Inter Press Service » Food & Agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 26 Apr 2017 05:10:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.17 No One is Left Behindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-one-is-left-behind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-one-is-left-behind http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-one-is-left-behind/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 13:22:08 +0000 Kakoli Ghosh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150143 Dr. Kakoli Ghosh, Coordinator, Academia and Research Organisations, Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) ]]>

Dr. Kakoli Ghosh, Coordinator, Academia and Research Organisations, Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

By Kakoli Ghosh
ROME, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

In the context of global development, ‘no one is left behind’ brings with it a powerful message. It emphasizes progress- one that is inclusive, fair, integrated and empowering. The phrase ‘No one is left behind’ is mentioned some five times in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that was adopted by all governments at the United Nations in 2015. The Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet, peace and prosperity. It has globally agreed 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 ambitious targets, and should be achieved within the next decade ‘to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources.’

Kakoli Ghosh

Kakoli Ghosh

To keep these commitments and uphold the values that underpin them, a necessary corollary is that ‘every one’, irrespective of geography and circumstances, participates in this collective journey. Is that the case? Consider women and girls for instance. Although they are 51 percent of the world, women and girls continue lag behind on most counts. Women are often patronized or objectified and have far fewer possibilities for accessing and climbing the economic, professional or political ladder. Despite years of dedicated programs by governments, the UN and the civil societies, gender inequality is acute in rural settings, although their pivotal contribution to farming and rural economy is widely acknowledged. The Agenda recognises this, and Goal 5 is to ‘Achieve gender equality and empower women and girls’. Furthermore, Goals 2, 3 and 4 also have specific targets with indicators to measure progress on women’s participation, income and education. However, almost 80 percent of the indicators for gender equality across the Goals lack data- a severe limitation- that policy and governance has to overcome to create bottom–up solutions. Another necessary step has to be a better and greater convergence of all the big and small efforts being undertaken to tackle gender inequality in development.

Another important group that must not be left behind are the teenagers. Currently there are some 1.2 billion young people, of which 88 percent live in developing countries. Should the Goals be achieved by 2030, the youth of today could be the biggest beneficiaries. Much will depend on policy environment in a country, but in my view, the academic community can play a critical role. Science, technology, analytical data and multidisciplinary approaches are required for almost all the goals. Therefore, teachers- as the custodians of future generations – could lead by promoting a systems-based approach, revising outdated curricula, applying the indicators in their own settings as well as participating in monitoring progress at the national level. Creating awareness among the students can encourage their buy-in early on, which in turn can lead to quicker solutions and new possibilities. In fact, Goal 4 ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ focuses on youth; this focus is also in Goals 8 and 13. There needs to be a strategy in place to mobilise academia to support the implementation of these Goals. Strengthening education quality and increasing investment in universities today, particularly in developing countries, can position youth to cope with the challenges of tomorrow.

Women and youth may not be the only groups falling behind when one considers the status of migrants. As Agenda was being adopted in 2015, a number of countries were dealing with an unprecedented migration including in Europe, the Near East and Sub-Sahara Africa. Immediate attention had to be given to the availability of food, shelter and safety of the new refugees. It is estimated that there are some 244 million international migrants today, of which a third are young adults leaving their countries due to conflicts, climate change and political instability. Their education, aspirations, prospects are being left behind. For the first time the issues of migration are recognized with the Goals 10 calling for ‘well-managed migration policies’ and Goal 8 focuses on the situation of migrant workers.

Looking ahead, there is a lot to do. What will it take for each of us to step up, to achieve gender equality in our own sphere? How can young adults benefit from the Goals? How to promote integration of diverse communities in a sustainable way? It is not possible to do it alone. Perhaps it is time to revive ‘partnerships’ as a fundamental tool for delivery. Partnerships not as an association for the few but as a mechanism for collective achievements. As Swami Vivekananda said ‘There cannot be any progress without the whole world following in the wake, and it is becoming every day clearer that the solution of any problem can never be attained on racial, or national, or narrow grounds. Every idea has to become broad till it covers the whole of this world, every aspiration must go on increasing till it has engulfed the whole of humans, nay the whole of life within its scope’.

The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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Long Way to Go for Indigenous Rights Protectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 09:11:18 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150139 Tadodaho Sid Hill (shown on screens), Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Tadodaho Sid Hill (shown on screens), Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

Despite progress, many gaps remain in international indigenous rights protection, said representatives during an annual UN meeting.

More than 1000 indigenous representatives from around the world have gathered at the UN for the 16th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). This year’s meeting focuses on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which was adopted 10 years ago by the General Assembly.

“On the day of the adoption of the declaration, there was a major change in the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples,” said this year’s UNFPII Chairperson Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine during the opening ceremony.

Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Mali). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Mali). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Ermineskin Cree Nation Chief Willie Littlechild echoed similar comments, stating that indigenous communities had no voice in the international arena until the 1980s when discussions first began on creating a special instrument to protect indigenous peoples worldwide.

Alongside the Declaration, the UN now has four mechanisms focused on indigenous communities, including UNPFII and a Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

“Coming from no voice to four mechanisms at the UN, I think that is a significant accomplishment,” Littlechild stated.

The 2030 Agenda for Development, adopted in 2015 by the international community, also directly involves and references indigenous issues unlike its predecessor the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

However, many challenges remain in implementing and enforcing UNDRIP.

Littlechild expressed concern to IPS over the lack of implementation mechanisms in Canada, stating: “[Justin Trudeau] was the first Prime Minister to even look at the UN declaration…but the task is now in the follow-up.”

After formally adopting UNDRIP in 2016, many have said that Prime Minister Trudeau has violated the document by approving several controversial pipelines without full consent from indigenous communities whose lands would be impacted. One such pipeline is the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline which received support from 40 out of 139 First Nations living along the planned route.

Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Article 19 of UNDRIP highlights the importance of such consent, stating: “States are required to consult and cooperate with indigenous peoples in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that affect them.”

The right to lands, territories, and resources is also among the most important provisions of the Declaration.

Both Aboubakrine and Littlechild highlighted the importance of inclusive discussions and decision-making at the international and state levels to ensure the protection of indigenous rights.

“Some of the traditional knowledge of elders is critical to making sure there’s safe development if that is what is agreed to or to protect the environment,” Littlechild told IPS.

Aboubakrine stressed the need for UN agencies to communicate and coordinate in order to effectively and meaningfully enforce UNDRIP.

“It’s moving along, but I’m just concerned we are not moving along with it,” Littlechild concluded.

Indigenous communities around the world face disproportionately high rates of poverty, poor health, and discrimination. According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), indigenous people constitute 5 percent of the world’s population but make up approximately 15 percent of the world’s poorest.

The 16th Session of UNFPII aims to address challenges and highlight progress in indigenous rights at the UN headquarters from 24 April to 5 May.

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Indigenous Peoples – Best Allies or Worst Enemies?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:23:39 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150134 Credit: FAO

Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

It all happened on the very same day—4 April. That day, indigenous peoples were simultaneously characterised as fundamental allies in the world’s war on hunger and poverty, while being declared as collective victims of a “tsunami” of imprisonments in Australia. See what happened.

Australia must reduce the “astounding” rates of imprisonment for indigenous peoples and step up the fight against racism, on 4 April warned Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.“Traditional indigenous knowledge and the diversity of their food systems can provide solutions for healthy diets, and many areas such as nutrition, climate change or ecosystem management” – Graziano da Silva

“It is alarming that, while the country has adopted numerous policies to address the socio-economic disadvantage of Aboriginal peoples and those from the Torres Strait Islands, it has failed to respect their rights to self-determination and to full and effective participation in society,” she added at the end of an official visit to Australia.

Tauli-Corpuz said that the Australian government policies have failed to deliver on targets in the areas of “health, education and employment and have led to a growing number of people being jailed, and have resulted in an increasing number of children being removed from their homes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

Astounding Figures

“High rates of incarceration were described to me as a “tsunami” affecting indigenous peoples. It is a major human rights concern. The figures are simply astounding. While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up only 3 per cent of the total population, they constitute 27 per cent of the prison population, and much more in some prisons,” she stressed.

“I visited Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville, Queensland, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children constitute 95 per cent of the children detained. Many have been going from out-of-home care into detention,” Tauli-Corpuz said, adding that aboriginal children are seven times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in contact with the child protection system or to be subject to abuse or neglect.

Indigenous women from Panama design action plans to ensure food security. Credit: FAO

Indigenous women from Panama design action plans to ensure food security. Credit: FAO

“… I urge Australia to increase the age of criminal responsibility. Children should be detained only as a last resort… These children are essentially being punished for being poor and in most cases, prison will only aggravate the cycle of violence, poverty and crime. I found meeting young children, some only 12 years old, in detention the most disturbing element of my visit.”

The UN expert expressed criticism of the government programme known as the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, which was initiated in 2014 and involved a large budget cut in funding for support programmes. “The implementation of the strategy has been bureaucratic, rigid and has wasted considerable resources on administration.”

Tauli-Corpuz called on the government to forge a new relationship with the national representative body for indigenous peoples, the National Congress of Australia’s First People, and restore their funding.

She also expressed concern that the government would not meet targets to close the gap in areas such as “life expectancy, infant mortality, education and employment,” and called for a comprehensive approach including specific targets for the “reduction of detention rates, child removal and violence against women.”

Fundamental Allies

That very same day–4 April, the head of the United Nations body specialised in the areas of food and agriculture, was welcoming in Rome a group of indigenous youth representatives from the indigenous peoples’ seven socio-cultural regions of the world.

In his address to the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus meeting in the Italian capital (5-7 April), Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that indigenous peoples are “fundamental allies” in the fight against hunger, food insecurity and poverty “because of their wealth of ancestral knowledge and good practices.”

Credit: FAO

Credit: FAO

In a world in which climate change brings new challenges and uncertainties, we cannot eliminate hunger without the participation of youth, said da Silva, noting that “they must participate in these issues that will affect their children and their children’s children. Let’s work together and do it right now.”

The Sustainable Development Goals provide an opportunity for countries, indigenous organisations and the United Nations to work together to make an impact starting now through to 2030, he added, while reminding that since the creation of its Indigenous Peoples team in 2014, FAO is strengthening its work with indigenous organisations based on a double approach:

“On the one hand, we consider indigenous peoples as fundamental allies in the fight against hunger, food insecurity and poverty because of their wealth of ancestral knowledge and good practices.

“On the other hand, “we are aware that the lack of recognition of their rights in the management of natural resources and the marginalization they suffer places them in a vulnerable position. I speak above all of your ancestral rights to land tenure.”

Traditional Indigenous Knowledge

Da Silva referred to the indigenous food systems, noting that traditional indigenous knowledge and the diversity of their food systems can provide solutions for healthy diets, and many areas such as nutrition, climate change or ecosystem management.

Working with indigenous women’s leadership schools, he added, has enabled fellow indigenous women to gain access to training on rights, food security and other areas of interest such as the use of local seeds, voluntary guidelines on land tenure, guides on artisanal fisheries, etc.

The Rome meeting of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus coincided with the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples.

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Building resilient rural livelihoods is key to helping Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/building-resilient-rural-livelihoods-is-key-to-helping-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-resilient-rural-livelihoods-is-key-to-helping-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/building-resilient-rural-livelihoods-is-key-to-helping-yemen/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 08:37:39 +0000 Jose Graziano da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150106 José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).]]> Al Hudaydah, Yemen.  Dairy cattle seek shade. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. Dairy cattle seek shade. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

By José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

People in Yemen are currently suffering from the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

More than 17 million people around Yemen’s rugged landscape are acutely food insecure, and the figure is likely to increase as the ongoing conflict continues to erode the ability to grow, import, distribute and pay for food. More than 7 million people are on the verge of famine, while the rest are marginally meeting the minimum day-to-day nutritional needs thanks to external humanitarian and livelihoods support. Large-scale famine is a real risk that will cast an awful shadow for generations to come.

Only a political solution can end the suffering in Yemen, as there can be no food security without peace. And the longer the delay to draft an adequately funded recovery plan, the more expensive the burden will be in terms of resources and human livelihood.

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

Keep in mind that Yemen has a very young population, yet some 2.2 million children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition. As inadequate nutrition in a child’s early years can permanently damage an individual’s lifetime potential, it is imperative to stop a generational doomsday loop.

To prevent the food security situation from worsening, immediate livelihoods support – mainly agriculture and fishing – must be an integral part of the humanitarian response. This year, FAO Yemen is appealing for USD 48.4 million in funding to reach 3 million people.

While Yemen is widely noted as being dependent upon imports for almost all of its wheat and rice demands, people can and do produce a lot of food on their own. This requires the provision of seeds, fertilizers and fuel for equipment and irrigation to the 2 million households who currently lack access to such basic agricultural inputs.

