Inter Press Service » Green Economy http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 26 Jul 2016 13:28:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 San Juan City: The Smart City of the Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/san-juan-city-the-smart-city-of-the-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=san-juan-city-the-smart-city-of-the-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/san-juan-city-the-smart-city-of-the-future/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 17:47:11 +0000 Felino Palafox http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146173 By Felino A. Palafox, JR.
Jul 21 2016 (Manila Times)

The Philippines has so much to offer to the world, not only ecological treasures by way of tourism, but brilliant minds, visionaries, and craftsmen. Other nations find the uniqueness and diversity of our ecology unimaginable—such as having the third-longest coastline in the world as well as endemic species of plants and animals. Another unimaginable phenomenon, our economy remains strong despite the fact we are crossed by an average of 21 typhoons a year and is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire—prone to eruption of active volcanoes, and earthquakes.

FELINO A. PALAFOX, JR.

FELINO A. PALAFOX, JR.

Despite all this, and insurmountable corruption through the years, the world is proudly calling us as one of the emerging tiger economies in the world. Not many people know, today, we are the 39th largest economy in the world. And I believe if we address corruption, criminality, climate change, and other national issues, we can become part of the top 20 economies in the world by March 16, 2021, when the Philippines celebrates its 500 years.

Smart cities
Two concepts are used interchangeably: Green Cities and Smart Cities. There are only slight differences between the concepts. Green Cities refer more to the passive integration of architecture and urban plan to the overall ecosystem. This concept is concerned in keeping carbon emissions sustainable, and manageable enough for the livability of the city. Smart Cities, on the other hand, are more focused in pro-active actions in becoming a green city—integrating technology, innovation, and citizenship in making the entire ecosystem and city livable. Though slightly different, both concepts are actions toward a more livable and sustainable quality of life.

In 2013, a project titled “Reshaping San Juan City: Planning Toward a Future of Green Consciousness” was awarded in Berlin, Germany. The event called “Smart City: The Next Generation” was organized by Aedes East-International Architecture Forum.

The formulation of the “Comprehensive Land Use and Zoning Plan for San Juan City,” done by our firm Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture, was applauded by the international community as a model city plan. San Juan City was called the “Smart City of the Future.” I was invited to present in a forum in Berlin, New York, and Shanghai the plans for San Juan and “Postcards From the Future.”

San Juan: Smart City
At the peak or at the highest point of Barangay Addition Hills, one can enjoy the scenery of a beautiful sunset. A kilometer down the hill lays access to one of Manila’s main river systems: San Juan River. Going to Ortigas Ave., one will pass by a barangay fondly named “Little Baguio,” used to be known for its towering pine trees and cool temperature. Apart from the special ecological terrain of San Juan City, Pinaglabanan Shrine heritage site known as the site for the start of the Filipino-American war.

There are five emphases in the plan for San Juan: land use, zoning, mobility, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster responsiveness. San Juan has a hilly terrain that is situated along one of the major river systems of Manila, citizens who work and live in San Juan always experience floods. During the wrath of Typhoon Ondoy, in 2009, many portions of the city were submerged.

The mobility plan focuses on being mass-transit-engaged and pedestrian-oriented. It gives priority to walking, biking, and commuting over private cars and vehicles. One of the major causes of systemic traffic congestion is prioritizing cars over public transit, walking and biking. The plan dedicates bike lanes and elevated walkways that connect the buildings and streets to the LRT stations. An elevated monorail was also proposed to connect various areas of San Juan with the LRT stations in Aurora and EDSA-MRT.

By creating elevated walkways for pedestrians, it prepared the entire city during flooding. Instead of people bracing the floods going to work, school, or home, the elevated walkways allow people to move in safety. It also puts people out of harm’s way because they do need to walk beside speeding cars or very narrow streets.

On the other hand, the plan also integrated a flood detection and awareness system. The citizens were asked to be involved in identifying areas that always get flooded, and electric posts were painted with flood-height measurements. Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture created flood overlay zones and Hazard overlay zones for the city of San Juan when it was still not a national requirement for the Comprehensive Land Use Plans and Zoning Ordinance. (Thankfully, it is now a requirement.)

Another recommendation is to bring down of high walls. The concept is known as “Eyes on the street” and “Security by Design.” Lessons I’ve learned elsewhere say that criminals are not afraid of walls and high gates because people wouldn’t know a crime is happening inside the house. Compared to a street where everyone has a view, criminals are more afraid with more eyes on the street. They should also be coupled with the installation of CCTV cameras and integrated police patrol.

One of the recommendations for the zoning ordinance is the transfer of air rights. Lot owners can sell the air right of the property if they do not plan to construct a much taller structure.

Future city plan for implementation
The plan is feasible and viable. It helps that the international community is keeping an eye on San Juan City’s transformation based on our plan. Often, plans for the future are not implemented due to bureaucratic red tape.

