Inter Press ServiceFood & Agriculture – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 18 Dec 2017 15:55:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.4 Climate Change Threatens Mexican Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/climate-change-threatens-mexican-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-threatens-mexican-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/climate-change-threatens-mexican-agriculture/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 22:07:21 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153569 Azael Meléndez recalls the tornado that in May 2015 struck his hometown of San Gregorio Atlapulco, in Xochimilco, on the outskirts of Mexico City. “I had never seen anything like it, and I asked my parents, and they said the same thing,” the farmer told IPS. The tornado lifted fences protecting gardens in the area, […]

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Mexican agriculture has begun to feel the impacts of climate change, affecting the productivity of some staple foods in the local diet. The photo shows a vegetable street market, with products that go directly from the producers to consumers, in the west of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

Mexican agriculture has begun to feel the impacts of climate change, affecting the productivity of some staple foods in the local diet. The photo shows a vegetable street market, with products that go directly from the producers to consumers, in the west of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

Azael Meléndez recalls the tornado that in May 2015 struck his hometown of San Gregorio Atlapulco, in Xochimilco, on the outskirts of Mexico City.

“I had never seen anything like it, and I asked my parents, and they said the same thing,” the farmer told IPS.

The tornado lifted fences protecting gardens in the area, whose name means “place in the middle of the water” in the Nahuatl language, and which is located on the south side of greater Mexico City, which is home to 22 million people.

For Meléndez, who has a horticultural project with two other farmers, this is one of the manifestations of climate change, “which has devastated the area along with urbanisation.” The group uses the ancestral method of “chinampas” to grow lettuce, broccoli, radish, beets and aromatic herbs.

They grow crops on an area of about 1,800 square metres, harvesting about 500 kilograms of products per week, which they sell to 10 restaurants, in the wholesale market in the capital and tianguis (street markets)."Agriculture is highly dependent on local weather conditions and is expected to be very sensitive to climate change in the coming years. In particular, a warmer and drier environment could reduce agricultural production.” -- Eduardo Benítez

Water shortages, an unstable climate, proliferation of pests, infrequent but more intense rainfall, hail and the effects of human activities are affecting an area that is crucial for the supply of food and for climate regulation in the Mexican capital, says a study by the international environmental organisation Earthwatch Institute.

The system of chinampas, a Nahuatl word that means “the place of the fertile land of flowers”, was practiced by the native peoples long before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 15th century.

The Aztec technique is based on the construction of small, rectangular areas of arable soil to grow crops in the microregion’s wetlands, with fences made of stakes of ahuejote (willow), a water-tolerant tree typical of this ecosystem.

The chinampa method is used on a total of 750 hectares, where about 5,000 farmers work.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) classifies it as one of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), for preserving agrobiodiversity, helping farmers adapt to climate change, guaranteeing food security and fighting poverty.

But not only this microregion is affected by climate change. Indeed, it is difficult to find a place in Mexico that is not exposed to it.

The May report “Estimates of potential yields with climate change scenarios for different agricultural crops in Mexico”, by the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change, projected a decline in rainfall in the country.

The report, focused especially on crops of corn, beans, wheat, soybeans, sorghum and barley, found that water productivity is decreasing for most crops, which means water requirements will increase in the medium term. It also found yield loss for the seven crops, especially marked in the case of corn, beans and wheat.

In the southern state of Chiapas, farmers are already facing water shortages, sudden and heavy rains, floods and rising temperatures.

“The areas need water, we need water for the land, renewed soil, because that is the baseline. And it’s not exclusive to Chiapas, it is happening throughout Mexico,” Consuelo González, a farmer in Chiapas who grows corn on 40 hectares of land, told IPS.

González, a representative of a producers committee for her state, said there are also problems of deforestation and bad agricultural practices.

Chiapas, the second-poorest state in the country, has a sown area of 1.42 million hectares and 62 crops. Among its main products are corn, pastures, coffee, sugar cane, bananas, mangoes, beans and oil palm, which account for nearly 90 percent of the state’s total production.

The 12 most important crops produce 10.11 million tons. In the case of corn, the yield reaches 1.5 tons per hectare, half of the national yield of 3.2 tons, due to the size of the plots and low level of mechanisation.

In 2010, the region passed the Law for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in the State of Chiapas, and one year later it implemented the Climate Change Action Plan.

In its nationally determined contribution (NDC), incorporated two years ago in the Paris Agreement on climate change, Mexico included strengthening the diversification of sustainable agriculture among the measures to be adopted by 2030.

Among the instruments to achieve this goal, it establishes the conservation of germplasm and native species of corn and the development of agroecosystems through the incorporation of climatic criteria in agricultural programmes.

In its NDCs, the country pledged to reduce its polluting emissions by 22 percent by 2030, compared with 2013 levels.

That year, Mexican agricultural activity released 80.17 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. By 2020, emissions of this potent greenhouse gas are expected to reach 111 million.

By 2030, the goal is to curb agricultural and livestock emissions to 86 million tons.

“Agriculture is highly dependent on local weather conditions and is expected to be very sensitive to climate change in the coming years. In particular, a warmer and drier environment could reduce agricultural production,” said Eduardo Benítez, assistant representative of Programmes at the FAO Partnership and Liaison Office in Mexico.

Among other consequences of climate change, he mentioned to IPS a higher prevalence of fungi and pests, soil transformation, less availability of land and water for agriculture and alterations in agrobiodiversity.

“They give something, but it’s not enough,” Meléndez said about the government’s support for helping the “chinamperos” – farmers who grow crops using the chinampa method – adapt to climate change.

“It has cost us a lot of work. We carry out prevention work, such as using biological filters, to raise water in the channels to a certain level for irrigation. We try to regulate the temperature with meshes of different sizes that provide shade for the crops,” he explained.

One of the problems lies in the lack of coordination among Mexican institutions, as shown by the assessment of the Government’s 2014-2018 Special Programme on Climate Change (PECC), implemented by the government to address the phenomenon.

This analysis shows that the Information System of the Cross-cutting Agenda that operated between 2009 and 2012 is not working since the programme came into force in 2014, which prevents a “close follow up” of the progress of its 199 lines of action.

In addition, it found that the National Climate Change System has not addressed the question of connecting programmes, actions and investments at the federal, state and municipal levels, with the PECC.

González, based on her experience as a farmer, recommended silvopastoral (combining forestry and grazing) systems to maintain the plots. “There are areas that can be well preserved. We focus on soil conservation. Another solution is agroecology,” to restore soils and preserve resources, she said.

FAO and the government Agency for Marketing Services and Development of Agricultural Markets (ASERCA) are working on a project of early warnings for agriculture based on agrometeorological information to monitor the climate impacts on food production and availability.

The aim is for this data to be available to “policy-makers, financial and risk management institutions and mainly to producers. Thus, public policy can be oriented in actions such as the promotion and use of crop insurance or the activation of contingency funds,” said Benítez.

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The Protracted Refugee and Migrant Crisis: A Challenge to Multilateralismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/protracted-refugee-migrant-crisis-challenge-multilateralism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protracted-refugee-migrant-crisis-challenge-multilateralism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/protracted-refugee-migrant-crisis-challenge-multilateralism/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 10:52:47 +0000 Idriss Jazairy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153482 Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, is Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, is Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Idriss Jazairy
GENEVA, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

It is an incontrovertible fact that more people are on the move owing to globalization. Fifteen percent of the world’s population are on the move worldwide. In other words, of the world population of 7 billion, one billion are on the move. Seven hundred and forty million people are referred to as internal or as domestic migrants within their countries of origin. The number of internally displaced persons reaches about 60 million. On top of this, the world has more than 244 million international migrants who cross borders often into the unknown. Lastly, there are 22.5 million refugees – encompassing the 5.3 million Palestinian refugees – registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees who have been forced to flee their home societies as a result of violence and armed conflict. The first two decades of the 21st century will go down in history as the era in which the world has witnessed the most complex and massive movement of people since the end of the Second World War.

Idriss Jazairy

Although we can conclude that global human mobility is an integral part of the Earth’s DNA, the unprecedented cohorts of people on the move has resulted in the emergence of new challenges that call for urgent attention and action. The inflow of displaced people to Europe has been exploited by a populist tidal-wave to fuel xenophobia and in particular Islamophobia. Walls and fences are being built in the North in flawed attempts to prevent displaced people from reaching their destination countries and to criminalize migrants and refugees. Although the arrival of displaced people to Europe only add up to 0.2% of Europe’s population, human solidarity and justice are being frayed by the fear of the Other.

On the eastern and southern side of the Mediterranean Sea, millions of people have sought refuge and protection. They have found shelter in countries of the Arab region as the right to free movement further to the North has been “postponed” and denied to displaced people. Lebanon – a country of approximately 4 million people – is providing protection and refuge to approximately 1 million displaced people. Jordan – neighbouring both Iraq and Syria – has accommodated around 1.2 million refugees. Although Iraq and Egypt face internal turmoil, Bagdad and Cairo are hosting about 240,000 and 120,000 people respectively. Turkey has likewise given refuge to roughly 3 million refugees, primarily Syrians. In summary, the majority of the burden in hosting and in providing assistance and protection to, displaced people is being taken up by countries in the less developed parts of the world despite the fact that they often lack adequate resources to respond to the influx of displaced people.

While rich countries in the North bicker about burden-sharing between them of inflows of migrants representing 0.2% of their global population, MENA countries provide access without blinking to inflows that may add up to 25% of their own nationals!

How can the world move forward to respond in unison to address the resulting rise of populism and the lack of social justice that prevails in our modern societies in relation to human mobility?

“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land,” said the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire in response to the growing number of people who perish on a daily basis in their perilous and hazardous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea. According to IOM, the 2017 migrant death tolls in the Mediterranean has exceeded 2,950 casualties. Despite that, migrants risk their lives to seek protection. Populist and right wing extremist forces continue – in a flawed and misleading attempt to promote policies of exclusion – to depict migrants and refugees as the source of instability, although the adverse impact of globalization is mainly to blame. The campaign of fear waged against migrants and refugees is bringing back the spectre of nationalism and chauvinism that threatens international cooperation and peace over the long run.

How can this threat be overcome? We need to return to a climate in which diversity is embraced and celebrated. I often refer to the example of the United States as a shining example of a country that became one of the world’s most successful owing to the fact that it embraced and celebrated diversity in earlier times, if not currently. If contemporary nations want to repeat the successes of the United States and of other countries with strong traditions in upholding and harnessing the power of diversity, they must resort to the promotion of equal and inclusive citizenship rights for all peoples regardless of religious, cultural, ethnic, and/or national backgrounds. Societies that demonstrate respect for human dignity are the ones most likely to be winners in the long run.

Governments in the Middle East and in the West should address jointly the protracted refugee and migrant crisis in a multicultural context. The UN Global Compact for Refugees to be convened in 2018 will offer an opportunity to proceed along these lines. Enhancing international cooperation among countries in Europe and in the Arab region is indeed key to identifying a more equitable burden – and responsibility-sharing system in response to the current situation in which displaced people are restricted in the exercise of their right to seek refuge and protection.

This goal can be achieved through inter alia the allocation of resources, development aid as well as through internationally funded capacity-building programmes to raise the preparedness level for hosting large numbers of displaced people. In the words of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration Mr. Peter Sutherland – in his 2015 report:

“States must agree on how to address large crisis-related movements, not only to save people on the move from death or suffering, but also to avoid the corrosive effect that ad hoc responses have on our political institutions and the public’s trust in them.”

Identifying new approaches to promote equitable burden – and responsibility-sharing mechanisms would enable countries in Europe and in the Arab region to speak with one voice and to build coalitions on a variety of issues related to the safe and orderly movement of people in accordance with international law. The international community needs to commit to sharing responsibility for hosting displaced people more fairly and proportionately, being guided by the principles of international solidarity and justice. This is an occasion for all to recommit themselves to the lofty aims of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Global problems require global solutions. Attempts to regionalize such issues – as witnessed in many societies – are doomed to failure.

Over the long term the international community must act to eradicate the underlying causes leading to an excessive flow of destitute migrants. That means phasing out foreign military interventions, respecting sovereignty, supporting democracy and human rights through peaceful means only and joining forces to address impoverishment of the Global South as a result of climate change.

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Global Initiative to Relieve Pressure on Mountainshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/global-initiative-relieve-pressure-mountains/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-initiative-relieve-pressure-mountains http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/global-initiative-relieve-pressure-mountains/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 10:16:51 +0000 Becky Heeley http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153478 International Mountain Day and the Mountain Partnership’s 15th anniversary coincided on December 11, kicking off a three-day Mountain Partnership Global Meeting at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome. An initiative of Italy, Switzerland, the UN Environment Programme and FAO, the Mountain Partnership is committed to increasing […]

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Mountains are home to 13 percent of the world’s population. Credit: FAO/Edson Vandeira

By Becky Heeley
ROME, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

International Mountain Day and the Mountain Partnership’s 15th anniversary coincided on December 11, kicking off a three-day Mountain Partnership Global Meeting at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome.

An initiative of Italy, Switzerland, the UN Environment Programme and FAO, the Mountain Partnership is committed to increasing mountain conservation awareness and rebuilding development and international policies. Along with the Paris climate agreement, the 2013 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasizes that noone should be left behind.

“Our world needs all our pieces and that includes mountains,” shared Andrew Taber passionately, Executive Director of the Mountain Institute and Chair of the Mountain Partnership Steering Committee.

Sixty countries and 200 civil society organizations pledged to relieve climate, hunger, and migration pressures on mountain ecosystems and communities.

“Yes, mountains are under pressure. Yes, mountains still don’t play the role they need to in their countries, but we must get out of this defensive attitude,” contributed Dominique Kohli, Assistant Director-General of the Federal Office for Agriculture of Switzerland.