In 2016, agricultural production and area under cultivation shrank by 38 percent due to this lack of inputs. Livestock production fell by 35 percent. The situation in 2017 is not expected to improve without the international community’s intervention.

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A female dairy farmer milks her cow.  Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A female dairy farmer milks her cow. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli


FAO is on the ground in Yemen, working around the clock to deliver emergency livelihood assistance to kick-start food production. This assistance comprises inputs like quick turnaround backyard food production kits, which includes vegetable seeds, egg-laying chickens and rainwater storage tanks, solar pumps, feed, fertilizer, fishery boats, engines, fishing nets and continuous operational equipment and material support.

These home production kits, designed to help feed a household of 20 people for six months, constitute cost-effective humanitarian assistance that can be scaled up to reach more people more quickly. This is especially pertinent for internally displaced people – who now constitute more than 10 percent of the population, and the vast majority of whom traditionally relied on agriculture and livestock. They now live in camps, with relatives or on empty lots and helping them relieve pressure on host communities can pay a double dividend in terms of food and social cohesion.

The kits also have the virtue of being simple, and in the case of Yemen – enduring a combination of several worst-case scenarios at once – simple translates into being implementable.

Simplicity is especially essential to support isolated rural households, almost half of whom live more than six kilometres from any local market at a time when travel is dangerous and roads have been destroyed. For many of these families, these food production kits are their only lifeline to food.

In a bid to restore agricultural livelihoods, FAO is also offering starter kits for beekeepers, replacing fishing equipment that has been destroyed or lost, and giving rural households modern butter churns that enable the production to increase tenfold and help offset Yemen’s serious dairy deficit.

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A livestock market. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A livestock market. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli


As many families have had to sell their animals, a key productive asset, and restocking has slowed down due to lack of access to fodder, FAO is also distributing vouchers to distressed households in order to purchase livestock. At the same time, FAO is bolstering veterinary networks to vaccinate and treat ailing livestock as well as monitor and contain potential transboundary livestock diseases, which pose an enormous risk both for households living in Yemen’s remote and isolated areas as well as livestock trade across the region.

Making Yemen’s food system more sustainable will be a long-term effort, requiring important changes to which crops are grown and the rebooting or creation of value chains and improved logistics for what is destined to be the country’s primary economic sector. Agriculture already employs more than half of the workforce and is the main source of income for around 60 percent of households.

Even in peacetime, Yemen will face huge challenges, as only 4 percent of its land is arable and water resources are extremely limited. However, its people can and must be enabled to create a viable and more sustainable food system. This requires a simultaneous approach of providing humanitarian assistance along with resilience-building initiatives.

There is no time to lose. The alternative is dismal and threatens to catalyse more conflicts in the future, for there can be no peace without food security.

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Bamboo Gaining Traction in Caribbean as Climate Saviorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/bamboo-gaining-traction-in-caribbean-as-climate-savior/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bamboo-gaining-traction-in-caribbean-as-climate-savior http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/bamboo-gaining-traction-in-caribbean-as-climate-savior/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 00:01:36 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150089 Bamboo sequesters carbon at rates comparable to or greater than many tree species. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Bamboo sequesters carbon at rates comparable to or greater than many tree species. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

Keen to tap its natural resources as a way to boost its struggling economy, Guyana struck a multi-million-dollar deal with Norway in 2009.

Under the deal, Norway agreed to pay up to 250 million dollars over five years, if Guyana, a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country in South America, maintained a low deforestation rate."It is a plant, it does photosynthesis, but it happens to be the fastest growing plant in the world so the absorption of CO2 by bamboo forests is quite significant.” --Dr. Hans Friederich

It was the first time a developed country, conscious of its own carbon-dioxide emissions, had paid a developing country to keep its trees in the ground.

The initiative was developed by the United Nations and called REDD+ (for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus conservation).

The main aim was to allow for carbon sequestration – the process involved in carbon capture and the long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Trees are thirsty for the potent greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, soaking it up during photosynthesis and storing it in their roots, branches and leaves. Each year, forests around the world absorb nearly 40 percent of all the carbon dioxide produced globally from fossil-fuel emissions. But deforestation increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as trees are burned or start to decompose.

Most of the other Caribbean countries do not have the vast forests present in Guyana, but one expert believes there is still a huge potential to sequester carbon.

While the bamboo plant can be found in abundance in several Caribbean countries, the director of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), Dr. Hans Friederich, said its importance and the possible role it could play in dealing with climate change have been missed by many of these countries.

“Bamboo and rattan, to a lesser extent, have been in a way forgotten as mechanisms that can help countries both with mitigation of climate change and with adaptation. And I think, certainly for the Caribbean, for Jamaica, both aspects are important,” Friederich told IPS.

“Mitigation, because carbon is sequestered by bamboo. It is a plant, it does photosynthesis, but it happens to be the fastest growing plant in the world so the absorption of CO2 by bamboo forests is quite significant.”

“The stems are thin but, over a period of time, the total sink of CO2 from a bamboo forest is actually more than the average from other forests. We’ve tried this, we’ve tested this and we’ve measured this in China and that’s certainly the case over there,” he added.

As far as adaptation is concerned, Friederich said bamboo also has a key role to play.

“For example, helping local communities deal with the effects of climate change in relation to erosion control, in relation to providing income in times when maybe other sources of income are no longer there or have been affected through floods or droughts or other environmental catastrophes,” the INBAR official explained.

“So, bamboo really is something that should be included in the overall discussion about climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

INBAR has facilitated a trip to China for a group of Jamaicans, to show them how the Chinese are using bamboo as a source of energy, as a charcoal source – to replicate that intelligence and that experience in Jamaica and help the island develop a bamboo industry.

In 2014, the Jamaica Bureau of Standards announced the country would embark on the large-scale production of bamboo for the construction of low-cost houses and value-added products such as furniture and charcoal for the export market.

The bureau also facilitated training exercises for people to be employed in the industry, and announced plans to set up three bamboo factories across the island.

The agency said it would also offer incentives for people to grow, preserve and harvest the bamboo plant for its various uses.

The following year, the bureau and the Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ) collaborated to establish the country’s first ever Bamboo Industry Association (BIA).

The BIA’s mandate is to engage and heighten awareness among owners of properties with bamboo, about the potential economic values to be derived from the plant, of which there are more than 65,000 hectares of growing across the island.

“We believe in changing the nation…so we are here to make an impactful difference in the lives of the average citizen of this country,” SBAJ President Hugh Johnson said.

It seems the importance of bamboo might be slowly catching on in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

“Does it connect? It depends really with whom. I think our members, we now have 41 states that are part of the network of Inbar – they recognize it. And more and more do we get requests to help countries think about ways that we can develop the industry,” Friederich said.

“But beyond the people that understand bamboo there is still a lot of awareness raising to be done . . . to make people understand the opportunities and the benefits.

“The nice thing about bamboo is that the start of the production chain, the start of the value chain is something that basically involves unskilled, poor people. So, it is really a way to address Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number one – poverty reduction and bringing people out of real bad conditions. Therefore, that is something that we are working our members to see how we can support local communities with activities that basically promote that,” he added.

INBAR is an intergovernmental organisation established in 1997 by treaty deposited with the United Nations and hosted in Beijing, China.

Friederich said reactions from the producing countries have been very positive.

“From the international community, equally, I think those working in forestry like the Food and Agriculture Organisation, they definitely see the opportunities,” he said.

“From the investment community, maybe less so. I think the banks and individual investors are still wondering what the return on investment is, but we do have some very interesting private sector reactions and there are some exciting things going on around the world. So, in general, I think the message is getting through,” Friederich added.

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Yemen, World’s Largest Humanitarian Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/yemen-worlds-largest-humanitarian-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemen-worlds-largest-humanitarian-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/yemen-worlds-largest-humanitarian-crisis/#comments Wed, 19 Apr 2017 05:10:44 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150034 Yemen 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview. Credit: Fragkiska Megaloudi / OCHA

Yemen 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview. Credit: Fragkiska Megaloudi / OCHA

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 19 2017 (IPS)

With 18.8 million people –nearly 7 in 10 inhabitants– in need of humanitarian aid, including 10.3 million requiring immediate assistance, Yemen is now the largest single-nation humanitarian crisis in the world, the United Nations informs while warning that the two-year war is rapidly pushing the country towards “social, economic and institutional collapse.“

More worrying, the conflict in Yemen and its economic consequences are driving the largest food security emergency in the world, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported.

According to OCHA, over 17 million people are currently “food insecure,” of whom 6.8 million are “severely food insecure” and require immediate food assistance, and two million acutely malnourished children. The Yemeni population amounts to 27,4 million inhabitants.

“We can avert a humanitarian catastrophe, but need 2.1 billion dollars in funding to deliver crucial food, nutrition, health and other lifesaving assistance,” the UN estimates.

UN, Sweden, Switzerland

The world organisation plans to hold a high-level pledging meeting for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Co-hosted by the governments of Switzerland and Sweden, the conference will take place at UN in Geneva on 25 April 2017.

Credit: OCHA

Credit: OCHA

“The time is now to come together to prevent an “impending humanitarian catastrophe” in Yemen, the organisers warn.
OCHA has also reminded that even before the current conflict escalated in mid-March 2015, Yemen had faced “enormous levels” of humanitarian needs stemming from years of “poverty, under-development, environmental decline, intermittent conflict, and weak rule of law.”

Meantime, it has stressed the need to protect civilians. “The conduct of hostilities has been brutal. As of 31 December 2016, health facilities had reported nearly 48,000 casualties (including nearly 7,500 deaths) as a result of the conflict.” These figures significantly under-count the true extent of casualties given diminished reporting capacity of health facilities and people’s difficulties accessing healthcare.

Massive Violations of Human Rights

OCHA stressed the impact of this crisis in which “all parties appear to have committed violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”

On-going air strikes and fighting continue to inflict heavy casualties, damage public and private infrastructure, and impede delivery of humanitarian assistance, it explains, adding that parties to the conflict and their supporters have created a vast protection crisis in which millions of people face tremendous threats to their safety and well-being, and the most vulnerable struggle to survive.

According to the UN humanitarian body, since March 2015, more than 3 million people have been displaced within Yemen. Roughly 73 per cent are living with host families or in rented accommodation, and 20 per cent in collective centres or spontaneous settlements. A substantial numbers of returnees live in damaged houses, unable to afford repairs and face serious protection risks.

Economy, Destroyed

The Yemeni economy is being wilfully destroyed, OCHA informs. Preliminary results of the Disaster Needs Assessment estimated 19 billion dollars in infrastructure damage and other losses – equivalent to about half of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013.

“Parties to the conflict have targeted key economic infrastructure. Mainly air strikes – but also shelling and other attacks – have damaged or destroyed ports, roads, bridges, factories and markets. They have also imposed restrictions that disrupt the flow of private sector goods and humanitarian aid, including food and medicine.”

For months, nearly all-basic commodities have been only sporadically available in most locations, and basic commodity prices in December 2016 were on average 22 per cent higher than before the crisis, reports OCHA.

At the same time, Yemen is experiencing a liquidity crisis in which people, traders and humanitarian partners struggle to transfer cash into and within the country. Lenders have become increasingly reluctant to supply credit to Yemeni traders seeking to import essential goods.

Basic Commodities, Scarcer, More Expensive

On this, it informs that at the end result is an economic environment in which basic commodities are becoming scarcer and more expensive just as people’s livelihoods opportunities and access to cash are receding or disappearing altogether.

And that humanitarian partners face growing pressure to compensate for the entire commercial sector, which is beyond both their capacity and appropriate role. Essential basic services and the institutions that provide them are collapsing due to conflict, displacement and economic decline.

“Yemeni authorities report that Central Bank foreign exchange reserves dropped from 4.7 billion dollars in late 2014 to less than 1 billion in September 2016, and the public budget deficit has grown by more than 50 per cent to 2.2 billion dollars.”

In addition, salaries for health facility staff, teachers and other public sector workers are paid erratically, often leaving 1.25 million state employees and their 6.9 million dependents – nearly 30 per cent of the population – without a regular income at a time of shortages and rising prices.

“As a result, social services provided by public institutions are collapsing while needs are surging.” In August 2016, the Ministry of Public Health and Population in Sana’a announced it could no longer cover operational costs for health services, and by October, only 45 per cent of health facilities in the country were fully functional.

Absenteeism among key staff – doctors, nutrition counsellors, teachers, etc. – is reportedly rising as employees seek alternatives to provide for their families, according to the UN. On top of pressure to compensate for a faltering commercial sector, humanitarian partners are increasingly fielding calls to fill gaps created by collapsing public institutions.

90% of Food, Imported – 8 Million Lost Livelihoods

According to OCHA, Yemen relies on imports for more than 90 per cent of its staple food and nearly all fuel and medicine.