In my observation of thousands of cities and 67countries I’ve been to, what we need are: visionary leadership, strong political will, good design, good planning, and good governance. With the vision, mission, values, and goals of San Juan translated in a plan, the city has a bright future.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Economic Recovery Needed To Enhance Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/economic-recovery-needed-to-enhance-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-recovery-needed-to-enhance-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/economic-recovery-needed-to-enhance-food-security/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 12:40:15 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146164 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jul 21 2016 (IPS)

After a half century of decline, agricultural commodity prices rose with oil prices in the 1970s, and again for a decade until 2014. Food prices rose sharply from the middle of the last decade, but have been declining since 2012, and especially since last year, triggering concerns of declining investments by farmers.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Earlier predictions of permanently high food prices have thus become less credible. Higher prices were said to reflect slowing supply growth as demand continues to grow with rising food needs for humans and livestock, and bio-fuel mandates introduced a decade ago on both sides of the North Atlantic.

Prices had become increasingly volatile, with successively higher peaks in 2007-08, 2010-11 and mid-2012. Some food price volatility had its origins in climate change-related extreme weather events in key exporting countries.

‘Financialization’, including linking commodity derivatives with other financial asset markets, also worsened price volatility in the second half of the last decade.

With three food price spikes over five years, food insecurity was widely seen as a major challenge. Higher and more volatile food prices seemed to threaten the lives of billions. But the FAO food price index peaked in 2012, years after the 2007-2008 food price spike triggered many mass protests.

Official development assistance for agriculture has fallen for decades despite the expressed desire by many developing countries to raise such investments. Meanwhile, rich countries have continued to subsidize and protect their farmers, undermining food production in developing countries, and transforming Africa from a net food exporter in the 1980s into a net food importer in the new century.

Food investments for economic recovery

Meanwhile, economic recovery efforts are needed more than ever in the face of protracted economic stagnation. A global counter-cyclical recovery strategy in response to the crisis should contain three main elements.

First, stimulus packages in both developed and developing countries to catalyze and ‘green’ national economies. Second, international policy coordination to ensure that developed countries’ stimulus packages not only ensure recovery in the Northbut also have strong developmental impacts on developing countries, through collaborative initiatives between governments of rich and poor countries. Third, greater financial support to developing countries for their sustainable development efforts, not only aid but also to more effectively mobilize domestic economic resources.

We need more investments that will help put the world on a more sustainable path such as in renewable energy and ecologically sensitive agriculture. After well over half a decade of economic stagnation, with developing countries slowing down dramatically since late 2014, it is still urgent to prioritize economic recovery measures, but also other needed initiatives. Preferably, recovery strategies should help lay the foundations for sustainable development.

Given the large unmet needs for infrastructure, more appropriate investments can contribute to sustainable growth. Such investments should improve the lot of poor and vulnerable groups and regions. In other words, investments should lead to the revival of growth that is both ecologically sustainable and socially inclusive.

Enhancing food security and agricultural productivity should be an important feature of stimulus packages in developing countries dependent on agriculture. Re-invigorating agricultural research, development and extension is typically key to this effort.

The Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s – with considerable government and international philanthropic support – increased crop yields and food production. However, the efforts for wheat, maize, and rice were not extended to other crops, such as other major indigenous food crops and those associated with arid land agriculture.

We need a renewed effort to promote sustainable food agricultural productivity. Public investments, including social protection, can and must provide the support needed to accelerate needed farmer investments. There are many socially useful public works, but priorities must be appropriate, considering national and local conditions.

For Sustainable Development

Projects could improve water storage and drainage, and contribute to agricultural productivity or climate adaptation. For example, in many developing countries, simple storage dams, wells, and basic flood barriers/levees could be constructed, and existing drainage and canal networks rehabilitated. Public works programs could prioritize basic sanitation or regeneration of wetland ecosystems that serve as “filters” for watercourses – as appropriate.

To be sure, many complementary interventions will be needed. Food security cannot be achieved without better social protection. This will be critical for the protection of billions of people in developing countries directly affected by high underemployment and unemployment, to reduce their vulnerability to poverty and undernutrition.

But sustainable social protection requires major improvements in public finances. While more revenue generation requires greater national incomes, tax collection can also be greatly enhanced through improved international cooperation on tax and other related financial matters.

Clearly, such an agenda requires not only bold new national developmental initiatives but also far better and more equitable international cooperation offered by a strong revival of the inclusive multilateral United Nations system.

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We Ignore Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Livestock Industry at Our Own Perilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/we-ignore-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-the-livestock-industry-at-our-own-peril/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=we-ignore-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-the-livestock-industry-at-our-own-peril http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/we-ignore-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-the-livestock-industry-at-our-own-peril/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 15:16:20 +0000 Risto Isomaki http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146142 Meat, Milk and Climate deals with the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industries.]]>

Risto Isomaki is a science and science-fiction writer whose latest non-fiction book Meat, Milk and Climate deals with the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industries.

