Inter Press Service » Food & Agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 10 Dec 2016 06:40:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 Climate-Resistant Beans Could Save Millionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/climate-resistant-beans-could-save-millions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-resistant-beans-could-save-millions http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/climate-resistant-beans-could-save-millions/#comments Tue, 06 Dec 2016 14:54:56 +0000 Ida Karlsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148110 Heat-tolerant beans at CIAT. Beans and other pulses are called superfoods of the future due to their vast geographical range, high nutritional value and low water requirements. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

Heat-tolerant beans at CIAT. Beans and other pulses are called superfoods of the future due to their vast geographical range, high nutritional value and low water requirements. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

By Ida Karlsson
CALI, Colombia, Dec 6 2016 (IPS)

A global food watchdog works around the clock to preserve crop biodiversity, with a seed bank deep in the Colombian countryside holding the largest collection of beans and cassava in the world and storing crops that could avert devastating problems.

On a mission in Peru in the 1980s, Debouck narrowly escaped capture by guerillas.
Plants are the vital elements in our ecosystem that clothe us, feed us, give us the oxygen that we breathe and the medicines that cure us. But one in five of world’s plant species are at risk of extinction.

According to a report launched by experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in May, the biggest threats are the destruction of habitats for farming – such as palm oil production, deforestation for timber and construction of buildings and infrastructure. Global warming is also expected to reduce the areas suitable for growing crops.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that 75 percent of the world’s crop diversity was lost between 1900 and 2000.

“We do not [even] know what we have, and we are losing what we have. Why not try to correct that a bit?” Daniel Debouck of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia told IPS.

Seed bank head Daniel Debouck at CIAT, Colombia. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

Seed bank head Daniel Debouck at CIAT, Colombia. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

Only about 30 crops provide 95 percent of human food energy needs, according to FAO. Dependency on a few staple crops magnifies the consequences of crop failure.

Botanists are already taking extreme measures to save those plant species deemed useful. Some 7.4 million samples are in seed banks around the world, but huge gaps exist.

Way up north, in the permafrost, 1,300 kilometers beyond the Arctic Circle, sits the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a so-called doomsday bank buried in the side of a mountain. Within the enclosure sit more than 860,000 samples, representing 5,100 different crops and their relatives.

And located among green sugarcane plantations near Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city, a seed bank with the largest collection of beans in the world is housed in a former meat quality lab. The seed bank preserves some of humanity’s most important staple crops and contains over 38,000 samples of beans in all shapes colors, and sizes. Varieties developed at CIAT feed 30 million people in Africa. Every September there is a major shipment to Svalbard to keep copies at the seed bank there.

Beans can grow despite very tough conditions. They are cultivated everywhere except for the poles and infertile deserts. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

Beans can grow despite very tough conditions. They are cultivated everywhere except for the poles and infertile deserts. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

The 300 scientists and support staff at CIAT have a mandate from the UN to protect, research and distribute beans and cassava, staple foods for 900 million people around the world. Altogether 500,000 materials have been distributed so far. After the war in Rwanda, CIAT put seeds back in the hands of farmers.

“The seeds from the Americas are absolutely critical for food security in Africa. Without cassava and beans, people would not manage,” Debouck told IPS.

The researchers have garnered seeds from around the world for their seed bank. On a mission in Peru in the 1980s, Debouck narrowly escaped capture by guerillas.

“But we came back with 300 varieties of popping bean and increased the CIAT collection significantly,” he said.

The popping beans can be prepared without cooking. It is enough if they are heated on a hot surface. This could be important in areas where fuel and kitchen facilities are lacking.

The seed bank also stores beans that can offer climate-friendly options for farmers struggling to cope with rising temperatures.

In the basement of an old lab near Cali, Colombia, there are 38,000 samples of beans stored in minus 20 degrees Celsius. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

In the basement of an old lab near Cali, Colombia, there are 38,000 samples of beans stored in minus 20 degrees Celsius. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

The heat-tolerant beans developed by conventional breeding by scientists at CIAT are crosses between the modern kind and the tepary bean, a hardy survivor cultivated since pre-Columbian times. Beans that can beat the heat could be essential to survival in many regions.

“The heat-tolerant beans may be able to handle a worst-case scenario of a temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius. Northern Uganda, southeast Congo, Malawi, and the eastern Kenya are not bean producing areas now because of the heat there. But what we have at present at CIAT could expand the bean production there,” Steve Beebe, a senior bean researcher at CIAT, told IPS.

The new findings would not have been possible without CIAT’s seed bank containing wild varieties and related species of the common bean.

Only 5 percent of the wild relatives of the world’s most important crops are properly stored and managed in the world’s seed banks, according a study published in March by the online journal Nature Plants.

Debouck says there is lack of education around food.

“We think we have food security but we are tremendously vulnerable. If the U.S. would experience drought and Europe would have excessive rains, we would all be in trouble,” Debouck said.

Agronomists used to act as a liaison between farmers and agricultural scientists. But during the last 20 years, many agronomists have disappeared and today mostly for-profit agribusiness firms reach out to farmers, according to Debouck. The companies are often interested in selling agrochemicals, he said.

Bean researcher Beebe pointed out that beans and other legumes are self-pollinated plants and seed need only be sold once.

“That is why the industry is not that interested in promoting them,” he told IPS.

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Nicaraguan Women Push for Access to Land, Not Just on Paperhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/nicaraguan-women-push-for-access-to-land-not-just-on-paper/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nicaraguan-women-push-for-access-to-land-not-just-on-paper http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/nicaraguan-women-push-for-access-to-land-not-just-on-paper/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2016 23:40:41 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148102 Members of a cooperative of women farmers in Nicaragua build a greenhouse for thousands of seedlings of fruit and lumber trees aimed at helping to fight the effects of climate change in a village in the department of Madriz. Credit: Femuprocan

Members of a cooperative of women farmers in Nicaragua build a greenhouse for thousands of seedlings of fruit and lumber trees aimed at helping to fight the effects of climate change in a village in the department of Madriz. Credit: Femuprocan

By José Adán Silva
MANAGUA, Dec 5 2016 (IPS)

A group of women farmers who organised to fight a centuries-old monopoly over land ownership by men are seeking plots of land to farm in order to contribute to the food security of their families and of the population at large.

Matilde Rocha, vice president of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives (Femuprocan), told IPS that since the late 1980s, when women trained in the Sandinista revolution organised to form cooperatives, access to land has been one of the movement’s main demands.

According to Rocha, as of 1997, the organisation has worked in a coordinated manner to fight for recognition of the rights of women farmers not only with regard to agriculture, but also to economic, political and social rights.

Femuprocan, together with 14 other associations, successfully pushed for the 2010 approval of the Fund for the Purchase of Land with Gender Equity for Rural Women Law, known as Law 717.

They also contributed to the incorporation of a gender equity focus in the General Law on Cooperatives and to the participation of women in the Municipal Commissions on Food Security and Sovereignty.

For Rocha, this advocacy has allowed rural women to update the mapping of actors in the main productive areas in the country, strengthen the skills of women farmers and train them in social communication and as promoters of women’s human rights, to tap into resources and take decisions without the pressure of their male partners.

“For rural women, land is life, it is vital for the family; land ownership and inputs to make it productive are closely linked to women’s economic empowerment, to decision-making about food production, to the preservation of our environment, and to ensuring food security and protecting our native seeds to avoid dependence on genetically modified seeds,” said Rocha.

Josefina Rodríguez, one of the 18 per cent of women farmers in Nicaragua who own the land that they work. The fund created six years ago to promote the purchase of land by rural women still lacks the required resources to meet its goals. Credit: Ismael López/IPS

Josefina Rodríguez, one of the 18 per cent of women farmers in Nicaragua who own the land that they work. The fund created six years ago to promote the purchase of land by rural women still lacks the required resources to meet its goals. Credit: Ismael López/IPS

Femuprocan is the only federation in the country solely made up of women farmers: more than 4,200 members organised in 73 cooperatives in six of the country’s departments: Madriz, Managua, Granada, Región Autónoma del Caribe Norte, Matagalpa and Jinotega.

Rocha believes the progress made has been more qualitative than quantitative.

In 2010, when they pushed through Law 717, an estimated 1.1 million women lived in rural areas, and most of them owned neither land nor other assets.

The law was aimed at giving rural women access to physical possession and legal ownership of land, improving their economic conditions, boosting gender equity, ensuring food security and fighting poverty in the country, estimated at the time at 47 per cent.

Nicaragua currently has a population of 6.2 million, 51 per cent of whom are women, and 41 per cent of whom live in rural areas, according to World Bank figures.

Data from the Household Survey to Measure Poverty in Nicaragua, published in June by the International Foundation for Global Economic Challenge, indicates that 39 per cent of the population was poor in 2015.

The poverty rate in urban areas was 22.1 per cent, compared to 58.8 per cent in rural areas.

According to the international humanitarian organisation Oxfam, only 18 per cent of the rural women who work on farms in Nicaragua own land, while the rest have to lease it and pay before planting.

“Access to land ownership is a pending demand for 40 percent of the members of Femuprocan, which represents a total of 1,680 women without land,” said Rocha.

The struggle for access to land is an uphill battle, but the organisation is not giving up.

“In 17 municipalities covered by our federation, 620 women are active in the process of searching for lands for our members. Not only women who have no land, but also women who do are engaged in the process of identifying lands to make them productive, as are other governmental and non-governmental organisations,” she said.

One of the members of the organisation told IPS that there has been no political will or economic financing from the state to enforce the law on access to land.

The more than 4,000 members of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives sell their products, many of which are organic, directly to consumers in fairs and markets. Credit: Femuprocan

The more than 4,000 members of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives sell their products, many of which are organic, directly to consumers in fairs and markets. Credit: Femuprocan

“How many doors have we knocked on, how many offices have we visited to lobby, how many meetings have we held…and the law is still not enforced,” said the farmer, who asked to be identified only as Maria, during a trip to Managua.

“The problem is that the entire legal, economic and productive system is still dominated by men, and they see us as threats, more than competition, to their traditional business activities,” she said.

Other women’s organisations have come from rural areas to the cities to protest that the law on access to land is not being enforced.

In May, María Teresa Fernández, who heads the Coordinator of Rural Women, complained in Managua that “women who do not own land have to pay up to 200 dollars to rent one hectare during the growing season.”

In addition to having to lease land, the women who belong to the organisation have in recent years faced environmental problems such as drought, dust storms, volcanic ash and pests without receiving the benefit of public policies that make bank loans available to deal with these problems.

“Six years ago, Law 717 was passed, ordering the creation of a gender equity fund for the purchase of land by rural women. But this fund has not yet been included in the general budget in order for women to access mortgage credits administered by the state bank, to get their own land,” Fernández complained in May.

The Nicaraguan financial system does not grant loans to women farmers who have no legal title to land, a problem that the government has tried to mitigate with social welfare programmes such as Zero Hunger, Zero Usury, Roof Plan, Healthy Yards and the Christian Solidarity Programme for food distribution, among others.

However, sociologist Cirilo Otero, director of the non-governmental Centre of Initiatives for Environmental Policies, said there is not enough government support, and stressed to IPS that women’s lack of access to land is one of the most serious problems of gender inequality in Nicaragua.

“It is still an outstanding debt by the state towards women farmers,” he said.

Nevertheless, data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicates that Nicaragua was one of 17 Latin American countries that met the targets for hunger reduction and improvement in food security in the first 15 years of the century, as part of the Millennium Development Goals.

According to the U.N. agency, between 1990 and 2015, the country reduced the proportion of undernourished people from 54.4 per cent to 16.6 per cent.

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Soil: Keeping Nutrients in Food and Carbon in the Groundhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/soil-keeping-nutrients-in-food-and-carbon-in-the-ground/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=soil-keeping-nutrients-in-food-and-carbon-in-the-ground http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/soil-keeping-nutrients-in-food-and-carbon-in-the-ground/#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2016 22:56:36 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148098 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/soil-keeping-nutrients-in-food-and-carbon-in-the-ground/feed/ 0 Battle of the Desert (and III): UNCCD ‘s Louise Baker on The Silk Roadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-and-iii-unccd-s-louise-baker-on-the-silk-road/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=battle-of-the-desert-and-iii-unccd-s-louise-baker-on-the-silk-road http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-and-iii-unccd-s-louise-baker-on-the-silk-road/#comments Wed, 23 Nov 2016 17:58:12 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147895 Louise Baker

Louise Baker

By Baher Kamal
BONN / ROME, Nov 23 2016 (IPS)

Marking this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification last June, the United Nations announced the launch of a China-United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Belt and Road Joint Action initiative to curb Desertification along the Silk Road.

UNCCD is the key United Nations legal framework to combat desertification. IPS interviews Louise Baker, Coordinator External Relations, Policy and Advocacy Unit, UNCCD about the current effects of drought in the countries, which are expected to benefit from this initiative?

Drought is a complex natural hazard that causes more deaths and displaces more people than any other natural disaster. Its socio-economic and environmental impacts are severe and far-reaching, Baker states.

“Desertification and land degradation cause poverty and hunger. In turn, these can lead to massive environmental damage and natural resource scarcity that sometimes ends with conflict. It certainly hinders sustainable development.”

She then explains that there are 24 types of ecosystem services in the world. 15 are in decline. Desertification and land degradation are major stress factors. Many countries along the Belt and Road are highly vulnerable to both drought and desertification, and are facing social, economic and political stresses.

Asked for specific examples, Baker cites the case of Uzbekistan: 73.6 per cent of the population live in areas affected by drought.