Authorities in Sana’a and other areas also at times deny or delay clearances for humanitarian activities, including movement requests for assessments or aid delivery. Restrictions on workshops, humanitarian data collection and information sharing have also been intermittently introduced and rescinded.

These restrictions are at times resolved through dialogue, but the time lost represents an unacceptable burden for people who desperately need assistance. Positive developments since November 2016 indicate that these restrictions may substantially improve in the immediate coming period.

An estimated 8 million Yemenis have lost their livelihoods or are living in communities with minimal to no basic services, the UN informs, adding that about 2 million school-age children are out of school and damage, hosting IDPs, or occupation by armed groups.

Yemen is an Arab country situated in the Southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is the second-largest country in the peninsula, with nearly occupying 528,000 km2, and its coastline stretches for about 2,000 kms.

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Typical Cuban Sweet – a Symbol of the Post-Hurricane Challenge to Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/typical-cuban-sweet-a-symbol-of-the-post-hurricane-challenge-to-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=typical-cuban-sweet-a-symbol-of-the-post-hurricane-challenge-to-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/typical-cuban-sweet-a-symbol-of-the-post-hurricane-challenge-to-agriculture/#comments Tue, 18 Apr 2017 07:01:27 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149993 Vendor Raulises Ramírez is up early to sell the typical coconut cones which he made the previous day, alongside the La Farola highway into the eastern Cuban city of Baracoa. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPSRaulises Ramírez is up early to sell the typical coconut cones which he made the previous day, alongside the La Farola highway into the eastern Cuban city of Baracoa. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Vendor Raulises Ramírez is up early to sell the typical coconut cones which he made the previous day, alongside the La Farola highway into the eastern Cuban city of Baracoa. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
BARACOA, Cuba, Apr 18 2017 (IPS)

Early in the day, when a gentle dew moistens the ground and vegetation in the mountains of eastern Cuba, street vendor Raulises Ramírez sets up his rustic stand next to the La Farola highway and displays his cone-shaped coconut sweets.

“These will maybe be the last ones… the cones will disappear, because the hurricane brought down all the coconut palms in Baracoa,” the 52-year-old private entrepreneur told IPS. He makes a living in Cuba’s oldest city selling this traditional sweet made of coconut, honey, fruits and spices, wrapped in the fibrous cone-shaped palm leaf.

“Look at all this!“ exclaimed Ramírez, pointing to the ground next to the highway littered with the trunks of coconut palm trees knocked down or bent by Hurricane Matthew, which hit Baracoa and other parts of eastern Cuba on Oct. 4-5, 2016.

He expects to continue making his sweets for a while longer thanks to his reserves. His main customers are Cubans who pay the equivalent of 25 cents of a dollar for each “cucurucho” or coconut cone, a typical sweet of this municipality, with an agricultural sector based on coconut and cacao, among other products.“We have to provide the local population with support to produce staple crops and provide new sources of income, until the commercial perennial crops begin to produce.” -- Theodor Friedrich

When his coconut reserves are finished, he will have to look for a different source of income than the one that has sustained his family for the last five years. “The tourists like to buy dried fruit,” he said, referring to the growing influx of foreign visitors in the area.

Ramírez’s situation is in some way similar to that of the entire agri-food sector in this municipality with a population of 81,700, which is facing a tough challenge: recovering their main long-cycle crops that were ravaged by the strongest hurricane ever registered in the province of Guantánamo, where Baracoa is located.

“We estimate the shortest possible time for coconut production to recover is four years, while cacao will take two and a half years. But reforestation will take many more years, between 15 and 20,” said Baracoa Mayor Luis Sánchez, referring to the fundamental components of local economic development: cacao, coconut, coffee and forestry products.

In the affected territories in Guantánamo, agriculture was among the hardest-hit sectors, with 70,574 hectares damaged. According to official reports, 27 per cent of the cacao, coconut and coffee plantations and 67 per cent of the forest heritage was lost.

The hurricane damaged 35,681 hectares of the main crops in this mountainous coastal municipality. Only four per cent of the vast plantations of coconut palm trees are still standing, which were used to obtain part of the seeds vital to the recovery effort.

A beach along the coast of Baracoa, where coconut trees were damaged by Hurricane Matthew – a serious problem in this city in eastern Cuba, since coconuts are one of the main local agricultural products. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A beach along the coast of Baracoa, where coconut trees were damaged by Hurricane Matthew – a serious problem in this city in eastern Cuba, since coconuts are one of the main local agricultural products. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“In small areas on the outskirts of the city some coconut palm trees still remain on private farms and in people’s yards, which are the source of the coconuts vendors are using to make their cones, but the state-run factory is not producing any,” Rodríguez said, about the temporary disappearance of this symbol of Baracoa.

The factory, the only one that made coconut cones and distributed them in the provinces of Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba and Holguín, is now producing tomatoes and fruit brought from other parts of the country. The cocoa industry is still active, even producing several by-products, thanks to reserves of cacao.

So far, only 3,576 hectares of forestry, coconut, coffee, cacao and fruit plantations have been recuperated, since the authorities are putting a priority on “the areas dedicated to short-cycle crops to quickly obtain food, such as vegetables and fruits for domestic consumption,” said the mayor in an exclusive interview with IPS.

“Baracoa, the cacao capital” reads an enormous poster at the entrance to this city founded 505 years ago by Spanish colonialists. Alongside coconut cone vendors like Ramírez, men and women sell big scoops of home-made dark chocolate along the La Farola highway.
Hurricane Matthew thwarted a project to create production chains based on coconut and cacao, with investments to foment cultivation of the crops and modernise the food industry in the municipality. The initiative hoped to tap into other potential sources of income, especially using coconuts.

The current production based on coconut and cacao does not cover domestic demand in this country of 11.2 million, nor demand from international tourists, who reached the record number of four million in 2016.

Baracoa Mayor Luis Sánchez Rodríguez shows IPS the impact on Cuba’s oldest city of Hurricane Matthew, and explains the measures adopted to reactivate production in the main agricultural.  Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Baracoa Mayor Luis Sánchez Rodríguez shows IPS the impact on Cuba’s oldest city of Hurricane Matthew, and explains the measures adopted to reactivate production in the main agricultural. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“Meanwhile, we have to provide the local population with support to produce staple crops and provide new sources of income, until the commercial perennial crops begin to produce,” advised Theodor Friedrich, representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Cuba.

He told IPS that to this end, FAO is supporting several initiatives for agricultural and food production recovery in the area affected by Matthew, through two projects financed by the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and FAO resources. In addition, it is awaiting the approval of a bigger third project financed by a donor.

“There is an urgent need to recover the most commercial crops, to avoid delaying this process,” said Friedrich, an agronomist who advocates the need of restoring them with resilience to future climate shocks.

“In part, these crops can be used to intersperse food crops and integrate new crops with their corresponding value chains,” he said.

In the case of the territories affected by the hurricane, and together with the local authorities, FAO promotes the proposal to plant drumstick or horseradish trees (moringa oleifera) among the perennial crops, a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree which provides a micronutrient-rich ingredient used to fortify food and animal feed, while also offering a natural fertiliser for the soil.

This initiative can strengthen small industries in the area involved in the manufacturing of fortified foods and in livestock production. “It will increase the production and availability of high value-added foods, while at the same time providing a financial income to farming families,” said the FAO representative.

The government of Baracoa also identifies another economic option for local residents.

“Tourism is the most feasible alternative, because the recovery of agriculture will take some time, even though there is a programme for agro-industrial development,” said Mayor Sánchez. “After Matthew, visits here by local and international tourists fell, but now we are experiencing a surge.”
In the area, government-run hotels and other lodgings offer at total of 275 rooms, and another 367 rooms are available in 283 private houses, where the number of rooms offered has climbed to cater to the current tourism boom.

Near Baracoa’s seafront, retiree Dolores Yamilé Selva’s hostel, which she has run since 1998, is full. She believes that there is still untapped tourism potential in the area. “The tourists that come to our town, mainly from Europe, is interested in our natural surroundings,” she told IPS.

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Did You Know that the Oceans Have It All?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/did-you-know-that-the-oceans-have-it-all/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=did-you-know-that-the-oceans-have-it-all http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/did-you-know-that-the-oceans-have-it-all/#comments Thu, 13 Apr 2017 13:04:02 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149945 Healthy oceans have a central role to play in solving one of the biggest problems of the 21st century – how to feed 9 billion people by 20550. Credit: FAO

Healthy oceans have a central role to play in solving one of the biggest problems of the 21st century – how to feed 9 billion people by 20550. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 13 2017 (IPS)

Perhaps you are not aware enough of the fact the oceans have it all! What is “all”? Well, oceans have from microscopic life to the largest animal that has ever lived on Earth, from the colourless to the shimmering, from the frozen to the boiling and from the sunlit to the mysterious dark of the deepest parts of the planet. Who says that?

It is the United Nations, which by the way reminds that oceans are an essential component of the Earth’s ecosystem –a source of biodiversity, food, and life. Just think that over 40 per cent of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometres of the coast.

Thus, a better management of the ocean resources is “crucial to ensuring global food security, says the UN leading organisation in the key field of food and agriculture.

No Oceans, No Life!

Simply “without them, life could not exist,” assures the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Although the list is almost endless, the specialised agency reminds of seven facts, just to start off with:

1. Fisheries and aquaculture currently employ directly 56 million people. And many more are employed in follow-up activities, such as handling, processing and distribution. Altogether, fishing and fish farming support the livelihoods and families of some 660 to 880 million people, that’s 12 per cent of the world’s population. “Without oceans, life could not exist”

2. Oceans host 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity, and are the largest ecosystem on Earth. Fish provide 20 per cent of animal protein to about 3 billion people. Only ten species provide about 30 per cent of marine capture fisheries and ten species provide about 50 per cent of aquaculture production.

3. Oceans provide vital renewable energy. Devices are being developed to generate electricity from waves and tides, as well as offshore wind farms.

4. Oceans regulate our climate. Did you know that the oceans absorb a quarter of all the carbon dioxide that humans put into the atmosphere? This makes them a ‘carbon sink’, but its ability to absorb even more carbon is limited.

Over 90 per cent of the additional heat caused by global warming is stored in the Oceans. Without this service, and the heating and cooling effects of ocean currents, world temperatures would be too unstable to support life.

5. Oceans affect our weather. As they are heated by the sun’s rays, water from its surface evaporates and then condenses to form clouds as part of the water cycle. This is how we get our rain and therefore our drinking water. It also contributes to wind, thunderstorms and hurricanes, and helps produce the monsoon rains that millions of people in South Asia rely on.

6. Scientists have discovered that many marine invertebrates produce antibiotic, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory substances. Horseshoe crabs, seaweeds and marine bacteria have also been found to have useful medical properties.

7. Oceans influence our health and well-being. Water is known to calm and reduce anxiety in people and being near blue spaces, such as the ocean, is thought to have positive effects on our mental health.

Unfortunately, different human activities are putting our oceans under threat, FAO regrets, while adding some more facts, such as that overfishing is reducing fish populations, threatening the supply of nutritious food and changing marine food webs.

UN Photo/Martine Perret

UN Photo/Martine Perret

Overfishing or How to Deplete the Oceans

In fact, the FAO estimates that, globally, some 91-93 million tonnes of fish are captured each year, and seafood products are among the world’s most widely traded food commodities, with an export value of 142 billion dollars in 2016.

On top of that, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is estimated to strip as much as 26 million additional tonnes of fish from the oceans annually, damaging marine ecosystems and sabotaging efforts to sustainably manage fisheries.

Also that around 80 per cent of the pollution in the oceans comes from land, and coastal zones are especially vulnerable to pollutants, FAO informs.

Let alone plastics, which are also particularly problematic with enormous floating rubbish patches forming in the oceans.

Add to the above, climate change and its related impacts, such as ocean acidification, are affecting the survival of some marine species.

And the fact that coastal development is destroying and degrading important coastal marine ecosystems such as coral reef, sea grass meadows and mangroves.

The issue is so essential–and urgent that world leaders, scientists, experts, and civil society organisations, are now getting ready to participate in The Ocean Conference, which will run from 5 to 9 June.

By absorbing much of the added heat trapped by atmospheric greenhouse gases, the oceans are delaying some of the impacts of climate change. Photo: WMO/Olga Khoroshunova

By absorbing much of the added heat trapped by atmospheric greenhouse gases, the oceans are delaying some of the impacts of climate change. Photo: WMO/Olga Khoroshunova


A World Ocean Festival

As a way to heat up for that major event, the UN on April 11 announced that an inaugural World Ocean Festival will kick off the week-long event, with activists and enthusiasts taking to the streets – and waterways – of New York City to raise their voices to reverse the declining health of our oceans.

Penny Abeywardena, the Commissioner of the (New York City) Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, joined Peter Thompson, President of the UN General Assembly, to announce the first-ever Festival which will be held on 4 June, the day before the opening of The Ocean Conference, which will run from 5 to 9 June.