By Risto Isomaki
HELSINKI, Jul 19 2016 (IPS)

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, the production of meat and other animal-based products is responsible for around 18 to 20 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Risto Isomäki

Risto Isomäki

If FAO’s assessment is correct, animal waste and the use of nitrogen based fertilizers to grow fodder annually create about 6 million tons of nitrous oxide- 65-70 percent of our total emissions. The impact to global temperatures of this is equivalent to roughly two billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. Besides nitrous oxide, the livestock industry produces more than 100 million tons of methane per year, heating the planet as much as three and a half billion tons of carbon dioxide. This is further exacerbated by the clearing of vast swathes of tropical rainforests for pasture and growing fodder, annually releasing an additional 2.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Our total emissions of carbon dioxide currently amount to slightly more than 35 billion tons, in addition to which we also produce at least 350 million tons of methane and 9 million tons of nitrous oxide.

Many governments, municipalities and private companies have already started to implement programs aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a fraction of their current levels in the coming decades. In 2015, more than 90 percent of new energy investments have shifted to renewables, with fossil fuels and nuclear power struggling to attract the remaining 10 percent.

Similarly, new technological solutions for reducing vehicular emissions as well as industrial production, construction, lighting, and the heating and cooling of buildings are either being developed or already implemented. Even airlines and shipping companies have accepted the challenge. Some sectors have embraced these challenges with more enthusiasm than others, but there seems to be a general consensus that considerable changes are needed to prevent a full-scale environmental catastrophe.

The exception to the general shift toward environmental sustainability appears to be food production. Governments, and intergovernmental organizations like FAO are still discussing ways of increasing the global meat production from 200 million to 470 million tons by 2050.

This is of great concern even if meat, dairy and other animal products really were responsible for only 20 per cent of our combined greenhouse gas emissions. Even then, doubling the industry’s contribution would probably make it impossible to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, as agreed in Paris.

It is possible that the role of the livestock industry has been seriously underestimated. According to current estimates, natural lakes and ponds probably produce about 85 million tons and man-made reservoirs between 20-100 million tons of methane each year. While methane from reservoirs is considered to be a by-product of the energy industry, emissions from natural lakes, ponds and rivers are classified as “natural emissions”.

Research has shown that there are significant variations in the methane levels produced by bodies of freshwater. Heterotrophic lakes whose water and sediments only contain trace amounts of nutrients and organic matter produce very little methane. The smallest measured annual per hectare emissions from such lakes have been as little as 0.78 kilograms. At the other end of the spectrum, seriously eutrophic or nutrient-rich lakes with vast quantities of dead aquatic plants and algae, can release up to 190 tons of methane per hectare per year. In other words: there is a 243,590-fold difference between the largest and the smallest measured per hectare emissions, a spectrum covering almost six full orders of magnitude.

Can we therefore, really assume that the runoff from livestock and fertilizers has nothing to do with these emissions? Most of the methane released into the air from eutrophic lakes and reservoirs cannot really be considered natural emissions, and should not be counted as such. Similarly, much of the nitrous oxide currently defined as natural emissions from oceans or from natural soils should probably be re-classified as livestock-related.

Besides, there are many agricultural practices likely to reduce the amount of organic carbon stored in the trees and soils, as well as tropical deforestation which has historically been the centre of attention. According to studies made in China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Argentina, Brazil, Britain and the USA, vast tracts of pasture that used to be natural grasslands are still losing significant amounts of organic carbon due to overgrazing.

According to one assessment, humans annually burn 4.3 billion tons of biomass, classified as carbon. Of this, wood for fuel and the use of other biofuels account for 1.3 billion tons, whereas the remainder is linked to the livestock industry. This means that we could, at least in theory, reduce our carbon emissions by almost three billion tons by eliminating the biomass burning that is not related to energy production and by using the saved biomass to replace fossil fuels. Current biomass burning practises also produce very large amounts of soot, which has a strong impact on the global rise in temperatures, as well as creating an additional 40-50 million tons of methane and 1.3 million tons of nitrous oxide.

Currently, 3.5 billion hectares of permanent grazing lands and hundreds of millions of hectares of farmlands are being exploited for the cultivation of animal feed used for meat and dairy industries. If we reduced the consumption of animal products and replaced them with alternatives made from soy, wheat, oat or mushroom proteins or by culturing animal stem cells, we could convert huge areas of land to protected forests. These reclaimed forest can in turn absorb vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. Alternatively, we could use the same land for growing biofuels.

This means, today we should be focusing on the environmental degradation caused by the livestock industry, which itself is under pressure from an ever increasing demand for meat and dairy. Much of what has been mentioned deserves urgent and extensive attention and further research worldwide.

