plan for One Planet

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

 

 

Changing the food system in Zambia

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

Call to action

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

 

This opinion piece was originally published here

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

Typical food store in Brazzaville, Congo. Credit: WHO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*name has been changed

 

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Nalisha Adams
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 10 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

Families go into debt to pay for basic foods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monopoly of Food Chain Creating a System that Makes People Ill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sugar Tax Not Enough to Stem Epidemic of Obesity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Not her real name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How the Yanadi, an Oppressed Indigenous People in India, are Reclaiming Their Rights One Village At a Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/yanadi-oppressed-indigenous-people-india-reclaiming-rights-one-village-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yanadi-oppressed-indigenous-people-india-reclaiming-rights-one-village-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/yanadi-oppressed-indigenous-people-india-reclaiming-rights-one-village-time/#respond Tue, 07 Aug 2018 10:47:33 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157097 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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The women of Macharawari Pallem, a village of the Yanadi indigenous people located some three hours from Chennai city in South India, finally re-claimed their land after being award it over two decades ago and losing it to landlords and village elites. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
NELLORE DISTRICT, India, Aug 7 2018 (IPS)

Under the blazing midday sun, a tractor moves slowly along a dirt trail in Nacharwari Pallem, a village of the Yanadi indigenous people located some three hours from Chennai city in South India. Atop the tractor, women of the village – 36 in all – sit expectantly, ignoring the heat. Squeals of excitement fill the air as the tractor slowly halts near a stretch of rice fields.  

The women scramble to get down and make a beeline to the nearest rice field, a pink piece of paper tightly held in each of their hands. This is the official document that declares ownership of a plot of land.  

Once at the rice field, the women stand in a circle and in a ritual-like manner, clap and break into laughter. The moment is historic: after the struggle of a lifetime, the  Yanadis finally have rights to the land that they have cultivated for generations. 

Yanadi – a tale of poverty and oppression 

There are roughly three million Yanadis in India today, spread over four districts in Andhra Pradesh state, and divided into four clans. The Reddy or ‘Good’ Yanadis have always worked for the Reddy’s or the rich men of the villages, while the Challa Yanadis had menial jobs only, which included scavenging. In return for their work they were paid only with leftover food–a clear indication of their exploitation. “There are so many odds, but for my people, standing together can be the best way to overcome them all." -- Gandala Sriramalu, Yanadi village elder.
 

The Kappalla Yanadi who catch fish and also often frogs, make up the third clan. And finally, there are the Adavi Yanadi, who live in the forests as hunter gatherers. 

While the clans live in different areas and traditionally take on different types of work, what is common among all four is the cycle of utter poverty and deprivation that they have been subjected to.  

At least 60 percent of Yanadi do not own a home and live in makeshift thatched huts, with the majority labouring hard in other people’s homes as domestic workers or on farms as labourers for little or no wages.  

Only 14 percent of Yanadis are literate despite the fact that Andhra Pradesh state has an average literacy rate of 67 percent.  

And despite the large size of their population, this group of indigenous people still have no political representative in either the National Parliament or the Assembly (the provisional legislature). In addition, save barely two to three percent, the entire people are landless. 

Much of their current condition is a result of their semi-nomadic lifestyle, says Sheikh Basheer who heads the Association for the Rural Development (ARD), a non-governmental organisation that has been working for the rights and welfare of the Yanadis for nearly 30 years.  

These indigenous people initially lived in the forests and near small waterbodies like rivers, streams and ponds, catching fish and small animals. However, as resources dried up slowly, they moved away from this type of life and had to begin working as manual labourers to survive. But while they worked for people in villages, they continued to live in their isolated huts, and unlike their village counterparts they did not own land or settle down to a more organised village life. As a result, they were left out of village affairs, and became seen as pariahs who lived in isolation. 

But most damaging to the Yanadis and their way of life has been their bondage–a form of slavery where the village elites who employed the Yanadis also decided their present and their future. “The Reddy’s [elites] employed the whole family as one labour unit. This means only one person was paid—not with cash, but in food grains—while the entire family, including the children, worked hard,” Basheer tells IPS.   

“Above all, the employment would continue for generations and the family could not leave until the employer let them go. So, these people have lived in silence with no knowledge of their rights,” Basheer, who has helped free over 700 Yanadis from slavery, says.

Landlessness and exploitation 

Gandala Sriramalu is a community elder who is one of the lucky few to have received an education and been employed in government job. Now retired, Sriramalu spends his time visiting his community and making them aware of their rights as well as the opportunities available to them, including free education for their children.  

The problem, he tells IPS, is that the Yanadis have never learnt to think or act on their own. So, when aid is given from the government and other agencies like NGOs, they are unable to make use of the opportunities.  

The ownership of land is one such issue. For the past two decades, the government has been distributing land rights to the Yanadis. But, it is extremely rare to see a community member actually utilising the land. In most cases it is his employer who enjoys the landrights.  

“The employer uses the Yanadi as a puppet, cultivating the land and consuming the produce. The Yanadi does not speak because he is either scared of losing his job or of being beaten up,” Sriramalu explains. 

There are roughly three million Yanadis in India today, spread over four districts in Andhra Pradesh state, and divided into four clans. Many still live in abject poverty in makeshift thatched huts, with the majority labouring hard in other people’s homes as domestic workers or on farms as labourers for little or no wages. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

The case of Nacharwari Pallem is an example of this. Here, each of the Yanadi families received rights to half an acre of land about 20 years ago when the government assigned it to them through the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), a special agency mandated to work for indigenous peoples.  

However, while the Yanadis had ownership of the land here, it was in truth firmly under the control of a village elite. It took five years for ARD to convince the Yanadis to claim back their land rights and to assure them they need not fear any consequences from the village as the law was on their side. 

Chinni Hemalatha, 32, tells IPS that her family waited several years for their land even after initially receiving formal ownership sometime back.  

“It’s only last year that we finally got access to our land. When the rains come [in January], I am going to sow rice,” she says with a smile. 

Malli Pramila, another Yanadi woman, is yet to obtain her ownership rights. But seeing others get theirs has excited her.  

“I am so happy it is happening in our community at last,” she tells IPS. 

Challenges before the government 

Kamala Kumari is the joint collector in Nellore and a senior government official. Known for her clean image, Kumari was earlier a project officer at the ITDA and is known to have a high level of awareness on the issues facing indigenous peoples, including the Yanadis.  

In an interview with IPS, she says that the government has a host of welfare schemes for the Yanadis that aims to provide them with housing, education and a livelihood.  

However, she also admits that changes are extremely slow to come into effect. “There are so many challenges. The biggest one is a lack of sufficient funds. Last year, we had 6.5 million rupees [USD94,500] which was grossly inadequate for such a large population. This year, I have asked for two billion rupees [USD29 million], but we have to see how much of it is actually cleared.” 

The Yanadis way of living in isolated pockets and a lack of community representatives who can speak on behalf of their community also poses a challenge, she says.  

Self-help is the way forward 

Unaware of the challenges of government officials, the Yanadis are taking small steps to claim their rights.  

In dozens of villages in Nellore—one of the four districts where the Yanadis are a majority—these indigenous people have begun joining Yanadai Samakhya, a network created by Sriramal with the help of ARD.  

Currently, there are about 12,000 members in the network which looks into all the major issues faced by the Yanadis, with landrights, education, bondage and unpaid labour being some of them.  

Together, they have been winning small battles, including the right to use the mineral resources on their property. 

Ankaiya Rao of Reddy Gunta village, has been mining quartz stone since March, when his village first received rights to mine 159 acres of land that is rich in quartz deposit.   

Rao, who owns three acres, has been selling the stone to traders.   

“The business is good. For a ton, I get 80,000 rupees [roughly USD1,200]. I am happy and my wife is happy too,” he tells IPS. 

The father of two now dreams of giving his children a better childhood than his own. A few others in the village have also joined him in the mining of quartz, though on a smaller scale.  

However, there remains the constant fear of falling back into the trap of exploitation and losing the rights to a landlord, admits Basheer who had been instrumental in getting Reddy Gunta village its rights to mine quartz.  

“A number of powerful and politically-connected people are eyeing this land now and anyone could lure or intimidate a villager to sell his plot for a small bundle of cash. Once that happens, the entire community will eventually lose as landgrab is a common occurrence here,” he cautions. 

The answer is to stand united and vigilant against any possible landgrab efforts, says Sriramalu.  

“There are so many odds, but for my people, standing together can be the best way to overcome them all.” 

The post How the Yanadi, an Oppressed Indigenous People in India, are Reclaiming Their Rights One Village At a Time appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

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Winds of Change on Kenya’s Northern Bordershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 15:09:48 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157082 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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At the Global Peace Leadership Conference in Uganda, President Museveni flanked by high level leaders from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Inter-Governmental Authority for Development(IGAD). Credit: State House 03 August 2018

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 6 2018 (IPS)

Previously characterised by belligerence, based on competition for resources, the border regions of Eastern Africa can sense the blissful wind of peace approaching.

It is not a wind being blown by strict military enforcement of borders, but rather by the opening up of them, and empowerment of former warring neighbours to find collective coping mechanisms for environmental and economic shocks which have previously driven them to battle.

The charm of soft power as an alternative to aggression and inter-tribal warfare was a key highlight at the 6th annual Global Peace Leadership Conference held in Kampala, and whose theme was Moral and Innovative Leadership: New Models for Sustainable Peace and Development.

