Inter Press ServicePoverty & SDGs – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 19 Sep 2018 14:09:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 The Cambodian Port City on China’s 21st Century Silk Road That’s Becoming the New Macauhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/cambodian-port-city-chinas-21st-century-silk-road-thats-becoming-new-macau/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cambodian-port-city-chinas-21st-century-silk-road-thats-becoming-new-macau http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/cambodian-port-city-chinas-21st-century-silk-road-thats-becoming-new-macau/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 10:17:25 +0000 Kris Janssens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157639 Kris Janssens is a Belgian reporter based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. His goal is to tell extraordinary stories about ordinary people throughout Southeast Asia.

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The little shop owned by Leean Saan, close the monument with the lions. "Business is going down, Chinese people don't buy from me," she says. Credit: Kris Janssens/IPS

By Kris Janssens
SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia, Sep 19 2018 (IPS)

The new Macau. That’s what the Cambodian coastal city Sihanoukville is called nowadays. Chinese investors are building casinos there on a massive scale.

The southern port city lies on the new Silk Road (the so called ‘One Belt, One Road’) and is therefore interesting for China.

The Cambodian government is happy to accept the money. And Beijing never asks difficult questions.

“Things are happening so fast in Sihanoukville; the city has changed completely in only a few months time,” a friend tells me.

My last visit there was in December.

And so I wanted to see these ‘spectacular changes’ with my own eyes.

My friend was right. When you enter the city, you see casinos everywhere. There could be about a hundred by now, and new ones are constantly being built. Some of them are big showy palaces, but there are also obscure gambling houses.

Alongside those casinos you still find the typical Cambodian shops, where people drink tea and where food is skewered and cooked on the barbecue.

Tourists at the beach enjoy their cocktails or take a dip in the gulf of Thailand.

But all those elements are in disharmony with one another.

There is clearly no urban planning here.

It seems the builders got carte blanche to satisfy the hunger for gambling.

Gaudy lions

The statue of two golden lions, at a roundabout close to the sea, is a beacon in the city. Leean Saan (76) has a tiny little shop close to the lions. She sells soda water, cigarettes and fuel for motorbikes.

Ten years ago, when the tourists came, she started selling drinks. “But the business is going down,” she says. “There are more and more Chinese people and they don’t buy in my shop.”

“They are gangsters!” says a tuk-tuk driver who comes to buy fuel. “They promise for example to pay three dollars, but when we get to the destination they only give two. And when I complain, they threaten me with violence. They always travel in groups, so they feel superior.”

Making good money

I walk down the street and see some Cambodian youngsters who are queuing to buy coffee. They are more positive about the recent developments.

Rath (22) has been working for five years as a receptionist in a hotel casino. “My first salary was 80 dollars a month. Two years ago it was raised to 200 dollars and since last year I make 500 dollars a month. They need experienced staff.”

But there is a flip side to the coin: prices have gone up in a short period of time. “I used to pay 30 dollars a month to rent a room, nowadays they ask up to 250. But at the end of the day I still earn more than before.”

O Fortuna

It is time to get an inside look into one of those casinos, ‘Golden Sand’. I am the only white person and the security staff watches me closely.

At the entrance of the hall the song ‘O Fortuna’ taken from ‘Carmina Burana’ is being played repeatedly. A screen shows an animated movie with Chinese dragons and philosophers.

The game room is big but feels cold, in spite of the wall-to-wall carpet and the leather and fabric seats. There are Chinese wall ornaments.

Croupiers in red costumes are sitting at big card tables. You see a lot of security agents here as well. Young girls in blue outfits wander down the hall carrying fly swatters to kill annoying insects.

Remarkable: Cambodians are not allowed to gamble, by law. So all customers are Chinese.

Also remarkable: they don’t come dressed in suits and ties, but are dressed in shorts and t-shirts.

“Most customers here are builders,” says Wu, who works himself at one of the numerous construction sites in Sihanoukville. “They come here to spend the money they just earned.”

Wu is here for six months. He earns 700 dollars a month. He could make as much money in China, but here he has more job security.

Recruiting

Srun (28) works as a recruiter. He’s Cambodian but has Chinese roots and works as a tour guide for Chinese tourists. “They often asked me where they could go to gamble.” So Srun went to talk to several casino managers and he has an agreement to work on commission.

“You have to talk face to face to Chinese people,” he says. “I understand some Cambodians think they are gangsters, because they always talk so loudly. But that is simply their way of negotiating.”

Srun gets one percent of the money customers spend on gambling. “That doesn’t seem much, but in some cases we are talking about 10,000 dollars for a group of four people. The casino opens a special VIP-room and I get a 100 dollars.”

Rental prices

It is lunchtime. I decide to go for a noodle soup in a…Chinese restaurant.

“We only have Chinese people,” says manager Zong, “I don’t even speak Khmer.” She followed her husband about one year ago, coming from Hangzhou, in the eastern part of China. “Customers pay about seven times more here for the same dish. So the decision was easily made.”

She pays 3,000 dollars in rent for her restaurant. “That’s a lot of money, but it still is an interesting deal. That also goes for the owner. He could never get this amount of money from locals. So everyone is satisfied.”

This house owner is actively helping the Chinese settlement in Sihanoukville. His fellow citizens, who might have been born here, have no other option than to leave the city and try to find affordable business premises elsewhere.

As long as money talks here, the Chinese population will continue to grow.

Maybe I should make the same trip in another six months from now, to document the new changes to this area.

*The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of IPS. 

The post The Cambodian Port City on China’s 21st Century Silk Road That’s Becoming the New Macau appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Kris Janssens is a Belgian reporter based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. His goal is to tell extraordinary stories about ordinary people throughout Southeast Asia.

The post The Cambodian Port City on China’s 21st Century Silk Road That’s Becoming the New Macau appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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An Urgent Need to Turn Down Rhetoric Against Migrants & Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees/#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2018 15:02:29 +0000 Carl Soderbergh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157666 Carl Soderbergh is Director of Policy & Communications, Minority Rights Group International

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Sub Saharan Africans - Israel
Female African asylum-seekers during a protest march where they called on the government to recognise African migrants as refugees, and for the release of Africans who are held in detention facilities.

By Carl Söderbergh
LONDON, Sep 18 2018 (IPS)

Migration has become a focus of debate in recent years. From United States President Donald Trump’s vehemently anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric to Denmark’s new ‘ghetto laws’, the language has become increasingly heated.

The Danish government adopted these measures in 2018, specifically targeting low-income immigrant districts and including compulsory education on ‘Danish values’ for children starting at the age of one. In the United Kingdom, while still Home Secretary, Prime Minister Theresa May instituted a ‘hostile environment’ policy in 2012 that was intended to catch undocumented migrants whenever they came into contact with public services.

The policy particularly affected members of the so-called ‘Windrush generation’, the tens of thousands of Afro-Caribbean men, women and children who came over to the UK after World War Two and settled there legally. It is thought that the number of those deported runs into the hundreds, while many thousands more have had to live for several years in considerable uncertainty.

While a public outcry led to an official apology by the UK government, other leaders and governments have been resolutely unapologetic. Indeed, Trump’s travel ban for citizens of several Muslim-majority countries was approved as constitutional by the US Supreme Court in June 2018.

Such policies – and the often vitriolic language accompanying them – have had a direct and negative impact on migrant and refugee communities. According to data released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the annual number of hate crimes against US Muslims recorded by the organization rose 15 per cent in 2017, following on from a 44 per cent increase the previous year – an increase it attributed in part to Trump’s divisive language and the discriminatory measures put forward by his administration.

Muslim woman – Thailand
A Thai policeman checks the papers of a Muslim woman at a checkpoint in Pattani.

On 11 September 2018, Minority Rights Group International launched its annual Minority and Indigenous Trends report by hosting a seminar for journalists in Krakow, Poland. This year, we focused the report on migration and displacement. We chose the theme for two reasons.

One is what I have outlined above – the casual disregard that we have repeatedly witnessed by people in power for the immediate impact of their actions and their words on minority and indigenous communities. Whenever politicians chase voters or news outlets seek to increase their readerships and advertising revenues by targeting migrants, they ignore the very real consequences in terms of increased hatred towards those same communities.

The other reason is that we sought to reflect the lived realities of migrants and refugees themselves – in particular, how discrimination and exclusion drive many people to make the very hard choice to leave their homes. It remains very difficult to arrive at a total percentage of minorities and indigenous peoples among the world’s migrants and refugees.

This is partly due to lack of interest – after all, much of the reporting on migration remains fixated on overall numbers rather than on the individual stories. More particularly, migrants and refugees who belong to minorities or indigenous peoples may well feel a need to remain silent about their ethnicity or religious faith, for fear of further persecution in transit or upon arrival in their new homes.

However, there are many clear indicators from around the world of an immediate causal link between marginalization and movement. The horrifying targeting of Yezidis by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as well as more recently of Rohingya by the military and its allies in Myanmar, are by now well-documented. In both cases, the overwhelming majority of the communities have been displaced.

Migrant workers – Russia

But there are many other examples of membership in minority and indigenous populations and displacement. In Ethiopia, the government’s crackdown on political dissent, aimed particularly at the Oromo population, contributed directly to an upsurge in migration from that community. Data collected by the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS) showed that by the beginning of 2017 as many as 89 per cent of arriving Ethiopian migrants in the key nearby transit country Yemen stated that they belong to the Oromo community. In Colombia, displacement by armed groups has continued despite the 2016 peace accord.

This disproportionately affects Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities who made up more than a quarter (26 per cent) of the more than 139,000 forcibly displaced in the country between January and October 2017, double their share of the national population as a whole.

In fact, the Colombian example is important as it highlights how, while global attention shifts away from a particular situation, the plight of minorities and indigenous peoples continues. Here, the distinction governments and UN agencies seek to make between refugees on the one hand and migrants on the other becomes blurred and even unhelpful.

The US government denies asylum to victims of Central American gang violence. However, much of the brutal gang-related violence in Guatemala, for instance, has affected indigenous communities disproportionately: decades of conflict and discrimination have left them impoverished and marginalized, with little recourse to protection from police or the judiciary. Indeed, in many cases their situation has been aggravated by official persecution.

The discrimination that caused many migrants and refugees to leave their homes often follows them while in transit. While the abusive treatment of asylum seekers and their families crossing into the US has been widely reported, the crackdown within Mexico on Central American migrants, particularly indigenous community members, has received less coverage.

Significantly, it has resulted not only in the targeting of foreign nationals, including many women and children, but also the arrest and intimidation of indigenous Mexicans by police. Over the past year, reports have emerged from Libya of sub-Saharan Africans trapped by the containment policies of the European Union, who now find themselves targeted by security forces, militias and armed groups. There have been widespread reports of torture, sexual assault and enslavement of migrants, many of whom are vulnerable not only on account of their ethnicity but also as non-Muslims.

The situation is further complicated for groups within minority or indigenous communities, such as women, children, persons with disabilities and LGBTQI people, who contend with multiple forms of discrimination and as a result face heightened threats of sexual assault, physical attacks and other rights abuses – in their places of origin, whilst in transit and upon arrival at their destinations.

What then is needed?

Firstly, all those participating in national and international debates on migration need to tone down their rhetoric. The Danish government could, for instance, have devised policies supporting marginalized urban districts without resorting to the historically loaded term, ‘ghetto’, which immediately stigmatizes residents while giving a green light to racists.

Secondly, governments need to abide by fundamental human rights principles, including the basic right to live with dignity. And finally, all those who are contributing to the debate – including media – must get past the numbers and reveal the individual stories. In order to discuss migration, one needs to understand it fully.

While the way forward may appear challenging, I was inspired by the many Polish journalists who attended our launch event in Krakow and who are already rising to the challenge by seeking out the stories that migrants and refugees have to tell us.