It may be impossible to stop global warming without reducing the consumption of meat. However, if we are able to replace a substantial portion of real meat with alternatives, reaching the goals adopted in Paris might actually become much easier than anybody could have ever imagined.

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Germany’s Energy Transition: The Good, the Bad and the Uglyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 12:19:42 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146128 In Germany, wind and solar energy coexist with energy generated by burning fossil fuels. A wind farm next to one of the electric power plants fired by lignite in the Western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In Germany, wind and solar energy coexist with energy generated by burning fossil fuels. A wind farm next to one of the electric power plants fired by lignite in the Western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
COLOGNE, Germany, Jul 19 2016 (IPS)

Immerath, 90 km away from the German city of Cologne, has become a ghost town. The local church bells no longer ring and no children are seen in the streets riding their bicycles. Its former residents have even carried off their dead from its cemetery.

Expansion of Garzweiler, an open-pit lignite mine, has led to the town’s remaining residents being relocated to New Immerath, several kilometres away from the original town site, in North Rhine-Westphalia, whose biggest city is Cologne.

The fate of this small village, which in 2015 was home to 70 people, reflects the advances, retreats and contradictions of the world-renowned transition to renewable energy in Germany.

Since 2011, Germany has implemented a comprehensive energy transition policy, backed by a broad political consensus, seeking to make steps towards a low-carbon economy. This has encouraged the generation and consumption of alternative energy sources.

But so far these policies have not facilitated the release from the country’s industry based on coal and lignite, a highly polluting fossil fuel.

“The initial phases of the energy transition have been successful so far, with strong growth in renewables, broad public support for the idea of the transition and major medium and long term goals for government,” told IPS analyst Sascha Samadi of the non-governmental Wuppertal Institute, devoted to studies on energy transformation.

Renewable electricity generation accounted for 30 percent of the total of Germany’s electrical power in 2015, while lignite fuelled 24 percent, coal 18 percent, nuclear energy 14 percent, gas 8.8 percent and other sources the rest.

This European country is the third world power in renewable energies – excluding hydropower – and holds third place in wind power and biodiesel and fifth place in geothermal power.

Germany is also renowned for having the highest solar power capacity per capita in photovoltaic technology, even though its climate is not the most suitable for that purpose.

But the persistence of fossil fuels casts a shadow on this green energy matrix.

“The successful phasing out of fossil fuels entails a great deal of planning and organisation. If we do not promote renewables, we will have to import energy at some point,” Johannes Remmel, the minister for climate protection and the environment for North Rhine-Westphalia, told IPS.

Germany has nine lignite mines operating in three regions. Combined, the mines employ 16,000 people, produce 170 million tonnes of lignite a year and have combined reserves of three billion tonnes. China, Greece and Poland are other large world producers of lignite.

A part of the Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine, in North Rhine-Westphalia. One of the greatest challenges facing the energy transition in Germany is the future of this polluting fuel. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A part of the Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine, in North Rhine-Westphalia. One of the greatest challenges facing the energy transition in Germany is the future of this polluting fuel. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Garzweiler, which is owned by the private company RWE, produces 35 million tonnes of lignite a year. From a distance it is possible to see its cut-out terraces and blackened soil, waiting for giant steel jaws to devour it and start to separate the lignite.

Lignite from this mine fuels nearby electricity generators at Frimmersdorf, Neurath, Niederaussen and Weisweiller, some of the most polluting power plants in Germany.

RWE is one of the four main power generation companies in Germany, together with E.ON, EnBW and Swedish-based Vattenfall.

Coal has an expiry date

The fate of coal is different. The government has already decided that its demise will be in 2018, when the two mines that are still currently active will cease to operate.

The Rhine watershed, comprising North Rhine-Westphalia together with other states, has traditionally been the hub of Germany’s industry. Mining and its consumers are an aftermath of that world, whose rattling is interspersed with the emergence of a decarbonized economy.

A tour of the mine and the adjoining power plant of  Ibberbüren in North Rhine-Westphalia shows the struggle between two models that still coexist.

In the mine compound, underground mouths splutter the coal that feeds the hungry plant at a pace of 157 kilowatt-hour per tonne.

In 2015 the mine produced 6.2 million tonnes of extracted coal, an amount projected to be reduced to 3.6 million tonnes this year and next, and to further drop to 2.9 million in 2018.

The mine employs 1,600 people and has a 300,000 tonne inventory which needs to be sold by 2018.

“I am a miner, and I am very much attached to my job. I speak on behalf of my co-workers. It is hard to close it down. There is a feeling of sadness, we are attending our own funeral”, told IPS the manager of the mine operator, Hubert Hüls.