In the region, the new paradigm is being inspired by successes of the Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme, which was launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. In a joint article by Ambassador Amina Mohamed, the former Foreign Minister of Kenya and Dr Tedros Adhnom, the former Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, said, “peace and development initiative offers hope of resolving conflicts in border areas of Kenya and Ethiopia”.

The initiative, driven by the need to foster peace and sustainable development in the cross-border area of Marsabit County, Kenya, and the Borana/Dawa Zones, Ethiopia, is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

“The programme we are launching today is transformative in its ambition…our task is to end the conflict, make certain that Kenyans and Ethiopians along the border have the same opportunities as those of other citizens in the two countries,” remarked Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta during the launch of the programme.

That programme was ignited by the United Nations, under the leadership of the former Resident Coordinator, Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas. The current Country Team has given it momentum, and it has morphed into what is now recognized as a global best practice.

In an independent assessment, the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research hailed Kenya’s multidimensional cross-border programme for “simultaneously addressing violent extremism, human trafficking, economic development, local governance and inter-communal peace with mutually reinforcing objectives and means”.

The initiative slots in well with the vision of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his report on Peace-building and Sustaining Peace, which observed that UN agencies must “rally stakeholders to action within the entire peace continuum – from prevention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping to peacebuilding and sustainable long-term development”.

The programme has now inspired a similar initiative in what is known as the Karamoja Cluster, also a conflict-prone border region shared by four countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda.

Map of the Karamoja area

On 26 July 2018, ministers from the four countries held consultations in Uganda, where they signed a communique on cooperation for the development of cross-border areas in the Cluster.

It was signed by Uganda’s State Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hon Musa Ecweru, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and ASAL Areas Hon. Eugene Wamalwa, Ethiopia’s Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Prof Fekadu Beyene and South Sudan’s Minister for Environment and Forestry Hon. Josephine Napwon.

“The conflicts in South Sudan, Congo and Somalia are causing proliferation of arms into Kenya and Uganda, and this is curtailing the development in the area. What we are doing now will give a more lasting solution,” said Uganda’s Minister for Karamoja Affairs Hon. John Byabagambi.

Kenya’s Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said that “peace will not prevail in the absence of basics such as water and food, and in the case of pastoralists, pasture for their herds“.

The Governments of Kenya and Uganda supported by their respective UN Resident Coordinators are developing a concept note that will put in place concrete modalities of cooperation by the affected countries. The mission is to develop the Karamoja Cluster as a single socio-economic zone, with joint policies and programs that will build resilience to overcome resources and erode current fault-lines–critical if this region is to realise SDGs.

The long term vision is that prevention strategies will be driven by private investment as a sustainable pathway to countering inequity and promoting inclusivity for the region’s peripheral communities.

There are already some good vibes coming from the region; last April 2018, leaders from South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda joined their counterparts from Kenya in the fourth edition of the Turkana Cultural Festival in Lodwar, Kenya.

In place of belligerence, the speeches harped on forging of trade relationships and unifying the region’s populations. Clearly, falling back into the safety of tribal enclaves is now recognised as an outdated sophism.

Slowly but surely, a light of peace is piercing through the Pearl of Africa, and it is sure to cause a rainbow of friendship between communities in the region.

The UN Country Teams in the region have the persistency of purpose, the determination to continue as the ‘sinews of peace’, so that neighbour shall not be forced by socio-economic circumstance to rise against neighbour.

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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As It Recovers, Argentina’s Beef Production Faces Environmental Impact Questionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/argentinas-beef-production-recovers-faces-questions-environmental-impacts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentinas-beef-production-recovers-faces-questions-environmental-impacts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/argentinas-beef-production-recovers-faces-questions-environmental-impacts/#comments Mon, 06 Aug 2018 08:32:40 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157055 Beef is one of the symbols historically identified with Argentina. After lean years, production and exports are growing, as is the debate on the environmental impact of cattle, which is on the radar of environmentalists and actors in the agricultural value chain. The problem of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – methane and nitrous oxide – […]

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Cattle line up at a trough in a feedlot, which are now widely used in Argentina. Credit: Courtesy of Ana Garcia

Cattle line up at a trough in a feedlot, which are now widely used in Argentina. Credit: Courtesy of Ana Garcia

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 6 2018 (IPS)

Beef is one of the symbols historically identified with Argentina. After lean years, production and exports are growing, as is the debate on the environmental impact of cattle, which is on the radar of environmentalists and actors in the agricultural value chain.

The problem of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – methane and nitrous oxide – from livestock farming has been raised since the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit.

But “it was very hard to get Argentina to take it seriously,” veterinarian Guillermo Berra, who led the first research group on the subject at the governmental National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), told IPS."The aim must be to improve the productivity of livestock systems. The weaning rate, which reflects the proportion of cows that produce the ideal of one calf per year that is ready to be fattened, is 60 percent, compared to 85 percent in the United States. Improving that rate would mean producing more meat with the same emissions." -- Sebastián Galbusera

“The intensification of production processes through feedlots has improved yields lately and has therefore contributed to reducing GHG emissions, but it has generated another problem, which is soil and groundwater pollution,” he explained.

According to the latest National GHG Inventory, which Argentina submitted last year to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), agriculture and livestock raising, including deforestation, generates 39 percent of total emissions.

A significant detail emerges from the data: livestock farming is the subsector with the highest emissions, ahead of transport, emitting 76.41 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent per year, which represents 20.7 percent of the total.

‘Enteric fermentation’, which refers to the methane that cattle release into the atmosphere as a result of their normal digestion process, is the main source.

Sebastián Galbusera, who teaches environmental economics at the ‘Tres de Febrero’ National University, told IPS that “these results should come as no surprise in a country where farming is key. But they show us the complexity of the challenge of reducing emissions.”

“The aim must be to improve the productivity of livestock systems. The weaning rate, which reflects the proportion of cows that produce the ideal of one calf per year that is ready to be fattened, is 60 percent, compared to 85 percent in the United States. Improving that rate would mean producing more meat with the same emissions,” he added.

Argentina was the world’s largest exporter of beef at the beginning of the 20th century. However, in recent decades, livestock farming has not experienced the same technological development as agriculture, which has gained ground and relegated it to feedlots or marginal areas.

Osvaldo Barsky, a researcher on rural history in Argentina, told IPS that “with the incorporation of technologies and varieties, agriculture expanded to the best lands.”

“In livestock farming, the processes were slower and there were even times of decline, such as when President Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) temporarily banned exports to curb the growth of domestic prices,” he said.

Livestock farming is responsible for the highest greenhouse gas emissions in Argentina, ahead of transport, emitting 76.41 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, which is 20.7 percent of the total. Credit: Courtesy of Ana Garcia

Livestock farming is responsible for the highest greenhouse gas emissions in Argentina, ahead of transport, emitting 76.41 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, which is 20.7 percent of the total. Credit: Courtesy of Ana Garcia

As a result, “there was a major drop in production, 10 million head of cattle were lost and neighbours like Uruguay and Paraguay overtook us in the international market,” said Barsky. Meanwhile, Brazil has become the world’s largest exporter of beef and poultry in the last two years.

Today, beef is one of the few sectors of economic activity where the government of Mauricio Macri, in office since December 2015, can show favourable figures.

Macri himself, in fact, led the bimonthly meeting of the National Beef Board, which brings together various state and private stakeholders, on Jul. 16.

According to official data, in the first five months of this year Argentina exported 60 percent more beef than in the same period in 2017: 121,277 tons against 75,934.

Government projections released on Jul. 19 indicate that the country will export 435,000 tons of beef this year, surpassing Uruguay and Paraguay for the first time in years, although still far behind Brazil, which will export some two million tons.

Currently, half of Argentina’s beef exports go to China, followed by Russia, Chile, Israel and Germany in that order.

Exports reached 1.2 billion dollars in 2017 and the government hopes they will bring in nearly two billion dollars this year.

Production is also growing, albeit at a slower pace.

Average domestic consumption of beef in this country of 44 million people, which at one point reached an average of 80 kg per person per year, fell due to competition from other kinds of meat, but is still high: 59 kg, according to updated figures from the Argentine Beef Promotion Institute (IPCVA).

Berra warns that “If we want to continue exporting in the long term, livestock production must not only be economically efficient but also environmentally sustainable and socially responsible.”

“Argentina, in the future, could be at a commercial disadvantage if environmental trade barriers are implemented,” he added.

In this sense, feedlots play a fundamental role. Extensive livestock farming and its pastoral image of cows grazing in open fields is becoming less and less common.

Feedlots, which began to be used in Argentina in the 1990s, allow for intensive meat production in less time and with less space.

Currently, 65 to 70 percent of the cattle that arrive at slaughterhouses in Argentina come from feedlots, Fernando Storni, general manager of the Argentine Feedlot Chamber, told IPS.

“This production method in Argentina is relatively new and regulations are still being designed. The disposal of livestock waste is only regulated in one province (Córdoba),” he added.

Storni said that “we are aware that we have to work on mitigating the impacts because the requirements are going to be increasingly strict at the international level.”

The issue is being followed with concern by researchers from the School of Agronomy of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA).

Ana García, who holds a PhD in Agricultural and Forestry Research and is a researcher at the UBA School of Agronomy, said that “it is urgent to regulate these activities because they have a negative impact on the environment and can affect human health.”

