Inter Press Service » Population http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 29 Jul 2016 18:43:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Chronic Hunger Lingers in the Midst of Plentyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/chronic-hunger-lingers-in-the-midst-of-plenty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chronic-hunger-lingers-in-the-midst-of-plenty http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/chronic-hunger-lingers-in-the-midst-of-plenty/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 23:31:42 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146290 Despite being one of the biggest grain producers of the world, India lags behind on food security with nearly 25 percent of its population going to bed hungry. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Despite being one of the biggest grain producers of the world, India lags behind on food security with nearly 25 percent of its population going to bed hungry. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Jul 28 2016 (IPS)

In a fraught global economic environment, exacerbated by climate change and shrinking resources, ensuring food and nutrition security is a daunting challenge for many nations. India, Asia’s third largest economy and the world’s second most populous nation after China with 1.3 billion people, is no exception.

The World Health Organization defines food security as a situation when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preference for an active and healthy life. The lack of a balanced diet minus essential nutrients results in chronic malnutrition.The global food security challenge is unambiguous: by 2050, the world must feed nine billion people.

According to the Global Hunger Index 2014, India ranks 55 out of the world’s 120 hungriest countries even behind some of its smaller South Asian counterparts like Nepal (rank 44) and Sri Lanka (39).

Despite its self-sufficiency in food availability, and being one of the world’s largest grain producers, about 25 per cent of Indians go to bed without food. Describing malnutrition as India’s silent emergency, a World Bank report says that the rate of malnutrition cases among Indian children is almost five times more than in China, and twice that in Sub-Saharan Africa.

So what are the reasons for India not being able to rise to the challenge of feeding its poor with its own plentiful resources? Experts ascribe many reasons for this deficit. They say the concept of food security is a complex and multi-dimensional one which becomes even more complicated in the context of large and diverse country like India with its overwhelming population and pervasive poverty and malnutrition.

According to Shaleen Jain of Hidayatullah National Law University in India, food security has three broad dimensions — food availability, which encompasses total food production, including imports and buffer stocks maintained in government granaries. Food accessibility- food’s availability or accessibility to each and every person. And thirdly, food affordability- an individual’s capacity to purchase proper, safe, healthy and nutritious food to meet his dietary needs.

Pawan Ahuja, former Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, says India’s problems result mostly from a deeply flawed public distribution system than anything else. “Despite abundant production of grains and vegetables, distribution of food through a corruption-ridden public distribution system prevents the benefits from reaching the poor,” says Ahuja.

There are other challenges which India faces in attaining food security, adds the expert. “Natural calamities like excessive rainfall, accessibility of water for irrigation purpose, drought and soil erosion. Further, lack of improvement in agriculture facilities as well as population explosion have only made matters worse.”

India's agriculture sectors have to bolster productivity by adopting efficient business models and forging public-private partnerships. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

India’s agriculture sectors have to bolster productivity by adopting efficient business models and forging public-private partnerships. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

To grapple with its food security problem, India operates one of the largest food safety nets in the world — the National Food Security Act 2013. India’s Department of Food and Public Distribution, in collaboration with World Food Program, is implementing this scheme which provides a whopping 800 million people (67 percent of the country’s population or 10 percent of the world’s) with subsidised monthly household rations each year. Yet the results of the program have been largely a hit and miss affair, with experts blaming the country’s entrenched corruption in the distribution chain for its inefficacy.

The global food security challenge is unambiguous: by 2050, the world must feed nine billion people. To feed those hungry mouths, the demand for food will be 60 percent greater than it is today. The United Nations has set ending hunger and achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture as the second of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the year 2030.

“To achieve these objectives requires addressing a host of critical issues, from gender parity and ageing demographics to skills development and global warming,” elaborates Sumit Bose, an agriculture economist.

According to the economist, India’s agriculture sectors have to bolster productivity by adopting efficient business models and forging public-private partnerships. Achieving sustainability by addressing greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste are also crucial, he adds.

To work towards greater food security, India is also working in close synergy with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which is not only an implementer of development projects in the country, but also a knowledge partner, adding value to existing technologies and approaches. The agency has helped India take the holistic “seed to plate” approach.

Also being addressed are challenges like livelihoods and access to food by poorer communities, sustainability of water and natural resources and soil health have moved centre stage. The idea, say experts, is to augment India’s multilateral cooperation in areas such as trans-boundary pests and diseases, livestock production, fisheries management, food safety and climate change.

FAO also provides technical assistance and capacity building to enable the transfer of best practices as well as successful lessons from other countries to replicate them to India’s agriculture system. By strengthening the resilience of smallholder farmers, food security can be guaranteed for the planet’s increasingly hungry global population while also whittling down carbon emissions.

“Growing food in a sustainable way means adopting practices that produce more with less in the same area of land and use natural resources wisely,” advises Bose. “It also means reducing food losses before the final product or retail stage through a number of initiatives including better harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure, market mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.

“India is a long way off from all these goals. The current dispensation would do well to work towards them if it aims to bolster India’s food security and feed its poor.”

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Urban Land – a Key Building Block to Full Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/urban-land-a-key-building-block-to-full-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urban-land-a-key-building-block-to-full-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/urban-land-a-key-building-block-to-full-rights/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 15:58:01 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146287 A street in Hornos, a low-income neighbourhood on the west side of Greater Buenos Aires, where local residents are waiting to receive the deeds to their property, as the key to access to other rights and public services that will provide them with a dignified urban life. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

A street in Hornos, a low-income neighbourhood on the west side of Greater Buenos Aires, where local residents are waiting to receive the deeds to their property, as the key to access to other rights and public services that will provide them with a dignified urban life. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
MORENO, Argentina, Jul 28 2016 (IPS)

Now that the wind no longer blows her roof off and her house belongs to her, Cristina López feels safe in the shantytown where she lives on the outskirts of the Argentine capital. But she and her neighbours still need to win respect for many more rights they have been denied.

She is not complaining because her situation was much more difficult before she and her teenage son moved four years ago to Hornos, a newly emerging neighbourhood in the municipality of Moreno, to the west of Buenos Aires.

She paid rent until the municipal authorities granted her a plot of land where she built a makeshift home. “Since I built it by myself it wasn´t stable, and a storm tore the roof off,” López told IPS. After that, she and her son stayed at the homes of various friends and neighbours.

Her new house was built with the help of Techo (Roof), a non-governmental organisation that promotes decent housing in urban slums and shantytowns throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, with a collaborative effort by local residents and volunteers.“The market for land is an imperfect market that reproduces inequalities in access to land because it is in the hands of a small minority focused on generating profits and not on the common good.” - Juan Pablo Duhalde

In Hornos, home to 200 families, and the adjacent neighbourhood of Los Cedros, where 1,200 families live, Techo Argentina has built 225 small one-family units. Simple and low-cost, they are put together in just two days, with the aim of resolving housing emergencies.

But for the 59-year-old López, who does odd jobs to support herself and her 15-year-old son, the little prefab house has meant the difference between indigence and a dignified life.

“It was a total change. Nothing compares to this. You realise that when you have a house, you start to change your way of life, because you know it’s your own, and although I don’t have the ‘papers’ for this land yet, the house is mine. No one will take it from me,” she said.

The papers she mentioned are the property deed that she is to be issued by the municipal authorities who granted her the plot of land; not having received them yet makes her nervous.

“There´s always some shrewd person who will show up and claim the land is theirs. Until the municipality says ‘this belongs to you’, we won´t feel completely secure,” she said.

López added that in order to stop being a “second-class citizen”, she also needs utilities: running water, sewerage and electricity with a meter “so it isn’t cut off all the time.”

Furthermore, Hornos, 42 km from the capital and over 20 from the county seat, means she is far away from everything. “We have no school or health clinic nearby, no paved roads, and ambulances won´t come here – we need everything,” she said.

Land and inequality

“It is acknowledged that rights are violated in many areas, and slums are the main expression of inequality and the violation of rights,” Techo Argentina regions director, Francisco Susmel, told IPS.

“Without secure ownership they have no guarantee that they won’t be evicted, and that they can go ahead and improve their homes and their surroundings,” he said, adding that it also undermines their right to access to public services.

Among the issues found by a 2013 survey carried out by Techo Argentina in 1,834 slums home to a total of 432,800 families in the biggest cities in the country was the right to land – a problem common to shantytowns around Latin America.

The report says that 64 percent of land in these informal settlements is prone to flooding, 41 percent is located less than 10 metres away from a river or canal, and 25 percent is less than 10 metres away from a garbage dump.

“Land is a factor that conditions inequality because today it is in the hands of a select group of people and isn´t available to the rest of the population,” sociologist Juan Pablo Duhalde, director of Techo International´s social research centre, told IPS.

According to Paola Bagnera, author of the book “The right to the city in the production of urban land”, published by the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO), land is one of the key factors of inequality in the exercise of the right to the city.

“When we´re talking about urban land, we are referring to the basic foundation of the city…where the streets and blocks are laid out, and which requires the presence of grids (water, power and sewage, etc),” Bagnera, an architect who is an expert in urban planning and urban poverty at Argentina’s National University of the Litoral, told IPS.

“The value of land is directly related to location (near or far), provision (or absence) of services and infrastructure, and environmental characteristics (which lead to varying levels of exposure to risk),” she added.

For example, the construction of developments like gated communities in suburban areas in Argentina in the 1990s drove up prices of land on the outskirts of cities that until then was inhabited by the poor and was worth very little.

This has become one of the decisive elements in the habitat of low-income segments of the population in large cities, as they are pushed farther and farther to the outskirts or packed more and more densely into existing slums in the cities themselves, Bagnera said.

She pointed, for example, to slums that grow “upwards” in large cities like Buenos Aires, and to soaring property sale and rental prices in those areas.

“With regard to Latin America, to conditions in the slums, when the market makes decisions about the distribution of land, we are governing ourselves in an inefficient manner with no proper view to the future,” said Duhalde.

The expert said the right to access to urban land should be one of the central issues of debate at the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), to be held in the capital of Ecuador in October, which is to give rise to a New Urban Agenda.

“The market for land is an imperfect market that reproduces inequalities in access to land because it is in the hands of a small minority focused on generating profits and not on the common good,” said Duhalde.

“A variety of institutions are needed, in the government, the social sector, academia, different interest groups, to be part of the equitable distribution of resources, in this case land, which we must remember has a social function. It is not merchandise.”

Bagnera proposes increasing the value of urban land through the incorporation of infrastructure and improvements.

“That means the generation of community organisation processes through housing cooperatives, groups or social organisations that undertake their own processes of urbanisation and provision of infrastructure on collectively-acquired areas of land,” she said.

“And fundamentally with the participation of the state, promoting inclusive policies of access to services, and contributing to the generation of public-private urban planning arrangements,” she said.

These policies “tend to reduce the costs of infrastructure, providing public land, or based on the production of urban land by the state itself,” she added.

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No Medals for Sanitation at Rio Olympicshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/no-medals-for-sanitation-at-rio-olympics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-medals-for-sanitation-at-rio-olympics http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/no-medals-for-sanitation-at-rio-olympics/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 19:24:11 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146273 Raw sewage stains in Jacarepaguá lagoon alongside the Olympic Park, where the Olympic Games are to be held August 5-21 in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. Foul mud was to be dredged from the lagoon but this was not carried out because of funding cuts. Credit: Courtesy of Mario Moscatelli

Raw sewage stains in Jacarepaguá lagoon alongside the Olympic Park, where the Olympic Games are to be held August 5-21 in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. Foul mud was to be dredged from the lagoon but this was not carried out because of funding cuts. Credit: Courtesy of Mario Moscatelli

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jul 27 2016 (IPS)

The biggest frustration at the Olympic Games, to be inaugurated in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro on August 5, is the failure to meet environmental sanitation targets and promises in the city’s beaches, rivers, lakes and lagoons.

The opportunity to give a decisive push to the clean up of Rio’s emblematic Guanabara bay and its lagoons has been lost. The drive against waterborne pollution was part of the proposal which won the city the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

This failure may hardly register in the awareness of residents and visitors, given the higher visibility of the urban transport projects and the revitalisation of Rio’s central district.

What happened confirms the national tradition of giving sanitation low priority on the government agenda. So far only half the Brazilian population has access to piped water, and only a small proportion of transported water is treated.

“The environment pays no taxes and neither does it vote, therefore it does not command the attention of our political leaders nor of society as a whole,” complained biologist Mario Moscatelli, a well known water issues activist in Rio de Janeiro.

The Olympic Park, which is at the heart of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, was built on the west side of the city on the shores of Jacarepaguá lagoon, yet not even this body of water has been adequately treated. Filthy water from rivers and streams continues to flow into it all the time, Moscatelli told IPS.

Most of the foreign Olympic athletes and spectators from abroad will arrive in Rio at Antonio Carlos Jobim international airport, also known as Galeão. Planes touch down here on the edge of one of the most polluted parts of Guanabara bay, although visitors may not realise it.

The airport , on the western tip of Ilha do Governador (Governador Island), which was home to 212,754 people in 2010 according to the official census, is close to canals  taking untreated effluent and rubbish from millions of people living on the mainland, brought by rivers that are little more than open sewers.

Fundão canal can be glimpsed from the southbound highway towards the city centre. It is full of raw sewage and bad smells in spite of recent dredging, because it is still connected to the polluted Cunha canal.

Sergio Souza dos Santos stands on the jetty built by Tubiacanga fisherfolk to get their boats out into Guanabara bay, in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. Silting now makes it impossible to bring their boats close inshore, where decades ago there was a beautiful beach. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Sergio Souza dos Santos stands on the jetty built by Tubiacanga fisherfolk to get their boats out into Guanabara bay, in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. Silting now makes it impossible to bring their boats close inshore, where decades ago there was a beautiful beach. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Five rivers converge in the Cunha canal after crossing densely populated areas including several “favelas” (shanty towns) and industrial zones.

North of Galeao airport, the fishing village of Tubiacanga illustrates the ecological disaster in Guanabara bay, which has a surface area of 412 square kilometres and stretches from Copacabana beach in the west to Itaipu (Niterói) in the east.

At the narrowest point in the channel between Ilha do Governador and the adjacent mainland city of Duque de Caxias, “there used to be a depth of seven or eight metres; but now at low tide you can walk along with the water only chest-high,” 66-year-old Souza, who has lived in Tubiacanga for two-thirds of his life, told IPS.

Landfills, silting by rivers and rubbish tipping have all reduced the depth of the bay, he said.

“Tubiacanga is at a meeting point of dirty water from tides rising at the bay entrance, from several canals including Fundão, and from rivers. Sediments and rubbish pile up in front of our village,” where the white sandy beach has become a quagmire and rubbish dump over the past few decades, Souza complained.

Guanabara bay receives 90 tonnes daily of rubbish and 18,000 litres per second of untreated waste water, mainly via the 55 rivers and canals that flow into it, according to Sergio Ricardo de Lima, an ecologist and founder of the Bahia Viva (Living Bay) movement.