Droughts have reduced the country’s water flow by 35-40 per cent below the average…crop yield losses range from 42 to 75 per cent… wetland ecosystems are degraded and up to 80 per cent of the lakes are drying out.

The risk of ground water salinization is growing, says Baker, and adds: Iran often suffers from severe drought and has problems with sand and dust storms. A 1991 drought cost Iran 1.25 billion dollars, and a 2001 drought cost 7.5 billion dollars.

Climate Change

“Droughts will become more frequent, severe and widespread as a result of climate change, “ she explains. The Belt and Road Joint Action Initiative is a way of managing the land better, mitigating the effects of drought and promoting green economic growth. “That should lead to more equitable economic and social development.”

Credit: 2013 UNCCD Photo contest Xiaoyun Zheng

Credit: 2013 UNCCD Photo contest Xiaoyun Zheng

Asked what is the new joint initiative all about? How long will it be? How many years it will take to be completed? And how much will it cost and who will fund it? Louise Baker responds: “The joint action initiative involves the 23 countries located along the Silk Road. The long term vision is to protect and use natural resources rationally and to promote the development of a green economy in areas affected by land degradation and desertification.”

The countries, she explains, will work together to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 15 on land, in particular SDG target 15.3. That is about achieving land degradation neutrality by 2030.

“Land degradation neutrality is about maintaining a balance in the amount of healthy and productive land that every country has available by sustainably managing every hectare of productive land and by rehabilitating an equal amount of already degraded land.”

The partners have laid out a framework for actions in five areas.

First, managing the entire ecosystem so that the plants and animals are not negatively affected by land degradation and they are able to adapt to climate change.

Second, developing a sustainable green economy based on local resources, for instance, using traditional agricultural practices and promoting solar and wind energy.

Third, protecting important natural and man-made infrastructure by using sustainable land and water management for river and lake basins.

Fourth, acting on drought through early warning, preparedness, mitigation and enhancing the capacities for emergency response, controlling dust and sand storms at their areas of origin and controlling shifting sand dunes.

Lastly, all world heritage sites located along the Belt and Road will benefit through measures to strengthen the conservation, protection or restoration of the ecosystems around them.

The Initiative emphasizes joint contributions and shared benefits. “Each country will develop its own activities, estimate the costs of developing social and green industries in the Belt and contribute to the initiative based on their own capacity. China’s State Administrative of Forest will coordinate and collect the data and activities under the initiative.”

IPS then asks Baker why is it called “The Silk Road Economic Belt”? which starts from China and runs to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean via Central and West Asia, geographically linking the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe?

The Silk Roads

The Silk Roads were important routes for trade and cultural exchanges in human history. For millennia the roads linked the four ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and India with those of Greece and Rome. The Silk Road strengthened open trade and development, exchanged of knowledge and culture. The concept is built on all these ideas, Louis Baker responds.

Credit: 2009 UNCCD Photo contest Jason Lee

Credit: 2009 UNCCD Photo contest Jason Lee

But the fertile lands along the Silk Roads has become degraded as a result of conflict, over exploitation and unsustainable human activity leading to serious and wide spread desertification, she adds.

“To complement the vision of “Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road”, which was launched in 2013 by the Chinese Government, the joint action initiative focuses on the “ecological civilization” of the route.”

Land Locked, Vulnerable to Drought and Desertification

Despite a rich history, many countries along the Belt and Road, such as those in central Asia and the Middle East, are land locked and vulnerable to drought, desertification and other challenges. This Joint Initiative can help unlock some of the potential that is often hindered by location and environmental degradation.

Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, said through solidarity and engagement, China “has brought millions of people out of poverty through massive scale land restoration efforts.” Baker explains how.

“The restoration of the Loess plateau and the massive tree planting initiative in the Three North Regions Shelterbelts Development Project are two well-known large-scale landscape restoration initiatives focused on degraded ecosystems,” Baer answers.

The national plan to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation, Dust and Sand Storm Prevention Project in Northern China, is another initiative that not only benefits the people of China, but countries such as South Korea and the United States that are in the path of these dust storms. “These and other initiatives have also benefited land users directly.”

Baker further explains that in the arid and semi-arid regions, China is taking measures to change to better irrigation and land use patterns and is introducing more drought tolerant plant varieties. Rural villagers and farmers get zero-interest loans to adopt these new methods.

They are also compensated for limiting their herd sizes in order to avoid overgrazing. Providing steady incomes, as an incentive to conserve the environment, can go a long way to help poor households.

“For the future, China is also developing new technologies to support land users to reduce water consumption and use waste water. It has set up the Green Silk Road Fund to encourage the restoration, rehabilitation of degraded land along the Silk Road.”

Rural people will benefit from these changes, including through the jobs created by private sector companies that invest along the Silk Road in response to the Initiative, she adds.

To IPS question: What is the share of the region involved in this Initiative, in the fact that, globally, more than 2 billion hectares of the terrestrial ecosystems are degraded, with nearly 170 countries affected by land degradation and drought?, Baker says:

“In 2012, it was estimated that 2 billion hectares of land was degraded globally,” adding that there are about 500 million hectares of that is former – now abandoned agricultural land – that could be restored quickly and cost-effectively.This is far better than degrading 4-6 million hectares of new land each year to meet the growing global demand for food up to 2050.”

Nearly One Fifth of China, Affected By Drought and Desertification

Nearly 20 per cent of China is affected by drought and desertification, Baker explains. “On average, China has recovered 2,424 km2 (240,000 ha) of desertified and degraded land every year for the last consecutive 10 years. That is about 2.5 million hectares. At least, 10 million hectares more could be restored in China. This would be a significant contribution to global efforts.”

Through knowledge sharing under the Road and Belt Joint Action Initiative, China is helping countries that are affected by drought to be more prepared.

“I believe the success of this initiative will motivate more countries to rehabilitate and restore their land. It will certainly increase the resilience of local people, the UNCCD senior official concludes.

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Climate Finance for Farmers Key to Avert One Billion Hungryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-finance-for-farmers-key-to-avert-one-billion-hungry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-finance-for-farmers-key-to-avert-one-billion-hungry http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-finance-for-farmers-key-to-avert-one-billion-hungry/#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2016 13:05:43 +0000 Fabíola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147864 The arid region of Settat, 200 kms northeast of Marrakech, Morocco. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

The arid region of Settat, 200 kms northeast of Marrakech, Morocco. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

By Fabíola Ortiz
MARRAKECH, Nov 21 2016 (IPS)

With climate change posing growing threats to smallholder farmers, experts working around the issues of agriculture and food security say it is more critical than ever to implement locally appropriate solutions to help them adapt to changing rainfall patterns.

Most countries consider agriculture a priority when it comes to their plans to limit the rise of global temperatures to less than 2 degrees C. In line with the Paris Climate Change Agreement, 95 percent of all countries included agriculture in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).“We need to find solutions that allow people to live better, increase their income, promote decent jobs and be resilient." -- Martial Bernoux of FAO

“The climate is changing. We don’t have rains that we used to have in the past. In the last decade, we had two consecutive years of intense drought and we lost all the production. The animals all died because they had no water,” Ahmed Khiat, 68, a small farmer in the Moroccan community of Souaka, told IPS.

Khiat comes from a long line of farmers. Born and raised in the arid region of Settat located some 200 km northeast of Marrakech, he has cultivated the land his whole life, growing maize, lentils and other vegetables, as well as raising sheep. But the family tradition was not passed to his nine sons and daughters, who all migrated to the cities in search for jobs.

In the past, he said, farmers were able to get 90 percent of their income from agriculture — now it’s half that. “They don’t work anymore in the field,” Khiat about his sons. “The work here is very seasonal. I prefer they have a permanent job in the city.”

Moroccan farmer Ahmed Khiat, who has struggled with drought but benefitted from a direct seeding program that promotes resilience to climate change. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

Moroccan farmer Ahmed Khiat, who has struggled with drought but benefitted from a direct seeding program that promotes resilience to climate change. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

Agriculture is an important part of the Moroccan economy, contributing 15 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 23 percent to its exports. Around 45 percent of Morocco’s population lives in rural areas and depends mainly on agriculture for their income, Mohamed Boughlala, an economist at the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA) in Morocco, told IPS.

Seventy percent of the people in the countryside live in poverty. Unemployment is common among youth and around 80 percent of farmers are illiterate. Khiat, for example, says he does not know how to spell his own name.

The impacts of climate change are already visible in Morocco, said Boughlala. The proportion of dry years has increased fourfold as surface water availability decreased by 35 percent. Climate change particularly affects smallholders who depend on low-input and rain-fed agriculture, like the communities in Settat.

“The studies we did here we found that between 1980 to 2016, we lost 100mm of rainfall. The average rainfall before 1980 was around 427 mm per year and from 1981 to 2016 the average is only 327 mm per year. This means that we lost 100 mm between the two periods. If we show them there is a technology so you can improve the yield, reduce the risk and the cost of production, we can improve small farmers’ livelihoods,” stressed Boughlala.

In 2015, families who used conventional ploughing methods had zero yield. But the farmers who applied so-called “direct seeding” had an increase of 30 percent. Direct seeding is a technology for growing cereals without disturbing the soil through tillage, i.e. without ploughing. With this technique, the scarce rainfall infiltrates the soil and is retained near the roots of the crop, which results in higher yields compared to traditional seeding. Soil erosion is reduced and labour costs go down.

Direct seeding had been tested in Morocco by INRA as a way to increase resilience to climate change. Morocco piloted this technology with financial support of a 4.3-million-dollar grant from the Special Climate Change Fund of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – designed to strengthen the capacity of institutions and farmers to integrate climate change adaptation measures in projects which are implemented under the Plan Maroc Vert, or the green plan addressing Moroccan’s agricultural needs.

Khiat was one of the 2,500 small farmers benefitted by the direct seeding for cereals in 2011. Facilities like GEF and the Green Climate Fund will be key for African farmers to access financial resources to cope with global warming.

However, the African continent — home to 25 percent of the developing world’s population — receives only 5 percent of public and private climate funds. Although it contributes very little to greenhouse gas emissions, Africa is likely the most vulnerable to the climate impacts.

The need to protect African agriculture in the face of climate change was addressed at the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech (COP22) with the Global Climate Action Agenda on Nov. 17. The one-day event at the Climate Summit aimed to boost concerted efforts to cut emissions, help vulnerable nations adapt and build a sustainable future.

“We need to find new sources of funding for farmers. Climate change brings back the uncertainty of food insecurity in the world. We project that we may be soon see one billion hungry people in the world if we don’t act strongly to tackle climate change. In the COP22, we saw agriculture regaining the necessary importance,” José Graziano da Silva, the director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told IPS.

Solutions should be designed and implemented locally, stressed the natural resources officer with the Climate Change Mitigation Unit at FAO, Martial Bernoux. “Our number one objective is to achieve food security and fight poverty,” he told IPS.

“What is more perturbing to small farmers is the scarcity of water and the unstable cycle that changes the rainfall regime. The frequency of climatic events increased and farmers have no time to be resilient and no ability to adapt. It is necessary to work with microcredit mechanisms to help them,” said Bernoux.

When climate change is added to the food security equation, local solutions become more complex, he said. “We need to hear the communities’ demands, their deficiencies and potentialities to improve, like establishing an early warning system to inform farmers some days in advance when the rain is coming so they can prepare the land. If they lose this opportunity, it could be fatal for the yield.”

Agriculture is an overarching issue that affects nearly all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including food security, zero poverty, resilience and adaptation, argued Bernoux.

“We need to find solutions that allow people to live better, increase their income, promote decent jobs and be resilient,” he said. “By working with agriculture you connect with all the other SDGs.”

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Climate: Strong Commitment and New Global Action on Water Scarcityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-strong-commitment-and-new-global-action-on-water-scarcity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-strong-commitment-and-new-global-action-on-water-scarcity http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-strong-commitment-and-new-global-action-on-water-scarcity/#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2016 05:08:34 +0000 IPS Correspondents http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147858 A farmer transporting hay to Tera weekly market, Tera, Bajirga, Niger. Credit: FAO

A farmer transporting hay to Tera weekly market, Tera, Bajirga, Niger. Credit: FAO

By IPS Correspondents
MARRAKESH, Morocco, Nov 21 2016 (IPS)

“No country, irrespective of its size or strength, is immune from the impacts of climate change, and no country can afford to tackle the climate challenge alone.”

With this warning, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, commented on the final conclusions reached at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 22) –which was held in Marrakech, Morocco on Nov. 7-18– to move forward on the implementation of the Paris Agreement that entered into force November 4.

In the Marrakech Action Proclamation, State Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) affirmed their strong “commitment” to the “full implementation” of the Paris Agreement.

They also welcomed the “extraordinary momentum on climate change worldwide,” as of Friday 18 November, 111 countries have ratified the Agreement.

Last December at the previous Conference, known as COP 21, 196 Parties to the UNFCCC adopted the Paris Agreement, so-named after the French capital where it was approved.

It aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. "Water scarcity - already a major global issue - will intensify with climate change and pressures linked to population growth," FAO

“This momentum is irreversible – it is being driven not only by governments, but by science, business and global action of all types at all levels,” adds the Marrakech Proclamation.

“Our task now is to rapidly build on that momentum, together, moving forward purposefully to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to foster adaptation efforts, thereby benefiting and supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Negotiations between State-Parties concluded on Nov. 18 night. Governments set a rapid deadline of 2018 to complete the rulebook for “operationalizing” the Paris Agreement to ensure confidence, cooperation and its success over the years and decades to come.

In the Marrakech Proclamation, developed country reaffirmed their 100 billion dollars mobilisation goal per year by 2020 to support climate action by developing countries. All countries also called on all non-state actors to join them “for immediate and ambitious action and mobilisation, building on their important achievements.”