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Excerpt:

Carl Soderbergh is Director of Policy & Communications, Minority Rights Group International

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In the Race to Achieve Zero Hunger and Mitigate Climate Change, We Must Look Down — to the Soilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/race-achieve-zero-hunger-mitigate-climate-change-must-look-soil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=race-achieve-zero-hunger-mitigate-climate-change-must-look-soil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/race-achieve-zero-hunger-mitigate-climate-change-must-look-soil/#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2018 09:41:57 +0000 Esther Ngumbi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157654 Esther Ngumbi is Distinguished Post Doctoral Researcher, Entomology Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Illinois. She was the 2015 Clinton Global University (CGI U) Mentor for Agriculture and 2015 New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

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John Daffi on his piece of land that is part of a cooperative that began in 1963 in Upper Kitete, Tanzania. Experts says the importance of soil cannot be overstated as healthy soils underpin agriculture and sustainable food systems. Credit: Adam Bemma/IPS

By Esther Ngumbi
ILLINOIS, United States, Sep 18 2018 (IPS)

Recently, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva urged countries, scientists, policymakers and stakeholders invested in building an equitable, sustainable, and thriving planet to pay attention to the soil. He further noted that the future of the planet depends on how healthy the soils of today are.

I agree. In the race to beat food insecurity, achieve zero hunger, and address climate change, we must pay attention to the soil. The importance of soil cannot be overstated. Healthy soils underpin agriculture and sustainable food systems.

But there is more to healthy soils. They can deliver many other benefits.

First, healthy soils can help address and mitigate climate change through storing soil carbon. Research studies have shown that healthy soils hold more carbon and these reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50-80 percent.

At the same time, research studies and reports have shown that soils that are rich in organic carbon can deliver many benefits, including increasing crop yields,  soil water holding capacity and storage. Plants can use stored water in periods when water is scarce.

Secondly, healthy soils make it possible for the inhabitants of the soils —soil microorganisms — to continue playing their roles. Unseen to the naked eye, tiny soil microorganisms that include bacteria and fungi are hard at work, helping plants to grow better while keeping our soils healthy, which ultimately allows farmers to grow food amidst a changing climate.

Further, these microorganisms deliver other benefits including helping plants to tolerate climate change induced extremities including drought. These microbes can also help plants to fend off and suppress insect pests, including invasive pests and other that have become a force to reckon with in the developing countries. Thriving and functioning soil microbes can be key to revolutionising agriculture.

Thirdly, taking care of the soil and keeping them healthy, ensures that farmers around the word build resilient ecosystems that can bounce back from extremities that come along with a changing climate.

Esther Ngumbi is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Auburn University in Alabama. Courtesy: Esther Ngumbi

However, even with all these benefits that come along when soils healthy, around the world, a third of our soils are degraded.

In 2015, the U.N. launched the International Year of Soils and highlighted the extent with which soils were degraded worldwide. Since then, countries, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and many other stakeholders have stepped up to the challenge. They are paying attention to soils.

Ethiopia launched a countrywide initiative to map the health and status of Ethiopian soils which has allowed farmers to reap the many benefits that can come when soils are healthy including increased crop yields. Because of paying attention to soil health, Ethiopia is slowly transforming agriculture, and paving way for its citizens to become food secure.

In addition, in early June, the FAO together with the Global Soil Partnership launched the Afrisoils programme, with a goal to reduce soil degradation by 25 percent in the coming decade in 47 African countries.

Moreover, because soil health is not only an African problem, developed countries are stepping up.

In the United States, the Soil Health Institute continues to coordinate and support soil stewardship and the advancement of soil health. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers tips, guidelines and many resources that can be useful to stakeholders and governments and farmers that want to help restore the health of their soils. Advocacy groups like Soil4Climate continue to advocate for soil restoration as a climate solution.

This must continue.

But, as Africa and the many stakeholders look to the future and pay attention to soils, what are some of the areas and innovations surrounding soils that are likely going to pay off?

Innovations surrounding beneficial soil microbes. When beneficial soil microbes are happy, healthy, and plentiful in the soils, the nutrients are available to roots, plants grow big, insects are repelled and farmers ultimately reap the benefits—a plentiful harvest.

We must ensure that products and solutions that spin off from beneficial soils microbes are affordable, especially so to the over 500 million smallholder farmers, who live on less than a dollar a day.

Innovations surrounding soil heath diagnostic kits that help farmers to rapidly and precisely determine the health of the soils will be a win-win for all.

As shown in Ethiopia, where knowing the status of the heath of the soils has resulted into the doubling of farmer’s productivity and improving soil health these innovations can be a game changer in the race to beat food insecurity across Africa.

Translating innovations into products and solutions requires funding. Luckily, innovators, researchers, NGO’s and for profit companies thinking of making this happen can apply for funding through FoodShot Global’s Innovating Soil 3.0 challenge.

This unique investment platform catalysing groundbreaking innovation to cultivate a healthy, sustainable and equitable food system will be offering a combination of equity and debt funding to innovative businesses and a groundbreaker prize of more than USD500,000 to researchers, social entrepreneurs and advocates taking bold “moonshots for better food”.

These cash prizes will allow winners to translate bold ideas that utilise the latest in technology, science and engineering into solutions that address the soil health crisis.

To reap the many benefits that come along with healthy soils, the right interventions and innovations to improve soil health must be funded, rolled out and scaled up. Healthy soils are the foundational base that will enable countries to achieve the U.N. sustainable development goals. In the race to achieve these goals, we must pay attention to the soil. Time is ripe.

The post In the Race to Achieve Zero Hunger and Mitigate Climate Change, We Must Look Down — to the Soil appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Esther Ngumbi is Distinguished Post Doctoral Researcher, Entomology Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Illinois. She was the 2015 Clinton Global University (CGI U) Mentor for Agriculture and 2015 New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute.

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Africa Needs Strong Political Will to Transform Agriculture and Spur Economic Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/africa-needs-strong-political-will-transform-agriculture-spur-economic-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-needs-strong-political-will-transform-agriculture-spur-economic-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/africa-needs-strong-political-will-transform-agriculture-spur-economic-growth/#respond Mon, 17 Sep 2018 15:11:05 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157640 Africa needs strong political commitment to accelerate the transformation of its agricultural sector. According to the 2018 Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR), Catalyzing State Capacity to Drive Agriculture Transformation, released this September by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), African states need political will to boost production and income on the millions […]

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Ndomi Magareth, sows bean seeds on her small piece of land in Njombe, Cameroon. Africa currently spends over USD 35 billion annually on food imports, money that could make a big difference if invested in agriculture development. Credit: Monde Kingsley Nfor/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Sep 17 2018 (IPS)

Africa needs strong political commitment to accelerate the transformation of its agricultural sector.

According to the 2018 Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR), Catalyzing State Capacity to Drive Agriculture Transformation, released this September by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), African states need political will to boost production and income on the millions of small, family farms that grow most of Africa’s food.

The continent currently spends over USD 35 billion annually on food imports, money that could make a big difference if invested in agricultural development. AGRA has said Africa could require up to USD 400 billion over the next 10 years in public and private sector investments in food production, processing, marketing and transport.

Government is ultimately responsible for transforming agriculture by creating a conducive environment and addressing inherent governance challenges, Daudi Sumba, one of the report’s authors and head of Monitoring and Evaluation at AGRA, told IPS in an interview. “This requires vision and leadership to create political will among high-level political leaders to implement effective policies for agricultural transformation.”

Citing the example of the late prime minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, Sumba said the former Ethiopian leader understood rural farmers as well as how important scientific knowledge was to progress and that contributed to his political will to implement effective policies.

As a result, Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that has achieved the highest agricultural growth rates over an extended period of time.

Most African countries struggle to realise economic growth for agriculture because of lack of political leadership, the report found.

However, the report notes some exceptions of countries whose agricultural development provides an example for others. In addition to Ethiopia, the report says Rwanda has marshalled political support for agriculture and integrated detailed action plans within its broader economic development strategies. Progress in the agricultural sector is credited with lifting over one million Rwandans out of extreme poverty in a relatively short period.


Furthermore, the report finds that  economic output in Ghana’s agricultural sector—driven in part by the government’s new “Planting for Food and Jobs” programme—grew 8.4 percent in 2017 after posting only three percent growth in 2016. Similarly, AGRA experts point to countries such as Kenya, Burkina Faso, Mali and Zambia as places where political momentum and government capabilities are growing.

Jundi Hajji, a wheat farmer from Ethiopia, shows his crop. In Ethiopia, 25 years of steady growth in the farm sector has cut rural poverty rates in half. Credit:Omer Redi/IPS

The increasing willingness of African governments to openly discuss where they are advancing in agriculture and where they are struggling is a reason for optimism, the report says. For example, 47 countries have signed on to the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), a master plan to achieve economic growth through growing agriculture by at least six percent annually.

Ethiopia, for the past 25 years, has consistently exceeded the CAADP target of six percent growth in the agricultural sector. The government consistently made CAADP the core of its agricultural plan.

Available evidence suggests that political will to support agricultural transformation has remained limited in most African countries. This implies that political will must be raised for agriculture to drive economic development, Sumba said.

“Existing data suggest that the political will to support agriculture transformation is likely lower in Africa than in other regions of the developing world,” the report states, adding that it “has not substantially increased during the past decade.”

The report, which was released at the annual African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda, notes that countries like China, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Morocco have seen the economic benefits of intensifying commercial production on small farms.

For example, China’s agricultural transformation is credited with kick starting a rapid decline in rural poverty, from 53 percent in 1981 to eight percent in 2001. In Ethiopia, 25 years of steady growth in the farm sector has cut rural poverty rates in half and in rural Rwanda, over the same period, poverty has reduced by 25 percent, the report notes.

AGRA president Dr. Agnes Kalibata says governments are central to driving an inclusive agriculture transformation agenda. The report highlights the value of strengthening country planning, coordination and implementation capacity while supporting the development of an effective private sector and an enabling regulatory environment to boost agricultural productivity.

“Our experience and lessons have shown that impact can be achieved faster by supporting countries to deliver on their own transformation; driving scale through a well-planned and coordinated approach to resources in the public domain to build systems and institutions,” said Kalibata.

“Governments are definitely central to driving an inclusive agriculture transformation agenda. This body of work recognises their role and aims to highlight the value of strengthening country planning, coordination and implementation capacity while supporting the development of an effective private sector and enabling regulatory environment,” she added.

While Africa needs urgent agricultural transformation, it should attend to the challenges of rapid urbanisation, climate, significant unemployment (one third of Africans aged 15 to 35 are jobless), and chronic malnutrition, which has left 58 million children stunted.

With over 800 million people worldwide suffering from hunger and more than two billion affected by malnutrition, food insecurity remains a real threat to global development and more so in Africa.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) estimates that an additional 38 million Africans will be hungry by 2050. This is despite the fact that the continent has sufficient land, water and manpower to produce more food than it imports. The AfDB projects that food imports will grow to USD 110 billion annually by 2025 if the current trend continues without the urgency to invest in agriculture production and value addition.

“Lack of democratisation looms large when it comes to explaining (and hence diagnosing implementation needs) lack of political will to pursue agricultural transformation, the report says. “Political competition increases the attention to agricultural growth and hence to the extent of discrimination against agriculture on such items as taxation,” the Africa Agriculture Status Report states.

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Between Drought and Floods, Cuba Seeks to Improve Water Managementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/drought-floods-cuba-seeks-improve-water-management/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-floods-cuba-seeks-improve-water-management http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/drought-floods-cuba-seeks-improve-water-management/#respond Sat, 15 Sep 2018 15:48:23 +0000 Patricia Grogg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157631 If you enjoy a good daily shower and water comes out every time you turn on the taps in your home, you should feel privileged. There are places in the world where this vital resource for life is becoming scarcer by the day and the forecasts for the future are grim. A study by the […]

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A medium-density polyethylene (MDPE) pipe is set to be installed on a centrally located avenue in the municipality of Centro Habana, which will be part of the new water supply grid for residents of the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A medium-density polyethylene (MDPE) pipe is set to be installed on a centrally located avenue in the municipality of Centro Habana, which will be part of the new water supply grid for residents of the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Sep 15 2018 (IPS)

If you enjoy a good daily shower and water comes out every time you turn on the taps in your home, you should feel privileged. There are places in the world where this vital resource for life is becoming scarcer by the day and the forecasts for the future are grim.

A study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which covers the period 2003-2013, shows that the world’s largest underground aquifers are being depleted at an alarming rate as a result of more water being withdrawn than can be replenished.

“The situation is quite critical,” NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti has said, when discussing the subject in specialised publications in the U.S. In the opinion of this expert the problems with groundwater are aggravated by global warming due to the phenomenon of climate change.