This attempt to encourage positivity directed at a global audience was explained further by Thomas Hofer, Coordinator of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, “The mountain agenda is a global agenda. Each mountain region has its specific vulnerability. There is no overall recipe to address vulnerability, so it needs to be done based on the specific situation. Vulnerability has also to do, ultimately, with political attention to mountains.”

With 1 billion people living in mountains and over half the world’s population dependent on mountains for water, food, and clean energy, the pressures mountains are facing reach across regions. Massive environmental shifts brought on by climate change, natural disasters, and land degradation threaten the abundance of fresh water and other goods cultivated in mountains.

The Himalayas are hugely affected by climate change explained Hofer, “For example, in the Himalayan area, the most prominent concern is climate change. The increase in temperature is 2-3 degrees, or even 3-4 degrees, which is much more than the global average. Glaciers in the mountains are retreating.”

Climate change reduces rainfall. In Kenya, mountain communities face water shortages and difficulties growing food. Kenya has overcome these vulnerabilities by utilizing the Partnership’s Adaptation for Food Security and Ecosystem Resilience in Africa project, which promotes collecting rainwater on roofs and building irrigation systems. Now, male and female farmers store water and can grow food for personal consumption as well as for profit.

Hunger is another major issue faced by mountain people. In Colombia, FAO helped combat hunger by implementing the framework for the Biocarebe Connections project, which along with other initiatives, increased food security through forest restoration programmes.

FAO has successfully worked with Nepal to overcome forest degradation, “Over the last twenty or twenty-five years, Nepal has become a champion in terms of community forestry and handing over the responsibility of forest management to communities has led to a strong improvement of mountain forests which is linked to institutionalization of this by the government,” said Hofer.

Governments recognizing and adopting Mountian Partnership initiatives is crucial to globally combating the myriad of problems mountains face.

As the vulnerability of mountain ecosystems increases, so does migration. Many mountain men migrate to already stressed urban areas to find work leaving behind women and families.

“One and a half million young Nepali men work in the Gulf region. It has a big impact on the livelihoods and social situation of women. Women have to deal with everything; the family, the farm, elderly people,” emphasized Hofer.

To alleviate the burden on mountain women and as incentive, community investment in countries like Nepal and specifically Tajikistan, where almost 30% of the glaciers have melted, the Climate Resilience Financing Facility (CLIMADAPT) gives loans to farmers, households, and entrepreneurs who adopt measures to reduce climate change.

Despite the complex climate, hunger, and migration pressures, “Mountain communities and mountain people are very resilient,” states Hofer.

Even though mountain people are strong and have generations of knowledge that allows them to adapt to climate variances and survive, current hardships are exceeding normal levels.

“It is not that mountain communities now are starting to ask for help, they implement their indigenous strategies to deal with variability, but because of the lack of attention and lack of voice in terms of decision making, when the changes are really strong compared to what they are used to, they get to a certain limit,” explained Hofer.

Mountain people need a platform to speak from within their communities and countries. To relieve the immense pressure on mountain ecosystems and people, which is undoubtedly a global problem, mountain communities must be heard so governments can take united interdisciplinary actions.

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Are Value Chains a Pathway to Nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 08:56:51 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Shantanu Mathur http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153436 Raghav Gaiha is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Shantanu Mathur is Lead Advisor, Programme Management Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, Italy. The views are personal.

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Raghav Gaiha is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Shantanu Mathur is Lead Advisor, Programme Management Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, Italy. The views are personal.

By Raghav Gaiha and Shantanu Mathur
NEW DELHI, Dec 11 2017 (IPS)

Although difficult to ascertain whether it is a trend reversal, two recent FAO reports (2017a, b) show a rise in hunger globally as well as in Africa. The number of undernourished (NoU) in the world suffering from chronic food deprivation began to rise in 2014 –from 775 million people to 777 million in 2015 – and is now estimated to have increased further, to 815 million in 2016. The stagnation of the global average of the proportion of undernourished (PoU) from 2013 to 2015 is the result of two offsetting changes at the regional level: in Sub-Saharan Africa, the share of undernourished people increased, while there was a continued decline in Asia in the same period. However, in 2016, the PoU increased in most regions except Northern Africa, Southern Asia, Eastern Asia, Central America and the Caribbean. The deterioration was most severe in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-Eastern Asia (FAO 2017a,b).

Raghav Gaiha

In 2016, weak commodity prices were partly responsible for a slowdown in economic growth across Sub-Saharan Africa to 1.4 %, its most sluggish pace in more than two decades. With the population growing by about 3 % a year, people on average got poorer last year, and, by implication, more undernourished. The greater frequency and intensity of conflicts and crises further aggravated undernourishment.

Food systems are changing rapidly. Globalization, trade liberalization, and rapid urbanization have led to major shifts in the availability, affordability, and acceptability of different types of food, which has driven a nutrition transition in many countries in the developing world. Food production has become more capital-intensive and supply chains have grown longer as basic ingredients undergo multiple transformations. Expansion of fast food outlets and supermarkets has resulted in dietary shifts. The consumption of low nutritional quality, energy-dense, ultra-processed food and drinks, and fried snacks and sweets has risen dramatically in the past decade.

The concomitant shift to the more market-oriented nature of agricultural policies means that agricultural technology and markets play a more important role in determining food prices and rural incomes, and more food is consumed from the marketplace rather than from own production. The greater market orientation of food production and consumption has increased the bidirectional links between agriculture and nutrition: agriculture still affects nutrition, but food and nutritional demands increasingly affect agriculture. Increasing demands for energy-intensive products exacerbate environmental impacts of food value chains: for example, excessive use of agricultural chemicals to extract more dietary energy from every hectare while contaminating the very food it produces, along with groundwater and the soil; and the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock industries to feed the ever-increasing demand for meat and dairy products (Carletto, 2015).

Shantanu Mathur

Value chain concepts are useful in designing strategies to achieve nutrition goals. Central to this approach is identifying opportunities where chain actors benefit from the marketing of agricultural products with higher nutritional value. However, value chain development focuses on efficiency and economic returns among value chain transactions, and the nutritional content of commodities is often overlooked.

A food value chain involves a series of processes and actors that take a food from its production to consumption and disposal as waste. In a value chain, the emphasis is on the value (usually economic) accrued (and lost) for chain actors at different steps in the chain, and the value produced through the functioning of the whole chain as an interactive unit. A value chain is commodity specific, and thus involves only one particular food that is relevant within a diet.

As value chains are crucial in determining food availability, affordability, quality, and acceptability, they have potential to improve nutrition. What is required is to identify opportunities where value chain actors benefit from supplying the market with agricultural products of higher nutritional value. Value chain development, however, has rarely focused attention on consumers—consumers are simply considered as purchasers driving the ultimate source of demand. In this light, the value chain strategy is likely to be enriched by a stronger consumer focus, and, in particular, a focus on consumer nutrition and health. The empirical evidence on the role of value chains in improving nutrition is, however, scanty and mixed.

Basically, nutrition results from the quality of the overall diet, not just from the nutrient content of an individual food. In value chains, the focus is generally commodity specific, rather than on how to integrate multiple chains to contribute to an enhanced quality of diet. There may be offsetting impacts such that, if one value chain works better and consumption of the associated food increases, consumption of other foods may decline.

On the demand side, the central issue is how to promote consumption of nutritious foods by target populations that may not be able to afford a healthy diet. Similarly, on the supply side, an important concern is the feasibility of targeting the poorest smallholders and informal enterprises along the value chain, particularly, involving women.

An example from Nigeria elucidates the potential of value chains for enhancement of nutritional value and the constraints that must be addressed. Chronic undernutrition is pervasive in Nigeria, with rates of stunting and underweight alarmingly high and little progress over the last decade. There are major disparities in nutrition outcomes between the wealthy and poor, between the north and south, and between urban and rural areas. Micronutrient deficiencies are widespread across social groups. Vitamin A deficiency, for example, is associated with 25% of child and maternal deaths. Together with direct nutrition interventions, it is necessary to improve the functioning of food value chains and provide access to nutrient-dense foods to the urban and rural poor.

Cowpeas make a substantial contribution to the nutrition of poor populations in Nigeria. Cowpea grains contain an average of 24% protein and 62% soluble carbohydrates. They are rich in thiamine, folates and iron, and also contain zinc, potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and calcium, as well as the amino acids lysine and tryptophan. Markets for cowpea products are mainly informal, and the majority of products are produced by small-scale businesses and sold locally. Few formal sector businesses have invested in cowpea products, and there is limited innovation in value-added products. A merit of cowpea foods is that they are readily acceptable to diverse populations, widely available across the country and can be distinguished from less nutritious alternatives. However, affordability and availability of cowpeas is constrained by major supply-side problems. Cowpea prices fluctuate between seasons, due to the susceptibility of grains to degradation and low use of improved storage technologies. Although simple, safe and low-cost technologies are available in the form of improved storage bags, these are not prominent in wholesale and transport stages of the value chain. Besides, existing preservation techniques make use of pesticides that create risks of toxic contamination. Improving use of storage technologies along the value chain, including on-farm facilities, transportation and storage facilities in markets would help alleviate this constraint-especially for smallholders.

So the challenges are creating incentives for businesses to focus better on nutritional foods and conditions enabling smallholders to integrate better into these chains.

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Debate on Glyphosate Use Comes to a Head in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/debate-glyphosate-use-comes-head-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=debate-glyphosate-use-comes-head-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/debate-glyphosate-use-comes-head-argentina/#comments Fri, 08 Dec 2017 20:20:09 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153423 In and around the city of Rosario, where most of Argentina’s soybean processing plants are concentrated, a local law banned the use of glyphosate, the most widely-used herbicide in Argentina. But two weeks later, producers managed to exert enough pressure to obtain a promise that the ban would be overturned. This episode, which took place […]

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Academics discuss the impacts on health and the environment of the use of glyphosate in Argentine agriculture, during a Dec. 6 conference at the University of Buenos Aires. Concern about this topic is now on the country’s public agenda. Credit: Daniel Gutman / IPS

Academics discuss the impacts on health and the environment of the use of glyphosate in Argentine agriculture, during a Dec. 6 conference at the University of Buenos Aires. Concern about this topic is now on the country’s public agenda. Credit: Daniel Gutman / IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 8 2017 (IPS)

In and around the city of Rosario, where most of Argentina’s soybean processing plants are concentrated, a local law banned the use of glyphosate, the most widely-used herbicide in Argentina. But two weeks later, producers managed to exert enough pressure to obtain a promise that the ban would be overturned.

This episode, which took place in November, reflects the strong economic interests at stake and the growing controversy surrounding the use of agrochemicals and their impact on people’s health and the environment.

“Agriculture in Argentine has undergone major changes in recent decades and consolidated its agroindustrial model, strongly based on soy, which displaced wheat and corn,” explained Emilio Satorre, professor and researcher at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) department of agronomy.

“The sown area climbed from 15 to 36 million hectares, 60 to 65 percent of which are covered with genetically modified (GM) soy, while the use of phytosanitary products increased threefold. This system generated great wealth for the country, but of course it produces greater risks,” he told IPS.

For Satorre, “society is increasingly exacting… and the environment and health have become a central focus.”

Glyphosate accounts for over half of the agrochemicals used, since the government authorised in 1996 commercial sales of GM soybean resistant to that herbicide, which was then produced exclusively by Monsanto, the US biotech giant with a large subsidiary in this South American country.

Along with direct seeding or no-till systems, which avoid soil tillage and mitigate erosion, glyphosate and GM soy form the foundation on which the phenomenal expansion of agriculture has been based in this country of 44 million people, where the agro-livestock sector represents about 13 percent of GDP.

This growth took place at the expense of the loss of millions of hectares of natural pastures in La Pampa, one of the world’s most fertile regions in the centre of the country, and of native forests in the Chaco, the northern subtropical plain shared with Bolivia and Paraguay.

Large-scale soy production expanded so much that it reached the edge of many urban areas.

One of them is Córdoba, the second-biggest city in the country, located in the central region. There, a group of women have put Ituzaingó – a working-class neighborhood – on the national map since 2002.

It was when they mobilised to protest about a large number of cases of cancer and malformations, which they blamed on the spraying of soy crops that grew up to a few metres from their homes.

The Mothers of Ituzaingó, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Córdoba, the second-biggest city in Argentina, have taken their fight against agrochemicals, because of its impact on the health of their community, to the emblematic Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. Credit: Courtesy of Mothers of Ituzaingó

The Mothers of Ituzaingó, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Córdoba, the second-biggest city in Argentina, have taken their fight against agrochemicals, because of its impact on the health of their community, to the emblematic Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. Credit: Courtesy of Mothers of Ituzaingó

With their struggle, the Mothers of Ituzaingó obtained a judicial ruling that banned fumigations closer than 500 metres from their houses, as well as the criminal conviction of an agricultural producer and a fumigator.

They became a beacon of hope for many social movements in the country.

“I started when my daughter, who was three years old, was diagnosed with leukemia. Today thanks to God she is alive and they haven’t sprayed here anymore since 2008, but we were poisoned for years and people are still getting sick,” said Norma Herrera, a homemaker who has five children and two grandchildren.

“It was a very hard struggle at the beginning. Over the years the facts have proved us right, but we were never able to get professionals to scientifically establish the connection between the spraying and the health problems,” Herrera told IPS.

Thanks to the social movement of which the Mothers of Ituzaingó were pioneers, a decision was reached Nov. 16 by the city council in Rosario to ban glyphosate.

The provision placed emphasis on a study carried out by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organisation, which declared the herbicide a “probable carcinogen” two years ago.

The decision took agricultural producers by surprise. At the time they seemed more worried about the uncertainty over whether the European Union would or would not renew the licence for the use of glyphosate, which was to expire on Dec. 15.

A negative decision would cause a severe economic impact for Argentina, the sector’s business chambers warned.

But on Nov. 27 the EU agreed in Brussels to renew the licence for the herbicide for five years, with the votes of 18 countries against nine and one abstention.

