Inter Press ServicePopulation – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 29 Jun 2017 01:27:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Rural Poverty? Cooperatives!http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/rural-poverty-cooperatives/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-poverty-cooperatives http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/rural-poverty-cooperatives/#respond Sat, 24 Jun 2017 17:00:14 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151037 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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Siduduzile Nyoni, a mother of three, busily completing one of her ilala palm products, which will be sold through women’s cooperatives in western Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Siduduzile Nyoni, a mother of three, busily completing one of her ilala palm products, which will be sold through a women’s cooperative in western Zimbabwe. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Johan Galtung
ALICANTE, Spain, Jun 24 2017 (IPS)

Humanity has had and has big projects. Mastery of nature is one, still going on. Middle range phenomena have been mastered, but not the micro level of viri–HIV is a current case–nor the macro level of climate–to the contrary, humanity is making it worse.

Johan Galtung

Another huge project can be called Material-somatic comfort, including health. Well-ness not ill-ness. Amazingly successful, look at an average day in what can be called the bourgeois way of life. As is well known, this second project may contradict the first project.

Other huge projects stand in line, calling on our attention.

Spiritual-mental comfort, also called happiness, well-being, is one, not to be to be confused with indicators of material-somatic comfort assuming that one automatically translates into the other.

Peace, both as absence of violence and as positive peace, being good to each other, is another. Between persons called friendship, love; problematic. Between nations, states, civilizations, regions very problematic. One reason: we may not have wanted it enough, too low priority relative to the others. And that also applies to:

Equality, both by lifting the bottom up meeting their needs and reducing gaps between high and low. There are those who get material and spiritual comfort from war and inequality like the present Trump-generals-billionaires regime in the USA; fascist with a strong and belligerent state and super-capitalist in its economy. With none of the socialist elements in Hitler’s nazism and Mussolini’s fascism. (*)

Inequality and violence, urban vs rural, hit those who produce and deliver food for all of us; one reason being urban fear of a delivery strike. China experiments with radical elimination of the urban-rural difference by moving industries to villages run by agricultural-industrial cooperatives, most or many working in both. Interesting, but let us look at cooperatives to master rural poverty.

Cooperatives as opposed to farms. Farms are companies with CEOs, farmers owning the land and family members and others tiling the soil. The risks are many: unmastered nature, conjunctures, food imports; the farms become indebted-impoverished, farmers starving, suicide.

The primary purpose of rural cooperatives is to feed themselves by sharing risks, and share gains on top of that. Members are both farmers and farm workers with risk-absorbing capacity and sharing.

Poor and unemployed from towns and cities may join, at least getting food in exchange for work. There may be mental aspects: old, lonely farmer couples wanting vacationing students as company, they also sustaining themselves.

The old farm = company is not good enough. Nor is capital buying all the land for single crop automated farming at the expense of both human and nature’s needs.

Rural cooperatives for rural uplift, Gandhi’s sarvodaya with villages as a productive units, means exactly that. Although this could go beyond Gandhi and be much more diverse, adjusted to local contexts.

Spain offers a fascinating example. Travel from Sevilla toward Cartagena, white, poor villages with farmers tilling small plots, the land often owned by absent land-owners, some unused, massive misery.

And then suddenly Marinaleda, a commune that became a rural cooperative by getting help from the region expropriating the land-owners, the population being paid according to the work input, run by general assemblies and setting aside funds for kindergarten-schools-health services, all free.

The mayor is the highly entrepreneurial Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo. Lad-owners all over Spain will do their best to prevent a repeat, but Gordillo has shown how it can be done. It will happen again.

A “modern” company offers low price-low quality products, pays workers and managers a minimum, the CEO a maximum for handing over the net profit to the board. In a cooperative, they are at the same level rotating among functions. Basic input work, not capital.

They are dramatically different. The jump is dramatic. Could it be more gradual, are there in-betweens?

Starting with customers-clients: “modern” business spies on them, gets their “profiles” from IT data for “matching” products. The method is that of dictatorships. In cooperatives, a producer-consumer dialogue between equals about products–like better cars, computers–is easy, developing products together. The method is that of democracy.

Take advertising in the media, with no chance for consumers to rebut, criticizing products. Dictators get some feedback, but the media treat ads as gospel truths for fear of losing advertisers. We need a culture of open product discussion and producers may find that this also serves their interests, not only those of consumers.

But companies could do better. “Marketing research” uses questionnaires and interviews, they could easily include dialogues.

Take the whole exploitation aspect, squeezing downward. Companies are now gradually accepting listing “negative side-effects”, especially for medicines. One day also for cars and computers and the rest.

Take the penetration of the human mind by what we often call “commercialization”, buying and selling, with few or no questions asked. And look at the list of Big Projects and bring them in–does this buying-and-selling serve peace? Equality?

Have a look at the price of the final product and break it down into what is paid for resources, capital, labor and profit. Customers have a right to know.

Take the segmentation of workers and of customers; trade unions and customers associations have brought them together. Good and decent companies would celebrate not fight, not marginalize them from decision-making but would include them as cooperatives do, by definition.

Treat the countryside badly, you get revenge: “Why Rural America Voted for Trump” (Robert Leonard, NYT 5 Jan 2017). Treat it well, let it have its own life, integrate rural and urban, and get a good country.

Note:

(*) “Half of World’s Wealth, in the Pockets of Just Eight Men” (Inter Press Service 16 Jan 2017). “Obscene”, pathological. Who are they? Bill Gates (Microsoft), Amancio Ortega (Zara), Warren Buffet (Hathaway), Carlos Slim (Carso), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Elison (Oracle), Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg). Six Americans, one Spaniard, one Mexican. Let Trump isolate America. America or the California-Canada-China-Mexico alliance gets the upper hand.

Johan Galtung’s article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS): TMS: Rural Poverty? Cooperatives!

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

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Global Devaluation of Work Drives Up Unemployment in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/global-devaluation-work-drives-unemployment-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-devaluation-work-drives-unemployment-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/global-devaluation-work-drives-unemployment-brazil/#respond Sat, 24 Jun 2017 03:04:37 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151034 In addition to driving up the number of unemployed people to 14.2 million, the severe recession of the last two years led Brazil to join the global trend of flexibilisation of labour laws in order to further reduce labour costs. Creating more jobs without affecting rights is the basic argument of the government and advocates […]

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In addition to driving up unemployment to 13.7%, the severe recession led Brazil to the flexibilisation of labour laws to further reduce labour costs

Police officers use tear gas to crack down on a May 24 trade union march heading towards the Brazilian Congress to protest the projected labour and social security reforms which cut social rights. Credit: UGT

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 24 2017 (IPS)

In addition to driving up the number of unemployed people to 14.2 million, the severe recession of the last two years led Brazil to join the global trend of flexibilisation of labour laws in order to further reduce labour costs.

Creating more jobs without affecting rights is the basic argument of the government and advocates of the reform that has made its way through the lower house of Congress but is pending a vote in the Senate, announced for the end of the month.

“Increasing job insecurity will be the consequence of this measure,” said Ricardo Antunes, sociology professor at the University of Campinas, in the southern state of São Paulo.

This process, which “completely undermines labour rights,” according to the academic, also includes a law on outsourcing in force since March, and a social security reform still in the initial stages in parliament, and whose approval is unlikely given the requirement of a special two-thirds majority in both houses.“Outsourcing does away with the employee-employer relationship, with workers frequently moved from one worksite or job to another. Workers lose their identity, no longer knowing if they are steelworkers or service providers, or to which category they belong.” -- Wagnar Santana

“This is a global trend that advances in a country depending on the level of resistance it runs into: slower where the trade union movement is strong, like in Germany and France, and faster where trade unionism is weaker, such as Great Britain and the United States,” Antunes told IPS.

In Brazil, workers are facing this offensive already weakened by unemployment, which is projected to remain high for a long time to come.

According to the state Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), unemployment stood at 13.7 per cent in the first three months of 2017, or 14.2 million people in a country of 207.6 million with a workforce of 103.1 million.

But underemployment amounted to 24.1 per cent, or 26.5 million people who work part-time or just a few hours a week or are considered only “potential” workers, the IBGE reported.

In addition, the lineup of forces in Congress is highly unfavourable to labour rights, with the government of President Michel Temer enjoying a vast majority, although it is vulnerable to allegations of corruption against the president and almost all of the leaders of the ruling coalition, who face possible prosecution in the Supreme Court.

The legislation proposed by the government “de-regulates labour relations, with arguments that reveal ignorance or bad faith,” argued Wagnar Santana, president-elect of the Union of Steelworkers of the ABC region, an industrial region in greater São Paulo that gave rise to the Workers’ Party (PT) and the CUT central union.

“This de-regulation did not increase employment in countries such as Spain, Mexico and Portugal, but instead drove up the rate of informal work. In Mexico, people who work for Volkswagen need another job as well to have a decent standard of living,” said the trade unionist, who works for the German car-maker.

Keeping formal labour rights such as a weekly day off and health coverage on the books means little without the possibility of enforcing them, due to the growth of informal work, employment instability and outsourcing, and the weakness of the trade union movement, he told IPS.

“Outsourcing does away with the employee-employer relationship, with workers frequently moved from one worksite or job to another. Workers lose their identity, no longer knowing if they are steelworkers or service providers, or to which category they belong,” complained Santana.

Trade unions have trouble organising, in the construction industry for example, where job rotation is frequent, he said.

If collective bargaining agreements between workers and employers trump labour laws, as the government’s proposed reform stipulates, the rights of workers would be undermined.

The strongest and best organised trade unions, such as the ones in large industrial cities, could negotiate better agreements and ensure that they are respected, but many others would not be able to. “That would end up weakening all of us, since we are not isolated,” said the trade unionist.

There are other factors that conspire against labour in Brazil, besides the high unemployment and the economic crisis aggravated by political troubles. The process of deindustrialisation weakens even the most combative trade unions, such as the steelworkers union.

The union of ABC, which represented up to 150,000 workers in the 1980s, currently has only 73,000 members, based in the municipalities of São Bernardo do Campo, Diadema, Ribeirão Pires and Rio Grande da Serra, after many ups and downs over the two past decades, Santana noted.

From the steelworkers of São Bernardo do Campo emerged trade unionist and political leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who founded the Workers Party (PT) in 1980, which he led to power the first day of 2003 and with which he governed Brazil until the last day of 2011, when he handed over the presidency to his fellow party member Dilma Rousseff, who was removed from office in August 2016.

The crisis and international competition also contributed to the rise in unemployment and to lower participation by industry in Brazil’s GDP.

But it is the devaluation of work at a global scale which Antunes attributes to the transnationalization of large companies, the new modes of production and the hegemony of finance capital, which has led to the setback in labour standards that is being pushed through in Brazil.

It is a return to “archaic” labour relations that is almost like a return to slavery, according to the expert in the sociology of labour. “Slaves used to be sold, now they are rented” through outsourcing, he said.

In 1995, Antunes published the book “Goodbye to Work?”, in which he discusses the trend towards increasing informality and precariousness of labour, and “21st century slavery”. “Precarious work used to be an exception, now it has become the rule,” he said.

One example is the British “zero-hour contract” where the employer is not required to provide any minimum working hours. One million people in the UK are working under these contracts, which puts them at the disposal of the company, to be called in to work when needed, and earning only for the hours they work, without full labour rights, said Antunes.

In Brazil this modality was included in the labour reform as “intermittent employment”.

The incorporation to the labour market of China’s huge reserves of labour power contributed to the devaluation of work around the world.

“They are qualified workers that the revolution fed and educated. Five years ago China offered poor quality industrial goods, today they have cutting-edge technology,” said the sociologist, adding that Asia has an enormous cheap labour force in countries like India, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

The reduction of costs is widespread. “In Italy they are closing factories that are reopening in Poland or Hungary, cutting monthly wages from 2,000 to 300 euros,” he said, to illustrate.

“There is a new morphology of labour. In Brazil we have 1.5 million workers in ‘telemarketing’ that did not exist before. Remote work, through on-line connection by cellphone or computer, has become widespread,” he pointed out.

But the working class has grown, although it is “more fragmented and diverse than before, and subjected to online work”. New forms of protest are emerging, including “picketing and roadblocks”, in Argentina for example, instead of strikes, he said.

“The outlook for the future is one of struggle, rebellions, as well as repression, massacres. The 21st century will be one of social upheavals”, concluded Antunes.

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“Black Soils” – Excessive Use of Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, Mercury…http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/black-soils-excessive-use-arsenic-cadmium-lead-mercury/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=black-soils-excessive-use-arsenic-cadmium-lead-mercury http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/black-soils-excessive-use-arsenic-cadmium-lead-mercury/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 10:52:30 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151021 Soils are polluted due mostly to human activities that leave excess chemicals in soils used to grow food, the United Nations reports. Excess nitrogen and trace metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury can impair plant metabolism and cut crop productivity, ultimately putting pressure on arable land, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) […]

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Credti: CIAT. Source: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 23 2017 (IPS)

Soils are polluted due mostly to human activities that leave excess chemicals in soils used to grow food, the United Nations reports.

Excess nitrogen and trace metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury can impair plant metabolism and cut crop productivity, ultimately putting pressure on arable land, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 23 June informed. “When they enter the food chain, such pollutants also pose risks to food security, water resources, rural livelihoods and human health.“

The issue took centre stage at the Fifth Plenary Assembly (PA) of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) held at FAO headquarters in Rome this week.

“Soil pollution is an emerging problem, but, because it comes in so many forms, the only way we can reduce knowledge gaps and promote sustainable soil management is to intensify global collaboration and build reliable scientific evidence,” said Ronald Vargas, a FAO soils officer and Secretary of the GSP.

“Combating soil pollution and pursuing sustainable soil management is essential for addressing climate change,” said for his part Rattan Lal, President of the International Union of Soil Sciences, in his keynote address to the Plenary Assembly.

Soil pollution is mostly caused by human activities that leave excess chemicals like nitrogen, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury in soils used to grow food

Degraded soils after flooding in Pakistan. Floods are an important transportation vehicle for soil pollutants. Credit: FAO

Tackling human-caused problems through sustainable practices will mean “more change will happen between now and 2050 than during the 12 millennia since the onset of agriculture,” he added.

The GSP Plenary Assembly is a unique, neutral and multi-stakeholder platform to discuss global soil issues, to learn from good practices, and to deliberate on actions to secure healthy soils for an effective provision of ecosystem services and food for all,” said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, Climate and Natural Resources. “Action at the country level is the new frontier.”

The Plenary Assembly endorsed three new initiatives aimed at facilitating information exchange: the Global Soil Information System; the Global Network of Soil Laboratories, set up to coordinate and standardize measurement across countries; and the International Network of Black Soils, launched to increase knowledge about the world’s most fertile agricultural soils, which are also known for their high carbon content.