Far from diminishing, the impact of climate variations is also felt in greater changes in rainfall patterns, with serious consequences for Caribbean nations that are dependent on rainfall. In Cuba and other Caribbean island countries, in particular, periods of drought have become more intense.

“There is a gradual decrease in water availability due to reduced rainfall, deteriorating water quality and greater evaporation due to rising temperatures,” Antonio Rodríguez, vice-president of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH), told IPS in an interview.

Hurricane Irma, which in September 2017 tore almost through the entire Cuban archipelago, contributed to the relief of a drought that kept the country’s people and fields thirsty for nearly four years. The current rainy season, which will last until November, began in May with Subtropical Storm Alberto with high levels of rainfall that will continue.

“We have been able to show that climate change is real. We lived through 38 months of intense drought and then we had rains well above average,” said Rodrìguez.

A team of workers from the Aguas de La Habana water company work on the replacement of the sewage system in the Vedado neighbourhood in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A team of workers from the Aguas de La Habana water company work on the replacement of the sewage system in the Vedado neighbourhood in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The intense rains associated with Alberto, which hit Cuba in the last week of May, caused eight deaths due to drowning and serious economic damage in several provinces, but at the same time considerably increased the reserves in the 242 reservoirs controlled by the INRH, the government agency in charge of Cuba’s water resources.

Tarea Vida, the official plan to deal with climate change in force since last year, warns that the average sea level has risen 6.77 cm to date, and could rise 27 cm by 2050 and 85 by 2100, which would cause the gradual loss of land in low-lying coastal areas.

In addition, there could be “a salinisation of underground aquifers opened up to the sea due to saline wedge intrusion.” For now, “of the 101 aquifers controlled by the INRH, 100 are in a very favourable state,” Rodríguez said.

These sources also suffered the impact of the drought, but recovered with the rains after Hurricane Irma.

In this context, the inefficient use of water, due to the technical condition and inadequate functioning of the water system, causes the annual loss of some 1.6 billion cubic metres of water in Cuba.

In 2011, a strategic plan outlining priorities to address this situation began to be implemented in 12 cities from Havana to Santiago de Cuba in the east.

Two workers from the Aguas de La Habana company replace water pipes and install water meters in homes to measure drinking water consumption in the Vedado neighbourhood in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Two workers from the Aguas de La Habana company replace water pipes and install water meters in homes to measure drinking water consumption in the Vedado neighbourhood in Havana. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

When the programme began, losses amounted to 58 percent, both in the water grid and inside homes and other establishments. So far, the loss has only been reduced to 48 percent.

Since 2013, however, work has been underway on a comprehensive supply and sanitation plan that covers more than a solution to losses in distribution.

From 2015 to 2017, sewerage coverage has improved by 0.6 per cent and an additional 1.6 million people have benefited from the water supply.

Currently, only 11 percent of the country’s population of 11.2 million receive piped water at home 24 hours a day, and 39 percent at certain times of the day. In the remaining 50 percent of households, water is available only sporadically, and sometimes they go more than a week without water.

“I live in downtown Santiago de Cuba and we have two large elevated tanks and a cistern. We get piped water from the grid more or less every seven days and it is enough for us, even for our daily shower,” a worker from the telephone company Etecsa told IPS from that city, asking to remain anonymous.

Part of the historical water deficit in Santiago and other cities in the eastern-most part of the country has been alleviated through the transfer of water from regions with a greater supply. But during times of drought the supply cycles slow down. “That’s why in my house we are careful with our water,” she said.

One study found that of the 58 percent of water lost, 20 percent is lost in homes.

Another priority is to increase wastewater treatment. “Although in the country sewage coverage is more than 96 percent, only 36 percent of the population receives the service through networks, the rest is through septic tanks and other types of treatment,” said INRH vice-president Rodrìguez.

Among these challenges, he also mentioned poor hydrometric coverage.

Alexander Concepción Molina, a worker at Aguas de La Habana, supervises the thermofusion process of a high-density polyethylene pipe, which is part of the installation of new water gridsin the Peñas Altas neighbourhood of Habana del Este, in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Alexander Concepción Molina, a worker at Aguas de La Habana, supervises the thermofusion process of a high-density polyethylene pipe, which is part of the installation of new water gridsin the Peñas Altas neighbourhood of Habana del Este, in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“We were able to get 100 percent of the public sector and all major consumers to be controlled by water metres, although in the residential sector this coverage reaches just over 23 percent of the population. From 2015 to 2017, more than 227,000 water meters have been installed, but the plan is to reach total coverage,” Rodríguez said.

“Without a doubt, water meters reduce consumption and allow us to measure the efficiency of our system,” he added.

Like other services, residential water supply is subsidised by the state and has a very low cost. “There are four of us and we pay 5.20 pesos a month (less than 0.25 cents of a dollar),” said María Curbelo, a resident of the Havana neighbourhood of Vedado.

The national hydraulic programme extended until 2030 includes works for water supply, sanitation, storage, diversion and hydrometry, as well as the necessary equipment for investment and maintenance.

“We are also working on the construction of seawater desalination plants,” Rodriguez said.

These plans include not only works to supply the population, but also everything necessary for agriculture, hotel infrastructure and the housing programme.

Rodriguez explained that to carry out the programme there is both state and foreign funding, which has made possible a subsidised home supply.

“We have benefited by foreign loans from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Spain’s development aid agency and Chinese donations,” among others, he said.

These are soft loans with a five-year grace period, two or three percent interest and to be paid in 20 years, with the Cuban State as guarantor.

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The Causes Behind Africa’s Digital Gender Dividehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/causes-behind-africas-digital-gender-divide-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=causes-behind-africas-digital-gender-divide-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/causes-behind-africas-digital-gender-divide-2/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 16:00:10 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157628 Systemic inequalities based on gender, race, income and geography are mirrored in the digital realm and leave many women, especially the poor and the rural, trailing behind Africa’s tech transformation.  

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Systemic inequalities based on gender, race, income and geography are mirrored in the digital realm and leave many women, especially the poor and the rural, trailing behind Africa’s tech transformation.

By IPS World Desk
MAPUTO, Sep 14 2018 (IPS)

Systemic inequalities based on gender, race, income and geography are mirrored in the digital realm and leave many women, especially the poor and the rural, trailing behind Africa’s tech transformation.

 

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‘Women Not Speaking at the Same Table as Men’ Means a Widening Digital Gender Gap in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/women-not-speaking-table-men-means-widening-digital-gender-gap-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-not-speaking-table-men-means-widening-digital-gender-gap-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/women-not-speaking-table-men-means-widening-digital-gender-gap-africa/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 10:48:41 +0000 Mercedes Sayagues http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157613 ‘Think Bigger’, urge the colourful posters on the walls of Ideario, an innovation hub in Chamanculo, a modest neighbourhood in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital. The message is right on target for the new female trainees, eager eyes glued to laptop screens as they learn internet and computer skills. Three times a year Ideario runs a free, three-month-long […]

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Marcia Julio Vilanculos brought her baby to the digital literacy training at Ideario innovation hub, Maputo, Mozambique. Women’s caregiving responsibilities must be factored in by training programmes. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

By Mercedes Sayagues
MAPUTO, Sep 14 2018 (IPS)

‘Think Bigger’, urge the colourful posters on the walls of Ideario, an innovation hub in Chamanculo, a modest neighbourhood in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital. The message is right on target for the new female trainees, eager eyes glued to laptop screens as they learn internet and computer skills.

Three times a year Ideario runs a free, three-month-long course on digital literacy for 60 poor young women, selected among 500 candidates from Chamanculo.“Our survey highlights the gendered barriers to internet access and use in particular contexts - urban, peri-urban and rural women, with low income levels.” -- Chenai Chair, evaluations adviser at ICT Research Africa.

Ideario’s operations manager, Jessica Manhiça, tells IPS many girls initially fear using computers. Nine in 10 do not have one at home.

“I was afraid of erasing other people’s documents,” Marcia Julio Vilanculos, 25, tells IPS. In high school she paid a classmate to type her handwritten assignments.

“Overcoming fear opens the door to thinking bigger,” says Manhiça. “Girls are raised to be afraid of technology, of making mistakes, of being ill-judged as different, unconventional or masculine.”

The course starts by reinforcing self-esteem and unpacking the myth that tech is for men.

“Many parents discourage the girls from the course, worrying they will become independent, delay marriage, or exchange sex for jobs,” says Manhiça. “The young women internalise their families’ negativity.”

Not surprisingly, less than three percent of jobs in Mozambique’s booming tech sector are filled by women, reports a market survey by Ideario’s partner, MUVA Tech. MUVA Tech is a programme that works for the economic empowerment of young urban girls.

Among Mozambique’s 28 million people, less than 10 percent are internet users and only less than one in 10 users are women, according to a recent After Access survey by Research ICT Africa.

According to Research ICT Africa:

  • 30 percent of all women own cellphones,
  • 15 percent of these women own a smartphone (but not all use it for internet for a number of factors),
  • and 6.8  percent of all Mozambican women, with or without owning a cellphone, use the internet. 

Of the seven African countries surveyed, only Rwanda has lower internet penetration and greater gender disparity.

“Our survey highlights the gendered barriers to internet access and use in particular contexts – urban, peri-urban and rural women, with low income levels,” says Chenai Chair, researcher at Research ICT Africa. “The findings reflect the gendered power dynamics that people live with daily.”

The digital gender gap is widening in Africa, warns the International Telecommunications Union.

Even Kenya, celebrated for its digital innovation and a relatively low overall digital gender gap of 10 percent, shows vast disparity among the urban poor. A digital gender audit in the slums of Nairobi by the World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF) in 2015 found that 57 percent of men are connected to the internet but only 20 percent of women are.

In poor areas of Kampala, Uganda, 61 percent of men and 21 percent of women use the internet, and 44 percent of men and 18 percent of women use a computer.

When women go online, they may find harassment. In Uganda, 45 percent of female internet users reported online threats, as did one in five in Kenya. The gender stereotypes and abusive behaviour found in daily life continue online.

“It is still believed in many cultures in Uganda that women should not speak at the same table as men and that includes discussions on social media,” Susan Atim, of Women of Uganda Network, tells IPS.

 

 

The WWWF research identifies the root causes of the digital gender divide: high costs, lack of know-how, scarcity of content that is relevant and empowering for women, and barriers to women speaking freely and privately online.

Systemic inequalities based on gender, race, income and geography are mirrored in the digital realm and leave many women, especially the poor and the rural, trailing behind Africa’s tech transformation. Without digital literacy, women cannot get the digital dividends – the access to jobs, information and services essential to secure a good livelihood.

Simple steps like reducing the cost to connect, teaching digital literacy in schools, and expanding public access facilities can bring quick progress, says WWWF.

Tarisai Nyamweda, media manager with Gender Links, a regional advocacy group, points out the scarcity of women role models in tech for schoolgirls. The percentage of female high school teachers ranges from fewer than two in 10 in Mozambique and Malawi to just over half in South Africa.

“We need to change the narrative so girls can identify new ways to do things,” says Nyamweda.

Digital literacy training must consider women’s domestic responsibilities.

To be at Ideario at 8 am, Vilanculos would wake up at 5 am, to make a fire and heat water. She prepared breakfast for her husband (a car painter) and their two children. She then dropped her eldest at school at 7am and brought her baby with her to the training. During lunch she picked up her oldest and took both her children to stay with an aunt, and returned to Ideario.

“I was tired, my feet hurt,” she recalls. But the effort paid off: today she is a microworker with Tekla, an online job platform.

The use of information and communication technologies is now required in all but two occupations, dishwashing and food preparation, in the American workplace, notes a policy brief on the future of work by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Considering that 90 percent of jobs in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will require digital skills, according to a World Economic Forum study,  there is no time to lose in closing Africa’s digital gender gap.

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Kofi Annan, the Last UN Secretary-General Who Paid for His Independencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/kofi-annan-last-un-secretary-general-paid-independence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kofi-annan-last-un-secretary-general-paid-independence http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/kofi-annan-last-un-secretary-general-paid-independence/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 08:49:03 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157612 Roberto Savio is co-founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Kofi Annan. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Kofi Annan. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Sep 14 2018 (IPS)

This testimony to Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, comes a month after his death. Much has already been written, and it is now superfluous to recall his efforts for peace and international cooperation. It is better to place his figure in a crucial context: how the great powers progressively reduced the figure of the UN Secretary-General and charged a high price from those who tried to keep the system’s independence.