In 2016, Argentina’s agricultural exports totaled 24 billion dollars, equivalent to 46 percent of the country’s total exports, while soy meal, cornmeal and soy oil accounted for the main sales abroad.

Three days after the EU’s decision, the heads of rural entities went to Rosario’s city hall and convinced the same city councilors who had banned glyphosate that there was no “scientific evidence” warranting such a decision.

A few hours later, several city councilors said they had not discussed the issue with the necessary depth.

As a result, although the provision is not yet in force because it was not signed by the city government, a new municipal bill was drafted, which authorises spraying with the herbicide with certain precautions, and is set to be discussed this month.

“We consider it deplorable that the councilors have reversed the commendable decision to protect the health and environment of the population of Rosario, yielding to pressure from the soy lobby and showing who truly governs” said a group of more than 10 environmental and social organisations.of the region in a press release.

For Lilian Correa, head of Health and Environment at the UBA school of medicine, “the next generation of Argentinians must put on the table the cost-benefit equation of the current productive model. Today, the impact on health and the environment is not measured.”

Correa warned about the prevailing apathy in Argentina regarding the regulation and handling of toxic agrochemicals, citing the case of endosulfan, an insecticide banned in 2011 by the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

“When that happened, Argentina set a two-year deadline to sell off stocks of endosulfan. That was done to benefit a company, in an unethical and illegal manner,” Correa said during a Dec. 5 conference at the UBA agronomy department

In 2011, a four-year-old boy died in Corrientes, in the northeast of the country, poisoned when endosulfan was sprayed on tomato crops less than 50 metres from his house.

In December 2016, the owner of the tomato plantation in question became the first person tried in Argentina for homicide through the use of agrochemicals.

However, the court considered that no negligence could be proven in the use of the substance, which at that time was permitted, and acquitted him.

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Food Sovereignty as a Pillar of Self-Determinationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/food-sovereignty-pillar-self-determination/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-sovereignty-pillar-self-determination http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/food-sovereignty-pillar-self-determination/#respond Fri, 08 Dec 2017 10:34:40 +0000 Brooke Takala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153400 Brooke Takala describes herself as a mother, a PhD candidate at the University of the South Pacific, and co-coordinator of an Enewetak NGO called Elimon̄dik

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Climate change has serious implications for agriculture and food security. Credit: FAO/L. Dematteis

By Brooke Takala
SUVA, Fiji, Dec 8 2017 (IPS)

A recent meeting in Rome between our Pacific leaders and UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) highlighted the urgency of food security in our region given the reality of climate change affecting our agriculture and aquaculture.

As a mandate of FAO to “promote the uptake of healthy fresh food,” they are missing their mark by discussing climate change as the main challenge to hunger elimination and nutrition in the Pacific.

While food security – simply, access to food sources – is an imperative to eradicate hunger, what we really need to be discussing is food sovereignty.

The Declaration of Atitlan, established at the first Indigenous Peoples’ Global Consultation on the Right to Food and Food Sovereignty in 2002, defines food sovereignty as “the right of Peoples to define their own policies and strategies for sustainable production, distribution, and consumption of food, with respect for their own cultures and their own systems of managing natural resources and rural areas.”

As such, food sovereignty must be recognized as a prerequisite for food security.

Enewetak Case Study

In the Pacific, life is dramatically different between urban and rural areas. In larger cities or townships, life is expensive and land and water resources for agriculture is limited and often polluted. In rural areas and outer islands life is mostly subsistence living, relying on what the land, waterways and sky provide.

Yet on some outer islands in places like the Republic of the Marshall Islands, food sovereignty does not exist. Nearly 600 miles from the capital of Majuro, the people of Enewetak lived sustainably for thousands of years before colonization disrupted lifeways.

Now contamination of Enewetak from the United States’ 43 nuclear and thermonuclear weapons along with the dumping of radioactive waste in open bomb craters, direct sea dumping, and more (in)famously the Cactus Dome on Runit Island, have left the people who call Enewetak home no choice but to subsist on contaminated food supplies and imported processed foods.

The United States may say that the Supplemental Food Program under the amended Compact of Free Association addresses food security for the people of Enewetak, but what happens when the small amounts of processed foods are depleted and the supply ship is delayed?

What happens when there is an event such as a birthday, funeral, or festival where local foods are essential to cultural practices? In those cases the community has no choice but to gather local foods from radioactive islands.

I only fully understood this a few years ago when we moved back to Enewetak with our young children. We had run out of nearly all food stocks and the boat was still weeks away from delivering its next shipment. Like many other families, we were boiling pandanus keys for the kids to eat in the morning and afternoon, then making one small meal in the evening.

We enjoyed the sweet and filling fruit but it was difficult not to think about the amount of Cesium and other radionuclides my children were consuming. The only choice was to eat the fruit or go hungry.

Not Just Climate Change

Other mothers in the Pacific face similar decisions when it comes to feeding their children. More than 300 nuclear and thermonuclear weapons were tested in the Pacific by the US, UK, and France.

Increasing military build-up in this vast blue continent includes the detonation of depleted uranium missiles, trans-shipment of nuclear and other hazardous waste, and nuclear submarines navigating the region.

Moreover, the extractives industry compromises land and water resources and fuels genocide of Pacific peoples in places like West Papua. Now, we have the increasing threat of seabed mining, which will undoubtedly affect our greatest food source in the Pacific: the Ocean.

Food security in the Pacific can only be achieved by enabling self-determination movements in the region, thereby recognizing the driving elements that impede food sovereignty and food security. Effects of climate change – rising seas, extreme drought, and typhoons – are extensions of the over-arching geo-political factors that only exacerbate the issues that people of Large Ocean States have been living with for generations.

Commitment is Needed

In 2006, Indigenous communities coordinated with FAO to develop indicators around food security and food sovereignty. While these indicators recognize the obstacle of environmental contamination, no formal processes for remediation of contaminants have been institutionalized.

If FAO is truly committed to food security, their coordinated efforts with the Pacific must be underpinned by the acknowledgement of historical factors that have disrupted the self-determination of Pacific families.

Not only should a full and comprehensive survey of food sources be conducted in cooperation with Pacific communities and neutral states (i.e. non-nuclear states), but also a remediation policy must be required for food security initiatives, along with recognition of the negative effects of militarization and the extractives industry on Pacific lifeways and worldviews.


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world are currently meeting in Suva, Fiji, through 8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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Resistance to Antibiotics: The Good, the Bad and the Uglyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/resistance-antibiotics-good-bad-ugly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=resistance-antibiotics-good-bad-ugly http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/resistance-antibiotics-good-bad-ugly/#respond Wed, 06 Dec 2017 16:08:18 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153352 The growing resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobials due to their overuse and misuse both in humans and animals has become an alarming global threat to public health, food safety and security, causing the deaths of 700,000 people each year. This is a fact. The good news is that now more and more countries have […]

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Antimicrobial drugs play a critical role in the treatment of diseases, their use is essential to protect both human and animal health. However, antimicrobials are often misused for treatment and prevention of diseases in livestock sector, aquaculture as well as crop production. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 6 2017 (IPS)

The growing resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobials due to their overuse and misuse both in humans and animals has become an alarming global threat to public health, food safety and security, causing the deaths of 700,000 people each year. This is a fact.

The good news is that now more and more countries have adopted measures to prevent the excessive and wrong use of antimicrobials. The bad ones are that these drugs continue to be intensively utilised to accelerate the growth of animals, often for the sake of obtaining greater commercial benefits.

According to the first annual survey conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and a global intergovernmental body on animal health—the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), more than 6.5 billion people – over 90 per cent of the world’s population – now live in country that has in place, or is developing, a national action plan on antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

“Nearly all of these plans cover both human and animal health in line with the recommended ‘one health‘ multi-sectoral approach,” FAO said on 17 November.

The survey’s release came at the end of the World Antibiotic Awareness Week, which kicked off on 13 November, announcing that more countries have unveiled plans to tackle AMR.

So far so good.

Ferocious Superbugs

The bad news is that careless disposal of antibiotics could produce ‘ferocious superbugs,’ warns the United Nations.

In fact, growing antimicrobial resistance linked to the discharge of drugs and some chemicals into the environment is one of the most worrying health threats today, according to new research from the United Nations that highlights emerging challenges and solutions in environment.

“The warning here is truly frightening: we could be spurring the development of ferocious superbugs through ignorance and carelessness,” on 5 December said Erik Solheim, chief of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Frontiers Report, launched on the second day of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), running through 6 December in Nairobi, looks at the environmental dimension of antimicrobial resistance in nanomaterials; marine protected areas; sand and dust storms; off-grid solar solutions; and environmental displacement – finding the role of the environment in the emergence and spread of resistance to antimicrobials particularly concerning.

The other bad news is that while antimicrobial medicines – antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals or antiparasitics – are widely used in livestock, poultry and aquaculture operations to treat or prevent diseases, the survey alerts that their over-use and misuse –such as for “promoting growth”– is leading to the emergence of microbes resistant to these drugs, making the diseases they cause difficult or in cases, impossible, to treat.

Epic Proportions

“Humans exposed to these antimicrobial resistant pathogens are also affected in the same way.”

And here comes the recurrent alert: despite progress, the global push to address this problem – which is taking on “epic proportions” – is still in its early stages.

There are weak points that still need to be shored up – particularly in the food and agriculture sectors of low- and middle-income countries, key battlegrounds against ‘superbugs’ resistant to conventional medicines, FAO cautions.

“In particular, there are major gaps in data regarding where, how and to what extent antimicrobials are being used in agriculture; also systems and facilities for tracking the occurrence of AMR in food systems and the surrounding environment need to be strengthened.”

“The goal is to help them develop the tools and capacity to implement best practices in animal and crop production, reduce the need for antimicrobials in food systems, develop surveillance capacity to assess the scale of AMR and efforts to control it, and strengthen regulatory frameworks to minimise the misuse of antibiotics while simultaneously ensuring access to drugs for treating sick animals,” said Ren Wang, FAO Assistant Director-General for Agriculture and Consumer Protection.

What Is the Problem?

The UN food and agriculture specialised agency provides the following sound explanation:
Since the introduction of penicillin in the middle of the 20th century, antimicrobial treatments have been used not only in human medicine but in veterinary care as well.

At first, they were utilized to treat sick animals and to introduce new surgical techniques, making it possible, for example, to perform caesarean sections in cattle on farms. With the intensification of farming, however, the use of antimicrobials was expanded to include disease prevention and use as growth promoters.

The use of antimicrobials in healthy animals to prevent diseases has now become common in husbandry systems where large numbers are housed under moderate to poor hygienic conditions without appropriate biosafety measures in place. Similarly, when a few members of a flock have a disease, sometimes all animals are treated to prevent its spread.

Besides such uses for treatment (therapeutic) and prevention (prophylactic uses), antimicrobials have been added — in low dosages– to animal feed to promote faster growth, FAO warns, adding that “although more and more countries prohibit the use of antimicrobials as growth promoters, it remains common in many parts of the world.”

A row of cattle waiting to be fed at the National Livestock Development Board Farm in Mahaberiyathenna, Sri Lanka. Credit: FAO

Although the UN agency does not say explicitly why this happens, it could be easily deduced that it is due to the voracious appetite for greater profits.

FAO goes on to warns that in the coming decades, the use of antimicrobials in animal production and health will likely rise as a result of economic expansion, a growing global population, and higher demand for animal-sourced foods. Indeed, their use in livestock is expected to double within 20 years.

“It is likely that the excessive use of antimicrobials in livestock (and aquaculture) will contaminate the environment and contribute to a rise of resistant microorganisms. This poses a threat not only to human health, but also to animal health, animal welfare, and sustainable livestock production — and this has implications for food security and people’s livelihoods.”

And the more antimicrobials are misused, the less effective they are as medicines in both veterinary and human healthcare, as the misuse drives AMR to evolve and emerge in disease-causing microorganisms, t adds.

Another major specialised UN agency, WHO, explains that antimicrobial resistance describes a natural phenomenon where microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi lose sensitivity to the effects of antimicrobial medicines, like antibiotics, that were previously effective in treating infections.

“Any use of antimicrobials can result in the development of AMR. The more antimicrobials are used, the more likely microorganisms will develop resistance, and the misuse and excessive use of antimicrobials speeds up this process.”

Examples of misuse include using an incorrect dose or administering an antimicrobial at the wrong frequency or for an insufficient or excessive duration, according to WHO.

The Dangers

AMR causes a reduction in the effectiveness of medicines, making infections and diseases difficult or impossible to treat, the UN health agency warns, adding that “AMR is associated with increased mortality, prolonged illnesses in people and animals, production losses in agriculture, livestock and aquaculture.

“This threatens global health, livelihoods and food security. AMR also increases the cost of treatments and care.”

Should all this not be enough, the WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, says, “Antibiotic resistance is a global crisis that we cannot ignore… If we don’t tackle this threat with strong, coordinated action, antimicrobial resistance will take us back to a time when people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery.”

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Empowering Women Improves Communities, Ensures Success for Generationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/empowering-women-improves-communities-ensures-success-generations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=empowering-women-improves-communities-ensures-success-generations http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/empowering-women-improves-communities-ensures-success-generations/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 15:31:59 +0000 Becky Heeley http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153294 At an event held on October 29 at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gender Awards 2017, five countries were honored for impressive achievements in gender equality and women’s empowerment despite harsh conditions and numerous daunting situational and societal obstacles. The five countries are Bangladesh, Mozambique, Colombia, Morocco, and Mauritania. The IFAD supported projects […]

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Credit: IFAD

By Becky Heeley
ROME, Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

At an event held on October 29 at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gender Awards 2017, five countries were honored for impressive achievements in gender equality and women’s empowerment despite harsh conditions and numerous daunting situational and societal obstacles. The five countries are Bangladesh, Mozambique, Colombia, Morocco, and Mauritania. The IFAD supported projects in these countries have ambitious goals for a more egalitarian future. To date these projects have successfully provided women with decision-making opportunities, skill training, and increased autonomy through the development of their own livelihoods.