“I have been studying feedlots since 2004 and I see that there is no adequate treatment or final destination for problems that accumulate over the years. There is a lack of synchronisation of the production system with environmental criteria. You have to help producers to set criteria before you can demand it,” said Ileana Ciapparelli, a professor of Inorganic Chemistry at UBA.

She explained that “producers don’t know how to dispose of the feedlot solid waste and do what they can. Some use it to try to improve soil fertility but others leave it in piles, generating a source of methane emissions.”

Ciapparelli carried out a study that showed that hundreds of tons of manure deposited in clay soil generate concentrations of substances that can penetrate the soil up to more than a metre deep and contaminate groundwater, which in turn is connected to surface water bodies.

One of these substances is phosphorus, a nutrient that agricultural producers buy through fertilisers and that could be obtained from the waste from feedlots, which today contaminate watercourses.

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The Sun Powers a Women’s Bakery in Brazil’s Semi-arid Northeasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 01:40:08 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157012 “The sun which used to torment us now blesses us,” said one of the 19 women who run the Community Bakery of Varzea Comprida dos Oliveiras, a settlement in the rural area of Pombal, a municipality of the state of Paraiba, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. “Without solar energy our bakery would be closed, we would […]

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Transforming Food Systems: Today’s Realities and Tomorrow’s Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/transforming-food-systems-todays-realities-tomorrows-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=transforming-food-systems-todays-realities-tomorrows-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/transforming-food-systems-todays-realities-tomorrows-challenges/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2018 15:37:30 +0000 Alice Lloyd http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157007 The world’s food systems face two immense challenges today. One, to produce enough food to nourish a global population of seven billion people without harming the environment. Two, to make sure food systems deliver nutrition to everyone, particularly the world’s poorest, many of whom suffer from chronic under-nutrition. Like the Economist’s 2017 Food Security Index, […]

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Radish production at West Africa Farms, in Northern Senegal. Credit: Sarah Farhat / World Bank

By Alice Lloyd
WASHINGTON, Aug 1 2018 (IPS)

The world’s food systems face two immense challenges today. One, to produce enough food to nourish a global population of seven billion people without harming the environment. Two, to make sure food systems deliver nutrition to everyone, particularly the world’s poorest, many of whom suffer from chronic under-nutrition.

Like the Economist’s 2017 Food Security Index, a new report released earlier this summer looks at the complex connections between the ways we organize and produce our food, and the implications for the environment, human health, and social wellbeing.

With input from over 150 experts from 33 countries, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Agriculture and Food: Scientific and Economic Foundations Report, a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) project, makes the case for a global agri-food systems transformation. It argues that our agri-food systems today are being viewed and evaluated through a narrow, incomplete and distorted lens by focusing on per-hectare-productivity. To fix our food system, our food metrics need to be fixed.

The way we are currently producing food is negatively impacting climate, water, top soil, biodiversity and marine environments. If we do not change course, we will seriously undermine our ability to deliver adequate food for future populations. In addition to the negative environmental impacts, we are struggling to deliver nutritious and healthy diets in an equitable way. Diet-related chronic diseases are on the rise even as we fail to deliver nutritious food to millions of poor people around the world.

The consequences of our current food systems outlined in the report include:
• Agricultural production alone contributes over one-fourth of global GHG emissions.
• However, when considering the entire ‘agri-food value chain’ (including agriculture-related deforestation, farming, processing, packaging, transportation and waste), this number climbs to a staggering 43 to 57 percent of GHG emissions.
• 70 to 90 percent of global deforestation is from agricultural expansion.
• If women had the same access to resources (land, credits, education, etc.) as male farmers, they could raise yields by 20 to 30 percent, and lift as many as 150 million people out of hunger.
• Approximately one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted, enough to feed the world’s hungry six times over.
• Around 40 percent of available land is used for growing food, a figure that would need to rise to an improbable 70 percent by 2050 under a “business-as-usual” scenario.
• 33 percent of the Earth’s land surface is moderately to highly affected by some type of soil degradation mainly due to the erosion, salinization, compaction, acidification, or chemical pollution of soils.
• Diets have become the main risk for human health. Six of the top eleven risk factors driving the global burden of disease are diet-related.
• The World Health Organization estimates the direct costs of diabetes at more than US$827 billion per year, globally.
• Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances causes more than 200 diseases. An estimated 600 million people fall ill after eating contaminated food, while 420,000 die every year.
• 61 percent of commercial fish populations are fully fished and 29 percent are overfished.
• In a “business-as-usual” scenario, the ocean will contain more plastic than fish (by weight) by 2050.

The agricultural revolution is still very strongly influencing our food production. While food production has successfully been increased, the environmental impacts have received a lot less attention. They have been either been ignored or been considered as a necessary trade-off.

The Economist’s 2017 Food Security Index for example, in considering how resilience to natural resource and climate related risks pose long term threats to food systems across countries, includes a tool to explore how individual countries perform on a natural resources and resilience adjustment factor.

“If you look at food production only from a price perspective, and the old paradigm of the cheaper the better, you run into a trap because the long-term sustainability of our food production system is not a given,”says Alexander Müller, Study Leader of TEEBAgriFood.

“The task for agriculture and food systems in the years to come is huge, says Muller: ‘feeding a population projected to reach 10 billion in 2050, achieving the four dimensions of food security (FAO 1996) for all people by providing healthy food, drastically reducing the impacts of different types of agricultural production on the world’s ecosystems, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit climate change and to adapt to it, developing rural areas to create jobs and to improve livelihoods of poor people, maintaining ecosystem services such as clean water and air for a rapidly urbanizing planet are only some of the challenges.”

Tackling these challenges requires a systematic approach. This report looks at all the impacts of the value chain, from farm to fork to disposal, including effects on livelihoods, the environment, and health. It identifies theories and pathways for transformational change in government, business, farming, and consumer contexts while providing a framework for evaluation that supports the comprehensive, universal and inclusive assessment of eco-agri-food systems.

Recognizing the interlinkages, in terms of impacts and dependencies that food systems have with our economies, societies, health, and environment is a crucial first step. Using the report’s Framework and its language can allow for the next generation of agricultural and food research to provide a more comprehensive basis for decision-making and together with the 2017 Food Security Index, provides a comprehensive assessment of food systems as well as natural resource availability and resilience.

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‘Agromafia’ Exploits Hundreds of Thousands of Agricultural Workers in Italyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agromafia-exploits-hundreds-thousands-agricultural-workers-italy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agromafia-exploits-hundreds-thousands-agricultural-workers-italy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agromafia-exploits-hundreds-thousands-agricultural-workers-italy/#comments Fri, 27 Jul 2018 08:59:20 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156912 In Italy, over 400,000 agricultural labourers risk being illegally employed by mafia-like organisations, and more than 132,000 work in extremely vulnerable conditions, enduring high occupational suffering, warns the fourth report on Agromafie and Caporalato. The report, released this July by the Italian trade union for farmers, Flai Cgil, and the research institute Osservatorio Placido Rizzotto, […]

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Bitter gourds, or “ampalayas” are difficult to find in Italy, but easy to find in the Esquilino market in Rome. In Italy, over 400,000 agricultural labourers risk being illegally employed by mafia-like organisations, and more than 132,000 work in extremely vulnerable conditions. Credit: Maged Srour/IPS

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jul 27 2018 (IPS)

In Italy, over 400,000 agricultural labourers risk being illegally employed by mafia-like organisations, and more than 132,000 work in extremely vulnerable conditions, enduring high occupational suffering, warns the fourth report on Agromafie and Caporalato.

The report, released this July by the Italian trade union for farmers, Flai Cgil, and the research institute Osservatorio Placido Rizzotto, sheds light on a bitter reality that is defined by the report itself as “modern day slavery”. The criminal industry is estimated to generate almost five billion euros."We must rebuild the culture of respect for people, including migrants. These are people who bend their backs to collect the food we eat and who move our economy." -- Susanna Camusso, secretary general of CGIL

“The phenomenon of ‘Caporalato’ is a cancer for the entire community,” Roberto Iovino from Osservatorio Placido Rizzotto, told IPS. “Legal and illegal activities often intertwine in the agro-food sector and it ultimately becomes very difficult to know who is operating in the law and who is not.”

The criminal structure is called Caporalato or Agromafia when it touches a number of aspects of the agri-food chain. It is administered by ‘Caporali’, who decide on working hours and salaries of workers. The phenomenon is widespread across Italy. From Sicilian tomatoes, to the green salads from the province of Brescia, to the grape harvest used for producing the ‘Franciacorta’ sparkling wine in Lombardia, to the strawberries harvested in the region of Basilicata—many of these crops would have been harvested by illegally-employed workers, according to the report.

Miserable salaries and excessive working hours

The average wages of the exploited, warns the report, range between 20 and 30 euros per day, at an hourly rate of between three to four euros. Many reportedly work between eight to 14 hours per day, seven days a week. The majority of the collected testimonies show that many workers are paid less than their actual time worked and their salaries are 50 percent lower than the one outlined by the national contract for farmers.

In some areas like Puglia or Campania in southern Italy, most salaries are paid on a piecework basis or per task.

Some workers reported to Flai-Cgil that they were paid only one euro per hour and that they had to pay 1.5 euros for a small bottle of water, five euros for the transportation to reach the field and three euros for a sandwich at lunchtime each day. Day labourers are also required to pay between 100 to 200 euros for rent, often in abandoned, crumbling facilities or in remote and less-frequented hotels.