Soil Pollution Under Scrutiny

Around one-third of the world’s soils are degraded, due mostly to unsustainable soil management practices. Tens of billions of tonnes of soil are lost to farming each year and one cause is soil pollution, which in some countries affects as much as one-fifth of all croplands, the UN specialised agency reports.

The term soil pollution refers to the presence in soils of chemicals that are either out of place or at higher-than-normal concentrations. Such contamination may be produced by mining and industrial activity or by sewer and waste mismanagement.

In some cases, FAO adds, pollutants are spread over large areas by wind and rain. Agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides – and even antibiotics contained in animal manure – are also major potential pollutants and pose special challenges due to the fast-changing chemical formulas employed.

Soil pollution is mostly caused by human activities that leave excess chemicals like nitrogen, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury in soils used to grow food

Farmers unload soil in Sri Lanka. Credit: FAO

“Soil pollution is an insidious risk because it is harder to observe than some other soil degradation processes, such as erosion. The hazards posed depend on how soil properties affect the behaviour of chemicals and the speed with which they enter ecosystems.”

The diversity of contaminants and soil types, and the ways they interact, make soil surveys to identify dangers difficult and expensive, according to FAO.

Black Soils

Although commonly referred to in national soil classifications, “black soils” are far from uniform. The new International Network of Black Soils defines them as containing at least 25 centimetres of humus and with soil organic carbon content above 2 per cent; by this definition they cover about 916 million hectares, or 7 per cent of the world’s ice-free land surface.

Around one-quarter of black soils are the classic “Chernozem” type, with a humus layer of more than 1 metre; these are found in the breadbasket steppe regions of Eastern Europe and Central Asia and in the former prairies of North America, the UN agency adds.

The International Network of Black Soils aims to promote the conservation and long-term productivity of black soils by producing analytic reports and serving as a platform for knowledge sharing and technical cooperation.

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No Wall for Ethiopia, Rather an Open Door—Even for Its Enemyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/no-wall-ethiopia-rather-open-door-even-enemy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-wall-ethiopia-rather-open-door-even-enemy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/no-wall-ethiopia-rather-open-door-even-enemy/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 00:01:37 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150998 It’s one thing to read about the exodus of souls flowing out of Eritrea, it’s quite another to look into the tired eyes, surrounded by dust and grime, of a 14-year-old Eritrean girl who’s just arrived on the Ethiopian side of the shared border. She is carrying a scruffy plastic bag. Inside are a few […]

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Ethiopia's refugee population now exceeds 800,000—the highest number in Africa, and the 6th largest globally.

Eritrean teenagers and young men, aged from 16 to 20, waiting at the Badme entry point to be moved to the screening registration center. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
ADINBRIED, Ethiopia, Jun 22 2017 (IPS)

It’s one thing to read about the exodus of souls flowing out of Eritrea, it’s quite another to look into the tired eyes, surrounded by dust and grime, of a 14-year-old Eritrean girl who’s just arrived on the Ethiopian side of the shared border.

She is carrying a scruffy plastic bag. Inside are a few clothes, an orange beaker, and a small torch whose batteries have nearly run out.“We are the same people, we share the same blood, even the same grandfathers.” --Estifanos Gebremedhin, head of the legal and protection department for Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs

With her are four men, two women and five younger children, all of whom crossed the Eritrea-Ethiopia border the night before. Ethiopian soldiers found them and took them to the town of Adinbried.

The compound of simple government buildings where they were dropped off constitutes a so-called entry point, one of 12 along the border. It marks the beginning of the bureaucratic and logistical conveyor belt to assign asylum status to those arriving, before finally moving them to one of four refugee camps designated for Eritreans in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

“It took us four days traveling from Asmara,” a 31-year-man among the group says about their trek from the Eritrean capital, about 80 kilometres north of the border. “We travelled for 10 hours each night, sleeping in the desert during the day.”

In February 2017, 3,367 Eritrean refugees arrived in Ethiopia, according to the Ethiopian Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA). There are around 165,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers in Ethiopia, according to the UN refugee agency.

Ethiopia’s open-door policy is in marked contrast to the strategies of migrant reduction increasingly being adopted in many Western societies.

And its stance is all the more striking due to the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments forever accusing the one of plotting against the other amid an atmosphere of mutual loathing.

But it appears the Ethiopian government is willing to treat ordinary Eritreans differently.

“We differentiate between the government and its people,” says ARRA’s Estifanos Gebremedhin. “We are the same people, we share the same blood, even the same grandfathers.”

Before Eritrea gained independence, it was Ethiopia’s most northern region. On both sides of today’s border many people still share the same language—Tigrinya—as well as Orthodox religion and cultural traditions.

Shimelba was the first Eritrean refugee camp to open in 2004. It now houses more than 6,000 refugees. About 60 percent of its population come from the Kunama ethnic group, one of nine in Eritrea, and historically the most marginalised.

“I have no interest in going to other countries,” says Nagazeuelle, a Kunama who has been in Ethiopia for 17 years. “I need my country. We had rich and fertile land, but the government took it. We weren’t an educated people, so they picked on us. I am an example of the first refugees from Eritrea, but now people from all nine ethnic groups are coming.”

Discussion among refugees in Shimelba camp of governmental atrocities ranges from accusations of genocide against the Kunama, including mass poisonings, to government officials shopping at markets and then shooting stall owners due to disagreements over prices.

“The world has forgotten us, apart from the U.S., Canada and Ethiopia,” says Haile, an Eritrean in his fifties who has been a refugee for five years. He says his father and brother died in prison. “What is happening is beyond language, it is a deep crisis—so why is the international community silent?”

Ethiopia's refugee population now exceeds 800,000—the highest number in Africa, and the 6th largest globally.

Eritrean soldiers—now deserters—arriving at the Adinbried entry point. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

There are some, however, who argue the situation in Eritrea isn’t as bad as claimed. A UN report last year accusing Eritrea’s leadership of crimes against humanity has received criticism for being one-sided, failing to acknowledge Eritrea’s progress with the likes of providing healthcare and education, and thereby entrenching a skewed negative perspective dominant in policy circles and Western media.

“It is real, nothing is exaggerated,” says Dawit, a Shimelba resident of eight years. “We have the victims of rape, torture and imprisonment in our camp who can testify.”

About 50 kilometres south of Shimelba is Hitsats, the newest and largest of the four camps with 11,000 refugees, of whom about 80 percent are under 35 years of age.

“In Sudan there are more problems, we can sleep peacefully here,” says 32-year-old Ariam, who came to Hitsat four years ago with her two children after spending four years in a refugee camp in neighbouring Sudan.

Refugees say the Eritrean military launches missions into Sudan to capture refugees who have fled.

Ethiopia also hosts refugees from a plethora of other strife-torn countries. Its refugee population now exceeds 800,000—the highest number in Africa, and the 6th largest globally.

“Ethiopia strongly believes that generous hosting of refugees will be good for regional relationships down the road,” says  Jennifer Riggan, an associate professor of International Studies at Arcadia University in the US, and analyst of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.

Others point out how there is also an increasing amount of money involved with refugees. The likes of the UK and Europe are providing Ethiopia with financial incentives to keep refugees within its borders—similar to the approach taken with Turkey—so they don’t continue beyond Africa.

Meanwhile, despite the apparent welcome given to Eritrean refugees, frictions remain.

“People recognise the shared culture and ethnic background, and that helps for many things, but there’s still distrust because of the 30-year-war [for independence],” says Milena Belloni, an anthropologist who is currently writing a book about Eritrean refugees. “There’s a double narrative.”

While both sides talk of the other as brothers, she explains, historically Eritreans have looked down on Tigrayans—based on them working as migrant labourers in Eritrea during its heyday as a semi-industrialised Italian colony—while Tigrayans viewed Eritreans as arrogant and aloof.

Either way, Ethiopia appears to be looking to better assimilate refugees by embracing the 2016 Leaders’ Summit on Refugees—pushed by former U.S. President Barack Obama—that called for better integration and education, employment and residency opportunities for refugees wherever they land around the world.

“Ethiopia’s response is to manage the gate, and figure out how it can benefit from these inevitable flows of people,” Riggan says. “I definitely think Ethiopia’s approach is the wiser and more realistic one.”

About 10 miles north of Adinbried the military forces of Ethiopia and Eritrea straddle the border, eying each other suspiciously through binoculars overlooking derelict military emplacements that serve as grim reminders of a former two-year war and ongoing fraught relations between the two countries.

In 1998 Eritrea invaded the small and inconsequential-looking border town of Badme before pushing south to occupy the rest of Ethiopia’s Yirga Triangle, claiming it was historically Eritrean land.

Ethiopia eventually regained the land but the fighting cost both countries thousands of lives, billions of dollars desperately needed elsewhere in such poor and financially strapped countries, and sowed rancour and disagreement festering ever since.

Because despite the internationally brokered peace settlement that followed the 2000 ceasefire ruling Badme return to Eritrea, Ethiopia still occupies it—the government felt the Ethiopian public wouldn’t tolerate the concession of a now iconic town responsible for so many lost Ethiopian lives—and the rest of the Yirga Triangle jutting defiantly into Eritrea.

While Badme hasn’t changed much since those days—it remains a dusty, ramshackle town—it too is involved in current Eritrean migration.

“I crossed after hearing they were about to round people up for the military,” says 20-year-old Gebre at the entry point on the edge of Badme. “I wasn’t going to go through that—you’re hungry, there’s no salary, you’re not doing anything to help your country; you’re just serving officials.”

With Gebre are another 14 males ranging in age from 16 to 20 who crossed to avoid military service, as well as two mothers who crossed with two young children each.

“Life was getting worse, I had no work to earn money to feed my children,” says 34-year-old mother-of-four Samrawit, who left two older children in Eritrea.

She travelled with 22-year-old mother-of-two Yordanos, having met her at the Eritrean town of Barentua, about 50 kilometres north of the border, and the rendezvous point with their smuggler.

Neither knows how much the smuggler earned for driving them to the border and helping them across: payment was organised by their husbands living in Switzerland and Holland.

“I would like to make sure coming here is worth it before my elder two children come,” Samrawit says.

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Asia-Pacific: Farming Rice and Fish Together to Reduce Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/asia-pacific-farming-rice-fish-together-reduce-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asia-pacific-farming-rice-fish-together-reduce-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/asia-pacific-farming-rice-fish-together-reduce-poverty/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 06:26:40 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150968 Rice is a major food commodity and staple food for many, and adding fish to flooded rice paddies has been a farming tradition practiced in a number of Asian countries for many centuries—even for more than 1000 years in some Chinese areas, the United Nations reports. With the adoption of innovative technologies and a wider […]

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The rice-fish farming system we witnessed here, also recognised as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS), represents the wisdom of millennia of farming, nowadays strengthened by innovative aspects such as public private partnership.”

FAO promotes advancements of innovative agro-aquaculture systems to enhance blue growth in Asia-Pacific. CREDIT: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME/BANGKOK, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Rice is a major food commodity and staple food for many, and adding fish to flooded rice paddies has been a farming tradition practiced in a number of Asian countries for many centuries—even for more than 1000 years in some Chinese areas, the United Nations reports.

With the adoption of innovative technologies and a wider choice of fish species and rice varieties, the rice-fish farming system can play a significant role in poverty reduction and improving food and nutrition security, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

A prime example of this successful practice is found in Honghe County of China’s Yunnan Province.

Rural and Indigenous Communities

On this, Matthias Halwart, Senior Officer and Outreach Coordinator of FAO’s Sustainable Agriculture Programme, says that agriculture, integrated with fish farming, supports rural and indigenous communities and can significantly help countries address the challenges of poverty alleviation as well as improved food and nutrition security.

The five criteria that must be met for GIAHS accreditation:

1. Contributes to food and livelihood security,

2. Endowed with biodiversity and ecosystem functions,

3. Maintains knowledge & management systems of natural resources,

4. Cultures, value-systems and social organisations supported,

5. Features remarkable landscapes, land and water resources management.

SOURCE: FAO

“The rice-fish farming system we witnessed here, also recognised as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS), represents the wisdom of millennia of farming, nowadays strengthened by innovative aspects such as public private partnership.”

Halwart also pointed out that there is scope for a wider adoption of rice-fish systems in the region and beyond, while noting that the UN specialised agency was partnering with China as part of the Belt and Road Initiative and through its FAO-China South-South Cooperation Programme to support countries on their path towards more sustainable agricultural systems.

Agro-Aquaculture

A group of agro-aquaculture experts from seven Asian countries attending a recent FAO regional workshop on innovative integrated agro-aquaculture in Asia, recently visited the rice-fish farming systems in the terraced rice field in Honghe, where fish is integrated in rice paddy to achieve higher yield and better quality of rice topping with fish as an additional commodity.

“As a result, the value of the combined output has tripled,” the Bangkok-based FAO regional office for Asia and the Pacific informs.

Honghe is a mountainous area where more than 85 per cent of inhabitants are the indigenous ethnic group called “Hani” and who are traditional rice growers in the terraced rice paddy. The county has been identified in the country’s list of poverty reduction areas.

The Freshwater Fisheries Research Center (FFRC) in Wuxi of China, which is an FAO Reference Centre for Fisheries and Aquaculture, has provided technical support and backstopping to Honghe on the rice-fish farming system and set up an experimental station.

The rice-fish farming system we witnessed here, also recognised as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS), represents the wisdom of millennia of farming, nowadays strengthened by innovative aspects such as public private partnership.”

Rice is a major food commodity and staple food for many, and adding fish to flooded rice paddies has been a farming tradition practiced in some Asian countries for many centuries. Credit: FAO

The experts from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, and Viet Nam said they were convinced that the experience of Honghe could be replicated in their respective countries to help the local farmers in their fight against hunger and to improve their livelihoods and reduce poverty.

The group further recommended that FAO set up a rice-fish farming demonstration village in Honghe to showcase their experiences and good practices.

Xu Pao, a professor and Director of FFRC, stressed the importance of cooperation among the countries concerned to share experiences and expressed a willingness to continue providing technical support and assistance for the technology transfer on rice-fish farming, not only to farmers in Honghe but nationally and internationally.

The experts participating in the workshop and site visit noted the importance of using scarce resources efficiently and manage to grow nutritious and safe food with a minimum of potentially harmful chemicals, says FAO.

They also concluded that promoting an enabling policy environment and providing necessary technical expertise are critical elements in developing their business plans.

The group agreed to continue collaborating and to develop a regional strategy for upscaling the rice-fish farming systems through a regional technical cooperation programme, supported by various funding sources, through south-south cooperation.

At present, 26 sites in 6 countries (1 site in Bangladesh, 11 sites in China, 3 sites in India, 8 sites in Japan, 1 site in Philippines and 2 sites in Republic of Korea) are designated as GIAHS in Asia and the Pacific region.