Morocco’s Country Programme Manager, Naoufel Telahigue, summed up the greatest overall effect best; “Rural women have become a symbol of will.”

With empowerment comes greater individual and collective confidence, influence, and overall happiness which contributes to the vitality of households and communities. There is still much to be achieved, however these projects have yielded numerous positive results worthy of the utmost praise.

Mozambique’s Rural Markets Promotion Programme empowered women to join farmer organizations where they now have equal membership as men. Women have increased their revenue by connecting to markets and even becoming community leaders.

Throughout homes in Mozambique women and men are rewriting embedded household gender roles through the Gender Action Learning System (GALS).

Men are not only warming to the idea of sharing women’s domestic workloads, they are seeing the benefits, Mario Quissico, Gender focal point, PROMER, explained, “It is very exciting hearing men say, we are happy because harmony at home has increased. We are working as a family, we are contributing to activities which we thought were for women.”

Vital to women’s security in Bangladesh, especially after the recent resettlement on the coastal islands, is the Char Development and Settlement Project’s initiative for women and men to own equal amounts of land.

The Deputy Team Leader of the project, Md. Bazlul Karim, clarified that even women without husbands are protected, “50% goes to the woman and 50% to the man. If there is a single woman who is the head of a family she will get 100% of the land.”

In Colombia , Building Rural Entrepreneurial Capacities Programme: Trust and Opportunity or TOP believes that empowering women is absolutely essential to the country’s peace. They are helping poor, vulnerable women who are heads of households by providing training and incentives to create their own incomes. Some have even embraced the male-typical endeavor of raising livestock.

Morocco’s Agricultural Value Chain Development Project in Mountain Zones of AL-Haouz Province have encouraged women to get training in businesses with local products like wool, olives, and apples. Coined the “two-sheep initiative,” women have started their own businesses by acquiring two sheep.

There is also a focus on female-run small businesses in Mauritania where the Poverty Reduction Project in Aftout South and Karakoro supports women’s micro projects.

Easier access to drinking water has also been a vital part in improving the lives of women and reducing poverty. With fresh water closer, women save as many as five hours each day which they can instead use to earn money.

All of these projects are combating gender inequality and have given women the ability to make decisions and take positions of power in families and communities. These advancements positively influence entire societies.

The Coordinator of Mauritani’s project, Ahmed Ould Amar, emphasized, “We are reaching 281 villages and working with 19,000 households. This is quite huge, so obviously when you are working at this type of scale you have economic, social, and organizational impacts on society.”

Not only have these projects been working tirelessly from the ground up and in turn improving gender equality in society, they are securing it for future generations.

Young people in Colombia are being protected by the project’s encouragement of entrepreneurial women to work with young people and include them in their empowerment.

According to Ahmed Ould Amar, young women are being heard in Mauritania, “We’ve got this diagnosis process at field level that always includes a group of young people and women so we can hear what their problems are.”

A school, which also ingeniously acts as a shelter from cyclones, has been created in Bangladesh and many young girls are being educated for the first time.

In Mozambique women who were previously illiterate are being taught to read. They can perform previously impossible tasks such as understanding forms at the hospital so they can help their children flourish.

While women have begun generating income in Morocco, young girls have been able to remain in school. Some have even gone on to University.

In all five of these countries, women are taking on leadership positions and becoming role models for younger generations. The freshly ingrained demand for gender equality and a belief that the empowerment of women ensures a more stable present and successful future allows for young girls to grow up into vibrant women who improve society.

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South-South Cooperation Key to a New Multilateralismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 14:36:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153298 “There are new challenges to all states: among them, the real threat to multilateralism… South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to a new multilateralism and drive the revitalisation of the global partnership for sustainable development.” This is how Liu Zhenmin, the UN under-secretary general for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored the importance of South-South Cooperation […]

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Mongolian farmers harvest carrots as part of an FAO South-South Cooperation Programme between China and Mongolia. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

“There are new challenges to all states: among them, the real threat to multilateralism… South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to a new multilateralism and drive the revitalisation of the global partnership for sustainable development.”

This is how Liu Zhenmin, the UN under-secretary general for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored the importance of South-South Cooperation at an event marking the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation on 12 September, just few weeks ahead of the Global South-South Development Expo 2017 in Antalya, Turkey (27 to 30 November).

The statement came a few weeks ahead of US President Donald Trump’s announcement that his country was revoking its commitment to the September 2016 UN-promoted global pact that aims at guaranteeing the human rights of migrants and refugees worldwide, in what is widely considered as his third blow to multilateralism in less than one year since he took office after US withdrawal from both the Paris Climate Agreement and UNESCO.

Solutions and strategies created in the South are delivering lasting results around the world, said Amina Mohammed, the UN deputy secretary-general, on the occasion of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation.

“Nearly every country in the global South is engaged in South-South cooperation,” she added, citing China’s Belt and Road Initiative, India’s concessional line of credit to Africa, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Strategic Association Agreement by Mexico and Chile as few examples.

The deputy UN chief, however, also cautioned that progress has been uneven and extreme poverty, deep inequality, unemployment, malnutrition and vulnerability to climate and weather-related shocks persist, and underscored the potential of South-South cooperation to tackle these challenges.

Not a Substitute for North-South Cooperation

Significantly, Amina Mohammed highlighted that the support of the North is crucial to advance sustainable development.

“South-South cooperation should not be seen as a substitute for North-South cooperation but as complementary, and we invite all countries and organizations to engage in supporting triangular cooperation initiatives,” she said, urging all developed nations to fulfil their Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments.

A Kenya delegation discuss with Indonesia goverment official about food security in their country. Credit: FAO

She also urged strengthened collaboration to support the increasing momentum of South-South cooperation as the world implements the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Further, noting the importance of the upcoming high-level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation to be hosted by Argentina on 20-22 March 2019, she said, “It will enable us to coordinate our South-South efforts, build bridges, cement partnerships, and establish sustainable strategies for scaling up impact together.”

The UN General Assembly decided to observe this Day on 12 September annually, commemorating the adoption in 1978 of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries.

Key to Overcoming Inequalities

At the opening of the Global South-South Development Expo 2017 in Antalya, Turkey, Fekitamoeloa Katoa Utoikamanu, the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), on 27 November said that as the most vulnerable countries continue to face serious development challenges, South-South cooperation offers “enormous opportunities and potential” to effectively support them in accelerating progress on implementing globally agreed goals.

“These are all countries faced with complex and unique development challenges which lend themselves to exploring how and where we can maximize South-South cooperation and leverage global partnerships to support countries’ efforts toward sustainable and inclusive futures,” said Utoikamanu.

The 2017 Global Expo gathered 800 participants from 120 countries, senior UN officials, government ministers, national development agency directors, and civil society representatives, to share innovative local solutions and push for scaling up concrete initiatives from the global South to achieve the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The central promise of the 2030 Agenda is to ‘leave no-one behind,’ and thus is about addressing poverty, reducing inequality and building a sustainable future of shared prosperity,” she explained. “But it is already clear that these noble Goals will be elusive if the 91 countries my Office is a voice for remain at the bottom of the development ladder.”

As such, she added, South-South collaboration has led to increasing trade between and with emerging economies, investors, providers of development cooperation and sources of technological innovations and know-how. “This trend is confirmed by trade preferences for [least developed country products], enhanced trade finance opportunities, but also innovative infrastructure finance emerging.”

“The complex and pressing challenges the vulnerable countries experience demand that we further strengthen and leverage South-South cooperation,” said Utoikamanu, adding that South-South cooperation is “not an ‘either-or’ – it is a strategic and complementary means of action for the transfer and dissemination of technologies and innovations. It complements North-South cooperation.”

Science, Technology, Innovation

The Antalya week-long Global South-South Development Expo 2017 focused on a number of key issues, including how to transfer science, technology and innovation among developing countries and, in general, on solutions ‘for the South, by the South.’

The future will be determined by the abilities to leverage science, technology and innovation for sustainable growth, structural transformation and inclusive human and social development, said Utoikamanu. “It is proven that innovative technologies developed in the South often respond in more sustainable ways to the contextual needs of developing countries. Last, but not least, this is a question of cost.”

In all this, the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries has a major role to play in boosting science, technology and innovation capacity. “It must facilitate technology transfer and promote the integration of [least developed countries] into the global knowledge-based economy.”

Hosted by the Government of Turkey and coordinated by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), the Antalya Global South-South Development Expo 2017’ was wrapped up on 30 November under the theme “South-South Cooperation in the Era of Economic, Social and Environmental Transformation: The Road to the 40th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action.”

Jorge Chediek, the Director of UNOSSC, said: “Many of the achievements of the expo are not reflected in these very impressive numbers themselves, they are reflected in the partnerships that are being established, in institutional friendships and agreements that are been developed and that will certainly generate results.”


UN Day for South South Cooperation. Credit: United Nations

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UN Makes Record Appeal for Humanitarian Aid in 2018http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/un-makes-record-appeal-humanitarian-aid-2018/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-makes-record-appeal-humanitarian-aid-2018 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/un-makes-record-appeal-humanitarian-aid-2018/#respond Sat, 02 Dec 2017 15:57:49 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153290 The UN has made its largest appeal to work towards reaching the more than 135 million people across the world in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. Upon comprehensively assessing world humanitarian needs, the UN found that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased by more than 5 percent. As a […]

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Syrian refugee children learn to survive at a camp in north Lebanon. Credit: Zak Brophy/IPS.

Syrian refugee children learn to survive at a camp in north Lebanon. Credit: Zak Brophy/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 2 2017 (IPS)

The UN has made its largest appeal to work towards reaching the more than 135 million people across the world in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.

Upon comprehensively assessing world humanitarian needs, the UN found that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased by more than 5 percent.

As a result, the institution has launched its strategic humanitarian response plans which aim to reach 91 million of the most vulnerable with food, shelter, health care, and education in 2018.

The ambitious plan will require a record 22.5 billion dollars, slightly higher than the 22.2 billion appeal made in 2017.

“Investing in coordinated response plans is a sound choice. It delivers tangible and measurable results, and has a proven track record of success,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock.

In 2017, donors provided a record level of funding of 13 billion dollars to help humanitarian agencies reach and save tens of millions of people, including those who experienced unprecedented famines in four different countries.

However, 46 percent of the 22.2-billion-dollar appeal remains unfunded.

“Humanitarians can only respond to the growing needs with the generous support of our donors,” said Lowcock during a press conference.

CEO of Save the Children Helle Thorning-Schmidt echoed similar sentiments, noting the need for NGOs to use funding more effectively, as well as donor governments to invest in long-term development.

“[We] need governments and institutions to take a longer term approach by tackling the cause of these crises as well as the symptoms. By brokering peace agreements, investing in education, helping communities build resilience to climate shocks, and speaking up when people are persecuted. Without this, we will continue to see a record level of suffering,” she said.

“There are very few humanitarian crises that can be solved by humanitarian interventions alone,” Lowcock reiterated.

The crisis in Yemen continues to be the most urgent and will require a scaled up response in 2018.

Over 22 million Yemenis, representing over 70 percent of the population, require humanitarian assistance. This includes the 7 million who are on the brink of famine, which has only exacerbated since the Saudi-led coalition imposed a blockade.

Though the blockade has been partially lifted, Lowcock urged for a complete reversal in order to avoid an even bigger catastrophe.

Humanitarian needs will also continue to be high in Syria in 2018 unless a political solution is reached.

As hostilities are ongoing, access to those with the most need still remains constrained, particularly to the over 900,000 in UN-declared besieged areas and almost 3 million living in hard-to-reach areas.

The proportion of the population living in extreme poverty in the Middle Eastern nation has doubled from almost 34 percent before the conflict to almost 70 percent today. Limited access to income and livelihood opportunities has doubled the number of people at risk of food insecurity.

Lowcock pointed to the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo as among the most neglected, with only 40 percent of its appeal funded.

The increase in violence, which is expected to worsen, forced almost 2 million people to flee their homes in 2017, bringing to the total number of internally displaced persons to over 4 million—the highest number of any country on the African continent.

As the majority of the world’s humanitarian crises are driven by conflict, Thorning-Schmidt urged for action to help protect the most vulnerable, including children.

“If we don’t do anything extraordinary, we will end up stealing these children’s futures twice,” she said. “We have to put even more pressure on the global community and on warring parties to make peace.”

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Q&A: “What Price Do We Put on Our Oceans?”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/qa-price-put-oceans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-price-put-oceans http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/qa-price-put-oceans/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2017 13:10:24 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153280 IPS correspondent Manipadma Jena interviews the Executive Director of United Nations Environment ERIK SOLHEIM ahead of the Dec. 4-6 3rd UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, where 193 member states will discuss and make global commitments to environmental protection.

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Erik Solheim participates in the largest beach clean-up in history at Versova Beach Clean-Up in Mumbai, India, in October 2016. Photo courtesy of UNEP

Erik Solheim participates in the largest beach clean-up in history at Versova Beach Clean-Up in Mumbai, India, in October 2016. Photo courtesy of UNEP

By Manipadma Jena
NAIROBI/NEW DELHI, Dec 1 2017 (IPS)

“Political resolve is the key for succeeding in our fight against oceans pollution,” Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, who is leading hands-on the organisation’s global campaign to clean up seas and oceans of plastic litter, agricultural run‑off and chemical dumping, told IPS.

“It’s about building capacity for strong environmental governance and bolstering political leadership on these issues,” said Solheim, who previously served as Norway’s Minister of the Environment and International Development.“If action is not taken today, we’re lining ourselves up for the ultimate cost – the destruction of our oceans – down the line."