The money was paid to the ‘Caporale’ or supervisor.

According to the report, a ‘Caporale’ earns between 10 to 15 euros a day per labourer under their management, with each managing between 3,000 to 4,000 agricultural workers. It is estimated that their average monthly profit fluctuates between tens to hundreds of thousands of euros per month, depending on their position in the pyramid structure of the illegal business. It is alleged in the report that no tax is paid on the profits and this costs the state in lost income and also impacts on companies operating within the law.

“Those people [‘Caporali’] are not naive at all,” one of the workers told the trade union’s researchers. “They know the laws, they find ways of counterfeiting work contracts and mechanisms to [circumvent] the National Social Security Institute.” The institute is the largest social security and welfare institute in Italy.

“They have a certain criminal profile,” the worker explained.

Migrant victims

The ‘Caporali’ are not just Italians but Romanians, Bulgarians, Moroccans and Pakistanis, who manage their own criminal and recruiting organisations. The report warns that recruitment not only takes place in Italy but also in the home countries of migrants like Morocco or Pakistan.

In 2017, out of one million labourers, 286,940 were migrants. It is also estimated that there are an additional 220,000 foreigners who are not registered.

African migrants also reportedly receive a lower remuneration than that paid to workers of other nationalities.

These victims of Agromafia live in a continuous state of vulnerability, unable to claim their rights. The report points out that some workers have had their documents confiscated by ‘Caporali’ for the ultimate purpose of trapping the labourers. It also highlights the testimonies of abuse, ranging from physical violence, rape and intimidation. One Afghan migrant who asked to be paid after months without receiving any pay, said that he had been beaten up because of his protests.

The report also estimates that 5,000 Romanian women live in segregation in the Sicilian countryside, often with only their children. Because of their isolation many suffer sexual violence from farmers.

Luana told Flai-Cgil of her abuse. “He offered to accompany my children to school, which was very far to reach on foot,” she said. “If I did not consent to this requests, he threatened not to accompany them any more and even to deny us drinking water.”

“We have to put humanity first, and then profit”

Many of the victims hesitate to report their exploiters because they are fearful of losing their jobs. A Ghanaian boy working in Tuscany told Flai-Cgil that Italians have explained to him how to lay a complaint, but he holds back because he still has to send money to his family.

During the report release Susanna Camusso, secretary general of the country’s largest trade union, CGIL, said: “We must rebuild the culture of respect for people, including migrants. These are people who bend their backs to collect the food we eat and who move our economy.

“We must help these people to overcome fear, explaining to them that there is not only the monetary aspect to work. A person could be exploited even if he holds a decent salary. We have to put humanity first, and then profit .”

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Sustainable Agriculture To End World Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-agriculture-end-world-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-agriculture-end-world-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-agriculture-end-world-hunger/#respond Tue, 24 Jul 2018 10:26:29 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156834 Significantly more investment is needed to lift hundreds of millions rural poor out of poverty and make agriculture environmentally sustainable, according to Rob Vos, director of the markets, trade and institutions division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). With a growing world population, hunger and undernutrition are on the rise, and governments are […]

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The weakness of poor farmers and the growth of low-nutrition crops have been, until now, some of the deterrents of efficient agriculture. Esmilda Sánchez picks string beans on the Finca de Semillas farm. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 24 2018 (IPS)

Significantly more investment is needed to lift hundreds of millions rural poor out of poverty and make agriculture environmentally sustainable, according to Rob Vos, director of the markets, trade and institutions division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

With a growing world population, hunger and undernutrition are on the rise, and governments are looking for private alliances to alleviate these issues.“The world has over-invested in low-nutrition staple crops, driving up the relative price of nutrition rich-foods. Empty calories is the food system of the poor." -- John Coonrod, executive vice-president, the Hunger Project.

During the 2018 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, this July, IFPRI organised a side event called “Investing for Reshaping Food Systems”.

Speakers included Claudia Sadoff, director general for the International Water Management Institute; Nichola Dyer, from the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme at the World Bank; Gerda Verburg, coordinator at the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN); and Chantal-Line Carpentier, chief at the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development.

They all emphasised the urgency of investing in sustainable agriculture, defined by the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition as “the efficient production of safe, healthy, and high-quality agricultural products, in a way that is environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable.”

While the world population will reach over eight billion people in 2025, the amount of cultivable land will remain the same. Decimated by pesticides, non-sustainable agricultural techniques, and water waste, healthy nutrients will become harder to access for the growing population. This issue, along with food waste (20 percent of every food purchase is wasted), is a major concern for Verburg, who highlighted the need to rethink food systems and stop blaming agriculture.

The relationship between the private sector and agriculture isn’t new. On the contrary, many farmers-especially the poorest ones-are members of the private sector.

“The majority of poor and hungry people are small-scale farmers. They are in fact members of the private sector, albeit the weakest. And some corporate investments in agriculture can hurt them,” John Coonrod, executive vice-president at the Hunger Project, told IPS.

The weakness of poor farmers and the growth of low-nutrition crops have been, until now, some of the deterrents of efficient agriculture.

“The world has over-invested in low-nutrition staple crops, driving up the relative price of nutrition rich-foods. Empty calories is the food system of the poor. To overcome malnutrition, we need to increase the dietary diversity of the poor to include many more fruits and vegetables, which means increasing their local production and reducing their price to local consumers,” Coonrod explained.

How can private investment develop sustainable agriculture? Vos from IFPRI said that a first priority should be to provide incentives for investments beyond farms “in infrastructure like roads, electricity and cold transportation and agri-food processing.”

“This will help provide better and more stable market conditions for farmers, create lots of new jobs, and limit the risks of investing in agriculture itself,” he said.

He also added that “the second priority is to provide incentives for investing in sustainable practices and crop diversification, including towards fruits and vegetables.”

Brian Bogart, senior regional programme advisor for South Africa to the U.N. World Food Programme, agreed with Vos.

“Key areas for investment to equity in food systems include rural infrastructure, access to markets, knowledge and technology, and improved storage and transport capacity to reduce post-harvest losses,” Bogart said.

What about governments?

During the event, Verburg, from SUN, pointed out the importance of political commitment and leadership within countries to reduce hunger and reshape food systems.

When asked about the role of national governments, Bogart said: “Member states have a responsibility to lead such efforts by developing effective partnerships with the private sector and fostering an enabling environment for investment.”

“With shrinking public investment in agriculture (according to the Secretary General’s progress report on the SDGs, government expenditure as a percentage of GDP declined from .38 to .23 between 2001 and 2016 and international aid allocations for agriculture declined by 20 percent between the mid-1980s and 2016), the question is how public-private partnerships can unlock opportunities for private investment to complement public resources and capacity to generate improved food security, particularly for the most vulnerable populations,” he added.

Some countries are already doing this. The Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition’s Food Sustainability Index on sustainable agriculture; nutritional challenges; and food loss and waste which ranks 34 countries according to eight categories, which are in turn divided among 35 indicators, reveals that France, Japan, Germany score highest.

However, responsibility does not lie solely with the state, but with civil society also. Coonrod, from the Hunger Project, explained what his organisation does in this regard: “We promote good nutrition through education, promoting better local farming methods, increasing local food processing and, in indigenous communities of Latin America, we’ve opposed junk food and helped communities reclaim their nutritious traditional foods.”

Finally, Vos highlighted the importance of research in reducing hunger.

“We undertake research to better understand the causes underlying the deficiencies in the present food systems and test out the effectiveness of interventions that aim to overcome these shortcomings. We know far too little on what is driving food system change, not just in agriculture, but in all stages of the food chain, from farm to fork.”

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Even Rocks Harvest Water in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Northeasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 10:02:00 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156776 Rocks, once a hindrance since they reduced arable land, have become an asset. Pedrina Pereira and João Leite used them to build four ponds to collect rainwater in a farming community in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. On their six-hectare property, the couple store water in three other reservoirs, the “mud trenches”, the name given locally to […]

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Beans are left to dry in the sun on Pedrina Pereira’s small farm. In the background, a tank collects rainwater for drinking and cooking, from the rooftop. It is part of a programme of the organisation Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), which aims to distribute one million rainwater tanks to achieve coexistence with the semi-arid climate which extends across 982,000 sq km in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Beans are left to dry in the sun on Pedrina Pereira’s small farm. In the background, a tank collects rainwater for drinking and cooking, from the rooftop. It is part of a programme of the organisation Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), which aims to distribute one million rainwater tanks to achieve coexistence with the semi-arid climate which extends across 982,000 sq km in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
JUAZEIRINHO/BOM JARDIM, Brazil, Jul 20 2018 (IPS)

Rocks, once a hindrance since they reduced arable land, have become an asset. Pedrina Pereira and João Leite used them to build four ponds to collect rainwater in a farming community in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast.

On their six-hectare property, the couple store water in three other reservoirs, the “mud trenches”, the name given locally to pits that are dug deep in the ground to store as much water as possible in the smallest possible area to reduce evaporation.

“We no longer suffer from a shortage of water,” not even during the drought that has lasted the last six years, said Pereira, a 47-year-old peasant farmer, on the family’s small farm in Juazeirinho, a municipality in the Northeast state of Paraíba.