Rio’s Olympic bid announced a target of cleaning up 80 percent of the effluents reaching the bay. The actual proportion achieved was 55 percent, Sports Minister Leonardo Picciani said at a press conference with foreign journalists on July 7.

“I only believe in what I see: out of the 55 rivers in the basin, 49 have become lifeless sewers,” said Moscatelli, voicing the scepticism of environmentalists.

The 80 percent target was not realistic; completely decontaminating the bay would require 25 to 30 years and sanitation investments equivalent to six billion dollars, André Correa, environment secretary for the state of Rio de Janeiro, admitted on July 20 at the inauguration of an “eco barrier” on the river Merití, one of the polluting waterways.

Once this was a white sandy beach close to the fishing village of Tubiacanga, in Guanabara bay, near Rio de Janeiro international airport. The city’s population contributes to pollution and silting in this emblematic Brazilian bay. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Once this was a white sandy beach close to the fishing village of Tubiacanga, in Guanabara bay, near Rio de Janeiro international airport. The city’s population contributes to pollution and silting in this emblematic Brazilian bay. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The barriers are floating interconnected booms that are an emergency measure to ensure that aquatic Olympic sports can take place in some parts in the bay. Trash scooping vessels or “eco boats”  collect the floating debris that accumulates against them and send it for recycling.

Seventeen eco barriers have been promised, but these will be woefully inadequate, and in any case they should be anchored where floating garbage is most concentrated, like Tubiacanga, not close to the Guanabara bay entrance where water sports will be held, Lima complained.

The barrier in the Merití river is suitably placed, in Lima’s view, but it is “palliative action only.” The real solution is to promote selective garbage collection at source, that is, in households, shops and industries, and recycle as much solid waste as possible, as stipulated by a 2010 law.

“At present only one percent of the garbage produced in the Rio de Janeiro Metropolitan Region (which has a population of 12 million) is recycled,” Lima said.

Cleaning up Guanabara bay is a longstanding ambition. It was the goal of a project begun in 1995 that has already cost the equivalent of three billion dollars at the current exchange rate, but that has not prevented environmental deterioration of local beaches and water resources.

Eight wastewater treatment stations were built or expanded to improve water quality. However, they have always operated well below capacity, because the main drains needed to collect wastewater and deliver it to the treatment stations have never been built, according to Lima.

Pollution of the bay is exacerbated by oil spills. There is a refinery and petrochemical hub on the banks of the lagoon in Duque de Caxias; in addition, all along the Tubiacanga waterfront the bay is increasingly crisscrossed by pipes carrying crude oil, refinery subproducts and natural gas.

The effects of a large oil spill in January 2000 are still felt today. It had a direct impact on Tubiacanga and on the fish catch.

“We fisherfolk are the ones who suffer most from the consequences of pollution, and who best know the bay; but we are not listened to, we are penned in and threatened with extinction,” said Souza dos Santos, who is encouraging his four sons to take up trades other than fishing.

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Climate Migrants Lead Mass Migration to India’s Citieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/climate-migrants-lead-mass-migration-to-indias-cities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-migrants-lead-mass-migration-to-indias-cities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/climate-migrants-lead-mass-migration-to-indias-cities/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 21:20:44 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146243 Migrants arrive daily at New Delhi railway stations from across India fleeing floods and a debilitating drought. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Migrants arrive daily at New Delhi railway stations from across India fleeing floods and a debilitating drought. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

Deepa Kumari, a 36-year-old farmer from Pithoragarh district in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, lives in a one-room tenement in south Delhi’s Mongolpuri slum with her three children. Fleeing devastating floods which killed her husband last year, the widow landed up in the national capital city last week after selling off her farm and two cows at cut-rate prices.

“I was tired of putting back life’s pieces again and again after massive floods in the region each year,” a disenchanted Kumari told IPS. “Many of my relatives have shifted to Delhi and are now living and working here. Reorganising life won’t be easy with three young kids and no husband to support me, but I’m determined not to go back.”Of Uttarakhand's 16,793 villages, 1,053 have no inhabitants and another 405 have less than 10 residents.

As flash floods and incessant rain engulf Uttarakhand year after year, with casualties running into thousands this year, burying hundreds under the debris of collapsing houses and wrecking property worth millions, many people like Kumari are abandoning their hilly homes to seek succour in the plains.

The problem, as acknowledged by Uttaranchal Chief Minister Harish Rawat recently, is acute. “Instances of landslips caused by heavy rains are increasing day by day. It is an issue that is of great concern,” he said.

Displacement for populations due to erratic and extreme weather, a fallout of climate change, has become a scary reality for millions of people across swathes of India. Flooding in Jammu and Kashmir last year, in Uttarakhand in 2013 and in Assam in 2012 displaced 1.5 million people.

Cyclone Phailin, which swamped the coastal Indian state of Orissa in October 2013, triggered large-scale migration of fishing communities. Researchers in the eastern Indian state of Assam and in Bangladesh have estimated that around a million people have been rendered homeless due to erosion in the Brahmaputra river basin over the last three decades.

With no homes to call their own, migrants displaced by flooding and drought live in unhygienic shanties upon arriving in Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

With no homes to call their own, migrants displaced by flooding and drought live in unhygienic shanties upon arriving in Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Daunting challenges

Research done by Michael Werz at the Center for American Progress forecasts that South Asia will continue to be hard hit by climate change, leading to significant migration away from drought-impacted regions and disruptions caused by severe weather. Higher temperatures, rising sea levels, more intense and frequent cyclonic activity in the Bay of Bengal, coupled with high population density levels will also create challenges for governments.

Experts say challenges for India will be particularly daunting as it is the seventh largest country in the world with a diversity of landscapes and regions, each with its own needs to adapt to and tackle the impacts of climate change.

Several regions across India are already witnessing large-scale migration to cities. Drought-impacted Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are seeing a wave of migration as crops fail. Many people have been forced to leave their parched fields for India’s cities in search of work. Drought has affected about a quarter of India’s 1.3 billion people, according to a submission to the Supreme Court by the central government in April.

Rural people have especially been forced to “migrate en masse”, according to a recent paper published by a group of NGOs. Evidence of mass migration is obvious in villages that are emptying out. In Uttaranchal, nine per cent of its villages are virtually uninhabited. As per Census 2011, of Uttarakhand’s 16,793 villages, 1,053 have no inhabitants and another 405 have less than 10 residents. The number of such phantom villages has surged particularly after the earthquake and flash floods of 2013.

The intersection of climate change, migration and governance will present new challenges for India, says Dr. Ranjana Kumari, director of the Center for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank which does rehabilitation work in many flood- and drought-affected Indian states. “Both rural and urban areas need help dealing with climate change. Emerging urban areas which are witnessing inward migration, and where most of the urban population growth is taking place, are coming under severe strain.”

Tardy rescue and rehabilitation

Apparently, the Indian government is still struggling to come to terms with climate change-induced calamities. Rescue and rehabilitation has been tardy in Uttaranchal this year too with no long-term measures in place to minimise damage to life and property. In April, a group of more than 150 leading economists, activists, and academics wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling the government’s response “listless, lacking in both urgency and compassion”.

The government has also come under fire for allocating a meagre 52.8 million dollars for climate change adaptation over the next two financial years, a sum which environmental experts say is woefully inadequate given the size of the country and the challenges it faces.

Experts say climate migration hasn’t been high on India’s policy agenda due to more pressing challenges like poverty alleviation, population growth, and urbanisation. However, Shashank Shekhar, an assistant professor from the Department of Geology at the University of Delhi, asserts that given the current protracted agrarian and weather-related crises across the country, a cohesive reconstruction and rehabilitation policy for migrants becomes imperative. “Without it, we’re staring at a large-scale humanitarian crisis,” predicts the academician.

According to Kumari, climate change-related migration is not only disorienting entire families but also altering social dynamics. “Our studies indicate that it’s mostly men who migrate from the villages to towns or cities for livelihoods, leaving women behind to grapple with not only households, but also kids, the elderly, farms and the cattle. This brings in not only livelihood challenges but also socio-cultural ones.”

Geetika Singh of the Centre for Science and Environment, who has travelled extensively in the drought-stricken southern states of Maharashtra as well as Bundelhkand district in northern Uttar Pradesh, says the situation is dire.

“We’ve seen tiny packets of water in polythene bags being sold for Rs 10 across Bundelkhand,” Singh said. “People are deserting their homes, livestock and fields and fleeing towards towns and cities. This migration is also putting a severe strain on the urban population intensifying the crunch for precious resources like water and land.”

A study titled “Drinking Water Salinity and Maternal Health in Coastal Bangladesh: Implications of Climate Change” 2011 has highlighted the perils of drinking water from natural sources in coastal Bangladesh. The water, which has been contaminated by saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels, cyclone and storm surges, is creating hypertension, maternal health and pregnancy issues among the populace.

Singh, who travelled extensively in Bangladesh’s Sunderbans region says health issues like urinary infections among women due to lack of sanitation are pretty common. “High salinity of water is also causing conception problems among women,” she says.

Until the problem is addressed on a war footing, factoring in the needs of all stakeholders, hapless people like Deepa will continue to be uprooted from their beloved homes and forced to inhabit alien lands.

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How Did We Arrive at This Chaos?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 13:28:11 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146233 Roberto Savio is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News. ]]>

Roberto Savio is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

A Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times”. That meant that too many events would disrupt the essential elements of harmony, on which the Chinese pantheon is based.

We certainly live in very interesting times where every day dramatic events pile on us, from terrorism to coup d’etat, from climate disaster to the decline of institutions and ever increasing social turmoil. It would be important, even if very difficult, to look in a nutshell why we are in this situation now – “lack of harmony” . So here goes a dramatically compressed explanation.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Let us start from a little known fact. After the Second World War, there was a general consensus on the need to avoid the repetition of its horrors. The United Nations served as the meeting place for all countries, and the Cold War created as a reaction, an association of the newly independent countries, the Non Aligned countries, which acted as a buffer between the East and West camps. More, the North South divide become the most important aspect of international relations. So much so that in 1973, the United Nations General Assembly adopted unanimously a resolution on a New International Economic Order (NIEO).The world agreed to establish a plan of action to reduce inequalities, foster global growth and make of cooperation and international law the basis for a world in harmony and peace.

After the adoption of the NIEO, the international community started to work in that direction and after a preparatory meeting in Paris in 1979, a summit of the most important heads of state was convened in Cancun, Mexico in 1981, to adopt a comprehensive plan of action. Among the 22 heads of state, came Ronald Reagan, who was elected a few weeks before, and this is where he found Margaret Thatcher who was elected in 1979. The two proceeded to cancel the NIEO and the idea of international cooperation. Countries would do policy according to their national interests, and did not bow to any abstract principle. The United Nations started its decline as the meeting place on governance.

The place for decisions became the G7, until then a technical body, and other organizations, which would defend the national interests of the powerful countries.

At the same time, three other events did help Reagan and Thatcher to change the direction of history.

One was the creation of the Washington’s consensus, elaborated in 1989 by the American Treasure, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, which imposed as policy that the market was the only real engine of societies. States were an obstacle, and they should shrink as much as possible (Reagan also considered abolishing the Ministry of Education). The impact of the Washington Consensus on the ‘Third World’ was a very painful one. Structural adjustments severely cut the fragile public system.

The second was the fall of the Berlin Wall, also in 1989, which brought an end to ideologies, and obliged adoption of neoliberal globalization, which turned out to be an even more strict ideology. The main points of neo-liberal globalization included: the rule of the market (liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government); cutting public expenditure for social services (and reducing the social safety net); deregulation (reducing government regulation of everything that could diminish profits); privatization (selling state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors); eliminating the concept of “the public good” or “community”and replacing it with “individual responsibility (pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves – then blame them, if they fail, as “lazy”).

The third was the progressive elimination of rules of the financial sector, started by Reagan and completed by Bill Clinton in 1999. Deposit banks were able to use the depositor’s money for speculation. Finance, that was considered to be the lubricant of economy, went on its own way, embarking on very risky operations, not any longer linked to the real economy. Now we have for every dollar of production for goods and services, 40 dollars of financial transactions.

Nobody defends any longer the Washington Consensus, and the neoliberal globalization. It is clear to all that while at macro level, globalization increased trade, finance and global growth, at microeconomic level it has been a disaster. The proponents of neoliberal globalization claimed that the growth would reach everyone in the planet. Instead, growth has been concentrating more and more in fewer and fewer hands. Six years ago, 388 individuals owned the same wealth as that of 3.6 billion people. In 2014, the number of the super wealthy come down to 80 individuals. In 2015, this number came down to 62 individuals. The IMF and the World Bank have been asking to reinforce the state as the indispensible regulator, reversing their policy. But the genie is out of the bottle. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe has lost 18 million of its middle class citizens and the US 24 million. On the other hand, there are now 1,830 billionaires with a net capital of 6.4 trillion dollars. In the UK, the level of inequality in 2025 is expected to be the same at the time of Queen Victoria in 1850 at the time of the birth of capitalism.

The new world created by Reagan is based on greed. Some historians claim that greed and fear are the two main engines of history; and values and priorities change in a society of greed.

Let us come to our days. We have again a new group of three horses of Apocalypse. The damages of the previous 20 years (1981-2001), are compounded by those of the continuing twenty years (2001-2021) and we are not through yet .

The first, was that in 2008 the banking system of the US went berserk for absurd speculations on mortgages. That crisis moved to Europe in 2009, caused by the falling value of the state’s title, like the Greek ones. Let us recall that to save the banking system, countries have spent close to 4 trillion dollars. An enormous amount, if we consider that banks still have toxic titles for 800 billion dollars. Meanwhile the banks have paid 220 billion dollars in fines for illegal activities. No banker has been incriminated. Europe is not yet back to its pre-crisis level of life. Meanwhile, many jobs have disappeared because of delocalization to the cheapest place of production, and jobs with substandard salaries have increased, together with precarious ones.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), today a worker makes in real terms 16% less than before the crisis. This has affected especially young people, with a European average of 10.5% of youth unemployment. Yet, the only stimulus for growth is for the banking system, into which the European Central Bank‚ is injecting 80 billion of dollars per month. This would have solved easily the youth’s unemployment.

Economists speak now of a “New Economy”, where unemployment is structural. From 1950 to 1973, world’s growth was over 5% per year. It came down to about 3% during 1973 and 2007 (OPEP’s blockade of petrol price in 1973 marked the shift.). Since 2007 we are not able to reach 1%. We have to add the growing unemployment that the technological development is causing. Factories need a fraction of the workers they had before. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (robotizing), will bring robot production, now at 12%, to 40% in 2025. Some mainstream economists, like Larry Summers, (the establishment voice) say that we are in a period of stagnation that will last for many years. Fear for the future has become a reality, fueled by terrorism and unemployment, with many dreaming that is possible to go back to the better yesterday. This is what populist leaders, from Donald Trump to Le Pen, are riding. A consequence of the crisis was that in several European countries populist parties, engaged in a nationalist call, riding xenophobia and nationalism have emerged, 47 at the last count. Several of them are already in coalitions that govern, or directly, like in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia. Now watch the next Austrian elections.