“One of the big changes has been an understanding of the issue (of marine pollution) and a realization that we are facing an extremely serious problem. As a result, we’re starting to see a range of initiatives,” he said.

“On the community level, there are people like Afroz Shah and Mumbai’s Versova Beach clean-up team, for example. They’re really doing an amazing job of drawing attention to the problem.

“Then we’re seeing the “private sector begin to take serious action,” he said. “For example, Dell is changing its packaging. Certain big national and international chains are changing their practices – for example by using paper instead of plastic, or cutting out plastic straws.

“Then we have government action, which is crucial. Certain countries have banned microplastics, some have banned plastic bags. Kenya, Rwanda and Bangladesh, for example, are recognised global leaders on plastic pollution,” he added.

“This points to a growing understanding of the marine litter problem and a resolve to take concrete action. Ultimately, the problem of marine litter is upstream. We need industries to change. We need people to exercise their power as consumers,” Solheim said.

In what Joachim Spangenberg of Germany’s Helmholtz Centre for Environment Research called the “political economy” of pollution, where vested-interest lobbies profit by externalizing costs of production and discharging unwanted waste into the environment, anti-plastic law-makers are up against a global plastic industry worth 654 billion dollars by 2020. Dow Chemicals, Du Pont, BASF, ExxonMobil, and Bayer are key players invested in the sector.

But Spangenberg too says that heads of government have great power to address this “political economy” of pollution.

Oceans are the new economic frontier, but ill health eating into its potential

Between 2010 and 2030 on a business‑as‑usual scenario, the ocean economy could double its global value added to 3 trillion dollars and provide 40 million jobs, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) major 2016 study said.

Ocean is the new economic frontier, it said, its growth driven by traditional and emerging ocean-based industries, marine food, energy, transport, minerals, medicines, tourism and innovations.

But OECD warns the oceans’ undermined health would cut into its full growth potential.

“We need governments to make polluters pay, and to ensure we work harder on recycling, reuse and waste management. The solution is stopping the waste ending up in the ocean in the first place,” Solheim told Inter Press Service.

UN Environment chief Erik Solheim. Photo courtesy of UNEP

UN Environment chief Erik Solheim. Photo courtesy of UNEP

Pollution from plastic waste in oceans is costing 8 billion dollars

“Pollution from plastic waste being dumped in the ocean is costing the world at least 8 billion dollars every year, but this estimate is certain to be an underestimate when we factor in the cumulative, long-term consequences,” said the UNEP chief.

Between 4.8 million tonnes and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the ocean every year, 80 percent of it from land sources due to inadequate waste management.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, plastic production is increasing 4-5 percent annually.

Plastic pollution is everywhere; even a tiny uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean far from human contact had 18 tonnes of plastic washed up on it. Plastic waste was found at 36,000 feet in depth – the deepest spot in the ocean in the Mariana trench, he points out.

Plastic aside, land-based sources pump in the maximum waste and pollutants into oceans and coastal waters, mostly through rivers. Farming, food and agro-industry, fisheries and aquaculture, oil and energy sector, waste, wastewater, packaging sector, extractives and pharmaceuticals are major sources.

In coastal regions where 37 percent of the global population lives, these pollutants can stunt neurological development, cause heart and kidney disease, cancer, sterility and hormonal disruption.

Among the little know impacts on marine creatures, ingestion of microplastics (size less than 5 mm) by fish can affect female fertility and grow reproductive tissue in male fish causing their feminization. Chemicals in plastic cause thyroid disorder in whales, physiological stress, liver cancer, and endocrine dysfunction, says UNEP’s 2017 pollution report.

“Then of course we have to look at waste to the economy of plastics being produced, used for a few seconds or minutes and then dumped,” Solheim said.

Why are many law-makers still dragging their feet on strong anti-plastic policies?

Environmental activists say regulating marine pollution needs bold and several restrictive, unpopular policies that on which elected law makers are seen to be dragging their feet.

“It’s a case of presenting environmental action in a positive, constructive way. We need to stop looking at it as a cost or sacrifice, but as an opportunity, a win for health, benefits for the economy and for the planet,” Solheim counters the critics.

The Kenyan government recently banned single-use plastic bags. “There were inevitably complaints from some manufacturers, but we have to consider what the benefits are from making the switch to more sustainable packaging.

“There are business opportunities. There are benefits to tourism, as nobody wants to go on a safari and see plastic bags blowing across the savannah, or spend a holiday on beaches littered with plastic. There are benefits to the food chain too. We’ve seen cows whose stomachs were filled with plastic,” he added.

Actions don’t need to be unpopular. For example, “does any country have a policy to throw rubbish into the sea?” “Certainly not! If that was a real policy, people would be justifiably furious.” he said. But that is what has happened, in the absence of strong policies.

“For too long, the relationship between prosperity and environment has been seen as a trade-off. Tackling pollution was considered an unwelcome cost on industry and a handicap to economic growth,” Solheim says in his ‘Vision for a Pollution-free Planet,’ in the run-up to the UN Environment Assembly. “(But) it’s now clear that sustainable development is the only form of development that makes sense, including in financial and economic terms,” he adds.

“If action is not taken today, we’re lining ourselves up for the ultimate cost – the destruction of our oceans – down the line. It’s cheaper to prevent pollution now than clean up in the future,” he told Inter Press Service.

“That’s the message we really need to get across, so that governments can feel inspired and emboldened to take action.

“After that, what price do we put on our oceans? They sustain human life in such a way that surely we need to look at the oceans as priceless,” Solheim said.

“We have to look at pollution as a factor alongside climate change and over-fishing. We have to look at oceans as interconnected,” Solheim said.

Keeping marine litter high on national environmental policy agendas of the 193 member nations, pollution is the focus of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly 4-6 December at the UN headquarters of Nairobi.

The UN Environment Assembly is attended by 193 member states, heads of state, environment ministers, CEOs of multinational companies, NASA scientists, NGOs, environmental activists, and celebrities to discuss and make global commitments to environmental protection.

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One Third of Food Lost, Wasted – Enough to Feed All Hungry Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/one-third-food-lost-wasted-enough-feed-hungry-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-third-food-lost-wasted-enough-feed-hungry-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/one-third-food-lost-wasted-enough-feed-hungry-people/#comments Tue, 28 Nov 2017 13:41:35 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153224 Believe it or not, the way to eradicate hunger from the face of the Earth is as feasible as it is handy. In fact, the current loss and waste of one-third of all food produced for human consumption would be just enough to feed the nearly one billion people who go to bed hungry every […]

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One Third of Food Lost, Wasted – Enough to Feed All Hungry People

Save lives by giving food today . Photo: WFP

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 28 2017 (IPS)

Believe it or not, the way to eradicate hunger from the face of the Earth is as feasible as it is handy. In fact, the current loss and waste of one-third of all food produced for human consumption would be just enough to feed the nearly one billion people who go to bed hungry every single night.

Here, the figures are self-explanatory: as much as 1.3 billion tons per year of food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial agricultural production down to final household consumption, according to the UN.

Moreover, it is not just about losing or wasting food—it also implies a waste of resources used in production such as land, water, energy and inputs, increasing the greenhouse gas emissions.

“Up to one third of all food is spoiled or squandered before it is consumed by people. It is an excess in an age where almost a billion people go hungry,” adds the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

 

Food waste, food losses represent a waste of resources used in production such as land, water, energy and inputs, increasing the green gas emissions in vain. Photo: FAO

Food losses represent a waste of resources used in production such as land, water, energy and inputs, increasing the green gas emissions in vain. Photo: FAO

 

But… What Is Food Loss and Food Waste?

Food loss and food waste refer to the decrease of food in subsequent stages of the food supply chain intended for human consumption. Food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial production down to final household consumption, explains FAO.

The decrease may be accidental or intentional, it adds, but ultimately leads to less food available for all. Food that gets spilled or spoilt before it reaches its final product or retail stage is called food loss, it adds. This may be due to problems in harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure or market /price mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.

Harvested bananas that fall off a truck, for instance, are considered food loss, according to FAO. Food that is fit for human consumption but is not consumed because it is or left to spoil or discarded by retailers or consumers is called food waste.

Key facts on food loss and waste you should know!

• Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
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• Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialised countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries.
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• Industrialised and developing countries dissipate roughly the same quantities of food — respectively 670 and 630 million tonnes.
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• Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
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• Global quantitative food losses and waste per year are roughly 30% for cereals, 40-50% for root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20% for oil seeds, meat and dairy plus 35% for fish.
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• Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
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• The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world's annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).
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• Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.
SOURCE: FAO http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/
This may be because of rigid or misunderstood date marking rules, improper storage, buying or cooking practices. A carton of brown-spotted bananas thrown away by a shop, for instance, is considered food waste, says the UN agency.

 

Where Is Food Lost and Wasted?

Significantly, the World Resources Institute (WRI) explains that food loss and waste occurs more ‘near the fork’ in developed regions and more ‘near the farm’ in developing regions.

In the case of the European Union member countries, for instance, recent estimates of European food waste levels (FUSIONS, 2016) reveal that 70 per cent of the European bloc of 27 states, food waste arises in the household, food service and retail sectors, with production and processing sectors contributing the remaining 30 per cent.

Such high rates led the EU member states to commit to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), adopted in September 2015, including a target to halve per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level by 2030, and reduce food losses along the food production and supply chains.

Meanwhile, in the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 per cent of the food supply.

This estimate, based on estimates from USDA’s Economic Research Service of 31 per cent food loss at the retail and consumer levels, according to the Office of the Chief Economist, United States Department of Agriculture.

This amount of waste, adds the Office of the Chief Economist in US, has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change:

 

  • Wholesome food that could have helped feed families in need is sent to landfills.
  • The land, water, labor, energy and other inputs used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food are pulled away from uses that may have been more beneficial to society – and generate impacts on the environment that may endanger the long-run health of the planet.
  • Food waste, which is the single largest component going into municipal landfills,quickly generates methane, helping to make landfills the third largest source of methane in the United States.

 

On September 16, 2015, the first-ever national food loss and waste goal in the United States was launched, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030.

 

What to Do?

Back to the global level, the UN specialised agency reminds that hunger is still one of the most urgent development challenges, yet the world is producing more than enough food.

The FAO-led SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction is partnering with international organisations, the private sector and civil society to enable food systems to reduce food loss and waste in both the developing and the industrialised world.

Governments, research institutions, producers, distributors, retailers and consumers all have different ideas about the problem – the solutions – and the ability to change. What are they waiting for?

 

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Combating Climate Change? Combat Land Degradation, Says UNCCD Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/combating-climate-change-combat-land-degradation-says-unccd-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=combating-climate-change-combat-land-degradation-says-unccd-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/combating-climate-change-combat-land-degradation-says-unccd-chief/#respond Fri, 24 Nov 2017 19:26:44 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153194 Land restoration is not a “glamorous subject even when you give all the numbers,” admits Monique Barbut, the Executive Secretary of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification UNCCD). But she also stresses that by 2050, the world population will reach 10 billion. To feed that extra 2.4 billion, current food production would need to be […]

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Women restore degraded land in southern India under a government-funded program. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Women restore degraded land in southern India under a government-funded program. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
BONN, Germany, Nov 24 2017 (IPS)

Land restoration is not a “glamorous subject even when you give all the numbers,” admits Monique Barbut, the Executive Secretary of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification UNCCD). But she also stresses that by 2050, the world population will reach 10 billion. To feed that extra 2.4 billion, current food production would need to be increased by 75 percent.

By 2045, there will be 130 million people who migrated because of desertification, and out of them, 60 million will come from south of the Sahel and Africa.

“To do that, we will have to add, from now to 2050, 4 million acres of new land every year. So unless urgent action is taken to restore degraded land, the world is looking at an acute food-insecure future,” she told IPS in a special interview on the sidelines of the recently concluded UN Climate Conference – COP23 in Bonn.

Land vs energy: a popularity game?

At the conference where ideas, actions, innovations and resources were brought in the open to design a roadmap to tackle climate change, the discussions were dominated by ending coal, producing renewable energy and making green technologies more accessible. Land was an issue largely ignored, except by some indigenous peoples’ groups who stressed the need to maintain soil fertility.

But Barbut asserts that land is indeed integral to climate actions and policies taken both at the UN and at the national level. “In the INDCs [Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or what countries will do to cut carbon emissions] they have submitted, more than 140 countries have said that land was part of their solution or their problem in terms of climate change,” she points out.

One of the countries is India, where an estimated 30 percent of total land is already degraded. According to a 2016 report by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) titled “World Day to Combat Desertification”, the degrading area has increased over 0.5 per cent to 29.3 million hectares in the past decade. Desertification also increased by 1.16 million hectares (m ha) and stood at 82.64 m ha during 2011-13, says the report.

As a signatory to the UNCCD, India has committed to combat desertification and land degradation and become land degradation neutral by 2030. In simple terms, this means having a balanced proportion of land loss and land gain.

However, though an ambitious goal, this is seldom talked about by the officials. In sharp contrast, India’s other environmental actions, especially the Solar Mission which aims to produce 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022, is widely lauded.

Anand Kumar, the secretary of India’s Ministry for New and Renewable Energy, is quick to point out that the International Solar Alliance – a group of 44 countries committed to produce 1,000 gigawatts of solar energy – has promised investments of 1 trillion dollars by 2030.

No land restoration initiatives are likely to garner that kind of private investment, admits Barbut, as the job is more labor intensive. “Even the most degraded land can be restored with a small investment of 300 dollars per hectare. So, what is needed is not a large sum of money, but lots of manual labour. So perhaps there is not a lot of scope for huge investment and large profits,” she says.

However, at the same time, she shared some good news: the UNCCD, in collaboration with Mirova, the governments of France, Luxembourg, Norway, and the Rockefeller Foundation, has launched a special fund for restoring degraded land and fighting desertification. Named the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Fund, this new finance vehicle was launched on September 12 this year, during the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP13) of the UNCCD in Ordos, China.