On Nov.17, the Conference launched the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action Agenda to further scale up cooperative efforts in which businesses, sub-national and local governments and civil society team up with national governments to promote low-emission and resilient development.

“Scale up Action, Rapidly”

“The world must rapidly move to scale up actions and ambitions on climate change,” said for his part José Graziano da Silva, Director-General the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) during the Marrakech summit.

Southern Madagascar has been hit by consecutive droughts. Credit: FAO

Southern Madagascar has been hit by consecutive droughts. Credit: FAO

Speaking on Nov. 16 at a high-level action day on agriculture and food security, he noted that climate change impacts on agriculture – including crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries, land and water – are already undermining global efforts to assure food security and nutrition.

“And the rural poor are the most affected.”

With over 90 per cent of countries referring to the important role of agriculture in their national plans to adapt to and mitigate climate change, Graziano da Silva stressed, “it is time to invest in sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture as a fundamental part of the climate solution.”

Although agriculture contributes to nearly 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, it is a fundamental part of the solution to boost resilience and combat climate change impacts – especially in developing countries where agriculture is often the backbone of the economy.

Boosting agriculture can reduce malnutrition and poverty, create economic opportunities, and generate faster, fairer growth especially for young people. Sustainable agriculture also improves the management of natural resources such as water; conserves biodiversity and ecosystem services; and increases carbon sequestration while easing the pressures that drive deforestation.

“We have to transform agriculture to make it more productive and more resilient at the same time. This transformation will help to address, at the same time, the triple threat of hunger, poverty and climate change,” Graziano da Silva said. “Countries are recognizing this potential with unprecedented commitments.”

Scaling up international flows of climate finance and unlocking additional investment in adaptation in agricultural sectors is needed to give traction to the action, he added.

Water Scarcity, the Big Challenge

In a bid to tackle the impact of global water scarcity, FAO on Nov. 18 launched the Global Framework for Action to Cope with Water Scarcity in Agriculture in the Context of Climate Change.

Water scarcity – already a major global issue – will intensify with climate change and pressures linked to population growth.

“From California to China’s eastern provinces and from Jordan to the southern tip of Africa, an estimated four billion people – almost two-thirds of the global population – live with severe water shortages for at least some of the time.” Water scarcity “is one of the main challenges for sustainable agriculture,” Graziano da Silva said.

At another high-profile side event, he hailed the timely launch of the Initiative in Favor for the Adaptation of African Agriculture, which is the Kingdom of Morocco’s flagship programme and has been endorsed by 27 countries so far.

The so-called Triple A “will drive action in precisely the areas we need to transform the agriculture sectors” – sustainable land and soil management, better water management and comprehensive climate risk management – and FAO will collaborate strongly to scale up the initiative.

“That will require larger climate finance flows for adaptation, and for agriculture in particular, Graziano da Silva added, noting that currently only two per cent of climate finance is being directed at the agriculture sector. “That is extremely low, and quite below our needs,” he said.

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Battle of the Desert (II): A ‘Great Green Wall for Africa’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-ii-a-great-green-wall-for-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=battle-of-the-desert-ii-a-great-green-wall-for-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-ii-a-great-green-wall-for-africa/#comments Sun, 20 Nov 2016 07:39:46 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147849 Tera, Bajirga, Niger - Women at work for preparing the field for the next rainy season by escaving mid-moon dams to save water. Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Tera, Bajirga, Niger - Women at work for preparing the field for the next rainy season by escaving mid-moon dams to save water. Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 20 2016 (IPS)

Desertification, land degradation, drought, climate change, food insecurity, poverty, loss of biodiversity, forced migration and conflicts, are some of the key challenges facing Africa—a giant continent home to 1,2 billion people living in 54 countries.

And they are huge challenges indeed, in particular affecting Africa’s vulnerable drylands. Just think that the drylands of North Africa, Sahel and Horn of Africa extend over 1.6 billion hectares home to about 500 million people, i.e. slightly less than half of the entire population of the continent.

Nora Berrahmouni

Nora Berrahmouni

Such rapidly deteriorating situation, which has been exacerbated by climate change and its growing impact, has mobilised more than 20 African countries around the Sahara (North, East and West), international organisations, research institutes, civil society and grassroots organisations, to build together what has been called: The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI) or simply Africa’s Great Green Wall (GGW).

On this, Nora Berrahmouni, Forestry Officer (Drylands) at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), tells IPS in an interview that the GGW core area (focus area for intervention identified) is about 780 million hectares.

What is this Wall all about? “Africa’s Great Green Wall, the so-called “Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI)” is a Pan African initiative, established and endorsed by the African Union in 2007 and it is Africa’s flagship initiative to combat the effects of climate change, desertification, food insecurity and poverty.”"Drylands of North Africa, Sahel and Horn of Africa extend over 1.6 billion hectares home to about 500 million people"-- FAO

Here, Berrahmouni clarifies that the so-called Great Green Wall initiative “is not a line or a wall of trees across the desert. The “Wall” is a metaphor to express solidarity between countries and partners, a mosaic of sustainable land management and restoration interventions.”

Regardless of its name, the plan aims at promoting:

• Long-term solutions to the pressing challenges of desertification, land degradation, drought and climate change,

• Integrated interventions tackling the multiple challenges affecting the lives of millions of people in the Sahel and Sahara, including restoration of production systems, development of rural production and sustainable development hubs,

• And an urgent call to development actors and policy makers to invest more on long term solutions for the sustainable development of drylands in the Sahel and Sahara.

Asked about specific examples, these are “sustainable management of natural resources, including soils, water, forests, rangelands; promotion of sustainable rural production systems in agriculture, pastoralism and forestry, as well as sustainable production, processing and marketing of agricultural products and forest goods and services, says Berrahmouni.

Other examples include the diversification of economic activities through rural production centres, to stimulate job creation and offer income generation activities, in particular for youth and women, and to spread knowledge exchange about the causes of desertification and the best ways to combat and prevent it.

FAO is a key partner of the African Union and of its member states in implementing this initiative. Indeed, for FAO, this is a “game changer in addressing poverty eradication, ending hunger and boosting food and nutrition security in the continent,” the Algerian expert explains.

Djibo, Burkina Faso - Planting seeds and seedlings. Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Djibo, Burkina Faso – Planting seeds and seedlings. Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

From 2010 to 2013, FAO focused on supporting the African Union Commission and 13 member countries to put in place an enabling environment for the implementation of the GGWSSI. These countries are: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan.

With funding from the FAO Technical Cooperation Programme and the European Union (EU), this leading UN body in the field of food and agriculture has developed and implemented successfully two complementary projects.

These projects have lead to: the preparation and validation of national action plans and strategies for the implementation of the initiative in 13 countries; the development and validation of Regional Harmonized Strategy, ensuring that all stakeholders involved in the implementation of work towards a common and shared vision, objectives and results, and to put in place a community of practice for the effective implementation of Africa’s Great Green Wall.

Berrahmouni tells IPS that since July 2014 and with the support of European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) Secretariat, FAO is implementing with partners a project called “Action Against Desertification” in support of the implementation of the Great Green Wall in 6 countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal) and South-South Cooperation in ACP countries.

On November 16, FAO presented to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Marrakech, Morocco (7-18 November), a groundbreaking map of restoration opportunities along Africa’s Great Green Wall. at the UN climate change conference.

Announcing that there are 10 million hectares a year in need of restoration along the Great Green Wall, it informs that restoration needs along Africa’s drylands have been mapped and quantified for the first time.

The map is based on collection and analysis of crucial land-use information to boost action in Africa’s Great Green Wall to increase the resilience of people and landscapes to climate change.

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Rural Job Creation Holds the Key to Development and Food-Security Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/rural-job-creation-holds-the-key-to-development-and-food-security-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-job-creation-holds-the-key-to-development-and-food-security-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/rural-job-creation-holds-the-key-to-development-and-food-security-goals/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2016 21:45:00 +0000 Nteranya Sanginga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147847 Nteranya Sanginga is the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.]]> Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

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

By Nteranya Sanginga
IBADAN, Nigeria, Nov 18 2016 (IPS)

Harvesting the benefits of core agricultural research, which often bears on improved crop varieties and plant diseases, increasingly depends on the social and economic conditions into which its seeds are sown.

It is a sign of the times that Kanayo F. Nwanze, the president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development who started off as a cassava entomologist when ITTA posted him to Congo in the 1970s, was recently hailed for his efforts to create African billionaires.

That happened when youth from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture’s Agripreneur program gave Nwanze special lapel pins after his guest speech at our golden jubilee celebration kickoff.

Our institute, IITA, has evolved with the times. I trained in microbial ecology, yet while agronomy research –remains very important, it is initiatives like our Youth Agripreneur program that underscore how we are paying more and more attention to the need to boost youth employment, especially in Africa.

Creating decent employment opportunities, especially rural employment opportunities, is the critical challenge of our time in Africa. It is the lynchpin of any possible success in the noble goals of hunger and poverty eradication.

The most obvious reason for that is demographic: Africa’s population is set to roughly double to 2.5 billion by 2050. Many of them, perhaps the majority, have not been born. Income opportunities and healthy affordable food will be in unprecedented demand. Today’s youth play a huge role in making that possible.

While Africa’s cities are expected to grow, even that will depend on decent rural jobs being created. Agriculture is not only called upon to increase food output and productivity, but to create jobs and even bring in the best and brightest.

The prospects are, in theory, quite good. The world is increasingly turning to sustainable agriculture, and research shows that diversified farming systems are more challenging – experientially, cognitively and intellectually – which both cushions the drudgery and spurs innovation to reduce it.

Yet the challenge, as the population projections show, is formidable. Growing by around 300 million every decade means all sectors need a giant and focused developmental push. Perceiving agriculture as the rural sector from which one escapes will backfire.

That’s one of the reasons why entomologist-turned research administrator Dr Nwanze talks about the need to foster opportunities for youth.

The IITA Youth Agripreneur program has ambitious aims. It has expanded quickly around Nigeria and other African countries.

At the same time, IITA is partnering with IFAD and the African Development Bank for the Empowering Novel Agribusiness-Led Employment for Youth in African Agriculture Program, dubbed ENABLE. The goal is to create 8 million agribusiness jobs within five years for youth.

How can IITA’s research contribute?

Take our project on Sustainable Weed Management Technologies for Cassava Systems in Nigeria. As its name suggests, this is very much geared to primary agricultural work. But it is not simply about having more cassava but about having enough extra cassava, and having it consistently, to support the use of this African staple food in flour.

As such it fits into other IFAD projects aimed at boosting the cassava flour value chain in the region. Once the weeds have been sorted out, this initiative is designed to require large gains in food processing capacity.

IITA researchers have managed to bake bread using 40 percent cassava in wheat flour, so the potential for this initiative is very large. Notice that it immediately suggests a role for bakers, confectionary products and others. That means more jobs.

This relates back to Dr. Nwanze’s time as an IITA field researcher, as he was involved in a successful effort to combat and control the cassava mealy bug that saved the continent millions of dollars.

One of the big challenges for scientists today is to make research contribute to growth. Breakthroughs often lead to solutions of food-system problems and thus relieve hunger and food and nutrition insecurity. IITA showed that by developing two new maize hybrids that deliver higher levels of vitamin A and improve child nutrition.

But we can go further, steering these breakthroughs into veritable engines of growth.

To be sure, this requires improvements on many fronts, such as better freight transportation networks. But such investments pay themselves off when they serve a common goal. Africa’s need and duty is to make sure that agriculture is ready to deliver the goods for such a take-off.

All this by the way will not only boost Africa’s agricultural productivity, which is lagging, but will boost the productivity of research itself, leading to higher returns and, one hopes, attractive jobs with higher incomes and better facilities. That’s important for future microbial ecologists and cassava entomologists!

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New Fund Aims to Help Build Resilience to Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/new-fund-aims-to-help-build-resilience-to-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-fund-aims-to-help-build-resilience-to-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/new-fund-aims-to-help-build-resilience-to-climate-change/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2016 17:15:59 +0000 Fabíola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147844 Mary Robinson, the U.N. special envoy on El Niño and Climate. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

Mary Robinson, the U.N. special envoy on El Niño and Climate. Credit: Fabiola Ortiz/IPS

By Fabíola Ortiz
MARRAKECH, Nov 18 2016 (IPS)

The world has been too slow in responding to climate events such as El Niño and La Niña, and those who are the “least responsible are the ones suffering most”, Mary Robinson, the special envoy on El Niño and Climate, told IPS at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Marrakech (COP22).

The first woman President of Ireland (1990-1997) and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), Robinson was appointed earlier this year by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the new mandate involving climate change and El Niño."I’ve seen a window into a ‘new normal’ and it is very serious." -- Mary Robinson

During the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Robinson strongly advocated for engaging community-led solutions and for incorporating gender equality and women’s participation in the climate talks.

“Global warming is accelerating too much and it is being aggravated by El Niño and La Niña. They do not have to become a humanitarian disaster, but people have now been left to cope for themselves…I think we were too slow in many instances and this has become a humanitarian disaster for the 60 million people who are food insecure and suffering from droughts,” she said.

El Niño has been directly associated with droughts and floods in many parts of the world that have severely impacted millions of livelihoods. A warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific waters, the phenomenon occurs on average every three to seven years and sea surface temperatures across the Pacific can warm more than 1 degree C.

El Niño is a natural occurrence, but scientists believe it is becoming more intense as a result of global warming.