The second horse of Apocalypse has been the result of the interventions made in Iraq by US, and then Libya and Syria by Europe (with a particular role by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy).

As a result, in 2012 Europe started to receive massive immigration, for which there was no preparation. Suddenly, people were afraid of the human tide coming, and its impact in workplace, culture, religion, etc. That become a major factor for fear.

And then the third horse was the creation of ISIS in Syria, in 2013, one of the gifts of the invasion in Iraq. Let us not forget the global crisis started in 2008, and since then populism and nationalism were on the rise. But ISIS spectacular media impact and the radicalization of many young Europeans from Arab descent, usually from the margin of societies and laws, accentuated Fear, and was a gift for the populist, now able to use xenophobia for mobilizing disaffected and insecure citizens. The decline of European institutions has brought several countries (after Brexit), to call for a deep revision of the European project. Hungary is going for a referendum on 2 of October. Would you accept an immigrant quota imposed by the EU, against the will of the Hungarian parliament? The same day there will be the re-run of Austrian elections, that the extreme right wing lost for 36,000 votes. Then the Netherlands, France and Germany will follow, with an expected increase of the extreme right wing parties. At the same time, Poland and Slovakia also want to have a referendum about the EU. It could well be that at the end of 2017, European institutions will be deeply wounded.

The real problem is that since the failed Cancun Summit in 1981, countries have lost the ability to think together. India, Japan, China, and many other are going through a tide of nationalism. In Cancun, all participants, from Francois Mitterrand to Indira Gandhi, from Julius Nyerere to Pierre Trudeau shared a set of common values.: social justice, solidarity, the respect of international law, and the conviction that strong societies were the basis for democracy (except of course for Reagan and Thatcher). She famously declared: there is no such thing as a society, there are only individuals). They shared many books. They considered peace and development as the paradigm for governance. All this has been swept away. Politicians, left without ideologies, subordinated to finance, have turned mainly to an administrative debate, on singles issues, without a framework, where left or right have become difficult to discern. We are clearly in a period of Greed and Fear.

Time is not helping. In 1900 Europe had 24% of the world population. At the end of this century, Europe will be 4%. Nigeria will be more populous than the US. Africa, now at 1 billion, will be 2 billion by 2050, and 3 billion by 2100. It is time now to engage all together to discuss how to face the coming world. We took 25 years to reach an agreement on climate, maybe it is too late. On migration and employment, two and a half decades is an eternity. But this must be a global agreement, not just a kneejerk reflex by Chancellor Angela Merkel in total solitude, without even consulting French President Francois Hollande. But this kind of agenda is politically unimaginable. How to discuss these issues with Le Pen, Donald Trump, the other emerging populists and the nationalist tide that runs in the world?

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400 Million People Live with Hepatitis But They Do Not Knowhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/400-million-people-live-with-hepatitis-but-they-do-not-know/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=400-million-people-live-with-hepatitis-but-they-do-not-know http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/400-million-people-live-with-hepatitis-but-they-do-not-know/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 11:15:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146231 Peru is carrying out a strategy to eliminate mother-to-child-transmission of hepatitis B. The most important preventative intervention is the universal vaccination, which can prevent infection in 95 per cent of cases. Photo credit: PAHO

Peru is carrying out a strategy to eliminate mother-to-child-transmission of hepatitis B. The most important preventative intervention is the universal vaccination, which can prevent infection in 95 per cent of cases. Photo credit: PAHO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

With some 400 million people around the world infected with hepatitis B or C, mostly without being aware, the United Nations top health agency encourages countries to boost testing and access to services and medicines for people in need to combat the ‘ignored perils’ of this disease.

A staggering 95 per cent of people infected with hepatitis B or C do not know they are infected, often living without symptoms for many years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns. And over 90% of people with hepatitis C can be completely cured within 3–6 months.

“The world has ignored hepatitis at its peril,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s director general, ahead of the World Hepatitis Day, which is observed annually on 28 July.

“It is time to mobilise a global response to hepatitis on the scale similar to that generated to fight other communicable diseases like HIV AIDS and tuberculosis,” she said.

The number grows by 6 to 10 millions a year, WHO reported, while announcing plans to release new testing guidelines for both hepatitis B and C.

With this, among other actions, the Geneva-based World Health Organisation attempts “to encourage testing and reach the 95 per cent of people who are not aware they are infected with the disease.”

The theme of this year’s World Hepatitis Day is Know Hepatitis; Act Now.

What is Hepatitis? Credit: WHO

What is Hepatitis? Credit: WHO

Together with its partner, Social Entrepreneurship for Sexual Health, WHO on July 25 said it recently launched #HepTestContest, a global contest to show how the testing guidelines could translate into real action on the ground.

“We needed examples of innovations and best practices to help guide and inspire others,” said Philippa Easterbrook from the WHO Global Hepatitis Programme, who co-led the project.

The contest received 64 contributions from 27 countries, WHO said.

Five finalists were selected by a panel of experts including representatives from WHO, the World Hepatitis Alliance and Médecins sans Frontières, who reviewed the testing models for innovation, effectiveness, and plans for sustainability.

In addition to national testing campaigns, approaches included testing in prisons, testing in the workplace and hospital emergency rooms, integrated HIV-hepatitis testing, as well as the use of internet, social media, and electronic medical records to flag higher-risk patients for testing in primary care.

Are you at risk? Credit: WHO

Are you at risk? Credit: WHO

“From prisons in Australia, use of an internet-based risk self-assessment tool in the Netherlands, community testing camps for drug users in India, to testing in primary care in Mongolia we learned some great lessons about how to build awareness of this hidden disease, improve testing rates and link those infected to treatment and care,” Philippa Easterbrook added.

An important feature of the approach was the strong community involvement and support as well as strategic partnerships to leverage reductions in the price of treatments, WHO said.

“Bringing together pharmaceutical companies, government, research organisations and communities to help negotiate price reductions make hepatitis treatments more affordable,” said Easterbrook.

“The contest demonstrated a range of possibilities. It showed that if we can develop acceptable testing approaches to suit different contexts and cultures, then we can increase effective hepatitis testing in more countries and communities,” she added.

In May of this year, the World Health Assembly – WHO’s decision-making body – called for treating eight million people for hepatitis B or C by 2020, to reduce new viral hepatitis infections by 90 per cent, and to decrease the number of deaths by 65 per cent in 2030, as compared with 2016. These targets are part of the first ever Global Health Sector Strategy on viral hepatitis.

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Uganda Ill-Equipped for Growing Cancer Burdenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/uganda-ill-equipped-for-growing-cancer-burden/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uganda-ill-equipped-for-growing-cancer-burden http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/uganda-ill-equipped-for-growing-cancer-burden/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:34:15 +0000 Amy Fallon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146200 Jovia, who died on Apr. 29, 2016, suffered from both HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer, a deadly combination affecting thousands of women in Uganda. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Jovia, who died on Apr. 29, 2016, suffered from both HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer, a deadly combination affecting thousands of women in Uganda. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Amy Fallon
KAMPALA, Uganda, Jul 25 2016 (IPS)

Lying on a dirty bed in a crowded, squalid hostel in Kampala, emaciated Jovia, 29, managed a weak smile as a doctor delivered her a small green bottle containing a liquid.

“I’m so happy they’ve brought the morphine,” the mother told IPS, just about the only words she could get out during what would be the last weeks of her life. “It controls my pain and makes my life more bearable.”“As long as radiotherapy is not available in Uganda many more patients will die.” -- Dr. Anne Merriman

Jovia was suffering from both HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer, a deadly combination affecting thousands of women in Uganda. While the east African country had huge success in the battle against the HIV virus in the 1990s, cervical and other cancers are the new health crises gripping the developing nation. One in 500 Ugandans suffers from cancer. But only five per cent of patients will get any form of treatment, facing an often tortuous death.

Thanks to Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU), founded 23 years ago by the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, British-born Dr. Anne Merriman, patients like Jovia are given not only affordable pain-controlling oral liquid morphine, but comfort, hope and dignity in their last days.

At 81, Dr. Merriman is credited with introducing palliative care to Africa. HAU has cared for a total of 27,000 seriously ill and dying people since 1993, the vast majority with the morphine made at its Kampala headquarters for just two dollars a bottle, with government funding.

In Uganda, cancer is usually diagnosed quite late, due to poor screening and lack of health services. According to the country’s Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI), 80 per cent of sufferers die because of late diagnosis.

For patients like Jovia, who passed away peacefully on Apr. 29, leaving a daughter, 14, radiotherapy can cure or extend life when treated in early stages.

A tray of morphine for Jovia. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

A tray of morphine at Hospice Africa Uganda. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

But in early April, Uganda’s only radiotherapy machine broke beyond repair. It was used by about 30,000 cancer patients annually. Since then, thousands in need of radiotherapy to cure their cancer, or extend their lives, have been left without vital treatment.

The Ugandan government had purchased a new machine, worth a reported 500,000 dollars, three years ago, but it could not be delivered as special bunkers needed to house the machine had to be built.

Facing an uproar from within Uganda at the lack of radiotherapy services, the government promised a new bunker would be built within six months. Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, offered free treatment for 400 Ugandan cancer patients. The plan was that they would be sent there by the Ugandan government through the UCI.

But more than three months later there is still huge confusion and contradictory reports and statements about the delivery of this promise, and controversy over the delay in getting desperate patients. Despite repeated requests for clarification the UCI nor Uganda’s ministry of health are able to state exactly how many patients – if indeed any – have yet been sent to Kenya for treatment.

Christine Namulindwa, UCI’s public relations officer, pointed out patients going to Nairobi have to go through an “evaluation”, and be approved by a board.

“So far we’ve submitted 15 names to the ministry of health and more are yet to be submitted,” she said last month. The pledge for free treatment from Aga Khan did not cover the cost of transporting patients and upkeep while in Nairobi, she said.

She said there were “patients who are still waiting” and referred IPS to the health ministry for further questions.

On July 1, Professor Anthony Mbonye, Acting Director General of Health services, told IPS via email the ministry of health had “received a budget for supporting patients to Aga Khan and will provide transport and funds for maintenance”.

A lawyer had “cleared a memorandum of understanding between Aga Khan and UCI,” he said.

“The radiotherapy machine was bought, but the bunker is yet to be rehabilitated. In two months’ time the machine will be installed and services will resume.”

Stories in East African papers in early July reported that the “long wait” was “over” for patients, after Aga Khan signed an MOU with UCI, allowing 400 out of 17,000 patients to “receive treatment”. But they did not give a date for when they would go to Kenya.

Another report said only tumour patients with chances of survival, but including those suffering breast and cervical cancer, would be transported to Kenya using government vans. It said accommodation and other support services were being organised by Uganda’s High Commission in Nairobi, and 20 patients have been approved to go. But again it gave no specific date for their transportation.

Two of seven patients have been treated at Aga Khan not through the UCI and the Ugandan government, but through a partnership with HAU and Road to Care, a programme developed by Canadian doctor Joda Kuk. He set up scheme in 2011 after he witnessed women with cervical cancer in rural areas of Uganda needing desperate assistance to get to Kampala for radiotherapy.

Mary Birungi and Mary Gahoire, a mother of three, both from western Uganda, returned home the week of July 21 after travelling to Kenya by road, being housed by Road to Care and completing radiotherapy treatment there. They are now back with their families.

Two more patients are in the middle of treatment this week and and two more will travel to Kenya. The seventh patient is due to go there in the first week of August.

Dr. Anne Merriman pleaded with the Ugandan government to do all in its power to complete the building of the new bunkers so the new radiotherapy machine can be commissioned as soon as possible.

“We are so happy that under Road to Care seven of our patients will be treated in Kenya, but this is just a drop in the ocean,” she said. “The need is huge. There has been so much confusion since the machine broke down, causing huge stress to patients and families. “

“As long as radiotherapy is not available in Uganda many more patients will die.”

On July 23, Professor Mbyonye told IPS that “some” patients have gone to Kenya and had already come back through the agreement between the health ministry and Aga Khan, but couldn’t give more details.

For many though, it’s too late.

Vesta Kefeza, 49, a mother of seven, has advanced cervical cancer. Lying on a mattress on the ground of her one-room home in Namugongo slum, Kampala, she is immobile, as her leg has ballooned due to a complication from the cancer.

She has been on HAU’s programme since 2011 and is administered morphine by their nurses. Uganda became the first country in the world to allow nurses to prescribe the drug in 2004. The hospice team also provides food and spiritual support.

In June, thanks to a donation from Ireland, Kefeza received a wheelchair, allowing her to get out into the fresh air and go to church.

“Until then I lay in bed all day,” she said. “I thank God for my blessings. I am lucky to have HAU caring for me.”

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Biodiversity, GMOs, Gene Drives and the Militarised Mindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biodiversity-gmos-gene-drives-and-the-militarised-mind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biodiversity-gmos-gene-drives-and-the-militarised-mind http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biodiversity-gmos-gene-drives-and-the-militarised-mind/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 12:44:27 +0000 Vandana Shiva 2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146103 TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust.]]>

TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust.

By Dr Vandana Shiva
NEW DELHI, Jul 18 2016 (IPS)

A recent report from the National Academy of Science of The United States, titled Gene Drives on the Horizon : Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values”, warns:

Dr Vandana Shiva

Dr Vandana Shiva

“One possible goal of release of a gene-drive modified organism is to cause the extinction of the target species or a drastic reduction in its abundance.”

Gene Drives have been called “mutagenic chain reactions”, and are to the biological world what chain reactions are to the nuclear world. The Guardian describes Gene Drives as the “gene bomb”.

Kevin Esvelt of MIT exclaims “a release anywhere is likely to be a release everywhere”, and asks “Do you really have the right to run an experiment where if you screw up, it affects the whole world?”

The NAS report cites the case of wiping out amaranth as an example of “potential benefit”. Yet, the “magical technology” of Gene Drives remains a Ghost, or the Department of Defence of the United States Government’s secret “weapon” to continue its War on Amaranthus Culturis.

The aforementioned study on ghost-tech was sponsored by DARPA (The Pentagon’s Research Ghost) and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (The ghost of the Microsoft Monopoly). DARPA has been busy.

Interestingly, Microsoft BASIC was developed on a DARPA Supercomputer across the street from MIT, at Harvard. Where does DARPA end and MIT start? Where does Microsoft end and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation start.

The orientation of our technologies has been dictated by the DARPA-Mind, a Mechanical Mind trained in War, and Gates continues to colonise meaning, just as gates had done to our lands, and the Green Revolution has done to our food.

Our planet has evolved, in balance, creating balance, for 4.6 billion years. Homo sapiens emerged around 200,000 years ago. About 10,000 years ago, Peasants developed the selection and breeding of seeds and domesticated agriculture began.

Human creativity combined with nature to provide the abundance that allowed the evolution of societies and species. Humanity and Nature renewed each other, sustaining civilisation and providing the potential for the Industrial Revolution.