First of all, it must be remembered that the United Nations was born – to a considerable extent – due to the strong propulsive drive of the United States. The United States, the great winners of the Second World War [with 416,800 soldiers and 1,700 civilians dead, compared with over 20 million Soviet Union soldiers and civilians], wanted to avoid the recurrence of a new world conflict. It therefore sought the construction of a multilateral system, able to maintain – through peace in a ruined world – its economic and military hegemony intact. It pledged to contribute 25 percent to the budget of the organisation, agreed to house its headquarters and ceded national sovereignty to an unprecedented extent.

This special arrangement took the first heavy blow through the hand of US President Ronald Reagan who, at the North-South Summit held in Cancun, Mexico, in 1981, shortly after his election, said he considered the United Nations a straitjacket for American interests. He argued that it was not acceptable that his country had only one vote like any other country, and was forced by majority votes (often from developing countries) to follow paths far from US policy. Since then Washington’s policy has been to attempt to reshape the political weight of the United Nations, and it has constantly sought to have a “manager” as Secretary-General who would take account of American weight.

After Javier Perez de Cuellar, a quiet Peruvian diplomat who by nature and training avoided confrontation, had succeeded Kurt Waldheim – Secretary-General at the time of the Cancun summit – the United States began a process of disengagement, which came to a halt with the arrival of George W. Bush, a moderate from the old school, who took a more positive view of the United Nations as a place to assert American power.

Then came the fall of the Berlin Wall and the vote of the UN General Assembly could not be exploited by the socialist bloc. An Egyptian diplomat, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, had taken over from Perez de Cuellar, supported by Washington because Egypt was considered a traditional US ally.

Boutros-Ghali turned out to be surprisingly independent. A profound campaign to relaunch the United Nations began, with several World Conferences being organised on topics ranging from Climate to Population, from Human Rights to Gender Equity, and with a social summit in Copenhagen, which established a strong pledge agenda. Boutros-Ghali set an Agenda for Peace, an Agenda for Development, and many other initiatives that the United States could not desert. As a result, an American veto in 1996 prevented a second term for him (despite the favourable vote of the other 14 UN Security Council members: Boutros-Ghali  was the only Secretary-General to serve just one mandate).

When Bill Clinton became US President, his mandate was not at all unequivocal. He was openly internationalist, and he officially declared, with regard to the Rwanda War, that the United States would ban any peacekeeping operation that did not directly benefit US foreign policy. He was also the one who abolished the 1933 Segall-Glass law, which strictly kept separated deposit banks from speculation banks. As a consequence of that , speculative finance boomed and citizens deposits started to be used to grow capital, giving supremacy to finance over economy and politics.

There are many factors behind the crisis of the United Nations but the progressive withdrawal of the United States from multilateralism is its fundamental cause. The United States no longer needs the United Nations under President Donald Trump's desire for a policy not only of America First, but of America Alone. After Reagan and Bush, Trump is the third nail in the coffin.

With the veto on Boutros-Ghali, the American administration, represented by Madeline Albright, ex-US Ambassador to the United Nations and promoted to Secretary of State thanks to her battle against Boutros-Ghali, wanted to give a signal: the United States was ready to ban a UN Secretary-General who did not respect Washington’s voice. Albright’s proposal was accepted and a respectable Ghanaian official, Kofi Annan, was appointed Boutros-Ghali’s successor by the Security Council.

It was at this point that the greatness of Annan came to the fore. The man who had been considered a man linked to Washington embarked on a process of deep UN administrative reform, in order to make it more transparent and efficient. He received the Nobel Prize in 2001, together with the UN Organization, “for his work for a better organized and peaceful world”: confirmation of his prestige and authority at the highest level.

However, in 2001, George W. Bush was elected President of the United States. His agenda’s priority was American supremacy in a changing world, taking over much of Reagan’s spirit. Whoever had Kofi Annam’s confidence could have heard how Bush wanted Annam’s unconditional support, despite his resistance.

Bush began his mandate with the decision to bring down the President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, for his invasion of Kuwait the previous year, despite American warnings. In 2003, because he did not have the support of the Security Council, which was not convinced there was sufficient evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (France ‘s refusal to believe the US Administration was particularly firm), Bush invented the “Coalition of the Willing”, an alliance of various states promoted with the support of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and invaded Iraq without UN legitimation, with the results we all know.

Kofi Annan denounced the invasion, and in 2004 declared it illegal. American retaliation was rapid.

In 2005, an assistance programme was set up: the United Nations sold the country’s oil in order to provide food and medications to civilians. Under the pressure of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the American right-wing invented a scandal, which targeted the United Nations and Annan (through his son) undermining the organisation’s credibility. An inquiry commission headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker declared that American and British companies, and Saddam Hussein himself, benefited from the illegal transactions, but it did not help. By then image of the United Nations had been irreparably compromised.

Annan showed extreme dignity, and quit his position in 2006, taking action for peace and international cooperation. It was emblematic of his personality when the Arab League and the United Nations entrusted him in February 2012 with mediation to end the civil conflict in Syria. It took him just five months to quit the job, declaring that the conflict had then become internationalised, and that no one was interested in peace.

Between 2007 and 2016, South Korean diplomat Ban Ki Moon held the office of UN Secretary-General. It is said that Bush’s instructions to the American delegation were: choose the most innocuous. And even though the end of the Bush presidency in 2009 was followed by that of Barack Obama who believed in an American policy based on cooperation and détente, Ban Ki Moon’s secretariat left a minimum legacy of actions.

Today, the United Nations is a kind of ‘Super Red Cross’, focusing on sectors that do not affect governance of the economy or finance but politics on refugees, education, health, agriculture and fishing, and so on. Trade and finance, the two great engines of globalisation, are now outside of the United Nations which is no longer a place for debate and consensus for humanity. The Davos Economic Forum attracts more leaders than the UN General Assembly.

There are many factors behind the crisis of the United Nations but the progressive withdrawal of the United States from multilateralism is its fundamental cause. The United States no longer needs the United Nations under President Donald Trump’s desire for a policy not only of America First, but of America Alone. After Reagan and Bush, Trump is the third nail in the coffin.

The latest Secretary-General, António Guterres of Portugal, has a political career at the highest level, having also been his country’s prime minister. He was chosen by the General Assembly (an unprecedented fact), and imposed on the Security Council. Stuck by Trump’s promise to withdraw the United States from the United Nations, he had to avoid any position that would increase the decline of the United Nations thanks to this immobility.

It is clear that the crisis of multilateralism and the return to nationalism is an international phenomenon. Not only the United States, but China, India, Japan, the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, and several European countries, including Italy, are re-discovering the old traps: in the name of God, in the name of the Nation and now in the name of Money, using nationalism, xenophobia and populism to cancel the European project.

Is it reasonable to remark that those who are missing are the Kofi Annans, those who place values and ideals above all else, shunning personal interests and not interested in holding on to their positions, in order to invite citizens to a debate of ideas by those who dare to resist in this era of sleepwalking.

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Excerpt:

Roberto Savio is co-founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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South-South Cooperation in a Transformative Erahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/south-south-cooperation-transformative-era/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-south-cooperation-transformative-era http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/south-south-cooperation-transformative-era/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 07:11:58 +0000 Jorge Chediek http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157594 Jorge Chediek is Director, UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation.

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Jorge Chediek is Director, UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation.

By Jorge Chediek
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 13 2018 (IPS)

On 12 September, the international community commemorated the UN Day for South-South Cooperation. This is an important acknowledgement of the contributions of Southern partnerships in addressing the many development challenges that confront the international community, such as poverty, climate change, inequality, contagious diseases and humanitarian crises.

Jorge Chediek

South-South cooperation is a unique arrangement where two or more developing countries share technical skills, exchange knowledge, transfer technologies, and provide financial assistance. These collaborations are built on the principles of solidarity, respect for national sovereignty, non-conditionality, national ownership, and mutual respect.

This year’s commemoration was particularly significant, as it marked the fortieth anniversary of an important milestone in international cooperation – the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Technical Cooperation Amongst Developing Countries (BAPA). BAPA institutionalized cooperation amongst developing countries, creating a strategic framework for furthering cooperation in technical and economic areas.

But cooperation amongst developing countries did not begin forty years ago – it traces its origins to the anti-colonial solidarity movement of the twentieth century. The practice gained further popularity in the 1950’s and 1970’s as newly independent States with limited capacities looked for independent ways to accelerate their development, away from the Cold War dichotomy of the day.

Forty years after the adoption of BAPA, the international system is undergoing a major systemic transformation, with new pillars of growth and influence emerging from the global South. Through collective voice and action, developing countries are actively contributing to the building of a more prosperous and peaceful world.

Developing countries today account for the largest share of global economic output and are playing an active, constructive role in traditional institutions of global governance as well as creating new institutions that are Southern-led.

In a noteworthy trend, development solutions increasingly originate from developing countries themselves. Harnessing the abundance of innovative solutions, brought about by its economic growth and advances in technical competencies, the global South now charts its own unique development path.

Developing countries are now drivers of innovation in ICT, renewable technologies, infrastructure development and social welfare. Pooled medical procurement is lowering costs and increasing access to life saving medicines. Southern-led mediation mechanisms for conflict prevention continue to prove especially effective in reducing violent conflicts.

Technical cooperation in agriculture is greatly improving the yields in agricultural output. Transfer of technologies and vast interregional infrastructure investments are facilitating access to international markets for medium and small-scale enterprises.

Southern-based centres of excellence and knowledge hubs have become key vehicles for promoting mutual learning, leading to reduction of poverty and the growth of an emerging middle class.

With this newly formed confidence, the global South progressively looks within itself for ideas, knowledge and skills for tackling many of its common challenges. This enhances its national and collective self-reliance, a major objective of BAPA.

As the capacities of developing countries have improved, there has been a corresponding expansion of the scope of South-South cooperation beyond technical cooperation to other areas. South-South cooperation today includes, amongst other instruments, technological transfers, knowledge exchanges, financial assistance, technical assistance as well as concessional loans.

As a consequence, interregional forums and summits for dialogue amongst developing countries have become an important platform for enhancing South-South policy coordination, launching joint initiatives, and committing resources for infrastructure development, trade and investments – vital for ensuring sustainable development.

Triangular cooperation – Southern-driven partnerships between two or more developing countries, supported by developed countries or multilateral organizations – is increasingly playing a role to ensure equity in partnership and scaling up of success.

In light of this, the United Nations General Assembly has decided to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of BAPA by convening a High-level conference (BAPA+40) to be held from 19-21 March 2019 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. BAPA+40 provides a great opportunity for the international community to further strengthen and invigorate cooperation amongst developing countries.

Although great strides have been made by developing countries in improving the living conditions of millions of its people, complex development challenges still persist. Global economic transformations and its corresponding consequences on production patterns present a particular challenge to developing countries.

Automation poses a great risk to job creation in the South; climate change has particularly adverse effects on Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries; traditional partnership models are re-evaluated and inequality continues to rise. The global South will play an important role in overcoming these challenges.

The United Nations system continues to support the collaborative initiatives of developing countries by advocating, catalysing, brokering and facilitating such collaborations across many spheres.

Drawing on its vast presence across the global South, the United Nations is well placed to identify development capacities and gaps existing in developing countries while collecting, analysing and disseminating best practices and lessons learned towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other internationally agreed development goals.

As the international community enters the third year of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, concrete development solutions and resources from the global South are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Effective development solutions that have worked in a few countries of the global South can be scaled up through South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation to accelerate sustainable development, particularly in countries that are lagging behind.

More and better South-South cooperation is essential to building a better world that leaves no one behind.

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Excerpt:

Jorge Chediek is Director, UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation.