Only at the beginning of this year did they have to resort to water distributed by the army to local settlements, but “only for drinking,” Pereira told IPS proudly during a visit to several communities that use innovative water technologies that are changing the lives of small villages and family farmers in this rugged region.

To irrigate their maize, bean, vegetable crops and fruit trees, the couple had four “stone ponds” and three mud trenches, enough to water their sheep and chickens.

“The water in that pond is even drinkable, it has that whitish colour because of the soil,” but that does not affect its taste or people’s health, said Pereira, pointing to the smallest of the ponds, “which my husband dug out of the rocks with the help of neighbours.”

“There was nothing here when we arrived in 2007, just a small mud pond, which dried up after the rainy season ended,” she said. They bought the property where they built the house and lived without electricity until 2010, when they got electric power and a rainwater tank, which changed their lives.

The One Million Cisterns Programme (P1MC) was underway for a decade. With the programme, the Articulation of the Semi Arid (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, is seeking to achieve universal access to drinking water in the rural areas of the Northeast semi-arid ecoregion, which had eight million inhabitants in the 2010 official census.

Two of the four stone ponds on the farm belonging to Pedrina Pereira and João Leite, built by Leite with the help of neighbours, in a farming community in Juazeirinho. The tanks store rainwater for their livestock and their diversified crops during the frequent droughts in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Two of the four stone ponds on the farm belonging to Pedrina Pereira and João Leite, built by Leite with the help of neighbours, in a farming community in Juazeirinho. The tanks store rainwater for their livestock and their diversified crops during the frequent droughts in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The network promoted the construction of 615,597 tanks that collect water from rooftops, for use in drinking and cooking. The tanks hold 16,000 litres of water, considered sufficient for a family of five during the usual eight-month low-water period.

Other initiatives outside ASA helped disseminate rainwater tanks, which mitigated the effects of the drought that affected the semi-arid Northeast between 2012 and 2017.

According to Antonio Barbosa, coordinator of the One Land, Two Waters Programme (P1+2) promoted by ASA since 2007, the rainwater tanks helped to prevent a repeat of the tragedy seen during previous droughts, such as the 1979-1983 drought, which “caused the death of a million people.”

After the initial tank is built, rainwater collection is expanded for the purposes of irrigation and raising livestock, by means of tanks like the ones built in 2013 on the farm belonging to Pereira and her husband since 2013. ASA has distributed 97,508 of these tanks, benefiting 100,828 families.

Other solutions, used for irrigation or water for livestock, include ponds built on large rocks or water pumps used by communities to draw water from deep wells.

Tanks holding up to 52,000 litres of rainwater, collected using the “calçadão” system, where water runs down a sloping concrete terrace or even a road into the tank, are another of the seven “water technologies” for irrigation and animal consumption disseminated by the organisations that make up ASA.

Pedro Custodio da Silva shows his native seed bank at his farm in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in Northeast Brazil, part of a movement driven by the Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, to promote family farming based on their own seeds adapted to the local climate. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Pedro Custodio da Silva shows his native seed bank at his farm in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in Northeast Brazil, part of a movement driven by the Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, to promote family farming based on their own seeds adapted to the local climate. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

In the case of Pereira and Leite, this water infrastructure came through the Programme for the Application of Appropriate Technologies for Communities (Patac), an organisation that seeks to strengthen family farming in small agricultural communities in Paraiba.

The tanks and terraces are made with donated material, and the beneficiaries must take part in the construction and receive training in water management, focused on coexistence with the semi-arid climate. Community action and sharing of experiences among farmers is also promoted.

Beans drying in the courtyard, and piled up inside the house, even in the bedroom, show that the Pereira and Leite family, which also includes their son, Salvador – who has inherited his parents’ devotion to farming – managed to get a good harvest after this year’s adequate rainfall.

Maize, sweet potato, watermelon, pumpkin, pepper, tomato, aubergine, other vegetables and medicinal herbs make up the vegetable garden that mother and son manage, within a productive diversification that is a widespread practice among farmers in the semi-arid region.

A pond supplied by a water source revived by reforestation on the 2.5-hectare farm of Pedro Custodio da Silva, who adopted an agroforestry system and applied agro-ecological principles in the production of fruit and vegetables, in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in the semi-arid region of Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A pond supplied by a water source revived by reforestation on the 2.5-hectare farm of Pedro Custodio da Silva, who adopted an agroforestry system and applied agro-ecological principles in the production of fruit and vegetables, in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in the semi-arid region of Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Also contributing to this diversification are eight sheep and a large chicken coop, which are for self-consumption and for sale. “Our family lives off agriculture alone,” said Pereira, who also benefits from the Bolsa Familia programme, a government subsidy for poor families, which in their case amounts to 34 dollars a month.

“I am one of the customers for Pedrina’s ‘cuzcuz’, which is not only tasty but is also made without toxic agricultural chemicals,” said Gloria Araujo, the head of Patac. She was referring to a kind of corn tortilla that is very popular in the Brazilian Northeast, an important source of income for the family.

Living in the community of Sussuarana, home to 180 families, and forming part of the Regional Collective of farmers, trade unions and associations from 11 municipalities from the central part of the state of Paraiba, offers other opportunities.

Pereira has been able to raise chickens thanks to a barbed wire fence that she acquired through the Revolving Solidarity Fund, which provides a loan, in cash or animals, that when it is paid off goes immediately to another person and so on. A wire mesh weaving machine is for collective use in the community.

In Bom Jardim, 180 km from Juazeirinho, in the neighbouring state of Pernambuco, the community of Feijão (which means ‘beans’) stands out for its agroforestry system and fruit production, much of which is sold at agroecological fairs in Recife, the state capital, 100 km away and with a population of 1.6 million.

“I’ve lived here for 25 years, I started reforesting bare land and they called me crazy, but those who criticised me later planted a beautiful forest,” said Pedro Custodio da Silva, owner of 2.5 hectares and technical coordinator of the Association of Agroecological Farmers of Bom Jardim (Agroflor), which provides assistance to the community.

In addition to a diversified fruit tree orchard and vegetable garden, which provide income from the sale of fruit, vegetables and pulp, “without agrochemicals,” a stream that had dried up three decades ago was revived on his property and continued to run in the severe drought of recent years.

It filled a small 60,000-litre pond whose “water level drops in the dry season, but no longer dries up,” he said.

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Chile Has Medicine Against Desertification, But Does Not Take Ithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/chile-medicine-desertification-not-take/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chile-medicine-desertification-not-take http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/chile-medicine-desertification-not-take/#respond Tue, 17 Jul 2018 22:30:00 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156750 The retention of rainwater which otherwise is lost at sea could be an excellent medicine against the advance of the desert from northern to central Chile, but there is no political will to take the necessary actions, according to experts and representatives of affected communities. “One of the priority actions, especially in the Coquimbo region, […]

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Hundreds of children, many from rural schools in the Coquimbo region, have visited the fog catchers in Cerro Grande as part of an educational programme to raise awareness among future generations about the importance of rational use of water in Chile. Credit: Foundation un Alto en el Desierto

Hundreds of children, many from rural schools in the Coquimbo region, have visited the fog catchers in Cerro Grande as part of an educational programme to raise awareness among future generations about the importance of rational use of water in Chile. Credit: Foundation un Alto en el Desierto

By Orlando Milesi
OVALLE, Chile, Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

The retention of rainwater which otherwise is lost at sea could be an excellent medicine against the advance of the desert from northern to central Chile, but there is no political will to take the necessary actions, according to experts and representatives of affected communities.

“One of the priority actions, especially in the Coquimbo region, is the retention of rainwater. That is key because since we have eroded and degraded soil and we have occasional rains in winter, the soil is not able to retain more than 10 percent of the water that falls,” Daniel Rojas, the head of the Peña Blanca farmers’ association, told IPS.

“The rest ends up in the sea,” added Rojas, the head of the association of 85 small-scale farmers, located 385 km north of Santiago, which has 6,587 hectares, 98 percent of them rainfed, irrigated exclusively by rainfall."If the amount of resources that the state puts into the distribution of water by tanker trucks were to be used to solve the problem, it would be invested only once and not every year, which just boosts a business. Because the distribution of water is a business." -- Daniel Rojas

Rojas considered that “if we had retention works we could use between 50 and 70 percent of that water and restore our groundwater.”

In the region of Coquimbo, where Peña Blanca is located, within the municipality of Ovalle, 90 percent of the land is eroded and degraded.

Between 2000 and 2016, the area planted with fruit trees in Chile grew 50 percent, but in Coquimbo it fell 22.9 percent, from 35,558 to 27,395 hectares.

Water is vital in Chile, an agrifood powerhouse that last year exported 15.751 billion dollars in food and is the world’s leading exporter of various kinds of fruit.

According to Rojas, there is academic, social and even political consensus on a solution that focuses on water retention, “but the necessary resources are not allocated and the necessary laws are not enacted.”

Pedro Castillo, mayor of the municipality of Combarbalá, agreed with Rojas.

“Because of the strong centralism that prevails in our country, desertification won’t be given importance until the desert is knocking on the doors of Santiago,” Castillo, the highest authority in this municipality of small-scale farmers and goat farmers told IPS.

Castillo believes that all the projects “will be only declarations of good intentions if there is no powerful and determined investment by the state of Chile to halt desertification.”

The mayor said that desertification can be combated by investing in water catchment systems, through “works that are not expensive,” such as the construction of infiltration ditches and dams in the gorges.