75 years ago DARPA-Mind began its Extermination Experiment, and sent humanity off-axis. The Chemicals, Materials, and Technologies acquired during “The War”, and patented (interestingly, the Internal Combustion Engine Patent belongs to Texaco), were forced on Amaranthus Culturis – The Cultures of Living Cycles.

DARPA-Mind called it “The Green Revolution”, colonised the meanings of those two words, and began Stockpiling Chemicals of War in Our Fields; there is nothing “green” or “revolutionary” about Extermination, it must be a secret service code name for the assault that now has the names “Gene Drives”, “CRISPR”, or more accurately, Genetic Engineering.

“CASE STUDY 6: CONTROLLING PALMER AMARANTH TO INCREASE AGRICULTURE PRODUCTIVITY

Objective: Create gene drives in Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri also called pigweed), to reduce or eliminate the weed on agricultural fields in the Southern United States.


Rationale: Palmer amaranth infests agricultural fields throughout the American South. It has evolved resistance to the herbicide glyphosate, the world’s most-used herbicide (Powles, 2008), and this resistance has be- come geographically widespread.”

Palmer Amaranth has emerged as one of the superweeds. Instead of seeing the emergence of Palmer Amaranth as a superweed, as a result of the failure of the misguided approach of Herbicide Resistant GMOs, Monsanto & Co – which includes investors, scientists, corporations, DARPA, and Gates, are now rushing to drive the Amaranth species to extinction through the deployment of an untested Tool.

The tool of gene editing and gene drives – genetic “Copy-Paste”. Untested DARPA-Mind Tools have real impacts on our world. Intelligence requires that we stop, and assess why the tool of GMOs is creating superweeds, instead of controlling weeds, as it promised. Such assessment is real Science.

The ‘DARPA-Mind report’ casually states potential harm:

“Gene drives developed for agricultural purposes could also have adverse effects on human well- being. Transfer of a suppression drive to a non-target wild species could have both adverse environmental outcomes and harmful effects on vegetable crops, for example. Palmer amaranth in Case Study 6 is a damaging weed in the United States, but related Amaranthus species are cultivated for food in in Mexico, South America, India, and China.”

A scientific assessment would tell us that plants evolve resistance to herbicides which are supposed to kill them because they have intelligence, and they evolve. Denial of intelligence in life, and denial of evolution is unscientific. 107 Nobel Laureates – including two that have long passed on – “signed” a letter in support Genetic Engineering a few days ago. Clearly ‘Science’ did not prompt that “communication”.

Amaranth’s root, the word amara – meaning ‘eternal’ and ‘deathless’ in both Greek and Sanskrit – connects two formidable Houses of the Ancient World. From the high slopes of the Himalayas, through the plains of north, central and south India, to the coastlines of the east, west and the south, Amaranth is a web of life in itself. Numerous varieties are found throughout the country. In fact, the Himalayan region is one of the ‘centres of diversity’ for the Amara-nth.

Amaranth, Amaranto, love-lies-bleeding, tassel flower, Joseph’s coat, or ramdana (gods own grain) is the grain of well-being. It is rich in names, nutrition, history and meaning. There are records of Amaranth cultivation in South and Meso America as far back as 5,000 B.C.

The sacred Amaranth criss-crosses the Ancient World, nourishing cultures from the Andes to the Himalayas. Amaranth is a sacred grain for the Indian Civilisation as much as it is for the Aztec Civilisation, civilisations in the shadow of time, yet very much alive. To force cultivation of cash crops that could be traded more easily, the cultivation of Amaranth was forbidden, and punishable by death.

The “pagan” grain that built civilisations was outlawed, to pave the way for Cash Crops for traders.

amaranto.com reports:

“Amaranth was also used as a ceremonial plant in the Aztec empire. In several days the religious calendar, Aztec or Inca women grind or roasted amaranth seed, mixing it with honey or human blood, giving it the shape of birds snakes, deer, or mountains and Gods, ate them with respect and devotion as Food of the Gods.”

The leaves of the amaranth contain more iron than spinach, and have a much more delicate taste. If Popeye – “the sailor man”, had Amaranth on his “ship”, he wouldn’t have needed canned food to fight off his nemesis – “the bearded captain”. Besides rice bran, the grain of the amaranth has the highest content of iron amongst cereals.

1 kilogram of Amaranth flour, added to 1 kilogram of refined wheat flour, increases its iron content from 25 milligrams to 245milligrams. Adding amaranth flour to wheat/rice flour is a cheaper and healthier way to prevent nutritional anaemia; rather than buying expensive tablets, tonics, health drinks, branded and bio fortified flour, or canned spinach from the ship.

The Amaranth is extremely rich in complex carbohydrates and in proteins. It has 12-18% more protein than other cereals, particularly lysine – a critical amino acid.It also differs from other cereals in that 65% is found in the germ and 35% in the endosperm, as compared to an average of 15% in the germ and 85% in the endosperm for other cereals.

When Amaranth flour is mixed 30:70 with either rice flour or wheat flour, protein quality rises, from 72 to 90, and 32 to 52, respectively. The Amaranth grain is about the richest source of calcium, other than milk. It has 390 grams of calcium compared to 10 grams in rice, and 23 grams in refined flour.

The diversity of Amaranth Greens are incredible, edibles that grow uncultivated in our fields. They are a major source of nutrition. Per 100 grams, Amaranth greens can give us 5.9 grams of protein, 530 milligrams of calcium, 83 milligrams of phosphorous, 38.5 milligrams of iron, 14,190 micrograms of carotene, 179 micrograms of Vitamin-C, 122 milligrams of Magnesium.

Amaranth is nearly 500% richer in Carotene than GMO Golden Rice – which is being promoted as a ~~~future miracle~~~ for addressing Vitamin A deficiency.

Golden Rice has failed to materialise for 2 decades. Phantom technology?

The poorest, landless woman and her children have access to nutrition through the generous gift of the Amaranth .

Industrial agriculture – promoted by United States Foreign Policy – treated Amaranth greens as “weeds”, and tried to exterminate with herbicides. Then came Monsanto, with Round Up Ready crops, genetically engineered to resist the spraying of Round Up so that the GMO crop would survive the otherwise lethal chemical, while everything else that was green perished.

As was stated by a Monsanto spokesman during the negotiations of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), Herbicide resistant GMOs “prevent the weeds from stealing the sunshine”.

This DARPA-Mind world view is distorted.

Firstly, what are weeds to Monsanto are food and nutrition for women of the South. Secondly, the sun shines with abundance for all. Sharing the sun’s blessing is a right of all species.

In Amaranthus Culturis – the world of biodiversity and the sun, scarcity is alien, there is merely abundance. Sharing abundance creates abundance. It is not stealing. Stealing is a concept created by Monsanto & Co. When farmers save and share seeds, Monsanto would like to define it as “stealing”.

When the sun shines on the earth and plants grow, Monsanto would like to define it as a plants “stealing” the sunshine, while Monsanto Co. privateers our biodiversity.

This is exactly how seed famine and food famine are engineered through a world view which transforms the richness of diversity into monocultures, abundance into scarcity. The paradigm of Genetic Engineering is based on Genetic Determinism and Genetic Reductionism.

It is based on a denial of the self organised, evolutionary potential of living organisms. It treats living organisms as a lego set. But life is not lego, meccano, or stratego. It is life – complex, self organised, dynamic evolution – auto poetic.

The right to food and nutrition of the people outside the US , and the right of the amaranth to continue to grow and evolve and nourish people, can be extinguished by powerful men in the US because they messed up their agriculture with Round up Ready crops, and now want to mess up the planet, its biodiversity , and food and agriculture systems of the world with the tool of gene drives to push species to extinction.

As in the case of GMOs, the rush for Gene Drives, and CRISPR-based Gene Editing are linked to patents.

Bill Gates is financing the research that is leading to patents. And he with other billionaires has invested $130 million in a company EDITAS to promote these technologies. Bayer, the new face on Monsanto & Co, has invested $35 million in the new GMO Technologies, and committed $300 million over the next 5 years.

“Biofortification” has been given the world food prize of 2016, yet biofortification is inferior to the nutrition provided by biodiversity and indigenous knowledge. The same forces promoting biofortification are also promoting the extermination of nutritious crops like amaranth, as well as rich indigenous cultures of food.

The project of deliberately exterminating species is a crime against nature and humanity. It was a crime when Bayer and others, of IG Farben, exterminated Jews in concentration camps, and is a crime still. The very idea of extermination is a crime. Developing tools of extermination in the garb of saving the world is a crime. A crime that must not be allowed to continue any further.

The DARPA-Mind is obsolete

We are members of an Earth Family. Every species, every race is a member of one Earth Community. We cannot allow some members of our Earth Family to allocate to themselves the power and hubris to decide who will live, and who will be exterminated.

A scientific assessment of the failure of herbicides and GMOs to control weeds , and the success of ecological agriculture in controlling pests and weeds without the use of violent tools will lead us to a paradigm-shift from industrial farming to ecological agriculture – to cultures of eternity.

Dr Vandana Shiva’s article was published in vandanashiva.com. Go to Original – vandanashiva.com | Source: TRANSCEND Media Service.

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

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Rewriting Africa’s Agricultural Narrativehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 11:08:02 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146098 Albert Kanga's plantain farm on the outskirts of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Albert Kanga's plantain farm on the outskirts of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
ABIDJAN, Cote d'Ivoire, Jul 18 2016 (IPS)

Albert Kanga Azaguie no longer considers himself a smallholder farmer. By learning and monitoring the supply and demand value chains of one of the country’s staple crops, plantain (similar to bananas), Kanga ventured into off-season production to sell his produce at relatively higher prices.

“I am now a big farmer. The logic is simple: I deal in off-season plantain. When there is almost nothing on the market, mine is ready and therefore sells at a higher price,” says Kanga, who owns a 15 Ha plantain farm 30 kilometres from Abidjan, the Ivorian capital.

Harvesting 12 tonnes on average per hectare, Kanga is one of a few farmers re-writing the African story on agriculture, defying the common tale of a poor, hungry and food-insecure region with more than 232 million undernourished people – approximately one in four.

Albert Kanga on his plantain farm. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Albert Kanga on his plantain farm. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

With an estimated food import bill valued at 35.4 billion dollars in 2015, experts consider this scenario ironic because of Africa’s potential, boasting 60 percent of the world’s unused arable land, and where 60 percent of the workforce is employed in agriculture, accounting for roughly a third of the continent’s GDP.

The question is why? Several reasons emerge which include structural challenges rooted in poor infrastructure, governance and weak market value chains and institutions, resulting in low productivity. Additionally, women, who form the backbone of agricultural labour, are systematically discriminated against in terms of land ownership and other incentives such as credit and inputs, limiting their opportunities to benefit from agricultural value chains.

“Women own only one percent of land in Africa, receive one percent of agricultural credit and yet, constitute the majority of the agricultural labour force,” says Buba Khan, Africa Advocacy Officer at ActionAid.

Khan believes Africa may not be able to achieve food security, let alone sovereignty, if women remain marginalised in terms of land rights, and the World Bank Agenda for Global Food System sourcebook supports the ‘closing the gender gap’ argument.

According to the sourcebook, ensuring that women have the same access to assets, inputs, and services in agriculture as men could increase women’s yields on farms by 20-30 percent and potentially reduce the number of hungry people by 12-17 percent.

But empowering women is just one of the key pieces to the puzzle. According to the African Development Bank’s Feeding Africa agenda, number two on its agenda is dealing with deep-seated structural challenges, requiring ambition and investments.

According to the Bank’s analysis, transforming agricultural value chains would require approximately 280-340 billion dollars over the next decade, and this would likely create new markets worth 55-65 billion dollars per year by 2025. And the AfDB envisages quadrupling its investments from a current annual average of US 612 million to about 2.4 billion dollars to achieve this ambition.

“Our goal is clear: achieve food self-sufficiency for Africa in 10 years, eliminate malnutrition and hunger and move Africa to the top of agricultural value chains, and accelerate access to water and sanitation,” said Akinwumi Adesina, the AfDB Group President at the 2016 Annual Meetings, highlighting that the major focus of the bank’s “Feed Africa” agenda, is transforming agriculture into a business for farmers.

But even with this ambitious goal, and the colossal financial resources on the table, the how question remains critical. Through its strategy, the Bank sets to use agriculture as a starting point for industrialisation through multi-sectoral interventions in infrastructure, intensive use of agro inputs, mechanisation, enhanced access to credit and improved land tenure systems.

Notwithstanding these well tabulated interventions, there are trade-offs required to create a balance in either system considering the climate change challenge already causing havoc in the agriculture sector. The two schools of thought for agriculture development—Intensification (more yields per unit through intensive agronomical practices) and Extensification (bringing more land under cultivation), require a right balance.

“Agriculture matters for Africa’s development, it is the single largest source of income, food and market security, and it is also the single largest source of jobs. Yet, agriculture faces some enormous challenges, the most urgent being climate change and the sector is called to act. But there are trade-offs to either approaches of up-scaling. For example, extensification entails cutting more forests and in some cases, displacing people—both of which have a negative impact on Agriculture’s role to climate change mitigation,” says Sarwatt Hussein, Head of Communications at World Bank’s Agriculture Global Practice.

And this is a point that Ivorian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mamadou Coulibaly Sangafowa, stresses regarding Agricultural investments in Africa. “The emphasis is that agricultural investments should be climate-sensitive to unlock the opportunities especially for young Africans, and stop them from crossing the Mediterranean seeking economic opportunities elsewhere,” he said.

Coulibaly, who is also president of the African conference of Agricultural Ministers, identifies the need to improve specialised agricultural communication, without which farmers would continue working in the dark. “Farmers need information about latest technologies but it is not getting to them when they need it the most,” he said, highlighting the existing information gap, which the World Bank and the African Media Initiative (AMI) have also noted regarding media coverage of Agriculture in Africa.

While agriculture accounts for well over 60 percent of national economic activity and revenue in Africa, the sector gets a disproportionately small amount of media coverage, contributing less than 10 percent to the national economic and political discourse. And this underreporting has resulted not only in limited public knowledge of what actually goes on in the sector, but also in general, misconceptions about its place in the national and regional economy, notes the AMI-World bank analysis.

Whichever route Africa uses to achieve the overall target of feeding itself and be a net food exporter by 2025, Ivorian farmer, Albert Kanga has already started the journey—thanks to the World Bank supported West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme-WAAPP, which introduced him to off-season production techniques.

According to Abdoulaye Toure, lead agro-economist at the World Bank, the WAAPP initiative which started in 2007 has changed the face of agriculture in the region. “When we started in 2007, there was a huge food deficit gap in West Africa, with productivity at around 20 percent, but it is now at 30 percent, and two similar programmes in Eastern and Southern Africa, have been launched as a result,” said Toure.

Some of the key elements of the programme include research, training of young scientists to replace the older generation, and dissemination of improved technologies to farmers. With in-country cluster research stations set up based on a particular country’s potential, there is improved information sharing on best practices.

“With new varieties introduced and off-season irrigation techniques through WAAPP, I am now an example,” says Farmer Kanga, who does not only supply to big supermarkets, but also exports to international markets such as Italy.