Sweden has been a major supporter of acting to save the oceans, commented through its deputy prime minister and climate minister of Sweden, Isabella Lövin, that the Ocean Conference could be a “chance of a lifetime” to save the oceans under enormous stress.

Most likely reflecting the general feeling of most scientists, environmentalists and civil society organisations, Lövin said “We don’t need to invent or negotiate something new, we just need to have action to implement what we already agreed upon.”

The facts are there, so is the solution. Will world’s political leaders listen… and act?

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The Unbearable Cost of Drought in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/the-unbearable-cost-of-drought-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-unbearable-cost-of-drought-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/the-unbearable-cost-of-drought-in-africa/#comments Wed, 12 Apr 2017 13:51:01 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149928 People living in the Melia IDP camp, Lake Chad, receiving WFP food. Most of the displaced come from the Lake Chad islands, that have been abandoned because of insecurity. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini

People living in the Melia IDP camp, Lake Chad, receiving WFP food. Most of the displaced come from the Lake Chad islands, that have been abandoned because of insecurity. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 12 2017 (IPS)

Nearly 50 per cent of all emergency multilateral food assistance to Africa is due to natural disasters, with advancing droughts significantly threatening both livelihoods and economic growth, warns the African Union through its ground-breaking extreme weather insurance mechanism designed to help the continent’s countries resist and recover from the ravages of drought.

The mechanism, known as the African Risk Capacity (ARC) provides participating African states with quick-disbursing funds in the event of drought, and assists countries in developing drought response contingency plans to implement timely and effective responses.

“The result is significant economic and welfare benefits for participating countries and vulnerable households.”

As currently structured, ARC reports, the cost of responding to extreme weather events in Africa, particularly droughts, is borne largely by the international community.

To give an order of magnitude using World Food Programme (WFP) operations as a proxy for international aid flows, in 2012 WFP assisted 54.2 million people in Africa, spending US $2.7 billion –66 per cent of WFP’s global expenditure that year, it adds.

Droughts significantly threaten record Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in sub-Saharan Africa, ARC warned, while explaining that 1-in-10 year drought event could have an estimated adverse impact of 4 per cent on the annual GDP of Malawi for example, with even larger impacts for 1-in-15 and 1-in-25 year events.

“Such decreased productivity detracts from economic growth, causes major budget dislocation, erodes development gains and resilience, and requires additional emergency aid from the international community in the future.” One dollar spent on early intervention through ARC saves 4.40 dollars spent after a crisis unfolds.

Devastating Effects for Households

The African Union’s extreme weather insurance mechanism also informs that at the household level, the consequences of drought can be devastating in countries with low resilience where large sectors of population rely on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood.

A mother holds up an empty cooking pot as she crouches alongside her daughter inside their makeshift home at a settlement near the town of Ainabo, Somalia, Thursday 9 March 2017. Photo: UNICEF/Kate Holt

A mother holds up an empty cooking pot as she crouches alongside her daughter inside their makeshift home at a settlement near the town of Ainabo, Somalia, Thursday 9 March 2017. Photo: UNICEF/Kate Holt

Experts from Oxford University and International Food Policy Research Institute conducted a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to examine household coping actions when faced with a drought, and the likely long-term cost impacts of these actions, according to ARC.

The study estimated the economic benefits of early intervention and thus protecting a household’s economic growth potential –that is, intervening in time to prevent households’ negative coping actions such as reduced food consumption, livestock death, and distressed productive asset sales, which, in the absence of external assistance, have increasingly pronounced negative consequences.

“The CBA calculated that the economic benefit of aid reaching households within the critical three months after harvest could result in nearly 1,300 dollars per household assisted in terms of protected economic gains.”

A further analysis shows the potential benefit of ARC outweighs the 4.4 times compared to traditional emergency appeals for assistance, as a result of reduced response times and risk pooling.

Lake Chad Basin – Extreme Emergency

The ARC report about the impact of droughts in Africa came out shortly before the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) chief’s visit to some of the affected areas in North-Eastern Nigeria, where conflict has forced an estimated 2.5 million people to leave their homes and livelihoods.

The Sub-Saharan Lake Chad Basin, which is the main source of water in the region, between 1963 and 2013 lost 90 per cent of its water mass, with massive impact on the population, according to FAO.

Across the region, (encompassing parts of Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad and Niger), which is currently faced with one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, some 7 million people risk severe hunger during the lean season and require immediate food and livelihood assistance.

“There are fifty thousand people on the brink of famine in the region, on a scale from 1 to 5, where 5 is famine, they are already at level 4”, FAO director general Graziano da Silva warned.
Following three years of drought, agriculture including livestock and fisheries can no longer be left unattended, he said.

Agriculture produces food and sustains 90 per cent of the local population. Many of the people in the area have already sold their possessions including seeds and tools and their animals have been killed by the armed groups.

“Pastoralists and fishers need to be supported as well for animal restocking. Otherwise if internally displaced persons don’t have their animals and their jobs back, they will remain in the refugee camps, “ the FAO DG emphasised.

Contribution to Long-term Resilience and Growth in Africa Low resilience households must grow by more than 3 per cent annually in real terms to withstand a 1-in-5 year drought.

For many countries in Africa, a small shock in terms of a rainfall deficit or elevated food prices can precipitate a call for a major humanitarian intervention and emergency response. The resilience in such countries is significantly low such that they struggle through most years, let alone during a drought.

For example, in a country such as Niger, where households currently display very low resilience, the ARC team has calculated that to event, the income of the most vulnerable households would have to grow by an annual average of 3.4 per cent over the next five years in real terms to build sufficient resilience in order to adequately cope without requiring external assistance.

In the meantime, insurance is not the ‘correct’ tool to deal with this chronic risk. In order to improve such countries’ resilience to natural disasters, thereby enabling sustained growth on the continent, two key elements are required: risk management and investment.

Drought, a complex and slowly encroaching natural hazard with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts, is known to cause more deaths and displace more people than any other natural disaster, according to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

By 2050, the demand for water is expected to increase by 50 per cent, it reports, adding that as populations increase, especially in dryland areas, more and more people are becoming dependent on fresh water supplies in land that are becoming degraded.

“Water scarcity is one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century. The Global Risks report published by World Economic Forum ranks ‘water crisis’ as the top risk in the coming decade and it has a place in the Sustainable Development Goals where a specific goal has been dedicated to water.”

Drought and water scarcity are considered to be the most far-reaching of all natural disasters, causing short and long-term economic and ecological losses as well as significant secondary and tertiary impacts, UNCCD informs.

The African Risk Capacity was established as a Specialized Agency of the African Union to help Member States improve their capacities to better plan, prepare and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters, therefore protecting the food security of their vulnerable populations.

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From Research to Entrepreneurship: Fishing Youth and Women out of Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/from-research-to-entrepreneurship-fishing-youth-and-women-out-of-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=from-research-to-entrepreneurship-fishing-youth-and-women-out-of-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/from-research-to-entrepreneurship-fishing-youth-and-women-out-of-poverty/#comments Wed, 12 Apr 2017 11:17:17 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149923 Section of the Zambezi River in Western Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri

Section of the Zambezi River in Western Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri

By Friday Phiri
MONGU, Zambia, Apr 12 2017 (IPS)

Ivy Nyambe Inonge, 35, is the treasurer of Mbeta Island Integrated Fish Farm in Senanga district. Her group won the first prize in Zambia under the Cultivate Africa’s Future (CultiAF)  Expanding Business Opportunities for African Youth in Agricultural Value Chains in Southern Africa. She is excited at the prospect of what 5,000 dollars can do for her group, and ultimately, the whole community of Mbeta Island.

“As women, we endure the most burden on behalf of the family,” she says. “That’s why we are excited at this opportunity availed to us, firstly through participatory research in fish processing methods, and now business grants.”

By research and business grants, Inonge refers to a symbiotic relationship between the CultiAF research project focusing on post-harvest processing of fish to reduce losses and its complimenting agribusiness component seeking to generate and test novel, creative and bold business models in the fish value chain.

The two projects are jointly funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC)  and the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR) and implemented by the Department of Fisheries and the Africa Entrepreneurship Hub (AEH), respectively.

According to the group’s winning proposal, they want to turn the 60,000 fingering capacity Malengaula lagoon on the island into a fish pond, and integrate it with livestock and vegetable production. The idea is to have an uninterrupted source of income, which is not the case at the moment due to a number of reasons.

Apart from the annual ninety days statutory fish ban, dwindling fish stocks in the Zambezi River due to climatic changes such as drought and inappropriate fishing methods persist, requiring alternative approaches as described above. Inonge believes their decision to move into fish farming integrated with crops and livestock “is an opportunity to develop a reliable source of income and a platform to become our own bosses.”

The youth and women dichotomy

Africa is the youngest region in the world. Youth make up more than two thirds of Africa’s population, yet they are more likely than adults to be unemployed. The story of women is well documented with global statistics estimating that they are responsible for more than 50 percent of food production worldwide. In Africa, the figure is higher, at 80 percent, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

However, while agriculture is said to hold the greatest potential for global transformation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a key constituency – youth and women – are conspicuously missing in the processes. This problem is particularly acute in developing countries like Zambia where they face limited access to financial resources hindering their potential for upward mobility, skills and experience to run successful businesses.

This contrast has brought about renewed interest in interconnected ways to meet not only the growing global food demands, but also poverty eradication. One innovative way recommended is agribusiness value chains to stimulate youth and women participation in agriculture and harness an increasingly educated and entrepreneurial workforce to drive growth and create jobs.

In terms of policy, African countries have it all covered. The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) – an Africa-wide agriculture-led development plan – is one such robust blueprint with a strong component on youth and women’s participation.

According to Estherine Fotabong, Director of Programme Implementation and Coordination at the African Union’s technical Agency, NEPAD, CAADP remains an inclusive initiative providing the drive to address food and nutrition insecurity, as well as unemployment, particularly of youth and women, through access to markets and opportunities to expand agribusiness.

And the CultiAF Expanding Agribusiness value chains in Southern Africa, could be putting to reality this CAADP goal. “The main objective is to increase youth participation in the Agribusiness value chain through creative ideas,” explains Dr. Jonathan Tambatamba, Coordinator of the project. “The idea is to develop ways that will help youth get attracted into agriculture and stop seeing it as a profession for the retired.”

With a core team of international, national and local partners established to support emerging entrepreneurs, the process has advanced and now at entrepreneurship training and mentorship stage.

“For Zambia, we picked ten finalists from which five emerged as winners of the business grants of varying amounts,” Tambatamba told IPS. “For the first prize winners, they will receive 5,000 dollars for their project.”

Leadership commitment and Investment

Expert analysis points out that for developing economies to cut poverty and create meaningful jobs, particularly for youths and women, they require political will from leaders and colossal sums of investment in agriculture, which interestingly, is the basis of the CAADP compact. Tambatamba agrees with this assertion.

“We were impressed with a lot of ideas that came through,” he said, citing the winning proposal whose integrated approach in re-using water between fish farming and vegetable production fits well with this year’s theme of World Water Day—Why Waste Water? which focuses on reducing and reusing wastewater. Considering the extra importance of water for the fishing communities, Tambatamba believes serious investment is required to support such “brilliant ideas.”

Granted that cash capital is important in Agribusiness, entrepreneurship pundits argue for mindset change as a starting point. According to Mawila Fututu of Future Search, a Zambian Public Service Management Division (PSMD) entrepreneurship development project, “Even if you have the fish, the nets and the money; if your mindset is poor, you will still drift back into poverty.”

The onus therefore is on the people involved in the two projects to take advantage and maximize on the opportunity provided to diversify.

“I am excited to have been exposed to this project and my appeal to fellow women and youth is that we should rise and decide our own destiny,” says Lina Mahamba, one of the few people already engaged in aquaculture. The 31-year-old, who lives a stone’s throw away from the Zambezi river, adds that she was motivated to construct fish ponds to fill the market vacuum created during the annual statutory ban.

To sum it up, there is global consensus that the challenge is huge but not insurmountable if women and youth are carried along. In the words of former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: The energy of youth can spark economies,” while African Development Bank’s Akinwumi Adesina believes thatwhen we solve the problem of women, we will address most of the problems facing us in terms of inclusive growth.”

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Developing Nations Call for New Trust Fund on Forest Protectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/developing-nations-call-for-new-trust-fund-on-forest-protection-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=developing-nations-call-for-new-trust-fund-on-forest-protection-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/developing-nations-call-for-new-trust-fund-on-forest-protection-2/#comments Tue, 11 Apr 2017 17:37:34 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149909 By an IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 11 2017 (IPS)

The Group of 77 is calling for the creation of a new and dedicated Trust Fund for the implementation of the UN’s strategic plan on forests for the period 2017-2030.