More than 1000 Ago in China

In some Chinese areas, farmers combine rice farming with aquaculture, quite literally growing fish in their flooded paddy fields. The rice paddies offer protection and organic food for the fish, while the fish soften the soil and provide nutrients and oxygen for the rice crop, the UN specialised body tells in its report: Growing rice and fish – together a Chinese tradition for 1000 years.

The method proved to have several additional advantages. For instance, the fish also eat insects and weeds maintaining a perfect ecological balance that improves biodiversity while limiting problems caused by insects and plant diseases.

“This ancient farming system has been designated a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by FAO, making Qingtian County famous for something other than emigration, and now well-known for an agricultural system that has stood the test of time and remains in harmony with nature.”

New is not always better. “It turns out that our traditional fish-rice farming method is now seen by the world as a 1 000-year-old treasure,” says Wu, a participant and beneficiary of growing rice and fish–together, according to the report.

“People were so amazed by the beauty and wonder of the rice-fish culture system that our village has become the focus of international attention.” As Wu’s village became famous, many city dwellers and some foreigners began arriving for holidays.

Wu, like many other villagers, recognised that this proud and ancient agricultural tradition was about to improve their 21st century livelihoods. “I seized the opportunity to open the first locally owned and operated restaurant in Longxian village,” says Wu. “I began selling fish produced from the rice fields.”

In order to take full advantage of the new GIAHS designation, government experts helped the villagers plan for conservation and expansion. “We formed a special team and we became much more conscious of the importance of native/local plant resources conservation and environmental protection,” says Wu.

“Today, many species of birds, like egrets, which had disappeared for years, are once again seen flying around this area.”

Today the entire village is benefiting from the conservation of its agricultural heritage. The fish produced in the paddy fields of Longxian village that once sold for 20 Yuan (2.5 dollars) per kilogramme, today sell for 120 Yuan (19 dollars).

“There are now five restaurants run by farmers in the village,” adds Wu, “and there is no shortage of customers.” Last year the village received more than 100 000 tourists.

The persistence of traditional farming through the centuries is living proof of a successful indigenous agricultural strategy and a tribute to the “creativity” of small farmers throughout the developing world, according to the UN specialised agency.

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BRICS to Lead World’s Efforts to Eradicate Hunger, Poverty by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/brics-lead-worlds-efforts-eradicate-hunger-poverty-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brics-lead-worlds-efforts-eradicate-hunger-poverty-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/brics-lead-worlds-efforts-eradicate-hunger-poverty-2030/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 14:35:54 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150924 With the clock ticking toward the 2030 deadline for meeting the international goals to eradicate hunger and poverty, five of the world’s most important emerging economies are well positioned to take a leading role in helping to achieve these objectives, according to the United Nations. The five countries, known collectively as the “BRICS” (Brazil, Russia, […]

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BRICS to Lead World’s Efforts to Eradicate Hunger, Poverty by 2030

The on-going drought in the Horn of Africa is widespread, triggering a regional humanitarian crisis with food insecurity skyrocketing, particularly among livestock-owning communities, and devastating livelihoods. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

With the clock ticking toward the 2030 deadline for meeting the international goals to eradicate hunger and poverty, five of the world’s most important emerging economies are well positioned to take a leading role in helping to achieve these objectives, according to the United Nations.

The five countries, known collectively as the “BRICS” (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), form an important economic block, the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on June 16 reported.

They account for more than 40 per cent of the world’s population and over 20 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Together, they produce more than one-third of global cereal production. Last year, Russia became the largest wheat exporter in the world.

“The BRICS countries play an important political role in the international arena. Developing countries around the world look to your successes in economic development over the past few decades as an example to follow,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and FAO’s Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, during the 7th Meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Agriculture, in Nanjing, China.

“Your experiences provide a path that can help us all meet our global collective commitments, namely those of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and the Paris climate accord.”

Kadiresan pointed out that, despite trends towards urbanization, poverty in the world today is primarily rural. As a result, accelerating rural development will be key to achieving the SDGs.

“The question is how can we do this? Our experiences in countries in different parts of the world have shown that it can best be done through a combination of agricultural growth and targeted social protection, but also through growth in the rural nonfarm economy,” she said.

“Agriculture can be a driver of sustained and inclusive rural growth. In low-income countries, growth originating from agriculture is twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth originating from other sectors of the economy.”

Equally important is that all the tools, approaches and technologies developed “must be useful and accessible to poor family farmers in developing countries” so that they can increase production and productivity.

BRICS to Lead World’s Efforts to Eradicate Hunger, Poverty by 2030

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have strong agricultural research systems. Credit: FAO


BRICS Strong in Agricultural Research

Achieving agricultural growth would also require investments in research and development, and the BRICS countries could play a leading role in this, as all five countries have strong agricultural research systems that are working on many of the challenges faced by developing countries, such as feeding a growing population in a sustainable way, according to FAO.

“Biotechnology would also play a key role in these advances, as would agro-ecological approaches. Climate-smart agriculture will be essential to adapt to the uncertain changes facing our farmers, and it will rely heavily on cutting-edge research.”

Information and Communication Technologies are becoming more widespread by the day, and they offer a promising approach to address many of the challenges smallholders face with regard to information on prices, weather forecasts, vaccines, financial services, and much more.

Agricultural Growth Not Enough

Agricultural growth, as important as it is, cannot eradicate hunger and poverty all by itself – social protection programmes can also play a key role in rural development, the UN specialised body says.

These programmes have important poverty reduction and health benefits, and can also strengthen the confidence of family farmers, encouraging them to become more entrepreneurial, it explains. “Brazil’s Fome Zero and India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act are global references in this regard.”

Kadiresan stressed that it is important not to overlook the key role played by the rural non-farm economy in fostering rural development.

“As economies transform, most farm households obtain significant income from activities other than farming. The income from these activities provides not only a higher standard of living, but also a more stable one in many cases. Governments play a key role in encouraging this transformation by investing in rural health and education,” she said.

“While these investments are typically not within the Ministry of Agriculture’s mandate, we must support such investments, as they are in the interest of our rural constituents. Where would any of us be today without the opportunities provided by our former teachers and a strong educational system?”

International trade could also serve as an effective instrument in promoting food security and act as an adaptation tool to climate change. When an inevitable bad harvest occurs, as it does in every country at some stage, timely imports can help to rebalance the domestic food economy.

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Drought Pushes 1 in 3 Somalis to a Hunger Knife-Edgehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/drought-pushes-1-3-somalis-hunger-knife-edge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-pushes-1-3-somalis-hunger-knife-edge http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/drought-pushes-1-3-somalis-hunger-knife-edge/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 17:55:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150897 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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FAO massive famine-prevention campaign in Somalia--12 million animals treated so far against livestock diseases and illness. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 15 2017 (IPS)

Another famine in former European colonies in Africa and another time in its Eastern region, with Ethiopia and Somalia among the major victims of drought and made-made climate disasters mainly caused by US and European multinational business.

While an estimated 7.8 million people are food insecure in Ethiopia, where drought has dented crop and pasture output in southern regions, in the specific case of Somalia, the United Nations reports that 3.2 million people—that’s one third of its estimated 11 million inhabitants, are now on a ‘hunger knife-edge.’

Meanwhile, more than six million people are affected, of whom only about three million have been reached with food rations.

Key Numbers

· Animals provided with life-sustaining care so far: 12.3 million

· People supported by those animals: 1.8 million pastoralists

· Approximate cost of each FAO treatment per animal: $0.40

· Cost to a pastoralist to replace one dead animal: $40

· Cumulative value of prevented livestock losses so far: $492 million

SOURCE: FAO

“The humanitarian crisis has deteriorated more rapidly than was originally projected,” the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Raisedon Zenenga, few weeks ago told the Council in New York.

People Are Dying. Survivor, Forced to Migrate

“People are dying and need protection, particularly women and children, as drought conditions force them to migrate from rural areas to town, and as sexual violence increases in displacement camps.”

Worldwide, land degradation, severe droughts and advancing desertification are set to force populations to flee their homes and migrate.

Over the next few decades, worldwide, close to 135 million people are at risk of being permanently displaced by desertification and land degradation, says Monique Barbut, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“If they don’t migrate, the young and unemployed are also at more risk of falling victim to extremist groups that exploit and recruit the disillusioned and vulnerable, “ added Barbut in her message on the occasion of this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) marked on June 17.

They are missing out on the opportunity to benefit from increasing global demand and wider sustained economic growth. In fact, the economic losses they suffer and growing inequalities they perceive means many people feel they are being left behind, Barbut said.

“They look for a route out. Migration is well-trodden path. People have always migrated, on a temporary basis, to survive when times are tough. The ambitious often chose to move for a better job and a brighter future.”

Famine-prevention: The livestock protection campaign is vital for vulnerable pastoralists who rely on their animals to survive. Credit: FAO

One in every five youth, aged 15-24 years, for example is willing to migrate to another country, she noted, adding that youth in poorer countries are even more willing to migrate for a chance to lift themselves out of poverty.

“It is becoming clear though that the element of hope and choice in migration is increasingly missing. Once, migration was temporary or ambitious. Now, it is often permanent and distressed.”

Saving Animals Saves Human Lives, Livelihoods

In parallel, concerned United Nations agencies have been strongly mobilised to help mitigate the new famine facing African countries. One of them, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has been pushing forward with a massive campaign that has so far treated more than 12 million animals in less than three months.

The objective is to protect the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of families who rely on their livestock’s meat and milk for survival. By mid-July, the UN specialised body will have reached 22 million animals, benefiting over 3 million people.

“Saving animals saves human lives and livelihoods. When animals are weakened by drought, they stop producing milk or die which means people go hungry and families are pushed out of self-reliance,” said Richard Trenchard, FAO Representative in Somalia.

Worsening drought conditions have left hundreds of thousands of Somalis facing severe food and water shortages. Credit: OCHA Somalia

Around 3.2 million people in Somalia are on a hunger knife-edge, the agency reports, adding that the majority live in rural areas and livestock such as goats, camels, sheep and cattle are their main source of food and income.

“What we have heard again and again from displaced people in camps is that when they lost their animals, everything collapsed. It is a steep, long climb for them to get back on their feet again. We have stepped up our response to reach families before that happens,” added Trenchard. “Livelihoods are their best defence against famine”.

In Somalia, 6.7 million people face acute hunger as threat of famine persists, according to a FAO new assessment.

The UN agency is deploying 150 veterinary teams across Somalia to treat goats and sheep as well as cattle and camels – up to 270,000 animals each day. The teams are made up of local Somali veterinary professionals.

Simple, Cost-Effective Care

Livestock badly weakened by the lack of feed and water are highly susceptible to illnesses and parasites but are too weak to withstand vaccination, the specialised organisation reports.

As part of an integrated response program to improve the conditions of livestock, animals are treated with multivitamin boosters, medicines that kill off internal and external parasites, deworming, and other treatments to fight respiratory infections.

The simple and cost-effective care being provided by the FAO vet teams is reinforcing animals’ coping capacity and keeping them alive and productive. (See Key Numbers Box).

Meanwhile, through its Famine Prevention and Drought Response Plan, the UN specialised body is delivering large-scale, strategic combinations of assistance to prevent famine in Somalia.

In addition to livestock treatments, this includes giving rural families cash for food purchases, helping communities rehabilitate agricultural infrastructure, and providing farmers with vouchers for locally-sourced seeds along with tractor services that reduce their labour burden.

Any serious reaction from Africa’s former colonisers?

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Mideast: Drought to Turn People into Eternal Migrants, Prey to Extremism?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/mideast-drought-to-turn-people-into-eternal-migrants-prey-to-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mideast-drought-to-turn-people-into-eternal-migrants-prey-to-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/mideast-drought-to-turn-people-into-eternal-migrants-prey-to-extremism/#respond Tue, 13 Jun 2017 15:31:40 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150865 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Credit: UNCCD

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 13 2017 (IPS)

Worldwide, land degradation, severe droughts and advancing desertification are set to force populations to flee their homes and migrate. In the specific case of the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA), such an obliged choice implies the additional risk to turn peoples into easy prey to extremist, terrorist groups.

This quick conclusion does not come out of the blue–the MENA region, which is home to around 400 million people, is one of the world’s most impacted areas by drought and fast advancing desertification.

The situation is such that several scientific researches have been handling the scary scenario that the MENA region may become inhabitable in very few decades from now, even as soon as 2040.

On this, study-based reports are bold clear. See for instance: New Evidence Confirms Risk That Mideast May Become Uninhabitable. And Will the Middle East Become ‘Uninhabitable’?

The international community is set to mark this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on June 17, under the theme: “Our Land. Our Home. Our Future.” The Day will precisely examine the important link between land degradation and migration.

The WDCD is observed every year to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification.

What Desertification Is All About?

Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations, according to the United Nations.

“Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to over-exploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.”

Over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification, and about one billion people in over one hundred countries are at risk, the world body reports. “These people include many of the world‘s poorest, most marginalized and politically weak citizens.”

Bandiagara, a town in the semi-arid central plateau of Mali inhabited by mainly agricultural Dogon people. Credit: UN Photo/Alejandra Carvajal

Bandiagara, a town in the semi-arid central plateau of Mali inhabited by mainly agricultural Dogon people. Credit: UN Photo/Alejandra Carvajal

The World Day to Combat Desertification is a unique moment to remind everyone that land degradation neutrality (LDN) is achievable through problem solving, strong community involvement and co-operation at all levels,” according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“Environmental degradation, political instability, food insecurity and poverty are causes of migration and development challenges.”

In fact, the Bonn-based UNCCD secretariat timely reminds that in just 15 years, the number of international migrants worldwide has risen from 173 million in 2000 to 244 million in 2015.

Drought, the Big Unknown

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, says the UN Convention secretariat.

By 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.

Meanwhile, UNCCD reports that the demand for water is expected to increase by 50 per cent by the year 2050. 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.

“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.”

Ten Times Less Available Fresh Water

Per capita availability of fresh water in the region is now 10 times less than the world average, the United Nations has recently warned. Moreover, higher temperatures may shorten growing seasons in the region by 18 days and reduce agricultural yields a further 27 per cent to 55 per cent less by the end of this century.

Add to this that the region’s fresh water resources are among the lowest in the world, and are expected to fall over 50 per cent by 2050, according to the United Nations leading agency in the field of food and agriculture.

Moreover, 90 per cent of the total land in the region lies within arid, semi/arid and dry sub/humid areas, while 45 per cent of the total agricultural area is exposed to salinity, soil nutrient depletion and wind water erosion, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) adds.

On this, UNCCD says that to mitigate these impacts, drought preparedness that responds to human needs, while preserving environmental quality and ecosystems, requires involvement of all stakeholders including water users and water providers to achieve solutions for drought.

“Action on mitigating the effects of drought should be implemented considering comprehensive drought early warning and monitoring systems, vulnerability and risk assessment, upstream-downstream water uses, the link between water and land use; livelihood diversification strategies for drought affected people, etc. For example, addressing land degradation upstream improves access to water on site and downstream.”