How El Niño interacts with climate change is not 100 percent clear, but many of the countries that are now experiencing El Niño are also vulnerable to climate variations. According to Robinson, El Niño and its climate-linked emergencies are a threat to human security and, therefore, a threat to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) announced in September 2015 as the 2030 Agenda replacing the Millennium Development Goals.

“I have gone to Central America to the dry corridor in Honduras and have seen women crying because there is no water and they feel very neglected. They feel they are left behind and that nobody seems to know about them. I saw in Ethiopia severely malnourished children, it could affect them for life in terms of being stunted. The same thing in southern Africa. I feel I’ve seen a window into a ‘new normal’ and it is very serious. We need to understand the urgency of taking the necessary steps,” Robinson said.

Drought and flooding associated with El Niño created enormous problems across East Africa, Southern Africa, Central America and the Pacific. Ethiopia, where Robinson has visited earlier this year, is experiencing its worst drought in half a century. One million children in Eastern and Southern Africa alone are acutely malnourished.

It is very likely that 2016 will be the hottest year on record, with global temperatures even higher than the record-breaking temperatures in 2015, according to an assessment released at the COP22 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Preliminary data shows that 2016’s global temperatures are approximately 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Temperatures spiked in the early months of the year because of the powerful El Niño event.

These long-term changes in the climate have exacerbated social, humanitarian and environmental pressures. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees pointed that in 2015, more than 19 million new displacements were associated with weather, water, climate and geophysical hazards in 113 countries, more than twice as many as for conflict and violence.

“We need a much more concerted response and fund preparedness. If we have a very strategic early warning system, we can deal with the problem much more effectively. Building resilience in communities is the absolute key. We need to invest in support for building resilience now rather than having a huge humanitarian disaster,” stressed Robinson.

On Nov. 17, during the COP22 in Marrakech, the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) – a coalition led by France, Australia, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Japan and Canada launched at the Paris climate change negotiations in 2015 – announced a new goal to mobilise more than 30 million dollars by July 2017 and 100 million by 2020.

The international partnership aims to strengthen risk information and early warning systems in vulnerable countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and small island developing states in the Pacific. The idea is to leverage financing to protect populations exposed to extreme climate events.

There will be a special focus on women, who are particularly vulnerable to climate menaces but are the protagonists in building resilience. “Now we’ve moved from the Paris negotiations to implementation on the ground. Building resilience is key and it must be done in a way that is gender sensitive with full account of gender equality and also human rights. We must recognize the role of women as agents for change in their communities,” Robinson emphasised.

The number of climate-related disasters has more than doubled over the past 40 years, said Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction.

“This initiative will help reduce the impact of these events on low and middle-income countries which suffer the most,” he said.

José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told IPS, “We can see already in Africa the impact of climate change that is undermining our efforts to bring food security for all. Take the example of El Niño that has affected all of Africa in the last two years. Countries that had made fantastic progress like Ethiopia, Zambia, Tanzania and Madagascar are now suffering hunger again. Countries that have eradicated hunger are back to face it again. We need to adapt.”

Climate change has different impacts on men and women, girls and boys, told IPS Edith Ofwona, the senior program specialist at International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

“Gender is critical. We must recognise it is not about women alone,” she said. “[But] women are important because they provide the largest labour force, mainly in the agricultural sector. It is important to appreciate the differences in the impacts, the needs in terms of response. There is need for balance, affirmative action and ensuring all social groups are taken into consideration.”

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Battle of the Desert (I): To Fight or to Flee?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-i-to-fight-or-to-flee/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=battle-of-the-desert-i-to-fight-or-to-flee http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-i-to-fight-or-to-flee/#comments Fri, 18 Nov 2016 14:50:45 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147841 The dry Sahelian semidesertic region around Tera, Niger. The proteins, vitamins, and micronutrients consumed in fish captured during the rainy seasons can make a major difference to the lives of these vulnerable rural communities, particularly if the fish can be dried and properly stored to be consumed throughout the year. Credit: FAO

The dry Sahelian semidesertic region around Tera, Niger. The proteins, vitamins, and micronutrients consumed in fish captured during the rainy seasons can make a major difference to the lives of these vulnerable rural communities, particularly if the fish can be dried and properly stored to be consumed throughout the year. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 18 2016 (IPS)

To fight or to flee? These are the stark choices Maria, a single mother from the Bangalala midlands of Tanzania, faces repeatedly.

“After the rains failed for a few years, some neighbours claimed our trees were drawing too much water from the ground. We cut them down. Our harvests fell. My mother closed her stall at the local market. That is when my father and I moved from the midlands to the Ruvu Mferejini river valley.”

Maria, whose dramatic story has been told by the United Nations organization leading in combating desertification, goes on to say: “My brother quit school to help the family. He went to find work but he does not earn enough. My mother stayed in Bangalala so that my daughter could go to school because there are no schools in the valley.”

“But where we moved to, my crop also failed last year. That is why early this year I moved yet again, but I left my father behind. I hope to farm here much longer, as I am sure the people I left behind with my father will have to move too. But when will this moving end? I cannot afford it anymore.”

This is not an isolated case–Maria is in the same situation that women in Darfur, Mali, Chad or Afghanistan were in before local conflicts over water or land turned into civil wars, sexual violence or genocide, reports the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“Nor is this situation unique to sub-Saharan Africa where half a billion inhabitants are rural, a majority lives off the land and desertification is a constant threat to their livelihoods,” it alerts in its report Desertification, the Invisible Frontline.“As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.” UNCCD

According to the Bonn-based UNCCD, more than 1.5 billion people in the world depend on degrading land, and 74 per cent of them, like Maria, are poor.

Desertification is a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilising communities on a global scale, says this international legal framework for tackling desertification, land degradation and drought, 169 of its 194 Parties have declared they are affected by desertification.

The consequences are dire. “As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.”

The effects of desertification are increasingly felt globally as victims turn into refugees, internally displaced people and forced migrants or they turn to radicalisation, extremism or resource-driven wars for survival, UNCCD continues.

“If we are to restore peace, security and international stability in a context where changing weather events are threatening the livelihoods of more and more people, survival options are declining and state capacities are overburdened, then more should be done to combat desertification, reverse land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought.’

Otherwise, many small-scale farmers and poor, land-dependent communities face two choices: fight or flight.

UP to 30% of World’s Land Affected by Desertification

For its part, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that desertification currently affects approximately twenty-five to thirty per cent of the world’s land surface area. About 1,2 billion people in at least 100 states are at risk.

Djibo, Burkina Faso – Seedlings are put in place before the planting.  Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Djibo, Burkina Faso – Seedlings are put in place before the planting. Credit: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Over 42 billion dollars in lost productivity or human support occurs each year on account of it. According to UNEP, the global rate of desertification is increasing, although the local rates vary by region.

“Africa, with around sixty-six per cent of its land either desert or drylands, is particularly affected by desertification. Already, a number of large-scale famines have occurred in the Sahelian region, resulting in migration of people towards more hospitable lands.”

Desertification occurs mainly through over-cropping, over-grazing, improper irrigation practices, and deforestation. These activities arise from poor land management, which, in turn, stems from the socio-economic conditions in which the farmers live.

Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, gives specific figures.

“Globally, only 7.8 billion hectares of land are suitable for food production. About 2 billion hectares are already degraded, and of these 500 million hectares have been totally abandoned. These lands could be restored to fertility for future use.”

With 99.7 per cent of our food calories coming from the land –Barbut underlines– land degradation is a threat to our food security. But its effects are especially harsh for the poorest people who rely directly on the land for survival – food, employment and water. When their lands cannot produce any more, they have little choice but to migrate or fight over what little is left.

“Unless we change our approach, when drought comes and the rains fail, the future of the 400 million African farmers who rely on rain fed subsistence agriculture, for example, is put in jeopardy,” Barbut wrote on IPS.

Rain-fed agriculture accounts for more than 95 per cent of farmed land in sub-Saharan Africa. And water scarcity alone could cost some regions 6 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product, she added.

“Unless we change our approach, people are going to be increasingly forced to decide whether to ride out a drought disaster and then rebuild. Or simply leave.”

According to Barbut, “It is a form of madness that we force our people to make these difficult choices.”

Food Insecurity Triggering Riots

In 2008, food insecurity triggered riots in over 30 countries, ccording to the UNCCD. But it is rural communities like those of Bangalala, who depend on rainfed agriculture that contribute to global food security.

The livelihoods of over 2 billion people worldwide depend on 500 million small-scale farmers. Drylands, which make up nearly 34 per cent of the land mass and are a major source of food security especially for the poor, are being degraded day-by-day, it adds.

“Desertification does not always lead to conflict. But it is an amplifier of displacement, forced migration, radicalisation, extremism and violence.”

The US National Security Strategy refers to climate change as a key global challenge that will lead to conflicts over refugees and resources, suffering from drought and famine, catastrophic natural disasters, and the degradation of land across the globe, it reminds.

Therefore, “investing in practical solutions that transform lives and reduce the vulnerability of communities like Maria’s would be cheaper and work better than investing in walls, wars and relief.”

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Phosphate Mining Firms Set Sights on Southern Africa’s Sea Floorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/phosphate-mining-firms-set-sights-on-southern-africas-sea-floor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=phosphate-mining-firms-set-sights-on-southern-africas-sea-floor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/phosphate-mining-firms-set-sights-on-southern-africas-sea-floor/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2016 11:23:49 +0000 Mark Olalde http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147811 President Jacob Zuma answers questions at the National Council of Provinces on Oct. 25, 2016. During the session, he said Operation Phakisa helped drive investments worth R17 billion toward ocean-based aspects of the economy since 2014. Courtesy: Republic of South Africa

President Jacob Zuma answers questions at the National Council of Provinces on Oct. 25, 2016. During the session, he said Operation Phakisa helped drive investments worth R17 billion toward ocean-based aspects of the economy since 2014. Courtesy: Republic of South Africa

By Mark Olalde
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 17 2016 (IPS)

A persistent fear of diminishing phosphorus reserves has pushed mining companies to search far and wide for new sources. Companies identified phosphate deposits on the ocean floor and are fighting for mining rights around the world.

Countries in southern Africa have the potential to set an international precedent by allowing the first offshore mining operations. South Africa specifically is one of the first countries on the continent to begin legislating its marine economy to promote sustainable development, and questions surround mining’s place in this new economy.While the fishing and coastal tourism industries account for slightly more than 1.4 billion dollars of GDP, the potential economic benefits from marine mining remain unclear.

From April 2007 to August 2008, the price of phosphate, a necessary ingredient in fertilizer, increased nearly 950 percent, in part due to the idea that phosphate production had peaked and would begin diminishing. Before prices came back down, prospectors had already begun looking for deep sea phosphate reserves around the world.

Since then, the fledgling seabed phosphate industry has found minimal success. While several operations are proposed in the Pacific islands, New Zealand and Mexico rejected attempts at offshore phosphate mining in their territory.

This means southern African reserves – created in part by currents carrying phosphate-rich water from Antarctica – are the new center of debate.

Namibia owns identified seabed phosphate deposits, and the country has recently flip-flopped about whether to allow mining. A moratorium was in place since 2013, but in September the environmental minister made the controversial decision to grant the necessary licenses. Since then, public outcry forced him to set those aside.

Most attempts at seabed phosphate mining have sputtered in the face of moratoriums and other roadblocks. Graphic courtesy of Centre for Environmental Rights

Most attempts at seabed phosphate mining have sputtered in the face of moratoriums and other roadblocks. Graphic courtesy of Centre for Environmental Rights

The former general project manager of Namibian Marine Phosphate (Pty) Ltd, a company that applied to mine in Namibia, told IPS that environmental groups and fisheries proved to be a loud and organised opposition. He predicted the debate in South Africa would be just as difficult for mining companies to win with no precedent for such mining.

Adnan Awad, director of the non-profit International Ocean Institute’s African region, said, “There is generally this anticipation that South African processes for mining and for the policy around some of these activities are setting a bit of a precedent and a bit of a model for how it can be pursued in other areas.”

Three companies, Green Flash Trading 251 (Pty) Ltd, Green Flash 257 (Pty) Ltd and Diamond Fields International Ltd., hold prospecting rights covering about 150,000 square kilometers, roughly 10 percent, of the country’s marine exclusive economic zone.

Diamond Fields International’s prospecting right along 47,468 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean shares space with areas of oil exploration and production. Source: Diamond Fields International Ltd. background information document

Diamond Fields International’s prospecting right along 47,468 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean shares space with areas of oil exploration and production. Source: Diamond Fields International Ltd. background information document

The law firm Steyn Kinnear Inc. represents both Green Flash 251 and Green Flash 257. “Currently it does not seem as if there is going to be any progress, and there is definitely not going to be any mining right application,” Wynand Venter, an attorney at the firm, said, calling the project “uneconomical.”

Venter said the Green Flash companies received drill samples, which showed current prices could not sustain seabed phosphate mining.

This leaves Diamond Fields as the only remaining player in South African waters. The company announced in a January 2014 press release that it received a 47,468 square kilometer prospecting right to search for phosphate.

According to information the company published summarising its environmental management plan, prospecting would use seismic testing to determine the benthic, or seafloor, geology. If mining commenced, it would take place on the seafloor between 180 and 500 meters below the surface.

“A vital and indisputable link exists between phosphate rock and world food supply,” the company stated, citing dwindling phosphate reserves.

Diamond Fields did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Environmentalists argue that not only would phosphate mining destroy marine ecosystems, but it would also lead to continued overuse of fertilizers and associated pollution. They call for increased research into phosphate recapture technology instead of mining.

“We could actually be solving the problem of too much phosphates in our water and recapturing it. Instead we’re going to destroy our ocean ecosystems,” John Duncan of WWF-SA said.

