Inter Press ServiceFood & Agriculture – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 18 Jan 2019 20:26:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Climate Change Threatens Mexico’s Atlantic Coasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-threatens-mexicos-atlantic-coast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-threatens-mexicos-atlantic-coast http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-threatens-mexicos-atlantic-coast/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 08:52:40 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159669 “I couldn’t plant my cornfield in May, because it rained too early. I lost everything,” lamented Marcos Canté, an indigenous farmer, as he recounted the ravages that climate change is wreaking on this municipality on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. The phenomenon, caused by human activities related especially to the burning of fossil fuels, has altered the […]

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Ecosystems such as the Síijil Noh Há (where water is born, in the Mayan tongue) lagoon, in Felipe Carrillo Puerto on the Yucatán peninsula, are suffering the impacts of climate change in one of the most vulnerable of Mexico's municipalities to the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Ecosystems such as the Síijil Noh Há (where water is born, in the Mayan tongue) lagoon, in Felipe Carrillo Puerto on the Yucatán peninsula, are suffering the impacts of climate change in one of the most vulnerable of Mexico's municipalities to the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
FELIPE CARRILLO PUERTO, Mexico, Jan 17 2019 (IPS)

“I couldn’t plant my cornfield in May, because it rained too early. I lost everything,” lamented Marcos Canté, an indigenous farmer, as he recounted the ravages that climate change is wreaking on this municipality on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

The phenomenon, caused by human activities related especially to the burning of fossil fuels, has altered the ancestral indigenous practices based on the rainy and dry seasons for the “milpa” – the collective cultivation of corn, pumpkin, beans and chili peppers, the staple crops from central Mexico to northern Nicaragua.

It has also modified the traditional “slash and burn” technique used to prepare the land for planting.

Canté, a representative of the Xyaat ecotourism cooperative, told IPS that “climate change affects a lot, the climate is changing too much. It’s no longer possible to live off of agriculture.” As he talks, he prepares for the new planting season, hoping that the sky will weep and water the furrows.

The farmer lives in the Señor eijido in the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto (FCP) in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo. Señor is home to about 450 “ejidatarios” or members of the ejido, a traditional Aztec system of collectively worked lands that can be sold.

This state and its neighbors Campeche and Yucatán comprise the Yucatán peninsula and are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as are the states of Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Tabasco, on the Gulf of Mexico which, along with the Caribbean Sea, make up Mexico’s Atlantic coast.

These consequences include rising temperatures, more intense and frequent hurricanes and storms, rising sea levels due to the melting of the Arctic Ocean, droughts and loss of biodiversity.

The Yucatan peninsula has a population of 4.5 million people, in a country of 129 million with a total of 151,515 square kilometers and a Caribbean coastline of 1,766 square kilometers.

In addition, this peninsular region suffers the highest rate of deforestation in the country, and government subsidies have failed to change that, according to the report “Forest subsidies without direction,” released in December by the non-governmental Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Agriculture.

The peninsula is home to the largest remaining tropical rainforest outside of the Amazon, and is a key area in the conservation of natural wealth in Mexico, which ranks 12th among the most megadiverse countries on the planet.

María Eugenia Yam, another indigenous resident of FCP, a municipality of 81,000 inhabitants, concurred with Canté in pointing out to IPS with concern that “the rains are no longer those of the past and it is no longer possible to live off of the milpa.”

Yam, an employee of the Síijil Noh Há (where water sprouts, in the Mayan tongue) cooperative, owned by the Felipe Carrillo Puerto ejido, in the municipality of the same name, lamented that agricultural production is declining, to the detriment of the peasant farmers in the area who also grow cassava and produce honey.

A trail in the Síijil Noh Há (where the water is born, in the Mayan tongue) community reserve in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo, part of the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. The conservation of the jungle is a climate change adaptation measure, because it contributes to maintaining steady temperatures and curbing the onslaught of hurricanes. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A trail in the Síijil Noh Há (where the water is born, in the Mayan tongue) community reserve in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo, part of the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. The conservation of the jungle is a climate change adaptation measure, because it contributes to maintaining steady temperatures and curbing the onslaught of hurricanes. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The three states of the peninsula produce a low level of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The biggest polluter is Campeche, producing 14.5 million tons of GHGs, responsible for global warming. It is followed by Yucatán (10.9 million) and Quintana Roo (3.48 million), according to the latest measurements carried out by the state governments.

In 2016, Mexico emitted 446.7 million net tons of GHG into the atmosphere, according to the state-run National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC).

Within the peninsula, the state of Yucatan has 17 municipalities vulnerable to climate change, Campeche, 10, and Quintana Roo, three, including FCP. In total, 480 Mexican municipalities are especially vulnerable to the phenomenon, out of the 2,457 into which the country is divided, according to an INECC report.

In Campeche, the State Climate Change Action Programme 2030 predicts a temperature increase of between 2.5 and four degrees Celsius between 1961 and 2099, with impacts on communities, economic activities and natural wealth.

Also, the 2012 study “Impacts of the increase in mean sea level in the coastal area of the state of Campeche, Mexico”, prepared by the World Bank and the state government, warns that vulnerability to the rising sea level affects 440,000 people, more than half of the local population.

“Climate change will increase flooding and coastal erosion in the future” and the probability of extreme storm surges on the coasts will increase, according to the study, which predicts a rise in water level between 0.1 to 0.5 meters in 2030 and from 0.34 to one meter in 2100.

In Quintana Roo, annual rainfall will become more and more irregular. The rainy season will be shortened by five to 10 percent in 2020, while it will range from a 10 percent increase to a 20 percent drop in 2080. In addition, the temperature will rise between 0.8 and 1.2 degrees Celsius in 2020 and between 1.5 and 2.5 degrees Celsius in 2080.

The state of Yucatan faces a similar scenario, with the average annual temperature rising between 0.5 and 0.8 degrees for the period 2010-2039. Annual rainfall will alternate drops of up to nearly 15 percent and rises of one percent in that period.

Although the three states have instruments to combat the phenomenon, such as climate change laws -with the exception of Campeche-, special programmes and even a regional plan, the situation varies widely at a local level, as many municipalities lack such measures.

The Climate Change Strategy for the Yucatan Peninsula, drawn up by the three state governments, aims for the development of a regional adaptation strategy, the implementation of the regional programme to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the creation of a climate fund.

The plan seeks to reduce emissions from this region by 20 percent by 2018 and 40 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

The region launched the Yucatan Peninsula Climate Fund in September 2017, but it is just beginning to operate.

So far, the scrutiny of the implemented actions has been a complex task.

The “Strategic Evaluation of the Subnational Progress of the National Climate Change Policy,” published by INECC in November, which investigated three municipalities on the peninsula, concluded that state and municipal authorities report multiple adaptation actions, but without clarifying how vulnerability is addressed.

For this reason, it considers the creation and promotion of capacities to face climate change to be an “urgent need”.

“We have to make everything more sustainable, but it’s a local effort. If those who govern and make decisions had more awareness, we would be able to do it,” said Canté.

Yan proposed reforesting, reducing garbage generation, conserving biodiversity and educating children about the importance of environmental care. “Maintaining the forest is a good adaptation measure. But the municipalities should have climate programmes and appoint officials who know” about the issue, he suggested.

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Why We Should Care about Vulnerable Coastal Communitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/care-vulnerable-coastal-communities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=care-vulnerable-coastal-communities http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/care-vulnerable-coastal-communities/#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2019 11:47:24 +0000 Nigel Brett http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159661 Nigel Brett is Director of the Asia and Pacific Division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development

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Meity Masipuang is a member of an enterprise group in Papusungan village, Lembeh island, Indonesia. Their women’s group purchases fish to smoke and resell. They are participants of the IFAD-funded Coastal Community Development project in Indonesia. Credit: IFAD/Roger Arnold

By Nigel Brett
ROME, Jan 16 2019 (IPS)

According to UN statistics, approximately 40 per cent of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast, and overall the world’s coastal population is increasing faster than the total global population. At the same time, global warming is causing sea levels to rise and increasing extreme weather incidents on coastlines.

The impacts are well publicized and alarming. But what we may not realize is that the people who are the most vulnerable to climate change are often the poorest. It is essential that we act upon what we know in order to mitigate the effects of climate change and build resilience in the poorest communities. In all of our development work, we cannot regard climate change and the plight of vulnerable coastal communities as a niche issue.

A large portion of the world’s poor people live in Asia and the Pacific: 347 million people in the region live on less than US$1.90 a day, almost half of the 736 million people living in extreme poverty worldwide. Rising sea level exposes large areas of Asia and the Pacific to potential floods, coastline damage and increased salinity of agricultural lands. Climate change and environmental degradation (including in small island developing states, or SIDS) is harming the poor rural population’s ability to produce food and income, which calls for urgent action to help people safeguard their assets and fragile resources, while also diversifying their income base.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with people in vulnerable coastal communities across the world to build resilience and institute sustainable agricultural practices so that vulnerable people can make a living while also preserving the environment and the resources that are the foundation of their way of life.

Nigel Brett Credit: IFAD/Flavio Ianniello

Some livelihood practices are not sustainable and can exacerbate climatic vulnerability. For example, unsustainable fishing destroys corals and depletes fish stocks, and the cutting down of mangroves for firewood results in coastal land that cannot resist flooding, cyclones and coastal erosion. Since 66 per cent of the fish that is eaten worldwide is caught by small-scale fishers, it is in everybody’s best interest to help them to improve their ability to make a living while protecting the environment.

In over 180 villages in Indonesia, the IFAD-supported Coastal Community Development Project introduced aquaculture and supported initiatives to make fishing and processing techniques more efficient and sustainable. By providing rudimentary refrigeration techniques such as ice coolers, and by forming and training women’s groups to process some of the fish into fish paste and dried fish snacks, fishermen were able to fish less because they did not have to factor in the amount of fish wasted by lack of refrigeration or low market demand. These measures also had a substantial impact on food security and actually reduced acute child malnutrition in the areas by half. And through community-based coastal resource management groups, marine resources have been maintained or improved.

In the Asia and the Pacific region overall, vulnerable communities are a prominent focus of our investment portfolio. Just under one third of our current $2.7 billion portfolio in the region is invested in improving the lives of 15,360,000 poor rural people living within five kilometers of the coastline.