The health of land is critical in the search for sustainable solutions to water resource provision and management, the UN Convention secretariat informs. “It is essential for countries to be proactive (rather than reactive); be coordinated at regional level (in addition to the country level actions); holistic and multi-sectoral (rather than silos) and to treat drought as a ‘constant risk’ (rather than a ‘crisis’).”

The global observance of #2017WDCD will be on 15 June in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The Day will be hosted by le Ministère de l’Environnement, de l’Economie Verte et du Changement Climatique.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification

Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. It addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.

Its 195 parties work together to improve the living conditions for people in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought.

The UNCCD is particularly committed to a bottom-up approach, encouraging the participation of local people in combating desertification and land degradation. Its secretariat facilitates cooperation between developed and developing countries, particularly around knowledge and technology transfer for sustainable land management.

As the dynamics of land, climate and biodiversity are intimately connected, the UNCCD collaborates closely with the other two Rio Conventions; the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to meet these complex challenges with an integrated approach and the best possible use of natural resources.

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Heavy Toll of Disrupted Farming, Higher Prices and Displaced Livelihoodshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/heavy-toll-of-disrupted-farming-higher-prices-and-displaced-livelihoods/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=heavy-toll-of-disrupted-farming-higher-prices-and-displaced-livelihoods http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/heavy-toll-of-disrupted-farming-higher-prices-and-displaced-livelihoods/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 16:09:45 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150849 Large agricultural harvests in some regions of the world are buoying global food supply conditions, but protracted fighting and unrest are increasing the ranks of the displaced and hungry elsewhere, according to a United Nations new report. Some 37 countries, 28 of which are in Africa, require external assistance for food, according to the new […]

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Pastoralists in Somalia. Actions to promote food security can help crisis-prevention, mitigate its impacts and promote post-crisis recovery and healing. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 12 2017 (IPS)

Large agricultural harvests in some regions of the world are buoying global food supply conditions, but protracted fighting and unrest are increasing the ranks of the displaced and hungry elsewhere, according to a United Nations new report.

Some 37 countries, 28 of which are in Africa, require external assistance for food, according to the new edition of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)’s Crop Prospects and Food Situation report.

Civil conflict continues to be a main driver of severe food insecurity, having triggered famine conditions in South Sudan and put populations in Yemen and northern Nigeria at high risk of localised famine, it informs, adding that adverse weather conditions are exacerbating the threat of famine in Somalia.

Refugees from civil strife in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Central African Republic are putting additional pressure on local food supplies in host communities, the report notes, while providing detailed information the following situation in a group of countries.

Some 5.5 million people are estimated to be severely food insecure in South Sudan, where maize and sorghum prices are now four times higher than in April 2016.

In Somalia, about 3.2 million people are in need of food and agricultural emergency assistance, while in Yemen the figure is as high as 17 million.

In northern Nigeria, disruption caused by the conflict has left 7.1 million people facing acute food insecurity in the affected areas, with even more deemed to be in less dire but still “stressed” conditions.

The 37 countries currently in need of external food assistance are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

A homestead in Al Hudaydah, once an important food-producing part of Yemen and now at risk of famine. Credit: FAO

A homestead in Al Hudaydah, once an important food-producing part of Yemen and now at risk of famine. Credit: FAO



Southern Africa Rebounds, East Africa Parched

While worldwide cereal output is near record levels, production outcomes are mixed across the globe. South America is expected to post strong increases, led by Brazil and Argentina, according to the new report.

Regional production in Southern Africa is expected to jump by almost 45 per cent compared to 2016 when crops were affected by El Niño, with record maize harvests forecast in South Africa and Zambia, FAO reports.

This should help reducing food insecurity in several countries such as Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

The overall food supply situation in the Sahel region is also satisfactory after two consecutive years of bumper crops, the report notes.

East Africa, however, has suffered from insufficient rainfall at the start of the 2017 season, fall armyworm infestations and local conflicts, adds the report.

“As a result, a record 26.5 million people in the sub-region are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, and the situation could be aggravated further in the coming months as the lean season peaks. An estimated 7.8 million people are food insecure in Ethiopia, where drought has dented crop and pasture output in southern regions.”

Moreover, the UN specialised agency informs that cereal domestic prices reached exceptionally high levels in May, with the local cost of maize jumping by as much as 65 per cent this year in parts of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the report noted.

A severe drought in Sri Lanka, followed by heavy rains and local flooding in late May, will likely reduce the country’s paddy production by nearly a third compared to the average; a joint FAO/World Food Programme (WFP) Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission was fielded in March 2017 to assess the drought impact and the results are expected to be released next week.

Cereal output in the 54 Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries is set to rise by 1.3 per cent this year to 480 million tonnes, due to a strong performance in India and the rebound in Southern African countries, according to FAO’s forecasts.

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When Women Have Land Rights, the Tide Begins to Turnhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/when-women-have-land-rights-the-tide-begins-to-turn/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 00:01:08 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150836 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Women's secure tenure rights lead to several positive development outcomes for them and their families, including resilience to climate change shocks, economic productivity, food security, health, and education. Here a young tribal woman works shoulder to shoulder with her husband planting rice saplings in India's Rayagada province. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Women's secure tenure rights lead to several positive development outcomes for them and their families, including resilience to climate change shocks, economic productivity, food security, health, and education. Here a young tribal woman works shoulder to shoulder with her husband planting rice saplings in India's Rayagada province. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI, Jun 12 2017 (IPS)

In Meghalaya, India’s northeastern biodiversity hotspot, all three major tribes are matrilineal. Children take the mother’s family name, while daughters inherit the family lands.

Because women own land and have always decided what is grown on it and what is conserved, the state not only has a strong climate-resistant food system but also some of the rarest edible and medicinal plants, researchers said.The importance of protecting the full spectrum of women’s property rights becomes even more urgent as the number of women-led households in rural areas around the world continues to grow.

While their ancient culture empowers Meghalaya’s indigenous women with land ownership that vastly improves their resilience to the food shocks climate change springs on them, for an overwhelming majority of women in developing countries, culture does not allow them even a voice in family or community land management.  Nor do national laws support their rights to own the very land they sow and harvest to feed their families.

Legal protections for indigenous and rural women to own and manage property are inadequate or missing in 30 low- and middle-income countries, according to a new report from Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).

This finding, now quantified, means that much of the recent progress that indigenous and local communities have gained in acquiring legal recognition of their commonly held territory could be built on shaky ground.

“Generally speaking, international legal protections for indigenous and rural women’s tenure rights have yet to be reflected in the national laws that regulate women’s daily interactions with community forests,” Stephanie Keene, Tenure Analyst for the RRI, a global coalition working for forest land and resources rights of indigenous and local communities, told IPS via an email interview.

Together these 30 countries contain three-quarters of the developing world’s forests, which remain critical to mitigate global warming and natural disasters, including droughts and land degradation.

In South Asia, distress migration owing to climate events and particularly droughts is high, as over three-quarters of the population is dependent on agriculture, out of which more than half are subsistence farmers depending on rains for irrigation.

“For many indigenous people, it is the women who are the food producers and who manage their customary lands and forests. Safeguarding their rights will cement the rights of their communities to collectively own the lands and forests they have protected and depended on for generations.” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Indigenous and local communities in the ten analyzed Asian countries provide the most consistent recognition of women’s community-level inheritance rights. However, this regional observation is not seen in India and Nepal, where inadequate laws concerning inheritance and community-level dispute resolution cause women’s forest rights to be particularly vulnerable,” Keene told IPS of the RRI study.

“None of the 5 legal frameworks analyzed in Nepal address community-level inheritance or dispute resolution. Although India’s Forest Rights Act does recognize the inheritability of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers’ land, the specific rights of women to community-level inheritance and dispute resolution are not explicitly acknowledged. Inheritance in India may be regulated by civil, religious or personal laws, some of which fail to explicitly guarantee equal inheritance rights for wives and daughters,” Keene added.

Desertification, the silent, invisible crisis, threatens one-third of global land area. This photo taken in 2013 records efforts to green portions of the Kubuqi Desert, the seventh largest in China. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Desertification, the silent, invisible crisis, threatens one-third of global land area. This photo taken in 2013 records efforts to green portions of the Kubuqi Desert, the seventh largest in China. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Pointing out challenges behind the huge gaps in women’s land rights under international laws and rights recognized by South Asian governments, Madhu Sarin, who was involved in drafting of India’s Forest Rights Act and now pushes for its implementation, told IPS, “Where governments have ratified international conventions, they do in principle agree to make national laws compatible with them. However, there remains a huge gap between such commitments and their translation into practice. Firstly, most governments don’t have mechanisms or binding requirements in place for ensuring such compatibility.”

“Further, the intended beneficiaries of gender-just laws remain unorganised and unaware about them,” she added.

Women’s land rights, recurring droughts and creeping desertification

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), one way to address droughts that cause more deaths and displaces more people than any other natural disaster, and to halt desertification – the silent, invisible crisis that threatens one-third of global land area – is to bring about pressing legal reforms to establish gender parity in farm and forest land ownership and  its management.

“Poor rural women in developing countries are critical to the survival of their families. Fertile land is their lifeline. But the number of people negatively affected by land degradation is growing rapidly. Crop failures, water scarcity and the migration of traditional crops are damaging rural livelihoods. Action to halt the loss of more fertile land must focus on households. At this level, land use is based on the roles assigned to men and women. This is where the tide can begin to turn,” says Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, in its 2017 study.

Closing the gender gap in agriculture alone would increase yields on women’s farms by 20 to 30 percent and total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, the study quotes the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as saying.

Why the gender gap must close in farm and forest rights

The reality on the ground is, however, not even close to approaching this gender parity so essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2 and 5 which connect directly with land rights.

Climate change is ushering in new population dynamics. As men’s out-migration from indigenous and local communities continues to rise due to fall in land productivity, population growth and increasing outside opportunities for wage-labor, more women are left behind as de facto land managers, assuming even greater responsibilities in communities and households.

The importance of protecting the full spectrum of women’s property rights becomes even more urgent as the number of women-led households in rural areas around the world continues to grow. The percentage of female-led households is increasing in half of the world’s 15 largest countries by population, including India and Pakistan.

Although there is no updated data on the growth of women-led households, the policy research group International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in its 2014 study found that from 2000 to 2010, slightly less than half of the world’s urban population growth could be ascribed to migration. The contribution of migration is considerably higher in Asia, it found, where urbanisation is almost 60 percent and is expected to continue growing, although at a declining rate.”

“Unless women have equal standing in all laws governing indigenous lands, their communities stand on fragile ground,” cautioned Tauli-Corpuz.

Without legal protections for women, community lands are vulnerable to theft and exploitation that threatens the world’s tropical forests that form a critical bulwark against climate change, as well as efforts to eradicate poverty among rural communities.

With the increasing onslaught of large industries on community lands worldwide, tenure rights of women are fundamental to their continued cultural identity and natural resource governance, according to the RRI study.

“When women’s rights to access, use, and control community forests and resources are insecure, and especially when women’s right to meaningfully participate in community-level governance decisions is not respected, their ability to fulfill substantial economic and cultural responsibilities are compromised, causing entire families and communities to suffer,” said Keene.

Moreover, several studies have established that women are differently and disproportionately affected by community-level shocks such as climate change, natural disasters, conflict and large-scale land acquisitions, further underscoring  the fortification of women’s land rights an urgent priority.

With growing feminization of farming as men out-migrate, and the rise in women’s education, gender-inequitable tenure practices cannot be sustained over time, the RRI study concludes. But achieving gender equity in land rights will call for tremendous political will and societal change, particularly in patriarchal South Asia, researchers said.

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Solar Tents Improve Nutrition in Highlands Villages in Boliviahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/solar-tents-improve-nutrition-in-highlands-villages-in-bolivia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solar-tents-improve-nutrition-in-highlands-villages-in-bolivia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/solar-tents-improve-nutrition-in-highlands-villages-in-bolivia/#comments Wed, 07 Jun 2017 01:22:56 +0000 Franz Chavez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150784 In this remote highlands valley community in central Bolivia, a group of Quechua indigenous women have learned how to combat the intense frosts and the shortage of water in solar tents, and to use what they grow to prepare nutritious new meals for their families. In Phuyuwasi, in the central department of Cochabamba, in a […]

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The young Jhaneth Rojas shows radishes planted in a greenhouse-type family garden or solar tent in the village of Phuyuwasi in a highland valley in the central Bolivian department of Cochabamba. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

The young Jhaneth Rojas shows radishes planted in a greenhouse-type family garden or solar tent in the village of Phuyuwasi in a highland valley in the central Bolivian department of Cochabamba. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

By Franz Chávez
PHUYUWASI, Bolivia, Jun 7 2017 (IPS)

In this remote highlands valley community in central Bolivia, a group of Quechua indigenous women have learned how to combat the intense frosts and the shortage of water in solar tents, and to use what they grow to prepare nutritious new meals for their families.

In Phuyuwasi, in the central department of Cochabamba, in a landscape dominated by vegetation resistant to low temperatures, Maribel Vallejos told IPS how the project involving family gardens in greenhouses has changed her life and those of other women in the community.

“I used to buy vegetables for 100 Bolivian pesos (about 12 dollars), but now I save that money,” said Vallejos, the only participant in the project who speaks Spanish as well as their mother tongue, Quechua.

This village ino Pocona, one of the 46 municipalities of the department of Cochabamba, is benefiting from a programme run by the Ministry of Rural and Land Development, with the support of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other U.N. agencies.

After two years of skills training, “there is no more (child) malnutrition. We used to not eat well, now we eat clean and we know what we are eating. We are stronger eating these vegetables,” said Vallejos.

Although the surrounding fields are green, with oats and potatoes growing in the fertile soil, it is not easy to produce crops in these Andean region valleys as temperatures can drop abruptly to four degrees Celsius at night before soaring to 28 degrees, the project coordinator in Cochabamba, agronomist Remmy Crespo, explained to IPS.

Experts from several disciplines arrived at the municipalities of Pocona and the neighbouring Pojo, where the local population lives in scattered villages and hamlets, to provide integral support ranging from food production, transformation or commercialisation to consumption, said Abdón Vásquez, the programme’s national coordinator.

When the extension workers arrived in 2015, the local diet consisted mainly of rice, eggs and occasionally chicken. Today the daily intake of the members of the families involved in the project has increased by about 800 calories in proteins, vitamins and minerals provided by the vegetables they grow, said Crespo.

Two carp freshly netted from one of the family ponds dug with the support of FAO in Conda Baja, in the municipality of Pocona. The introduction of fish farming and vegetables in the production and food intake of rural communities in highlands valleys in Bolivia has changed the lives of local people. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

Two carp freshly netted from one of the family ponds dug with the support of FAO in Conda Baja, in the municipality of Pocona. The introduction of fish farming and vegetables in the production and food intake of rural communities in highlands valleys in Bolivia has changed the lives of local people. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

Jhaneth Rojas, a young farmer from Phuyuwasi, described to IPS how much her family’s dietary habits changed, as she pulled red radishes from the dirt and showed them to us with a smile.