Before the energy transition policy was in place, laws that promoted renewable energies had been passed in 1991 and 2000, with measures such as a special royalty fee included in electricity tariffs paid to generators that are fuelled by renewable energy sources.

The renewable energy sector invests some 20 billion dollars yearly and employs around 370.000 people.

Another measure, adopted in 2015 by the government in Berlin, sets out an auction plan for the purchase of photovoltaic solar power, but opponents have argued that large generation companies are being favoured over small ones as the successful bidder will be the one offering the lowest price.

Energy transition and climate change

Energy transition also seeks to meet Germany’s global warming mitigation commitments.

Germany has undertaken to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent in 2020 and by 95 per cent in 2015. Moreover, it has set itself the goal of increasing the share of renewable energies in the end-use power market from the current figure of 12 per cent to 60 per cent in 2050.

In the second half of the year, the German government will analyse the drafting of the 2050 Climate Action Plan, which envisages actions towards reducing by half the amount of emissions from the power sector and a fossil fuel phase-out programme.

In 2014, Germany reduced its emissions by 346 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 27.7 per cent of the 1990 total. However, the German Federal Agency for Environment warned that in 2015 emissions went up by six million tonnes, amounting to 0.7 per cent, reaching a total of 908 million tonnes.

Polluting gases are derived mainly from the generation and use of energy, transport and agriculture.

In 2019, the government will review the current incentives for the development of renewable energies and will seek to make adjustments aimed at fostering the sector.

Meanwhile, Germany’s last three nuclear power plants will cease operation in 2022. However, Garzweiler mine will continue to operate until 2045.

“There are technological, infrastructure, investment, political, social and innovation challenges to overcome. Recent decisions taken by the government are indicative of a lack of political will to undertake the tough decisions that are required for deep decarbonisation”, pointed out Samadi.

Companies “now try to mitigate the damage and leave the search for solutions in the hands of the (central) government. There will be fierce debate over how to expand renewable energies. The process may be slowed but not halted”, pointed out academic Heinz-J Bontrup, of the state University of Applied Sciences Gelsenkirchen.

Meanwhile, the regional government has opted to reduce the Garzweiler mine extension plan, leaving 400 million tonnes of lignite underground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Record High Seafood Consumption Not Sustainable, Warns UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/record-high-seafood-consumption-not-sustainable-warns-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=record-high-seafood-consumption-not-sustainable-warns-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/record-high-seafood-consumption-not-sustainable-warns-un/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 00:12:21 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145969 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/record-high-seafood-consumption-not-sustainable-warns-un/feed/ 0 Biogas Brings Heat and Light to Pakistan’s Rural Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/biogas-brings-heat-and-light-to-pakistans-rural-poor/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 19:08:30 +0000 Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145856 Nabela Zainab prepares tea on the biogas stove in her home in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The stove has eased indoor air pollution and restored her health. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

Nabela Zainab prepares tea on the biogas stove in her home in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The stove has eased indoor air pollution and restored her health. Credit: Saleem Shaikh/IPS

By Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio
FAISALABAD, Pakistan, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

Nabela Zainab no longer chokes and coughs when she cooks a meal, thanks to the new biogas-fueled two-burner stove in her kitchen.

Zainab, 38, from Faisalabad, a town 360 kilometers from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, is among the beneficiaries of a flagship pilot biogas project to free poor households and farmers of their dependence on wood, cattle dung and diesel fuel for cooking needs and running irrigation pumps.

She got the biogas unit, worth 400 dollars, at a 50 percent subsidised rate from the NGO Rural Support Programme Network under the latter’s five-year Pakistan Domestic Biogas Programme (PDBP).

In the past, Zainab had to collect wood from a distant forest three times a week and carry it home balanced on her head.

“Getting rid of that routine is a life-changing experience,” she told IPS.

The four-cubic-meter biogas plant requires the dung of three buffalos every day to meet the energy needs of a four-member family, including cooking, heating, washing and bathing for 24 hours.

It saves nearly 160 kg of fuelwood a day, worth 20 to 25 dollars every month for a four-member family.

The wife of a smallholder vegetable farmer, Zainab says she has suffered from a cough and sore eyes for the last 20 years. “We have no access to piped natural gas in our village. The rising cost of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) was not feasible either for us poor. However, we had no choice but to continue burning buffalo dung cakes or fuelwood,” she said.

Last January, cattle farmer Amir Nawaz installed a biogas plant of eight-cubic-meter capacity at a cost of 700 dollars under the PDBP. He got subsidy of nearly 300 dollars.

“I am now saving nearly 60 dollars a month that I used to spend on LPG,” he told IPS.

His plant is fueled by the dung of his six buffalos — enough to meet household gas needs for cooking and heating.

Nawaz also uses biogas to power wall-mounted lamps in his house at night, saving another 15 dollars a month.