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Q&A: As Water Scarcity Becomes the New Normal How Do We Manage This Scarce Resource?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 12:42:37 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157558 Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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In south west coastal Satkhira, Bangladesh as salinity has spread to freshwater sources, a private water seller fills his 20-litre cans with public water supply to sell in islands where poor families spend 300 Bangladesh Taka every month to buy drinking and cooking water alone. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
STOCKHOLM, Sep 11 2018 (IPS)

Growing economies are thirsty economies. And water scarcity has become “the new normal” in many parts of the world, according to Torgny Holmgren executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

As climate change converges with rapid economic and urban development and poor farming practices in the emerging economies of South Asia, water insecurity for marginalised people and farmers is already intensifying.

By 2030 for instance, India’s demand for water is estimated to become double the available water supply. Forests, wetlands lost, rivers and oceans will be degraded in the name of development. This need not be so. Development can be sustainable, it can be green.

Technology today is a key component in achieving water use sustainability – be it reduced water use in industries and agriculture, or in treating waste water, among others. Low and middle income economies need water and data technology support from developed countries not only to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on water, which relates to access to safe water and sanitation as well as the sound management of freshwater supplies, but several global goals in which water plays a critical role.

Speakers at SIWI’s 28th World Water Week held last month in Stockholm, Sweden, underpinned water scarcity as contributing to poverty, conflict, and the spread of waterborne diseases, as well as hindering access to education for women and girls.

Women are central to the collection and the safeguarding of water – they are responsible for more than 70 percent of water chores and management worldwide. But the issue goes far deeper than the chore of fetching water.  It is also about dignity, personal hygiene, safety, opportunity loss and reverting to gender stereotypes.

Women’s voices remain limited in water governance in South Asia, even though their participation in water governance can alleviate water crises through their traditional knowledge on small-scale solutions for agriculture, homestead gardening, and domestic water use. This can strengthen resilience to drought and improve family nutrition.

Holmgren, a former Swedish ambassador with extensive experience working in South Asia, among other regions, spoke to IPS about how South Asia can best address the serious gender imbalances in water access and the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), says as water scarcity becomes the new normal, traditional knowledge must be combined with new technology to ensure water sustainability. Photo courtesy: SIWI

IPS: What major steps should South Asian economies adopt for sustainable water services from their natural ecosystems? 

TH: South Asia is experiencing now a scarcity of water as demand now grows, thanks to a growing economy and also growing population. For the region specifically, a fundamental aspect is how its countries govern their water accessibility. We at SIWI have seen water-scarce countries manage really efficiently while those with abundance mismanage this resource.

It boils down to how institutions, not just governments but communities, industries at large govern water – how water systems are organised and allocated. We have instances from Indian village parliaments that decide how to share, allocate and even treat common water resources together with neighbouring catchment area villages.

One good example of this is 2015 Stockholm Water Prize winner Rajendra Singh from India who has worked in arid rural areas with local and traditional water harvesting techniques to recharge river basins, revive and store rain water in traditional water bodies and bring life back to these regions. These techniques can also help to manage too much water from more frequent climate-induced floods.

Even though the largest [amount] water is presently still being consumed for food production, more and more water is being demanded by industries and electricity producers. As competition for the scarce resource accelerates, soon we have to restructure user categories differently in terms of tariffs and allocation because households and food production have to be provided adequate water.

Even farm irrigation reforms can regulate and save water as earlier award winning International Water Management Institute research has shown – that if governments lower subsidies on electricity for pumping, farmers were careful how much and for how long they extract groundwater, without affecting the crop yield. Farmers pumped less when energy tariffs were pegged higher.

IPS: What is SIWI’s stand on the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries?

TH: Water has key advantages – it connects all SDGs and it is a truly global issue. If we look around we see similar situations in Cape Town, China and California. Water is not a North-South matter. Africa can learn from any country in any region. This is the opportunity the World Water Week offers.

It is true that new technology is developing fast, but a mix of this with traditional technology and local knowledge works well. We also need to adapt traditional technologies to modern water needs and situations. These can be basic, low cost and people friendly. And it could encourage more efficient storage and use of ‘green water’ (soil moisture used by plants).

Drip irrigation has begun to be used more in South Asia, India particularly. There is need to encourage this widely. Recycling and the way in which industries treat and re-use water should be more emphasised.

Technology transfer is and can be done in various ways. The private sector can develop both technologies and create markets for them. Governments too can provide enabling environments to promote technology development with commercial viability. A good example of this is mobile phone technology – one where uses today range from mobile banking to farmers’ access of weather data and farming advisory in remote regions.

Technology transfer from different countries can be donor or bank funded or through multi-lateral organisations like the international Green Climate Fund, but any technology always has to be adapted to local situations.

Training, education, knowledge and know-how sharing – are, to me, the best kinds of technology transfers. Students and researchers – be it through international educational exchanges or partnerships between overseas universities – get the know-how and can move back home to work on advancing technologies tailored to their national needs.

Is technology transfer happening adequately? There is a need to build up on new or local technology hardware. For this infrastructure finance is (increasingly) available but needs scaling up faster.

IPS: How can South Asia best address the serious gender imbalances in water access, bring more women into water governance in its patriarchal societies?

TH: It is important that those in power need encourage gender balance not in decision-making alone but in educational institutions. Making room for gender balance in an organisation’s decision-making structure is important. This can be possible if there is equal access to education. But we are seeing an encouraging trend – in youth seminars sometimes the majority attending are women.

Finding women champions from water organisations can also encourage other women to take up strong initiatives for water equity.

When planning and implementing projects there is a need to focus on what impacts, decisions under specific issues, are having on men and women separately. And projects need be accordingly gender budgeted.

IPS: How can the global south – under pressure to grow their GDP, needing more land, more industries to bring billions out of poverty – successfully balance their green and grey water infrastructure? What role can local communities play in maintaining green infrastructure? 

TH: When a water-scarce South Asian village parliament decides they will replant forests, attract rain back to the region, and when rain comes, collect it – this is a very local, community-centred green infrastructure initiative. Done on a large scale, it can bring tremendous change to people, livelihoods and societies at large.

We have long acted under the assumption that grey infrastructure – dams, levees, pipes and canals – purpose-built by humans, is superior to what nature itself can bring us in the form of mangroves, wetlands, rivers and lakes.

Grey infrastructure is very efficient at transporting and holding water for power production. But paving over the saw-grass prairie around Houston reduced the city’s ability to absorb the water that hurricane Harvey brought in August 2017.

It isn’t a question of either/or. We need both green and grey, and we need to be wise in choosing what serves our current and potential future set of purposes best.

Be it industrialised or developing countries, today we have to make more sophisticated use of green water infrastructures. Especially in South Asia’s growing urban sprawls, we must capture the flooding rainwater, store it in green water infrastructure for reuse; because grey cannot do it alone.

The post Q&A: As Water Scarcity Becomes the New Normal How Do We Manage This Scarce Resource? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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‘All the Roads Leading to Agadez and Italy are Dangerous’http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/roads-leading-agadez-italy-dangerous/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=roads-leading-agadez-italy-dangerous http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/roads-leading-agadez-italy-dangerous/#respond Sat, 08 Sep 2018 11:18:43 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157490 El Adama Diallo left his home in Senegal on Oct. 28, 2016, with dreams of reaching Europe in his heart and a steely determination that made him take an alternative, dangerous route to get there despite the absence of regular migration papers in his pocket. It was a journey that took him from West Africa—through […]

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Hip-hop singer Matar Khoudia Ndiaye–aka Big Makhou Djolof was speaking on Radio Oxy Jeunes Fm, in Senegal, about his experience attempting irregular migration to Europe. Courtesy: International Organization for Migration (IOM)

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
DAKAR, Sep 8 2018 (IPS)

El Adama Diallo left his home in Senegal on Oct. 28, 2016, with dreams of reaching Europe in his heart and a steely determination that made him take an alternative, dangerous route to get there despite the absence of regular migration papers in his pocket.

It was a journey that took him from West Africa—through Mali then to Agadez in Niger and across the Sahara desert—to a southern oasis town in Libya.“There is no love and games that side. Blacks are betraying their own brothers and giving them away to Arabs. They are the ones that are negotiating the ransom on behalf of their Arab bosses.” -- El Adama Diallo, returnee migrant.

It was a route populated with heavily-armed human traffickers, bandits and the still-alive bodies of migrants like him, emaciated and weak from lack of water and food who had been left behind to die under the blazing North African sun.

Diallo survived it. Barely.

“All the roads leading to Agadez, and eventually to Libya and Italy are dangerous,” he told IPS on the sidelines of a live broadcast on Radio Afia Fm on Monday, Sept. 3, from the station’s base in the bustling township of Grand Yoff, in the Senegalese capital Dakar.

For me, the dream of reaching Europe irregularly is over, and I call on all who are considering irregular migration to stop it now, 32-year-old Diallo said.

Diallo has much to say about his experience. He finally was able to return to Senegal on Dec. 5, 2017 with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which has been working in coordination with the United Nations Refugee Agency and the Libyan government to assist migrants who want to return home.

He now wants to inform others about his experience. Diallo has become a volunteer in an innovative awareness-raising campaign by IOM called Migrants as Messengers (MaM). MaM is a peer-to-peer messaging campaign that trains returning migrants to share their stories of the danger, trauma and abuse that they experienced while attempting irregular migration. The stories are candid and emotional testimonials.

As is Diallo’s own story.

Kidnapped and inhumane detention conditions

Diallo arrived in Sabha, southwestern Libya and found “almost the whole of Africa was there; Malians, Gambians, Ivorians, Nigerians and others.” From there he hoped to go to Tripoli to catch a boat to Italy. But he was immediately kidnapped by gangs posing as human traffickers.

“They demanded a ransom of [about USD800] for my freedom, which was paid a week later by my family back in Senegal,” he said.

Being caught by human traffickers showed him that race or nationality did not mean solidarity when it came to making a profit.

“There is no love and games that side. Blacks are betraying their own brothers and giving them away to Arabs. They are the ones that are negotiating the ransom on behalf of their Arab bosses,” he said.

But after being released he spent about 10 months in Libya, still waiting to travel to Italy. He was eventually arrested by security forces and held, along with thousands others, in a detention centre in Tripoli in such inhumane conditions that eventually, he knew; all he wanted to do was to return home.

He stayed for two months in cells that were so overcrowded “we were piled on top of each other like fishes.”

“Some people slept standing and others spent the night in stinking toilets, and we only ate once a day. It was terrible,” Diallo explained.

He endured it until he was given the opportunity to return home with IOM.

Explaining the dangers to others

Mamoudou Keita, a reporter at Radio Afia, told IPS that community radio stations were the right platform to debate this issue.

“Community radio is close to people on the ground. I think it’s a good communication strategy. However, it must not be limited to the media. It must descend to the streets, mosques and churches to ensure that the message is understood everywhere,” Keita said.

“Besides, the marketplaces are also good places to spread the word because some mothers are funding their children’s [irregular] trips to Europe. They must be told that it’s morally wrong and dangerous.”

El Hadji Saidou Nourou Dia, IOM Senegal spokesperson, told IPS that his agency was working with 30 community radio stations affiliated to Association of Union des Radio Associatives and Communautaires du Senegal (URAC) or Community Radio Stations of Senegal. The stations are based in Dakar, Tambacounda, Kolda and Seidhou, which are regions most affected by irregular migration.

He said the stations were owned and managed by people who were leaders in their respective communities and that people listened to and considered their advice.

“Our partnership, which is expected to end in December 2018, consists among others of building capacity of radio journalists as how to best treat information related to migration,” he said.

“When a migrant speaks about his own experience, the things that he went through, that surely has the power to make the candidates to irregular migration think twice before they take that route,” Dia said.

The community radio migration programmes comprise:

•           Getting returning migrants to talk and debate about their failed travelling experiences in North Africa,

•           Inviting specialists to discuss the challenges of migration,

•           Educating communities through radio dramas, which have been drawn from international cartoons and adapted to Senegal.

It is possible to be successful at home

A radio programme similar to the one that Diallo was on this week was also hosted last week in Pikine, east Dakar, on Radio Oxy Jeunes Fm.

Hip-hop singer Matar Khoudia Ndiaye–aka Big Makhou Djolof–is himself a returnee migrant.

“It’s still possible to harvest success by staying at home,” the tall artist, who has a single called “Stop Irregular Immigration,” said.

“I saw with my own eyes people dying in the Sahara Desert, and women getting involved in prostitution to survive when they ran out of money. Also, human traffickers rape the same women they are supposed to help reach Europe,” he said during an emotionally-charged show hosted by Oxy Jeunes radio journalist Codou Loum.