He recalls how he started the farm named after his late brother, Dougba, and wishes “he was alive to see how successful it has become.”

The feed Africa agenda targets to feed 150 million, and lift 100 million people out of poverty by 2025. But is it an achievable dream? Farmer Kanga is already showing that it is doable.

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Women Empowerment Holds the Key for Global Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/women-empowerment-holds-the-key-for-global-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-empowerment-holds-the-key-for-global-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/women-empowerment-holds-the-key-for-global-development/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 20:32:35 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146086 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/women-empowerment-holds-the-key-for-global-development/feed/ 0 Entrenched Inequalitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/entrenched-inequalities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=entrenched-inequalities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/entrenched-inequalities/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:19:17 +0000 Faisal Bari http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146083 By Faisal Bari
Jul 15 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Do a girl born in a poor household in rural Balochistan and a boy born in a rich household in Karachi have the same or even a similar set of opportunities in life? Are their chances of acquiring an education similar? Do they have access to comparable healthcare services and facilities? Do they have equal opportunities for access to physical infrastructure and the freedom of movement and association?

Faisal Bari

Faisal Bari

The girl from the poor household in rural Balochistan has a significant probability of not surviving infancy. If she does, it is unlikely she will go to school. The chances of her making it to matriculation are almost negligible. She will be malnourished as a child and anaemic as an adult (the oft-heard refrain that at the very least nobody goes to sleep hungry in Pakistan is a blatant lie and a powerful means of self-deception). If she survives and makes it to adulthood, it is unlikely that marriage will change her economic/social status by much. Childbearing-related health risks and exposure to environmental hazards will make it likely that she will have a less than average lifespan.

Distribution of opportunities is highly unequal in Pakistan, and the differences are of many dimensions: income, wealth, gender, caste, ethnicity, sect, religion, rural/urban and provincial. But, more importantly, these inequalities are very deeply entrenched in our social, political and economic fabric. Our institutions, organisations and ways of doing things are structured to perpetuate this inequality and deepen it across generations. A poor child is likely to remain poor in his/her lifetime and his/her children are likely to remain poor too.

Our society and institutions are structured to perpetuate inequality across generations.

Socio-economic inequalities, and their entrenched and self-perpetuating nature, are the biggest challenge we face in shaping a future for Pakistan. It is easy to find challenges that Pakistan faces: there are plenty of good candidates. The fundamental one is inequality and what perpetuates it. But, and here is the perplexing part, despite its fundamental nature, it is one issue that is not even on the agenda for discussion or on the reform agenda.

People have been concerned about terrorism and extremism. Right or wrong, the government, with most stakeholders in agreement, came up with Operation Zarb-i-Azb and the National Action Plan to deal with it. We have been concerned about stabilisation and, right or wrong, we have been shoving stabilisation policies, under the guidance of the IMF, down everyone’s throat. We have become concerned about growth and, right or wrong, we have responded with investments in energy, infrastructure and now through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

But where is the response to the highly unequal access to opportunities in the country? Where is the outrage against this blatant neglect of the rights and needs of the majority? The politicians are not interested in the issue. There is no debate on the issue in legislatures, there are no policy options on the table, and there is not even an articulated demand or ideological approach by any political party on this larger question.

There does not seem to be any articulated demand from the public for addressing this issue either. Elections are not lost or won on the issue of addressing equality of opportunity: the provision of quality education/skills training, basic health, access to good social/physical infrastructure, and employment and growth opportunities.

Though we often talk of both the free, highly vocal and developed mass media in the country and the free and independent judiciary, they have not been instrumental in raising fundamental issues of rights and opportunities. The media produces more heat than light through the debates that incessantly go on. The judiciary has not taken up any of the fundamental issues — be it the right to education, healthcare or employment or questions of access to resources through land reform — at all. Cases filed on these matters with the higher courts have been languishing for years.

Is it not a fact that the hold the upper classes have on society is very strong, not only in terms of managing access to resources but even over the power to start and sustain debate? The upper classes, the top five to seven per cent, the main beneficiaries of the current system, do not have an interest in starting a debate on rights and equality of opportunities: they stand to lose the most. But, in addition, it seems that the people who rise to middle-class level (the professionals), the subsidiary beneficiaries of the current system, also see their benefit in perpetuating the system rather than in challenging it. They are co-opted.

But if we feel we can address terrorism, extremism, ethnic strife, sustainable development, high growth, and income and employment generation without addressing the issue of opportunities for all, we live in la-la land. If we believe we do not have the resources to provide a basic level of services to all, we are wrong again. Kerala, an Indian state that boasts developed society level statistics on education, health and well-being, provided basic health and education services to all when it was a relatively poor state.

Many people also feel that there is a trade-off in growth and expenditure on basic services. They are wrong. Human development theories have shown that. Empirical evidence is also there. Kerala was not the fastest-growing state in India when it extended basic services to all, and many critics thought this extension would limit Kerala’s growth prospects even further. Today, Kerala stands at the top of the list of Indian states in growth and income terms.

If a poor girl from rural Balochistan does not get almost the same opportunities as a boy from the middle or upper class from Karachi, our dreams for a better Pakistan will remain just that: dreams. And, in reality, we will continue to live the nightmare that we currently face.

The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives and an associate professor of economics at Lums, Lahore.
Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2
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This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Indigenous Villages in Honduras Overcome Hunger at Schoolshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/indigenous-villages-in-honduras-overcome-hunger-at-schools/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-villages-in-honduras-overcome-hunger-at-schools http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/indigenous-villages-in-honduras-overcome-hunger-at-schools/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:14:53 +0000 Thelma Mejia http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146074 Students at the “República de Venezuela” School in the indigenous Lenca village of Coloaca in western Honduras, where they have a vegetable garden to grow produce and at the same time learn about the importance of a healthy and nutritious diet. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Students at the “República de Venezuela” School in the indigenous Lenca village of Coloaca in western Honduras, where they have a vegetable garden to grow produce and at the same time learn about the importance of a healthy and nutritious diet. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

By Thelma Mejía
COALACA, Honduras, Jul 15 2016 (IPS)

Barely 11 years old and in the sixth grade of primary school, this student dreams of becoming a farmer in order to produce food so that the children in his community never have to go hungry. Josué Orlando Torres of the indigenous Lenca people lives in a remote corner of the west of Honduras.

He is part of a success story in this village of Coalaca, population 750, in the municipality of Las Flores in the department (province) of Lempira.

Five years ago a Sustainable School Feeding Programme (PAES) was launched in this area. It has improved local children’s nutritional status and enjoys plenty of local, governmental and international participation.

Torres is proud of his school, named for the Republic of Venezuela, where 107 students are supported by their three teachers in their work in a “teaching vegetable garden”. They grow peas and beans, fruit and vegetables that are used daily in their school meals.

Torres told IPS that he did not used to like green vegetables, but now “I’ve started to like them, and I love the fresh salads and green juices.”

Josué Orlando Torres, an 11-year-old student, dreams of becoming a farmer to ensure that children like himself have access to free high-quality food at this school in the indigenous community of Coloaca, where a sustainable school programme is beginning to overcome chronic malnutrition. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Josué Orlando Torres, an 11-year-old student, dreams of becoming a farmer to ensure that children like himself have access to free high-quality food at this school in the indigenous community of Coloaca, where a sustainable school programme is beginning to overcome chronic malnutrition. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

“Here they taught us what is good for us to eat, and also to plant produce so that there will always be food for us. We have a vegetable garden in which we all plant coriander, radishes, cucumbers, cassava (yucca), squash (pumpkin), mustard and cress, lettuce, carrots and other nutritious foods,” he said while indicating each plant in the school garden.

When he grows up, Torres does not want to be a doctor, engineer or fireman like other children of his age. He wants to be “a good farmer to grow food to help my community, help kids like me to be well-fed and not to fall asleep in class because they had not eaten and were ill,” as happened before, he said.

The 48 schools scattered throughout Las Flores municipality, together with other schools in Lempira province, especially those located within what is called the dry corridor of Honduras, characterised by poverty and the onslaughts of climate change, are part of a series of sustainable pilot projects being promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and PAES is one of these.

The purpose of these sustainable school projects is to improve the nutritional status of students and at the same time give direct support to small farmers, by means of a comprehensive approach and effective local-local, local-regional and central government-international aid  interactions.

As a result of this effort in indigenous Lenca communities and Ladino (mixed indigenous-white or mestizo) communities such as Coalaca, La Cañada, Belén and Lepaera (all of them in Lempira province), schoolchildren and teachers alike have said goodbye to fizzy drinks and sweets, and undertaken a radical change in their food habits.

Parents, teachers, students, each community and municipal government, three national Secretariats (Ministries) and FAO have joined forces so that these remote Honduran regions may see off the problems of famine and malnutrition that once were rife here.

A family production chain was developed to supply the schools with food for their students, who average over 100 at each educational centre, complementing the school vegetable gardens.

Every Monday, small farmers bring their produce to a central distribution centre, and municipal vehicles distribute it to the schools.

View of Belén, a town that is the head of a rural municipality of the same name amid the mountains of western Honduras, in the department (province) of Lempira, where a programme rooted in local schools is improving nutrition among remote indigenous communities. Credit: Courtesy of Thelma Mejía

View of Belén, a town that is the head of a rural municipality of the same name amid the mountains of western Honduras, in the department (province) of Lempira, where a programme rooted in local schools is improving nutrition among remote indigenous communities. Credit: Courtesy of Thelma Mejía

Erlín Omar Perdomo, from the village of La Cañada in Belén municipality, told IPS: “When FAO first started to organise us we never thought things would go as far as they did, our initial concern was to stave off the hunger there was around here and help our children to be better nourished.”

“But as the project developed, they trained us to become food providers as well. Today this community is supplying 13 schools in Belén with fresh, high-quality produce,” the community leader said with satisfaction.

They organised themselves as savings micro-cooperatives to which members pay small subscriptions and which finance projects or businesses at lowinterest rates and without the need for collateral, as required by banks, or for payment of abusive interest rates, as charged by intermediaries known as “coyotes”.

“We never dreamed the project would reach the size it is today. FAO sent us to Brazil to see for ourselves how food was being supplied to schools by the families of students, but, here we are and this is our story,” said the 36-year-old Perdomo.

“We all participate, we generate income and bring development to our communities, to the extent that now the drop-out rate is practically nil, and our women have also joined the project. They organise themselves in groups to attend the school every week to cook our children’s food,” he said.

Rubenia Cortes, a mother and volunteer cook at the school in the remote village of La Cañada in the department (province) of Lempira, in western Honduras. They cook in a kitchen that was built by parents and teachers at the school. Credit: Courtesy of Thelma Mejía

Rubenia Cortes, a mother and volunteer cook at the school in the remote village of La Cañada in the department (province) of Lempira, in western Honduras. They cook in a kitchen that was built by parents and teachers at the school. Credit: Courtesy of Thelma Mejía

A 2012 report by the World Food Programmme (WFP) indicated that in Central America, Honduras had the second worst child malnutrition levels, after Guatemala. According to the WFP, one in four children suffers from chronic malnutrition, with the worst problems seen in the south and west of the country.

But in Coalaca, La Cañada and other nearby villages and small towns, the situation has begun to be reverted in the past five years. The FAO project is based on the creation of a new nutritional culture; an expert advises and educates local families in eating a healthy and balanced diet.

“We don’t put salt and pepper on our food any more. We have replaced them with aromatic herbs. FAO trained us, teaching us what nutrients were to be found in each vegetable, fruit or pulse, and in what quantities,” said Rubenia Cortes.

“Look, our children now have beautiful skin, not dull like before,” she explained proudly to IPS. Cortes is a cook at the Claudio Barrera school in La Cañada, population 700, part of Belén municipality where there are 32 PAES centres.

Cortes and the other women are all heads of households who do voluntary work to prepare food at the school. “Before, we would sell our oranges and buy fizzy drinks or sweets, but now we do not; it is better to make orange juice for all of us to drink,” she said as an example.

From Monday to Friday, students at the PAES schools have a highly nutritious meal which they eat mid-morning.

The change is remarkable, according to Edwin Cortes, the head teacher of the La Cañada school. “The children no longer fall asleep in class. I used to ask them, ‘Did you understand the lesson?’ But what could they answer? They had come to school on an empty stomach. How could they learn anything?” he exclaimed.

In the view of María Julia Cárdenas, the FAO representative in Honduras, the most valuable thing about this project is that “we can leave the project, but it will not die, because everyone has appropriated it.”

“It is highly sustainable, and models like this one overcome frontiers and barriers, because everyone is united in a common purpose, that of feeding the children,” she told IPS after giving a delegation of experts and Central American Parliamentarians a guided tour of the untold stories that arise in this part of the dry corridor of Honduras.

There are 1.4 million children in primary and basic secondary schooling in Honduras, out of a total population of 8.7 million people. Seven ethnic groups live alongside each other in the country, of which the largest is the Lenca people, a group of just over 400,000 people.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/ Translated by Valerie Dee

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New Study on Earthquakehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/new-study-on-earthquake-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-study-on-earthquake-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/new-study-on-earthquake-2/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2016 13:50:05 +0000 Editor Dailystar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146056 By Editor, The Daily Star, Bangladesh
Jul 14 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

A new study using ground and satellite GPS monitors have concluded that the north-eastern corner of the Indian subcontinent encompassing Bangladesh, eastern India and parts of Myanmar is at risk of a major earthquake, and the effect when it occurs would be on a massive scale (8.2 to 9 on the Richter scale). The study conducted at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University should be taken seriously, particularly by Bangladesh which has several issues going against it in the event of a major quake.

 A major earthquake may cause massive destruction in the highly populated Dhaka city crammed with unplanned buildings like that seen in this picture taken at Mohammadpur Geneva Camp. Photo: Rahsed Shumon

A major earthquake may cause massive destruction in the highly populated Dhaka city crammed with unplanned buildings like that seen in this picture taken at Mohammadpur Geneva Camp. Photo: Rahsed Shumon

We have long been warned that Bangladesh is at high risk of getting hit by a major quake and over the last year, and the city has been experiencing minor quakes from time to time. Now that scientific data has been presented, we need to assess the impediments to the relief and rescue operations and adopt suitable measures to mitigate the likely impact.

Although no timeline can be predicted, Dhaka would be badly hit and we should remember that 17 million people call it their home. A big quake will result in the flattening of Dhaka’s high rise skyline since most buildings fail to conform to standards set in the building code. Poor construction means lots of falling debris on to the extremely congested lanes and roads of Dhaka city. Getting relief to those trapped under buildings will be the single largest challenge for a post-quake event. These are challenges that need to be met headlong by policymakers.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Large-Scale Rainwater Harvesting Eases Scarcity in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2016 21:02:07 +0000 Justus Wanzala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146014 African Water Bank technicians put the final touches on a water storage tank at a homestead in the Duka Moja area of Narok County, Kenya. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

African Water Bank technicians put the final touches on a water storage tank at a homestead in the Duka Moja area of Narok County, Kenya. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

By Justus Wanzala
NAROK, Kenya, Jul 12 2016 (IPS)

Rainwater harvesting in Kenya and other places is hardly new. But in this water-stressed country, where two-thirds of the land is arid or semiarid, the quest for a lasting solution to water scarcity has driven useful innovations in this age-old practice.