“We have launched the biggest land impact fund. It is managed by Natistix. It is a public-private fund. By the beginning of next year, we hope to have about 300 million dollars of capitalization of the fund,” Barbut says.

Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Land and Women’s Rights

The connection between the environment and women’s rights is an integral one, says Barbut. “Whether it’s drought, land degradation or desertification, women suffer more than others. In fact, they not only suffer from the consequences of drought or desertification, but also from the fact that in most cases women do not have rights to land,” she says, before sharing some experiences from Africa where plots of degraded land were restored, but because women did not have rights to the land, they could not stake their claim.

One such example is in the Mboula region of Senegal, where the regional government allocated tracts of land to women’s groups for collective farming. The initiative has been a big success as the women’s collective managed to grow more food than expected. As a result, the women now have received training to venture into growing crops for market, besides their own consumption.

Similarly, in Eastern Uganda, the government started a new initiative with women who had no ownership over their land. They have been trained in marketing, managing a collective that cultivates arable land that was once degraded, but is now restored. Besides supporting these local initiatives at the country level, UNCCD is also mainstreaming gender equality in its own policies and actions.

“We now have a Gender Policy Framework and it’s the most advanced framework all the UN Conventions and which we will apply in particular to all the transformative projects,” Barbut explains.

Land and Climate Change

According to Barbut, climate change’s effects on land are becoming more and more of a global problem, with major social and political consequences. She mentions the recent droughts witnessed by France, Canada and successive droughts in the US, and also points out the recent exodus of people from drought and desertification in the global south.

“If you see all the migrants coming to Europe, 100 percent of them – not 90 percent but 100 percent – are coming from drylands. There are also migration and radicalism linked to land degradation and desertification. For example, in the drylands of Africa, where desertification is happening, we are seeing food riots and then we are seeing Al Qaeda,” she says, pointing to a study published by UNCCD that explores these links.

Citing another study by the British Government’s Defence Ministry, Barbut says that “by 2045, there will be 130 million people who migrated because of desertification, and out of them, 60 million will come from south of the Sahel and Africa.”

But all is not hopeless. Barbut shared her vision of a food-secure future and a clear way to achieve that goal: “By 2050, we will need millions of hectares of new lands to grow 75 percent extra food. Today we are taking new land from forests and wetlands. At the same time, on this planet, you have 2 billion hectares of degraded land. Among this, 500 million are abandoned agricultural land. If we restored 300 million of these 2 billion hectares of land, we can ensure food security for all by 2050.”

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Climate-Smart Agriculture in Vanuatu: Learning to Growhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-smart-agriculture-vanuatu-learning-grow/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-smart-agriculture-vanuatu-learning-grow http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-smart-agriculture-vanuatu-learning-grow/#respond Wed, 22 Nov 2017 12:25:56 +0000 Elisa Webster and Julia Marango http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153153 It’s been dry in Isavai on the island of Aniwa for last couple of years – ever since Tropical Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu in March 2015, leaving an El Nino-induced drought in its wake. A dry phase is bad news for farmers anywhere, but in Aniwa, where there is no constant water source and […]

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Climate-Smart Agriculture in Vanuatu: Learning to Grow

Demonstration gardens with an array of vegetables are being established in communities across Tafea province. Credit: Mark Chew/CARE

By Elisa Webster, CARE International and Julia Marango
PORT VILA, Vanuatu, Nov 22 2017 (IPS)

It’s been dry in Isavai on the island of Aniwa for last couple of years – ever since Tropical Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu in March 2015, leaving an El Nino-induced drought in its wake. A dry phase is bad news for farmers anywhere, but in Aniwa, where there is no constant water source and the only water supply comes almost exclusively from harvesting rain into tanks, it’s disastrous.

Without water, crops can’t be irrigated. Without irrigation, crops are much more likely to fail. And when crops fail, food becomes more scarce, nutrition decreases, and health declines. To combat this cycle, communities across Tanna, Erromango and Aniwa – including Isavai – are adapting to the impacts of droughts, disasters and other climate shocks by diversifying their crops and improving farming techniques to increase food security.

For Kalgy, an agriculture teacher in Isavai, these are projects close to his heart. He has been working with students at the Irumori Primary School in Isavai to share his knowledge about farming using a teacher’s garden, a long walk away from the classrooms.

The garden lies in full sun. It has rained only once since he planted it and there hasn’t been enough water for watering the seedlings.

Adopting climate resilient agriculture techniques is difficult. Education is critical. Together with partners, CARE International has introduced 10 communities in Taffeta province in southern Vanuatu to a range of new agricultural methods by establishing demonstration gardens.

The communities provide lots of land, either in schools or elsewhere within the community, and agriculture ministries provide a range of hybrid plants, which have been especially produced to require minimal water to flourish, and CARE provides seeds for a range of vegetables, most of which are varieties that are not currently grown in the community’s gardens.

Over two days of training in each community, citizens work together to clear the land and build fences using the timber removed from the plots, or other locally sourced materials, then plant the plants and seeds.

The demonstration gardens include a nursery for small seedlings, made from layers of readily available coconut husks, and an array of vegetables, including yam, taro, kumala, cabbage, beans, tomato and lettuce. Providing a wide assortment of varieties enables the community to experiment to see which will survive and thrive in their area.

Once the crops have been harvested, community members are able to use seedlings, root stock and grafts from the successful varieties to diversify their own gardens.

In Isavai, one of the demonstration gardens is inside the school boundary and students as well as teachers, members of the school committee and the wider community helped to build it. The experience has been eye opening for many, especially the students.

“The children never knew how to raise a tomato because every time they see a tomato, it has been brought from Tanna,” says Kalgy. “But now, they can observe a tomato from seed till harvest. The children know now how to look after the vegetables.”

According to Kalgy, the students are now leading the way in putting their new skills into action – ensuring their climate-responsive knowledge will impact the community far beyond today.

“It has been interesting to watch the children enjoying their time planting the vegetables without the support of teachers or adults. The children are taking charge of mulching, composting and pruning in the demonstration plot without the supervision of a teacher, and they seem to be doing it perfectly well.”

This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world will meet in Suva, Fiji from 4-8 December for International Civil Society Week

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Good to Know (Perhaps) That Food Is Being ‘Nuclearised’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised/#comments Thu, 16 Nov 2017 13:00:51 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153061 It might sound strange, very strange, but the news is that scientists and experts have been assuring, over and again, that using nuclear applications in agriculture –and thus in food production—are giving a major boost to food security. So how does this work? To start with, nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of […]

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Using nuclear sciences to feed the world. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 16 2017 (IPS)

It might sound strange, very strange, but the news is that scientists and experts have been assuring, over and again, that using nuclear applications in agriculture –and thus in food production—are giving a major boost to food security. So how does this work?

To start with, nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of isotopes and radiation techniques to combat pests and diseases, increase crop production, protect land and water resources, and ensure food safety and authenticity, as well as increase livestock production.

This is how the UN food and agriculture organisation and the UN atomic energy agency explain this technique, highlighting that some of the most innovative ways being used to improve agricultural practices involve nuclear technology.

Both the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been expanding knowledge and enhancing capacity in this area for over 50 years.

Climate Change

One reason is that the global climate is changing, altering the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and seriously impacting food security.

Rising sea levels, ecosystem stress, glacier melt and altering river systems exacerbate the vulnerability of particular social groups and economic sectors, FAO reports, adding that it is also altering the distribution, incidence and intensity of terrestrial and aquatic animal and plant pests and diseases.

“Most developing countries are already subject to an enormous disease burden, and both developing and developed countries could be affected by newly emerging diseases. Making global agricultural systems resilient to these changes is critical for efforts to achieve global food security.”

The two UN agencies have been assisting countries to develop capacity to optimise their use of nuclear techniques to confront and mitigate impacts of climate change on agricultural systems and food security – nuclear techniques that can increase crop tolerance to drought, salinity or pests; reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase carbon sequestration from agricultural systems.

They can also track and control insect pests and animal diseases; adjust livestock feed to reduce emissions and improve breeding; optimise natural resource management through isotopic tracking of soil, water and crops; and provide information essential for assessing ecosystem changes and for forecast modelling.

The results of “using nuclear sciences to feed the world” have led to some major success stories, they say.

The agricultural sector uses nuclear and related technologies to adapt to climate change by increasing resource-use efficiency and productivity in a sustainable way. Credit: FAO

Seven Examples

FAO provides the following seven examples of how nuclear technology is improving food and agriculture:

1. Animal Productivity… and Health

Nuclear and related technologies have made a difference in improving livestock productivity, controlling and preventing trans-boundary animal diseases and protecting the environment.

For example, Cameroon uses nuclear technology effectively in its livestock reproduction, breeding, artificial insemination and disease control programmes. By crossing the Bos indicus and the Bos taurus (two local cattle breeds), farmers have tripled their milk yields – from 500 to 1 500 litres – and generated an additional 110 million dollars in farmer income per year.

Another programme has dramatically curbed the incidence of Brucellosis, a highly contagious zoonosis, or disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans who drink unpasteurised milk or eat undercooked meat from infected animals.

2. Soils and Water

Nuclear techniques are now used in many countries to help maintain healthy soil and water systems, which are paramount in ensuring food security for the growing global population.

For instance, in Benin, a scheme involving 5 000 rural farmers increased the maize yield by 50 per cent and lowered the amount of fertiliser used by 70 per cent with techniques that facilitate nitrogen fixation.

Similarly, nuclear techniques allow Maasai farmers in Kenya to schedule small-scale irrigation, doubling vegetable yields while applying only 55 per cent of the water that would normally be applied using traditional hand watering.

3. Pests

The nuclear-derived sterile insect technique (SIT) involves mass-rearing and sterilising male insects before releasing them over pest-infested areas.

The technique suppresses and gradually eliminates already established pests or prevents the introduction of invasive species – and is safer for the environment and human health than conventional pesticides.

The governments of Guatemala, Mexico and the United States have been using the SIT for decades to prevent the northward spread of the Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) into Mexico and USA.

In addition, Guatemala sends hundreds of millions of sterile male medflies every week to the US states of California and Florida to protect valuable crops, such as citrus fruits. With the sterile male medflies unable to reproduce, it is really the perfect insect birth control.

The nuclear-derived sterile insect technique (SIT) involves mass-rearing and sterilizing male insects before releasing them over pest-infested areas. Credit: FAO

4. Food Safety

Food safety and quality control systems need to be robust at the national level to facilitate the trade of safe food and to combat food fraud, which costs the food industry up to 15 billion dollars annually.

Nuclear techniques help national authorities in over 50 countries to improve food safety by addressing the problem of harmful residues and contaminants in food products and to improve their traceability systems with stable isotope analysis.

For example, scientific programmes in Pakistan, Angola and Mozambique now enable the testing for veterinary drug residues and contaminants in animal products.

Already some 50 Pakistani food production and export institutions benefit from the new laboratory testing capabilities, which help ensure they meet international food standards and boost the country’s reputation in the international food trade.

5. Emergency Response

Radioactivity is present in everything that surrounds us – from the sun to soil. But should a nuclear incident or emergency happen, an understanding of the movement of radioactivity through the environment becomes crucial to prevent or alleviate the impact on agricultural products.
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During the 2011 nuclear emergency in Japan, FAO and IAEA compiled an extensive and authoritative database on food contaminated with radioisotopes. This database supported the information exchange and facilitated appropriate follow-up actions to protect consumers, the agri-food sector and the world at large.

6. Climate Change

The agricultural sector uses nuclear and related technologies to adapt to climate change by increasing resource-use efficiency and productivity in a sustainable way.

The nuclear-derived crossbreeding programme in Burkina Faso is a great example of helping farmers to breed more productive and climate-resistant animals. It is underpinned by genetic evaluations in four national laboratories, with scientists also able to use associated technology to produce a lick feed that provides the bigger, more productive livestock with the nutrients they need.

7. Seasonal Famine

Crop-breeding programmes use nuclear technology to help vulnerable countries ensure food security, adapt to climate change and even to tackle seasonal famine. New mutant crop varieties shorten the growing process, thereby allowing farmers to plant additional crops during the growing season.

In recent years, farmers in northern Bangladesh have been using a fast-maturing mutant rice variety called Binadhan-7. This variety ripens 30 days quicker than normal rice, giving farmers time to harvest other crops and vegetables within the same season.

Now that you know that food has been “nuclearised”… enjoy your meal!

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The Mekong, Dammed to Diehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/mekong-dammed-die/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mekong-dammed-die http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/mekong-dammed-die/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 11:45:35 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153012 In Laos, the lush forests are alive with the whines of drills that pierce the air. On the Mekong, a giant concrete wall rises slowly above the trees. The Don Sahong dam is a strong symbol, not only for a power-hungry Asia but also for what critics fear is a disaster in the making. Landlocked […]

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A boat navigates the Mekong, whose combined fisheries are valued at 17 billion dollars. Credit: Francisco Anzola/cc by 2.0

A boat navigates the Mekong, whose combined fisheries are valued at 17 billion dollars. Credit: Francisco Anzola/cc by 2.0

By Pascal Laureyn
PHNOM PENH, Nov 14 2017 (IPS)

In Laos, the lush forests are alive with the whines of drills that pierce the air. On the Mekong, a giant concrete wall rises slowly above the trees. The Don Sahong dam is a strong symbol, not only for a power-hungry Asia but also for what critics fear is a disaster in the making.

Landlocked Laos wants to become ‘the battery of Southeast Asia’. The mountainous country with swirling rapids has the ideal geography for hydropower production and Don Sahong is just one of nine dams that Laos wants to build on the mainstream Mekong, claiming that this is the only way to develop the poor country.Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.