Founded in 1989, Oxy Jeunes Radio Station is believed to be one of the oldest community broadcasters in West Africa, and has a listenership of about 70 percent of Dakar’s one million people.

Ndiaye spent two months in Libya in 2016 and paid about USD1,400 to human traffickers to help him get to Italy.

But he never made it.

Asked if he was aware that parents were funding their children’s trips to North Africa and eventually to Europe, he replied: “Stop putting pressure on your children to become rich quickly to support the family.”

“Paying for their irregular trip to Europe is not a good thing to do because if these children get killed, it will be a big loss for you.”

African governments need to do more for their youth

Ramatoulaye Diene, a legal migration activist and radio personality, who was also on the show with Ndiaye, said migration was everyone’s right. However, she stressed it has be to done in a formal and legal way to avoid people falling into unpredictable traps.

Diene, while echoing the rapper’s sentiments that it was still possible to make it in Africa, appealed to African governments to create a youth-friendly environment that would persuade young Africans not to embark on such dangerous journeys.

“I think African governments have failed in their duties to help the youth thrive and improve their lives right here at home. They must support the youth through adequate youth employment programmes and legal migration policies.”

Diallo echoed the same sentiments when he spoke about the reasons for irregular migration.

  •  Additional writing by Nalisha Adams.

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Four-Year Drought Forces Cuba to Find Ways to Build Resiliencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/four-year-drought-forces-cuba-find-ways-build-resilience/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=four-year-drought-forces-cuba-find-ways-build-resilience http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/four-year-drought-forces-cuba-find-ways-build-resilience/#respond Fri, 07 Sep 2018 14:08:20 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157503 Eastern Cuba has suffered drought since time immemorial. But the western and central regions of the island used to be almost free of the phenomenon, until the latest drought that plagued this country between 2014 and 2017. “For the first time drought is seen as a major threat, due to the magnitude of the economic […]

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A man rests while his horse drinks water from an almost dry stream near the village of Palenque, in the municipality of Yateras in the eastern province of Guantánamo, one of the worst affected by the long drought that affected Cuba between 2014 and 2017. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A man rests while his horse drinks water from an almost dry stream near the village of Palenque, in the municipality of Yateras in the eastern province of Guantánamo, one of the worst affected by the long drought that affected Cuba between 2014 and 2017. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
HAVANA, Sep 7 2018 (IPS)

Eastern Cuba has suffered drought since time immemorial. But the western and central regions of the island used to be almost free of the phenomenon, until the latest drought that plagued this country between 2014 and 2017.

“For the first time drought is seen as a major threat, due to the magnitude of the economic impacts it caused,” agronomist Loexys Rodríguez, who in the eastern city of Guantánamo promotes and carries out research on resilience in the productive sector in the face of drought, told IPS.

Over the past four years, Cuba has faced the most extensive drought seen in 115 years, affecting 80 percent of the country.

Prolonged rationing in the residential sector, with the suspension of water supply for up to a month, caused serious social upheaval, while economic losses amounted to 1.5 billion dollars, according to official figures.

All regions, especially the central part of the country, were ravaged by the so-called “silent disaster,” because it advances slowly and almost imperceptibly.

Latin America has suffered the worst droughts in its history in this century and the subsequent loss of income was four times more than that caused by floods, warned the World Bank, which even called for thinking about a new economy in times of scarcity and variable water supplies.

Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru are among the countries in the region that have experienced the most severe dry spells so far this century, considered part of the effects of climate change.

According to the World Bank, in general terms, this phenomenon has a greater impact on Caribbean island nations such as Cuba.

“It has been demonstrated that these droughts are recurrent, that we are practically living with them,” Rodríguez warned. However, “not all elements of resilience are being given the same level of priority or national scope,” the expert warned.

Because they are the most frequent and dreaded phenomenon in the Caribbean, especially in the islands, hurricanes capture all the attention of the national disaster response systems. Associated with cyclones, the concept of resilience began to be used recently in Cuba’s disaster response system.

With respect to the environment, this term refers to the ability of a community, economic activity or ecosystem, among others, to absorb disturbances such as the onslaught of weather events without significantly altering their characteristics of structure and functionality, so as to facilitate the subsequent return to its original state.

A peasant farmer checks the water level in his backyard well, in the municipality of Horno de Guisa, Granma province, in eastern Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A peasant farmer checks the water level in his backyard well, in the municipality of Horno de Guisa, Granma province, in eastern Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Rodríguez spoke with IPS after presenting a methodological tool that allows farmers and agricultural decision-makers to easily determine how drought-resilient a farm is, at the 10th International Congress on Disasters, held in Havana Jul. 2-6.

The tool is a result of the programme “Sustainable agricultural practices adapted to climate change in the province of Guantánamo, Cuba,” which was implemented in 2016 by local entities with the support of the international humanitarian organisation Oxfam and with aid from Belgium.

In addition to a self-assessment guide, the instrument included in the book “Resilience to drought based on agroecology” includes a perception survey of the phenomenon, possible solutions and a set of local agroecological capacities and services to which farmers can turn to in the face of drought.

The study, which covered the municipalities of Niceto Pérez and Manuel Tames in Guantánamo, establishes 10 features that farms must achieve to be resistant, proposes 64 agroecological practices for farm management and design, and listed more than 50 entities with innovations, services, or funds to be used.

Geologist Yusmira Savón, who also participated in the project, described the tool as “very flexible to achieve collective drought resilience, with a high level of organisation, agroecological bases and the use of local capacities.”

“Droughts are lasting longer and longer, and the duration of rainy and dry seasons is changing,” she told IPS. “It would be very interesting for the country to work harder on the concept of resilience, which allows for the elimination of deficiencies in a proactive way, that is, before disasters happen,” she said.

 A view of a sugar cane plantation after it was destroyed by a fire caused by high temperatures in the municipality of Palma Soriano, in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS


A view of a sugar cane plantation after it was destroyed by a fire caused by high temperatures in the municipality of Palma Soriano, in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Cuban authorities and scientific institutions are calling for more research and projects to prevent and adapt to drought.

“Living in a semi-arid zone greatly limits development, but it gives Guantánamo a potential that other provinces don’t have,” Ángel Almarales, director of the state-run Centre of Technology for Sustainable Development (Catedes), based in the provincial capital, 929 km east of Havana, told IPS by phone.

This province of 6,167 square km hosts a contrasting geography: in the north the climate is rainy and tropical, to the point that the municipality of Baracoa has the highest level of rainfall in Cuba; in the centre, the landscape is a tropical savannah; while the southern coastal strip is the only large semi-arid part of this Caribbean island nation.

Catedes is a scientific institution focused on finding development solutions for semi-desert area, which means it has know-how that is now needed by other Cuban regions.

Its formula, perfected over more than 10 years, includes the use of renewable energies in the fight against desertification and drought.

“Our big problem (as a province) is that we still don’t know how to manage water,” Almarales said of the key goal to be reached by the department of 511,093 people in its search for resilience to drought and improving quality of life.

Caimanera, a municipality known for adjoining the U.S. Guantánamo Naval Base, is in that semi-arid zone, where economic activities are basically limited to salt production, fishing and public services.
“Production of salt continues to be the main source of employment,” said Pedro Pupo, municipal director of labour and social security, during a June visit by international media to Caimanera, where the largest salt industry is located, which supplies just over 60 percent of national consumption.

Pupo cited as an example that in the municipal district of Hatibonico, “which is the most aridt area, mainly produces charcoal, because of the climatic conditions.” Also some opportunities were created in the local production of construction materials, he added in dialogue with IPS.

However, with the urban agriculture programme that promotes agroecological techniques in urban areas, and production adapted to the aridity of the climate and soil salinity, the local government reports that Caimanera produces 70 percent of the food it consumes.

With a rainy season that usually runs from May to November, Cuba has been implementing the National Water Policy since 2012, a programme that depends on rainfall and which uses 60 percent of the water for agriculture, 20 percent for human consumption, five percent for industrial use and the rest for other economic activities.

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Migrants as Messengers Explain the Dangers of Irregular Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/migrants-as-messengers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-as-messengers http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/migrants-as-messengers/#respond Fri, 07 Sep 2018 10:00:39 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157488 Migrants as Messengers is a peer-to-peer messaging campaign by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) where returning migrants share with their communities and families the dangers, trauma and abuse that many experienced while attempting irregular migration. The stories are candid and emotional testimonials about the difficulties they faced. Here is the discussion around irregular migration with Senegalese […]

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Migrants as Messengers is a peer-to-peer messaging campaign where returning migrants share with their communities and families the dangers, trauma and abuse that many experienced while attempting irregular migration. The stories are candid and emotional testimonials about the difficulties they faced. Here are the discussion around irregular migration with hip-hop singer Matar Khoudia Ndiaye–aka Big Makhou Djolof and Ramatoulaye Diene, a legal migration activist and radio personality.

By IPS World Desk
DAKAR, Sep 7 2018 (IPS)

Migrants as Messengers is a peer-to-peer messaging campaign by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) where returning migrants share with their communities and families the dangers, trauma and abuse that many experienced while attempting irregular migration.

The stories are candid and emotional testimonials about the difficulties they faced.

Here is the discussion around irregular migration with Senegalese hip-hop singer Matar Khoudia Ndiaye–aka Big Makhou Djolof and Ramatoulaye Diene, a legal migration activist and radio personality.

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Maya Farmers in South Belize Hold Strong to Their Climate Change Experimenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/maya-farmers-central-belize-hold-strong-climate-change-experiment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=maya-farmers-central-belize-hold-strong-climate-change-experiment http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/maya-farmers-central-belize-hold-strong-climate-change-experiment/#respond Wed, 05 Sep 2018 14:14:45 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157466 This is an op-ed contributed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).

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In one of Belize’s forest reserves in the Maya Golden Landscape, a group of farmers is working with non-governmental organisations to mitigate and build resilience to climate change with a unique agroforestry project.

Magnus Tut a member of the Trio Cacao Farmers Association cuts open a white cacao pod from one of several bearing treen in his plot. The group is hoping to find more buyers for their organic white cacao and vegetables. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
BELMOPAN, Sep 5 2018 (IPS)

In one of Belize’s forest reserves in the Maya Golden Landscape, a group of farmers is working with non-governmental organisations to mitigate and build resilience to climate change with a unique agroforestry project.

The Ya’axché Conservation Trust helps farmers to establish traditional tree crops, like the cacao, that would provide them with long-term income opportunities through restoring the forest, protecting the natural environment, while building their livelihoods and opportunities. Experts say the farmers are building resilience to climate change in the eight rural communities they represent.

The agroforestry concession is situated in the Maya Mountain Reserve and is one of two agroforestry projects undertaken by the 5Cs, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), in its efforts to implement adaptation and mitigation strategies in communities across the Caribbean.

Close to 6,000 people both directly and indirectly benefit from the project which Dr. Ulric Trotz, science advisor and deputy executive director of the 5Cs, noted was established with funding from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UK DFID).

“It is easily one of our most successful and during my most recent visit this year, I’ve seen enough to believe that the concept can be successfully transferred to any community in Belize as well as to other parts of the Caribbean,” he told IPS.

The Trio Cacao Farmers Association and the Ya’axché Conservation Trust have been working together since 2015 to acquire and establish an agroforestry concession on 379 hectares of disturbed forest. The agroforestry project was given a much-need boost with USD250,000 in funding through the 5Cs.

According to Christina Garcia, Ya’axché’s executive director, the project provides extension services. It also provides training and public awareness to prepare the farmers on how to reduce deforestation, prevent degradation of their water supplies and reduce the occurrence of wildfires in the beneficiary communities and the concession area.

Since the start, more than 50,000 cacao trees have been planted on 67 hectares and many are already producing the white cacao, a traditional crop in this area. To supplement the farmers’ incomes approximately 41 hectares of ‘cash’ crops, including bananas, plantains, vegetable, corn and peppers, were also established along with grow-houses and composting heaps that would support the crops.

This unique project is on track to become one of the exemplary demonstrations of ecosystems-based adaptation in the region.

The 35 farming families here are native Maya. They live and work in an area that is part of what has been dubbed the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, which connects the forests of the Maya Mountains to that of the coastal lowlands and is managed by Ya’axché.