Forests-UN-Plan_The proposed Trust Fund is expected to be under the management of the Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network (GFFFN).

Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, joined by China, Santiago Garcia, Director of the National Forestry Office in Ecuador told a Working Group meeting he believes that without such a Fund, the implementation of the Strategic Plan on Forests “is difficult for developing countries”.

“As we come together to this Working Group Meeting, let me stress that Forests are crucial for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth of developing countries,” he said.

Forests are also central to sustained poverty reduction and is related to practically all aspects of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and crucial for access to water, rural development, agricultural productivity, conservation of biodiversity, energy, soil conservation, and flood control.

“They provide habitat for at least 80% of terrestrial biodiversity and are also a major carbon sink for regulating global climate,” he added.

The Group believes that the United Nations strategic plan on forests for the period 2017-2030 should be action-oriented, and strengthened to deliver a real impact on the ground, catalyze the implementation and facilitate the mobilization of increased and predictable financing to adequately carry out sustainable forest management at all levels.

And it should also restate the commitments regarding financing in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Garcia said.

He also reiterated that the adequate and timely implementation of the United Nations strategic plan on forests for the period 2017-2030 is fundamental for developing countries.

“In this regard we express our concern on approaches delivered in this venue regarding the important issue of financing which needs to recognize major gaps on financing issues.”

He said it is important to strengthen the UNFF Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network (GFFFN) and foster and capitalize existing, new and emerging financing opportunities.

These opportunities include capacity building– given constrained abilities by several developing countries to apply to or implement international cooperation for forest-related programs—and facilitating mechanisms for developing countries to access funds and disseminate best practices on Sustainable Forest Management while ensuring the full implementation of the Forest instrument and achieving the goals and targets comprised in this proposal.

The Group took note of the proposal by the Co-chairs to explore further available data on official development assistance (ODA). However the Group is committed to include a reference on increasing of funding from all sources, including an increase in ODA.

“We highlight the voluntarily nature of the Strategic Plan proposed and that the provision of means of implementation should also encompass technology transfer to developing countries on favorable terms and capacity building for developing countries.”

In this regard, he said “we also should avoid increasing the burden of reporting or creating overlaps in the process of communication through streamlined reporting on the implementation of the Forest Instrument, the Strategic Plan and voluntary planned contributions”.

“We should agree on a communication strategy that addresses those issues, especially by reassuring a transparent process on the issue of reports. The Group also believes that the term voluntary planned contributions could be replaced by “national voluntary contributions”.

The Group expressed its general agreement on the co-chair’s proposal for the six Global Forest Goals. The group also recognized certain overlapping among the targets.

“In this regard we believe that numerical targets should be based on clear forest-related definitions and baseline,” he declared.

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World Must Act Now on Lake Chad Basin Crisis: FAO DG Graziano da Silvahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/world-must-act-now-on-lake-chad-basin-crisis-fao-dg-graziano-da-silva/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-must-act-now-on-lake-chad-basin-crisis-fao-dg-graziano-da-silva http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/world-must-act-now-on-lake-chad-basin-crisis-fao-dg-graziano-da-silva/#comments Tue, 11 Apr 2017 14:52:37 +0000 Eva Donelli http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149907 Lake Chad Basin: a crisis rooted in hunger, poverty and lack of rural development. Credit: FAO

Lake Chad Basin: a crisis rooted in hunger, poverty and lack of rural development. Credit: FAO

By Eva Donelli
ROME, Apr 11 2017 (IPS)

Food assistance is a priority and the only way to prevent the crisis from worsening in the Lake Chad Basin, is to support food production according to José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

“We need to take action now and there is no doubt that hungry people need food, but an emergency approach doesn’t tackle the roots”, he said in a press conference following his three day visit to some of the affected areas in northeastern Nigeria, where conflict has forced an estimated 2.5 million people to leave their homes and livelihoods.

Lake Chad, which is the main source of water in the region, between 1963 and 2013 lost 90 percent of its water mass, with massive impact on the population.

Across the region, (encompassing parts of Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad and Niger), which is currently faced with one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, some 7 million people risk severe hunger during the lean season and require immediate food and livelihood assistance.

“There are fifty thousand people on the brink of famine in the region, on a scale from 1 to 5, where 5 is famine, they are already at level 4”, Graziano da Silva warned.

The FAO chiefexplained that this conflict cannot be solved only with arms. This is a war against hunger and poverty and rural development must be promoted and resilience built. A combination of food assistance and food production support is the only way to avoid further escalation of the serious humanitarian crisis.

Following three years of drought, agriculture including livestock and fisheries can no longer be left unattended. Agriculture produces food and sustains 90 percent of the local population. Many of the people in the area have already sold their possessions including seeds and tools and their animals have been killed by the armed groups. “Pastoralists and fishers need to be supported as well for animal restocking. Otherwise if internally displaced persons don’t have their animals and their jobs back, they will remain in the refugee camps, “ the FAO DG emphasized. “The region is approaching a critical time in the agricultural calendar, with the main planting season beginning in May/June 2017 and we need the money now to plant”, he stressed. There is a huge shortfall in international assistance to meet the emergency needs. Of the USD 62 million requested under the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria, FAO has so far received only about USD 10 million.

FAO Director-General meets Prime Minister of Chad, Albert Pahimi Padake. Credit: FAO

FAO Director-General meets Prime Minister of Chad, Albert Pahimi Padake. Credit: FAO


FAO has developed a Lake Chad Basin Response Strategy (2017-2019) to improve food security and nutrition and strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities in the affected areas and more than 1.16 million people will receive assistance in the coming months across the region. Key activities will include the distribution of cereal seeds, animal feed and the provision of cash transfers and veterinary care.

In response to a question by IPS, Graziano Da Silva said he will soon be discussing with David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme about the crisis and work together with other organizations such as UNHCR, UNICEF and UNDP “to integrate their different mandates to tackle the crisis.

Graziano da Silva stated further that according to Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno State, the current globally high levels of food insecurity reflect a sustained lack of investment in rural development over the last 30 years that has generated and exacerbated the conflicts, pushing millions of people into hunger. The FAO DG explained further that in addition to emergency assistance, there is a need to gradually move to higher investments, in particular for equipment and training of farmers in modern irrigation techniques. In reply to a question at the press conference , he noted, “the capital of Borno State is a secure city”. He pointed out that governors must ensure safe market environments.“Small markets are opening in the villages, even inside the camps, so giving them cash would stimulate the market”, he added. “What is crucial now for organizations on the ground is not to work independently but to have a good interaction with local governors, to face the challenge.”

In fact, Graziano da Silva concluded, “we are monitoring the crisis and we have a lot of detailed data; what we need is to raise awareness and inform donors on the dimension of the crisis”.

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Microbes, New Weapon Against Agricultural Pests in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/microbes-new-weapon-against-agricultural-pests-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=microbes-new-weapon-against-agricultural-pests-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/microbes-new-weapon-against-agricultural-pests-in-africa/#comments Mon, 10 Apr 2017 11:24:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149879 A farmer shows a crop-eating fall armyworm taken from his field in Gwanda, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

A farmer shows a crop-eating fall armyworm taken from his field in Gwanda, Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Apr 10 2017 (IPS)

Microscopic soil organisms could be an environmentally friendly way to control crop pests and diseases and even protect agriculture against the impacts of climate change, a leading researcher says.

Africa is battling an outbreak of trans-boundary pests and diseases like the invasive South America fall armyworm (FAW), tomato leaf miner and the TR4 which have cost the agriculture sector millions of dollars in crop damage.“Chemicals are a quick fix and short-term solution to insect pest control and also kill the predators of the pests." --Dr. Christian Thierfelder

“Research from our labs at Auburn University has shown a great potential in microbes for helping fight pests- and we have done some research on fall army worm that are pests in turf grass,” said Dr. Esther Ngumbi, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the Auburn University in Alabama, United States.

Ngumbi’s research has looked at how beneficial soil microbes help recruit natural enemies.

Microbes are tiny organisms like bacteria and fungi that interact with the soil and plants. Though not widely appreciated in much of Africa, Ngumbi said microbial formulations have been found to improve plant growth and protect crops from insects, drought and other climate-related extremes.

Researchers also say microbes can help preserve the environment threatened by growing reliance on chemical solutions in fighting crop and livestock trans-boundary pests and diseases. Pesticides pose a threat to food safety, human and ecological health, necessitating the promotion of non-chemical alternatives to handling pests.

Researchers at Auburn University have worked on beneficial soil bacteria/microbes, specifically plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR). The soil dwelling bacteria that colonize plant roots have beneficial effects of increasing plant growth and enhancing the ability of plants to fight off herbivorous insect pests such as the beet armyworm-Spodoptera exigua and the fall armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda to which they have a direct toxic effect.

First reported in Sao Tome and Principe in January 2016, the crop-eating pest has affected thousands of hectares of crops in Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe to date. The pest which is difficult to control with one type of pesticide can cause extensive crop damage of up to 73 percent in the field. It also attacks non-cereal crops including potato, groundnut, spinach, tomato, cabbage, soybeans, cotton and tobacco.

In Brazil the fall armyworms have a cost of 600 million dollars a year to control.

Dr. Christian Thierfelder, Senior Cropping Systems Agronomist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Southern Africa Regional Office, says poor identification of the pest delayed response to the outbreak in November 2016 because the pest has never been encountered before in Southern Africa.

“Everyone was classifying it [FAW] as a stalk borer or the American bollworm but they were all wrong. This new pest has now been identified as the fall armyworm and people started extensively using pesticides – some of them not yet registered,” Thierfelder told IPS.

“Chemicals are a quick fix and short-term solution to insect pest control and also kill the predators of the pests. This affects the environment and also birds who feed on caterpillars making it important to focus more on alternative ways through biological solutions such as Integrated Pest Management, crop diversification and intercropping.”

The use of IPM has been recommended to deal with insect pests. Integrated pest management is an approach that seeks to minimize and rationalize the use of chemicals.

The approach promotes the use of safer alternatives to pesticides like biocontrol and cultural practices. These include resistant cultivars to control insect pests and diseases, crop rotation and diversification at the plot and landscape, monitoring of insect pests using pheromone traps and seed treatment with beneficial soil rhizobacteria to reduce soil and foliar diseases.

Thierfelder said during extensive field tours in southern Africa, he observed less damage in early planted maize fields under conservation agriculture, intercropped with pigeonpeas or cowpeas and with some trees nearby.

“Here the attack of the fall armyworm was minimal,” said Thierfelder. “This shows that nature can help us in biological pest control as predators can hide in those diversified landscapes and control the pest.”

FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for southern Africa, David Phiri, says the fall army worm has threatened food security in the region because it is new and exposed the need to investment in surveillance systems.

“We do not have ready-made control mechanisms for the fall armyworm and we worry that pesticides used indiscriminately might actually contribute to environmental damage and also contribute to pesticide resistance,” Phiri said.

He added that, “We need to take the issue of monitoring and surveillance very seriously. Historically FAO has been trying to inform and convince governments that they should try to monitor as a matter of course not just monitor when there is a threat because they might be pests and disease coming into the region.”

According to the 2017 FAO report “The future of food and agriculture: Trends and challenges,” public investment is required to catalyze and support private investment. Investment in R&D has to be associated with the development of infrastructure and services to prevent and control the spread of pests and diseases; including trans-boundary ones and mechanisms that help reduce risks.

Rob Vos, Director of FAO’s Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division and one of the authors of the report, told IPS that the threats posed by biological invasions and outbreaks of existing trans-boundary pests highlight the importance of investing in agricultural research to rapidly respond to threats.

“The nature of trans boundary pests requires management on an international scale with countries coordinating their efforts. FAW is a highly mobile pest. The threat it poses to maize production and food security in Africa is not confined to individual countries but affects the entire region,” Vos said.

“Successful management of recurrent and new threats such as FAW is likely to be best achieved through collaboration among governments and international and national organizations.”

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UN Strengthens Kenya’s Resilience to Disasterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/un-strengthens-kenyas-resilience-to-disaster/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-strengthens-kenyas-resilience-to-disaster http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/un-strengthens-kenyas-resilience-to-disaster/#comments Fri, 07 Apr 2017 00:09:50 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149845 Drought still accounts for at least 26 percent of all people affected by climate-related disasters. Millions in Kenya are currently relying on wild fruits and vegetables. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Drought still accounts for at least 26 percent of all people affected by climate-related disasters. Millions in Kenya are currently relying on wild fruits and vegetables. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Apr 7 2017 (IPS)

Kenya’s lack of capacity to cope with wide-scale disaster has seen thousands of households continue to live precarious lives, especially in light of erratic and drastically changing weather patterns.

If millions are not staring death in the face due to the raging drought, they are fighting to remain afloat as their homes are swept away by surging waters.For every dollar spent on disaster risk reduction, a country is likely to save four to seven dollars in humanitarian response.