One thing we’ve learned is that there is no such thing as a one-size fits all approach in working with vulnerable coastal communities. Context matters. Bangladesh suffers from overcrowding on its limited land, while the Pacific Islands suffer from not only extreme weather but a remote and dwindling population. In Tonga the rural population is declining due to migration and a lack of incentives for youth to remain. It is also classified as the second most at-risk country in the world in terms of its exposure and susceptibility to natural hazards and the effects of climate change. Development approaches need to be different.

Up to 80 million people live in flood-prone or drought-prone areas in Bangladesh, and thousands of vulnerable families eke out a living on river islands known as chars. The Char Development and Settlement Project has developed roads that remain intact even after they have been repeatedly submerged in water. It has also helped communities (especially women) to develop small businesses that can withstand floods, such as raising ducks. But, one of the most important aspects of the project’s work is land titling—which is particularly important for women. With land as collateral, women can access credit and acquire labour-saving machinery, including small irrigation pumps and rice threshers, and build small storage sheds to protect harvested rice from rain and floods.

In Tonga, we are helping communities to develop high-value crops that can be exported in order to boost the rural export market. The project is also planting tree species that can protect the coastline from tornados and cyclones. The project is working with communities to identify where improved infrastructure is needed (such as weather-resistant roads and waterfronts), and get them directly involved in investing in and supervising construction and maintenance.

After 40 years of working with poor rural people around the world, IFAD has learned that no one can hope to face these challenges alone. In a rapidly changing world we need to work together to channel support where it is most needed. Rural transformation can increase production and incomes, reduce hunger, and at the same time protect natural resources. With the right support, vulnerable coastal communities can play a part in securing a sustainable future.

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Excerpt:

Nigel Brett is Director of the Asia and Pacific Division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development

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Building Mongolia’s Green Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/building-mongolias-green-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-mongolias-green-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/building-mongolias-green-future/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 08:59:05 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage and IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159633 A country that has contributed least to global climate change now has to cope with and adapt to the very real effects they are faced with.

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January 2018 alone saw temperatures drop to -50 degrees Celsius. This has had vast impacts on Mongolia’s herders. Credit: Michelle Tolson/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage and IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 15 2019 (IPS)

The landlocked country of Mongolia sparks certain images in the mind—rolling hills with horses against a picturesque backdrop.

However, the East Asian country is facing a threat that will change its landscape: climate change.

“Climate change isn’t affecting everyone around the world evenly. Small island states is an example and another example is people who live in more norther climates like Mongolia,” United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment John Knox told IPS.

“The problem for Mongolia is, with respect to climate change, is that it contributes almost nothing to greenhouse gasses…so that means instead Mongolia has to be concerned with adaptation,” he added.

According to the Mongolian Ministry of Environment, the mean air temperature increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius between 1940 and 2014, more than twice the global average.

This has increased the frequency of natural disasters such as what is locally known as “dzud”—a summer drought followed by a severe winter, a phenomenon that has increased over recent years.

January 2018 alone saw temperatures drop to -50 degrees Celsius.

This has had vast impacts on the country’s herders.

Almost 50 percent of the Mongolia’s 3 million population are employed in animal husbandry. They produce 35 percent of agricultural gross production and account for 30 percent of the country’s export.

At the same time, 28 percent of the population live at or below the poverty line, making them dependent on this trade.

Almost 50 percent of the Mongolia’s 3 million population are employed in animal husbandry. They produce 35 percent of agricultural gross production and account for 30 percent of the country’s export. Credit: Michelle Tolson/IPS

“Any adverse impact of a changing climate on pasture availability would threaten forage yield, livestock productivity, and, ultimately, local and national food production capacity. Hence, environment and climate condition play a key role in the sustainable development of the country,” said Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)’s Mongolia representative Romain Brillie.

Approximately 70 percent of grassland in the country is impacted by desertification while the area of barren land expanded 3 times between 1992 and 2006.

While overgrazing has contributed to the changes in the environment, climate change has exacerbated the impacts.

Without sustainable livelihoods, many have poured into the country’s cities including Ulaanbaatar where they live in informal settlements without basic facilities such as running water or sanitation.

And to cope with the long and harsh winters, families use coal-fired stoves, contributing to air pollution.

In fact, Ulaanbaatar has one of the highest rates of air pollution in the world, increasing the risk of acute and chronic respiratory issues.

According to U.N.’s Children Agency (UNICEF), the three diseases that have resulted in the most lost life-years in the East Asian countries are related to air pollution.

But steps are being taken to mitigate the crisis, Brillie noted.

“Mongolia has been very active in establishing a conducive policy environment for climate change mitigation and adaptation…for instance, Mongolia is one of the countries that has been the most successful in accessing the Green Climate Fund,” he told IPS.

In 2017, the government adopted a new law which aims to increase the country’s share of renewable energy in total primary energy sources to 25 percent by 2025, and 30 percent by 2030.

Mongolia has already started investing in wind power, establishing its first wind farm in 2013.

GGGI has also been working with the government to support its green development targets in energy and green finance.

In 2018, GGGI helped secure 10 million dollars from the Government of Mongolia and Mongolian commercial banks to invest into the Mongolia Green Finance Corporation, a vehicle to leverage investments by the financial sector.

Knox highlighted the importance of such civil society in efforts towards climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“I think it’s at the individual and community level that we really see sustainable development take hold,” he said.

Brillie also pointed to the much needed role of the private sector, stating: “Financing Mongolia’s NDC’s alone would require 6,9 billion dollars and public investment alone cannot match the extent of the challenge…policy, regulatory and financial incentives and guarantees need to come together to help private companies invest into green projects.”

While there are now standards in place, Knox noted the need to implement and enforce them including in efforts to cut back on coal energy.

Currently, only seven precent of Mongolia’s energy production is renewable energy, and they will have to ramp up action if they are to reach their 2030 target.

And the Paris Agreement should be the light forward.

“In many ways, the threat of climate change in Mongolia can only be addressed by collective action by the major emitters of the world…The parties to the Paris Agreement need to surmount up their commitments as quickly as possible and they need to take more effective actions to implement the commitments they have already undertaken,” Knox told IPS.

Brillie spotlighted the role youth can and will play in the country’s sustainable, green future as GGGI works with Mongolia’s Ministry of Environment to promote green education.

“Young people are already driving change across the world. We must provide the skills to create new and green lifestyle,” he said.

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Excerpt:

A country that has contributed least to global climate change now has to cope with and adapt to the very real effects they are faced with.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agriculture is also the cause

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

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

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

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

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

Carrying on like in the past is no longer an option

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

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

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

Diversity increases resilience

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acting at all levels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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Local Innovation Facilitates Solidarity-Based Biogas Networks in Cubahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/local-innovation-facilitates-solidarity-based-biogas-networks-in-cuba/#respond Tue, 08 Jan 2019 02:52:46 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159528 Black plastic pipes, readily available on the mainly empty shelves of Cuba’s shops, distribute biogas to homes in the rural town of La Macuca, buried under the ground or running through the grass and stones in people’s yards. The strong blue flame in the kitchens of the eight homes supplied by producer Yuniel Pons is […]

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Alexander López Savrán, a 32-year-old engineer who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to make it possible to create distribution networks from materials readily available in Cuba, stands next to one of these systems in the rural town of La Macuca, in Cabaiguán, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Alexander López Savrán, a 32-year-old engineer who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to make it possible to create distribution networks from materials readily available in Cuba, stands next to one of these systems in the rural town of La Macuca, in Cabaiguán, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
HAVANA, Jan 8 2019 (IPS)

Black plastic pipes, readily available on the mainly empty shelves of Cuba’s shops, distribute biogas to homes in the rural town of La Macuca, buried under the ground or running through the grass and stones in people’s yards.

The strong blue flame in the kitchens of the eight homes supplied by producer Yuniel Pons is thanks to engineer Alexander López Savran, who innovated the standard fixed-dome biodigester to create distribution networks with the few basic materials available in this Caribbean island nation.

“A new biodigester has been designed to obtain pressure, which means that biogas can be distributed more than five kilometers away without the need for a compressor or blower. That is where the innovation lies,” the engineer, who lives in the city of Cabaiguán, capital of the municipality of the same name, where La Macuca is located, in the central province of Santi Spíritus, told IPS."Three years ago I had a big mess with animal waste, until I sought advice and began to make biogas…We are working on expanding the corrals so that another biodigester can benefit 15 more families, who have already been selected.” -- Yuniel Pons

López, 32, made headlines in 2017 when he received the Green Latin America Award in Ecuador, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology included him among the 35 young Latin Americans whose innovations improved the lives of their communities.

With a long-standing movement of biogas promoters and current regulations for private pork production favorable to its expansion, Cuba faces the challenge of creating efficient distribution networks to further exploit this ecological resource and raise the quality of life of rural localities, amidst an anemic economy.

“We started by taking a close look at the problem,” López recalled. “We had pork-raising centers that needed biodigesters, but the volume they were going to produce would be much greater than the consumption of those state facilities. On the other hand, we didn’t have the equipment to be able to distribute it.”

This fuel arises from the decomposition of organic matter, especially cattle manure and human feces. But on many farms with biodigesters there is a surplus of methane gas which, if not used, puts pressure on the equipment and is often released into the atmosphere, contributing to pollution.

In addition, biogas is most efficient for cooking because up to 70 percent of the energy is lost when it is used to generate electricity or fuel a vehicle.

“Two factors were considered: we had too much energy and there are difficulties in cooking food in the communities due to deficits in access to energy or electricity costs,” López said, referring to the dependence of most Cuban households on electric appliances.

After two years of study and design, López came up with the first prototype, which over time “has changed structurally to gain in efficiency, durability and performance,” he said, when interviewed by IPS in Pons’ home, where Pons lives with his wife Sandra Díaz and their son.

Sandra Díaz regulates the flame in her kitchen, which uses biogas from the innovative biodigester installed on her family's land, in La Macuca, Cabaiguán, in the province of Santi Spíritus, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Sandra Díaz regulates the flame in her kitchen, which uses biogas from the innovative biodigester installed on her family’s land, in La Macuca, Cabaiguán, in the province of Santi Spíritus, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Most of the biodigesters designed by López have been built as part of the Biomás Cuba project, which is coordinated by the state-run Indio Hatuey Experimental Pasture and Forage Station, located in the province of Matanzas, with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

This initiative, which seeks to bring about energy sustainability in the Cuban countryside, provides part of the inputs, while the producer provides another part, to build the biodigester, which with fixed-dome technology is expensive because it requires a large volume of building materials but is compensated with distribution and 40 years of durability.