The act of offshore mining requires a vessel called a trailing suction hopper dredger, which takes up seafloor sediment and sends waste back into the water column.

A southern right whale swims off the coast of the Western Cape province near Hermanus, a town renowned for its whale watching. South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources granted three prospecting rights covering about 150,000 square kilometers, or 10 percent, of the country’s exclusive economic zone. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

A southern right whale swims off the coast of the Western Cape province near Hermanus, a town renowned for its whale watching. South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources granted three prospecting rights covering about 150,000 square kilometers, or 10 percent, of the country’s exclusive economic zone. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

“It amounts to a kind of bulldozer that operates on the seabed and excavates sediment down to a depth of two or three meters. Where it operates, it’s like opencast mining on land. It removes the entire substrate. That substrate become unavailable to fisheries for many years, if not forever,” Johann Augustyn, secretary of the South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association, said.

In addition to direct habitat destruction, environmentalists argue the plume of sediment released into the ocean could spread out to smother additional areas and harm wildlife.

Mining opponents also worry offshore mining would negatively impact food production and economic growth.

Several thousand subsistence farmers live along South Africa’s coast, and the country’s large-scale fishing industry produces around 600,000 metric tonnes of catch per year.

“[Mining] may lead to large areas becoming deserts for the fish populations that were there. If they don’t die off, they won’t find food there, and they’ll probably migrate out of those areas,” Augustyn said.

While the fishing and coastal tourism industries account for slightly more than 1.4 billion dollars of GDP, the potential economic benefits from marine mining remain unclear. There are no published estimates for job creation, but Namibian Marine Phosphate’s proposal said it would lead to 176 new jobs, not all of them local.

“The benefits are not coming back to the greater South African community,” Awad said. “African countries generally have been quite poor at negotiating the benefits through multinational companies’ exploitation of coastal resources.”

South Africa is one of only three African nations – along with Namibia and Seychelles – implementing marine spatial planning. This growing movement toward organised marine economies balances competing uses such as oil exploration, marine protected areas and fisheries. Earlier this year, the Department of Environmental Affairs, DEA, published a draft Marine Spatial Planning Bill, the first step toward creating marine-specific legislation.

According to government predictions, a properly managed marine economy could add more than 12.5 billion dollars to South Africa’s GDP by 2033. What part mining will play in that remains to be seen.

“Internationally the off-shore exploration for hard minerals is on the increase and it is to be expected that the exploitation of South Africa’s non-living marine resources will also increase,” the DEA’s draft framework said.

Neither the Department of Mineral Resources nor the DEA responded to repeated requests for comment.

Mark Olalde’s mining investigations are financially supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Fund for Environmental Journalism and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Additional support for this story was provided by #MineAlert and Code for Africa.

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Thriving Rural Communities Is a Recipe for Healthy Citieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/thriving-rural-communities-is-a-recipe-for-healthy-cities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thriving-rural-communities-is-a-recipe-for-healthy-cities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/thriving-rural-communities-is-a-recipe-for-healthy-cities/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2016 07:00:24 +0000 Josefina Stubbs and David Lewis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147796 Josefina Stubbs is candidate for President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). She has served in IFAD as Associate Vice-President of Strategy and Knowledge from 2014 - 2016 and as Director of Latin America and the Caribbean from 2008 - 2014.

David Lewis is Professor of Social Policy and Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His research interests include international development policy and rural development.]]>
Karachi's slums interfere with planning. Credit: Muhammad Arshad/IPS

Karachi's slums interfere with planning. Credit: Muhammad Arshad/IPS

By Josefina Stubbs and David Lewis
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic and LONDON, Nov 17 2016 (IPS)

As the dust has settled on Habitat III and the summit in Quito, Ecuador, we now have a clear vision and a concrete road map for how to transform our cities into inclusive, safer and more productive environments. The New Urban Agenda comes at a propitious time. Urbanization is growing at a fast pace, particularly in developing countries, where the urban population is expected to double by 2050. In South Asia alone, the urban population grew by 130 million between 2001 and 2011, according to recent World Bank study. Another 250 million are expected to join them by 2030.

A woman at a public water tank in a Bangalore slum. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

A woman at a public water tank in a Bangalore slum. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

But to lead to lasting change and prosperity for all, investments in cities must come hand in hand with massive transformation of rural areas to bring them up to par, if not to make them more attractive than cities. The exponential growth of cities is by and large the result of a growing divide between urban and rural realities, where the endemic lack of basic services and jobs drive rural people away from their rural communities and into cities. In the rush to engage with the challenges of urbanization we cannot afford to lose sight of the rural.

Rural communities are no longer isolated from the rest of the world. Young people all have smartphones with an Internet connection. They know that there are places that offer better services, better jobs and a better life than the one they can hope for back home.

As young women and men leave rural areas in large numbers, they leave the very communities that they should be strengthening and shaping, abandoning their friends, families and culture. They migrate to larger cities in search of work and of a better future, but without formal education or skills, many are confined to the fringes of the society to which they aspire. The exodus of young people threatens the fabric of rural societies and exacerbates the problems the New Urban Agenda is designed to tackle: precarious and insalubrious housing, joblessness, insecurity and overpopulation.

Kisenyi slum, in Uganda’s capital Kampala is believed to be home to a large portion of the country’s almost 12,000 Somali immigrants. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Kisenyi slum, in Uganda’s capital Kampala is believed to be home to a large portion of the country’s almost 12,000 Somali immigrants. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

People migrate when their choices at home are limited. By investing in people’s skills and knowledge, rural business development, technical assistance and by providing financial support, connectivity, quality roads, health services, electricity and connectivity, we can widen people’s options and reduce the pressure on urban areas. I have seen this happen in countries where the creation of a decentralized university network increased the number of highly educated youth in rural communities and contributed to transforming once abandoned rural centers into bustling rural towns. I have seen this happen in communities where small investments in business development and access to financial services allowed rural entrepreneurs to start viable business activities, generating income for their families, jobs for their neighbors and services for their community.

There is another reason why thriving rural areas are essential to the prosperity of urban centers. Smallholder farmers and fisher folk are the primary producers of food in most of the developing world. In Asia, Africa and in the Caribbean, they produce up to 90 per cent of the food people eat every day. As urban populations grow, there will be a need to step up the quantity and the quality of food produced by rural communities. Fresh produce will need to get to the markets faster and in better conditions, and farmers will have to be paid fairer prices for their products to be able to make investments to improve production, safeguard the environment, and build resilience to a changing climate.

Children in a slum in Peru.  Courtesy of La República/IPS

Children in a slum in Peru. Courtesy of La República/IPS

Rural and urban communities are highly dependent on each other for sustainable growth. We live in one, interconnected world where inequalities between people, regions and countries drive more and more people out of their communities and into cities in search of a better life. By improving the living conditions of poor rural people and giving them opportunities for growth, we can reduce the pressure on large metropolises and create more balanced, prosperous societies.

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Climate Change, A Goat Farmer’s Gainhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/climate-change-a-goat-farmers-gain/#comments Tue, 15 Nov 2016 11:14:43 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147763 Nomsa Mthethwa, from Jozini in KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa, has put her children through university from goat keeping. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Nomsa Mthethwa, from Jozini in KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa, has put her children through university from goat keeping. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
KWAZULU NATAL PROVINCE, South Africa, Nov 15 2016 (IPS)

Bongekile Ndimande’s family lost more 30 head of cattle to a ravaging drought last season, but a herd of goats survived and is now her bank on four legs.

In money value, the drought deprived Ndimande of more than 21,000 dollars. Each goat would be worth an average of 714 dollars if they had survived in the dry, hot and rocky environment in her village of Ncunjana in the KwaZulu Natal Province, which has been stalked by a drought that swept across Southern Africa.Goats are much better at dealing with drought, vulnerability and a changing environment than cattle. They're also easier for women to herd.

More than 40 million people are in need of food following one of the worst droughts ever in the region, with the Southern African Development Community launching a 2.8-billion-dollar emergency aid appeal.

Smallholder farmers in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal Province have shifted to goat production to adapt to climate change. Their fortitude could be a success story for African agriculture in need of transformation to produce more food to feed more people but with fewer resources.

Livestock farmers like Ndimande are making good of a bad situation. They need help to cope with worsening extreme weather events which have led to increased food, nutrition and income security in many parts of Africa.

Science, innovation and technology

Adapting agriculture to climate change and climate financing are pressing issues at the seminal 22nd meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 22) which opened this week in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh. Morocco – already setting the pace in implementing the global deal to fight climate change through innovative projects – has unveiled the Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA), a 30-billion-dollar initiative to transform and adapt African agriculture.

The transformation of the agricultural sectors in addressing climate change is essential to tackling hunger and poverty, José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, said in a message in the run-up to the COP 22 following the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on Nov. 4. Agricultural sectors are uniquely positioned to drive sustainable development through climate-smart sustainable agriculture approaches, da Silva emphasised.

Almost all African countries have included agriculture in their climate action plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), highlighting the grave risk that climate change poses both to food security and economic growth on the continent, said Bruce Campbell, director of the CGIAR research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Science, innovation and technology will be at the core of adaption in African agriculture, he said.

According to the African Development Bank, 315 to 400 billion dollars will be needed in the next decade to implement the continent’s agricultural transformation agenda.

Harnessing technology is one of many solutions in addressing the impacts of climate change if smallholder farmers are to sustainably produce food, while rearing livestock. The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) – which has launched a regional project to improve farmer’s access to technologies to lift them out of hunger and poverty – has identified diversifying livestock-based livelihoods as one of four proven solutions that cereal and livestock farmers in Southern Africa can adopt to transit to climate-resilient agriculture.

Goat fortunes

Swapping cattle for goats has allowed Ndimande to grow her flock from 30 goats three years ago to 57 goats and 15 kids. Last year, she sold six goats at an average price of 67 dollars each and invested the proceeds in a new three-bedroom tile and brick house.

Ndimande is one of several farmers in KwaZulu Natal Province who, through training in goat management under a collaborative agribusiness and Community Animal Health Worker project, are helping transform livestock farming.

The Mdukatshani Rural Development Project is a 5-million-dollar partnership between the national Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, the KwaZulu Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Heifer International South Africa to double goat production by developing 7,000 female commercial farmers and creating over 600 jobs for the youth in KwaZulu Natal Province.

In addition, the project seeks to create 270 micro-businesses and generate 7.1 million dollars in revenue within five years.

“Goats have given me food and income because I am able to sell them within a short space of time unlike cattle,” Ndimande told IPS, explaining that better livestock management skills have improved her flock.

Goats are much better at dealing with drought, vulnerability and a changing environment than cattle. They’re also easier for women to herd, said Rauri Alcock, a director of the Mdukatshani Rural Development Project.

“Women are our priority attention because they are in charge in many households and are the vulnerable people we are trying to get to, so goats, women, global warming come together very well,” Alcock told IPS during a tour of agribusiness project organised jointly by CTA and the Southern Africa Confederation of Agriculture Unions (SACAU) for livestock farmers from across Southern Africa.

Alcock explains that Mdukatshani Rural Development Project’s main entry point has been helping farmers avoiding kids’ deaths in their flocks. Despite being productive, the high mortality of kids at weaning lowers productivity for a farmer to be able to start selling their goats.

“Goats are an adaptation strategy as we talk about climate change. We see that male farmers who have had cattle and lost them are now moving towards keeping goats because goats are actually more resilient and better animals for a harsh changing environment,” said Alcock.

Another farmer, Sikhumbuzo Ndawonde (46), a former steel factory worker in Johannesburg until he was retrenched, has supported his family through keeping goats even though he does not eat them.

“I never eat any goat meat but I love keeping them because I get good income from them besides being able to have a goat for traditional ceremonies. They are now my job,” said Ndawonde, who has a flock of 33 goats and sells at least 10 goats each year.

Climate change has winder implications for livestock keepers in Southern Africa but with management, this is a route to sustainable livelihoods, says Sikhalazo Dube, a livestock specialist and the Southern Africa regional Representative for the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

“One of the challenges caused by elevated levels of carbon in the atmosphere is increase in the woody component of the vegetation. Goats as largely browsers are best suited to reduce bush encroachment and in the process benefit nutritionally,” said Dube, adding that in declining feed availability due to drought, keeping goats is ideal.

Small stock can be produced in small areas and require less feed, making them ideal for women and youth who are often landless or not supported to own land to use as an entry point for income generation and Small Medium Scale Enterprises, Dube said.

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Peace Fails to Bring Prosperity in Eastern Sri Lankahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/peace-fails-to-bring-prosperity-in-eastern-sri-lanka/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=peace-fails-to-bring-prosperity-in-eastern-sri-lanka http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/peace-fails-to-bring-prosperity-in-eastern-sri-lanka/#comments Mon, 07 Nov 2016 11:07:34 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147667 Worshippers pray inside the Meera Mosque in Katankuddi, in front of the bullet-riddled wall dating back to an attack that killed over 100 people 25 years ago. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Worshippers pray inside the Meera Mosque in Katankuddi, in front of the bullet-riddled wall dating back to an attack that killed over 100 people 25 years ago. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
KATANKUDDI, Nov 7 2016 (IPS)

It is a Tuesday afternoon and only a handful of devotees have flocked to the Meera Grand Mosque in Katankuddi, about 300 kms east of the capital Colombo.