But there are serious drawbacks. The Don Sahong dam is being built with little or no consideration of the impact on ecosystems and communities along the Mekong. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Mekong is the second most biodiverse river in the world, after the Amazon. It supports the world’s largest freshwater capture fishery. The Lower Mekong Basin provides a wide variety of breeding habitats for over 1,300 species of fish. But damming the Mekong will block fish migration towards these habitats.

The FAO calculated that about 85 percent of the Lower Mekong Basin’s population lives in rural areas. Their livelihoods and food security is closely linked to the river and is vulnerable to water-related shocks – not just for fishers but for thousands more who sell food products or provide hundreds of related services, says FAO. Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.

Chhith Sam Ath, the Cambodian director of the World Wide Fund (WWF), claimed in The Diplomat that the Don Sahong Dam is “an ecological time bomb”.

Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.
“It threatens the food security of 60 million people living in Mekong basin,” he said. “The dam will have disastrous impacts on the entire river ecosystem all the way to the delta in Vietnam.” This is particularly devastating for downstream Cambodia because more than 70 percent of the protein consumed there comes from fish.

The 260-megawatt dam can also endanger the Irrawaddy dolphins, which are an important source of ecotourism on the Cambodian side of the Mekong. There are only 80 dolphins left. Some live just a few miles from the Don Sahong dam site. WWF warns that damming the Mekong will soon drive all the remaining dolphins to extinction.

 

A battery worth 800 million dollars

Laos is going forward with the dam all the same, without approval from the Mekong River Commission and in defiance of protests from NGOs and downstream countries. Lao officials say that they cannot stop the country from pursuing its right to development. They argue that they will address some of the concerns with ‘fish-friendly turbines’ and fish ladders. But critics are not convinced that these measures are sufficient.

Downstream, Cambodia is making things much worse. On a Monday morning in September, Prime Minister Hun Sen pushed a symbolic button. For the first time the floodgates of Lower Sesan 2 Dam closed and an artificial lake started to fill. Cambodia now has its own 800-million-dollar battery, built with Chinese funds and knowhow.

In the opening ceremony, Hun Sen praised the technological miracle and the Chinese investors. He pointed out that the need for electricity is growing rapidly. Cambodia has the most expensive electricity in Southeast Asia. That will change with this 400-megawatt dam on the river Sesan, close to its confluence with the Mekong.

 

Drowning village

In Kbal Romeas, upstream the Sesan, fishermen waited in vain for the yearly migration in May and June. No more fish to catch. The villagers have moved elsewhere, escaping the rising water and increasing poverty. The only reminder of a once lively Kbal Romeas is the roof of a pagoda that seems to float on the empty water.

“The river Sesan is blocked by the dam,” Maureen Harris of NGO International Rivers writes in her report. “That’s a problem for the 200 species that migrate from the Mekong to their breeding grounds in the Sesan.”

The American National Academy of Sciences predicts that the fish population in the Lower Mekong Basin will decline by 9.3 percent. That’s just one dam. More dams are on the drawing table. The Mekong River Commission (MRC), the intergovernmental body charged with coordinating the river’s management, recently released provisional but alarming results of their research. The two finished dams and the 11 scheduled dams will decimate the fish population in the Lower Mekong Basin by half.

The dams would also affect roughly 20 million Vietnamese people in the Mekong Delta, an area that accounts for more than a quarter of the country’s GDP. Dams block the flow of sediments, rich with nutrients needed to make soil suitable for cultivation. In Vietnam eroded riverbanks and houses tumbling in the water have become a common spectacle.

The Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen dismissed these environmental concerns, criticising “radical environmentalists”.

“How else can we develop?” he said. “There is no development that doesn’t have an effect on the environment.”

The international NGO Mother Nature mapped the environmental consequences of the Lower Sesan 2 dam. Consequently, the Cambodian government revoked its license. One of the founders, Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, has been banned from the country.

 

Costs outweigh benefits

The dams come at a high environmental cost, imperil food security and risk increasing poverty for millions of people. Moreover, the river’s potential is overestimated by dam developers, says the Mekong River Commission. Dams will meet just 8 percent of the Lower Mekong Basin’s projected power needs. The MRC proposes a ten-year moratorium on dam building. But few governments are listening.

The MRC valued the combined fisheries for the Mekong Basin at 17 billion dollars. Energy from the 13 dams may yield 33.4 billion, according to an international study by Mae Fa Luang University in Chiang Rai. But a denuded river system carries a price tag of 66.2 billion dollars, the same study predicts.

The real costs of hydropower seem to outweigh the benefits. But the projects still go ahead. The thump of jackhammers will become more common. The mother of all rivers will have to face an army of men with safety hats that want to stop her from flowing freely.

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The Harsh Plight of 152 Million Child Labourershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/harsh-plight-152-million-child-labourers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=harsh-plight-152-million-child-labourers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/harsh-plight-152-million-child-labourers/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 06:21:35 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153008 While trillions of dollars are being spent on exploring remote galaxies, Planet Earth is still home to harsh realities that could be easily –and much less expensively—resolved. One of them is that worldwide 152 million children are currently victims of child labour. Of this total, 60 per cent of child labourers – aged 5-17 years […]

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Child labour is mostly found in agriculture. 108 million boys and girls are engaged in child labour in farming, livestock, forestry, fishing or aquaculture, often working long hours and facing occupational hazards. Child labour violates children’s rights. Credit: FAO

Child labour is mostly found in agriculture. 108 million boys and girls are engaged in child labour in farming, livestock, forestry, fishing or aquaculture, often working long hours and facing occupational hazards. Child labour violates children’s rights. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 14 2017 (IPS)

While trillions of dollars are being spent on exploring remote galaxies, Planet Earth is still home to harsh realities that could be easily –and much less expensively—resolved. One of them is that worldwide 152 million children are currently victims of child labour.

Of this total, 60 per cent of child labourers – aged 5-17 years – work in agriculture, including farming, fishing, aquaculture, forestry, and livestock.

This makes a total of around 100 million girls and boys used as a cheap or even unpaid work force.

Key facts

• 108 million boys and girls between 5 and 17 years are identified as child labourers in agriculture
• Worldwide, nearly 70.9 per cent of child labour is found in agriculture
• Agriculture is one of the most dangerous sectors in terms of rates of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases.
• Most (70 per cent) of all child labourers are unpaid family workers.

Source: FAO

The majority (67.5 per cent) of these 152 million child labourers are unpaid family members. In agriculture, however, this percentage is higher, and is combined with very early entry into work, sometimes between 5 and 7 years of age. Add to all this that about 59 per cent of all children in hazardous work aged 5–17 is in agriculture.

This scary data, elaborated by key specialised UN agencies, also shows that agriculture is one of the three most dangerous sectors in terms of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases.

“Poverty is the main cause of child labour in agriculture, together with limited access to quality education, inadequate agricultural technology and access to adult labour, high hazards and risks, and traditional attitudes towards children’s participation in agricultural activities,” says the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Especially in the context of family farming, ILO adds, small-scale fisheries and livestock husbandry, some participation of children in non-hazardous activities can be positive as it contributes to the inter-generational transfer of skills and children’s food security.

Child Farmers, Hederos, Fishers…

For its part, another major UN specialised agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), also underlines the fact that child labour is mostly found in agriculture, with a total of 108 million boys and girls engaged in child labour in farming, livestock, forestry, fishing or aquaculture, “often working long hours and facing occupational hazards.”

Child labour violates children’s rights, warns the Rome-based organisation, adding that by endangering health and education of the young, it also forms an obstacle to sustainable agricultural development and food security.

What Is Child Labour?

According to FAO, child labour is defined as work that is inappropriate for a child’s age, affects children’s education, or is likely to harm their health, safety or morals.

It should be emphasised that not all work carried out by children is considered child labour. Some activities may help children acquire important livelihood skills and contribute to their survival and food security.

However, much of the work children do in agriculture is not age-appropriate, is likely to be hazardous or interferes with children’s education.

For instance, FAO explains that a child under the minimum age for employment who is hired to herd cattle, a child applying pesticides, and a child who works all night on a fishing boat and is too tired to go to school the next day would all be considered child labour.

Moreover, child labour perpetuates a cycle of poverty for the children involved, their families and communities. Without education, these boys and girls are likely to remain poor. “The prevalence of child labour in agriculture violates the principles of decent work. By perpetuating poverty, it undermines efforts to reach sustainable food security and end hunger.”

Any Chance to Eradicate Child Labour?

The shocking reality has been put before the eyes of 1,500 participants from 193 countries in the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 14-16 November, aiming at addressing the consolidation of the global commitment to the eradication of child labour, ILO informs.

The Conference is intended to focus on child labour from different perspectives: public policies, legal framework and tools available to disseminate and manage the information, as well as the children’s schooling, the school-to-work transition for youth, and how to ensure healthy working conditions for them.

The global estimates presented at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017 show that 152 million children are currently victims of child labour. Credit: ILO

The global estimates presented at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017 show that 152 million children are currently victims of child labour. Credit: ILO

Other topics include child labour in rural economies and in crisis situations – such as natural disasters and conflicts–, and how to prevent child labour in the supply chains.

With agriculture one of the major activities involving child labour, FAO works with partners to address the root causes of child labour, in particular with ILO and other major UN and international through the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture, which was established in 2007.

Examples of specific actions in support of the prevention of child labour in agriculture are:

–Sharing knowledge and building capacity: The work that children perform in agriculture is often invisible, because available data on the activities that girls and boys are involved in, as well as the risks associated with them, are limited.

In response, FAO works to promote a greater knowledge base on child labour across countries and within different agricultural subsectors. It enables the exchange of good practices and develops tools in support of national capacity building and institutional development.

The organisation also provides support to overcome constraints to agricultural production that create a demand for child labour such as limited uptake of labour-saving technologies. Finally, it promotes the adoption of safer agricultural practices to mitigate occupational hazards.

— Supporting at at regional and country-level: Child labour in agriculture is challenging to address, because the agricultural sector tends to be under-regulated in many countries.

FAO supports governments to ensure that child labour issues are better integrated into national agriculture development policies and strategies. It also promotes coordinated action and implementation of national and regional commitments.

— Promoting global action: FAO engages in major international initiatives, including the World Day Against Child Labour, to raise awareness on priority areas of action to eradicate child labour in agriculture.

Across its work areas, it pays increasing attention to child labour issues and ensuring that these are considered in its global mechanisms.

For instance, in 2013, a revised International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management to encourage governments and the pesticide industry to adopt measures to reduce children’s vulnerability to exposure.

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Are Prospects of Rural Youth Employment in Africa a Mirage?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage/#comments Mon, 13 Nov 2017 17:59:35 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153004 (Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

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(Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

By Raghav Gaiha and Vani S. Kulkarni
NEW DELHI, Nov 13 2017 (IPS)

Many recent accounts tend to dismiss productive employment of youth in rural areas in Africa as a mirage largely because they exhibit strong resistance to eking out a bare subsistence in dismal working and living conditions. We argue below on recent evidence of agricultural transformation that this view is overly pessimistic, if not largely mistaken.

Raghav Gaiha

The 15–24-year-old age group represents 20% of SSA’s population today and, unlike in other regions, this youth share will remain high and stable (19% in 2050). In absolute terms, SSA’s youth will grow from nearly 200 million in 2015 to nearly 400 million in 2050, and its share in the labour force will remain the highest in the world, even if following a declining trend. Representing 37% today – in comparison with 30% in India, 25% in China and 20% in Europe – it should still account for 30% in 2050 (ILO, 2016).

Agriculture has a substantial role in meeting the youth employment challenge facing Africa. Even in a most optimistic scenario, non-farm and urban sectors are not likely to absorb more than two-thirds of young labour market entrants over the next decade. But there will be vast opportunities for the innovative young people in agricultural systems as they adapt to a range of challenges in the near future. These challenges relate to raising productivity in a sustainable way, integration into emerging high value chains, and healthy diets.

While the challenges are daunting, the potential benefits of addressing them are enormous. Higher prices, more integrated value chains, widening connectivity to markets in some areas, and greater private and public engagement in the sector are creating new opportunities. A major barrier is, however, strong negative preferences/attitudes of the youth towards agriculture.

A survey of rural in- and out-of school young people towards agriculture, based on field-work in two regions in Ethiopia, is remarkably rich and insightful (IDS Bulletin Volume 43 Number 6, 2012). Life as a farmer was tied to life in a village which most respondents saw as hard and demanding. Yet there was considerable heterogeneity in the views of the young. Participants in both regions concurred that agriculture has changed significantly over the last decade. The introduction and adoption of agricultural inputs such as improved seeds, fertilisers and better farming methods (such as slash ploughing, sowing seeds in rows, water pumps, modern beehives) have produced significant increases in productivity and earnings.

There were competing narratives on whether agriculture was becoming more desirable to young people as a result. Participants felt that these developments were making agriculture more and more profitable and therefore more appealing. But they felt that there was a huge obstacle in engaging in it – scarcity of land. Although the dominant view was that young people are disinterested in agriculture, some participants pointed out that this was not always the case.

A slightly more positive attitude towards agriculture was evident among young people who had left school, either failing to complete high school for various reasons or to qualify for higher level education. Although this group of respondents were equally aware of the grimness of traditional agriculture and the life of the common farmer, many were not dismissive of agriculture as a possible future livelihood, while a few even saw it as a preferred livelihood option, under improved conditions.

Recognizing agriculture as a viable employment option is even more challenging when economic and social restrictions related to access to productive resources (eg land, credit and improved seeds) are taken into account. All these limitations are exacerbated for young women who, in general, have no prospect of land access due to rules of inheritance, and who know that they will mainly have to work for their husbands (ILO, 2016).

Although the government considers rural educated youth as instrumental in bringing about a transformation in agricultural skills, knowledge and productivity, it has not effectively addressed either the attitude of many young people towards agriculture or the obstacles preventing their entry into the sector.

To create opportunities commensurate with the number of young people who will need employment, constraints on the acquisition of capital, land, and skills must be removed or relaxed.