The African Water Bank (AWB), an international nonprofit, has committed to providing and managing clean water using a much cheaper and efficient method.

The technology’s main focus is to harvest and store rainwater on a large scale. It has features such as an enhanced collection area, a guttering system and a storage system. Additional features include filters, water gauges and first flush devices.

A typical AWB rainwater harvesting system collects 400,000 to 450,000 litres of rainwater within two to three hours of steady rain. It has an artificial roof of 900 to 1,600 square metres and storage tanks. The largest tank ever constructed in Narok County has a capacity of 600,000 litres. All the units can be expanded per the owners’ needs.

This amount of water can serve a community of 400 people for approximately 24 months without extra rain. The capacity can be added at a rate of 220,000 litres per year. The system is low cost and can be 100 percent maintained locally. It also uses local skills, labour, materials and technology.A typical AWB harvesting system collects 400,000 to 450,000 litres of rainwater within two to three hours of steady rain.

Chip Morgan, AWB’s Chief Executive Officer, says their system collects huge volumes of rainwater and conserves it in large storage tanks. “This is akin to one earning money and saving it in a bank, the reasons we are called AWB,” he says.
He adds that the size of the system installed by households is dependent on their needs.

Currently, AWB focuses on the semiarid Narok County, in Kenya’s Rift Valley region, mainly occupied by the pastoral Maasai community. The technology has also been introduced in the semiarid Pokot, Machakos, Samburu and Kajiado counties in Kenya as well as in Zambia’s Chavuma district. Most of the clients are homes and institutions such as hospitals and schools.

Construction of tanks is funded by communities, donors and individuals who pay 50 percent up front before construction begins. Morgan says that despite growing demand, they are still in a phase where people are learning of the immense potential of the initiative. “This year we are fully booked. Our target is to build 50 units in a year,” he says.

The AWB CEO, who has worked for decades in the development sector starting in his native Australia, where water scarcity is a challenge to communities residing in remote areas, argues that one of the reasons why people are poor in many parts of the developing world is lack of water.

According to the 2012 Joint Monitoring Programme’s report, access to safe water supplies throughout Kenya was only 59 percent, while access to improved sanitation was 32 percent. The situation might have improved of late, but the challenge of access to water in both rural areas and urban areas still abounds.

Due to poor access to water and sanitation, says Morgan, water, sanitation and hygiene-related illnesses and conditions are the main cause of disease among children under five.

Meanwhile, just a small tank can irrigate a greenhouse on a one-third acre piece of land, thus promoting food security. As a result, AWB is keen to work with companies involved in the provision of greenhouse irrigation services to assist communities engaged in commercial farming.

Access to water and sanitation is also vital in reducing women and girls’ workload since culturally, fetching water is their job. This enables them to attend to other activities, such as school and homework.

Morgan notes that they use both skilled and unskilled local labour and continuously train their technicians. This is essential because the emergence of plastic tanks had killed demand for concrete ones, resulting in a decline of the number of concrete tank technicians. He says concrete/masonry tanks can last a lifetime.

AWB has two engineers. They offer training to technicians from outside Kenya. Four Ugandan community-based organisations have benefited from AWB’s skills transfer programme by sending their members to be trained on AWB rainwater harvesting technology.

Wataka Stephen, a trainee from Mbale, Uganda, says he was keen to acquire skills and transfer them to Uganda. “I intend to utilize the skills that I have acquired to employ myself,” says Wataka.

Swaga Jaberi, another Ugandan undergoing training at AWB, says his home region in eastern Uganda relies heavily on boreholes, but they are drying up as the water table decreases. Borehole digging is also expensive.

AWB’s rainwater harvesting technology is unique compared to the systems common in Uganda, he says. Jaberi intends to target hospitals, schools, and community centres as his potential clients.

The AWB rainwaters harvesting is indeed beneficial to communities in the semi arid Narok County. Apart from saving livestock during perennial droughts, it is also boosting education. Tonkei Ole Tempa, headmaster of the Ilkeek Aare mixed Day and Boarding Primary School, cannot hide his satisfaction. He says  that since the school completed construction of its 600,000-litre water tank in March, it has enough water to meet all its needs.

The system has a rainwater collecting roof of 400 square metres and was put up at a cost Kenya shillings 4.3 million (USD 43,000). Ole Tempa says the school, which has a total of 410 pupils with 180 pupils being boarders, now has enough water to last from one rainy season to the next.

Ole Tempa reveals that enrolment has gone up. “In 2013 the school had only 106 pupils but this year it has grown to 410,” says the headmaster. He adds that the availability of water has enhanced the school’s feeding programme. This has improved student health and performance. Hygiene standards in the school, adds Ole Tempa, have equally improved.

Indeed, various studies commissioned by Kenya’s ministry of education and other independent bodies in the past have indicated that in schools without clean water and toilets, pubescent female pupil’s absenteeism is rampant during days when they are menstruating. This affects their performance in school, with some dropping out altogether.

According to Ole Tempa, it is because of the vulnerability of girls that they offer boarding facilities to girls as matter of priority courtesy of availability of enough water. He adds that previously they used to spend 48,000 Kenya shillings (480 USD) every three months to buy water, but since they stared harvesting rainwater, the cost is zero.

The head teacher says that they intend to establish a vegetable garden through irrigation to supply fresh vegetables to the school and also rear two dairy cows to lower spending on milk for pupils. Funds for the construction of the roof and tank were provided by the Rotary Club in Kenya and the African Water Bank partners. Parents also chipped in by contributing Kenya shillings 5,000 each (USD 50). “The input by the parents was meant to ensure ownership of the project for sustainability purposes,” he says.

The government has equally recognized the impact of rainwater harvesting technologies in arid and semiarid areas on education. Speaking in Baringo County in June 2016, Fred Segor, Principal Secretary, Kenya’s ministry of water, urged schools to practice rainwater harvesting. He said the move will reduce incidences of water related diseases among pupils.

Apart from boosting access to water in arid and semi regions, rainwater harvesting contributes to water conservation thus reducing overexploitation of water resources. Moreover, rainwater harvesting reduces surface runoff during heavy precipitation which causes floods and erosion as water is harvested.

Morgan says AWB is keen to surmount challenges such as scarcity financial constraints by partnering with financial institutions. This will eliminate dependence on donors and lessen the burden on communities which lack funds to put up large scale rainwater harvesting units.

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Global Coalition Seeks Ban on Mercury Usehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/global-coalition-seeks-ban-on-mercury-use/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-coalition-seeks-ban-on-mercury-use http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/global-coalition-seeks-ban-on-mercury-use/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2016 14:27:42 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146008 Example of mercury use in the healthcare sector. From left to right:  Mercury Sphygmomanometer, Dental Amalgam and a Fever Thermometer. Photo: UNDP

Example of mercury use in the healthcare sector. From left to right: Mercury Sphygmomanometer, Dental Amalgam and a Fever Thermometer. Photo: UNDP

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2016 (IPS)

A coalition of over 25 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has launched a global campaign to end a longstanding health and environmental hazard: the use of mercury in dentistry.

Spearheading the campaign is the Washington-based World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, which is seeking to phase out dental amalgam, described as a “primitive pollutant”, by the year 2020.

The environmental health benefits from mercury-free dentistry would be “huge to the world”, says the World Alliance, “”The European Union’s science committee calls amalgam a ‘secondary poisoning’ because its mercury gets into fish and vegetables which children eat.”

A proposal before the European Commission calls for the use of dental amalgam in an encapsulated form, and more importantly, the implementation of amalgam separators, which should be mandatory to protect dental practitioners and patients from mercury exposure and to ensure that resulting mercury waste are not released into the environment but are collected and subjected to sound waste management.

Describing dental amalgam as “vastly inferior to today’s alternative materials,” the President of the World Alliance Charles G. Brown, told IPS: “Western corporate interests fund the counter-campaign to protect amalgam sales, especially in developing nations.”

“The game changer in our favour is the 2013 Minimata Convention on Mercury,” (which has been signed by 128 nations), said Brown, a former Attorney General of the US State of Ohio.

But the Convention, which aims to reduce or eliminate all man-made uses of mercury, needs 50 ratifications to become legally binding. But so far, only 28 countries have ratified the Convention, including the US.

The most recent ratifications have included Switzerland and Mali (in May) and Botswana (in June).

“We need a push to get over the finish line,” declared Brown, whose campaign reaches out Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, North America and the Island States. .

Besides the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, the coalition includes the European Environmental Bureau, Health and Environment Alliance, Women in Europe for a Common Future, International Academy for Oral Medicine and Toxicology, Asian Centre for Environmental Health, Danish Association for Non-Toxic Dentistry and Zero Waste Europe.

In a letter to members of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament, the coalition points out that, after long delays, the European Commission proposed a new mercury package last February, positioning the EU to finally ratify the Minamata Convention.

The package updates existing EU law to conform to the Convention, but falls short in several key areas, including a new proposal that would eventually perpetuate mercury use in EU dentistry.

“This proposal is clearly out of step with both the spirit and intent of the treaty,” the letter warns. The Minamata Convention requires each State party to “phase down the use of dental amalgam”.

The Environment Committee is calling for a phase-out of amalgam in Europe by the year 2021.

But the EC mercury package, on the other hand, proposes merely to require amalgam separators and encapsulated amalgam – two measures that fail to phase down European amalgam use for several reasons.

Asked if this problem is largely confined to the EU, described as the largest user of dental mercury in the world, Brown told IPS: “No, this problem is not confined to Europe although the EU is the largest user partly because dental care is more available in general”.

A report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), a mercury monitoring network, shows that North America (including the US) is consuming its share.

“Although use is far less in developing countries right now, it is expected to increase as dental care becomes more available – unless we prevent it by ensuring that mercury-free alternatives are used from the start.”

Achim Steiner, former Executive Director of UNEP, wrote a letter to the World Alliance last year endorsing the activist phasing down of amalgam in general, and singling out the work of the World Alliance of Mercury-Free Dentistry, in particular.

UNEP and the World Alliance have co-hosted two 10-nation conferences to work for mercury-free dentistry: for francophone Africa, April 2014 in Abidjan; and for Asia (South, Southeast, & East Asian nations), March 2016 in Bangkok.

The overall goal of the Global Mercury Partnership, according to UNEP, is to protect human health and the global environment from the release of mercury and its compounds by minimizing and, where feasible, ultimately eliminating global, anthropogenic mercury releases to air, water and land.

UNEP recently developed a brochure to assist nations in phasing down amalgam use. In it, UNEP particularly promoted the following steps:

(a) Raising public awareness of amalgam’s mercury content; (b) Updating dental school curricula to promote mercury-free dentistry; (c) Modifying government programs and insurance to favor mercury-free fillings; and (d) Restricting amalgam use in children and pregnant women.

In its attempts to protect human health and the environment from mercury—and in support of the Minamata Convention on Mercury—the UN Development Programme (UNDP), says sound management of chemicals and wastes is an important component of its efforts to achieve sustainable, inclusive and resilient human development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UNDP advocates integrating chemicals management priorities into national environmental and poverty reduction planning frameworks, while helping countries access financial and technical resources, and providing assistance and implementation support to improve the holistic management of chemicals and waste at national, regional and global levels.

UNDP currently supports 42 countries with a Global Environment Facility (GEF) mercury portfolio of $22 million in grants and $32 million in co-financing.

Asked if the medical lobby is powerful enough to keep stalling an eventual ban on dental mercury, Brown said: “It’s actually the dental lobby specifically that opposes the ban (many physicians tend to either not take a stand or they agree with us). “

Are they effective or powerful? It depends on whom you talk with, he said.

Dentistry is divided into two hotly contesting factions: the mercury-free numbers are growing, the pro-mercury faction shrinking – but the latter is represented by the World Dental Federation (FDI, its initials in French) and its constituent Western members, such as the American, British, and Canadian Dental Associations.

The American Dental Association spent $2,850,000 on lobbying expenses in 2013, the year the treaty negotiations ended, but in its arrogance the money was largely wasted, he added.

“At the Minamata Convention, FDI and the American Dental Association (ADA) were represented by white Western males, whereas dentists on our side came from every continent and race, as did our NGO team of talented women and men.”

“We outworked, outpointed, and outsmarted the well-heeled pro-mercury faction of dentistry, and amalgam is crucially placed in Annex A-II of the Minamata Convention.”

Their rearguard action to protect the status quo is not ineffective, but they cannot stall the amalgam ban indefinitely – else their own members will pull out the rug on them, said Brown.

In the United States, the number of mercury-free dentists has grown rapidly. In 2005, a peer reviewed study found that 31.6% of dentists practiced amalgam-free dentistry.

Just two years later in 2007, an ADA survey found that 36.6% of dentists did not use any amalgam – and that number was even higher (37.2%) among pediatric dentists and prosthodontists (the two specialties that perform restorations the most).

A survey by dental marketing firm ‘The Wealthy Dentist’ in 2009 found that 53% were not using amalgam. Seven years later, said Brown, it is safe to say that these numbers are on the conservative side today because of two trends.

Younger dentists use less amalgam than older dentists. According to the 2007 ADA survey, “More dentists 40 years or older (65.0%) currently used amalgam restorations than did dentists younger than 40 years (55.2%).”

So 44.8% of dentists under age 40 were already amalgam-free almost a decade ago in 2007. With many of the older dentists surveyed now retired and more young dentists graduated from dental school, the number of amalgam-free dentists has obviously increased while the number of dentists using amalgam has steadily decreased.

A number of surveyed dentists still using amalgam were dissatisfied with it as a restorative material.

Of the dentists who still used amalgam in the ADA’s 2007 survey, 5.2% were somewhat dissatisfied with amalgam as a restorative material and .8% were very dissatisfied.

Supposedly, said Brown, dentists would have stopped using a material they were already dissatisfied with a decade ago, especially with all the new mercury-free options now on the market.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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The Future of Food in Cities: Urban Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-future-of-food-in-cities-urban-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-future-of-food-in-cities-urban-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-future-of-food-in-cities-urban-agriculture/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 17:28:43 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146004 A food garden at UN headquarters in New York City. Credit: Phillip Kaeding / IPS.

A food garden at UN headquarters in New York City. Credit: Phillip Kaeding / IPS.

By Aruna Dutt
NEW YORK, Jul 11 2016 (IPS)

Habitat III, the UN’s conference on cities this coming October will explore urban agriculture as a solution to food security, but here in New York City, it has shown potential for much more.

Record-high levels of inequality are being felt most prominently in the world’s cities. Even In New York City, the heart of the developed world, many urban communities have food security issues.

Since the year 2000, New York City food costs have increased by 59 percent, while the average income of working adults has only increased by 17 percent.

Forty two percent of households in the city lack the income needed to cover necessities like food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and healthcare but still earn too much to qualify for government assistance.

Last year, OneNYC was introduced, a plan specifically aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, aiming to lift 800,000 people out of poverty in a decade.