As they prostrate in prayer, the wall in front of them is anything but pious. It is pock-marked with hundreds of holes bored into it when attackers opened fire using automatic weapons on Aug. 3, 1990. Suspected Tamil Tiger separatists attacked the Meera Mosque and another smaller prayer center Husainiya Mosque close by. By the time the attackers fled, 103 people were dead.“During the war, we had less people here. Now there are more people, more cattle and more elephants fighting for the same water and the same land.” -- villager Wickrama Rajapaksa

The mosque committee and villagers have kept the bullet-riddled wall as a reminder of the regions bloody past. For over 30 years, Katankuddi was in throes of Sri Lanka’s bloody civil strife. A Muslim enclave surrounded by Tamil villages, Katankuddi suffered terribly. Its population felt besieged and was waiting for the first opportunity to flee. As in most of Sri Lanka’s North and East, where the war left over 100,000 dead, millions were displaced and the region suffered billions of dollars in damages and losses.

But the nightmare ended seven years back, when government won its war with the Tamil Tigers. Since then, towns like Katankuddi have adjusted to peace — and with it, to a whole new set of problems.

For starters, not many people want to leave Katankuddi, but hundreds want to somehow find a home there. It was never a village with much open space to spare. Because of its ethnic composition, Katankuddi was always jam-packed. Now it is bursting at the seams.

In a land area of 3.89 sq km, there are 53,000 residents and a population density of 13,664 per sq km, over 20 times the national average of between 300 to 400. According to M.M. Shafi, the secretary of the Katankuddi Urban Council, in the last five years alone, at least 500 families have returned or relocated to Katankuddi.

“People now don’t want to leave,” he said.

Peace has brought with it a huge, stinking garbage problem. Shafi and other public officials have to find ways to dispose of a daily garbage collection as high as 30,000 metric tonnes. They do have a small compost plant, but it is no match for the daily collection.

During wartime, the Urban Council began dumping the garbage in the lagoon. Nowadays, that dump is a massive man-made island extending 75 metres into the lagoon. The landfill has also provided a playground to a nearby school and with its exceptional growth rate, it can easily provide for more.

“The Muslim nature of this town can not be changed, it something that is very important. But we do have a land problem — a big problem,” said Mohamed Zubair, vice president of the Katankuddi Mosque Federation.

It such a massive problem that land value here is equal to some outlying areas near the capital Colombo. “When the war was on, the demand for land was manageable. Now it is going through the roof,” public official Shafi said.

Children ride bicycles home from school in Welikanda, Sri Lanka, which has seen a large influx of settlers since the end of the war. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Children ride bicycles home from school in Welikanda, Sri Lanka, which has seen a large influx of settlers since the end of the war. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Even in poorer areas of the region, land and resources like water have become scarce. In Welikanda, about 70 kms west of Katankuddi, the villages are much more spread out and the green cover is more conspicuous — but so is the poverty.

Public official Harsha Bandara says that even the Welikanda division is facing a serious shortage of water and agricultural land. In the last six months, it has suffered a major dry spell. By end of October, over 35,000 people were reliant on transported water in the division.

“The problem is that since the war’s end, people are not leaving. They will plant crops throughout the year and look for new land as well. On top of that, the rain patterns have changed, so we have a situation here,” said Bandara, who is the divisional secretary for Welikanda.

For villagers like Wickrama Rajapaksa, the drought means double trouble. “Elephants, they keep coming into villages, because dry earth makes the electric fence faulty and they know that. They also know that there are no firearms in the villages since the end of the war, but that where there are humans, there is food and water.”

He said that thousands of cattle from other parts of the country have been relocated to Welikanda and adjoining areas since the end of the war by large dairy companies.

“During the war, we had less people here. Now there are more people, more cattle and more elephants fighting for the same water and the same land.”

The government is drafting a new constitution that it plans to finalise before the end of the year and put to a public vote in 2017. But Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe recently said that the draft will protect the special place accorded to Buddhism in the existing charter, leading to fears that the Tamil minority will continue to be second-class citizens.

“The political history of modern Sri Lanka is one of missed opportunities by the Tamils and broken promises by the Sinhalese,” Mano Ganesan, Minister of National Co-Existence and Official Languages, told the Indian Express this month.

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Did You Try Out Rosemary’s Ceci or Makhlouta with Banana Bread?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/did-you-try-out-rosemarys-ceci-or-makhlouta-with-banana-bread/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=did-you-try-out-rosemarys-ceci-or-makhlouta-with-banana-bread http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/did-you-try-out-rosemarys-ceci-or-makhlouta-with-banana-bread/#comments Mon, 07 Nov 2016 08:40:05 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147665 Banana is the eighth most important food crop in the world and the fourth most important in developing countries. Credit: FAO

Banana is the eighth most important food crop in the world and the fourth most important in developing countries. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 7 2016 (IPS)

The original inhabitants of Planet Earth already knew—and still know how to eat healthy. Modern, urbanised and industrialised people mostly not. Anyway, life can be made easier than one may think. Just see what a world leading specialised body in the field of food and nutrition advises on what to eat and even how to cook it.

Take the case of one of the world’s most favourite foods—banana in all its forms: banana split, banana muffins, banana bread, banana pudding, banana pancakes… Whether plain, cooked, baked or fried, bananas are among the most widely consumed fruits on the planet.

However, how much do you really know about this most produced and exported fruit? asks the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). And the answers provided are some interesting facts you should know about bananas:

1. Based on written references discovered in Sanskrit around the year 500 BC, some horticulturalists believe that bananas were the first fruit on earth.

They are one of the most important tropical fruits, an important cash crop grown on large plantations for export, and an essential staple food for many developing countries.

2. Bananas come in various shapes and forms. In fact, there are over 1 000 banana varieties. The most common one, which the commercial banana industry relies on, is the sweet and seedless Cavendish banana.

Banana is the eighth most important food crop in the world and the fourth most important in developing countries. Credit: FAO

Banana is the eighth most important food crop in the world and the fourth most important in developing countries. Credit: FAO


3. The Cavendish banana variety, which accounts for 95 per cent of all bananas sold commercially, is seedless, making it extremely convenient to eat. However, seedless also means sterile – unable to reproduce through normal seeding processes.

Today’s commercial banana industry relies almost totally on the Cavendish because marketing only one variety makes harvesting, packaging and transport more cost-effective and delivers a uniform product.

4. The Cavendish banana contains around 400 milligrams of potassium per 100 g fresh fruit, comparable to many cooked pulses, meat or fish. If consumed on a regular basis, bananas can help regulate blood pressure and control the activity of the heart. Those who consume high amounts of potassium have up to 27% lower risk of heart disease.

5. Some banana varieties have high vitamin A contents such as the Utin Lap, a variety grown in Micronesia. Eating one of these small bananas (about 100 g) covers the vitamin A requirement for 2 days.

6. Bananas can help athletes increase their performance. Besides a high potassium content, they provide a quick boost of energy and are a source of vitamins C and B6.

7. Often used as a natural remedy, banana peel can soothe an itchy mosquito bite. Rubbing the area with the inside of a banana skin can give immediate relief as its sugars help to draw fluid out of the bite.

8. Bananas are grown and harvested all year round and are ready to be harvested 8 to 10 months after planting. They are more likely to fruit in warm weather. It is highly efficient to cultivate bananas to cover the human requirements for a wide range of nutrients.

Per hectare and year, bananas and potatoes produce nine important nutrients (energy, protein, dietary fiber, Fe, Zn, Ca, vitamin A, vitamin C and foliate), more than cereals or any other food.

Spanish chickpea & spinach stew. This Spanish chickpea & spinach stew is a perfect and satisfying meal, original from Andalusia (Spain). A very rich and nourishing dish that is perfect for lunch or dinner. Credit: FAO

Spanish chickpea & spinach stew. This Spanish chickpea & spinach stew is a perfect and satisfying meal, original from Andalusia (Spain). A very rich and nourishing dish that is perfect for lunch or dinner. Credit: FAO


9. Bananas are produced in over 135 countries and territories across the tropics and subtropics. India ranks number one with 29.7 million tonnes per year, followed by Uganda (11.1 million tonnes per year) and China (10.7 million tonnes per year).

10. Despite predicted temperature increases of 3°C by 2070, increasing annual temperatures will make conditions more favourable for banana production in the subtropics and in tropical highlands. Land area suitable for bananas will increase 5o per cent by 2070.

Don’t Like Banana?

What if you do not like or do not wish to eat bananas, but want to have healthy, affordable food? Take then any of Nature’s nutritious seeds.

Also here, FAO gives you 10 good reasons why you should opt for pulses.

In many countries, it adds, they are part of the cultural heritage and are consumed on a regular basis. In other parts of the world, they hardly garner a mention except when served as soup on a cold winter’s day.
However, these tiny, multi-coloured seeds have been one of nature’s nutritious foods since time began. Here is why:

1. Pulses are naturally low in fat and contain no cholesterol, which can contribute to reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Karela Keema with Chana dal. Chana dal and Karela is a unique and healthy combination. This dish is tangy, crunchy and spicy but not bitter. It is delicious, nutritious and easy to digest. Chickpeas India. Credit: FAO

Karela Keema with Chana dal. Chana dal and Karela is a unique and healthy combination. This dish is tangy, crunchy and spicy but not bitter. It is delicious, nutritious and easy to digest. Chickpeas India. Credit: FAO


2. Pulses are also low in sodium. Sodium chloride – or salt – is a contributor to hypertension and can be avoided by consuming foods with lower sodium levels such as pulses. It is recommended that a small amount of salt should be added to the cooking water or the final dish.

3. They are a great source of plant-based protein. Surprisingly, 100 grams of raw lentils contain a remarkable 25 grams of protein. During cooking, pulses absorb considerable amounts of water thus reducing the protein content of cooked lentils to around 8 per cent. Consuming cereals with pulses has the potential to increase the protein quality of the overall meal.

4. The small seeds are a good source of iron. Iron deficiency is considered one of the most prevalent forms of malnutrition and is one of the most common types of anaemia. However, iron from animal source foods is better used by the body than the iron obtained from pulses.

To improve the iron absorption, it is advised to combine pulses with foods containing vitamin C (lemon juice on lentil curry for example) and to soak them before cooking to diminish the phytate content, which is known to hinder mineral absorption in the intestine.

5. Pulses are high in potassium, which supports the heart function and plays an important role for digestive and muscular functions.

6. Pulses are often quoted among the top high fibre foods, necessary for supporting digestive health and helping to reduce the risks of cardiovascular diseases.

7. Pulses are an excellent source of folate – a B-vitamin naturally present in many foods – that is essential to the nervous system function and especially important during pregnancy to prevent foetal neural tube defects.

8. Pulses can be stored for a long time and thus can help to increase the diversity of diets, especially in developing countries.

9. Pulses are low glycemic index foods. They increase satiety and help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels, making them suitable for people with diabetes and ideal for weight management.

10. Finally, pulses are naturally gluten-free. This makes them an ideal option for coeliacs.

Still hungry? For more details from the world of pulses visit the International Year of Pulses 2016 website.

And find your favorite pulses recipe to try out!

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Beyond Calais: A Perspective on Migration, Agriculture and Rural Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/beyond-calais-a-perspective-on-migration-agriculture-and-rural-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-calais-a-perspective-on-migration-agriculture-and-rural-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/beyond-calais-a-perspective-on-migration-agriculture-and-rural-development/#comments Mon, 07 Nov 2016 06:15:10 +0000 Jose Graziano da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147657 José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).]]> José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

By José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Nov 7 2016 (IPS)

Migration is part of the process of development. It is not a problem in itself, and could, in fact, offer a solution to a number of matters. Migrants can make a positive and profound contribution to the economic and social development of their countries of origin, transit and destination alike. To quote the New York Declaration, adopted at the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants on 19 September, “migrants can help to respond to demographic trends, labour shortages and other challenges in host societies, and add fresh skills and dynamism to the latter’s economies”.

So far this year, already more than 320,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean in search of a better future. Thousands have lost their lives doing so. Those that have survived face uncertain prospects at their destinations. Many are confronted with hostility and inhumane new realities. Migrants and refugees are often perceived negatively in their host communities, deemed to “steal’’ jobs and drain financial and social services. At personal and collective levels, this creates a certain sense of disquiet.

Tighter border controls are not the solution. They have instead resulted in more deaths at sea and more human rights violations. Without adequate policies that respond to migrants’ need to leave and that offer accessible, regular, safe and affordable avenues for migration, countries risk being left alone to deal with very complex challenges, possibly falling into chaos and disorganization.

In many cases, this translates into the adoption of less than desirable informal solutions, where the risk of abuses of the rights of migrants and asylum seekers is high. What has been happening in the Jungle camp near Calais in France shows that the most vulnerable, such as unaccompanied children, are those most at risk.

The challenge is huge. If we do not act in a timely manner, tensions will only rise further.

We need to address the root causes behind large movements of migrants and refugees, bringing together humanitarian and development responses. We also need channels for regular migration, facilitating migrants’ integration and contributions to development.

FAO argues that investing in sustainable rural development, climate change adaptation and resilient livelihoods is an important part of the solution, including in conflict-affected and protracted crisis situations.

Forty percent of international remittances are sent to rural areas, indicating that a large share of migrants originate from rural locations. Globally, three-quarters of the extreme poor base their livelihoods on agriculture. And by 2050, over half of the population in least developed countries will still be living in rural areas, despite increased urbanisation.

Agriculture and rural development can help address the root causes of migration, including rural poverty, food insecurity, inequality, unemployment, and lack of social protection, as well as natural resource depletion due to environmental degradation and climate change.

Agriculture and rural development can create sustainable livelihood options in rural areas. This kind of support can also help prevent the outbreak of conflicts over natural resources, and help host communities and displaced people cope with and recover from shocks by building their resilience.