“With rainwater catchment systems with plastic sheeting, rainwater can be optimised, wells can be recharged and the need for additional water, which is now being delivered to the population with tanker trucks, can be reduced,” he said.

“The cost of these systems does not exceed five million pesos (7,936 dollars) because the works use materials that exist on-site and do not require much engineering. A tanker truck that delivers water costs the state about 40 million pesos (63,492 dollars) each year,” Castillo said.

A tank holds rainwater collected at the Elías Sánchez school in the municipality of Champa, 40 km south of Santiago, which the students decided to use to irrigate a nursery where they grow vegetables next to it. Saving rainwater helps restore the groundwater used to supply the local population. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

A tank holds rainwater collected at the Elías Sánchez school in the municipality of Champa, 40 km south of Santiago, which the students decided to use to irrigate a nursery where they grow vegetables next to it. Saving rainwater helps restore the groundwater used to supply the local population. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

He also proposed curbing desertification through afforestation with native species of lands handed by agricultural communities to the government’s National Forestry Corporation (CONAF).

“Afforestation efforts involve the replanting of native trees tolerant of the scarce rainfall in semi-arid areas, and they generate fodder for local farmers,” he said.

The region of Coquimbo comprises the southern border of the Atacama Desert, the driest desert on earth which has the most intense solar radiation on the planet. Covering 105,000 sq km, it encompasses six northern regions in this long and narrow country that stretches between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

This year Peña Blanca, at the southern tip of the desert, received 150 mm of rainfall, a high figure compared to the average of the last few years.

Rojas said “there are many things to be done, not to halt the advance of desertification completely, but to slow it down.”

The social leader said that in meetings with both academics and politicians there is agreement on what to do, “but that is not reflected when it comes to creating a law or allocating resources to do these works.”

To illustrate, he mentioned a novel project for the retention of rainwater underground, saying the studies and development of the initiative were financed, “but not the works itself.”

“And this way, it’s no use. Ideas must be put into practice through works. This is what is urgently needed: fewer studies and more works,” he said.

Rojas also criticised the fact that the state spends “billions of pesos” on the distribution of water to rural areas through tanker trucks.

“If the amount of resources that the state puts into the distribution of water by tanker trucks were to be used to solve the problem, it would be invested only once and not every year, which just boosts a business. Because the distribution of water is a business,” Rojas said.

Geographer Nicolás Schneider, the driving force behind the non-governmental “Un Alto en el Desierto” (A Stop in the Desert) Foundation, told IPS that in Chile “there is no public policy in terms of tools, concrete policies and the provision of resources” to halt desertification in the country.

“Successful alternatives are isolated experiences that are the product of enthusiasm or group ventures, but not of a state policy to stop this scientifically accredited advance (of the desertification process),” he said.

He mentioned Chilean physicist Carlos Espinosa, who invented the fog catcher, a system whose patent he donated in the 1980s to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and which consists of harvesting water from the fog.

Fog catchers consist of fine mesh nets known as raschel set up on foggy slopes to catch suspended drops of water, which gather and merge, running from small gutters to collection tanks.

These systems, which are becoming more and more sophisticated, have been providing water for human consumption and for irrigation on land generally higher than 600 metres above sea level for decades.

In the Cerro Grande Ecological Reserve, owned by Peña Blanca, the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation installed 24 fog catchers and a fog study centre.

“The average daily water from fog there is six litres per cubic metre of raschel mesh and 35 percent shade. Since they are nine square metres in size, we have a catchment area of 216 metres, which gives us 1,296 litres of water per day,” Schneider said.

He explained that “this water is mainly used for reforestation and ecological restoration, beer making, water for animals and – when there is severe drought – for human consumption.”

“It is also an educational element because thousands of children have visited the fog catchers, so they have been turned into an open-air classroom against desertification,” he said.

He added that there is great potential for fog from Papudo, on the central Chilean coast, to Arica, in the far north of the country, which has not been exploited to the benefit of coastal communities that have problems of access and water quality.

Eduardo Rodríguez, regional director of Conaf in Coquimbo, told IPS that all of the corporation’s programmes are aimed at combating desertification, including one against forest fires, which now have better indicators.

“However, we have problems with afforestation because we do not yet have a policy for providing incentives to increase afforestation, reforestation and replanting in a region that has been degraded for practically a century and a half,” he acknowledged.

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Blue Economy Movement Gains Traction in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa/#respond Mon, 16 Jul 2018 10:42:42 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156707 An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs–particularly extreme poverty and hunger. Countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and the Seychelles–which has already established the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy–are recognising the need […]

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A coastal city, Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, is an area where people have relied on the ocean for food and employment for as long as they have lived there. An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jul 16 2018 (IPS)

An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs–particularly extreme poverty and hunger.

Countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and the Seychelles–which has already established the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy–are recognising the need to diversify their economies.

“The African Union has also adopted the blue economy, which is about exploiting resources such as oceans, lakes and rivers, into its 2063 development agenda for socio-economic transformation,” Danson Mwangangi, an independent economic researcher and analyst, tells IPS.

He says that for agrarian economies like Kenya, “agriculture alone will not be sufficient to drive the economy since the sector is facing many challenges, including shrinking farmlands, pest infestations and unpredictable weather changes.”The blue world will only be a win for Africa if there are strategies in place to exploit and protect it. -- Caesar Bita, head of underwater archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya

In Kenya, for instance, World Bank statistics show that in 2017 alone maize production dropped 20 to 30 percent due to insufficient rains and army worm infestation. The country has an annual maize shortfall of eight million bags per year.
Against this backdrop, experts are urging African countries to diversify and look beyond land-based resources by exploring the blue economy as it presents immense untapped potential.

The World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in their 2018 policy brief make a strong case in favour of the blue economy.
Mwangangi says that it can significantly enable Africa to improve its volumes of global trade, achieve food security and meet its energy demands.

Ocean renewable energy has the potential to meet up to 400 percent of the current global energy demand, according to the International Energy Agency.

“Seventy percent of African countries are either coastal or islands, we need to harness such valuable coastlines,” says Caesar Bita, head of underwater archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya.
He tells IPS that the blue world can significantly transform the lives of communities that live closest to those bodies of water since they lead very precarious lives.

According to John Omingo, head of commercial shipping at the Kenya Maritime Authority, very little has been done in the way of harnessing these vast water-based resources for economic gain.
“Africa’s coastline is about 31,000 kilometres long and yet trade among African countries accounts for 11 percent of the total trade volume, which is the lowest compared to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Europe and America,” he expounds.

Bita tells IPS that while Africa is the largest island on earth as it has the Atlantic Ocean on the west; the Indian Ocean on the east; the Antarctic ocean on the south, and the Mediterranean and Red Sea on the north, “there is very little shipping that is going on in Africa. African-owned ships account for less than 1.2 percent of the world’s shipping.”

Ahead of the upcoming Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, that will be co-host by Kenya and Canada this November, in Nairobi, economic experts are optimistic that the blue economy movement is gaining traction.
The high-level conference is expected to advance a global agenda on sustainable exploitation of oceans, seas, rivers and lakes.

One of Freetown’s larger fishing harbours is Goderich Beach, less than 30 minute’s drive from the city’s downtown core. There, a single motorised boat can bring in as much as 300 dollars worth of fish in a single day. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

“Holding the conference in Africa with Canada as a co-host is also very strategic and shows that the continent is coming into this agenda as an important partner. Some of the most important gateways for international trade are actually in Africa,” says Bita.
Mwangangi says that African countries will need to assess their own individual capacities and interpret the blue economy in the manner that makes most economic sense to them.

“The concept is not a one-size-fits-all. Each country will need to evaluate what water-based natural resources are at their disposal,” he says. “On the Indian Ocean side of the continent where we have South Africa and Mauritius, countries tend to embrace an industrial approach,” he adds.

Research shows that South Africa’s Operation Phakisa, a national development plan, also places a focus on the blue economy as it is expected to create one million new jobs by 2030 and add approximately USD13 billion into the country’s economy.

Experts also point to Mauritius which is among the smallest countries in the world but has territorial waters the size of South Africa, making the small nation one the strongest blue economies in Africa. It ranked as Africa’s wealthiest nation based on its per capita income in 2015. Bita adds that Mozambique, which lies alongside the Indian Ocean, is characterised by the highest species of diverse and abundant natural resources.

Kenya is among African countries that are developing strategies to mainstream the blue economy within its national economic blueprint. Bita says that this East African nation’s blue economy includes maritime transport and logistics services, fisheries and aquaculture, tourism as well as the extractive industries such as the offshore mining of gas and oil, titanium and niobium.

Nonetheless, environment experts, including Bita, have expressed concerns that ongoing talks on the blue economy have largely revolved around full exploitation, in order for countries to develop rapidly in the next 10 years, and little on sustainability.

“This is a problem since there is evidence to show that oceans resources are limited. For instance, explorers have presented evidence to show that at least 90 percent of the largest predatory fishes have disappeared from the world’s oceans,” he cautions.

The blue world will only be a win for Africa if there are strategies in place to exploit and protect it, he adds.

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Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time/#respond Fri, 13 Jul 2018 10:54:03 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156690 IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

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Soil degradation, climate change, heavy tropical monsoonal rain and pests are some of the challenges the young farmers face. Soil degradation will impact two-thirds of humanity who will be food-insecure while societies are left with a heightened risk of instability. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 13 2018 (IPS)

Land degradation caused by human activities is occurring at an alarming rate across the world, and the cost will be steep if no action is taken.