“Above all, this has helped our children do schoolwork and for me to finish up the household chores in the evening hours,” Nawaz’s wife, Shaista Bano, said with a smile.

As many as 5,360 biogas plants of varying sizes have been installed in 12 districts of Punjab province over five years (2009-2015), ridding nearly 43,000 people of exposure to smoke from wood and kerosene.

Nearby, 500 large biogas plants of the 25-cubic-meter capacity each have also been introduced in all 12 districts of Punjab province under the PBDP, namely: Faisalabad, Sargodha, Khushab, Jhang, Chniot, Toba Tek Singh, Shekhapura, Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Pakpatan, Nankana Sahib and Okara.

Such plants provide gas for a family of 10 for cooking, heating and running irrigation pumps for six hours daily.

Rab Nawaz bought one of these large plants for 1,700 dollars. PBDP provided him a subsidy of 400 dollars as part of its biogas promotion in the area.

“I use the dung of 18 buffalos to produce nearly 40 cubic meters of gas every day to run my diesel-turned-biogas-run irrigation pump for six hours and cooking stove for three times a day,” he told IPS, while shoveling out his cattle pen in Sargodha.

The father of three says that after eliminating diesel — which is damaging to the environment and health, as well as expensive — he saves 10-12 dollars daily.

As a part of sustainability of the biogas programme, 50 local biogas construction companies have been set up. International technical experts trained nearly 450 people in construction, maintenance and repair of the biogas units.

Initiated in 2009 by the non-governmental organization National Rural Support Programme – Pakistan (NRSP-Pakistan), PBDP was financed by the Netherlands Embassy in Pakistan and technical support was extended by Winrock International and SNV (Netherlands-based nongovernmental development organisations).

“The biogas programme aimed to establish a commercially viable biogas sector. To that extent, the main actors at the supply side of the sector are private Biogas Construction Enterprises (BCEs) providing biogas construction and after sales services to households. At the demand side of the sector, Rural Support Programmes organized under the RSPN will be the main implementing partners, but will also include NGOs, farmers’ organizations and dairy organizations,” NRSP CEO Shandana Khan told IPS.

“The 5,600 biogas plants are now saving nearly 13,000 tons of fuelwood burning worth two million dollars and 169,600 liters of kerosene oil for night lamp use,” she said.

“Implemented at a total cost of around 3.3 million dollars, the biogas plants have helped reduce the average three to four hours a woman spent collecting fuel-wood and cooking daily. These women now get enough time for socialization, economic activity and health is returning to households thanks to the biogas plants… which provide instant gas for cooking, healing and dishwashing,” she said.

More significantly, the programme is helping avoid nearly 16,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, she calculated.

At present around 18 percent of households in Pakistan, mostly in urban areas, have access to natural gas. Over 80 percent of rural people rely on biomass (wood, cattle dung, dried straw, etc) for cooking, heating and other household chores, according to Pakistan’s Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB).

Chairman of the AEDB Khawaja Muhammad Asif said, “It is unviable for the large number of rural households to have access to piped natural gas. However, biogas offer a promising and viable solution to meet energy needs of the households in the country’s rural areas, which are home to 60 percent of the people live and 80 percent of over 180 million cattle heads.”

He argued that some 80 million cattle and buffaloes and an estimated 100 million sheep and goats and 400 million poultry birds in the country can also provide sufficient raw material for substantial production of biogas.

“This way, the biogas can be tapped to cope with a range of health, environmental and health and economic benefits,” he stressed.

Pakistan is home to over 160 million head of cattle (buffalo, cow, camel, donkey, goat and lamb). The dung of these livestock can feed five million biogas plants of varying sizes, according to energy experts at the National University of Science and Technology (Islamabad) and Faisalabad Agriculture University (Punjab province).

This can help plug the yawning gas supply gap. According to government figures, 73 percent of 200 million people (a majority of them in rural areas) have no access to piped natural gas. Such people rely on LPG gas cylinders and fuelwood.

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Toward a More Reflective Planethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/toward-a-more-reflective-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=toward-a-more-reflective-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/toward-a-more-reflective-planet/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 19:07:47 +0000 David Keith and Gernot Wagner http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145841 By David Keith and Gernot Wagner
Jun 27 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The last time the atmosphere held as much carbon dioxide as it does today was about three million years ago – a time when sea levels were 10-30 meters higher than they are now. Climate models have long struggled to duplicate those large fluctuations in sea levels – until now. Indeed, for the first time, a high-quality model of Antarctic ice and climate has been able to simulate these large swings. That is smart science, but it brings devastating news.

sustainable_0_The new model shows that melting in Antarctica alone could increase global sea levels by as much as one meter (3.2 feet) by the end of this century – well above prior estimates. Worse, it suggests that even extraordinary success at cutting emissions would not save the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, locking in eventual sea-level increases of more than five meters. As little as one meter could put at risk entire cities, from Miami to Mumbai, and cause enormous economic disruption.