Farmers here believe they are reclaiming their traditional ways of life on the four hectares which they each have been allocated. Many say they’ve improved their incomes while restoring the disturbed forests, and are doing this through using techniques that are protecting and preserving the remaining forests, the wildlife and water.

On tour of the Ya’axché Agroforestry Concession in the Maya Golden Landscape. From right: Dr Ulric Trotz, deputy executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC); Dr Mark Bynoe, head of project development at the 5Cs; Isabel Rash, chair of the Trios Cacao Farmers Association; Magnus Tut, farmer and ranger and behind him Christina Garcia, executive director Ya’axché Conservation Trust. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

Other members of the communities, including school-age teenagers, were given the opportunity to start their own businesses through the provision of training and hives to start bee-keeping projects. Many of the women now involved in bee-keeping were given one box when they started their businesses.

The men and women who work the concession do not use chemicals and can, therefore, market their crops as chemical free, or organic products. They, however, say they need additional help to seek and establish those lucrative markets. In addition to the no-chemicals rule, the plots are cultivated by hand, using traditional tools. But farmer Magnus Tut said that this is used in conjunction with new techniques, adding that it has improved native farming methods.

“We are going back to the old ways, which my father told me about before chemicals were introduced to make things grow faster. The hardest part is maintaining the plot. It is challenging and hard work but it is good work, and there are health benefits,” Tut told IPS.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) supports the farmers’ beliefs, reporting that up to 11 percent of greenhouse gases are caused by deforestation and “between 24 and 30 percent of total mitigation potential” can be provided by halting and reversing deforestation in the tropics.

“The hardest part of the work is getting some people to understand how/what they do impacts the climate, but each has their own story and they are experiencing the changes which make it easier for them to make the transition,” said Julio Chun, a farmer and the community liaison for the concession. He told IPS that in the past, the farmers frequently used fires to clear the land.

Chun explained that farmers are already seeing the return of wildlife, such as the jaguar, and are excited by the possibilities.

“We would like to develop eco-tourism and the value-added products that can support the industry. Some visitors are already coming for the organic products and the honey,” he said.

Ya’axché co-manages the Bladen Nature Reserve and the Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve, a combined 311,607 hectares of public and privately owned forest. Its name, pronounced yash-cheh, is the Mopan Maya word for the Kapoc or Ceiba tree (scientific name: Ceiba pentandra), which is sacred to the Maya peoples.

Of the project’s future, Garcia said: “My wish is to see the project address the economic needs of the farmers, to get them to recognise the value of what they are doing in the concession and that the decision-makers can use the model as an example to make decisions on how forest reserves can be made available to communities across Belize and the region to balance nature and livelihoods.”

Scientists believe that well-managed ecosystems can help countries adapt to both current climate hazards and future climate change through the provision of ecosystem services, so the 5Cs has implemented a similar project in Saint Lucia under a 42-month project funded by the European Union Global Climate Change Alliance (EU-GCCA+) to promote sustainable farming practices.

The cacao-based agroforestry project in Saint Lucia uses a mix-plantation model where farmers are allowed to continue using chemicals, but were taught to protect the environment. Like the Ya’axché project, Saint Lucia’s was designed to improve environmental conditions in the beneficiary areas; enhance livelihoods and build the community’s resilience to climate change.

In the next chapter, the Ya’axché farmers project is hoping that, among other things, a good samaritan will help them to add facilities for value-added products; acquire eco-friendly all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) to move produce to access points; and replace a wooden bridge that leads to the main access road.

Tut and Chun both support the views of the group’s chair Isabel Rash, that farmers are already living through climate change, but that the hard work in manually “clearing and maintaining their plots and in chemical-free food production, saves them money”, supports a healthy working and living environment and should protect them against the impacts of climate change.

The post Maya Farmers in South Belize Hold Strong to Their Climate Change Experiment appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This is an op-ed contributed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).

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Equality and Territory: the Common Struggle of Indigenous Women in the Andeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/equality-territory-common-struggle-indigenous-women-andes/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 18:57:59 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157456 This article is published ahead of the International Day of Indigenous Women, celebrated September 5, which marks the execution of indigenous guerrilla leader Bartolina Sisa.

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The post Equality and Territory: the Common Struggle of Indigenous Women in the Andes appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is published ahead of the International Day of Indigenous Women, celebrated September 5, which marks the execution of indigenous guerrilla leader Bartolina Sisa.

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Revisiting privatization’s claimshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/revisiting-privatizations-claims/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=revisiting-privatizations-claims http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/revisiting-privatizations-claims/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 15:31:09 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157453 Advocates made exaggerated claims that privatization would reduce governments’ fiscal problems while ensuring more efficient, productive and competitive economies by promoting private entrepreneurship, innovation and investments.

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Scene from Djibouti Port. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Sep 4 2018 (IPS)

Several arguments have been advanced to justify privatization since the 1980s. Privatization has been advocated as an easy means to:
1. Reduce the government’s financial and administrative burden, particularly by undertaking and maintaining services and infrastructure;
2. Promote competition, improve efficiency and increase productivity in providing public services;
3. Stimulate private entrepreneurship and investment to accelerate economic growth;
4. Help reduce the public sector’s presence and size, with its monopolistic tendencies and bureaucratic support.

Moot case for privatization
First, privatization is supposed to reduce the government’s financial and administrative burdens, particularly in providing services and infrastructure. Earlier public sector expansion was increasingly seen as the problem, rather than part of the solution. Thus, reducing the government’s role and burden was expected to be popular.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Second, privatization was believed by some to be a means to promote competition, improve efficiency and increase productivity in service delivery. This belief was naïve, confusing the question of ownership with that of promoting competition.

It was believed that privatization would somehow encourage competition, not recognizing that competition and property rights are distinct, and not contingent issues. Associated with this was the presumption that competition would automatically result in greater efficiency as well as improved productivity, not recognizing economies of scale and scope in many instances.

Third, privatization was expected to stimulate private entrepreneurship and investment. There is also a popular, but naïve belief that privatization was going to stimulate private entrepreneurship when, in fact, the evidence is strong, in Malaysia and elsewhere, that privatization often crowds out the likelihood of small and medium-sized enterprises actually emerging to fill the imagined void, presumed to exist following privatization.

Admittedly, there is scope for new entrepreneurship with privatization as new ways and ideas offered by the private sector are considered – or reconsidered – as the new privatized entity seeks to maximize the profits/rents to be secured with privatization.

However, the private purchase of previously public property, in itself, does not augment real economic assets. Private funds are thus diverted, to take over SOEs, and consequently diminished, rather than augmented. Hence, private funds are less available for investing in the real economy, in building new economic capacities and capabilities.

Fourth, privatization was supposed to reduce public sector monopolies, but there is often little evidence of significant erosion of the monopolies enjoyed by privatized SOEs. Arguably, technological change and innovation, e.g., in telecommunications, were far more significant in eroding privatized monopolies and reducing costs to consumers, than privatization per se.

From the 1980s, if not before, various studies have portrayed the public sector as a cesspool of abuse, inefficiency, incompetence and corruption. Books and articles, often with clever titles such as ‘vampire state’, ‘bureaucrats in business’ and so on, provided the justification for privatization.

Undoubtedly, there were some real horror stories, which have been conveniently and frequently cited as supposedly representative of all SOEs. But other experiences can also be cited to show that SOEs can be run quite efficiently, even on commercial bases, confounding the dire predictions of the prophets of public sector doom.

Has privatization improved efficiency?
Although some SOEs have been better run and are deemed more efficient after privatization, the overall record has hardly been consistent. Thus, it is important to ascertain when and why there have been improvements, or otherwise. It is also important to remember that better-run privatized SOEs, in and of themselves, do not necessarily serve the national or public interest better.

Undoubtedly, most SOEs can be better run and become more efficient. But this is not always the case as some SOEs are indeed already well run. For instance, very few privatization advocates would insist that most SOEs in Singapore are poorly run.

As its SOEs are generally considered well-run, public ownership is not used there to explain poor governance, management or abuse; instead, public ownership is recognized there as the reason for public accountability, better governance and management.

Principal-agent managerial delegation dilemma
Hence, in different contexts, with appropriately strict supervision, SOEs can be and have indeed been better run. Privatization, in itself, does not solve managerial delegation problems, i.e., the principal-agent problem, as it is not a problem of public ownership per se.

With SOEs, the principal is the state or the government while the agents are the managers and supervisors, who may — or may not — pursue the objectives intended by the principal.

This is a problem faced by many organizations. It is also a problem for private enterprises or corporations, especially large ones, especially where the principal (shareholders) may not be able to exercise effective supervision or control over the agent.

Also, natural monopolies (such as public utilities) are often deemed inefficient due to the monopolistic nature of the industry or market. The question which arises then is whether private monopoly is better, even with regulation intended to protect the public interest.

The answer needs to be ascertained analytically on the basis of evidence, and cannot be presumed a priori. If an industry is a natural monopoly, what does privatization achieve? Often, it means a transfer to private hands, which can be problematic and possibly dangerous for the public interest.

The post Revisiting privatization’s claims appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Advocates made exaggerated claims that privatization would reduce governments’ fiscal problems while ensuring more efficient, productive and competitive economies by promoting private entrepreneurship, innovation and investments.

The post Revisiting privatization’s claims appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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New Rules for High Seas Must Include Needs of Poorest Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/new-rules-high-seas-must-include-needs-poorest-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-rules-high-seas-must-include-needs-poorest-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/new-rules-high-seas-must-include-needs-poorest-nations/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 12:52:23 +0000 Essam Yassin Mohammed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157450 Essam Yassin Mohammed is Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

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Essam Yassin Mohammed is Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

By Essam Yassin Mohammed
LONDON, Sep 4 2018 (IPS)

Over-fishing, warming oceans and plastic pollution dominate the headlines when it comes to the state of the seas. Most of the efforts to protect the life of the ocean and the livelihoods of those who depend on it are limited to exclusive economic zones – the band of water up to 200 nautical miles from the coast.

Fishermen offloading tunas at the industrial fish port of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Credit: FAO/Sia Kambou

But to be truly effective, all of the ocean needs to be protected. The high-seas that lie beyond national jurisdictions ― two-thirds of the ocean’s surface ― remain largely ungoverned.

The world has a new opportunity this week to move a step closer to addressing these issues as UN members start negotiating an international legally binding treaty to protect the high seas. (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, 4-17 September). The first of four rounds of negotiations that will continue until 2020.

Despite the common perception that the high seas are too remote to matter to coastal communities, strong scientific evidence shows the ocean is a highly interconnected ecosystem. For example, a number of fish species use the high seas at different stages of their lifecycle for feeding and spawning, which is why protecting it is critically important to coastal communities’ livelihoods and economies.

For these negotiations to be effective and fair, it is crucial the people living in coastal communities in the least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS) are listened to and have an active role in protecting and sustainably managing the ocean. They are among those most affected by the impacts of how the ocean is used and protected, from fishing to conservation measures.

Any measure to govern these waters must make sure that any activity in these waters benefits everyone ― particularly the poorest countries.

The ocean as a whole is recognised by international law as a common heritage of mankind ― it belongs to everyone, now and forever. But most developing countries do not have the financial or technological means to share the benefits it provides.

To make sure they have equal access, it is crucial this treaty establishes a mechanism that enables them to share its benefits. Monetary benefits can be best shared by establishing a trust fund.

This, as is the case with such governing bodies as the International Seabed Authority, would enable coastal communities to build their capacities and become involved in monitoring the environmental health of the seas.

And they would be able to participate proactively in research and development, and sustainably use the high seas as a source for medicines, science and other genetic resources.

It could be financed from a percentage of the profits that wealthier countries make through economic activities on the high seas whether from extraction of marine genetic resources or any other activity.

The equitable distribution of benefits from conservation of the high seas should also be at the core of the negotiations. It is important that any new global agreement recognises that when protected areas are designated they consider how they will affect coastal communities across the global south.

These areas linking territorial waters to the high seas are critical both for protecting marine species and helping to restore coastal fisheries, which are vital to sustaining the livelihoods of people in poor coastal communities.