López estimated that his 10-cubic-meter biodigester costs the equivalent of 1,000 dollars in Cuba, but with an efficiency equal to that of a standard 15-cubic-meter biodigester. Less profitable are the polyethylene biodigesters, which cost about 800 dollars, serve just one home and have a useful life of up to 10 years.

So far, 10 biodigesters have been built with this local innovation in four localities of Cabaiguán: El Colorado (two), Ojo de Agua (one), Juan González (six) and La Macuca (one), which supply 102 homes and improved the lives of 600 people, saving 65 percent of electricity consumption per household.

And the technology was also replicated in Matanzas, although the engineer lamented the lukewarm reception by decision-makers with respect to the biodigester, which could contribute to the national plan for renewable energies to provide 24 percent of electric power by 2030, compared to just four percent today.

In well-equipped corrals, Pons keeps between 100 and 150 pigs behind his house as part of an agreement between state companies and private producers that in 2017 produced a record 194,976 tons, which did not, however, meet the demand of the country’s 11.2 million inhabitants. And that total was apparently not surpassed in 2018.

“Three years ago I had a big mess with animal waste, until I sought advice and began to make biogas,” recalled the producer, who is supported by Biomás. “We are working on expanding the corrals so that another biodigester can benefit 15 more families, who have already been selected.”

Farmer Yuniel Pons and his wife Sandra Díaz stand next to the biodigester installed by their house, which with its innovative system supplies energy to the kitchens of eight homes in La Macuca, a rural settlement in the municipality of Cabaiguán, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Farmer Yuniel Pons and his wife Sandra Díaz stand next to the biodigester installed by their house, which with its innovative system supplies energy to the kitchens of eight homes in La Macuca, a rural settlement in the municipality of Cabaiguán, in central Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

After lighting the gas stove in his kitchen, Diaz, a homemaker, explained that “cooking food like this is faster, it’s wonderful… I used to cook with an electric hotplate and pressure cooker, but they were almost always broken,” she said.

The network reaches the modest home of Denia Santos and her family, who live next door to Pons. “Now I cook with biogas and I also use it to boil (disinfect) towels and bedding, something I did with firewood that I would chop up myself,” said Santos, who takes care of her mentally disabled son.

Other benefits described by families who have biogas are that it is a better way to cook food for their animals and boil water for human consumption, and that it generates a strongersense of community as everyone is responsible for maintaining the biodigester.

José Antonio Guardado, national coordinator of the Movement of Biogas Users, which emerged in 1983 and today has more than 3,000 members spread throughout almost all of Cuba’s provinces, said he was happy with the trend in Cuban agriculture to create solidarity biogas networks.

Guardado told IPS that there is “greater awareness, political support and participative activities in the context of local development,” although obstacles to distribution persist because “materials in the market are not optimal, sufficient or affordable” and “there is a lack of institutional infrastructure to provide this service in an integrated manner.”

Meanwhile, in El Cano, outside of Havana, the solidarity plans of farmer Hortensia Martínez have come to a halt despite the fact that she used her own resources to build a biodigester with a traditional fixed 22-cubic-meter dome on her La China farm, to supply the farm itself and share with five neighboring homes.

“Now I plan to give it a boost, but we haven’t been able to implement it because we don’t have the connections to the community’s houses and it has valves, special faucets and a type of hose that makes it possible to bury the network underground,” the farmer, who is well-known for her community projects, especially targeting children, told IPS.

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

 
Africa Renewal*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

 
Africa Renewal*

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Mexico’s Forests, Both Victim of and Solution to Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/mexicos-forests-victim-solution-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-forests-victim-solution-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/mexicos-forests-victim-solution-climate-change/#respond Thu, 03 Jan 2019 20:48:52 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159473 “I dream of a healthy, sustainable, well-managed forest,” says Rogelio Ruiz, a silviculturist from southern Mexico, who insists that “we have to clean it up, take advantage of the wood, and reforest.” These activities are essential for the ecosystem, especially to adapt to the impacts of climate change, the president of the La Trinidad Communal […]

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The Sierra Juárez forest in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but at the same time it can help fight the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Sierra Juárez forest in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but at the same time it can help fight the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
IXTLÁN DE JUÁREZ, Mexico, Jan 3 2019 (IPS)

“I dream of a healthy, sustainable, well-managed forest,” says Rogelio Ruiz, a silviculturist from southern Mexico, who insists that “we have to clean it up, take advantage of the wood, and reforest.”

These activities are essential for the ecosystem, especially to adapt to the impacts of climate change, the president of the La Trinidad Communal Lands Commissariat, in the municipality of Ixtlán de Juárez, in the state of Oaxaca, some 840 km south of Mexico City, told IPS.

Forest habitats are precisely one of the best natural mechanisms for mitigating climatic change, but at the same time they face the consequences, such as rising temperatures, variations in rainfall regimes and the spread of pests.

The ecoregion where La Trinidad is located, the Sierra Juárez mountains, is well aware of this. Since 2017 it has been facing an outbreak of the pine sawfly, which eats the needles of the pine tree, the most common species in this area of central Oaxaca. Local organisations estimate that some 10,000 hectares are at risk from this pest.

Ruíz explained that 106 of his community’s 805 hectares have been damaged. La Trinidad has a traditional Mexican system of government for collectively-owned and worked land, which is different from an “eijido” because the land here cannot be sold.

In September, “we applied aerial fumigation” of a biopesticide and now “we will use handpumps,” said the community leader, one of those attending the celebration in Ixtlan this month of the 35 years of struggle against the private forest concessions that were once predominant here. The struggle gave rise to community-managed forests like this one.

La Trinidad, made up of 291 community members and their families, has a permit to annually extract 5,000 cubic metres of wood during an eight-year management plan, in effect since 2014.

These undertakings exemplify the development of Mexican community forestry, considered a global model, for its success in generating social, economic and environmental benefits.

In 2016, Mexico, the second-largest country in Latin America, with 1.96 million square kilometres (196 million hectares), had 20.3 million hectares of temperate forest, 850,000 hectares of mesophilic mountain forest, 50.2 million hectares of scrubland, 7.9 million hectares of grasslands, 11.5 million hectares of rainforest and 1.4 million hectares of other vegetation, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.

A truck unloads pine logs at the sawmill of the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, which, like other local groups in the Sierra Juárez mountains, sustainably manages its community assets, including timber. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A truck unloads pine logs at the sawmill of the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, which, like other local groups in the Sierra Juárez mountains, sustainably manages its community assets, including timber. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The non-governmental Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Forestry lists 4,886 forest communities and ejidos, of which some 2,100 commercially exploit the forests.

But only seven million hectares, in the hands of some 600 communities, operate with a management and conservation plan, a requirement for obtaining approval for the harvesting programmes promoted by the state-run National Forestry Commission.

Mexico’s timber production totals seven million cubic metres annually, of which Oaxaca in the south contributes just under seven percent.

Forest ecosystems provide water to urban areas, regulate the water cycle, provide food, and capture carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas responsible for global warming, among other ecological services, according to scientific studies.

As a result, in the face of the threats posed by climate change, forests require public policies that generate better economic incentives, offer legal certainty about land tenure, expand markets and increase productivity, say silviculture organisations and experts.

Ixtlan, which means “place of threads or fibers” in the Zapotec language and where 600 hectares have been damaged, has undertaken the fight against pests by experimenting with five species of pine in the community nursery.

“In November and December, we do seed selection. We want faster-growing, pest-resistant species. We are confident that the new species will be more resistant,” explained Sergio Ruiz, forestry advisor for the community enterprise Santo Tomás Ixtlán Forest Union.

The community of Ixtlán, also in the municipality of the same name, owns 19,125 hectares, of which 30 percent is used for forestry.

Its activities also include ecotourism, a gas station, a shop, a furniture factory and a water bottling plant. In 2018, the community nursery provided 360,000 seedlings, 100,000 of which went to reforestation while the other 260,000 were donated to nearby communities. The hope is to create a seed orchard.

A study under preparation by the state-run Technical University of Sierra Juárez analyses climatic factors such as temperature, moisture and soil conditions in Ixtlán.

Workers from the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez inspect seedlings to be planted in the forest they manage within the municipality of the same name, in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Their plan is to build a seed orchard to generate pine species more resistant to climate change. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Workers from the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez inspect seedlings to be planted in the forest they manage within the municipality of the same name, in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Their plan is to build a seed orchard to generate pine species more resistant to climate change. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In 2015, Mexico emitted 683 million tons of CO2, making it the second largest polluter in the region after Brazil. Of that total, 20 million tons came from the loss of forest lands.

This Latin American country adopted its own goal of zero deforestation by 2030, a real challenge when average annual logging represents 200,867 hectares lost between 2011 and 2016, according to estimates by the Superior Audit of the Federation, the Mexican government comptroller’s office.

Other sites in the Sierra Juarez mountains are also exposed to climate change, although their height above sea level temporarily protects them from insects. Such is the case in the municipality of San Juan Evangelista, where silviculturists are preparing to adapt their forests to the phenomenon.

“It is important to clean up the forest, because it takes away combustion power and the risk of pests. In addition, managed forests allow more carbon sequestration than unmanaged forests. They can help prevent climate change from accelerating,” Filemón Manzano, technical adviser to the forestry community in that municipality, told IPS.

Analco, which means “on the other side of the river” in Nahuatl, consists of 150 community members, the owners of 1,600 hectares, of which 1,000 are covered by forests and 430 of which are exploited. The community operates a nursery for 3,000 seedlings.

Manzano and academics from the state-run Postgraduate College of Agricultural Sciences are preparing research on CO2 absorption by managed forests, estimated at five tons per year per managed hectare.

Under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Mexico pledged to reduce, by 2030, up to 14 million tons of annual CO2 emissions from land use, land use change and forestry, by promoting sustainable forest management, increasing productivity in forests and jungles and promoting forest plantations.

But the outlays needed to implement mitigation measures would total 11.789 billion dollars up to that year, at a cost of 53 dollars per ton of CO2. Zero deforestation would require 7.923 billion dollars and sustainable forest management would require 3.861 billion dollars.