We need to turn down the heat – and fast. To this end, albedo modification – a kind of geoengineering intended to cool the planet by increasing the reflectivity of the earth’s atmosphere – holds tremendous promise.

Injecting synthetic aerosols that reflect sunlight into the stratosphere, for example, could help counter the warming caused by greenhouse gases. The mechanism is similar to wearing a white shirt in the summer: white reflects sunlight and cools what is underneath, whereas darker colors absorb sunlight and heat.

To be sure, even in the best-case scenario, solar geoengineering alone could not ‘stabilise the worlds climate. For that, we must both stop pumping carbon pollution into the atmosphere and learn how to remove what is already there. That is why emissions cuts should receive the lion’s share of resources devoted to combating climate change.

But, as the recent study shows, emissions cuts alone cannot save the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and prevent a drastic sea-level rise. If they are pursued in conjunction with moderate albedo modification, however, there is a chance of halting rising temperatures, helping to keep the world under 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the more ambitious target agreed at the Paris climate talks last December. (It should be noted that, given carbon-cycle feedbacks, such as the thawing of permafrost, there is a chance that the world would face a 1.5 degree Celcius rise, even if emissions were eliminated today.)

Most of the world’s state-of-the-art climate models have explored albedo modification, and each of them has found that the process does have the potential to mitigate climate change. Beyond limiting total warming, it can help to check the rise in peak temperatures, decreasing the risk of destructive heat waves. And it seems to be particularly effective at reducing extreme rainfall, which holds profound implications for minimizing flood damage.

Albedo modification remains uncertain and risky, owing partly to a dearth of organized research into the subject. And, in fact, albedo modification would undoubtedly make some things worse. But there is not a single climate model run that shows that a moderate intervention would make any region worse off overall. Moreover, the large potential upside, measured in trillions of dollars, contrasts with low direct costs – in the single-digit billions for full-scale deployment. In fact, albedo modification is so cheap that direct costs will not be the deciding issue. Instead, it is a risk-risk trade-off – one that will require more research to assess.

Given the lack of knowledge, no sensible person would push for deploying albedo modification today. But it would make no sense to ignore its potential. After all, no one would argue that we should abandon research on a promising cancer drug because it is unproven.

The US National Academy of Sciences first called attention to what it then described as “climate modification” in a 1983 report. It recommended careful research in 1992 and again in 2015. Major environmental groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council support careful, small-scale research. Yet no such program exists.

One reason for this is concern about the diversion of resources from other approaches. And, of course, there are tradeoffs. But the US, for example, has an annual climate science budget of around $3 billion. An exploratory solar geoengineering program, costing only a few tens of millions of dollars per year, is entirely feasible.

A larger obstacle to progress is fear that more attention to geoengineering solutions would sap motivation to cut emissions. Maybe so, but it would be barking mad to take up smoking simply because an experimental cancer treatment showed some promise on a lab rat. And, in fact, it is conceivable that a concerted effort to advance research on albedo modification could spur action to cut emissions, much like a graphic look at the side effects of chemotherapy prompts some to stop smoking.

Whichever reaction prevails, the moral imperative to explore a technology that can protect the poorest and most vulnerable this century would seem to trump amorphous concerns that doing so could weaken the incentive to pursue solutions that would largely benefit future generations.

China has initiated a limited research program on albedo modification. The US has not. Given that albedo modification is the kind of technology that necessitates an open, transparent, and international research effort – precisely the kind of effort in which the US excels – this is a serious failing.

The US government should take the lead now in researching albedo modification. Even if the result was that albedo modification does not work, the dividends of such research would be enormous, owing to the added pressure to cut emissions. And if it turned out to be successful, the social, environmental, and economic returns would be tremendous.

David Keith is a climate scientist and professor of applied physics in Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Gernot Wagner is an economist and research associate at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and co-author of the book Climate Shock.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2016. www.project-syndicate.org

(Exclusive to The Daily Star)

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Making Sustainability Part of the Corporate DNAhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:26:44 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145814 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/feed/ 0 Can Better Technology Lure Asia’s Youth Back to Farming?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:38:29 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145811 ADB president Takehiko Nakao speak at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

ADB president Takehiko Nakao speaks at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Farming and agriculture may not seem cool to young people, but if they can learn the thrill of nurturing plants to produce food, and are provided with their favorite apps and communications software on agriculture, food insecurity will not be an issue, food and agriculture experts said during the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Food Security Forum from June 22 to 24 at the ADB headquarters here.

The prospect of attracting youth and tapping technology were raised by Hoonae Kim, director for Asia and the Pacific Region of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Nichola Dyer, program manager of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), two of many forum panelists who shared ideas on how to feed 3.74 billion people in the region while taking care of the environment.