Youth deserve particular attention. One-third of international migrants from developing countries are aged 15-34, moving mainly in search of better employment opportunities. By making agriculture a sustainable and attractive employment option and developing food value chains, millions of new and better jobs could be created.

Together with its partners, FAO supports global and country efforts on migration, bringing its specialized expertise on food security, resilience-building and sustainable agriculture and rural development. It does so by generating data on migration and rural development, supporting capacity development at country and regional level, facilitating policy dialogue and scaling-up innovative solutions to enhance agriculture-based livelihoods, social protection coverage and job opportunities in rural areas, as well as to build resilience in protracted crisis situations.

Since 2014, FAO has been a member of the Global Migration Group (GMG). The GMG has played an important role in coordinating inputs from different UN agencies for the process of intergovernmental negotiations that led to the adoption of the New York Declaration during the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants.

GMG will assume the same role in preparation of the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration by 2018. FAO stands ready to lend its technical expertise and share best practices, to ensure that the need to address the root causes of migration, including from rural areas, is taken into account in major global fora.

FAO will also enhance the collaboration with key partners in the area of migration and development, at global, regional and country level. In this regard, FAO is discussing ways to foster country-level collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Note on the terminology: FAO uses the term migration to refer to the movement of people, either within a country or across international borders. It includes all kinds of movements, irrespective of the drivers, duration and voluntary/involuntary nature. It encompasses economic migrants, distress migrants, internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees and asylum seekers, returnees and people moving for other purposes, including for education and family reunification.

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Q&A: Bangladesh’s ‘Higher Trajectory of Development’ Not Easy but Achievablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/qa-bangladeshs-higher-trajectory-of-development-not-easy-but-achievable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-bangladeshs-higher-trajectory-of-development-not-easy-but-achievable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/qa-bangladeshs-higher-trajectory-of-development-not-easy-but-achievable/#comments Mon, 31 Oct 2016 21:16:25 +0000 Mahfuzur Rahman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147564 Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad. Credit: PKSF

Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad. Credit: PKSF

By Mahfuzur Rahman
DHAKA, Oct 31 2016 (IPS)

Bangladesh, a country of 160 million people, has made significant progress in its efforts to accelerate economic growth, reduce poverty and promote social development, but it now faces certain challenges in consolidating these achievements and marching forward on the higher trajectory of development, says one of its leading economists.

The areas of challenge include inequality of various types (economic, social, rural-urban, gender), governance deficits, lack of effective focus on human dignity, rather sticky private investment, and ineffective coordination among agencies working on implementation of policies and plans."This is a life-cycle approach starting with conception of a child and finishing with old age and breathing of the last breath, intervening at all stages of life."

In an interview with IPS, Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman of the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, a public-sector apex development body working with over 200 Partner Organisations (POs) across Bangladesh, implementing programmes with focus on human development of the downtrodden, said the country has been able to reduce poverty by almost 20 percentage points over the last 10 years or so.

But, the economist says, it will be harder for Bangladesh to address the remaining part of poverty, particularly hardcore poverty. Hence, more focused and coordinated efforts are needed to achieve the goal of eradicating extreme poverty within a reasonable time period.

He stressed the importance of pursuing an inclusive approach to promoting human development and human dignity instead of focusing too much on GDP. Dr Kholiquzzaman also says more committed actions are needed to check corruption and wastage to further accelerate development.

Pointing out that microcredit is an ‘ineffective formula’, he says the PKSF has shifted its focus from microcredit to the human being, providing both financial and non-financial services, including education and healthcare, training, managing climate change effects, social capital formation, skill development training, assistance in accessing appropriate technologies, market information, and assistance in marketing of products.

Excerpts from the interview follow.

Q: These days, Bangladesh is acclaimed for its success on the socio-economic front. What role is PKSF playing in the country’s poverty alleviation process?

A. In recent years, Bangladesh has been making major strides in it socio-economic progress, which is recognised internationally. The PKSF makes its contribution to the process, given its mandate and abilities. The PKSF, established in 1990 by the government of Bangladesh as a not-for-profit organisation, works through Partner Organisations (POs) which are carefully selected non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It has now over 200 POs.

It has its presence in all the upazilas (sub-districts) of the country, with the number of families served being over 10 million (45-50 million people). The PKSF provides support not only in terms of credit, but also provides necessary non-financial services. In its Memorandum of Association, microcredit is not even mentioned. Education, health services, livelihood improvement, and employment generation are listed as the purposes of the PKSF.

Credit is mentioned, but that need not only be microcredit. Actually, we interpret it as being appropriate credit. The upper limit is now 12,800 dollars and the minimum is an amount for an ultra-poor family that it can purposefully use. Moreover, credit is now provided as part of a package that also includes skill training, access to technologies, and marketing assistance.

Q:  Some 20-22 lakh (2 to 2.2 million) young people are now entering the country’s job market every year. What role the PKSF is playing in creating jobs?

A: Bangladesh has before it a huge demographic dividend to realise as a large part of its population is young. To realise these dividends means that the huge young population should be educated and trained and enabled to participate effectively in the socio-economic transformation processes. So, the PKSF focuses on skill training and employment generation for youths.

The PKSF implements programmes of total household development, which include education, health services, skill training, sports for children, youth development, and caring for old-age people. In fact, this is a life-cycle approach starting with conception of a child and finishing with old age and breathing of the last breath, intervening at all stages of life.

Q: What are the major challenges Bangladesh faces in eliminating poverty further? How can it move fast to close the urban-rural divide in development?

A: Bangladesh has reduced poverty very significantly, reducing it by about 20 percentage points over the last 10 years or so. It is now down to about 22 percent. Extreme poverty is now down to about 11.5 percent. In terms of numbers, still the poor account for over 36 million and extreme poor over 18 million. It may not be easy to eradicate the remaining part of extreme poverty as the circumstances of the people involved are highly constrained and different groups have different specific problems.

Among the extreme poor, there are certain groups which have been, by and large, bypassed by the significant socio-economic progress achieved: the dalit (so-called untouchables) and street cleaners, street children, female agricultural workers, hijras (transgender group), baggers, physically-challenged people, people living in haors and baors (wetlands), on riverbanks and in hills. These people have been left out; and it is not easy to address their problems as each group has different problems.

The government is evolving policies and programmes for these groups. The PKSF is also focusing on them, taking into account the needs of these various groups separately to address their specific problems.

Let me make a particular point here. Be it within the government or outside, there is a widespread concern about GDP growth in Bangladesh. In fact, this is very fashionable. International agencies such as the World Bank and ADB also join in. This conventional focus on GDP is not very useful from the point of view of inclusive development. Of course, growth of income is necessary. But, its distribution is crucial for inclusive and sustainable development. From this point of view, it is more useful to focus on the human being.

Q: Income inequality is now touted as a big challenge. How can Bangladesh address it?

A: The market economy has an inherent divisiveness as those who have money and access to technology and administration get more and more, depriving others of their legitimate shares, and accentuating disparity in the process. Disparity is measured in relation to income, consumption, and also wealth. In Bangladesh, income and consumption disparities are glaring; but these are not too bad here, considering that globally the richest one percent control half the world’s wealth and richest one percent of the population controls 40 percent of wealth in the USA.

We should focus, in particular, on people in rural Bangladesh. The rural economy is not only agricultural, but also non-agricultural sectors. And outside agriculture, there are lots of manufacturing and trading activities that are now emerging. If appropriate support is given to them, these will flourish.

Q: What needs to be done so women’s contributions are measured as economic activity and they feel that they are economic partners in the family and the community?

A: Women’s contributions to household economy and national economy come from their participation in formal and informal sectors, and performing household chores. Even those, who work outside home in formal or informal sectors, also take care of household chores. And women are also responsible for child rearing. The huge contribution made to the household economy in terms of not only housekeeping but also performing most of the post-harvest activities and often also agricultural field activities by women of farming families is not recognised as economic activity and, therefore, not valued in money terms.

This, I think, amounts to belittling women and their status. In fact, this is similar in the developing world in general. If women’s household level activities and their work in informal sectors are economically evaluated and added to national income, Bangladesh may already be a middle-income country.

Q: How do you look at discrimination against female workers in the RMG (readymade garment) sector?

A: As I said, they do double the work as they look after children, manage the kitchen, and perform other household chores and then work in offices, factories and other workplaces. Those women who work in RMG factories face many difficulties like unpleasant office and factory environments as, in many cases, there is no separate toilet and no separate common room for them.

When it comes to wages, there is discrimination as well. Even when they do the same work as their male counterparts, they are paid less. And at the decision-making level across the sectors, the number of women is still very small. Sexual harassment is another difficulty they face at workplaces. Media can play an important role in helping resolve the issues by highlighting them again and again.

Q: Has there been any international replication of the PKSF model?

A: Our current model is not properly replicated yet by any country. Earlier, the concept of an apex body for microfinance was replicated in Sri Lanka, Nepal, and some other countries to channel funds for microfinance. Now, some countries and organisations are showing interest in the new PKSF approach.

The OIC Secretary General, in one of his visits to Bangladesh, was briefed about the PKSF and its people-focused, multidimensional integrated approach to poverty eradication and sustainable development. He showed interest in our approach. Some African countries also want to replicate it. The PKSF also has collaborative activities with Vietnam and China.

Q: How do you asses IFAD’s poverty alleviation strategy in Bangladesh and PKSF’s partnership with it?

A: The PKSF is working with IFAD for enterprise development through value and supply chain interventions. The main focus of a project with IFAD that the PKSF is implementing is on agricultural commercialization. The outcomes are income generating and poverty alleviating ones. These interventions are boosting productivity and production as well as employment in such activities as milch cow fattening, quality shoe production in rural setting, improved method of prawn production, dragon fruit production, and crab hatchery.

It may be pointed out that the PKSF, being a government-established Foundation, cannot receive money directly from any source, including UN agencies such as IFAD. Projects like this one with IFAD comes to PKSF via the government of Bangladesh. Of course, the PKSF participates in the negotiations.

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Climate Doomsday – Another Step Closerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/climate-doomsday-another-step-closer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-doomsday-another-step-closer http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/climate-doomsday-another-step-closer/#comments Thu, 27 Oct 2016 10:46:23 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147531 Credit: UNEP

Credit: UNEP

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 27 2016 (IPS)

Almost inadvertently, humankind is getting closer everyday to the point of no-return towards what could be called the ‘climate doomsday’.

Now, globally averaged concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has surged again to new records in 2016… and will not dip below pre-2015 levels for many generations.

The warning comes from the United Nations weather agency–the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and further confirms the alarm of climate experts and world specialised organisations.

On the one hand, the WMO secretary-general, Petteri Taalas said that 2015 ushered in a new era of optimism and climate action with the Paris climate change agreement. “But it will also make history as marking a new era of climate change reality with record high greenhouse gas concentrations.”

“Without tackling carbon dioxide emissions, we cannot tackle climate change and keep temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celcius above the pre-industrial era… It is therefore of the utmost importance that the Paris Agreement does indeed enter into force well ahead of schedule on 4 November and that we fast-track its implementation,” Taalas on 24 October 2016 stressed.

The weather agency had warned earlier this year that the Earth is already one degree Celsius hotter than at the start of the 20th century, halfway to the critical two-degree threshold, and that national climate change plans adopted so far may not be enough to avoid a three-degree temperature rise.

CO2 levels had previously reached the 400 parts per million barrier for certain months of the year and in certain locations “but never before on a global average basis for the entire year.” According to WMO, the growth spurt in carbon dioxide was fuelled by the El Niño event, which started in 2015 and had a strong impact well into 2016.

The ozone layer: protecting our atmosphere for generations to come. Credit: UNEP

The ozone layer: protecting our atmosphere for generations to come. Credit: UNEP

“The 400 parts per million threshold is of great symbolic importance,” said the previous WMO secretary-general Michel Jarraud in 2014. “It should serve as yet another wakeup call about the constantly rising levels of greenhouse gases which are driving climate change and acidifying our oceans.”

This triggered droughts in tropical regions and reduced the capacity of “sinks” like forests, vegetation and the oceans to absorb CO2.

These sinks currently absorb about half of CO2 emissions but there is a risk that they may become saturated, which would increase the fraction of emitted carbon dioxide which stays in the atmosphere, according to the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

Carbon Dioxide Remains For Thousands of Years

The danger is clear: for thousands of year’s carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, trapping heat and causing the earth to warm further. The lifespan of carbon dioxide in the oceans is even longer. It is also the single most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities. “For thousands of year’s carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, trapping heat and causing the earth to warm further. The lifespan of carbon dioxide in the oceans is even longer. It is also the single most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities.” – WMO

According to the WMO it is responsible for 85 per cent of the warming effect on our climate over the past decade.

On the other hand, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) says that the droughts and floods beating down on communities in many parts of the world are linked to the current El Niño, which was expected to affect up 60 million people already by last July.

“In some areas, including in North Eastern Brazil, Somali, Ethiopia, Kenya and Namibia, the El Niño effects are coming on the back of years of severe and recurrent droughts. It is impossible for households that rely on the land for food and farm labour to recover, especially when the land is degraded,” says in this regards the UNCCD executive secretary, Monique Barbut.

What’s more, Barbut adds, these conditions do not just devastate families and destabilise communities. When they are not attended to urgently, they can become a push factor for migration, and end with gross human rights abuses and long-term security threats.

“We have seen this before – in Darfur following four decades of droughts and desertification and, more recently, in Syria, following the long drought of 2007-2010.”