Local farmers did not used to grow radishes, beets, cucumbers, squash, green beans, broccoli or spinach, but today “my father is interested in expanding the solar tent so that his children grow strong” with the production and intake of vegetables, said Rojas.

The project began in this village of 102 families in February 2016 with six tents, and today the community grows vegetables in 28 solar greenhouse tents.

Communities in Pocona, with a combined total population of 14,000 people, asked for technical support and supervision to build another 36 greenhouse tents, which protect the crops in a temperature-controlled environment.

In the village of Conda Baja, Elvira Salazar shows us her small garden, with lush green lettuce, green beans and beets she grows to feed her family.

Close to her garden, several fish farming ponds appear to be empty, but on closer look, carp (Cyprinus carpio) fry can be seen swimming in the one-metre-deep water diverted from the mountain slopes.

 A farmer from Phuyuwasi examines a green tomato in her greenhouse garden, with Remmy Crespo, FAO coordinator in Bolivia’s central department of Cochabamba.  Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS


A farmer from Phuyuwasi examines a green tomato in her greenhouse garden, with Remmy Crespo, FAO coordinator in Bolivia’s central department of Cochabamba. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

The fish have also been incorporated into the diet of the village’s 99 families, said Luis Alberto Morales, who together with his wife Zulma Miranda enjoy the taste of the fish.

Every 100 grams of carp provide 120 protein-rich calories, as well as vitamins A, B2, B6, B12 and E, iron, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus.

Harvesting the fish is a festive event. The fish farmers invested around 150 dollars in each 10 X 10 metre pond, and received intensive training sessions in fertilisation of fish, raising fish fry, water oxygenation, water quality control and feeding.

A total of 224 families from the municipalities of Pocona and Pojo (which has a population of over 10,000), have ponds populated with fish brought from the southern department of Santa Cruz.

In addition to fish, FAO added the production and consumption of the meat of guinea pigs, an Andean rodent smaller than a rabbit, which produce an average of 30 offspring per female annually.

Daly García told IPS that the nutritional quality of guinea pig meat motivated her to build breeding pens.

On her two-hectare family farm near Pojo, the seat of the municipality, 200 km from the city of Cochabamba, she now breeds guinea pigs using the fodder and alfalfa that she herself grows. She also produces apples, peaches and other fruit.

Clemencia Zapata, from Villa Esperanza, proudly holds up the leaves of two cabbages just picked from her small farm 3,000 metres above sea level in the Bolivian Andes, which she plants using organic bio-inputs provided by FAO and the municipality, to replace agrochemicals. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

Clemencia Zapata, from Villa Esperanza, proudly holds up the leaves of two cabbages just picked from her small farm 3,000 metres above sea level in the Bolivian Andes, which she plants using organic bio-inputs provided by FAO and the municipality, to replace agrochemicals. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

Farther from Pojo, at 3,300 metres above sea level, on the slopes of the mountains surrounding the village of Villa Esperanza, Clemencia Zapata tends her 1.5-hectare plot. Every morning she climbs a path to her land, where lettuce, cabbage and maize grow in neat rows.

The crops, growing under the bright sun of the Andes highlands, need assistance to combat pests, Zapata explained to IPS. FAO agronomist Miguel Vargas brought containers with “bio inputs” which replace agrochemicals.

Bio inputs have the technical support of FAO, the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) and the Andes Agrecol organisation, in addition to the Pojo city government.

The products have been widely welcomed by the 150 people who have used them to replace agrochemicals, which they blame for health ailments such as eyesight problems and damage to the nervous system.

The project sells the bio inputs to farmers, at cost price, using the income to expand the production and benefits to other producers.

The last link in the project’s chain is the Healthy Products Processing Plant, inaugurated on Apr. 21 and headed by the Pojo Association of Producers of Nutritious Food. Like the solar tents, the facilities and brand have a female face.

Teacher Cinthya Orellana and producer Zaida Orellana direct the activities, under strict quality and hygiene control. The food must be boiled for 20 minutes and served hot, they recommend.

A nutritious soup of corn, vegetables and jerky or dried meat, or vegetables combined with fava beans, are among the dishes offered at local trade fairs.

“Men are not interested, that’s why all the partners are women,” said Orellana, a young woman who left the textile workshops of Argentina and Brazil to return to her land to look after her husband and children and work in the industrial processing of food products in Pojo.

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Latin America Lacks Clear Policies to Tackle Human Traffickinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/latin-america-lacks-clear-policies-to-tackle-human-trafficking/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-lacks-clear-policies-to-tackle-human-trafficking http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/latin-america-lacks-clear-policies-to-tackle-human-trafficking/#respond Sat, 03 Jun 2017 00:15:14 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150721 Each year, some three million undocumented immigrants enter the United States, half of them with the help of traffickers, as part of a nearly seven-billion- dollar business, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Although Mexico is still the main source of migrants to the United States, a rise in the […]

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Migrants with tired faces laden with the hardships of the hazardous journey from Central America to the United States rest in a shelter in Mexico, which many reach after being cheated by “coyotes” out of everything they had. Credit: Ximena Natera/ Pie de Página

Migrants with tired faces laden with the hardships of the hazardous journey from Central America to the United States rest in a shelter in Mexico, which many reach after being cheated by “coyotes” out of everything they had. Credit: Ximena Natera/ Pie de Página

By Daniela Pastrana
MEXICO CITY, Jun 3 2017 (IPS)

Each year, some three million undocumented immigrants enter the United States, half of them with the help of traffickers, as part of a nearly seven-billion- dollar business, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Although Mexico is still the main source of migrants to the United States, a rise in the flow of migrants from Central America and South America has been seen in the last few decades, and more recently from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa.

Three-quarters of these new migrants cross Mexico and many of them are victims of criminal networks.“When they refer to transnational policies in the U.S., they mean not letting migrants into the country and pursuing the coyotes. But they are not referring to policies to address the problems surrounding the whole phenomenon, and even less to the victims.” -- Ana Lorena Delgadillo

Human trafficking is one of the hidden violations of the human rights of hundreds of thousands of people. But, although the smuggling of migrants is a transnational crime, in the countries involved in this phenomenon there are no transnational policies to address the problem.

“The agreements that exist between countries are aimed at cracking down on people to keep them from crossing borders. But there is not one bilateral or trilateral agreement that really seeks to solve the problem in an integral manner,” Martha Sánchez Soler, coordinator of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement (MMM), said in an interview with IPS.

Every year, the MMM organises a convoy of Central American mothers searching for their missing children in Mexico, which has prompted an effort to build bridges between countries in the region to trace the missing migrants.

“We have reported ‘coyotes’ (people smugglers) a thousand times and they don’t do anything to them because there is no serious intention to stop the problem. Coyotes are good business for governments,” the activist explained.

Human trafficking and people smuggling are crimes that have come into the spotlight in Latin America, and in multilateral bodies, in recent years.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says the phenomenon is fuelled by difficult living conditions in less developed countries, the stiffening of migration policies in industrialised countries, and the fact that it was not previously seen as a structural problem, but as a series of isolated events.

The U.N. Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, signed in Palermo, Italy in 2000, was the international community’s response to the rise in human trafficking, considered a modern form of slavery.

The Convention was reinforced by the Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.

Although many people confuse human trafficking and people smuggling and use them as synonymous terms, they are related but involve different activities: the objective of trafficking is the exploitation of a human being,it is considered a form of modern slavery, and victims do not necessarily cross borders.

Migrants travelling across Mexico on their way to the United States replicate the Way of the Cross to symbolise the ordeal experienced by the victims of human trafficking in the region, which generates some seven billion dollars a year in profits. Credit: Ximena Natera/ Pie de Página

Migrants travelling across Mexico on their way to the United States replicate the Way of the Cross to symbolise the ordeal experienced by the victims of human trafficking in the region, which generates some seven billion dollars a year in profits. Credit: Ximena Natera/ Pie de Página

Smuggling, on the other hand, is a transnational crime, since it involves the facilitating of the illegal entry of a person to a country for economic benefit; it is often done in dangerous or degrading conditions; the victims give their consent; and it generally ends with the arrival of migrants to their destinations.

However, in Mexico, people smuggling has combined with other forms of crime and many migrants fall victim to trafficking networks for sexual exploitation or forced labour for drug cartels.

According to the UNODC, the smuggling of migrants from Mexico to the U.S. generates nearly seven billion dollars a year in profits, which makes it one of the most lucrative transnational organised crimes, since it is less risky than drug trafficking.

Felipe de la Torre, from the UNODC office in Mexico, said this is a “conservative” figure, in a crime “necessarily linked to corruption, which has proliferated“ up to the highest levels of government and public bodies, not to mention private sectors such as railway companies.

“The routes of migrants began to coincide with those of drug trafficking, making the crossing even more violent…It became a business generating outrageous profits for organised crime, in which many lives are lost and the physical and psychological health of many others is put at risk,” said De la Torre.

Mexican lawyer Ana Lorena Delgadillo, head of the Foundation for Justice and Democratic Rule of Law, told IPS that “the Palermo Convention is the key to these issues; there are more general bilateral agreements, but they focus more on research and on coordination between justice systems.”

She added that: “although regulations are in place, there are no real regional policies establishing measures to ensure a comprehensive approach to this phenomenon.”

“When they refer to transnational policies in the U.S., they mean not letting migrants into the country and pursuing the coyotes. But they are not referring to policies to address the problems surrounding the whole phenomenon, and even less to the victims,” she said.

The particular case of Cuba

An example of this lack of policies has been seen in the case of Cuban migration since 2015. In November that year, the government of Costa Rica dismantled a people smuggling network, which triggered a crisis, with several thousands of migrants stranded in different countries in the region, that closed their borders to the transit of undocumented migrants.

Two Cuban migrants rest in a shelter in Costa Rica, when hundreds of them were stranded on their way from Ecuador to the United States, where many fell victim to human smugglers. Credit: Mónica González/Pie de Página

Two Cuban migrants rest in a shelter in Costa Rica, when hundreds of them were stranded on their way from Ecuador to the United States, where many fell victim to human smugglers. Credit: Mónica González/Pie de Página

In Cuba, most of the people cheated by human smugglers suffer the consequences in silence. The most dramatic cases, with tragic human losses, are often depicted in national TV series on crime, based on real life stories. This phenomenon has hit Cuba since migration got trapped in the conflict with the United States, in the 1960s.

Migrant smuggling is punished with harsh sentences that include life imprisonment in aggravated cases. But no clear data exists on the human costs.

“The risks are enormous, because you are at the mercy of the mafias. With them, there is no room for any law or human rights,” a Cuban living in the United States, told IPS. He said smugglers mainly used to come from the U.S. to pick Cubans up on speedboats, as they defected illegally.

In recent years, migrants have left Cuba legally, heading first to South America or Central America on their dangerous journey to the U.S., paying smugglers 7,000 to 13,000 dollars per person and often falling prey to violence, extortion and other crimes at the hands of trafficking networks. The journey of at least 7,700 km takes them across as many as eight national borders.

“One of my best friends paid 4,000 dollars to a man who was supposed to arrange her departure from the country. Her family spent the same amount in the U.S. After a year, she had no choice but to admit that she had been swindled. Since it was an illegal operation, she did not file a complaint,” 40-year-old professional Idalmis Guerrero told IPS.

The woman’s story dates back to before the immigration reform implemented in January 2013, which expanded travel rights for Cuban citizens, revoked the requirements of an exit permit and letters of invitation from hosts abroad – cumbersome procedures that drove up the costs and red tape involved in any trip for personal reasons.

However, obtaining a visa for the United States or other countries is still difficult.

On January 12, 2017, a week before handing over the presidency to Donald Trump, then president Barack Obama terminated the U.S. Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, known as the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which basically guaranteed Cuban immigrants residency one year and one day after they set foot on U.S. soil.

He also eliminated the Cuban Medical Parole programme, which enabled Cuban medical professionals stationed in other countries on international missions to defect and obtain visas to the United States.

Although Mexico and Cuba have several agreements for working together against people smuggling, Cubans arrested on their way to the U.S. began to be deported on Jan. 21 after they were denied safe conducts that give foreign nationals 20 days to leave Mexico.

With additional reporting by Patricia Grogg in Havana.

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Large Landowners Jeopardise Indigenous Revival in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/large-landowners-jeopardise-indigenous-revival-in-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=large-landowners-jeopardise-indigenous-revival-in-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/large-landowners-jeopardise-indigenous-revival-in-brazil/#respond Wed, 31 May 2017 23:50:27 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150689 The attack with guns and machetes that left at least 10 Gamela indigenous people wounded, in the northeastern state of Maranhão, highlighted the growing threats against the resurgence and survival of native people in Brazil. On Apr. 30, dozens of armed men attacked indigenous people who were occupying an estate in the municipality of Viana, […]

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Representatives of indigenous peoples in Brazil, who gather every year in April at the Free Land Camp on the Esplanade of the Ministries in Brasilia, in a protest against the legislators who undermine their rights to land, health and education. The National Congress is seen in the background. Credit: José Cruz/Agência Brasil

Representatives of indigenous peoples in Brazil, who gather every year in April at the Free Land Camp on the Esplanade of the Ministries in Brasilia, in a protest against the legislators who undermine their rights to land, health and education. The National Congress is seen in the background. Credit: José Cruz/Agência Brasil

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, May 31 2017 (IPS)

The attack with guns and machetes that left at least 10 Gamela indigenous people wounded, in the northeastern state of Maranhão, highlighted the growing threats against the resurgence and survival of native people in Brazil.

On Apr. 30, dozens of armed men attacked indigenous people who were occupying an estate in the municipality of Viana, which they claim as their ancestral land. Two of the injured suffered deep cuts on their hands.
The uneven battle was reminiscent of the massacres that decimated Brazil’s native population over the course of five centuries. But it was merely the most brutal part of an offensive unleashed on multiple fronts by large landowners, who consider the amount of land granted to indigenous people excessive.

“This is the worst moment in terms of government indigenous policy since the (1964-1985) military dictatorship,” said Marcio Santilli, a founding member of the non-governmental Social-Environmental Institute (ISA) and former president (1995-1996) of the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), the government indigenous rights agency.
The government of President Michel Temer, in office since May 2016, is behind “an unprecedented setback in the entire system of protection of the environment, native peoples and farm workers,” the ISA and 59 other non-governmental organisations complained in an “open letter” released on May 9.

The offensive has included a 55 per cent cut in FUNAI’s budget this year, the appointment of an army general, Franklimberg de Freitas, as head of the agency, and legislative measures that seek to revoke the indigenous right to the lands where they have traditionally lived, recognised in Brazil’s constitution.

A constitutional amendment, under discussion since 2000, aims to transfer from the executive to the legislative branches the authority to make the final decision regarding the demarcation of indigenous lands.