“Drought accounts for an estimated 26 percent of all disasters and floods for 20 percent,” warns the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

UNISDR serves as the focal point in the United Nations system for the coordination of disaster risk reduction and has been running various interventions to make the country more disaster-resilient.

Government statistics confirm that drought still accounts for at least a quarter of all people affected by climate-related disasters. The country is at the threshold of the 12th drought since 1975.

Against this backdrop, for seven months now Ruth Ettyang and her household of seven have continued to rely on wild fruits and vegetables to survive the deepening drought in the expansive Turkana County, Northern Kenya.

Temperatures are unusually high even for the arid area and the situation is becoming even more dire since people have to compete with thousands of livestock in this pastoral community for the scarce wild vegetation and dirty water in rivers that have all but run dry.

“When rains fail it is too dry. When they come it is another problem as houses are destroyed and people drown,” Ettyang explains.

Turkana is not a unique scenario and is reflective of the two main types of disasters that this East African country faces.

Additionally, Turkana is among two other counties – Nakuru and Nairobi – which account for at least a quarter of all people killed by various disasters, according to UNISDR.

There is no doubt that Kenya is a disaster-prone country and in the absence of a disaster risk management policy or legislation, the situation is dire.

“The pending enactment of Kenya’s Disaster Risk Management Bill and Policy, which has remained in a draft stage for over a decade, is a critical step in enhancing the disaster risk reduction progress in Kenya,” Amjad Abbashar, Head of Office, UNISDR Regional Office for Africa, told IPS.

Government’s recent call on the international community and humanitarian agencies to provide much needed aid to save the starving millions is reflective of the critical role that humanitarian agencies play in disaster response but even more importantly, in disaster risk reduction.

“Disaster risk reduction aims to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risk, while strengthening preparedness for response and recovery, thus contributing to strengthening resilience,” Abbashar said.

UNISDR supports the implementation, follow-up and review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, adopted at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March 2015 in Sendai, Japan, and endorsed by the UN General Assembly.

“The Sendai Framework is a 15-year voluntary, non-binding agreement that maps out a broad, people-centered approach to disaster risk reduction. The Sendai Framework succeeded the Hyogo Framework for Action that was in force from 2005 to 2015,” Animesh Kumar, Deputy Head of Office, UNISDR Regional Office for Africa, told IPS.

“This global agreement seeks to substantially reduce disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries,” Kumar added.

According to UNISDR, the disaster risk reduction institutional mechanism in the country is structured around the National Disaster Operations Centre, the National Drought Management Authority, and the National Disaster Management Unit. The UN agency works with these institutions.

Within this context, UNISDR has supported the establishment of a robust National Disaster Loss Database housed at the National Disaster Operation Centre.

“This database creates an understanding of the impacts and costs of disasters, its risks as far as disasters are concerned and to steer Kenya to invest in resilient infrastructure,” Abbashar said.

“Systematic disaster data collection and analysis is also useful in informing policy decisions to help reduce disaster risks and build resilience,” he added.

UNISDR is also assisting Kenyan legislators through capacity building and support in development of relevant Disaster Risk Management laws and policies.

Though the country is still a long way from being disaster resilient, UNISDR says that there have been some key milestones.

“We have collaborated towards ensuring that a National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction has also been instituted to monitor national disaster risk reduction progress,” Kumar observes.

A National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2018) has been developed to implement the Sendai Framework in Kenya.

At the county level, County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs) have been undertaken, which have integrated some elements of disaster risk reduction and peace and security.

Due to UNISDR work in the Counties, Kisumu city in Nyanza region, is one of five African cities that are pioneering local-level implementation of the Sendai Framework in Africa.

“The establishment of the Parliamentary Caucus on Disaster Risk Reduction that was formed in 2015 with a membership of over 35 Kenyan parliamentarians with support from UNISDR is a key policy milestone,” Abbashar explains.

The Kenyan Women’s Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) is also advocating for the enactment of a Disaster Risk Management Bill and its establishment was the result of joint efforts between UNISDR and parliament.

UNISDR remains steadfast that the role of women as agents of change in disaster risk reduction must be emphasized.

But the work that this UN agency does in Kenya would receive a significant boost if just like women, children too were involved as agents of change.

“Incorporation of disaster risk reduction in school curricula can lead to a growing population that is aware of disaster risk reduction as well as a generation that acts as disaster risk champions in future,” Abbashar said.

Setting aside a sizeable amount for disaster risk reduction in the national budget is extremely important.

For every dollar spent on disaster risk reduction, “a country is likely to save four to seven dollars in humanitarian response and multiple times more for future costs of development,” he stressed.

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Plastic No More… Also in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/plastic-no-more-also-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=plastic-no-more-also-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/plastic-no-more-also-in-kenya/#comments Tue, 04 Apr 2017 16:19:31 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149807 Plastic bags are also a major contributor to the 8 million tonnes of plastic dumped in the sea every year. Credit: UNEP

Plastic bags are also a major contributor to the 8 million tonnes of plastic dumped in the sea every year. Credit: UNEP

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 4 2017 (IPS)

Good news: Kenya has just joined the commitment of other 10 countries to address major plastic pollution by decreeing a ban on the use, manufacture and import of all plastic bags, to take effect in six months.

The Kenyan decision comes three weeks after the UN declared “war on plastic” through its new UN Clean Seas initiative, launched on at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali (February 22-24, 2017).

The initiative’s campaign urges governments to pass plastic reduction policies; industry to minimise plastic packaging and redesign products; and consumers to change their throwaway habits before irreversible damage is done to our seas.

“Kenya is taking decisive action to remove an ugly stain on its outstanding natural beauty,” Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment Programme (UNEP) commented on the Nairobi government’s decision.

“Plastic waste also causes immeasurable damage to fragile ecosystems – both on land and at sea – and this decision is a major breakthrough in our global effort to turn the tide on plastic.”

Some 100 million plastic bags are handed out every year in Kenya by supermarkets alone, the UN informed, adding that long identified as a major cause of environmental damage and health problems, they kill birds, fish and other animals that mistake them for food, damage agricultural land, pollute tourist sites and provide breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever.

More Plastic Than Fish

According to UNEP, plastic bags are the number one challenge for urban waste disposal in Kenya, particularly in the poorest communities where access to disposal systems and healthcare is limited.

They also contribute to the 8 million tonnes of plastic that leak into the ocean every year. At current rates by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish, wreaking havoc on marine fisheries, wildlife and tourism.

Biodegradable Plastics Are Not the Answer to Reducing Marine Litter. Credit: UNEP

Biodegradable Plastics Are Not the Answer to Reducing Marine Litter. Credit: UNEP

Kenya, who on March 15 announced its decision to ban plastic bags, is now the 11th country to take action in support of the UNEP’s campaign. Also in Africa, Rwanda and Morocco have already banned plastic bags and other countries are set to announce measures in the coming weeks.

At that Bali Summit, Indonesia committed to slash its marine litter by a massive 70 per cent by 2025; Uruguay will tax single-use plastic bags later this year, and Costa Rica announced measures to dramatically reduce single-use plastic through better waste management and education.

Canada added micro-beads (tiny particles of plastic) to its list of toxic substances, and New Zealand, the UK and the US announced bans on micro-beads in cosmetics.

According to estimates, at the rate we are dumping items such as plastic bottles, bags and cups after a single use, by 2050 oceans will carry more plastic than fish and an estimated 99 per cent of seabirds will have ingested plastic.

Sweden’s Strong Push

Isabella Lövin, Sweden’s deputy prime minister and climate minister told IPS in an interview that the world is going “in the totally wrong direction,” when it comes to achieving the goal of sustainable oceans and life below water.

“If you look at the trends right now, you see more and more overfishing, we are seeing more and more pollution, plastic litter coming into our oceans, and we’re also seeing all the stress that the ocean is under due to climate change, acidification of the water, but also the warming and sea level rises.

Together with Fiji, Sweden is convening a major UN Ocean Conference on 5-9 June this year.

The new Dr. Fridtjof Nansen is one of the most advanced marine vessels sailing today. Credit: FAO

The new Dr. Fridtjof Nansen is one of the most advanced marine vessels sailing today. Credit: FAO

The Conference aims to bring together governments, the private sector and civil society organisations to create a more coordinated approach to sustaining oceans. It will look at the key role that oceans play in climate change but also other issues such as the alarming prospect that there will be more plastic in our seas than fish by the year 2050.

“There’s 3 billion people around the world that are primarily dependent on marine resources for their survival and so they depend on what the ocean can produce, so it’s about food security, it’s also about livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people that depend on small scale fisheries mostly in developing countries,” Lövin explained.

She also noted that rich countries need to work together with developing countries to address these issues, because the demand for fish in rich countries has put a strain on the global fish stocks that developing countries rely on.

“Rich countries … have been over-fishing with industrial methods for decades and now when they European oceans are being emptied more or less we have depleted our resources and then we import and we fish (over long distances in) developing countries’ waters.”

“We need to make sure that fish as a resource is conserved and protected for future generations.”

Norway-FAO Advanced Oceanic Research

In line with these efforts, Vidar Helgesen, Minister of Climate and the Environment of Norway, said at the Bali Summit: “Keeping our seas clean and our marine life safe from plastic is a matter of urgency for Norway. Marine plastic litter is a rapidly increasing threat to marine life, seafood safety and negatively affects the lives of people in coastal areas all around the world. Our oceans cannot wait any longer.”

On Mach 24, Norway and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched a brand new, state-of-the-art marine studies vessel, among the most advanced of its kind — and the only research ship on the globe that flies the UN flag.

Its mission: to investigate some of the planet’s least-explored oceans, using cutting-edge technology and sophisticated equipment to help developing countries assemble scientific data critical to sustainable fisheries management and study how a changing climate is affecting our oceans.

The new Dr. Fridtjof Nansen vessel —the 3rd ship to bear that name during an on-going 40-year partnership between FAO and Norway— houses seven different laboratories packed with high tech gadgetry.

As the only research ship on the planet flying the UN flag, the Dr. Fridtjof Nansen is able to sail freely across different jurisdictional boundaries, unfettered in its pursuit of natural resource challenges that transcend borders.

Speaking at the ship’s naming ceremony in Oslo, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg stressed that both science and international collaboration will be key to implementing the 2030 Development Agenda.

“Norway, with our long coastline and ocean culture, understands the importance of SDG14, with its goal of protecting our oceans. We know this can not be done by any one country on its own. It requires us all to do our part, and Norwegian-FAO cooperation on the Nansen is an example of collaborating with developing countries to achieve this,” she said.

“This new vessel allows us to improve research and activities where marine observations are extremely limited, and better understand the impacts of climate change on aquatic ecosystems and our oceans” said for his part FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva

“This is crucial to enable developing countries to increase the resilience of ecosystems and coastal communities, especially regarding small-scale fisheries.”

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Catastrophic Antibiotic Threat from Foodhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/catastrophic-antibiotic-threat-from-food/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=catastrophic-antibiotic-threat-from-food http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/catastrophic-antibiotic-threat-from-food/#comments Tue, 04 Apr 2017 12:31:59 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Tan Zhai Gen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149801 Jomo Kwame Sundaram is a former economics professor who served as a senior UN official during 2005-2015. Tan Zhai Gen is an University of Oxford biochemistry graduate currently involved in research. Both are Malaysians. ]]> Antibiotics are used to ensure better health and survival of animals bred for food, but they are also believed by many farmers to promote growth. Credit: IPS

Antibiotics are used to ensure better health and survival of animals bred for food, but they are also believed by many farmers to promote growth. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Tan Zhai Gen
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Apr 4 2017 (IPS)

The greatly excessive use of antibiotics in food production in recent decades has made many bacteria more resistant to antibiotics. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has estimated that antibiotic use in animal husbandry, poultry farming and aquaculture in the US is over four times USDA recommended levels. Meanwhile, the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has estimated that 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the USA are used on animals.

Cheap antibiotics prone to abuse
Antibiotics are used to ensure better health and survival of animals bred for food, but they are also believed by many farmers to promote growth. As prices of antibiotics remain attractively low, they offer the prospect of higher earnings from greater output at low cost. Hence, there is little or no market incentive to reduce excessive, if not indiscriminate use, and hence abuse of antibiotics. Thus, such efforts to increase farmer incomes and profitability exacerbate the likelihood and risk of antibiotic resistance.

The widespread use of antibiotics through food chains is thus becoming catastrophic. A review by the FAO explains how antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animals are infecting humans, through direct contact with animals or indirect transmission through the food we eat. Earlier, the spread of bacteria was popularly associated with international travel, but the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria in our food is now proving to be far more formidable.

‘Recycling’ antibiotics

Ecologically minded activists have long been promoting agricultural recycling, often citing traditional agricultural practices. But adding antibiotics to animal feed has made this a threat to public health. The feed typically contains many drugs, including some only used by humans as antibiotics of last resort.