In July, the Mexican forestry sector proposed a long-term policy, greater investment, an adequate legal framework, strengthening community forest management, community participation in the design of measures and a link to climate change, as part of the “Forests with people, forests forever” campaign.

Rogelio Ruiz called for more support to better care for the ecosystem and thus reap more benefits.

The study “Toward a Global Baseline of Carbon Storage in Collective Lands”, published in September by the Rights and Resources Initiative, a Washington-based global network of 15 partners, estimated that Mexican community forests trap 2.8 million tons of CO2.

Manzano called for more forest management. “We want to show how managed forests contribute to the conservation of the planet. It’s going to be important to have more resistant species and create a good mix of species,” he said.

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Getting Sustainable Development Back on Track in Asia & the Pacifichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/getting-sustainable-development-back-track-asia-pacific/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=getting-sustainable-development-back-track-asia-pacific http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/getting-sustainable-development-back-track-asia-pacific/#respond Thu, 03 Jan 2019 13:53:51 +0000 Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159472 Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Social Protection and Financing Social Development
Against the backdrop of persisting poverty and widening inequalities, ESCAP supports national and regional efforts by functioning as a knowledge platform for social protection, including through its Social Protection Toolbox (http://socialprotection-toolbox.org). ESCAP advocates for inclusive social protection along the Social Protection Floor and works to strengthen the capacity of policymakers in the Asia-Pacific region to design, implement and finance inclusive social protection as a tool for achieving the 2030 Agenda.

By Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana
BANGKOK, Thailand, Jan 3 2019 (IPS)

2019 will be a landmark year for the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Four years will have passed since world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Four years since governments recommitted themselves to eradicating extreme poverty, improving universal health care coverage, education and food security, and achieving a sweeping set of economic, social and environmental objectives. Long enough to assess our direction of travel and then refocus work where progress is falling short.

As the United Nations development arm in the region, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s (UN ESCAP) absolute priority is to support our members achieve the SDGs by 2030. We work to give scale to their effort through regional cooperation and the South-South cooperation. So, we see the stock taking in 2019 as an opportunity. One to ensure our region remains on track to achieve sustainable development.

We already know our region’s effort must be intensified. UN ESCAP analysis shows that on our current trajectory only one SDG, universal education, is on track to be met by 2030. Environmental degradation and air pollution are worsening. Our region is feeling the full force of climate change, but our greenhouse gas emissions remain high. Intraregional trade and connectivity remain below their potential. Inequalities, both within and between countries, are widening.

Much good work is underway to overcome these challenges. But there is scope to step up our region’s response in three main areas.

First, the region cannot afford to ignore widening inequality. Had the proceeds of growth been shared more equitably over the past decade, 140 million more people could have been lifted out of poverty. Inequalities of income, opportunity and increased exposure to natural disasters are all on the rise. Our response clearly needs to cut across sectors. But UN ESCAP research shows social protection delivers the highest return on investment. Countries such as Thailand or Vietnam have expanded their social protection programmes and have expertise to share. Let us use South-South cooperation to share it.

Continuing to strengthen our resilience to natural disasters is also key. We know disasters increase inequality. They keep children out of school and adults out of work, increase inequality and entrench poverty. Regional cooperation can help establish multi-hazard early warning systems, improve impact forecasting and damage assessment. UN ESCAP works closely with the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space of Indonesia (LAPAN) towards these objectives. LAPAN had a leading role in developing the recently agreed Asia-Pacific Plan of Action on Space Applications for Sustainable Development. Now, we need to focus on implementation, to harness space applications and digital innovations, to protect people from natural disasters better.

Second, the region must fulfil its longstanding ambition to increase intraregional trade. Recent trade tensions highlight Asia and the Pacific’s vulnerability to protectionism from major export markets. UN ESCAP analysis shows how regional value chains are being disrupted. 2.7 million jobs could be lost due to trade tensions, with unskilled workers, particularly women, suffering most. Increasing intraregional trade and connectivity should be part of our response. By implementing the framework agreement on the facilitation of cross-border paperless trade in Asia and the Pacific, adopted by UN ESCAP members to support the exchange of electronic trade data and documents, smoother commercial exchanges are within reach. Particularly if transport and energy connectivity are also increased. ASEAN’s achievement in strengthening power grids across borders is a leading example of successful political commitment and technical cooperation. We need this at the regional level.

Third, Asia and the Pacific should move decisively to reduce its ever-growing environmental footprint that is undermining development and peoples’ health. We should start with air pollution. As rapid urbanization continues, the region accounts for the bulk of cities with unhealthy air pollution levels. It leads to over 2 million premature deaths a year. Now is the time to agree a common response. One which limits hazardous health effects, accelerates the region’s transition to cleaner energy, promotes sustainable transport and strengthens our fight against climate change. A framework for science-based policy cooperation could make a real difference, including by raising ambitions when it comes to fighting climate change. The countries of North East Asia have already agreed a Clean Air Partnership. We should consider building on this approach at a regional level.

2019 is the region’s moment to build a more coherent regional response to these major challenges. To take decisive steps to combat air pollution and climate change, boost intraregional trade, improve social protection and resilience to natural disasters. We owe it to future generations to seize this opportunity, to come together and to quicken our pace to achieve sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.

The post Getting Sustainable Development Back on Track in Asia & the Pacific appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Climate Change Forces Central American Farmers to Migratehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-forces-central-american-farmers-migrate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-forces-central-american-farmers-migrate http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/climate-change-forces-central-american-farmers-migrate/#respond Wed, 02 Jan 2019 20:02:38 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159467 As he milks his cow, Salvadoran Gilberto Gomez laments that poor harvests, due to excessive rain or drought, practically forced his three children to leave the country and undertake the risky journey, as undocumented migrants, to the United States. Gómez, 67, lives in La Colmena, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, in the […]

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Gilberto Gómez stands next to the cow he bought with the support of his migrant children in the United States,which eases the impact of the loss of his subsistence crops, in the village of La Colmena, Candelaria de la Frontera municipality in western El Salvador. This area forms part of the Central American Dry Corridor, where increasing climate vulnerability is driving migration of the rural population. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Gilberto Gómez stands next to the cow he bought with the support of his migrant children in the United States,which eases the impact of the loss of his subsistence crops, in the village of La Colmena, Candelaria de la Frontera municipality in western El Salvador. This area forms part of the Central American Dry Corridor, where increasing climate vulnerability is driving migration of the rural population. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
CANDELARIA DE LA FRONTERA, El Salvador, Jan 2 2019 (IPS)

As he milks his cow, Salvadoran Gilberto Gomez laments that poor harvests, due to excessive rain or drought, practically forced his three children to leave the country and undertake the risky journey, as undocumented migrants, to the United States.

Gómez, 67, lives in La Colmena, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, in the western Salvadoran department of Santa Ana.

The small hamlet is located in the so-called Dry Corridor of Central America, a vast area that crosses much of the isthmus, but whose extreme weather especially affects crops in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

“They became disillusioned, seeing that almost every year we lost a good part of our crops, and they decided they had to leave, because they didn’t see how they could build a future here,” Gómez told IPS, as he untied the cow’s hind legs after milking.

He said that his eldest son, Santos Giovanni, for example, also grew corn and beans on a plot of land the same size as his own, “but sometimes he didn’t get anything, either because it rained a lot, or because of drought.”

The year his children left, in 2015, Santos Giovanni lost two-thirds of the crop to an unusually extreme drought.

“It’s impossible to go on like this,” lamented Gómez, who says that of the 15 families in La Colmena, many have shrunk due to migration because of problems similar to those of his son.

The Dry Corridor, particularly in these three nations, has experienced the most severe droughts of the last 10 years, leaving more than 3.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned as early as 2016.

Now Gómez’s daughter, Ana Elsa, 28, and his two sons, Santos Giovanni, 31, and Luis Armando, 17, all live in Los Angeles, California.

“Sometimes they call us, and tell us they’re okay, that they have jobs,” he said.

The case of the Gómez family illustrates the phenomenon of migration and its link with climate change and its impact on harvests, and thus on food insecurity among Central American peasant families.

La Colmena, which lacks piped water and electricity, benefited a few years ago from a project to harvest rainwater, which villagers filter to drink, as well as reservoirs to water livestock.

However, their crops are still vulnerable to the onslaught of heavy rains and increasingly unpredictable and intense droughts.

Domitila Reyes pulls corn cobs from a plantation in Ciudad Romero, a rural settlement in the municipality of Jiquilisco, in eastern El Salvador. The production of basic grains such as corn and beans has been affected by climate change in large areas of the country. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Domitila Reyes pulls corn cobs from a plantation in Ciudad Romero, a rural settlement in the municipality of Jiquilisco, in eastern El Salvador. The production of basic grains such as corn and beans has been affected by climate change in large areas of the country. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

In addition to the violence and poverty, climate change is the third cause of the exodus of Central Americans, especially from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to the new Atlas of Migration in Northern Central America.

The report, released Dec. 12 by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and FAO, underscores that the majority of migrants from these three countries come from rural areas.

Between 2000 and 2012, the report says, there was an increase of nearly 59 percent in the number of people migrating from these three countries, which make up the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America. In Guatemala, 77 percent of the people living in rural areas are poor, and in Honduras the proportion is 82 percent.

In recent months, waves of citizens from Honduras and El Salvador have embarked on the long journey on foot to the United States, with the idea that it would be safer if they travelled in large groups.

Travelling as an undocumented migrant to the United States carries a series of risks: they can fall prey to criminal gangs, especially when crossing Mexico, or dieon the long treks through the desert.

Another report published by FAO in December, Mesoamerica in Transit, states that of the nearly 30 million international migrants from Latin America, some four million come from the Northern Triangle and another 11 million from Mexico.

The study adds that among the main factors driving migration in El Salvador are poverty in the departments of Ahuachapán, Cabañas, San Vicente and Sonsonate; environmental vulnerability in Chalatenango, Cuscatlán, La Libertad and San Salvador; and soaring violence in La Paz, Morazán and San Salvador.

And according to the report, Honduran migration is strongly linked to the lack of opportunities, and to high levels of poverty and violence in the northwest of the country and to environmental vulnerability in the center-south.

With respect to Guatemala, the report indicates that although in this country migration patterns are not so strongly linked to specific characteristics of different territories, migration is higher in municipalities where the percentage of the population without secondary education is larger.