In recent years, environmental groups have been sounding the alarm on land degradation while stories of the human impact on the environment have inundated twitter feeds and development news—and with good reason.

This year, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) produced the world’s first comprehensive, evidence-based assessment highlighting the dangers and far-reaching impacts of land degradation.

The United Nations-backed study found that land degradation has reached “critical” levels across the world as 75 percent of land is already degraded and projections show that such degradation will increase to over 90 percent by 2050.

Since then, more reports have poured in highlighting concerns over the issue.

Most recently, the Joint Research Centre at the European Commission created a “World Atlas of Desertification” and found that an area half the size of the European Union is degraded every year by farming, city expansion, and deforestation.

Before that, the U.N Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) reported that the global economy will lose a staggering USD23 trillion by 2050 because of land degradation.

Not only will it affect economies, but the phenomenon will impact two-thirds of humanity who will be food-insecure while societies are left with a heightened risk of instability.

IPS spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of IPBES’ assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

Q: How is land degradation caused, and what are the dangers? 

Land degradation is kind of at the overlap of many contemporary concerns. For instance, a very long proportion of the current drivers of climate change come out of things that are related to land degradation.

About one-third of current climate change relates to processes of land degradation—either deforestation or decrease in soil carbon for agriculture and other similar processes.

Climate change has a reverse effect on land degradation—as the climate changes, the ecosystems that were in a particular place can no longer exist there. In the transition period while ecosystems try to sort everything out, those ecosystems lose their ability to supply the things on which we come to rely.

The current major driver of biodiversity loss is the loss of habitat, and loss of habitat is directly related to land degradation.

From the human side, these direct impacts come through the supply of food.

The result of a lot of this is that for people who depend on ecosystems for their livelihoods, their livelihoods are undermined. So those people are either worse off or are forced to move off the land and into other people’s territories and that leads to problems of conflict.

Q: What were some of the more concerning or surprising findings in the IPBES assessment?

This is quite likely the single environmental issue within the world today that affects the largest number of people.

There are many environmental issues that are going to have a big effect as the century unfolds—things like climate change and biodiversity loss— and there are many environmental issues that affect limited populations, like air pollution.

But when you look over the entire world, about two people out of every five are directly materially impacted by land degradation.

Q: What are some of the challenges around acting on land degradation? And what action(s) should governments take to overcome such challenges? 

The biggest single constraining factor is the fragmentation of land issues across many authorities … This is costing us, in terms of lost production and risks, billions and billions of dollars. But it’s not obvious to anyone because no one sees the full picture.

I think you need to attack the problem of integration between authorities at multiple levels.

First, the kind of management we do on the land physically has to move to what we call landscape-scale management. In other words, you don’t look at all the little bits individually, you actually look across the landscape and then you fit the bits into it.

When you get a level up, which is national management, it’s probably better that we do this by arranging for more than communication but coordination between the various agencies which have partial responsibility.

We also need coordination at the international level because although land degradation has its primary impact on the local level, many of the drivers of the causes of it have international manifestations.

So you can’t solve it purely at the local level—you have to have a national level which sets in place the right policies, and you need an international level to ensure, for instance, that global trade does not take place in such a way that it drives land degradation.

Q: Is it a matter of achieving land degradation neutrality or do people need to make a shift in lifestyle?

Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

We do need to achieve land degradation neutrality, which is basically equivalent to saying that you are halting the decline. The only way to achieve that in the long term is to alter many of our lifestyle impacts because it is those that are ultimately driving the increasing degradation of the land.

Land degradation neutrality is the strategy we would take but it has to be underpinned by these bigger scale changes in the demands that we put on ecosystems.

Q: What is your message to the international community to act on this issue? 

I am concerned that not enough is being done.

There’s a distribution of responsibility—you can’t solve this all at the international level nor all at the local level. It requires really strong action at all of those levels.

If you think of the Rio Conventions—the three conventions including the Climate Change Convention, the Biodiversity Convention, and the one related to land degradation, which was specifically around dry land degradation—the climate convention has moved forward with some ground breaking international collaborative agreements. Biodiversity is sort of moving forward but perhaps not as fast, and the convention on desertification hasn’t gone anywhere at all. The question is why?

Partly, because up until now, this has not been seen as a critically important issue. [It is an] ‘it affects far away people; it doesn’t affect us’ kind of issue.

What we point out is that both the causes and the consequences ultimately end up being international so it does affect everyone.

It’s a key driver of both the biodiversity loss and climate change, and that’s one of the reasons we have to raise its profile and address it sooner rather than later.

Other ambitions like many of the Sustainable Development Goals will not be possible unless we sort this one out too.

The post Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Time appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

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Forests and Marine Resources Continue to Shrinkhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/forests-marine-resources-continue-shrink/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forests-marine-resources-continue-shrink http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/forests-marine-resources-continue-shrink/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 20:28:56 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156681 Deforestation and unsustainable farming are depriving the planet of forests, while destructive practices in fishing are limiting the chance to sustainably manage our oceans. According to United Nations estimates, the world’s population is projected to increase from 7.6 billion today to close to 10 billion people by 2050. The global demand for food is estimated […]

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About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, some 15 million hectares, have remained untouched over time. Time is running as the total area of the world’s forests shrink by the day. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

Deforestation and unsustainable farming are depriving the planet of forests, while destructive practices in fishing are limiting the chance to sustainably manage our oceans.

According to United Nations estimates, the world’s population is projected to increase from 7.6 billion today to close to 10 billion people by 2050. The global demand for food is estimated to grow by 50 percent,  placing productive land and seas under huge pressure.

It ultimately means that the way we manage our forests and oceans now is crucial in addressing our future needs, warn two biennial reports released this July by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.

The two reports titled The State of the World’s Forests(SOFO) and on The State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA), aim to highlight key facts over the state of our planet’s forests and waters and shed light on the need to address forestry, fisheries and aquaculture issues.

Time is running out for the world’s forests

“Time is running out for the world’s forests, whose total area is shrinking by the day,” says the SOFO report. In addition, deforestation is a leading cause of climate change as forests’ ability to sequester carbon decreases as they are lost.

The report warns that by halting deforestation, restoring degraded forests, and managing forests sustainably, damaging consequences for the planet and its dwellers can be avoided. The international community needs to promote an all-inclusive approach that fosters the benefits of forests and trees, engaging all stakeholders.

The SOFO report highlights that forests and trees are vital both to people and the planet, as they bolster livelihoods, provide clean air and water, conserve biodiversity and respond to climate change. It also refers to the greening of urban areas too.

“Making cities greener is critical to ensure the sustainable future of cities health and wellbeing of city dwellers,” Simone Borelli, agroforestry and urban/peri-urban forestry officer at FAO, told IPS. “Adding vegetation in urban areas has been shown to reduce urban temperatures and is regularly cited as a key mechanism for the Urban Heat Island Effect.”

Making cities greener is critical to ensure the sustainable future of cities health and wellbeing of city dwellers. Pictured here is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital city. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

“Measures such as shading and judicious use of vegetation are of special importance in hot-arid regions, where intense solar radiation and high air temperatures may have detrimental impacts on even the most basic human activities,” he said.

Borelli said that research in Dubai has shown that trees in urban areas “can reduce temperatures by up to 8°Celsius” and similar studies conducted in Amman have shown that trees “can reduce the cooling load of building by up to 35 percent.”

Furthermore, “by absorbing excess water and increasing soil infiltration and stability, urban and peri-urban trees can mitigate the occurrence and impact of flooding events.”

These issues will also be discussed in November during the first World Forum on Urban Forests, which will take place in Mantova, Italy, to discuss possible long-term collaboration on the development of urban forestry strategies.

The importance of sustaining fisheries

Meanwhile, 60 million people are engaged in the primary sector of fisheries and aquaculture, according to the SOFIA report.

“Including those engaged in the fisheries and aquaculture value chain, their families and dependents, we estimate that 10 to 12 percent of the world’s population relies on the sector for their livelihood. This demonstrates how important it is to sustain fisheries,” Manuel Barange, director of the fisheries and aquaculture policy and resources division at FAO, told IPS.

The 2018 edition of the SOFIA report is an updated analysis illustrating the major trends in global capture fisheries and aquaculture. It also highlights emerging issues, such as the increase in fish consumption (which has doubled due to population growth since 1961) and climate change, that “will affect humanity’s ability to sustainably manage global aquatic resources in the future.” 

The SOFIA report includes future projections of fish production, aquaculture production, prices and food fish supply. 

Fishermen carry their boat in from the sea in Doring Bay, 350km North of Cape Town. Credit: Patrick Burnett/IPS

The report highlights that too many people around the world rely on fish for their livelihoods and survival and therefore it is important to enact sustainable fishing and tackle worst practices such as the enormous food waste that occurs in the fish sector.

“While the sustainability of fisheries is improving in developed countries, this is not the case in developing countries,” said Barange. “Unless we change this trend, we will challenge the food and nutrition security of places where fish is needed most.”

One example of an unsustainable fishing practice is dynamite fishing. The practice, which is illegal, involves the use of explosives to kill fish. This, however, harms the ecosystem and has contributed to the destruction, for example, of Southeast Asian coral reefs for the past 20 years.