Approval of the amendment would block the process of demarcation of native land promoted by the 1988 constitution, since Congress is traditionally conservative and is currently dominated by the Agricultural Parliamentary Front (APF), vehemently opposed to assigning more land to indigenous people.

The multi-party block, also known as the rural caucus, is comprised of 257 lawmakers – half of the lower chamber – and 16 senators – one-fifth of the Senate – according to the Inter-union Department of Parliamentary Advisory.

“President Temer, who is very unpopular, is hostage to the Congress and vulnerable to the pressures of the parliamentarians,” Santilli told IPS, to explain his concern with respect to the initiatives set forth by the current administration, whose term ends the first day of 2019.

Justice Minister Osmar Serraglio was legal coordinator of the APF until February, when he was appointed to head the ministry that is currently responsible for indigenous policy, as FUNAI answers to the Justice Ministry.
The president of the APF, lawmaker Nilson Leitão, as rapporteur for the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry on FUNAI and Land Reform, is calling for the prosecution of dozens of leaders of non-government organisations (NGO), anthropologists, public prosecutors and government officials for alleged fraud in the demarcation of indigenous lands.

“It is a paradox that he intends to criminalise those who want to comply with the constitution” by ensuring indigenous access to lands that were traditionally theirs, Santilli remarked.

“We are all defending the constitution, from different

A Guaraní family who live precariously on lands not yet demarcated, under the constant threat of expulsion, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, near the border with Paraguay. The largest indigenous population in Brazil is concentrated in this area, where large landowners have taken possession of native lands, leading to the highest number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A Guaraní family who live precariously on lands not yet demarcated, under the constant threat of expulsion, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, near the border with Paraguay. The largest indigenous population in Brazil is concentrated in this area, where large landowners have taken possession of native lands, leading to the highest number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

viewpoints,” said Leitão, explaining that the parliamentary commission examined several cases and concluded in a 3,385-page report that there are proven illegalities that must be prosecuted.

“There was an improper use of public resources,” the legislator told IPS. “Some NGOs even bought firearms for indigenous people, and in some demarcations the indigenous people did not even want the entire area that was allocated to them.”

His report attacks several NGOs that “received huge sums of money from abroad” and encouraged “invasions of rural properties” claimed as indigenous lands, ignoring the legal property claims of the owners.

“The method of demarcation has defects, everything that has been done lately is being questioned by the justice system,” Leitão said. Also, in his opinion, FUNAI was weakened when it was “taken over by officials with a biased ideology.”

But his main criticism is that the land is “the only focus of FUNAI and indigenous people,” while they ignore issues such as “taking care of the health and education” of native peoples.

As a consequence, the rural bloc lawmaker said that “in the last 10 years the death rate among indigenous people rose 168 percent, not due to war or violent conflicts, but because of diseases,” and 40 per cent of the deaths were of children under five.

It has nothing to do with a shortage of land, he argued, pointing out that there were 817,963 indigenous people – 0.4 per cent of the total population – in Brazil according to the 2010 census, occupying 117 million hectares, or 13.7 per cent of the national territory. In 2010 the population was just over 190 million people, compared to today’s 211 million, according to current projections.

Minimising the importance of the land issue is in the interest of the rural bloc, in permanent conflict with the contenders for land, whether indigenous people or peasant farmers demanding to be settled on land under the government’s land reform programme.

But all experts consider land the key factor for the survival of native peoples.

The current rural bloc offensive, which is favoured by their majority in Congress, threatens to put an end to the indigenous resurgence promoted by Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985 and the constitution approved three years later.

The indigenous population stood at just 294,131 in 1991, when the first official census to incorporate that ethnic identification was carried out. By 2000 the number had more than doubled, to 734,127, and in 2010 it had reached 817,963.

This increase responded to the demarcation of over 80 per cent of the 480 areas already recognised as belonging to indigenous people in Brazil since 1988. There are still 224 areas to be officially demarcated, half of them already identified and the rest still in process.

“The population growth will continue to be reflected in the 2020 census, despite the escalation of violence,” predicted Cleber Buzatto, executive secretary of the Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI), a Catholic Church organisation.

Many native groups are involved in a revival of their identities and are trying to recover their ancestral lands. This is the case of the Gamela people, who occupied estates seeking to demarcate their territory themselves, in the face of the slow pace of the government’s action, as part of an initiative that triggered the violent reaction by large local landowners, said Buzatto.

The indigenous population, despite the adversities, continue to mobilise for their constitutional rights.

Currently there are 252 native peoples, speaking 150 different languages, of the 1,200 that were spoken when the Portuguese colonialists arrived in 1500, according to ISA. The largest groups are the Guaraní, Tikuna, Terena and Yanomami.

The Free Land Camp, an annual demonstration held in Brasilia, drew nearly 4,000 indigenous people Apr. 24-28, to protest against “violence, setbacks and threats by the Brazilian state,” and defend their rights guaranteed by the constitution and international treaties.

“There is a series of ongoing threats and actions that are related to, and that reinforce, each other,” with a rural bloc representative in the Justice Ministry, and attempts to modify the constitution to invade indigenous lands, disqualify the demarcation system and ensure impunity for the aggressors, said Buzatto.

These actions also affect the environment and human rights, fomenting resistance movements.

Criticism of the positions taken by the Brazilian government, particularly with respect to indigenous questions, were expressed in the United Nations Human Rights Council, when it subjected the country to the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva on May 5. “That is something that gives us hope,” said the secretary of CIMI.

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How to Produce More Food with Less Damage to Soil, Water, Forestshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/how-to-produce-more-food-with-less-damage-to-soil-water-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-produce-more-food-with-less-damage-to-soil-water-forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/how-to-produce-more-food-with-less-damage-to-soil-water-forests/#respond Wed, 31 May 2017 12:29:04 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150678 Massive agriculture intensification is contributing to increased deforestation, water scarcity, soil depletion and the level of greenhouse gas emission, the United Nations warns. To achieve sustainable development we must transform current agriculture and food systems, including by supporting smallholders and family farmers, reducing pesticide and chemical use, and improving land conservation practices, the UN Food […]

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High-input, resource intensive farming systems have substantially increased food production, but at a high cost to the environment. Credit: IPS

By IPS World Desk
ROME/BRUSSELS, May 31 2017 (IPS)

Massive agriculture intensification is contributing to increased deforestation, water scarcity, soil depletion and the level of greenhouse gas emission, the United Nations warns.

To achieve sustainable development we must transform current agriculture and food systems, including by supporting smallholders and family farmers, reducing pesticide and chemical use, and improving land conservation practices, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) director-general on May 30 said in Brussels addressing European lawmakers.

José Graziano da Silva stressed that while high-input and resource intensive farming systems have substantially increased food production, this has come at a high cost to the environment.

“Today, it is fundamental not only to increase production, but to do it in a way that does not damage the environment. Nourishing people must go hand in hand with nurturing the planet,” he said.

This is in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, he added. “We have to move from input intense to knowledge intense production systems.” “Nourishing people must go hand in hand with nurturing the planet” - FAO chief

The Future of Food and Agriculture

Speaking to members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Graziano da Silva highlighted the findings of FAO’s report, The future of food and agriculture: trends and challenges.

Among the 15 trends described in the report, are the impacts of climate change, conflicts and migration.

The report also foresees 10 challenges for achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture worldwide.

The FAO chief focused on four main issues: climate change; the spread of trans-boundary pests and diseases; food loss and waste; and the importance of eradicating not only hunger, but also all forms of malnutrition in the world.

Climate Change

He underscored that no sector is more sensitive to climate change than agriculture – especially for smallholders and family farmers from developing countries – while at the same time, agriculture and food systems account for around 30 per cent of total greenhouse emissions.

“In agriculture, adaptation and mitigation go hand in hand. There is no trade-off between the two,” the FAO chief said, while pointing to the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time building the resilience and to promote the adaptation of farmers to the impacts of climate change.

To this end, FAO supports countries through different initiatives and approaches, including climate-smart agriculture, agro-ecology and agro-forestry.

Trans-boundary Pests and Diseases

Globalisation, trade and climate change, as well as reduced resilience in production systems, have all played a part in dramatically increasingly the spread of trans-boundary pests and disease in recent years. These constitute a major threat to the livelihoods of farmers and the food security of millions of people.

For its part, the UN specialised agency supports countries to implement prevention and surveillance system. “Even in situations of conflict and protracted crises, we promote programmes of (livestock) vaccination, as we are currently doing is South Sudan and Somalia,” said Graziano da Silva.

“Today the world produces enough to feed the global population, but about one third of this food is either lost or wasted, while at the same time there is also a waste of natural resources such as land and water.”

The UN agency currently supports about 50 countries in the area of food losses and waste, including through the SAVE FOOD initiative, a unique partnership –with more than 850 members from industry, associations, research institutes and non-governmental organizations– that addresses these issues “across the entire value chain from field to fork,” Graziano da Silva told the European parliamentarians.

Citing estimates that indicate that nearly half of the European Union’s adult population are overweight, the FAO director-general noted how malnutrition affects both developed and developing countries.

“The way to combat this is to transform food systems, from production to consumption, and provide healthier diets to people,” he said and called on the parliamentarians as lawmakers to ensure that adequate policies, programmes and operational frameworks are anchored in appropriate legislation.

“Parliamentarians not only have the means to place nutrition at the highest level of the political and legislative agenda, they also can guarantee that programmes will have the necessary budgets for implementation.”

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Business Unusual: Valuing Water for a Sustainable Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/business-unusual-valuing-water-for-a-sustainable-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=business-unusual-valuing-water-for-a-sustainable-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/business-unusual-valuing-water-for-a-sustainable-future/#respond Tue, 30 May 2017 22:02:35 +0000 Paula Fray http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150664 Valuing water is more than simply assigning costs to a scare resource – it is an essential step for transforming water governance to meet the needs of a prosperous future. This was a recurring view from participants at the first regional discussion on water organised in South Africa as part of the High Level Panel […]

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Recurrent drought in Namibia, Southern Africa has undermined food security and farmers’ livelihoods. Credit: Campbell Easton/IPS

Recurrent drought in Namibia, Southern Africa has undermined food security and farmers’ livelihoods. Credit: Campbell Easton/IPS

By Paula Fray
JOHANNESBURG, May 30 2017 (IPS)

Valuing water is more than simply assigning costs to a scare resource – it is an essential step for transforming water governance to meet the needs of a prosperous future.

This was a recurring view from participants at the first regional discussion on water organised in South Africa as part of the High Level Panel on Water (HLPW) dialogues.“There is an opportunity to meet the immediate needs within the SDGs and then to organise for the 10-billion world - not just to survive but also be prosperous.” --Dhesigen Naidoo

The May 30 meeting was attended by more than 100 representatives from a range of sectors including water, agribusiness, utilities and community groups from across the region, as well as representatives from around the globe.

Dr Patrick Vincent Verkooijen, World Bank special advisor, said their research had shown that if “there is no change in the way we manage water, then (global) economic growth will drop by 6 percent.”

Global Water Partnership chairperson Dr Oyun Sanjaasuren, a former Minister of Environment in Mongolia, stressed that the issue was not just about valuing water as a commodity but about water governance. “We have to recognise that water is valuable; it is not a free commodity. If we do business as usual then by 2025 the number of people who are affected by water scarcity will rise from 1.7 to 5 billion.”

This is the first of five regional discussions on valuing water initiated by the HLPW, which is made up of 11 sitting heads of state and government. The meetings will collate comments on draft principles of water ahead of an HLPW meeting in August.

CEO of the Water Research Commission, Dhesigen Naidoo, said the HLPW and its activities had “significantly” raised the global dialogue on water.

“But we must make sure we are having the right conversation. What is missing is the view of tomorrow. If we are simply talking about meeting the minimum requirements, then we are missing the opportunity to completely transform … in both our attitude to water and the way we manage water,” said Naidoo.

He noted that Africa would be the most populous continent in the world by 2050, with an expected 50 megacities.

“Only three of these 50 megacities exist at the moment. We can create water-wise cities right from the start,” he added.

This includes rethinking “how we use water, how we recycle water and what water we use”. For example, Naidoo questioned the efficacy of using quality potable water to flush toilets.

The costing of water was an ongoing issue, but participants also warned that the question of cost needed to be raised against the “point where price is an inhibitor to your basic right to water”.

The intersectional nature of water was stressed – hence the need for political engagement at the highest level.

Participants at the High Level Panel on Water in Johannesburg add their comments to the principles for water. Credit: Paula Fray/IPS

Participants at the High Level Panel on Water in Johannesburg add their comments to the principles for water. Credit: Paula Fray/IPS

The May 30 discussion in Ekurhuleni near Johannesburg included ministers and deputy ministers from Water and Sanitation, Public Works and Energy.

“The vision and aspiration for water is the 17 SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] and these make clear that the world must transform the way it manages it water – it needs political head engagement as well as other key public, private and civil society stakeholders,” said Verkooijen.

“Success for the HLPW can be only be determined when it motivates transformational action. Secondly, success is determined by whether it can support mobilisation and advocacy for transformational finance and implementation.”

Various initiatives are already in place, including developing principles on valuing water which were discussed in South Africa.

“Valuing water is not a new concept. The challenge is to explicitly value water in its competing uses. Proper valuation simply provides a clearer picture of the trade-offs involved,” said Verkooijen,

Faith Muthambi, South African Minister of Public Service and Administration – standing in place of Water Minister Nomvula Mokonyane – reminded participants that South Africa’s constitution declared access to water as a human right. “The right to clean water is therefore an obligation for government to ensure access for people.

“We want to see water priced for sustainability,” she said. “Water infrastructure is very important as a solution. We need partnerships to close the gap between water demand and supply by 2030.”

Her colleague, Deputy Minister of Energy Thembisile Majola, noted that the energy sector was a bulk user of water.  “How do we improve our technology so that they use less water?” she asked, stressing the symbiotic relationship “We use water to create energy and we need energy to get water to where it needs to go.”

Delegates at the conference came from 14 of the 15 SADC countries, with only Seychelles not represented.

Dr Kenneth Msibi, SADC Water Division, a transboundary water policy expert, said the SADC was trying to unlock the potential for water as a catalyst for development.

“We cannot move forward if we think of it as business as usual,” he stressed.

“Unless we value the water, our ecosystems are going to degrade and cost so much more,” said Dr Sanjaasuren.

“We’re living on a planet with a population size that is growing rapidly. We will have more and more water tensions,” said Naidoo.

“There is an opportunity to first organise to meet the immediate needs within the SDGs and then to organise for the 10-billion world – not just to survive but also be prosperous.”