Much of the antibiotics given to livestock and poultry passes un-degraded through their urine and faeces, directly affecting food from aquaculture. Thus, waste from pigpens flowing into fishponds exposes fish and shrimps to the high doses of antibiotics that livestock get, on top of the antibiotics added to the pond water to prevent or address aquatic diseases. Antibiotic resistant bacteria from this environment then passes to humans who consume such food.

While restrictions have already been widely placed on the use of hormones and steroids to promote growth, the excessive use of antibiotics by farmers has only gained attention in recent years, while a huge reservoir of resistant bacteria was emerging and spreading.

In November 2015, scientists discovered a gene in China that can enable many types of bacteria to become more antibiotic resistant. The gene has since been found in patients, food and animals from more than twenty countries. More worryingly, these bacteria can resist the last line of effective antibiotics available.

Catastrophic threat
A British government report estimates that about 700,000 people worldwide currently die annually due to antibiotic-resistant infections. If current trends continue, this mortality rate will rise to ten million yearly by mid-century, i.e., in just over three decades.

In the near future, antibiotics will become less effective in treating infections as bacteria mutate to become more resistant. Many more people will die of currently antibiotics-curable diseases. New antibiotics may delay this trend, but no new class of antibiotics has been discovered since the 1980s.

In line with the WHO’s global action plan, member nations have pledged to draw up national action plans against antibiotics resistance, as part of a broader effort to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The lack of effective national surveillance and supervision of antibiotics use in animal products masks the severity of the threat.

Sadly, in most developing countries, the rising threat posed by the exponential growth of dangers due to excessive antibiotic use is mainly of concern to the authorities when it threatens export prospects. As with improper and excessive pesticide use, the abuse of antibiotics is mainly of concern when it affects national reputations abroad and related export earnings, with scant attention given to the threats posed to domestic consumers.

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World Bank Ignores Land Grabbinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/world-bank-ignores-land-grabbing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-bank-ignores-land-grabbing http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/world-bank-ignores-land-grabbing/#comments Mon, 03 Apr 2017 13:21:57 +0000 Linda Flood http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149766 Farmers in Ethiopia. Photo: WG Film.

Farmers in Ethiopia. Photo: WG Film.

By Linda Flood
STOCKHOLM, Apr 3 2017 (IPS/Arbetet Global)

Sales of huge land areas of Ethiopia, by the Ethiopian government, to foreign investors, have led to starvation and forced displacement. In his documentary Dead Donkeys Fear no Hyenas, Swedish film director Joakim Demmer exposes the consequences of land grabbing, and holds the World Bank complicit.

The chase for this Green Gold started over ten years ago. Just before the global  financial crisis, agricultural land areas in developing countries became a target for investment among global investors.

Joakim Demmer experienced at first hand at the Addis Abeba airport how emergency food supplies was being unloaded while local food produce was being loaded for export.

Joakim Demmer

Joakim Demmer

”It was so odd. I started reading up on the subject and became aware of the extent foreign investors were striking deals all over the country.

Pursuing this land grabbing story took him to a local journalist covering environmental issues at an early stage, who directed his attention to the Gambela National Park. Together they discovered that investors Saudi Star Agricultural Development had begun the development of a rice farm.

In order to make the sale to investors, the Ethiopian government displaced the local population.

”Our thoughts were of how we could follow this over an extended time period, so we would return several times”

”My definition of land grabbing is when transnational companies seize public lands in developemnt countries without permission from local communities and without compensation. In Ethiopia this land grabbing is also done by force. People do not voluntarily move from their homes.”

Conditions for following the story were difficult. That is why the documentary was a full seven years in the making.

Women working on a rice farm in Ethiopia. Credit: WG Film

Women working on a rice farm in Ethiopia. Credit: WG Film

”Ethiopia is in reality a dictatorship even if there are elections. The governmental apparatus is everywhere. If four Ethiopians gather in one place, at least one of them will report to the secret police. So right from the start, we had to ask ourselves whether we could report this story without compromising the safety of others.”

During the documentary process, Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were imprisoned in Ethiopia. Joakim Demmer continued to film, below the radar of the Ethiopian regime.

"The women are hit the hardest. Men can possibly seek jobs in the cities, which women can not"
Ethiopia is dependent on emergency food aid, which goes to approximately three million Ethiopians. The World Bank has supported the Ethipian development program ”Protection of Basic Services” PBS with billions of dollars. In his film, Joakim Demmer shows a measure of complicity on the side of the World Bank, supporting the mechanisms that promote land grabbing.

”In many parts of Ethipoia the development program has worked, but in several regions, the Ethiopian regime uses these available resources to displace people by restricting funding to new settlements only. New villages that serve as a kind of alibi for the Ethiopian government”.

The Saudi Star rice farm is part of the Midroc Glocal Group corporation, which is owned by the Saudi Mohammed Al-Amoudi. The Swedish subsidiary Midroc Europe was involved in developing the farm for a few years.

”I have tried to get in touch with them, but they do not want to discuss their clients”, Joakim Demmer adds.

After the opening of the film, there has been official comment from Midroc Europe that challenges the accusation of land-grabbing. In an interview with the news journal ”Omvärlden”, managing director of Midroc Europe Roger Wikström considers the relations with local inhabitants as collaborative and refutes the way the documentary portrays their activities and its consequences.

Demmer replies with the situation for the Anuk ethnic minority. ”The World Bank were informed of the situation at an early stage but chose to disregard it. Eventually an internal inquiry was launched, but it ignored testimony from the local inhabitants”

In the documentary, testimony of violence, rapes and betrayal come from several witnesses. Local Anuks were manipulated with lavish but unfulfilled promises. Demmer explains that the local inhabitants now are not just dependent on food aid, but furthermore that their cultural identity is dying as they no longer have access to the lands of their history.

”The women are hit the hardest. Men can possibly seek jobs in the cities, which women can not”.

Translation: Ravi Dar

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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IPS Interviews FAO DG on appointment of David Beasley as WFP headhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/ips-interviews-fao-dg-on-appointment-of-david-beasley-as-wfp-head/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ips-interviews-fao-dg-on-appointment-of-david-beasley-as-wfp-head http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/ips-interviews-fao-dg-on-appointment-of-david-beasley-as-wfp-head/#comments Sat, 01 Apr 2017 09:06:58 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149741 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 IPS World Desk
ROME, Apr 1 2017 (IPS)

As widely known, the key objective of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is to eradicate hunger and malnutrition by 2030, as established with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals two years ago.

The two other Rome-based Agencies, partners of FAO in this endeavor, have both recently seen a change in their leaderships : the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). On February 14, Gilbert Houngbo, former Prime Minister of Togo, was elected by the member states of IFAD as its President, and will take over on 1 April.

In the case of WFP, a joint programme of the United Nations and FAO, the UN Secretary-General and FAO Director-General led the selection process to identify the best candidate to serve as the new head of the largest humanitarian agency for food assistance and food aid. On March 29, the former Governor of South Carolina, David Beasley, was formally announced as the Executive Director of WFP after endorsement by the WFP Executive Board.

In this exclusive interview, FAO Director-General, Jose Graziano da Silva, shares with IPS his experience of carrying out this important task.

IPS : How do you feel about David Beasley’s nomination? Did you have a chance to speak to him after the final decision ?

Graziano da Silva: It was a very good outcome. David has outstanding credentials for the position, as he brings his extensive experience in liaising with key government and business leaders around the world and in leading peacebuilding missions and development efforts, working with foreign leaders. I truly hope we can continue the excellent collaboration between FAO and WFP undertaken under the leadership of the outgoing Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, and enhance it even further. Through our collective efforts and a twin-track approach, of emergency food assistance and delivering livelihoods, we must work together to keep people alive and help them to build resilience during a food crisis, ultimately eradicating hunger.

After the announcement of his selection, we had a fruitful telephone conversation and exchanged messages through the social networks. In a message from his Facebook post, he thanked me and SG Antonio Guterres for his appointment, and said he will increase efforts for “expanding the public and private partnerships (…) getting food and assistance to those who so desperately need it”. FAO stands ready to support and collaborate with him in this regard. I feel that he is very excited about his new job, and I look forward to welcoming him in Rome.

IPS : How do you see the collaboration between FAO and WFP unfolding with a new leadership, particularly at this critical time of food security crisis?

Graziano da Silva: The precarious condition of many countries in terms of food security, as well as the current famines, make it more urgent now than ever that the Rome Based Agencies work together.

We are faced with an unprecedented situation in the world today with South Sudan experiencing famine and three other countries – Yemen, northeastern Nigeria and Somalia – facing the threat of famine. Our task is not only to ensure that the people survive today but that they can live with dignity tomorrow.

If people abandon their lands, they lose their livelihoods, food production declines – thereby worsening not only their situation, but the food security of the country for many years to come.

Together the Rome Based Agencies (FAO, IFAD, WFP) need to undertake a twin-track approach, providing food assistance and simultaneously offering livelihood support and income opportunities.

FAO for its part will provide all its support to the new WFP Executive Director in order to tackle the many challenges of emergency assistance and providing relief around the globe. I shall also extend all support to the new President of IFAD.

IPS: Can you tell us more about Beasley’s nomination process ? Could you share with us your experience during the selection exercise and its implications
?

Graziano da Silva: As WFP is a joint autonomous subsidiary programme of the UN and FAO, its Executive Director is appointed by the Secretary-General of the UN and the Director-General of FAO, after consultation with the Executive Board of WFP.

Throughout this appointment process, the UN SG and I have been fully aware of the importance of ensuring a fully transparent process. The Executive Board was consulted on the proposed appointment, at the end on the process.

I am particularly proud to have taken part in this process, in close coordination with the Executive Office of the SG. I am very pleased to have been involved in this process, especially as WFP is the largest humanitarian agency for food aid in a world where many lives are at risk during one of the worst food crises in 70 years.

IPS: Could you give us more details about the process of selection itself?

Graziano da Silva: A call for nominations and applications was issued and was open from 14 to 28 February 2017, followed by a formal communication circulated to the Member States calling for candidates. The vacancy announcement was also posted on the FAO’s website and the UN SG’s senior level vacancies web page.

In total, 23 candidatures from 14 countries were received (5 women, 18 men), out of which 19 were individual applications (4 women, 15 men) and four were nominations from Member States (1 woman, 3 men). After review, 6 candidates (1 woman, 5 men) were short-listed and interviewed.

IPS : What was the criteria used for the recommendations made? Can you take us through some of the steps undertaken to ensure proper evaluation was done in this process?

Graziano da Silva: The evaluation panel composed of the UN Deputy Secretary-General and the Chief of Cabinet of the UN SG, as well as the FAO Deputy Director-General for Programmes and the FAO Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Deputy Director-General for Operations. They focused on four areas for the interview: background, strengths and weaknesses of the candidate; strategic vision and work programme; previous experience in building partnerships with key stakeholders; and management and leadership expertise.

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Indonesian Farmers Weather Climate Change with Conservation Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/indonesian-farmers-weather-climate-change-with-conservation-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indonesian-farmers-weather-climate-change-with-conservation-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/indonesian-farmers-weather-climate-change-with-conservation-agriculture/#comments Fri, 31 Mar 2017 13:27:01 +0000 Kanis Dursin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149737 Aquaponics in Indonesia: Bumina and Yumina systems use an integrated farming technique combining vegetables, fruits and fish. Credit: FAO

Aquaponics in Indonesia: Bumina and Yumina systems use an integrated farming technique combining vegetables, fruits and fish. Credit: FAO

By Kanis Dursin
JAKARTA, Mar 31 2017 (IPS)

Fifty-two-year-old farmer Theresia Loda was effusive when asked how conservation agriculture has changed her economic situation.

“My corn harvest has increased fourfold per season since I started practicing conservation agriculture,” Loda told IPS by phone from Kalimbu Ndara Mane Village, Wejewa sub-district in Southwest Sumba District, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province, around a two-hour flight east of the capital Jakarta.“For us, the most important aspect is the increase in productivity, profitability, and resilience to climate change.” --Mark Smulders of FAO

Conservation agriculture encourages farmers to keep soil disturbance at a minimum. Instead of ploughing the field, farmers dig permanent planting holes and use compost instead of chemical fertilizer. They are also urged to grow cover crops such as legumes, and to rotate crops.

Loda started practicing conservation agriculture on a 2,800 square meter plot in early 2015. In the first season, she harvested around 500 kilograms of maize, compared to between 100 and 150 kilograms using traditional techniques. Her harvest soared up to 800 kilograms in the second season, before it went down to 600 kilograms in the October 2016-February 2017 season.

The widow and mother of 10 said she sold the maize to local people and used the money to send her children to school. In 2016, she sent her fifth child to study in a nursing academy in Malang, East Java province, one year after he graduated from senior high school.