Another key aspect to address, according to the report, is that of illegal, unreported and unregulated or IUU fishing. IUU fishing often occurs, undermining national, regional and global efforts to manage fisheries sustainably. “[IUU fishing] is threatening the sustainability of fisheries. Implementing the Port States Measures Agreement, which came into force in 2016, is crucial to make IUU history,” said Barange.

“Countries need to do more than recognise the risk of IUU fishing – they must act decisively, and act now.”

IUU fleets have largely targeted valuable species such as the ‘Antarctic krill’ (Euphasia superba) and the ‘Patagonian toothfish’ (Dissostichus eleginoides). However, through management measures implemented by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the situation is slowly improving.

Moving forward to the 2030 agenda

Food and agriculture are key to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and, as the two reports note, “many of the SDGs are directly relevant to fisheries and aquaculture as well as to forestries.”

The SOFO report suggests that the contributions of forests and trees to SDGs might be “complex and context-specific”, and “more work is needed to understand some of the relationships that underlie these contributions.”

SDGs are directly linked to fisheries and aquaculture, too, as the SOFIA report highlights the critical importance of these activities for the food, nutrition and employment of millions of people, many of whom struggle to maintain reasonable livelihoods.

Forest, seas, lakes and waterways are crucial environments for our healthy lives and, for millions of people, for their subsistence and survival. Underestimating the importance of preserving them and regulating their management in a more sustainable way, would be an enormous mistake.

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Agroecology Beats Land and Water Scarcity in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 01:26:19 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156656 “Now we live well,” say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques. Givaldo began his adult life in Rio de Janeiro, in the southeast, where he did […]

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Givaldo dos Santos stands next to a tree loaded with grapefruit in the orchard which he and his wife have planted thanks to the use of techniques that allow them to have plenty of water for irrigation, despite the fact that their small farm is in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Givaldo dos Santos stands next to a tree loaded with grapefruit in the orchard which he and his wife have planted thanks to the use of techniques that allow them to have plenty of water for irrigation, despite the fact that their small farm is in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ESPERANÇA/CUMARU, Brazil, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

“Now we live well,” say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques.

Givaldo began his adult life in Rio de Janeiro, in the southeast, where he did his military service, married and had three children. Then he returned to his homeland, where it was not easy for him to restart his life on a farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern state of Paraiba, with his new wife, Maria das Graças, whom everyone knows as Nina and with whom he has a 15-year-old daughter.

“I’d leave at four in the morning to fetch water. I would walk 40 minutes with two cans on my shoulders, going up and down hills,” recalled the 48-year-old farmer.

But in 2000, thanks to a rainwater collection tank, he finally managed to get potable water on Caldeirão, his farm, part of which he inherited.

And in 2011 he got water for production, through a “barreiro” or pond dug into the ground. Two years later, a “calçadão” tank was built on a terrace with a slope to channel rainwater, with the capacity to hold 52,000 litres.

“Now we have plenty of water, despite the drought in the last six years,” said 47-year-old Nina. The “barreiro” only dried up once, two years ago, and for a short time, she said.

The water allowed the couple to expand their fruit orchard with orange, grapefruit, mango, acerola (Malpighia emarginata) and hog plum (Spondias mombin L, typical of the northern and northeastern regions of Brazil) trees.

With funding from a government programme to support family farming and from the non-governmental organisation Assessment and Services for Alternative Agricultural Projects (ASPTA), focused on agroecology, the couple purchased a machine to produce fruit pulp and a freezer to store it.

“When the pulp sale takes off, our income will grow,” said Givaldo. “For now we earn more with orange and lemon seedlings, which sell better because they last longer than other fruits.”

Besides storing water in the “barreiro”, they also raise tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), a species of fish, for their own consumption. Meanwhile, in the garden, in addition to fruit trees, they grow vegetables, whose production will increase thanks to a small greenhouse that they have just built, where they will plant tomatoes, cilantro and other vegetables for sale, Nina said with enthusiasm.

Joelma Pereira tells visitors from Central America and Brazil about the many sustainable practices that have improved the production on her family farm, on a terrace with a slope, which now has a roof, that makes it easier to capture rainwater, which is collected in a 52,000-litre tank used for the animals and to irrigate crops in Cumaru, in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Joelma Pereira tells visitors from Central America and Brazil about the many sustainable practices that have improved the production on her family farm, on a terrace with a slope, which now has a roof, that makes it easier to capture rainwater, which is collected in a 52,000-litre tank used for the animals and to irrigate crops in Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The productive activities on their small farm are further diversified by an ecological oven, which they use to make cakes and which cuts down on the use of cooking gas while at the same time using very little wood; by the production of fertilizer using manure from calves they raise and sell when they reach the right weight; and by the storage of native seeds.

The boundaries of their farm are marked by fences made of gliricidias (Gliricidia sepium), a tree native to Mexico and Central America, which offers good animal feed. The Dos Santos family hopes that they will serve as a barrier to the agrochemicals used on the corn crops on neighbouring farms.

Some time ago, the couple stopped raising chickens, which were sold at a good price due to their natural diet. “We had 200, but we sold them all, because there are a lot of robberies here. You can lose your life for a chicken,” Givaldo said.

Organic production, diversified and integrated with the efficient utilisation of water, turned this small farm into a showcase for ASPTA, an example of how to coexist with the semi-arid climate in Brazil’s Northeast.

This is why they frequently receive visitors. “Once we were visited by 52 people,” said the husband.

In the last week of June, the couple received 20 visitors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, mostly farmers, in an exchange promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Brazil’s Articulation of the Semi-Arid (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, including ASPTA.

Another farm visited during the exchange, accompanied by IPS, was that of Joelma and Roberto Pereira, in the municipality of Cumaru, in the state of Pernambuco, also in the Northeast. They even built a roof over the sloping terrace that collects rainwater on their property, to hold meetings there.

Givaldo and Nina dos Santos stand next to the small machine used to extract pulp from the fruit they grow, and the freezer where they store the fruit pulp in units ready for sale at their farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Givaldo and Nina dos Santos stand next to the small machine used to extract pulp from the fruit they grow, and the freezer where they store the fruit pulp in units ready for sale at their farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Three tanks for drinking water and one for production, a biodigester that generates much more gas than the family consumes, a system for producing liquid biofertiliser, another for composting, a small seedbed, cactus (Nopalea cochinilifera) and other forage plants are squeezed onto just half a hectare.

“We bought this half hectare in 2002 from a guy who raised cattle and left the soil trampled and only two trees. Now everything looks green,” said Joelma, who has three children in their twenties and lives surrounded by relatives, including her father, 65, who was born and still lives in the community, Pedra Branca, part of Cumaru.

The couple later acquired two other farms, of two and four hectares in size, just a few hundred metres away, where they raise cows, sheep, goats and pigs. The production of cheese, butter and other dairy products are, along with honey, their main income-earners.

On the original farm they have an agro-ecological laboratory, where they also have chicken coops and a bathroom with a dry toilet, built on rocks, in order to use human faeces as fertiliser and to “save water”.

“We reuse 60 percent of the water we use in the kitchen and bathroom, which passes through the bio water (filtration system) before it is used for irrigation,” Joelma said, while reciting her almost endless list of sustainable farm practices.

Joelma (in the picture) next to a biodigester, one of 23 donated by Caritas Switzerland to Brazilian farmers. Joelma and Roberto Pereira are family farmers from Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. The biodigester uses manure from five cows to produce more than twice the amount of biogas consumed by the family. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Joelma (in the picture) next to a biodigester, one of 23 donated by Caritas Switzerland to Brazilian farmers. Joelma and Roberto Pereira are family farmers from Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. The biodigester uses manure from five cows to produce more than twice the amount of biogas consumed by the family. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

It all began many years ago, when her husband became a builder of rainwater collection tanks and she learned about the technologies promoted by the non-governmental Sabiá Agro-ecological Development Centre in the neighbouring municipality of Bom Jardim. Sabiá is the name of a bird and a tree that symbolise biodiversity.

Some tobacco seedlings stand out in a seedbed. “They serve as a natural insecticide, along with other plants with a strong odor,” she said.

“Joelma is an important model because she incorporated the agroforestry system and a set of values into her practices,” Alexandre Bezerra Pires, general coordinator of the Sabiá Centre, told the Central American farmers during the visit to her farm.

“The exchanges with Central America and Africa are a fantastic opportunity to boost cooperation, strengthen ties and help other countries. The idea of coexisting with the Semi-Arid (ASA’s motto) took the Central Americans by surprise,” he said.

The biodigester is the technology of “greatest interest for Guatemala, where they use a lot of firewood,” said Doris Chavarría, a FAO technician in that Central American country. She also noted the practices of making pulp from fruit that are not generally used because they are seasonal and diversifying techniques for preparing corn as interesting to adopt in her country.

“We don’t have enough resources, the government doesn’t help us, the only institution that supports us is FAO,” said Guatemalan farmer Gloria Diaz, after pointing out that Brazilian farmers have the support of various non-governmental organisations.

Mariana García from El Salvador was impressed by the “great diversity of vegetables” that the Brazilians grow and “the fairs 130 km away, an opportunity to sell at better prices, with the cost of transportation cut when several farmers go together.”

She was referring to family farmers in Bom Jardim who sell their produce in Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco, with a population of 1.6 million.

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