Rabi Island, Fiji. Rising sea levels and more extreme weather events pose an imminent threat to low-lying atoll islands across the Pacific. Credit: OCHA/Danielle Parry

Rabi Island, Fiji. Rising sea levels and more extreme weather events pose an imminent threat to low-lying atoll islands across the Pacific. Credit: OCHA/Danielle Parry

It is “tragic to see a society breaking down when we can reduce the vulnerability of communities through simple and affordable acts such as restoring the degraded lands they live on, and helping countries to set up better systems for drought early warning and to prepare for and manage drought and floods,” according to Barbut.

Agriculture Accounts for One-Fifth of Total Emissions

For its part, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) alerted that the rapid change in the world’s climate is translating into more extreme and frequent weather events, heat waves, droughts and sea-level rise.

The impacts of climate change on agriculture and the implications for food security are already alarming – they are the subjects of this report, according to FAO director general José Graziano da Silva.

A major finding is that there is an urgent need to support smallholders in adapting to climate change. Farmers, pastoralists, fisher-folk and community foresters depend on activities that are intimately and inextricably linked to climate – and these groups are also the most vulnerable to climate change.

“They will require far greater access to technologies, markets, information and credit for investment to adjust their production systems and practices to climate change.”

Unless action is taken now to make agriculture more sustainable, productive and resilient, climate change impacts will seriously compromise food production in countries and regions that are already highly food-insecure, Graziano da Silva alerts.

“Through its impacts on agriculture, livelihoods and infrastructure, climate change threatens all dimensions of food security. It will expose both urban and rural poor to higher and more volatile food prices.”

According to FAO’s director general, it will also affect food availability by reducing the productivity of crops, livestock and fisheries, and hinder access to food by disrupting the livelihoods of millions of rural people who depend on agriculture for their incomes.

The FAO report–The State of Food and Agriculture 2016, describes ways of adapting smallholder production to climate change and making the livelihoods of rural populations more resilient.

“Diversify or Die”?

Diversification and better integration of food production systems into complex ecological processes create synergies with the natural habitat instead of depleting natural resources, says the report.

Agro-ecology and sustainable intensification are examples of approaches that improve yields and build resilience through practices such as green manuring, nitrogen-fixing cover crops and sustainable soil management, and integration with agro-forestry and animal production.

“In order to keep the increase in global temperature below the crucial ceiling of 2 °C, emissions will have to be reduced by as much as 70 per cent by 2050.

“Keeping climate change within manageable levels can only be achieved with the contribution of the agriculture sectors,” which account for at least one-fifth of total emissions, mainly from the conversion of forests to farmland as well as from livestock and crop production.

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Funding Lags to Combat Land Degradationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/funding-lags-to-combat-land-degradation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=funding-lags-to-combat-land-degradation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/funding-lags-to-combat-land-degradation/#comments Wed, 26 Oct 2016 22:44:42 +0000 Justus Wanzala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147529 Delegates meeting at the Fifteenth Session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 15) of UNCCD held in Nairobi Oct. 18-20, 2016. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

Delegates meeting at the Fifteenth Session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 15) of UNCCD held in Nairobi Oct. 18-20, 2016. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

By Justus Wanzala
NAIROBI, Oct 26 2016 (IPS)

Land degradation already affects millions of people, bringing biodiversity loss, reduced availability of clean water, food insecurity and greater vulnerability to the harsh impacts of climate change.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), two billion hectares of productive land are currently degraded worldwide. An additional 12 million hectares are degraded every year.

Delegates meeting at the Fifteenth Session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 15) held in Nairobi Oct. 18-20 all agreed that urgent action is needed to address the problem.

But for efforts to combat land degradation to succeed, huge financial resources must be mobilised.

UNCCD has proposed creation of the Impact Investment Fund for Land Degradation Neutrality (Land Degradation Neutrality Fund). Although not yet operationalsed, the fund is intended to bring together institutions committed to addressing the global challenge of land degradation.

It will support large-scale rehabilitation of degraded land, for sustainable and productive use, with long-term private sector financing. The fund also aims to contribute to the achievement of global and local food and water security, and to mitigate climate change by sequestering up to 20 percent of CO2 emissions by 2050.

The fund hopes to mobilise 50 billion dollars to rehabilitate 300 million hectares of land worldwide in the next 20 years, reducing carbon emissions by an estimated 20 billion tonnes.

The Global Mechanism is spearheading the establishment of the Fund. The Fund plans to provide a structured framework in which private and public actors will be able to engage with the aim of achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN). The private-public partnership will include provision of funds and technical assistance.

The LDN concept was introduced at the Rio+20 Conference in 2012. According to UNCCD, attaining LDN means ensuring that the amount of land resources that every household, region or country depends on for ecosystems services such as water, remains healthy, productive and stable.

The resolve resonates with target 15.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN in September 2015 in New York. The target is to achieve LDN by 2030.

The Global Mechanism, UNCCD’s operational arm, was identified as the body to administer the fund to support initiatives that aim to reach LDN.

The vision of the LDN Fund is to combat land degradation and finance rehabilitation of 12 million hectares of degraded land a year. When in place, it will also complement and leverage existing initiatives by creating a link between the bottom up approach (projects developed on the ground) and the top down initiatives (government targets, institutional initiatives).

Markus Repnik, managing director of the Global Mechanism, said that 450 billion dollars is required annually to combat land degradation and desertification. He noted that climate funding is growing but more resources are needed. Repnik added that states have spent 200 billion dollars but total financing is less than 400 billion dollars.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF), a financial mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is aiming to provide half of its funds for climate change adaptation measures. He noted that the African Development Bank (ADB) wants to triple climate financing by 2020.

Repnik said that there is abundance of funding initiatives and systems but there is no single measure to show how finances are being mobilised.

“In-depth data on global financing is required. It should be known how much has been spent, where it came and who provided it in addition to ensuring data compatibility and reliability,” said Markus.

He called upon parties to consider how they will mobilise resources to implement the convention. The EU delegation to the UNCCD’s CRIC 15 urged parties to explore more funding mechanisms instead of relying on multilateral partnerships. They said innovative measures to source funds from the private sector should be explored.

During the conference it was revealed that developing countries and their partners have contributed five billion dollars towards efforts to curb desertification and land degradation. However, delegates insisted that more money is urgently needed and the developed countries should provide more funds.

Representatives of community-based organisations (CSOs) noted that the cost per unit (hectare) in combating land degradation also varies from country to country.

“More precise and comprehensive information is required,” they noted in a statement.

They emphasized that financing of programmes to combat land degradation should incorporate human resources development. They also noted that the financing mechanism should involve the 500 million smallholder farmers across the world whose rights require protection.

“Vulnerable groups such as indigenous people and pastoralists should be targeted for support,” read the CSOs statement.

At the same time, parties recognised the need to mobilise additional financial resources for voluntary LDN target setting and implementation from multiple sources such the GEF, Green Climate Fund, LDN Fund (once operational), national budget allocations and the private sector.

They called upon the Global Environment Facility (GEF), an independent financial entity that works with countries and international institutions, CSOs and the private sector to address global environmental issues, and the Global Mechanism to provide the required support.

Richard Mwendandu, director of Multilateral Environment Agreements at Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, said that although money can be mobilised to finance efforts towards meeting SDG 15.3, there is no specific global fund in place to support efforts to fight land degradation.

“Just a paltry 30,000 dollars has been issued by the Global Mechanism to assist countries on a pilot basis in the area of target setting as envisaged in the LDN concept,” he told IPS.

Mwendandu added that individual countries are trying to mobilise resources to combat land degradation. Citing the case of Kenya, he noted the government is mobilising funds in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to fund projects aimed at fighting land degradation.

CRIC 15 was aimed enabling parties to UNCCD to agree to a post-2018 strategy.

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Cuba’s Fish Farming Industry Seeks to Double Output by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/cubas-fish-farming-industry-seeks-to-double-output-by-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cubas-fish-farming-industry-seeks-to-double-output-by-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/10/cubas-fish-farming-industry-seeks-to-double-output-by-2030/#comments Wed, 26 Oct 2016 00:26:03 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147518 Tilapia jump as they are caught on the La Juventud fish farm in the Los Palacios municipality in the western province of Pinar de Rio, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Tilapia jump as they are caught on the La Juventud fish farm in the Los Palacios municipality in the western province of Pinar de Rio, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
LOS PALACIOS, Cuba, Oct 26 2016 (IPS)

Protected from the sun by broad-brimmed hats and long- sleeved shirts, workers at the La Juventud fish farm throw fish feed into the tanks for the tilapias, a fish that is scarce and in high demand in the Cuban markets.

“Production grew significantly due to a combination of factors: sex reversal (use of hormones to produce a 98 per cent male population), better quality fish feed, and introduction of genetically improved species,” Guillermo Rodríguez, the director of the fish farm, told IPS.

La Juventud, located in the municipality of Los Palacios and known as the best producer of tilapia – highly valued for its flavour – in Cuba, belongs to the state-owned Pinar del Río Fish Farming Company (Pescario), which groups all the activity in the sector in this western province.

Thanks to a restructuring of the fish farming industry, focusing on technological upgrading, this Caribbean island nation produced last year 27,549 tons of freshwater fish in tanks, pools and reservoirs, the largest volume since aquaculture was introduced in the 1980s.

The Food Ministry’s goal is to nearly double fish production by 2030, to 49,376 tons.

The fish and seafood catch, which in 2015 totalled 57,657 tons, only covers a small proportion of the demand from the population of 11.2 people, and does not fully meet the demand from the thriving tourism industry, which this year is expected to break the record of three million visitors from abroad.

Including fish and seafood products, the country spends some two billion dollars a year on food imports, despite a slight increase in domestic food production, achieved as a result of the economic reforms implemented since 2008.

The rise in aquaculture production was due to a reorganisation of the industry, stability in the fish feed supply, wage hikes, intensive fish farming and the genetic improvement of species, with state funds, international development aid and foreign investment.

“In 2015, our company produced 465 tons of fish, including 200 tons of tilapia. And so far this year we have harvested 391 tons, including 248 of tilapia,” Rodríguez said, referring to the output of the La Juventud fish farm, which employs 132 workers, 17 of whom are women.

A GIFT tilapia, one of the varieties farmed in La Juventud, Los Palacios municipality, in the western province of Pinar de Rio, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A GIFT tilapia, one of the varieties farmed in La Juventud, Los Palacios municipality, in the western province of Pinar de Rio, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

In their installations, using 46.2 hectares of water that flows by gravity from a nearby dam, La Juventud raises fry that it receives every two years from the state Aquaculture Technology Development Company (EDTA), releases the fish in reservoirs, and harvests them later to send them to plants to be processed.

Yields took off in 2011 when the sex reversal technique and the first genetically improved species were introduced, as part of a project of technology transfer from Vietnam. As of 2015 they receive support from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

“With the FAO project, we have achieved far better results: tilapia production has increased from four tons per hectare to 13.3 tons per hectare,” said Rodríguez.

He said the average monthly wage climbed from 13 dollars to more than 58 dollars, which is more than twice the average wage of 23 dollars earned by state employees.

The two-year programme called “Adoption and implementation of a freshwater fish genetic improvement programme”, signed last year between the government and FAO, has a budget of 297,000 dollars for strengthening the skills of producers and technical and scientific personnel across the country in genetics and breeding.

“The project’s activities mainly involve the Aquaculture Technology Development Company, with training and inputs to raise the fry,” said Loliette Fernández, a FAO officer in Cuba.

“The goal is to create a national programme of genetic improvement of freshwater fish, which today does not exist,” she told IPS.

The initiative, which has drawn international consultants to the country, focuses on tilapia farming, particularly with the introduction of the GIFT (Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia) variety, which is also used in fish farming in other developing countries.

“Tilapia has always been part of the Cuban diet, but with GIFT we’re selling a high-quality attractive fish. Our industry produces a variety of products, but tilapia is the most popular,” veterinarian Mercedes Domínguez, who works on the farm, told IPS.

From the edge of the tank, workers feed tilapia on the La Juventud fish farm, the best-known in Cuba for its production of this fish, which is highly valued by both the local population and tourists. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

From the edge of the tank, workers feed tilapia on the La Juventud fish farm, the best-known in Cuba for its production of this fish, which is highly valued by both the local population and tourists. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Snowy egrets fly over the La Juventud facilities and walk along the rims of the big tanks, pools and channels. The buildings are nicely painted and have handmade posters explaining the processes carried out in each area.

“We maintain the fish farming installations with the smallest possible repairs that we can afford to make, but they all need large and specialised engineering works to make better use of the water,” said the head of Pescario, Jorge Triana, pointing to the walls of the tanks on the farm, which have been in use for over two decades.

Besides the lack of repairs and necessary upgrading, Triana also mentioned other difficulties faced by the company, which supplies fish to the province of 140,252 people.

La Juventud’s fleet of vehicles is aging, there are problems of refrigeration, and the technology is obsolete.

He estimates that what Pescario produces covers about 30 per cent of the province’s demand. “Although it depends on whether the stores offer other meat products, our fish arrive in the morning, and by the afternoon there is nothing left,” he told IPS.

“The company has achieved a steady capture of over 1,700 tons, which is more than before,” he said. Of that total, just 32 tons come from private fishers who fish in Cuban waters and sell their catch to the state company.

He said that now they are working on making adjustments to the whole system to achieve their growth goals by 2030.

“The future of Cuba and the entire world lies in aquaculture,” said Margarita Cepero, who since 2006 has headed a fish fattening unit with floating cages in the Sidra reservoir, in the western province of Matanzas.

“Every year there are more restrictions on sea fishing, in order to protect species,” she told IPS.

Cuba over-fished its 50,000 square kilometers of waters in the Caribbean, which are not highly productive, in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The island is facing the consequences of international depletion of fish resources and the overexploitation of its own coasts.

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