In Mexico, migration is linked to poverty in the south and violence in the west, northwest and northeast, while environmental vulnerability problems seem to be cross-cutting.

“The report shows a compelling and comprehensive view of the phenomenon: the decision to migrate is the individual’s, but it is conditioned by their surroundings,” Luiz Carlos Beduschi, FAO Rural Development Officer, told IPS from Santiago, Chile, the U.N. organisation’s regional headquarters.

He added that understanding what is happening in the field is fundamental to understanding migratory dynamics as a whole.

The study, published Dec. 18, makes a “multicausal analysis; the decision to stay or migrate is conditioned by a set of factors, including climate, especially in the Dry Corridor of Central America,” Beduschi said.

For the FAO expert, it is necessary to promote policies that offer rural producers “better opportunities for them and their families in their places of origin.”

It is a question, he said, “of guaranteeing that they have the necessary conditions to freely decide whether to stay at home or to migrate elsewhere,” and keeping rural areas from expelling the local population as a result of poverty, violence, climate change and lack of opportunities.

In the case of El Salvador, while there is government awareness of the impacts of climate change on crops and the risk it poses to food security, little has been done to promote public policies to confront the phenomenon, activist Luis González told IPS.

“There are national plans and strategies to confront climate change, to address the water issue, among other questions, but the problem is implementation: it looks nice on paper, but little is done, and much of this is due to lack of resources,” added González, a member of the Roundtable for Food Sovereignty, a conglomerate of social organisations fighting for this objective.

Meanwhile, in La Colmena, Gómez has given his wife, Teodora, the fresh milk they will use to make cheese.

They are happy that they have the cow, bought with the money their daughter sent from Los Angeles, and they are hopeful that the weather won’t spoil the coming harvest.

“With this cheese we earn enough for a small meal,” he said.

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DRC Farmers in “Schools Without Walls” Learn to Increase Harvesthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/drc-farmers-schools-without-walls-learn-increase-harvest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drc-farmers-schools-without-walls-learn-increase-harvest http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/drc-farmers-schools-without-walls-learn-increase-harvest/#respond Wed, 02 Jan 2019 18:49:51 +0000 Badylon Kawanda Bakiman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159461 It was almost four years ago in 2015 that members of Farmer’s Frame of Idiofa (FFI), a farmers group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), produced a mere eight tonnes of sweet potatoes on two hectares of land. But the main reason for the low yield had not necessarily been a climate-related one, but […]

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Smallholder farmers at Mamani 6 km from Kikwit, the capital of Kwilu province. Many across the country are learning new farming techniques through practical application. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

By Badylon Kawanda Bakiman
KIKWIT, DR Congo, Jan 2 2019 (IPS)

It was almost four years ago in 2015 that members of Farmer’s Frame of Idiofa (FFI), a farmers group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), produced a mere eight tonnes of sweet potatoes on two hectares of land. But the main reason for the low yield had not necessarily been a climate-related one, but an educational one.
“Thanks to the knowledge about agricultural techniques learnt from Farmer Field School, FFI has produced 30 tonnes of sweet potato in 2017 from a field of two hectares,” says Albert Kukotisa, chairman of FFI, from Kikwit, Kwilu province in southwest DRC.

FFI’s group of farmers are just some of those across the country who are learning new farming techniques thanks to the Farmer Field School (FFS) – an initiative by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

The field schools are not necessarily a new concept. According to a survey they were first introduced in 1989 in Indonesia where schools were developed to hope farmers deal with pesticide-induced problems.

And while they are also not new to the DRC, they are proving an effective way to educate and assist farmers.

Lazard Milambo, an FAO expert says that the new element to the FFS is that farmers are introduced to “new ideas with guided exercises without imposition and stimulating discussions by farmers.” He says the involvement of farmers themselves in the training process is also new.

With the FFS, however, farmers are not just told about new techniques and research, they are able to implement it also. Each week, a group of 20 to 25 farmers meet in local field and under the guidance of a trained facilitator they implement new farming techniques. Facilitators have various backgrounds and can include extension workers, employees from NGOs or previously-trained farmers.

“In groups of five they observe and compare two plots over the course of an entire cropping season. One plot follows local conventional methods while the other is used to experiment with what could be considered best practices. The plot of land belongs to a member of the group,” Patience Kutanga, an expert, agricultural engineer and one of the trained facilitators, explains.

Didier Kulenfuka, an agriculture expert adds that “small farmers experiment with and observe key elements of the agro-ecosystem by measuring plant development, taking samples of insects, weeds and diseased plants, and constructing simple cage experiments or comparing characteristics of different soils. At the end of the weekly meeting they present their findings in a plenary session, followed by discussion and planning for the coming weeks.”

According to a World Bank report, “DRC farmers are particularly poor and isolated, therefore vulnerable to climate impacts and other external shocks…”
In a country with 80 million hectares of arable land, “there are more than 50 millions of farmers in the country with land. Most of them are smallholders,” Milambo says.

And according to the same World Bank report the government is, however, committed to a green revolution, pledging to reduce rural poverty by 2020 through agricultural production systems. The government allocated 8 percent of its 2016 budget to agriculture.

But Kikwit, the capital and largest city of Kwilu province, and home to some 186,000 people, has only one university with an agronomic faculty.

Farmers and smallholders instead rely on the advice and knowledge of agricultural extension officers. And now, as Milambo points out, about two million smallholder farmers are working across the country with some 20,000 FFSs.

Françoise Kangala, a 47-year-old farmer of Kongo Central (formerly Bas-Congo) province explains that he learned a lot from the course, including how to identify the best field for planting his crop and how to choose top seeds. His increased knowledge showed in the increased harvest.

“So, my family has harvested 20 tonnes of maniocs [Cassava], Obama variety for a field of one hectare. In 2014 it wasn’t the case. The same land produced only 7 tonnes. Observations about results between old practices and the new is among the innovations of the approach.’’

For John Masamba, a smallholder farmer from Goma, North Kivu province, east of DRC, it’s necessary to popularise this system around the DRC “because it’s a school without walls.” He said he appreciated learning through practice.

“Together, farmers swap experiences. With the knowledge from FFS and using resilient seeds, I have produced [in 2018] 19 tonnes of maize from one a field of one hectare, compared to 7 tonnes in 2016,’’ he says.

Going forward this increased production by smallholder farmers will be crucial to the country’s food security. Smallholding farming contributes — around 60 percent — to the country’s food security, according to Milambo.

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Why Farmers in Bangladesh Waste 800 Liters of Water to Produce 1 Kg of Paddyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/farmers-bangladesh-waste-800-liters-water-produce-1-kg-paddy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmers-bangladesh-waste-800-liters-water-produce-1-kg-paddy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/farmers-bangladesh-waste-800-liters-water-produce-1-kg-paddy/#respond Mon, 24 Dec 2018 10:19:37 +0000 Masudul Hoque http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159439 This report is produced by UNB United News of Bangladesh and IPS Inter Press Service.

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A farmer's wife, dries the rice. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Masudul Hoque
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Dec 24 2018 (UNB and IPS)

Farmers across the country are misusing some 800 liters of water in producing each kilogram of paddy. Even though it is possible to produce 1 kg of paddy using 2,500 liters of water, currently they are using 3,300 liters for the same only for lack of awareness of certain techniques that can reduce the amount of water needed as input.

Nasiruzzaman, secretary in-charge of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Agriculture, told UNB how farmers in the past used 5,000 liters of water for producing one kg of paddy, and now that has come down to 3,300 liters.

“A farmer has to pay a fixed amount to deep tube-well (used as water source) owner for irrigating a certain size of paddy field for a full season. As a result, there is no incentive for him to save on irrigation as he has to pay the full amount. This is how he misuses the water,” Nasiruzzaman said.

The farmers irrigate their arable land from tube-wells installed by Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) and Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA), and private tube-wells. There are over 36,000 deep tube-wells, nearly 1.4 million shallow ones, and over 1.6 million hydraulic machines under the state and private sector.

Farmers typically cultivate 8.4 million hectares of land, that includes 4.7 million hectares for the Boro (season for rice crop) variety, 1.1 million hectares for Aus (season for rice crop) 5.5 million hectares for Aman (season for rice crop) and the rest for wheat cultivation.

Farmers produce 19.5 million metric tons of rice a year – which means billions of liters of water is wasted every year.

According to a survey conducted by the BADC recently, farmers are using 75 percent of groundwater while 25 percent from surface. It was only 20 percent for groundwater while 80 percent from surface water in 1960-70.

“The agriculture department is going to implement an initiative to reduce the groundwater use by 60 percent within 2030. If farmers’ misuse of water keeps rising, the layer of underground water will go down further. So, we’ve to make the farmers aware through awareness campaign from the field level, to reduce the use of water in their cultivation,” Nasiruzzaman said.

With a view to reducing the misuse of water in agriculture, the Agriculture Department has defined 5 ways, according to the secretary: Quality Dry and Quite (AWD), which will help check for water in the soil beneath the plants; setting up prepaid system in every deep tube-well; setting up pipeline 3 feet below the surface; ‘dream irrigation method’ whereby water can only be applied at the roots of a plant (only applicable for some fruit varieties); and sprinkler irrigation for flower gardens that deliver water from above, he said.

Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury said, “Plenty of water is being wasted in cultivation sector across the country every year. We’ve taken a number of projects to reduce the misuse of water.”

Farmers have no idea about the misuse of water that is why they use more water than their needs. The misuse of water causes financial loss as well as the underground water level to go down day by day. Farmers and deep tube-well owners will be made aware of the waste they are causing through campaign, the minister added.

Chief Engineer of the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation Lutfor Rahman said from 100 liters water, farmers use 35 percent for required irrigation and misuse the rest 65 percent. At present, the amount of lifted water is 70 Billion Cubic Meters (BCM) for cultivation.

Of them, about 50 BCM water is lifted from underground and 20 BCM from surface whereas 32.50 percent water misuse from underground water and 13 percent from surface, the engineer informed.

Jahangir Alam, an agriculture economist, agreed that farmers across the country are misusing water as they have no idea about it.

The government should appoint agricultural engineers, agricultural economists and farm economists to create mass awareness through campaigns at the grassroots level, Alam added.

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Excerpt:

This report is produced by UNB United News of Bangladesh and IPS Inter Press Service.