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The ‘Water-Employment-Migration’ Explosive Nexushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-water-employment-migration-explosive-nexus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-water-employment-migration-explosive-nexus http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-water-employment-migration-explosive-nexus/#comments Tue, 30 May 2017 13:33:24 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150652 Water–everybody talks about it, warns against its growing scarcity, excessive waste, the impact of climate change, the frequent severe droughts and so on. Now, a global action network with over 3,000 partner organisations in 183 countries comes to unveil the dangerous nexus between water, employment and migration, in particular in the Mediterranean region. The Water-Employment-Migration […]

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An explosive nexus in the Mediterranean: Water-Employment-Migration. Credit: Global Water Partnership

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 30 2017 (IPS)

Water–everybody talks about it, warns against its growing scarcity, excessive waste, the impact of climate change, the frequent severe droughts and so on. Now, a global action network with over 3,000 partner organisations in 183 countries comes to unveil the dangerous nexus between water, employment and migration, in particular in the Mediterranean region.

The Water-Employment-Migration nexus triggers a multi-faceted crisis posing major socio-political, economic and environmental risks in several regions (Africa, Asia, Europe), with the Mediterranean being in the eye of the cyclone, warns in fact the Global Water Partnership (GWP).

The Mediterranean is not only among the most arid regions in the world–parts of the region face a persistent economic crisis, socio-political instability, conflicts and large-scale migratory movements, often under dramatic conditions, putting further stress on the available water resources, adds this global network, whose partners work to make water a top policy priority.

Moreover, a recent GWP-led Regional Roundtable in Tunis highlighted several pressing facts, such as the eagerness of 25 per cent of the youth population in the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) to migrate and seek for a better future away from home.
“25 per cent of the youth population in the Middle East and North of Africa are eager to migrate and seek for a better future away from home.”

Youth unemployment in the region is at a global high, and it is the main driver for both males and females to migrate, GWP informed, adding that female youth is in an even more disadvantaged position suffering the triple burden of gender, age and skills mismatch.

Alarming Facts

No wonder. The leading United Nations agency in the fields of food and agriculture has recently revealed a set of alarming key facts about the dramatic water shortage in the region, specifically in the Middle East and North of Africa countries.

In fact, the Near East and North Africa fresh water resources are among the lowest in the world: they have decreased by two thirds during last 40 years and are expected to fall over 50 per cent by 2050, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported.

Should these facts not be enough, the specialised agency also informs that 90 per cent of the total land in the region lies within arid, semi/arid and dry sub/humid areas, while 45 per cent of the total agricultural area is exposed to salinity, soil nutrient depletion and wind water erosion.

At the same time, agriculture in the region uses approximately 85 per cent of the total available freshwater, while over 60 per cent of water resources in the region flows from outside national and regional boundaries.

Add to all the above that fact that groundwater, which has become a significant source of water across the region, and which is the basis for the rapid growth of new agricultural economies in the Arabian Peninsula, is now also experiencing significant depletion, according to FAO.

“The considerable degradation of water quality is accelerating, along with competition for water between all sectors.”

The cause of higher temperatures, droughts, floods and soil degradation, climate change will impose a further threat to the region’s water resources and food security,” the UN agency warns, adding that the decrease in production that this situation is likely to cause, could contribute to increasing the region’s current dependence on cereal imports.

“Water Scarcity – One of the greatest challenges of our time – FAO. Credit: FAO

“Water Scarcity – One of the greatest challenges of our time – FAO. Credit: FAO

The Needed Linkages

Experts from 13 institutions and organisations across 10 countries gathered in GWP-led Regional Roundtable in Tunis last December to elaborate on the linkages among water insecurity, enduring unemployment and increasing migration in the Mediterranean, emphasising also on youth and gender challenges.

The Roundtable discussions made evident that education is strongly correlated with employment and the MENA youth do not have the skills desired for employers.

“Designing tailored training programs to bridge this gap can gradually help decrease the unemployment ratio in the region, and improve female employability. Such training and educational programs will be among areas of focus in the development of the regional program on Water-Employment-Migration.”

Furthermore, the need to assist national and regional authorities in setting the needed institutional and regulatory ground for related successful measures was pinpointed, according to GWP.

“Development of strategies and action plans and/or operational mainstreaming of related considerations in existing national processes should assist in addressing the root causes of unemployment and migration and effectively contribute to water security in the Mediterranean. Synergies should be sought with neighbouring regions/countries that are migration-origins (in Africa, Asia) as well as destination countries (in Europe).”

The GWP network provides knowledge and builds capacity to improve water management at all levels.

The Water We “Eat”

Meanwhile, FAO also informs that the ‘water we eat’ daily through the food we consume is much more than what we drink, FAO informs, while providing some examples: Did you know depending on the diet, we need 2 000 to 5 000 litres of water to produce the food consumed daily by one person?

“As the global population is estimated to reach 10 billion people by 2050, demand for food is expected to surge by more than 50 per cent. Evidence suggests that two-thirds of the world population could be living in water-stressed countries by 2025 if current consumption patterns continue.”

Agriculture is both a major cause and casualty of water scarcity. Farming accounts for almost 70 per cent of all water withdrawals, and up to 95 per cent in some developing countries, the UN specialised agency reports.

Water scarcity is expected to intensify as a result of climate change, it adds, while informing that it is predicted to bring about increased temperatures across the world in the range of 1.6°c to as much as 6°c by 2050.

“For each 1 degree of global warming, 7 per cent of the global population will see a decrease of 20 per cent or more in renewable water resources.

Last but not leas, the UN agency also informs that each year, one-third of world food production is either lost or wasted — that translates into a volume of agriculture water wasted equal to around three times the volume of Lake Geneva.

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Millions of Homes in Mexico Suffer from “Energy Poverty”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/millions-of-homes-in-mexico-suffer-from-energy-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=millions-of-homes-in-mexico-suffer-from-energy-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/millions-of-homes-in-mexico-suffer-from-energy-poverty/#respond Mon, 29 May 2017 18:23:18 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150643 Energy poverty afflicts millions of homes in Mexico, with many social, economic and environmental impacts for the country. These homes, located in both urban and rural areas in this Latin American country of 122 million people, have difficulty satisfying their needs for energy for cooking, lighting, heating and entertainment. “Not only is it a problem […]

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A house with a solar panel in the municipality of Tula, in Hidalgo, a state adjacent to Mexico City. Non-conventional renewable sources are considered an instrument to combat energy poverty. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A house with a solar panel in the municipality of Tula, in Hidalgo, a state adjacent to Mexico City. Non-conventional renewable sources are considered an instrument to combat energy poverty. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, May 29 2017 (IPS)

Energy poverty afflicts millions of homes in Mexico, with many social, economic and environmental impacts for the country.

These homes, located in both urban and rural areas in this Latin American country of 122 million people, have difficulty satisfying their needs for energy for cooking, lighting, heating and entertainment.

“Not only is it a problem of access, since the population needs other consumables, to cook, take a bath, for family entertainment. Access to energy is a key indicator of well-being and in this respect it is important to know how many families lack this service,” expert Boris Graizbord told IPS.“We have to regionalise the response, which requires a different combination of inputs and expenses. If we invest in solar water heaters or in other renewable energy sources, we’ll reduce spending on gas, we’ll decrease the power distribution. Those scenarios are possible if there is a decentralisation of power generation.“ -- Boris Graizbord

The academic from the Centre of Demographic, Urban and Environmental Studies at the public College of Mexico pointed out that some groups in small localities, even those who have their own incomes or remittances sent home by relatives in the United States, are unable to access natural gas or other energy sources.

The concept of energy poverty is new in Latin America, although it emerged in the 1990s in Britain, to describe the situation when a poor family spends more than10 percent of their income on energy.

But in countries such as Mexico the concept has been adapted to take into account cultural and social differences. Here the concept includes lack of access to energy, poor quality services, or energy inefficiency.

In a pioneering study, Graizbord and his colleague Roberto García, from the public College of the Northern Frontier, found that nearly 37 per cent of households –about 11 million homes– suffer from a shortage of energy in terms of “economic goods” such as thermal comfort, an efficient refrigerator or a gas or electric stove.

The study “Spatial characterisation of energy poverty in Mexico. An analysis at a subnational level,” published in 2016 in the magazine Economy, Society and Territory, found that the main factors behind the phenomenon are income level, the size of the town and of the house, and the educational level and gender of the head of the household.

This “represents a major social problem, due to the effect that the use of clean, affordable energy has on improving the quality of life and reducing poverty among the local population,” points out this study by Graizbord and García, who has worked on this issue in the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The southern states of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca present the highest average levels of energy poverty, as well as the highest overall poverty rates.

In Mexico, 46 per cent of the population lived in poverty in 2014, when the latest National Survey of Household Incomes and Expenditures was carried out – a rate that has likely increased since then, according to experts.

The Energy Ministry identifies the most important end uses in the residential sector as water heating, cooking, refrigerator, lighting, air conditioning/heat and entertainment.

In 2015, firewood produced 252,840 petajoules. The joule is the measuring unit for energy which equals one watt per second and estimates how much heat is necessary to carry out an activity. A petajoule represents one quadrillion (10^15) joules.

Gabriela Niño, climate change coordinator for the non-governmental organisation Polea, said there is a close link between energy poverty and its social and environmental impacts, such as the emission of polluting gases, soil degradation and deforestation.

“With biomass there is a big health risk, since people are exposed to local pollutants by burning biomass indoors,” she told IPS.

Since August 2014, Mexico has embarked on a major energy reform that opened up oil exploration, extraction, refining, transportation, distribution and sale of oil and its by-products to local and foreign private investment.

But the question remains whether these changes will result in a reduction of energy poverty, insofar as the government leaves important activities of the electricity sector in private hands, who are profit driven, and not focused on social objectives.

Also, the country has committed to the goals set by Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll), the programme to be implemented during the United Nations 2014-2024 Decade of Sustainable Energy for All.

This global initiative intends to guarantee universal access to modern energy services, double the rate of improvement of global energy efficiency and increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

Also, like the rest of the international community, it has adopted one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals: SDG 7, which aims “to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all,” as part of the 2030 Agenda.

Graizbord proposes a response in Mexico differentiated by region, given the variations, including climatic, in different parts of the country.

“We have to regionalise the response, which requires a different combination of inputs and expenses. If we invest in solar water heaters or in other renewable energy sources, we’ll reduce spending on gas, we’ll decrease the power distribution. Those scenarios are possible if there is a decentralisation of power generation,” he said.

For Niño, addressing energy poverty poses several challenges.

“We have to research, generate indicators, identify causes and possible solutions, on how energy is generated, how it is used,” she said.

In her opinion, “the democratisation of energy should also be promoted, the government should generate actions that respond to a public policy objective, focused on access to new technologies, such as solar panels, for people who are isolated from the grid or who are not able to produce their own power or meet their needs.”

In Latin America and the Caribbean, 97 per cent of the population has access to energy. This means that 23 million people still lack electricity, according to data from late 2016 of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Nevertheless, the IDB predicts that this will be the first developing region to achieve universal energy access.

In Mexico, more than two million people have no electricity. According to the IDB, the countries in the region with the largest proportion of the population lacking energy access are Haiti – where only 40 percent have electricity – Honduras, Peru, and Mexico.

Meanwhile, leading the region in terms of greatest access are Uruguay, Costa Rica and Chile, in that order.

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Growing Unemployed Youth in Africa a Time Bomb, But…http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/growing-unemployed-youth-in-africa-a-time-bomb-but/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=growing-unemployed-youth-in-africa-a-time-bomb-but http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/growing-unemployed-youth-in-africa-a-time-bomb-but/#respond Mon, 29 May 2017 16:25:48 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150640 There are nearly 420 million young Africans between the ages of 15 and 35 today. And it is estimated that within ten years, Africa will be home to one-fifth of all young people worldwide. These millions of young people could be a source of ingenuity and engines of productivity that could ignite a new age […]

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A panel discussion on Africa-Asia partnerships featuring AFDB Group President Akinwumi Adesina, Benin President Patrice Talon, Vice President of Cote d'Ivoire Daniel Kablan Duncan and Hellen Hai of Made in Africa Initiative. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

A panel discussion on Africa-Asia partnerships featuring AFDB Group President Akinwumi Adesina, Benin President Patrice Talon, Vice President of Cote d'Ivoire Daniel Kablan Duncan and Hellen Hai of Made in Africa Initiative. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
AHMEDABAD, India, May 29 2017 (IPS)

There are nearly 420 million young Africans between the ages of 15 and 35 today. And it is estimated that within ten years, Africa will be home to one-fifth of all young people worldwide.

These millions of young people could be a source of ingenuity and engines of productivity that could ignite a new age of inclusive prosperity.“If we don’t change the labour composition of agriculture in Africa, in the next twenty years, there will be no farmers.” --AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina

But there are no guarantees. Although the continent has shown consistent economic growth in the last decade, it has failed in creating the number of quality jobs needed to absorb the 10-12 million young people entering the labour market each year.

And this, according to AfDB Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Jennifer Blanke, is a time bomb waiting to explode.

“While the youth population is Africa’s asset, it can also easily become a liability, and this is the whole question about demographic dividends,” observes Blanke. “Let us be clear, it is only the existence of opportunity and the young person’s belief that they can access that opportunity that prevents pessimism and political unrest…inaction is not an option, young people without opportunity, and more importantly without belief in their leaders’ ability to provide opportunity are a certain source of civil unrest and we are seeing it every day.”

‘Transforming Agriculture for wealth creation in Africa’ was therefore the major theme of the 52nd AfDB Annual Meetings held in Ahmedabad, India from 22-26 May 2017.

Experts here agreed that transforming Africa’s agriculture requires a business approach that would incentivize youth who still see farming as way of life for the poor. As a result of this scenario, the average age of farmers in Africa is 60, and Akinwumi Adesina, AfDB Group President, fears that “If we don’t change the labour composition of agriculture in Africa, in the next twenty years, there will be no farmers.”

To get youth involved, Adesina believes, “We need to change the mindset about agriculture—agriculture is not a social sector, agriculture is not a way of life, it is a business.”

But the how question is crucial, and he points to finance among other incentives. “There are opportunities for youth but certain things have to be put in place to realize them, such as financing…our young people are doing amazing things with ICT—they are providing weather index insurance, extension services and a host of other things.”

For its part, the Bank has provided a roadmap for the growth of agriculture in Africa with a plan to inject nearly 2.4 billion dollars every year for 10 years to build roads, irrigation infrastructure and storage facilities to attract high-value investors.

With this kind of investment, AfDB wants to transform Agriculture into a money-making business for those involved, highlighting that Africa should position itself to benefit from the growth of agricultural food markets which are set to grow to a trillion-dollar business portfolio by 2030.

The figure is huge and appetising. But certain steps have to be taken, and one of those steps is closing the infrastructure gap.

According to Thomas Silberhorn, Germany Parliamentary State Secretary, “It is important to close the infrastructure gap on the African continent, not just somehow, but in the spirit of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, by building sustainable infrastructure especially in the energy sector,” he said, adding that it was for this reason that his government was advocating for more support to the African Renewable Initiative of the African Union whose secretariat is hosted at the African Development Bank.