One of the biggest threats to marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is overfishing. Studies show that fishing in the high seas is unprofitable and are only economically viable because governments subsidies large fishing fleets. It is important that in this first round of talks, governments agree clear steps to end all harmful subsidies.

Instead, these subsidies should be directed towards activities that deliver positive social and environmental results. By providing support for monitoring and surveillance of marine protected areas, giving incentives to fishers for not using damaging fishing practices, and enhancing access to markets and services including by providing support for storage facilities, poor coastal communities and fishers will be able to benefit from ocean-friendly investment.

We cannot afford to keep the status quo. These negotiations are an opportunity to establish a new legally binding treaty that is fair and equitable for everyone. This is about sustainably sharing 50 per cent of the planet with 100 per cent of the world’s population.

It is crucial the needs of the poor are heard at every stage of this process to make sure they are not left behind in the drive to govern the life of the oceans.

The post New Rules for High Seas Must Include Needs of Poorest Nations appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Essam Yassin Mohammed is Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

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The Plight of Women & Young People in the Rohingya Refugee Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/plight-women-young-people-rohingya-refugee-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=plight-women-young-people-rohingya-refugee-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/plight-women-young-people-rohingya-refugee-crisis/#respond Fri, 31 Aug 2018 12:37:46 +0000 Asa Torkelsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157424 Asa Torkelsson is the representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bangladesh

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Young Rohingya girls are given life skills education in the camps of Cox's Bazar through modules adapted by UNFPA for the refugee camps. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

Young Rohingya girls are given life skills education in the camps of Cox's Bazar through modules adapted by UNFPA for the refugee camps. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

By Asa Torkelsson
DHAKA, Aug 31 2018 (IPS)

August 25, 2018 marked one year since violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, triggering the massive Rohingya exodus to neighbouring Bangladesh. As the crisis continues with no immediate end in sight, it is crucial to expand and sustain health and life skills services for Rohingya women, girls and youth to locate opportunities amid challenges.

As humanitarian actors strategise a long-term response to this protracted crisis, there must be a strong emphasis on the interactions between the obvious pillars of aid – food, water, health, sanitation, shelter and protection – and the special needs of women, girls and young persons, including safer pregnancy and childbirth; the prevention of, and response to, gender-based violence; and education and life skills for children and youth who will, in all probability, become adults in the camps of Cox’s Bazar.

A year ago, renewed violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State ripped 14-year-old *Fathema’s family apart. Her father and brothers were killed, her widowed mother became the head of a household on the run, escaping with Fathema and her other daughters to the crowded Rohingya refugee camps in neighbouring Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Given the atrocities experienced by so many thousands of Rohingya women and girls, the immediate humanitarian response focused on providing urgent medical attention and health supplies, along with psychosocial counselling for traumatized survivors, including those who became pregnant through rape.

Much of this help came through Women Friendly Spaces in Cox’s Bazar – the “shanti khana” or “homes of peace” – which have long provided a safe space for women and girls to avail of essential services, or simply to bond with others, as they seek to heal. The help and information provided there have also inspired many Rohingya women to become community volunteers themselves.

40-year-old Zarina* recalls, “In Myanmar, I didn’t know child marriage was bad.  Here, through the caseworkers at the Women Friendly Space, I’ve learnt about it and other issues like domestic violence.  My eyes are now open, my brain is working. I realise that child marriage is bad for health, it robs a girl of her youth and her life.  I want to end child marriage.”

Zarina and other community volunteers are also seeking to improve a key health indicator.  Currently, only about one in five pregnant women in the refugee camps will give birth in a proper health facility, despite the availability of dozens of trained midwives and other personnel.

Sometimes they are prevented by their husbands – or, in the case of women who have been raped, they fear stigma and discrimination from the wider community.

“Giving birth is like a war, it can be so challenging,” said 35-year-old Nasreen*, another community volunteer. “Every month I help four to five women to the facility here for deliveries. If girls or women don’t willingly want to go to the delivery services, I convince them to access health points and ensure safer pregnancy and childbirth.”

Back in Myanmar, Fathema would probably have been married by now, and, at 14, may already have become a mother. But, just as Zarina and other women were provided with key information about life and love, a new youth-focused initiative at these Women Friendly Spaces is transforming them into learning centres for Fathema, her sisters and other young persons, teaching them about the spectrum of gender equality and rights through the prism of sexual and reproductive health and well-being.

The module – adapted from the global Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS) prototype – underscores how crucial it is to impart life skills education as early as possible, to better equip young persons to navigate the often difficult choices faced during the transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, including issues such as gender equality, pubertal changes and hygiene, relationships and conflict management.

For young girls in particular, long constrained by the complexities of patriarchy and sexism, the sessions can be liberating, showing them how they should be in charge of making decisions about their own lives – including if and when to marry and to whom, whether to have children and how many, and how to better address and protect themselves from gender-based violence and child marriage.

 

UNFPA Bangladesh Representative Asa Torkelsson surveys monsoon preparedness in the Rohingya refugee camps of Cox's Bazar. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

UNFPA Bangladesh Representative Asa Torkelsson surveys monsoon preparedness in the Rohingya refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar. (Image: UNFPA Bangladesh/Allison Joyce)

 

These concepts can be overwhelming for any young person, and all the more so for those raised in particularly conservative environments. But by bringing such issues to the forefront in a gentle, non-threatening way, multiple points of view can be discussed and debated openly and safely.

Fathema learnt so much from the sessions at the Women Friendly Space, she’s become a volunteer herself. “The first people I talk to are my parents,” she said. “And then I talk to other young people in my area. I knew nothing about the changes that happen to girls. Now I know how to cope, and I can help other girls as well.”

Putting all these lessons into practice will not be easy for Fathema and her peers, just as it hasn’t been for Zarina and older refugee women, but introducing them to these ideas is an important first step towards moving from disempowerment to empowerment, even in this challenging context.

As humanitarian actors strategise a long-term response to this protracted crisis, there must be a strong emphasis on the interactions between the obvious pillars of aid – food, water, health, sanitation, shelter and protection – and the special needs of women, girls and young persons, including safer pregnancy and childbirth; the prevention of, and response to, gender-based violence; and education and life skills for children and youth who will, in all probability, become adults in the camps of Cox’s Bazar.

“Initially I faced violence from my husband because I had four daughters which he wasn’t happy about,” Zarina said. “But I now teach my husband and others about gender equality.”

*Not their real names

The post The Plight of Women & Young People in the Rohingya Refugee Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Asa Torkelsson is the representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bangladesh

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Land, Water and Education, Priorities for Chile’s Mapuche Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people/#respond Thu, 30 Aug 2018 23:16:26 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157417 The right to land and water, as well as to multicultural education, are the top priority demands of Mapuche leaders working with their communities in the Araucanía region and in Santiago, Chile’s capital. “We, the entire Cheuquepán Colipe family, are originally from communities in Lautaro (649 km south of Santiago). We’re here today because our […]

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Amid Chronic Violence, Millions of Afghans Face Risks of Drought Related Displacementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/amid-chronic-violence-millions-afghans-face-risks-drought-related-displacement/#respond Thu, 30 Aug 2018 16:07:12 +0000 Enayatullah Azad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157410 Enayatullah Azad is Media, Information & Advocacy Coordinator, Norwegian Refugee Council

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Drought-affected IDP children from Badghis in front of their makeshift shelter in Kahdestan area or Injil district. Credit: NRC/Enayatullah Azad.

By Enayatullah Azad
HERAT, Afghanistan, Aug 30 2018 (IPS)

Amid a precarious security situation in Afghanistan, the worst drought in recent history, that hit two out of three provinces in Afghanistan in July, has destabilized the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, some of whom have already been displaced.

The United Nations has predicted that over two million people are expected to become severely food insecure in the coming period.

The West Region of conflict-stricken Afghanistan has been hardest hit by the drought, and over 60,000 people have been displaced to Herat and Badghis provinces, as a result.

Families that fled to Herat are living in dire conditions in makeshift shelters, where they are exposed to the scorching sun and summer temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius. Many families are subsisting on a single meal a day. Many get by on just bread and water.

Herat has become the closest refuge for about 60,000 people, who have been displaced from their homes due to the drought. Conflict has also prompted many to flee their homes to the relative safety of province.

Over 1700 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the first half of 2018, according to UNAMA. It is the highest recorded number, compared to the same periods for the past decade. The combination of drought and conflict has made tens of thousands of families destitute. They live with few long term prospects or means of regaining stability.

Among the most vulnerable are women and children. Many of the children show visible signs of malnutrition and illness, including skin diseases and eye infections due to dust and the hot weather.

Ayesha Halima is one of thousands of such children, who fled her home for Herat.  Leaning against the wall of a distribution center, she patiently awaits her next meal, as he mother moves through the growing crowd to get their rationed supplies.

 

Halima at the NRC’s cash for food distribution center in Herat.
Credit: NRC/Enayatullah Azad

 

The lack of sufficient nutrition is visible in the pallid faces of children like Soraya Hawa Gul and FatimaPari Gul, who have become neighbors in Herat. They bake bread together in a clay oven in the open air. The mothers make about ten loaves of bread a day, which they wash down with boiled water or tea.

“We cook together because we share a bag of flour,” said Hawa Gul. “Neither of us could afford a bag of flour alone. We have spent all the money we had and have taken many loans from relatives.”

Given such meagre resources, the unconditional cash grants from ECHO and NRC have become life lines for tens of thousands of the impoverished households. Despite the rapidly deployed assistance, drinking water, food and medical supplies are falling short.

Over 1700 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during the first half of 2018, according to UNAMA. It is the highest recorded number, compared to the same periods for the past decade. The combination of drought and conflict has made tens of thousands of families destitute. They live with few long term prospects or means of regaining stability.

The blazing temperatures are testing the endurance of those who are in the IDP settlements. Many people are suffering from dehydration, with children and older IDPs particularly susceptible. With few water resources around, drinking water is a prized commodity in the settlements.

“We can’t get enough water to drink or to clean ourselves and our clothes,” displaced Afghans in Herat told staff of the Norwegian Refugee Council.  “There hasn’t been any change to our life situation. We fled our homes because there was no water and it is the same here. At least we a had shelter back home in Badghis.”

With illnesses such as diarrhea, skin diseases and eye infections on the rise, many children are in need of comprehensive medical care. One-year-old Ahmad Mohammed has diarrhea, and a skin and eye infection. He lives in a makeshift shelter with his family after they were forced to leave their home in Badghis city/region/province. “It’s been 70 nights since we arrived. My children and my wife are all sick, and I don’t have the money to buy them enough food or medicine,” Mohammed’s father Ziauddin told NRC.

Shelter is another pressing issue, with families residing in makeshift shelters for the time being. While protection from the scorching sun and the high summer temperatures are the present concern, staying warm and winterisation of homes will become a need, if they remain displaced into the winter months.

But, despite the challenges, women like 57 year old Khanim Gul, who have been displaced several times, show remarkable resilience. Gul was forced to leave her family behind in Badghis. “This isn’t the first year we are suffering from drought. Last year we had almost nothing on the table. This is the fifth tent that I am setting up – the heavy wind keeps tearing it apart,” she said.

Amid the struggles of daily survival, protection has been scant, with women and girls facing heightened risks of harassment and gender-based violence. In the absence of regular schooling and safe spaces where they can grow, learn and play, children are more prone to child labour and child marriage.

Amid scarce resources and lack of livelihood opportunities, including daily labour, many of the displaced men in Herat, try to travel to Iran in search of work.

With regular wages a far fetched notion for most of the displaced populations, Karim is counting his blessings these days. With loans from family members, he has set up a vegetable stall and sell onions and potatoes to the rest of the displaced community near his tent in Herat.

 

Karim selling onions and potatoes near his tent in Kahdestan. Credit: : NRC/Enayatullah Azad.

 

For thousands of families displaced from Herat the few items they carried on their backs are the only remnants of their homes. For many, this is not the first instance of leaving their homes and belongings because of drought.

While news of peace talks and bombings in Afghanistan make the headlines, the IDP communities suffering chronic, long term displacement feel “forgotten” by their government and the international community. They are in desperate need of long term assistance.

The post Amid Chronic Violence, Millions of Afghans Face Risks of Drought Related Displacement appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Enayatullah Azad is Media, Information & Advocacy Coordinator, Norwegian Refugee Council

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