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Italy Has the ‘Greenest Agriculture’ in Europe, But it’s Not Sustainablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/italy-greenest-agriculture-europe-not-sustainable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=italy-greenest-agriculture-europe-not-sustainable http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/italy-greenest-agriculture-europe-not-sustainable/#respond Sun, 23 Dec 2018 13:01:54 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159431 While Italian agriculture is in a leading position in terms of organic farming, sustainable agriculture and being at the forefront of biodiversity conservation; water scarcity, illegal workers and the role of women and combined ageing of its workforce remain pressing concerns. “The Italian agriculture is the greenest in Europe,” Lorenzo Bazzana, Economic Manager of Coldiretti, […]

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The New Agriculture Cooperative was founded in 1977 by a group of young unemployed, labourers and farmers with two main objectives: create employment in agriculture and prevent the construction of a vast area of high environmental value. In 1990 the conversion to organic farming began, followed in 1996 by the conversion of livestocks. In 2010 the Cooperative moved to biodynamic agriculture. Credit: Maged Srour/IPS

By Maged Srour
ROME, Dec 23 2018 (IPS)

While Italian agriculture is in a leading position in terms of organic farming, sustainable agriculture and being at the forefront of biodiversity conservation; water scarcity, illegal workers and the role of women and combined ageing of its workforce remain pressing concerns.

“The Italian agriculture is the greenest in Europe,” Lorenzo Bazzana, Economic Manager of Coldiretti, which is the leading organisation of farmers at Italian and European level, told IPS.

“Italy has also a leading position in terms of organics, with 72,000 organic operators,” continued Bazzana. Indeed, according to 2014 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 10.5 percent of arable land is dedicated to organic agriculture.

“Our country is at the forefront of biodiversity conservation, with the decision not to cultivate genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and with 40,000 farms committed to keep and preserve seeds and plants at risk of extinction. Moreover, it has the primacy in terms of food security, with the highest number of agri-food products in compliance with irregular chemical residues [99.4 percent].”

Italy and the ‘Food Sustainability Index (FSI)’: top performer in sustainable agriculture

The positive data os confirmed by various studies, such as the Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN), a multidisciplinary think tank working for food sustainability. The FSI is an indicator on food sustainability that analysed 34 countries representing 87 percent of the world economy (Gross Domestic Product, GDP) and over two thirds of global population, It focused on three main pillars, in light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • sustainable agriculture;
  • food loss and waste;
  • nutritional challenges.

When it comes to sustainable agriculture, Italy is the top performer among the 34 ranked countries. It scores high across the “environmental impact of water on agriculture, sustainability of water withdrawal, water scarcity and water management sub-indicators,” according to a report from the BCFN summarising the data unveiled by the 2017 FSI.

“Italy has pioneered new techniques to reduce water loss in domestic and agricultural contexts,” states the report.

However, water scarcity in central and southern Italy, for example during the summer of 2017, exposed criticality’s in terms of poor and inadequate water infrastructures. The country has positive scores across many other indicators such as organic farming and strong laws exist to protect smallholders’ land rights.

The illegal working issue in agriculture

However, according to the BCFN’s report, the participation rate of women in farming is only one percent and that of youth is only 3.1 percent, a minimal number compared with that of similar economies such as Spain which counts nearly one third of its agricultural workforce as having women and youth represented.

Also of strong concern is the employment of illegal workers. According to the Italian trade union for farmers, Flai-Cgil, there are a huge amount of farmers—some 400,000—who employ illegal workers.

According to the union, they farmers employ illegal workers through a black market that is exploited by criminal organisations, making the phenomenon of so-called ‘agromafia’ or ‘caporalato’, an economic and social scourge for the country.

The generational turnover in agricultural work is not happening

“I have been working here since 1981 and I have dedicated my life to this cooperative producing organic,” a 60-year-old member of ‘Cooperativa Agricoltura Nuova’ (‘New Agriculture Cooperative’), tells IPS. The cooperative extends for hundreds of hectares, only 10 km from the centre of Rome, and exclusively produces organic products.

“Our cooperative is a reality already on its feet, it does not need to be built from the ground up,” he adds. “What worries me – and worries us all in here – is in fact the generational turnover: for the most part we are old people – over 50-60 years old – working here. There are no young people working here, they don’t want to.”

The fear of the farmers, breeders and beekepers working there, is that this area will one day die, because there will be no one able to manage all the activities that the Cooperativa Agricoltura Nuova deals with today.

“I am terrified by this perspective,” Davide Pastorelli, one of the very few young people working in this cooperative, told IPS. Pastorelli is only 30 years old and has been working at Cooperativa Agricoltura Nuova for 10 years, managing the production of milk and cheese. He frequently has to train people who come to work, but who they usually only stay for a short time and leave.

“Many young people are simply not willing to work hard in the farmlands, this is the reality,” he said. “If there were not many migrants and many disabled, who stay here relatively for a long term working for us, I would not really know how we could move forward.”

Cooperativa Agricoltura Nuova is an ‘integrated cooperative’, which means that it promotes a policy of integration within it, and this explains the presence of migrants and disabled people with mental illnesses. “By law, we should have at least 30 percent of disabled people among our workers while instead there are many more,” explains Letizia, a member of the Cooperative.

Perspectives: “Italy still has a long way to go”

Based on the positive data raised above by the FSI, Italy is on track, but at the same time it should not underestimate any challenge, either in the short or in the long-term. For example, Italy’s score in the nutritional pillar of the FSI was only moderate, with some high scores within the ‘life quality’ and ‘life expectancy’ categories, let down by weak indicators within the dietary patterns category. In particular, indicators like ‘physical activity’, ‘number of people per fast food restaurant’ or ‘policy response to dietary patterns’, have not so enviable scores compared to other countries, making the nutritional pillar the one which surely Italy must keep the most under observation.

What should not be underestimated is also the goal of reducing food waste and raising awareness in terms of dietary patterns. Italy, through a deep-rooted attention to the quality of food and tradition linked to the ‘Mediterranean diet’ – identified as the most balanced by nutritionists around the world – is at the top of the world for longevity, scoring 89.10 out of 100 on the FSI. “However,” warned Bazzana, “it is true that, especially in the new generations, there is a risk that these good eating habits linked to the Mediterranean diet, will be lost to the advantage of less balance food models, borrowed from bad habits and imported behaviours.” 

“In the 130 researches attached to the ‘Manifesto for Food and Health’, a document edited by the Navdanya International organisation, and which aims to be a useful tool for all those who want to start a transition towards a more sustainable paradigm, many of the critical issues highlighted, closely concern Italy,” said Cavazzoni.

“The fact that today the food is bought canned and inundated by a “shrewd” marketing at the supermarket, has separated what is the knowledge about food from what is its nutritional function, which very often is poor,” said Cavazzoni. “And instead, we have to recover these steps”.

He said that the crucial point of the discussion is that biological consumption must become something ‘popular’, which means ‘of the people’.

“That does not mean massified and trivialised. “We must favour disintermediation, that is, to get producers close to consumers as fast as possible, along the food chain. And we must revive the farmers’ markets because industrial production and supermarkets not only are they damaging small producers, but they are also compromising the quality itself of our food,” said Cavazzoni.

“Connecting consumers and producers, without giving up on the issue of quality and on that of the maximum price of food. This is the crucial point on which we must work.”

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Changing the Gender Bias in Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/changing-gender-bias-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=changing-gender-bias-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/changing-gender-bias-agriculture/#respond Sat, 22 Dec 2018 13:46:06 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159427 Women entrepreneurs are playing an important role in transforming global food security for economic growth, but they have to work twice as hard as men to succeed in agribusiness. “Agriculture and agribusiness are generally perceived as run by men,” entrepreneur and Director of  the Nairobi-based African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAN) Beatrice Gakuba, told IPS. […]

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Urban farmer, Elizabeth Tshuma in her horticulture plot, at Hyde Park outside Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Many say women entrepreneurs face more challenges in getting their foot in the door in agricultural business than men. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
WAGENINGEN, the Netherlands, Dec 22 2018 (IPS)

Women entrepreneurs are playing an important role in transforming global food security for economic growth, but they have to work twice as hard as men to succeed in agribusiness.

“Agriculture and agribusiness are generally perceived as run by men,” entrepreneur and Director of  the Nairobi-based African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAN) Beatrice Gakuba, told IPS. She noted that women entrepreneurs have to prove themselves, even though they are as capable and innovative as men.

“Women entrepreneurs face more challenges in getting their foot in the door in agricultural business than men when it comes to access to finance because of several factors, including socio-cultural beliefs,” adds Gakuba, who runs a flower export business.

“The relationship between money and human beings has always been handled by men, so when a woman says ‘I want to grow my business, or I want to get a loan’, there are many questions asked. Women define agribusiness because more are employed in agriculture.”

Opening opportunities, closing barriers

Agriculture is an important source of livelihood for the poorest and is a way of eradicating extreme poverty, especially among rural women. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), if women had the same access as men to resources such as information, land, improved technologies and credit facilities, they could increase agricultural yields by up to 30 percent, and lift more than 100 million people out of hunger.

Given their contribution to agricultural development, how can women be empowered, and how can digitalisation in agriculture help to close the growing gender gap? These were some of the critical questions posed at a recent workshop hosted in Wageningen by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).

The workshop, organised this month around the theme of ‘Making next generation agriculture work for women, explored concrete strategies for creating and improving women’s opportunities in agriculture and agribusiness. The three-day event drew 40 participants from African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries working to advance women’s position and performance in the agriculture sector.

CTA Director Michael Hailu reflected on the question of how to ensure that women have a fair share of the benefits of agriculture and value addition.

“In Africa, 68 percent of economically active women are in agriculture, but they get very little benefit from it,” said Hailu, citing disparities between the amount of labour women invest in agriculture and the volume of their earnings.

Being a woman entrepreneur in agribusiness comes with a catalogue of challenges, which include gender inequality, cultural and social barriers, limited markets, lack of land tenure, and skewed access to knowledge and information, finance and a range of productive assets.

“Women put in more into agriculture, but get far less from it, and can do more with a little recognition of their innovation and knack for enterprise,” said Sabdiyo Dido Bashuna, senior technical adviser for value chains and agribusiness at CTA.

CTA recently launched VALUE4HER, a collaborative project with AWAN and the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF), in an effort to help women develop agribusinesses and derive more income from agri-food markets.