“OneNYC has high expectations and they are working hard in terms of addressing equity in the food systems, waste, and making sure that more and more of its citizens have access to good, healthy food.” Michael Hurwitz, director of GrowNYC’s Greenmarket, which has been working on OneNYC, told IPS.

“In a city like New York City, urban agriculture can play a number of roles on top of feeding people, from education to safe spaces, and helping off-set food budgets.” Hurwitz told IPS.

"Within two months, a tough corner had become a corner of great, wonderful activity and it was because there were young people from the neighbourhood selling food to their neighbours.” -- Michael Hurwitz

Urban agriculture plays a significant role in feeding urban populations around the globe. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that 800 million people worldwide grow vegetables or fruits or raise animals in cities, producing what the Worldwatch Institute reports to be an astonishing 15 to 20 percent of the world’s food.

There are parts of the world where urban and peri-urban agriculture account for 50-75% of vegetable consumption within that city.

In Africa, it is estimated that 40 percent of the urban population is engaged in agriculture. Long-time residents and newcomers farm because they are hungry, they know how to grow food, land values are low, and fertilizers are cheap.

In the U.S., though, urban farming is likely to have its biggest impact on food security in places that, in some ways, resemble the global south —  that is, in cities or neighborhoods where median incomes are low and the need for affordable food is high.

Hurwitz saw this transformative power of agriculture when he was a social worker in Redhook, Brooklyn, a community where 40 percent of households were making less than $10,000 a year. He was working in community gardens with 16-17 year-olds in a court diversion program. The food that the kids grew, they took home or sold at farmer’s markets, local restaurants and stores.

“Our youth became leaders of change in their communities. A lot of the kids we worked with were kids that nobody else wanted to work with, but when they became the main source of healthy food in their neighbourhood at the organic farmers market, peers and adults would see that they were the ones actually bringing change to the community.”

This system is now significantly scaled up through GrowNYC, a non-profit that operates from NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. GrowNYC works with 6,000 kids a year through tours, providing materials for teachers to use in their classrooms. Its sister program Grow to Learn manages all of the school gardens in NYC. It also runs a “Mini-grant program” and technical assistance and training for teachers to run the gardens.

As a specific case of development, the South Bronx, ranked the poorest of 435 congressional districts in the U.S.A. in 2010.  Home to 52,000 low-income New Yorkers, with nearly half (42%) below the poverty line, this NYC district has been called a “food desert”.

When GrowNYC went into one section in the Bronx, a police officer warned them: “You don’t want to come here, it’s just not safe,” Hurwitz remembers. “But within two months, a tough corner had become a corner of great, wonderful activity and it was because there were young people from the neighbourhood selling food to their neighbours.”

For years, GrowNYC’s “Learn it, Grow it, Eat it” Program has been working with schools in the South Bronx, helping people become environmental leaders, Hurwitz says. That program operated one of GrowNYC’s youth-run farm stands, training youth in entrepreneurial, business and agriculture to run their own farm stands.

“We’ve seen kids who started in our youth market go on to be managers within the program,” Hurwitz said.

In New York, it’s not just about producing a standardized bulk amount of food for communities in need, but reflecting the diverse cultures. “We have farmers in our program that are growing $150, 000 worth of food on an acre and a half in Staten Island,” according to Hurwitz. On this farm, Mexican growers are growing Mexican-specialty crops, to feed to the Mexican community in Staten Island who otherwise would not have access to traditional foods that they are accustomed to.

The big greenhouse operators are now moving in and have become all the rage. But growing a limited variety of high-end greens is not going to feed the urban population alone. “I would rather see the $2 million being spent preserving rural farms with the goal of feeding the urban population. That can play a crucial role in getting food into cities, ensuring everybody has access to that food, and making sure that farmland remains viable and affordable”, Hurwitz contends.

The number of people living in cities is expected to double in the next thirty years according to the Atlas of Urban Expansion.

The Habitat III, the UN’s conference on cities this October will be the first time in 20 years that the international community has collectively paid attention to the impacts of urbanization, and will form a new global urbanization strategy — the “New Urban Agenda.”.

“Food security is one of the big issues that is going to be dealt with in Habitat III in relation to urbanization” said Juan Close, director of UN Habitat said here last week.

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Rethinking the Population Problemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rethinking-the-population-problem/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rethinking-the-population-problem http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rethinking-the-population-problem/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 15:47:12 +0000 Muhammad Azizul Haque http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146002 Illustration: Michael Morgenstern

Illustration: Michael Morgenstern

By Muhammad Azizul Haque
Jul 11 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

With the knowledge that Bangladesh’s population – which was about 75 million in 1971 – now stands bloated to more than 160 million, all crammed into a land area of only 50,260 sq miles and that the population density is already five times that in any other ‘mega’ country, contemplate the following scenarios and see if you want to picture the country with any further addition to its population. A population that renders running trains to become invisible under loads of humanity spilling out of their interiors and clinging to all over their exteriors, while carrying people to their homes in the countryside on the eve of Eids; traffic jams resulting into prolongation of say a 30-minute trip in the cities to an absurd three-hour trip; unbridled population increase that has already brought down the per capita land to 24 decimals or less and cultivable land to some 11 decimals; law courts reeling under the unwieldy burdens of hundreds of thousands of civil and criminal suits; innumerable daily occurrences of land-related disputes, countless crimes and murders; dying and moribund rivers; desertification and salinity intrusion from the sea; dire inadequacy of water supply causing distress to an enormous segment of the urban and rural population; a catastrophe from the rising sea-level looming large and threatening to submerge one-third of the land area of the country, which could thus engender the need to move and rehabilitate over 50 million internal migrants in the remaining two-thirds of the country’s land territory, which could in turn raise the already high population density to an absurd level; fast-shrinking agricultural and cultivable land due to unplanned and uncontrolled urbanisation, industrialisation, infrastructural and development projects implementation; increasing cost of living, healthcare and education, and rampant and ubiquitous corruption and unscrupulousness; admission of even infants to schools depending on lottery and parents’ capability to pay donations and; myriads of such other woes afflicting our daily life.

The root of nearly all our socioeconomic agonies can be traced back to the overpopulation of the country. Bangladesh’s population has long ago exceeded the combined population of Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Singapore. We do not have enough land even to properly house the existing population, let alone housing any additional people. All the strides and all the remarkable successes that Bangladesh has achieved in various socioeconomic sectors since its independence, and particularly under the present government since 2009, will be nullified if the population growth remains unbridled.

With population growth remaining unbridled, no government can implement development programmes and ensure their long-duration benefits to people. And with hundreds of thousands of young people joining the ranks of jobseekers every year, there is bound to be unmanageable unemployment problems and the resultant negative impact on the society. The world may not keep its doors wide open to perennially absorb our additional manpower and emigrants. There could be many impediments in the receiving countries, including racism and cultural repulsion.

During the first two decades after it came into being, Bangladesh was deemed by the West as a perfect example of a nation ‘whose poverty was a direct consequence of over-breeding’. It was considered a basket-case that barely subsisted on handouts from rich and developed countries. Notable ecologists and leading biologists, like Garrett Hardin, wrote in The New York Times and scholarly journals, that all aids to Bangladesh should be ceased. Very few Bangladeshis were aware of those write-ups and they just occupied themselves resiliently with rebuilding their war-ravaged country. And belying all sinister predictions, today Bangladesh has graduated itself to a lower middle income country.

However, in order to sustain and further augment our socioeconomic progress, we urgently need a sound and effective population policy. We need to plan and regulate the growth of our population so as to avert any big addition to our already huge and absurd population. This small country is comparable to a perilously overloaded ferry that cannot simply accommodate any more passengers. We must not lose our rising living standards. We must not revert to the extreme poverty we had before and be known as a basket case again. We must not return to our pitiable square one and to the mercy of the international community. We certainly don’t want that people of Garrett Hardin’s sort to want to ‘punish’ us for over-breeding.

The government should recognise overpopulation as a priority issue. And in order to address it aptly, a permanent national council or body, comprising eminent demographers, efficient public officials, notable scholars, experts and planners, should be in place to advise the government on the actions to be taken in its bid to manage and regulate our population size, its growth, and its age groups composition, so that it does not show any further significant increase. At the same time, such measures can enable us to avert serious impacts of the ageing of our population on the size of our workforce, which should be as large as we may need.

It may be difficult to achieve and sustain that balance, but solutions to a complicated problem is never easy, although not unattainable. Uncontrolled and unmanaged population is already an existential threat to our nation. We cannot afford to paper over the problem and delay addressing it any more. Over-breeding of any particular species of animal or creature, even human beings, in a land tends to have an adverse impact on the ecology of that land. It upsets the ecological equilibrium and triggers natural cataclysms by over-exploitation of natural resources of the land and polluting its environment.

How can one imagine this little country of already teeming crores to have, say 25 crore people, in the future and still ensure decent lives for them? No government, for all its best intentions and efforts, has the power to do that if the population grows to such a ludicrous size. And every political party in the country, if it calls itself patriotic, must extend unstinting support to the government to forthwith adopt the strictest possible measures to control the growth and size of the population.

With growing cities, townships and urban centres across the whole country, Bangladesh is likely to become a huge city-state in about three decades from now, if the current rate of economic growth is sustained. That, however, will gluttonously swallow the country’s invaluable agricultural land, unless we determine the minimum amount of it that we must unwaveringly protect to ensure food security in times of global food shortage, akin to what we witnessed in 2008.

While many of our neighbours are doing extremely well, progressing and consolidating their progress, we cannot live under the shadow of an existential threat due to the still growing overpopulation. Even our immediate neighbor, Myanmar, under its nascent and still shaky democracy, is showing great promise. In FY2015-2016, Myanmar received an FDI of US$9 billion. The total amount of the FDI received by Myanmar from 1988 to 2015 was around US$60 billion. And the country is expected to attain an economic growth rate of 8.4 percent in the current fiscal year (April 2016 – March 2017). Territorially, Myanmar is more than 4.5 times larger than Bangladesh, with an area equal to about half the country under rich forests. It has natural resources of all kinds, including gems, valuable minerals, oil, and offshore natural gas reserves estimated at 10 trillion cubic feet as well as huge areas of rice producing fertile agricultural land. Yet, it has a population of around 50 million, i.e. less than one-third of the population of Bangladesh. I strongly feel that Bangladesh must keep pace with its neighbours in the matter of progress in socioeconomic areas and other spheres. Bangladesh needs to sustain the progress it has attained so far and achieve more. There cannot be any falling back to our past.

The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Latin American Development Depends On Investing In Teenage Girlshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/latin-american-development-depends-on-investing-in-teenage-girls/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-development-depends-on-investing-in-teenage-girls http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/latin-american-development-depends-on-investing-in-teenage-girls/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 15:23:23 +0000 Estrella Gutiérrez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145995 Two Mexican teenage girls at their school. Investing in education for teenage girls in Latin America is regarded as the way forward for them to become future drivers of sustainable develpment in their societies. Credit: UNFPA LAC

Two Mexican teenage girls at their school. Investing in education for teenage girls in Latin America is regarded as the way forward for them to become future drivers of sustainable develpment in their societies. Credit: UNFPA LAC

By Estrella Gutiérrez
CARACAS, Jul 11 2016 (IPS)

Latin America’s teenage girls are a crucial force for change and for promoting sustainable development, if the region invests in their rights and the correction of unequal opportunities, according to Luiza Carvalho, the regional head of UN Women.

“An empowered adolescent will know her rights and will stand up for them; she has tools for success and is a driving froce for positive change in her community,” Carvalho told IPS in an interview from the regional headquarters of UN Women in Panama City.

Adolescent girls and boys will have a leading role in their societies when the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development has been completed, she said. One of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is gender equality. Investing in today’s girls will have “a great transformative impact in future,” she said. “Investing in education and protection against violence are important tools for fulfilling the potential of teenage girls and young women,as wellas for promoting gender equality” -- Luiza Carvalho.

The world today has a higher proportion of its population aged between 10 and 24 years old than ever before, with 1.8 billion young people out of a  total population of 7.3 billion. Roughly 20 percent of this age group live in LatinAmerica and the Caribbean, Carvalho said.

According to data given to IPS by the regional office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 57million of the region’s 634 million people are girls aged between 10 and 19, living mainly in cities.

The theme for this year’s World Population Day, celebrated July 11, is “Investing in Teenage Girls”, on the premise that transforming their present situation to guarantee their right to equality will not only eliminate barriers to their individual potential but will also be decisive for the sustainable development of their countries.

Women Deliver, an international organisation, has calculated the benefits of this investment in financial terms. For every additional 10 percent of girls in school, national GDP rises by an average of three percent; for every extra year of primary schooling a girl has completed, her expected salary as an adult grows by between 10 and 20 percent.

This is fundamental because, as Carvalho pointed out, “lack of economic empowerment, together with generalised gender discrimination and the reinforcemet of traditional stereotypes, negatively affects the capability of women in Latin America and the Caribbean to participate on an equal footing in all aspects of public and private life.”

Luiza Carvalho, regional director of UN Women for Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: UN Women LAC

Luiza Carvalho, regional director of UN Women for Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: UN Women LAC

That is why “investing in education and protection against violence are important tools for fulfilling the potential of teenage girls and young women,as well as for promoting gender equality,” she said.

Teenage women, she said, “are an especially vulnerable group who face special social, economic and political barriers.” Their empowerment in the region may come up against difficulties such as unwanted pregnancy, forced early marriage or union, gender violence and limited access to education and reproductive health services.”

As an example of these obstacles, the regional director of UN Women said that a Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) study of women aged 15-49 years in 12 countries of the region “reported that for a substantial proportion of these women, their first sexual encounter had been unwanted or coerced.”

Carvalho stressed that “early marriage or union imposed on girls is a major concern in the region, and it significantly affects the exercise of adolescent girls’ rights developing their full potential.”

“It is a form of violence that denies them their childhood, interrupts their education, limits their social development, curtails their opportunities, exposes them to the risk of premature pregnancy at too young an age, or unwanted pregnancy and its possible complications, and increases their risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV (human immuno-deficiency virus),” she said.

It also increases the girls’ exposure to “becoming victims of violence and abuse,” Carvalho said.

In Carvalho’s view it is very positive that all the countries inthe region have established minimum ages for marriage in their laws, but on the other hand, the laws fix different minimum ages for boys and for girls, and in certain cases such as pregnancy or motherhood, girls may legally marry before they reach the minimum age.

In Latin America, far from diminishing, teenage pregnancies have increased in recent years, due to cultural acceptance of early sexual initiation. As a result, the region ranks second in the world for adolescent birth rates, with an average of 76 live births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years, second only to sub-Saharan Africa.

Furthermore, 30 percent of Latin American teenage girls do not have access to the contraceptive care services they need, according to UNFPA. Sexual and reproductive health face especially high barriers in this region because of patriarchal,culture, the weight of conservative sectors and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church.