While ICT is usually seen as a sure way of getting youth involved, there is another door to young people’s hearts which agricultural policy makers and implementers have not paid attention to—the film industry.  In Africa, the movie industry is dominated by young people and is emerging as an important contributor to gross domestic product and employment in countries like Nigeria.

However, the entertainment industry–especially the film industry—too often offers unflattering narratives of agriculture and the rural life, showing that real economic opportunities are only found in big cities. Such negative portrayal perpetuates the perception that agriculture is simply a way of surviving for the poor.

To tap into the power and influence of the movie industry, and change these perceptions by projecting agriculture as a profitable and viable economic sector, AfDB brought together Nollywood (Nigerian) and Bollywood (Indian) film makers to this year’s annual meetings to chart the way forward on how to market agriculture as a lucrative business through movies.

Nigerian filmmakers Omoni Oboli and Omotola Jalade Ekeinde represented Nollywood while Rajendrakumar Mohan Raney, a director and producer, and Rekha Rana, Indian and international award-winning actress, represented Bollywood.

Oboli and Omotola pledged to do everything in their power to tell the African agricultural transformation story and change the negative perceptions, especially among young people.

“We have learnt a lot about agriculture and are ready to change the state of affairs through filmmaking,” said Oboli during the Indian Cultural Night and AfDB Impact Awards ceremony where she was a guest presenter alongside BBC’s Lerato Mbele.

As Adesina noted, with 65 percent of the world’s uncultivated land, “What Africa does with agriculture is not only important for Africa: it will shape the future of food in the world.”

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Brazil Drives New School Feeding Model in the Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/brazil-drives-new-school-feeding-model-in-the-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brazil-drives-new-school-feeding-model-in-the-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/brazil-drives-new-school-feeding-model-in-the-region/#respond Mon, 29 May 2017 00:46:12 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150613 “I am going back to Panama with many ideas,” said Gilda Montenegro, a nutritionist with the Panamanian Education Ministry, after getting to know the school feeding system in the city of Vitoria, in central-eastern Brazil. She said she was impressed with how organised it is, the resources available to each school and “the role of […]

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A farmer picks lettuce in Santa María de Jetibá, a hilly farming municipality that is the main supplier of agricultural products for school meals in the city of Vitoria, 90 km away along a winding highway. It is home to the largest Pomeranian community in Brazil and possibly in the world. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A farmer picks lettuce in Santa María de Jetibá, a hilly farming municipality that is the main supplier of agricultural products for school meals in the city of Vitoria, 90 km away along a winding highway. It is home to the largest Pomeranian community in Brazil and possibly in the world. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
VITORIA, Brazil, May 29 2017 (IPS)

“I am going back to Panama with many ideas,” said Gilda Montenegro, a nutritionist with the Panamanian Education Ministry, after getting to know the school feeding system in the city of Vitoria, in central-eastern Brazil.

She said she was impressed with how organised it is, the resources available to each school and “the role of played by nutritionists, in direct contact with the lunchrooms, training the cooks in hygiene and nutrition, educating everyone while fulfilling a key educational function.”

Montenegro and 22 other visitors from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean met with Brazilian representatives in the city of Vitoria, for a tour through schools and centres of production and distribution of food that supply the municipal schools.

The May 16-18 technical visit was organised by the Strengthening School Feeding Programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean programme implemented by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), as part of a cooperation agreement signed with the Brazilian government in 2008.“Families adopt our habits, even though we only eat dinner at home. Now we eat more vegetables at home. I used to be fat, but I lost weight doing sports and eating food with less calories, and today I have my health under control.” -- Marcos Rodrigues

The aim was a first-hand look at the implementation in Vitoria of the Brazilian National School Feeding Programme (PNAE), which has become a model replicated in a number of countries around the world. The programme serves 43 million students in public preschools and primary schools, which are municipal, and secondary schools, which are the responsibility of the states.

The PNAE was first launched in 1955. But the significant impact it has had in terms of food security, nutrition and social participation has been seen since a 2009 law established that at least 30 percent of the funds received by each school had to be devoted to buying food produced by local family farms.

“This decentralisation favours local producers and students gain in better-quality, fresh food at a lower cost. It promotes cooperatives and stimulates the local economy, through small-scale farming, while benefiting the environment by reducing transportation time,” said Najla Veloso, the regional project coordinator for FAO.

“In most of the municipalities, the suppliers are parents of the students,” which help forge closer ties between local families and the schools and improves the quality of the food. All of this constitutes an important help for keeping people in rural areas,” Veloso told IPS.

Students eat lunch in the Alberto Martinelli Municipal Preschool in the city of Vitoria. A good part of their food comes from local family farms, like in the rest of the public schools in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Students eat lunch in the Alberto Martinelli Municipal Preschool in the city of Vitoria. A good part of their food comes from local family farms, like in the rest of the public schools in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Buying local could rekindle the ancestral agricultural knowledge of the Ngäbe and Buglé people, who live in western Panama, said Montenegro. Since 1997, the two ethnic groups have shared an indigenous county with a population of about 155,000.

“They provide 80 per cent of the food for four schools, but they have not been able to expand, because of the system of purchases by tendering process, and are almost limited to producing for their own consumption,” lamented the Panamanian nutritionist. More school purchases could “rescue their traditional methods of harvesting and preserving their typical products,” she said.

The technical visits organised by FAO “show successful experiences for building knowledge in other countries, stimulating innovation,” said Veloso.

A new generation of school feeding programmes is emerging in the region, combining healthy nutrition, public purchases, family agriculture and social integration.

Vitoria, the capital of the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo, was chosen to receive technicians and authorities from 13 countries because of “its strong implementation of the PNAE, its organised team, and because it has been a pioneer in this area,” explained Veloso.

Before the new law went into effect in 2008, Vitoria already prioritised healthy food produced by small-scale local farmers, said Marcia Moreira Pinto, coordinator of the School Food and Nutrition Sector in the Municipal Secretariat of Education.

It also always surpassed the minimum proportion of purchases set for family agriculture, she said. In 2016, 34 per cent of the purchases were from small-scale farmers.

This aspect has only recently been recognised as key to food security.

Gilda Montenegro, a nutritionist with Panama’s Education Ministry who took part in a FAO-organised technical visit to get a first-hand look at the school feeding programme in Vitoria, Brazil, together with 22 other representatives of 12 Latin American and Caribbean countries. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Gilda Montenegro, a nutritionist with Panama’s Education Ministry who took part in a FAO-organised technical visit to get a first-hand look at the school feeding programme in Vitoria, Brazil, together with 22 other representatives of 12 Latin American and Caribbean countries. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“This integration between education and family agriculture benefits society as a whole, it’s fantastic. I will try to do it in my town,” said Mario Chang, director of education in the department of San Marcos, Guatemala.

“The visit gave me new ideas,” said Rosa Cascante, director of Equality Programmes in Costa Rica’s Ministry of Public Education.

The challenge, she said, “will be to adapt Brazil’s local purchases system” to her country, where all supplies for public institutions go through the state National Production Council.

A campaign against the waste of food is an innovation created by students in the Eunice Pereira da Silveira Municipal Primary School. In 2015, the losses amounted to 50 kilos a week. This has been reduced to just seven or eight kilos, according to the school’s authorities.

Students are served three meals a day at the full-time school, whose 322 students attend from 7 am to 5 pm.

The campaign started with a few students under the guidance of teachers. They monitored the food wasted in the school kitchen, carried out surveys on nutrition, and talked with other students and the cooks to adapt the meals in order to make them tastier and reduce waste.

Besides cutting economic losses and boosting a healthier diet in schools, with more salads and lower fat, the campaign is helping to improve family habits, said 14-year-old Marcos Rodrigues, one of the campaign’s leaders.

The refrigerator of a public preschool and daycare centre in the city of Vitoria, full of locally-produced fruit and vegetables. In Brazil, the obligatory supply of at least 30 per cent of the food for school meals from family farms has improved nutrition among the students and has promoted local development. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The refrigerator of a public preschool and daycare centre in the city of Vitoria, full of locally-produced fruit and vegetables. In Brazil, the obligatory supply of at least 30 per cent of the food for school meals from family farms has improved nutrition among the students and has promoted local development. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“Families adopt our habits, even though we only eat dinner at home. Now we eat more vegetables at home. I used to be fat, but I lost weight doing sports and eating food with less calories, and today I have my health under control,” the teen-ager told IPS.

But it is “in the acceptance of healthy foods where we need more effort, in light of an international scenario of increasingly industrialised products which offer great convenience,” said Moreira Pinto.

Most of the fruits and vegetables served in schools in Vitoria come from Santa Maria de Jetibá, a hilly municipality 90 km away, populated by Pomeranians, a European ethnic group that used to occupy parts of Germany and Poland, who scattered at the end of World War II.

Pomeranian immigration to Brazil occurred mainly in the late 19th century, to Espírito Santo, where they maintained their rural customs and their language in a number of municipalities where there are big communities.

“Santa Maria is the most Pomeranian municipality in Brazil and perhaps in the world,” according to Mayor Hilario Roepke, due to both the number of inhabitants as well as the preservation of a culture that has disappeared or has changed a lot even in their native land.

“Of nearly 40,000 inhabitants, 72 per cent are still rural,” allowing the municipality to occupy first place in agricultural production in the state of Espírito Santo and eleventh in Brazil, and the second leading national producer of eggs: nine million a day, said the mayor.

The 220-member Cooperative of Family Farmers of the Serrana Region (CAF) is the biggest supplier of food to schools.

“The school feeding programme in Vitoria´s metropolitan region is our main market,” said Maicon Koehler, an agricultural technician for CAF. Greater Vitoria has a total population of nearly two million.
With 102 municipal schools, the city buys nearly 20 tons of meat and 6.3 tons of beans a month to feed its almost 500,000 students, estimated the coordinator of the sector, who explained that the amounts of fruits and vegetables vary, depending on the season.

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Formalising Informal Trade – Good for African Women?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/formalising-informal-trade-good-for-african-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=formalising-informal-trade-good-for-african-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/formalising-informal-trade-good-for-african-women/#respond Fri, 26 May 2017 10:25:40 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150602 Women constitute the largest share of informal traders in Africa–about 70 per cent in Southern Africa and more than half in other parts of this vast continent made up of 54 states, home to over 1,200 billion people. Informal cross-border trading, in which transactions are not compliant with local tax and other rules, accounts for […]

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Rural women sell mango and sweet potato jam at the food processing shop in Bantantinnting, Senegal. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By IPS World Desk
ROME, May 26 2017 (IPS)

Women constitute the largest share of informal traders in Africa–about 70 per cent in Southern Africa and more than half in other parts of this vast continent made up of 54 states, home to over 1,200 billion people.

Informal cross-border trading, in which transactions are not compliant with local tax and other rules, accounts for a large share – between 20 and a hefty 70 per cent– of employment in sub-Saharan Africa, says a new United Nations specialised report.

Africa’s vast but informal cross-border trade can contribute to improving livelihoods and increasing regional integration across the continent, according to the new report Formalization of informal trade in Africa.

Putting it on a regular footing can lift sustainable prosperity and markedly improve prospects for women, adds the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report, which was released on 25 May coinciding with Africa Day.

“It is about harnessing rather than suppressing informal trade, it says, adding that which around half of all intra-African cross-border trade is classified as informal, indicating its large if officially invisible role.“

Simplifying the requirements for a business license, offering incentives to tax payers, and tackling official corruption are among the recommendations aimed to cut informal trade among African countries and boost economic prosperity, particularly for women, the study recommends.

Proactive policies that recognise such activity, tapping its potential with the aim of steering it towards proper regulatory status, are to be preferred over heavy-handed approaches to eradicate or seek rents from entrepreneurs, according to the UN specialised agency.

“Informal cross-border trade, often agricultural, is the result of poor access to government offices, a lack of administrative skills and improper understanding of import and custom-tax laws.

One of the main groups that would be affected by formalization is women, who constitute the largest share of informal traders – about 70 per cent in Southern Africa and more than half in other parts, says the report.

“Facilitating formalization is the only viable policy option for Africa’s transformation agenda to realize its objectives,” said Suffyan Koroma, FAO senior economist and lead author of the report.

The new report was presented at a conference in Kigali, Rwanda, which held as part of on-going FAO-supported work in the country, along with UN Women and other development partners, aimed at enabling women to benefit more from agri-food chains, a project geared to allowing women small traders access useful information as well as start-up capital.

Machakos District, Kenya - Kweka farmers group members display how seeds are stored between harvest and the next planting season to ensure food production will continue. Credit: FAO/Christena Dowsett

Machakos District, Kenya – Kweka farmers group members display how seeds are stored between harvest and the next planting season to ensure food production will continue. Credit: FAO/Christena Dowsett


The UN leading specialised agency in the fields of food and agriculture also reported that local agricultural produce and livestock account for two-thirds of Rwanda’s exports, most of which are informally traded, with the bulk going to neighbouring countries, notably the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda encourages informal small traders to form cooperatives as a step towards regularisation.

A Huge Role for Women

Women trading between the border posts of Kenya and Uganda and between Rwanda and Burundi prefer to use brokers who appear to shield them from what they perceive as unprofessional behaviour of customs officials, the report notes.

Informal cross-border trade activity is largely a second-choice option taken by people in the absence of clearly defined formal alternatives, says FAO. It consists of trade in goods and services, often agricultural in nature, and in times of food crises and other shocks has proven to be more responsible than legal channels.

“Off-the-radar economic activity, not all of it involving international trade, accounts for around 40 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Africa, higher than in Latin America or Asia.”

“The trade is rarely illegal,” the UN specialised body reports, adding that in most cases it is informal because practitioners have poor access to all the appropriate business licenses, administrative skills and knowledge of import and custom-tax laws to act otherwise.

Prey to Corruption

While such activity is an important source of household income, practitioners are often prey to corruption and their weak access to credit means their activities are rarely stable or sustainable.

Women constitute the largest share of such informal traders. In Tanzania, women dominate trade in manufactured products while men handle mostly raw or semi-processed agricultural products, whereas the opposite is the case in Cameroon, the FAO report found.

“Women and men tend to differ in which foodstuffs – fresh produce or commodity staples – they trade as well.”

Working with Catholic Relief Service, the UN agency has also organised open-door events on the Rwanda-Congo border where women cooperatives were invited to learn more about the cross-border tax regime directly from custom officials and government representatives.

“Rwanda has emerged as a model of best practice for cross border trade through its efforts to integrate the informal economy by easing trade channels for small-scale agricultural traders, “said Attaher Maiga, FAO’s Representative in Rwanda.

Key priorities to facilitate the formalisation of informal cross-border trading include the simplification of licensing requirements, tax incentives, fostering partnerships, radio, television and town-hall outreach to participants in the informal economy, and intensifying efforts to tackle official corruption, said the UN agency.

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