“We want to bring in more young women to be job creators and not just job seekers,” said Irene Ochem, entrepreneur and CEO of AWIEF. “Women entrepreneurs face barriers of not having adequate management and business leadership skills, and we try to address these through networks.”

Urban farmer, Elizabeth Tshuma in her horticulture plot, at Hyde Park outside Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Lack of access to technology is a one of major challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in agriculture. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Designing the right interventions

Inclusion and equal participation in agricultural production has long been an issue for women farmers and entrepreneurs.

“It is important to recognise that culture is part of agriculture,” said anthropologist Deborah Rubin, co-founder of Cultural Practice, a United States-based consulting firm working on gender in agriculture, health, evaluation and monitoring.

“We have to look at the cultural context in the way in which production takes place. What is important is to see the cultural context as enabling rather than as an impediment,” she added, warning against generalisation about the rigid roles of women and men in agriculture.

Roles have changed over time in response to conditions in and outside the community, said Rubin. She stressed the need to focus on specific constraints faced by women in agriculture, in order to design the right interventions.

“We have to look for things we can do immediately – either provide support, or change a discriminatory policy, or give access, for example for women to be able to cultivate land, not necessary ownership but to provide access,” said Rubin.

Closing the gender gap?

Researcher and development economist Cheryl Doss said the narrative about women and agricultural productivity should be reframed because narrow analyses have diverted focus from the bigger and more important question of how to target women for agricultural development interventions. In a 2017 research study, Doss cautions that genderblind approaches to designing interventions will miss key constraints, opportunities and impacts, because gender is embedded in the distribution of all resources for agriculture.

Despite the challenges of entering and staying in agribusiness, change lies within women themselves: “Women empower themselves,” said Rubin. “There is a role for policies and organisations to support the act of women empowering themselves, but in the end it is the women who have to take that responsibility, and who can act on it.”

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Overfishing Threatens Malawi’s Blue Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/overfishing-threatens-malawis-blue-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=overfishing-threatens-malawis-blue-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/overfishing-threatens-malawis-blue-economy/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2018 17:38:12 +0000 Mabvuto Banda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159420 Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake, provides an economic lifeline to many fishing families. But overfishing is affecting many of these lives, with women being affected the most. The lake, also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique, has the largest number of endemic fish species in the world — 90 […]

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Judith Twaili shows where she used to dry the fish catch when business was better. Credit: Mabvuto Banda/IPS

By Mabvuto Banda
MANGOCHI, Malawi, Dec 21 2018 (IPS)

Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake, provides an economic lifeline to many fishing families. But overfishing is affecting many of these lives, with women being affected the most.

The lake, also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique, has the largest number of endemic fish species in the world — 90 percent out of the almost 1,000 species of fish in the lake can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development estimates that fishing contributes about four percent to Malawi’s gross domestic product (GDP), and that it employs about 300,000 people.

However, that is probably not the case now because fish stocks in the lake have been dwindling over the years due to over-fishing and women are the hardest hit.

Judith Kananji’s life-changing story tells it all. Kananji who is from a fishing family in Micesi Village Traditional Authority Mponda, in the lakeshore district of Mangochi, says she has in the meantime stopped purchasing fish because the trade is no longer lucrative compared to in previous years.

“The problem is that the fish is no longer found in abundance and it’s only the small fish available at the moment and it’s expensive. Unlike before we were having bigger fish which was easy to make profits. This time around it is hard to purchase small fish to sell at a higher price,” she told IPS.

“About 8 years ago, I used to make a good profit from capital of about MK100, 000 (137 dollars). But now it is even impossible to make profits with a working capital of MK800, 000 (1,095 dollars),” she said.

According to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), protocol report, “Years ago, it was the norm to catch about 5,000 fish a day, but now, fishers catch about one-fifth of that, or even as less as a mere 300 fish a day.”

Kananji said that the increase of fishing vessels on the lake has negatively contributed to depleting fish levels because there is stiff competition among the fishermen, which is leading to overfishing.

But SADC also said, “The rapid drop in Lake Malawi’s water levels, driven by population growth, climate change and deforestation, is threatening its flora and fauna species with extinction.”

Kananji said: “Sadly it is us women who buy fish from fishermen who have been pushed out of business because fishermen in most cases raise their prices to meet operating costs whenever there is a small catch.”

“This works to our disadvantage because fish prices at the market are always low,” she added.

Just like Kananji, Chrissy Mbatata received a loan from a micro finance lending institution popularly known as village bank to bank roll her fish selling business.

Mbatata is, however, in more trouble. She is currently struggling to settle the loan.

“Initially it was easy for me to pay the loan and support my family because I was making good money. Now it is even hard to break even. Fish is not available and I don’t know where the money to pay back the loan and support my family will come from,” Mbatata told IPS.

The dwindling fish is not only affecting businesses but also the protein intake in a country where the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund says around 46 percent of children under five are stunted, 21 percent are underweight, and four percent are wasted and Micronutrient deficiencies are common.

“Chambo [the famous local fish] used to be the cheapest source of protein for us but now it’s now a luxury we only can afford at month-ends. Imagine a single fish going at K1 800 (2.4 dollars)?” said Angela Malajira, a widow of four from Lilongwe’s Area 23 suburb.

To reverse the trend government and fishing communities have found sustainable ways to harness the industry by setting up some rules and empower chiefs to implement them.

Every year, the government prohibits fishing on the lake from the month of November to December 31 to allow breeding to take place.

Interestingly this has been well received, without any resistance, from fishing communities because they understand the importance of increasing the fish levels in the lake.

Instead the communities have formulated their own bylaws outlawing fishing from November to March —  extending the fishing for 5 months.

Vice Chairperson for Makanjira Beach Village Committee Malufu Shaibu said the fishing communities agree that fishing on the lake should shut down for a long time because it has shown that the move can help to improve fish levels on lake.

He explained that during the past five months, assessment has shown that there are more fish species and volume that have started to be seen on the lake as opposed to when the lake was closed for two months
only.

“We want the lake to be closed for six months. We are glad that now we have a lot of fish due to the prolonged time of breeding which we gave the fish,” said Shaibu.

“Our children will now be able to see fish the way we saw them. The benefits for closing the lake for a long time are more than the disadvantage.”

But Shaibu, like Kananji, complained that commercial fishermen are derailing their efforts to improve fish stocks.

Mangochi District Fisheries Officer Thomas Nyasulu said that an office they are working with the newly revived Fisheries Association of Malawi to rein in on big commercial fishermen on the lake.
He said closing the lake for a long period of time would make their work more easy and fulfilling.

“It is good that the fishermen are suggesting this move. It can really help a lot. On regulating the commercial fishermen, we are working with fisheries association of Malawi in making sure that all big fishermen are following their fishing grounds,” said Nyasulu.

The bylaws are working. In April this year a 40-year-old man was convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of K800,000 (1,095 dollars) or in default serve 60 months imprisonment with hard labour for fishing on the lake when had closed contravening the  fisheries conservation and Management Act.

The Magistrate Court sentenced Kennedy Fatchi of Makawa Village in the area of Traditional Authority Mponda in the district after he pleaded guilty to the charges.

Police prosecutor Maxwell Mwaluka told the court that on March 4, 2018 the chiefs working with the Fisheries Inspectorate in the district came across a commercial fishing company on the lake fishing.

He said the team seized the fishing materials and the convict was charged with three counts which he pleaded guilty to.

“This is the only way we can go back to having more fish in our lake which would inadvertently improve our lives,” said Kananji.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irrigation the best investment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Success in the crop yields

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filling the funding gaps

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

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

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

Expanding what works

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

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

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

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

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

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Pakistan: Food Security and Reducing the Price of Wheathttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 09:05:26 +0000 Ahmed Raza and Daud Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159265 Robert W. Fogel, the 1993 Nobel Prize Laureate for Economics, through his work on “efficiency wages”, pointed out that hungry and undernourished workers are not as productive as well fed and healthy workers.   At the level of an individual firm, it would thus make sense for an employer to pay wages that are high […]

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The staple food of Pakistan is wheat with an annual per capita consumption of 124 kgs/head/year. The world price of wheat currently hovers around US$ 234 per tonne (as of 01 November 2018). In Pakistan, the Government, during the last wheat harvest in May/June 2018, paid farmers Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms.

Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Ahmed Raza and Daud Khan
ROME, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

Robert W. Fogel, the 1993 Nobel Prize Laureate for Economics, through his work on “efficiency wages”, pointed out that hungry and undernourished workers are not as productive as well fed and healthy workers.   At the level of an individual firm, it would thus make sense for an employer to pay wages that are high enough to allow workers access to food and other necessities – even if such wages are higher than the going market rate.

Some iconic and highly successful firms have in fact done this. Henry Ford, in 1914, caused quite a stir when he decided to offer his workers five dollars a day – double the going market pay at the time. This allowed him to not only have a healthy and satisfied work force but also to pick and choose his employees; to ensure that they stayed with the company; did not spend time looking for other opportunities as their experience and skill levels improved; and felt a stake in the success of the firm.

Other companies such as Guiness, Cadbury’s and Tata’s followed the same route providing not only good salaries but also housing, medical services and schools, as well as scholarship for the brightest children of their employees.

A food-secure, well-nourished, well-housed and educated labor force can enable countries to spur and sustain economic growth and foster shared prosperity.

In Karachi, a friend runs one of the most successful engineering companies in the country. He tells of how two fresh graduate engineers came looking for a job and asking for a salary of Rupees 10,000/month (about US$75 at today’s exchange rate).

My friend told them that this was “a ridiculous demand” and that as qualified engineers from a reputable university he was not prepared to pay a penny less than Rupees 20,000. This was 20 years back and much of the success of the firm was the result of the dedication and hard work on these two “overpaid” engineers.

For countries, the same principles and practices hold. A food-secure, well-nourished, well-housed and educated labor force can enable countries to spur and sustain economic growth and foster shared prosperity.

This was one of the key principles underlying the creation of the welfare state. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, the rates of food insecurity and malnutrition are extremely high with approximately 60 percent of the population vulnerable to food insecurity.  Moreover, nearly half of children under the age of five suffering from stunted growth, which implies that their will most likely not reach their full physical and mental potential.

Prime Minister Imran Khan highlighted this issue in his inaugural speech and committed his Government to addressing the country’s nutrition emergency.  However, given the Government’s generally weak implementation capacity and tight fiscal situation there is a need to find suitable low cost means to achieve this goal. On such means is by reducing the price of food.