A few selected initiatives are delineated below.

Allowing alternative forms of collateral, such as chattel mortgages, warehouse receipts, and the future harvest, can ease the credit constraints-especially for young farmers. The OHADA7 Uniform Act on Secured Transactions, in effect in 17 Sub-Saharan African countries, was amended at the end of 2010 to allow borrowers to use a wide range of assets as collateral, including warehouse receipts and movable property such as machinery, equipment, and receivables that remain in the hands of the debtor. Leasing also offers young farmers some relief, as it requires either no or less collateral than typically required by loans. A case in point is DFCU Leasing in Uganda, which gave more than US$4 million in farm equipment leases in 2002 for items such as rice hullers, dairy processing equipment, and maize milling equipment. Some outgrower arrangements prefinance inputs and assure marketing channels. In Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia, Rabo Development (a subsidiary of Rabobank) offers management services and technical assistance to financial institutions, which, in turn, finance supply chains with a range of agricultural clients.

The two aspects of land administration that matter most to young entrants to the labour force are the need to improve security of tenure and the need to relax controls on rental. Land redistribution will also enhance young people’s access to land. In general, policies and measures that help the poor to gain access to land will also help young people.

The growing food demand in Africa is a major avenue for agro-processing, which can easily be developed using small and medium-sized entities (SMEs). This option requires less capital, is more labour intensive and facilitates the proliferation of units in rural boroughs and small towns, offering employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, local value added and new incomes. Agro-processing SMEs can also facilitate the resolution of post-harvest problems, which are a significant issue in SSA resulting in a loss of revenue for farmers.

In the Niger Delta, for instance, the IFAD-supported Community Based Natural Resource Management Programme is promoting a new category of entrepreneur-cum-mentor called the ‘N-Agripreneur’. These N-Agripreneurs own and run medium-scale enterprises at different stages of food value chains. They deliver business development services to producers, especially young people, who are interested in agro-based activities, such as farming as a business, small-scale processing, input supply and marketing.

In order to enable young people to respond to the environmental, economic and nutrition challenges of the future, they must develop suitable capacities. A case in point is ICTs which can develop young people’s capacities, while improving communication and easing access to information and decision-making processes. Investing in extending these technologies to rural areas, in particular targeting young people – who are generally more adaptable to their use – has allowed them to keep themselves up-to-date with market information and new opportunities.

In sum, there is an abundance of remunerative employment opportunities for the youth in rural areas that could dispel the mirage through imaginative government policies.

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Economic Development vs. Climate Action: Rebutting Deniers and Wafflershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/economic-development-vs-climate-action-rebutting-deniers-wafflers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-development-vs-climate-action-rebutting-deniers-wafflers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/economic-development-vs-climate-action-rebutting-deniers-wafflers/#respond Sun, 12 Nov 2017 23:38:10 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152985 As negotiators meet in Bonn to put together a deal to implement the Paris Agreement, John Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, stressed that economic development and climate change mitigation and adaptation are not ‘either-or’ but must be pursued together. Addressing science journalists a week […]

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U.S. President Donald Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping during Trump’s visit to Asia. As the US pulls out of the Paris Climate Agreement, China has shown huge growth in clean energy and its emissions appear to have peaked more than a decade ahead of its Paris Agreement NDC commitment. Credit: Public Domain

U.S. President Donald Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping during Trump’s visit to Asia. As the US pulls out of the Paris Climate Agreement, China has shown huge growth in clean energy and its emissions appear to have peaked more than a decade ahead of its Paris Agreement NDC commitment. Credit: Public Domain

By Friday Phiri
SAN FRANCISCO, California, Nov 12 2017 (IPS)

As negotiators meet in Bonn to put together a deal to implement the Paris Agreement, John Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, stressed that economic development and climate change mitigation and adaptation are not ‘either-or’ but must be pursued together.

Addressing science journalists a week before the Bonn climate talks, Professor Holdren said among climate change skeptics, “wafflers’ are the most dangerous, because their arguments to postpone aggressive climate action now in favor of economic progress has the potential to increasingly influence debate and government policy.”

According to Professor Holdren, the wafflers claim to favor research and development on better technologies so emissions reductions can be made more cheaply in the future, and further argue for accelerating economic progress in developing countries as the best way to reduce their vulnerability as well as counting on adaptation as needed.“The idea that society cannot afford to address climate change is wildly wrong.” --Prof. John Holdren

However, it is ironic, he says, that the current US administration “with climate deniers and wafflers occupying top positions” are cutting support for the same approaches they propose.

“Of course, the deniers and the wafflers in the top positions in the Trump administration are, with surpassing cynicism, busy cutting support for all of these approaches,” he said, referencing the numerous reversals that the Trump administration has made even to the ‘win-win’ adaptation-preparedness resilience measures adopted under Obama.

Apart from drastic domestic spending cuts to climate related programmes, President Trump earlier this year decided to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement—a move that has left the global community wondering what’s next.

Africa’s Dismay

Despite its negligent contribution to global emissions, Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change—already suffering droughts, floods, affecting the predominantly rain-fed agricultural productivity and production. And Professor Holdren’s address titled: Why the Wafflers are Wrong—Addressing Climate Change is Urgent—and a Bargain delivered to the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ2017) in San Francisco, California, held 26-30th October 2017, is music to the ears of the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) who have been pushing urgent climate action at the UNFCCC negotiating table.

According to Professor Seth Osafo of AGN, “The slow progress by developed country parties towards reaching the US$100 billion goal of joint annual mobilization by 2020 is not in Africa’s interest.”

And in the words of Emphraim Mwepya Shitima, Chief Environmental and Natural Resources Officer at Zambia’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the developing country community needs financial resources now more than ever. “We are at a critical stage where we need all the financial resources we can get to effectively implement our NDC which is off course now in sync with the recently launched Seventh National Development Plan running up to 2021,” he told delegates at a COP23 preparatory meeting.

With the US pullout meaning the loss of a major financial contributor, there are fears that the resource mobilization process might even get slower. Mithika Mwenda, Secretary General of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), a consortium of African civil society organisations, is also concerned and is pushing for industrialised countries to set more ambitious goals in terms of their emission cuts.

“Coming from the region that suffers the most due to climate change, we have watched with utter dismay President Trump’s continued efforts at dismantling the former President’s Barrack Obama’s climate legacy, and wish to reiterate that this is the time to classify the global community into two: those for the people and planet, and those for Trump and profit,” says Mwenda.

He questioned the presence of the official US delegation, saying it may be a bad influence on other states that are already reluctant to take serious action on climate change. “The US withdraws from the Paris Agreement, yet they still want to show that they can negotiate the implementation framework,” complained Mwenda, “That’s why we are calling in delegates here to sign our petition to kick Trump and his government out of these negotiations…” 

Scientifically, climate change is a serious complex issue—it requires well-developed research systems especially on how it impacts different sectors of development, or at least in the spirit of the WCSJ2017 theme, to bridge science and societies. Unfortunately, as compared to the developed world, Africa’s scientific research and development still lags behind such that most often than not, it relies on the developed world for data, a concern that South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor raised during a session on Who will do Science at the WCSJ2017.

Pandor believes private companies which drive scientific innovations in the developed world must stop seeing the developing world just as a mass clientele—where research and development is done just for corporate interests and not for the benefit of the people.

“A number of private companies only have commercial relationships but do not have innovation relationships with the developing world; so the nature of partnerships between my continent Africa and other parts of the developing world must change,” she said. “If we are to do science in the 21st century…the way we perceive Africa and scientists in Africa has to fundamentally alter.”

She further lamented the sidelining of women in science whom she said are doing a lot of tremendous work, and her plea is for Africa to embrace and give space to women scientists amidst the challenge of climate change in a continent that contributes less than 4 percent to global emissions. “The next generation of scientists must be women—and black people have to be a part of that.”

The High Cost of Inaction

Agreing that research and development are important steps in tackling climate change, Professor Holdren, who is former Assistant to President Obama for Science & Technology, argues that even if implemented, the wafflers’ favoured economic approaches would be grossly inadequate because while clean energy is essential to provide options for the next stage of deep emissions reductions, the global community needs to be reducing now with the available technologies.

He says climate change is already causing serious harm around the world with increases in floods, drought, wildfires, heat waves, coral bleaching, among others, all of which are “plausibly linked to climate change by theory, models, and observed ‘fingerprints’; most growing faster than projected”.

The global community has three options: mitigation, adaptation – or suffering. Therefore, minimizing the amount of suffering in the mix can only be achieved by doing a lot of mitigation and a lot of adaptation.

“Mitigation alone won’t work because climate change is already occurring and can’t be stopped quickly. And adaptation alone won’t work because adaptation gets costlier and less effective as climate change grows. We need enough mitigation to avoid the unmanageable, enough adaptation to manage the unavoidable,” he adds.

In arguing for adaptation specifically, Professor Holdren believes that many adaptation measures would make economic sense even if the climate were not changing because there have always been heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, powerful storms, crop pests, and outbreaks of vector-born disease, and society has always suffered from being underprepared.

Additionally, he says, virtually all reputable studies suggest that the economic damages from not adequately addressing climate change would far exceed the costs of adequately addressing it.

“The idea that society cannot afford to address climate change is wildly wrong,” he said, calling for urgent climate action now and not later

COP22 produced the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action which called for all to go further and faster in delivering climate action before 2020. The global community now eagerly awaits COP23 Bonn declaration.

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Aid Groups Condemn Yemen Blockade, Warn of ‘Catastrophic’ Faminehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-condemn-yemen-blockade-warn-catastrophic-famine/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aid-groups-condemn-yemen-blockade-warn-catastrophic-famine http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-condemn-yemen-blockade-warn-catastrophic-famine/#respond Fri, 10 Nov 2017 23:13:10 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152976 If aid deliveries are not resumed, Yemen will experience the worst famine the world has seen in recent decades. Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia closed all land, air, and sea ports in Yemen after Houthi rebels fired a missile at Riyadh. Though the Saudi-led coalition reopened the southern port Aden, humanitarian officials have warned of […]

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Fatima Shooie sits between her 85-year-old mother and 22-year-old daughter who are both receiving treatment for cholera at a crowded hospital in Sana’a. Credit: WHO/S. Hasan

Fatima Shooie sits between her 85-year-old mother and 22-year-old daughter who are both receiving treatment for cholera at a crowded hospital in Sana’a. Credit: WHO/S. Hasan

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 10 2017 (IPS)

If aid deliveries are not resumed, Yemen will experience the worst famine the world has seen in recent decades.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia closed all land, air, and sea ports in Yemen after Houthi rebels fired a missile at Riyadh.

Though the Saudi-led coalition reopened the southern port Aden, humanitarian officials have warned of a famine and health crisis if other entry points remain shut.

“It will not be like the famine that we saw in South Sudan earlier in the year where tens of thousands of people were affected, and it will not be like the famine that cost 250,000 people their lives in Somalia in 2011—it will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock."If access shuts off entirely, even for a single week, then disaster will be the result. This is the nightmare scenario, and children will likely die." --Yemen Tamer Kirolos of Save the Children

Yemen has long depended on imports, importing up to 90 percent of essential goods.

A previous aerial and naval blockade, instituted days after the war began in 2015, has already left 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

This includes seven million facing famine-like conditions who rely on food aid and almost 400,000 children suffering from severe malnutrition who require therapeutic treatment to stay alive.

Due to limited funding, humanitarian agencies are only able to target one-third of the population while the other two-thirds rely on commercial imports.

If ports are not reopened, food supplies will be exhausted in six weeks.

“The humanitarian situation in Yemen is extremely fragile and any disruption in the pipeline of critical supplies such as food, fuel, and medicines has the potential to bring millions of people closer to starvation and death,” said 18 humanitarian organizations in a joint statement.

“The continued closure of borders will only bring additional hardship and deprivation with deadly consequences to an entire population suffering from a conflict that it is not of their own making,” they added.

In less than a day, the blockade has already dramatically increased the price of fuel by as much as 60 percent and doubled the price of cooking gas.

Having recently visited Yemen, Lowcock told journalists of his encounter with seven-year-old Nora who weighed 11 kilograms, the average weight of a two-year-old.

In the Middle Eastern nation, approximately 2 million children younger than Nora are acutely malnourished and at risk of dying.

Save the Children’s country director for Yemen Tamer Kirolos, an organization which released the joint statement, warned of a disaster for children if aid is impeded.

“It’s already been tough enough to get help in…but if access shuts off entirely, even for a single week, then disaster will be the result. This is the nightmare scenario, and children will likely die,” Kirolos said.

The humanitarian community also warned that the current stock of vaccines in the country will last one month. If it is not restocked, there will be outbreaks of communicable diseases such as polio and measles which will particularly impact children under five and those suffering from malnutrition.

Already, there are over 800,000 cases of cholera, and children under five account for a quarter of all cases. Aid agencies expect that there will be more than one million cases, 600,000 of whom will be children, by the end of the year.

The spread of the outbreak, which is the largest and fastest-growing epidemic ever recorded, has been exacerbated by hunger and malnutrition.

However, the Red Cross reported that its shipment of chlorine tablets needed to combat the cholera epidemic had been blocked, worsening an already dire humanitarian situation.

“What kills people in famine is infections…because their bodies have consumed themselves, reducing totally the ability to fight off things which a healthy person can,” said Lowcock.

Lowcock and humanitarian agencies called on the immediate opening of all ports and unhindered humanitarian and commercial access to people in need.

Lowcock also highlighted the need for the Saudi-led coalition to give clear assurance that there will be no disruption of air services, including the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), and to scale back interference with all vessels that have passed inspection.

The aid agencies called on an end to the conflict, stating: “We reiterate that humanitarian aid is not the solution to Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe. Only a peace process will halt the horrendous suffering of millions of innocent civilians.”

More than 10,000 have been killed and over 40,000 injured since the Yemen civil war began almost three years ago.

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