In Latin America, indigenous teenage girls, together with their rural counterparts, are the group most discriminated against in terms of opportunities and access to education. Credit: Rajesh Krishnan/UN Women

In Latin America, indigenous teenage girls, together with their rural counterparts, are the group most discriminated against in terms of opportunities and access to education. Credit: Rajesh Krishnan/UN Women

In contrast, the region has a good record on education. Over 90 percent of its countries have policies to promote equal access by teenagers to education. Ninety percent of teenage girls have finished their primary school education, although only 78 percent go on to secondary school, according to UNFPA.

The greatest educational access barriers are faced by rural and indigenous teenage girls, who have difficulties for physical access to some education centres. In the case of indigenous and Afro-descendant girls, this is added to inappropriate curricula or the absence of educational materials in their native languages (mother tongues). 

Carvalho highlighted as a positive element that education laws, especially those that have been reformed recently, “have begun to recognise the importance of establishing legal provisions that promote and disseminate human rights, peaceful coexistence and sex education.”

However, she regretted that “direct connections with prevention of violence against women and girls are still incipient.”

In her view, the school curriculum plays an essential role. Including contents and materials “related to human rights and the rights of women and girls, non-violent conflict resolution, co-responsibility and basic education about sexual and reproductive health,” will potentiate more non-violent societies, inside and outside of the classroom, she said.

Carvalho quoted a 2015 study carried out in 13 Latin American countries by UN Women and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which concluded that education systems are failing to prevent violence against girls.

“This is something that must be improved, because it is in the first few years of early childhood that egalitarian role modelling between girls and boys can occur and lay the foundations of the prevention of violence, discrimination, and inequality in all its forms,” she emphasised.

Carvalho said changes should start with something as simple as it is frequently forgotten: “Girls, teenagers and women are rights-holders and entitled to their rights.”

If girls are given “equal access to education, health care, sexual and reproductive education, decent jobs, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes, sustainable economies would be promoted and societies, and humanity as a whole, would benefit,” she concluded. 

Edited by Verónica Firme. Translated by Valerie Dee.

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Girls in Rural Bangladesh Take Back Their Futureshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/girls-in-rural-bangladesh-take-back-their-futures/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=girls-in-rural-bangladesh-take-back-their-futures http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/girls-in-rural-bangladesh-take-back-their-futures/#comments Sat, 09 Jul 2016 12:08:12 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145984 A group of girls attend a Shonglap session in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. The peer leader (left) is discussing adolescent legal rights. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A group of girls attend a Shonglap session in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. The peer leader (left) is discussing adolescent legal rights. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
BHOLA, Bangladesh, Jul 9 2016 (IPS)

Four years ago, Farzana Aktar Ruma, now 18, was almost married off without her consent.

Her parents had settled on someone they considered a reasonably wealthy young man with a good family background, and did not want to miss the opportunity to wed their eldest daughter.

Farzana’s father, Mohammad Yusuf Ali, told IPS, “I thought it was a blessing when the proposal came to me from a family friend who said that the talented groom-to-be has his own business and ready home in the heart of a busy district town in Barisal, not far from where we live.”

No one defies Yusuf, an influential man in Char Nurul Amin village in Bhola, an island district in coastal Bangladesh, where most people depend on agriculture and fishing to make a living.

So, without consulting his daughter, Yusuf promised her as a bride and asked the family to prepare for the wedding."The power of knowledge is the key to success." -- Priyanka Rani Das, who quit school in 2012 due to extreme poverty but has since re-enrolled.

Farzana was only 14 years old and did not want to get married, but she didn’t know where to turn. Then Selina Aktar, who lives nearby, offered to help.

Aktar told IPS, “It was not surprising, but I was [still] shocked at how parents readily accept such marriage proposals without considering the age of their daughters.”

On the eve of the wedding, Aktar arranged a meeting with Farzana’s parents and asked them to call it off and let her stay in high school until she graduated.

Aktar is the facilitator of a seven-member Community Legal Services (CLS) organisation that advises students, parents and others on legal rights, including rights of adolescents.

“After several hours of discussions, we were able to convince Farzana’s parents that an educated girl was more precious than a girl thought to be a burden for her family at her early age,” Aktar said.

Abul Kaiser, a legal aid adviser with COAST, a leading NGO operating in the coastal regions of Bangladesh for more than three decades now, and whose work focuses mostly on social inequalities, told IPS, “The society is cursed with myths and most parents still biased on such medieval beliefs favour early marriage. A girl soon after her puberty is considered a burden to the family and parents look for opportunities to get rid her as soon as possible for so-called ‘protection’ of their daughters.”

To challenge the traditional beliefs that still haunt many communities in this modern age, COAST promotes informal learning through various programmes which they believe make a positive impact.

Executive Director Rezaul Karim Chowdhury told IPS, “The society needs to be empowered with information on the rights of such adolescent girls, and that is what we are facilitating. Most parents who may not have had opportunities of going to schools are expected to behave this way but our approach is to change this mindset so that a sense of acceptance exists.”

At Radio Meghna in south Bhola, Bangladesh, teenaged girls broadcast a programme aimed at preventing early marriage and staying in school. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

At Radio Meghna in south Bhola, Bangladesh, teenaged girls broadcast a programme aimed at preventing early marriage and staying in school. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

 

Radio Meghna, a community radio with limited broadcast frequency operating since February 2015 in south Bhola’s Char Fassion, has been at the forefront of such advocacy programmes.

The station broadcasts targeted programmes focused on dispelling myths through informal learning programmes.

Fatema Aktar Champa, a producer at the radio station, told IPS, “We have a large audience and so we take the opportunity to educate adolescents and also their parents on merits and demerits of early marriage. On various occasions we invite experts almost every day to talk about reproductive health, adolescents’ legal rights, need for education and the values, social injustices and many more allied issues linked to challenges of adolescents.”

Unlike other community radio stations, Radio Meghna is completely run by a team of about 20 adolescent girls.

Khadiza Banu, one of the producers, told IPS, “There is a general feeling that the radio team at Meghna has a wide range of acceptance in the society. On many occasions we broadcast programmes just to build trust on parents’ decisions to prevent early marriage and allow continuing education.”

Education is key to development, and girl’s education is especially important since it is undermined by patriarchal cultural norms.

In Cox’s Bazar district, COAST has taken a different approach to empowering adolescent girls to demand their rights and offering livelihood opportunities.

Despite traditional beliefs that devalue girls’ education, especially in poor, rural areas, adolescent girls in many regions of Bangladesh are getting help from a programme called Shonglap – dialogue that calls for capacity building and developing occupational skills for marginalised groups in society.

Priyanka Rani Das, who quit school in 2012 due to extreme poverty, has joined Shonglap in South Delpara of Khurushkul in coastal Cox’s Bazar district.

Part of a group of 35 adolescent girls, Das, who lost her father in 2009, has been playing a leading role among the girls who meet six days a week in the Shonglap session held at a rented thatched home in a suburb of Delpara.

Shy and soft-spoken, Das told IPS, “I had to drop out of school because I was required to work as a domestic worker and support my family of six.”

A neighbour, Jahanara Begum, who had been attending informal classes at a Shonglap session nearby, convinced Das that completing her education would help her earn a much better living in the long run.

Das told IPS, “I realized that girls are behind and neglected in the man-dominated society because of our lack of knowledge. So I left the job and joined Shonglap where they have demonstrated that the power of knowledge is the key to success.”

Das is one of about 3,000 teenagers in Cox’s Bazaar who returned to school after taking basic refresher classes and life skills training like sewing, repairing electronic goods, rearing domestic animals, running small tea shops, pottery, wood works and other activities that generate income.

Jahangir Alam, programme manager of the Shonglap Programme of COAST that runs the programme in Cox’s Bazar told IPS, “Those who graduate are also supported with interest-free loans to start a business – and so far over 1,600 such girls are regular earning members supporting their families.”

Ruksana Aktar, peer leader of the group in Delpara, said, “Shonglap is basically a platform for less privileged adolescent girls to unite and gather strength through common dialogues. Such chemistry for 12 months gives them the moral strength to regain lost hopes.”

Mosammet Deena Islam, 17, comes from a family of cobblers and had never been to school. Islam always dreamt of pursuing an education but poverty prevented her from going to school, even though schooling is free in Bangladesh.

She joined Shonglap in Delpara and after a few months in the group, she enrolled in a state-run school where she now attends grade 9 classes.

Rashed K Chowdhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), Bangladesh’s leading think-tank advocating for children’s education told IPS, “Educational exclusion for girls is a major problem, especially in socio-cultural context in Bangladesh. Girls are still married early despite stringent laws against such punishable acts.

“Adolescent girls are encouraged to stay home after puberty to ensure ‘security’ and the most common reason is girls are used as earning members to supplement family income.”

Chowdhury said, “I believe such an approach of building opportunities for youth entrepreneurship to poor girls (for income generating activities) who wish to continue education, can considerably change their lives.”

Shonglap, spread over 33 districts in Bangladesh through a network of over 4,600 such groups, aims to give voices to these neglected girls and enable them to negotiate their own rights for life.

The Shonglap programme is being implemented by COAST and other NGOs with funding from Stromme Foundation of Norway.

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Talking Openly – The Way to Prevent Teenage Pregnancyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/talking-openly-the-way-to-prevent-teenage-pregnancy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=talking-openly-the-way-to-prevent-teenage-pregnancy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/talking-openly-the-way-to-prevent-teenage-pregnancy/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 18:39:09 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145981 A teenage mother and her toddler in Bonpland, a rural municipality in the northern province of Misiones in Argentina. Latin America has the second highest regional rate of early pregnancies in the world, after sub-Saharan Africa. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

A teenage mother and her toddler in Bonpland, a rural municipality in the northern province of Misiones in Argentina. Latin America has the second highest regional rate of early pregnancies in the world, after sub-Saharan Africa. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, Jul 8 2016 (IPS)

In plain and simple language, an Argentine video aimed at teenagers explains how to get sexual pleasure while being careful. Its freedom from taboos is very necessary in Latin American countries where one in five girls becomes a mother by the time she is 19 years old.

“For good sex to happen, both partners have to want it and this is as much about being sure they want it, as about being in the mood or ‘hot’ with desire,” said psychologist Cecilia Saia who made the video “Let’s talk About Sex” (Hablemos de sexo), aimed at adolescents and preadolescents and posted on social networks.

The video was produced by Fundación para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer (FEIM – Foundation for Women’s Studies and Research) as part of a Take the Non-Pregnancy Test campaign. It was also distributed to teenagers so they “would be able to take free and informed decisions about becoming mothers and fathers.” “Keeping children in the education system or bringing them back into it would be effective interventions to prevent teenage pregnancy. In the same way, creating conditions within the education system to ensure that pregnant teenagers or adolescent mothers can continue their education, would be another intervention with a positive impact” - Alma Virginia Camacho-Hübner.

During the campaign, teenagers of both sexes were given boxes similar in appearance to pregnancy test kits, containing information about teenage pregnancy and the myths surrounding how it is caused, as well as condoms and instructions on how to use them, Mabel Bianco, the president of FEIM, told IPS.

The campaign was broadcast on YouTube and other social networks, with candid messages in the language used by adolescents. “This meant we could reach a large numbers of 14-to-18-year-olds, an age group that such campaigns usually find hard to reach,” she said.

According to FEIM, in Argentina 300 babies a day, or 15 percent of the total, are born to mothers aged under 19.

“This percentage has shown a sustained increase over the last 10 to 15 years, and the proportion of births to girls under 15 years of age has also risen,” Bianco said.

Argentina exemplifies what is happening in the rest of Latin America, which is the world region with the second highest teenage fertility rate, after sub-Saharan Africa. The national rate in Argentina is 76 live births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years, according to United Nations’ demographic statistics.

In order to call attention to this problem and to the general need to promote the equal development of women, Investing in Teenage Girls is the theme of this year’s World Population Day, to be celebrated July 11.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states that one in five women in the Southern Cone of South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay) will become a teenage mother, in an area where over 1.2 million babies a year are born to adolescents.

“Early pregnancy and motherhood can bring about health complications for mother and baby, as well as negative impacts over the course of the lives of adolescents,” says a UNFPA report about fertility and teenage motherhood in the Southern Cone.

The report says that “when pregnancy is unplanned, it is a clear indication of the infringement of teenagers’ sexual and reproductive rights and hence of their human rights.”

Alma Virginia Camacho-Hübner, UNFPA sexual and reproductive health adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS that teenage pregnancy has implications for individual patients, such as maternal morbidity and mortality associated with the risks involved with unsafe abortions, among other factors.

Prematurity rates and low birthweights are also several-fold higher, especially among mothers younger than 15.

For health services, the costs of prenatal care, childbirth, postnatal care and care of the newborn are far higher than the cost of interventions to prevent pregnancy and promote health education.

“For society as a whole, from a strictly economic point of view, in countries that enjoy a demographic dividend, early motherhood represents an accelerated loss of that demographic dividend,” Camacho-Hübner said from the UNFPA regional headquarters in Panama City.

This is because “instead of increasing economic productivity by having a larger economically active proportion of the population, a rise in early motherhood causes a rapid rise in the dependency ratio, that is the proportion of the population that is not economically active and requires support from family or society,”she said.

The Southern Cone study found that dropping out of school usually preceded getting pregnant.

“Therefore, keeping children in the education system or bringing them back into it would be effective interventions to prevent teenage pregnancy. In the same way, creating conditions within the education system to ensure that pregnant teenagers or adolescent mothers can continue their education, would be another intervention with a positive impact,” Camacho-Hübner said.

In her view, teen pregnancy and motherhood are an issue of inequality which mainly affects women in lower socio-economic strata.

“It is teenagers from the poorest families and with the least education, living in underprivileged geographical regions, that are most prone to becoming adolescent mothers,” she said.

“Becoming mothers at an early age reinforces conditioning and the inequalities in the process by which teenagers who are, and who are not, mothers, effect the transition into adulthood,” she said.

“The main consequence of pregnancy is the interruption of schooling, although in many cases they have already dropped out by the time they become pregnant. But they do not go back to school afterwards because they have to look after the baby,” Bianco said.

“This makes for a poorer future, as these girls will have access to lower-paid jobs and will be able to contribute less to the country’s development. On the personal level, they will have to postpone their adolescence, they cannot go out with friends, go dancing and other typical teen activities,” she said.

Federico Tobar, another UNFPA regional adviser, said that “in addition to strengthening health, education and social services, there must be investment to promote demand, with interventions to motivate young people to build a sustained life project.”

“This involves incorporating economic incentives as well as symbolic remuneration, and also concrete childcare support for teenage mothers so that they can finish school and avoid repeated childbearing, which is frequently seen in these countries,” he told IPS.

Among other positive experiences, Tobar mentioned the Uruguayan initiative “Jóvenes en red” (Young People’s Network) which includes returning to school and work, and promotion of sexual and reproductive health.

“I believe it is important to invest in the education of teenage women, including comprehensive sex education and the capacity to decide whether or not they wish to have children. It is not a question of eliminating all pregnancy in adolescence, but of making it a conscious choice rather than an accident,” Bianco said. 

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez. Translated by Valerie Dee.

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