The staple food of Pakistan is wheat with an annual per capita consumption of 124 kgs/head/year.  The world price of wheat currently hovers around US$ 234 per tonne (as of 01 November 2018). In Pakistan, the Government, during the last wheat harvest in May/June 2018, paid farmers Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms.

This was a price approaching US$ 300/tonne (US Dollar to Pakistan Rupee exchange rate of Rupees 110 which was the rate prevailing at the time of the last wheat harvest) paid at farm-gate.  This is a price well above what farmers in most countries get.

To keep the price of wheat at Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms, the Government imposes import tariffs which currently stand at 60%. In addition huge outlays are incurred to buy, store and then dispose of this wheat. As wheat production has increased beyond domestic need and there is a subsidy given to exporters.

The impact of high wheat prices on consumers, particularly the poor, is very significant. Often it is argued that high prices for wheat and other food items help reduce poverty in rural areas.   This is simply not correct as the bulk of Pakistan’s poor rural population comprises of small scale farmers and landless who are net buyers of food.

High prices favor large farmers who have surpluses to sell; the big flour millers who get subsidized wheat from the Government; the large bureaucracy that has been created to run the wheat procurement system; and the banks, who lend to the Government for the purchase of wheat.  Direct budgetary costs of administering the system, according to the Government’s own estimates, amount to Rupees 200 billion (US$1.5 billion)/annum.

If the import restrictions on wheat are removed, domestic prices could fall considerably. In big centers such as Lahore and Karachi, where prices are 11% to 21% higher compared to international prices, a family of six people, consuming about 744 kilograms of wheat per year would save around Rupees 5,000 (almost US$40) per year.

In addition, the Government would save the costs incurred in running the system would amount to another Rupees 6,000 (over US$45) per family. This money could be used to fund targeted food assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable.

It would take some political courage to take on the lobbies of those who benefit from the current system of wheat procurement.  But if this can be done it would make a huge dent in addressing a fundamental problem without any extra outlay of public funds.

Ahmed Raza Gorsi works in international development specializing in food, agriculture and nutrition. Views expressed here are his own.

Daud Khan has more than 30 years of experience on global food security and rural development issues. Until recently, he was a staff member at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He has degrees in economics from the LSE and Oxford – where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and a degree in Environmental Management from the Imperial College of Science and Technology.  

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IPS: What are your expectations for COP24?

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

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

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Costa Rica: First Country to Protect Sustainable Fisheries of Large Pelagics Specieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/costa-rica-first-country-protect-sustainable-fisheries-large-pelagics-species/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=costa-rica-first-country-protect-sustainable-fisheries-large-pelagics-species http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/costa-rica-first-country-protect-sustainable-fisheries-large-pelagics-species/#respond Thu, 13 Dec 2018 12:31:47 +0000 Kifah Sasa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159227 Kifah Sasa is Sustainable Development Officer at UNDP Costa Rica

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Credit: UNDP

By Kifah Sasa
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, Dec 13 2018 (IPS)

Twelve years ago, in a restaurant in Puntarenas on the pacific coast of Costa Rica, a group of long line fishermen met with three UNDP conservation specialists.

The conservationists wanted to understand how best to avoid illegal fishing inside Cocos Island Marine Protected Area, located off the shore of Costa Rica and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

As part of their stakeholder engagement strategy, they decided to meet longline fishermen for dinner. It didn’t turn out quite as they had hoped – not many hands were shaken after dessert.

There was one table but two very different perspectives. The UNDP personnel were working on a project which saw illegal fishing on Cocos Island as a conservation issue.

On the other hand, the group of local entrepreneurs from Puntarenas were challenged by depleted resources and closed markets. Though some of them were indeed responsible for illegal fishing, none were big businessmen with major ambitions, but rather owners of a couple of long line vessels trying to make a living — with little access to credit and paying the highest social security costs in the region for every member of their expeditions.

The prospect of UNDP supporting the government to further restrictions on their livelihoods, was not taken lightly. A lot of mistrust turned the food, and the mood, sour.

According to data estimated by the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA), the country’s fishing sector is made up of around 400 boats with each boat carrying between five and eight people, forming a working population of around 2,000 to 3,200 directly linked to the sector.

Together with the families that depend on this activity, the affected population reaches between 10 to 16 million people and this is without including those indirectly linked through the thousands of other indirect jobs which ensure fishing activity such as transportation, fishing supplies, food, mechanics, and others.

Credit: UNDP

Fast forward to the present day and twelve years later, the perspectives of both the conservationists and the fishermen have changed. Last November, not far from that restaurant in Puntarenas, Costa Rica was the first country in the world to launch a National Action Plan for sustainable fisheries of large pelagic species, using UNDP’s methodology.

Through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA) and the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the country officially presented a plan with three main areas of work: improving the fisheries of large pelagic species in Costa Rica such as tuna, swordfish and mahi mahi; increasing the supply of seafood from sustainable sources and ensuring the social welfare of the people linked to the fishing activity.

During the presentation of the plan, one of those same sector leaders from the restaurant took the opportunity to approach the same UNDP staff member he met all those years ago and said to him, “I wanted to thank UNDP for the trust it has given us and for helping us build a formal plan with institutions”.

A clear victory for UNDP’s firm confidence and strong commitment to multi-stakeholder dialogue as the key element to achieve systemic change for sustainable commodity production.

The National Action Plan for Large Pelagic Fisheries will run for ten years and will directly contribute to the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Costa Rica.

Credit: UNDP

A model case study of successful convening and collaboration between different stakeholders, it is the result of a process of dialogue lasting twelve months and involving more than one hundred representatives of government, academia, civil society, international cooperation, fishermen, exporters, restaurants and supermarkets.

A group of people who were not likely to be happy in same room a few years ago but are now committed to working together towards a more sustainable, inclusive and promising future for Costa Rican fisheries.

Through 2019, we celebrate ten years of UNDP supporting multi-stakeholder approaches to the sustainability challenges of highly-traded commodities around the world.

Through the Green Commodities Programme, UNDP’s approach has been to build trust among stakeholders by facilitating neutral spaces where they can collaborate on a shared vision and agenda for action, coming to a collective agreement on the root of the sustainability problems of key commodities and on how they will work together to resolve them.

Through its multi-stakeholder National Commodity Platforms, the programme is currently working on palm oil, cocoa, coffee, beef, soy, pineapple and fisheries in Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

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Excerpt:

Kifah Sasa is Sustainable Development Officer at UNDP Costa Rica

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New Science Shows Climate-Smart Farming is Within Reachhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/new-science-shows-climate-smart-farming-within-reach/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-science-shows-climate-smart-farming-within-reach http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/new-science-shows-climate-smart-farming-within-reach/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 14:34:59 +0000 Godefroy Grosjean http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159203 Godefroy Grosjean is Asia Climate Policy Hub Leader, International Center for Tropical Agriculture

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Godefroy Grosjean is Asia Climate Policy Hub Leader, International Center for Tropical Agriculture

By Godefroy Grosjean
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

Until the United Nations climate talks in Bonn last year, no clear plan to include agriculture in climate negotiations existed.

This was troubling, considering agriculture contributes 19-29% of global greenhouse gases, and changing temperatures are making it harder to farm. This is having an increasingly prominent effect on food security — hunger levels have now risen for the third year in a row.

The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, which was agreed this time last year, paves the way for two technical bodies to work together to identify solutions on how the agriculture sector can be part of the solution to climate change.

The question is where to begin.

This week at COP 24 in Katowice, Poland, an international team of researchers laid out a climate-friendly blueprint for agriculture’s future.

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture and the World Bank launched a global synthesis of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices, which provides our clearest view yet as to how the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers can reduce their carbon footprint, increase yields and adapt to climate change.

Built from the on-the-ground observations of 1,500 scientists and experts in 33 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, the report outlines which site-specific interventions work under which circumstances.

This enables governments, development agencies, private investors – and, crucially, individual farmers and producers’ organizations – to tailor CSA practices to their specific goals and challenges.

Identifying “best-bet” CSA approaches

Our study shows that half of the 1,700 CSA we evaluated fall into just five categories: water management, crop tolerance to stress, intercropping, organic fertilization and pest control, and conservation agriculture. This demonstrates that stakeholders are beginning to find consensus on what they consider climate-smart agriculture.

The study also reveals that many climate-smart agriculture techniques can deliver on all three pillars of CSA: adaptation, mitigation and productivity.

Five technology clusters were ranked in the top 10 for climate-smartness in all three categories: tree management, improved pastures, silvopasture, conservation agriculture and water management.

No one-size-fits-all solutions

The report provides crucial insights when faced with the reality that the majority of smallholders do not yet practice CSA: while interventions are generally similar, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A technique considered climate-smart in one context is not necessarily climate-smart in another.

The top climate-smart agriculture practices are different in the three continents. In Latin America and the Caribbean smartest technique was silvopasture, whereas intercropping ranked top in Africa. In Asia, biogas harnessing was considered to be the most climate-smart intervention.

Efforts to step up extension are required

While finance is still a barrier to investment in CSA, it is not necessarily the biggest obstacle. The report shows that training and information are actually bigger barriers to CSA implementation. Efforts to scale up CSA interventions, therefore, should focus on delivering expert know-how to farmers that are likely to adopt new practices.

The CSA profiles are an effective entry point to unlock discussions and actions on CSA. They should, however, be embedded within a broader suite of prioritization approaches for CSA interventions.

To support this, CIAT has prepared sub-national climate risks profiles and economic assessments to develop climate smart investment plans (CSIPs). Plans should look beyond on-farm practices and develop strategies that increase the resilience of the whole agricultural value chain, while reducing emissions and improving livelihoods.

CIAT, CCAFS and its partners such as the World Bank are particularly committed to providing support to decision-making to make this agricultural transformation a success.

CSIPs and our better understanding of site-specific CSA interventions will help re-shape the landscape, quite literally. If the future of the world is going to be carbon neutral, nothing less than a large-scale transformation of farming is needed.

For the vast majority of the world’s farmers, this means adopting climate-smart strategies. And for those who have yet start – or those seeking to help them begin – they now have a clearer set of guidelines than ever before.

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Excerpt:

Godefroy Grosjean is Asia Climate Policy Hub Leader, International Center for Tropical Agriculture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adding later:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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