Loda’s first and third children dropped out of school in grade five, while the second and fourth finished senior high school but were not able to go to academy or university due to financial constraints. Her sixth to ten children are still in senior high, junior high, and elementary schools.

In 2016, Loda, who separated from her second husband in 2010, used part of her maize income to buy piglets and rent a paddy field in order to augment her income. Her first husband passed away in 1994.

“I just sold two pigs to pay my fifth child’s tuition in Malang. Next week, we will harvest rice from our farm for the first time,” said Loda.

Mikhaela Imakulata, a 45-year-old farmer in Sikka District, shared Loda’s sentiment.

“We harvested around 2.6 tons in the first season, compared to 2.1 tons when using the traditional method,” the mother of two told IPS from Maumere, the capital of Sikka District, on Mar. 24.

Imakulata said she and her husband cultivated an area of over 1,100 square meters. Aside from corn, they also planted a wide range of bean varieties as cover crops.

“We just planted maize again immediately after we harvested the first planting. We want to find out how the weather will affect the crop,” she said.

Mark Smulders, FAO Representative for Indonesia and Timor Leste. Credit: Kanis Dursin/IPS

Mark Smulders, FAO Representative for Indonesia and Timor Leste. Credit: Kanis Dursin/IPS

Loda and Imakulata are two of almost 13,000 smallholder farmers in NTT and West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) who practice and benefit from conservation agriculture the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) introduced there in 2013 as part of its priority program of reducing disaster risks caused by changing climate in the country.

According to Ujang Suparman, FAO national project manager for NTT and NTB, conservation agriculture projects were also implemented in West Sumba, Central Sumba, East Suma, Sabu, Malaka, Timor Tengah Utara, Timor Tengah Selatan, Alor, Lembata, Nagekeo, and Ende, West Lombok, Central Lombok, East Lombok, North Lombok, and West Sumbaw.

“Smallholder famers in NTT and NTB are among the poorest in Indonesia. They are prone to the impacts of climate change, especially long dry spells and irregular rainfall,” Mark Smulders, FAO representative for Indonesia and Timor Leste, told IPS in an interview in Jakarta.

According to Smulders, conservation agriculture is a win-win situation. “On one hand, we conserve the soil, which means we protect the soil from the sun, preserve the moisture, bring in organic materials, and on the other hand, farmers boost production and at the same time are better protected against climate change,” he said.

Data provided by FAO Indonesia and Timor Leste show conservation agriculture has proven to increase maize yield from an average of 2.1 metric tons to 4.3 metric tons per hectare.

“For us, the most important aspect is the increase in productivity, profitability, and resilience to climate change,” said Smulders.

Aside from conservation agriculture, FAO Indonesia and Timor Leste also encouraged farmers here to try integrated rice-fish farming, locally known as mina padi, where part of the irrigated rice field is turned into fish ponds.

According to Smulders, while mina padi is quite different from conservation agriculture, both are trying to intensify production using an ecosystem approach with far less use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

“What we do in mina padi is we take part of the rice field and make it into fish ponds. But fish also swim in between the rice and eat all the pests, fertilize the rice with their feces, and in the end we get better yields, better income, and better nutrition because farmers do not only eat rice they harvest but also the fish,” said Smulders.

Around 37 percent of children under five in Indonesia are stunted as a result of chronic malnutrition in the first five years of their life. On top of that, some 20 million people, or almost eight percent of the country’s population of 260 million, simply do not have access to the basic dietary energy that they need.

“We would like to put emphasis on a healthy diet from the farm to the table. We would like to see farmers produce a healthy diet, not just rice but other products as well,” Smulders said.

Sigit Paryono, a 46-year-old farmer in Sleman District, Yogyakarta, said his net income has risen significantly since joining FAO’s mina padi program in 2015.

“I used to earn between 38 dollars and 76 dollars per 1,000 square meters, now around 226 dollars,” said Sigit, who claimed to have a half-hectare of rice field.

Sigit said since joining FAO’s program in 2015, he has earned enough money to buy another 5,000 square meters of rice field. “I also sent my two children to universities,” he said.

“I hope FAO would help farmers in post-harvest processing. We want to sell mina padi rice and fish ourselves but we cannot do it without any help from others,” Sigit said.

Pramono, head of the Food Security Division, Sleman Agriculture and Fishery Agency, said mina padi works for both commodities. Rice benefits from food leftovers and fish feces as fertilizers, while fish benefit from pests that serve as their food.

“With pests eaten by fish and their feces serving as fertilizer, farmers need no pesticides or chemical fertilizers,” said Pramono.

He said his office introduced the embryo of mina padi to local farmers in 2011. “In 2015, with financial assistance from FAO, they were able to form a cluster of 25 hectares of rice field. At least 20 percent of the rice field is allocated for fish ponds,” said Pramono.

“While planted rice fields decrease by 20 percent, yields increase by 30 percent on average. On top of that, farmers still harvest between two to five tons of fish per hectare,” Promono told IPS.

“Many young factory workers have resigned to participate in mina padi cultivation,” said Pramono, adding “The future of rice production is strong again now that young farmers are entering the sector.”

Rice-fish farming was also experimented with in West Sumatra province.

Smulders said both conservation agriculture and mina padi were in line with the Indonesian government’s plan to create over 1,000 organic villages. “All three techniques, including integrated pest management, could be useful technics to promote organic farming,” he said.

He also said that his office is having discussions with the central government on how to scale up conservation agriculture and rice-fish farming areas.

“We feel we don’t have the capacity. We have demonstrated the good practice. Now, we want the government to invest. It’s a good thing to promote the two,” Smulders said.

FAO, according to Smulders, would focus on how to minimize post-harvest losses through improved storage. Too often, he said, farmers sell corn and rice at harvest time so prices are low.

“We are planning to work on a storage facility” so farmers can keep their commodities and sell them at higher prices several months later, Smulders said.

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How a Devastating Hurricane Led to St. Vincent’s First Sustainability Schoolhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/how-a-devastating-hurricane-led-to-st-vincents-first-sustainability-school/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-a-devastating-hurricane-led-to-st-vincents-first-sustainability-school http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/how-a-devastating-hurricane-led-to-st-vincents-first-sustainability-school/#comments Thu, 30 Mar 2017 00:02:08 +0000 Kenton X. Chance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149709 Director of Richmond Vale Academy in St. Vincent Stina Herberg explains how compost is produced using vegetation, cardboard, and animal droppings. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Director of Richmond Vale Academy in St. Vincent Stina Herberg explains how compost is produced using vegetation, cardboard, and animal droppings. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Kenton X. Chance
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Mar 30 2017 (IPS)

In the 1980s, an institution for troubled Danish youth and a vocational school for Vincentians was built in Richmond Vale, an agricultural district on the northwestern tip of St. Vincent.

It was hoped that spending time at Richmond Vale Academy would help the Danish youth to see the world from a different perspective. However, for a number of reasons, the concept didn’t pan out, the school closed and a farm was developed in its place.“It was both emotional and scary to hear these huge trees drop...That was a very big eye-opener for me.” --Stina Herberg, director of Richmond Vale Academy

In 2000, the first attempts were made to re-start the academy, which has been in full operation since 2007. Today, Richmond Vale Academy attracts young people from around the world who are troubled by poverty and what is going on with the Earth’s climate and want to do something about it.

The not-for-profit institution had previously focused mainly on poverty alleviation, with an emphasis on service in Africa. However, in 2010, Hurricane Tomas — the latest recorded tropical cyclone on a calendar year to strike the Windward Islands — passed to the north of St. Vincent, where the academy is located, and St. Lucia.

“That was a very big eye-opener for me,” Stina Herberg, director of Richmond Vale Academy, told IPS. “We were, of course, very worried but that was my very first meeting with climate change, I would say.”

The storm, which impacted St. Vincent on Oct. 30, left hundreds of homes without roofs, and, in addition to significant damage to homes and public infrastructure, destroyed about 90 per cent of banana cultivation, then an important crop for the local economy.

At Richmond Vale Academy, Herberg, her staff and their students listened as the tropical cyclone destroyed huge, decades-old trees. “It was both emotional and scary to hear these huge trees drop: you would hear it, like you put matches up and they just came down.”

The academy’s banana cultivation, which had taken three years to get to the point where it met the standards necessary for exportation to England, was also ruined.

“Three years of work was destroyed in seven hours,” Herberg said of the impact on the academy, adding, “but for other farmers, it was their lifetime’s work.

“So that caused us to ask a lot of questions. Yes, there were always hurricanes, but why are they more frequent? So it set us off to do a lot more research about climate change, about pollution, and we got a lot of eye-opening experiences.”

The research led to the St. Vincent Climate Compliance Conference 2012-2021, which aims to make St. Vincent and the Grenadines one of the first nations to become “climate compliant”.

The programme brings together local students as well as students from Europe, North America, South America, other parts of the Caribbean and Asia for programmes of one, three or six months duration, in which they learn about global warming, its causes and consequences.

The programme offers firsthand knowledge, as students can go directly into the nearby communities such as the village of Fitz Hughes or the town of Chateaubelair to see the impact on housing, public infrastructure, and the physical environment of severe weather events resulting from climate change.

However, the major focus of the programme is on “climate compliance”, which might be more frequently referred to as adaptation measures.

“Because if you going to talk about getting ready for climate change, if you are not doing it yourself, if you are going to tell people ‘I think it is a good idea to go organic. It is good for the soil, to plant trees’ — if you are not doing it for yourself, when you are speaking to other people it will be less effective,” Herberg said.

The academy has developed models and used its own farm to demonstrate ways in which the population can move away from carbon-based fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming.

For example, the academy set up a bio-gas facility that shows that mixing 1.5 kilogrammes of kitchen waste with 50 litres of water can produce fuel for five hours a day in a country where liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is the main fuel used for cooking.

“It is suitable as a model that can be used by families in villages,” Herberg said of the academy’s biogas facility.

“We cannot make hydropower plants, we cannot build geothermal power plants. Governments have a variety of plans for that, so we have to see what can we do. We are promoting solar, and also the biogas,” she said, adding that Richmond Vale Academy has secured funding to set up five biogas facilities in western St. Vincent.

“So, it mitigates because it is a renewable gas and you can produce it yourself. You don’t need transport from China or Venezuela or from the United States or wherever.”

The biogas production process results in slurry that can be used as fertilizer. “The important thing is that people know there are alternatives. I don’t think we can get everybody on biogas. I doubt that. But what is important is that we open up and say these are the options,” Herberg explains.

While potable water is almost always available on St. Vincent Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a water-stressed country as there are no rivers and no municipal supply of water in the Grenadines, an archipelago.

However, even on St. Vincent Island, with its rivers, streams, and springs, the dry season, which runs from December to May, can be especially punishing for farmers, only 7 per cent of whom have irrigation.

Richmond Vale Academy has developed a system for collecting rainwater for washing, showers, and toilets. The excess water from this system collects in a reservoir and is used for irrigation. Small fish are placed in the catchment to prevent mosquitos from breeding in it.

Further, the academy has, over the years, phased out chemical fertilizers from its farm. In explaining the link between organic farming and mitigating against climate change, Herberg tells IPS that as the climate changes, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is expected to have more periods without rain, and when the rains come, they are expected to be heavier over shorter periods.

Most of the nation’s farmers are still engaged in mono-cropping and use chemical fertilizer in their production. “The chemicals break down the soil structure, so it gets sandy, it gets dry, so then when you get some rain and the rain is heavier, it just washes away the soil,” Herberg said, adding that this leads to flooding and landslides.

“So, the way that we are farming, it is very dangerous for the future. If you look at the big picture of biodiversity, the planet’s biodiversity is what’s keeping the temperature [stable]. If you take away the biodiversity by making cities, chopping down the rainforest, whatever we decide to do to change the balance of nature, we cannot maintain a stable temperature,” she said.

She also spoke about deforestation to convert lands to agricultural and houses use. “We need to have trees that will give us shade, we need to have trees to shelter us from the heavy rains, so the farming has to change for us to get ready to live with climate change. We have to change the way we farm. Monocropping has no future.”

An important part of any discussion about adapting to climate change is the extent to which actions that have proven successful can be multiplied and scaled up.

“I’m quite optimistic and I think that St. Vincent, as it is a small country, it is easy to get around. There is consensus that we need to be more sustainable and go organic and focus on renewable energy. And I actually think that it is going to happen: that we are going to get geothermal energy, improve our hydro stations and then more people will get on to solar. So we will be one of the first countries in the Caribbean that will be nearly everything on renewable energy within a very reasonable time – maybe 10 years,” Herberg predicted.

She added that while Costa Rica is ahead of the region, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a good example in the 15-member Caribbean Community of what can be done to adapt to and mitigate against climate change. “We are not ahead in organic agriculture yet,” she said, but added that there are “some outstanding examples”.

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