“There are 700 million young people in Asia Pacific. If we empower them, give them voice and provide them access to credit, they can be interested in all areas related to agriculture,” Kim said. “Many young people today are educated and if they continue to be so, they will appreciate the future of food as that of safe, affordable and nutritious produce that, during growth and production, reduces if not eliminate harm to the environment.”

Dyer, citing the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year worldwide, said, “We have to look at scaling up the involvement of the private sector and civil societies to ensure that the policy gaps are given the best technologies that can be applied.”

Dyer also said using technology includes the attendant issues of gathering and using data related to agriculture policies of individual countries, especially those that have recognized the need to lessen harm to the environment while looking for ways to ensure that there is enough food for everyone.

“There is a strong need to support countries that promote climate-smart agriculture, both financially and technically as a way to introduce new technologies,” she said.

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Ministers of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. - Credit: ADB

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Ministers of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. – Credit: ADB

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific estimated in 2014 that the region has 750 million young people aged 15 to 24, comprising 60 percent of the world’s youth. Large proportions live in socially and economically developed areas, with 78 percent of them achieving secondary education and 40 percent reaching tertiary education.

A regional paper prepared by the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) in 2015, titled “A Viable Future: Attracting the Youth Back to Agriculture,” noted that many young people in Asia choose to migrate to seek better lives and are reluctant to go into farming, as they prefer the cities where life is more convenient.

“In the Philippines, most rural families want their children to pursue more gainful jobs in the cities or overseas, as farming is largely associated with poverty,” the paper stated.

Along with the recognition of the role of young people in agriculture, the forum also resonated with calls to look at the plight of farmers, who are mostly older in age, dwindling in numbers and with little hope of finding their replacement from among the younger generations, even from among their children. Farmers, especially those who do not own land but work only for landowners or are small-scale tillers, also remain one of the most marginalised sectors in every society.

Estrella Penunia, secretary-general of the AFA, said that while it is essential to rethink how to better produce, distribute and consume food, she said it is also crucial to “consider small-scale farmers as real partners for sustainable technologies. They must be granted incentives and be given improved rental conditions.” Globally, she said “farmers have been neglected, and in the Asia Pacific region, they are the poorest.”

The AFA paper noted that lack of youth policies in most countries as detrimental to the engagement of young people. They also have limited role in decision-making processes due to a lack of structured and institutionalized opportunities.

But the paper noted a silver lining through social media. Through “access to information and other new networking tools, young people across the region can have better opportunities to become more politically active and find space for the realization of their aspirations.”

Calls for nonstop innovation in communications software development in the field of agriculture, continuing instruction on agriculture and agriculture research to educate young people, improving research and technology development, adopting measures such as ecological agriculture and innovative irrigation and fertilisation techniques were echoed by panelists from agriculture-related organizations and academicians.

Professor David Morrison of Murdoch University in Perth, Australia said now is the time to focus on what data and technology can bring to agriculture. “Technology is used to develop data and data is a great way of changing behaviors. Data needs to be analyzed,” he said, adding that political leaders also have to understand data to help them implement evidence-based policies that will benefit farmers and consumers.

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao - Credit: ADB

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao – Credit: ADB

ADB president Takehiko Nakao said the ADB is heartened to see that “the world is again paying attention to food.” While the institution sees continuing efforts in improving food-related technologies in other fields such as forestry and fisheries, he said it is agriculture that needs urgent improvements, citing such technologies as remote sensing, diversifying fertilisers and using insecticides that are of organic or natural-made substances.

Nakao said the ADB has provided loans and assistance since two years after its establishment in 1966 to the agriculture sector, where 30 percent of loans and grants were given out. The ADB will mark its 50th year of development partnership in the region in December 2016. Headquartered in Manila, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled 27.2 billion dollars, including cofinancing of 10.7 billion dollars.

In its newest partnership is with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which is based in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines, Nakao and IRRI director general Matthew Morell signed an agreement during the food security forum to promote food security in Asia Pacific by increasing collaboration on disseminating research and other knowledge on the role of advanced agricultural technologies in providing affordable food for all.

The partnership agreement will entail the two institutions to undertake annual consultations to review and ensure alignment of ongoing collaborative activities, and to develop a joint work program that will expand the use of climate-smart agriculture and water-saving technologies to increase productivity and boost the resilience of rice cultivation systems, and to minimize the carbon footprint of rice production.

Nakao said the ADB collaboration with IRRI is another step toward ensuring good food and nutrition for all citizens of the region. “We look forward to further strengthening our cooperation in this area to promote inclusive and sustainable growth, as well as to combat climate change.” Morell of the IRRI said the institution “looks forward to deepening our already strong partnership as we jointly develop and disseminate useful agricultural technologies throughout Asia.”

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman - Credit: ADB

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman – Credit: ADB

The ADB’s earlier agreements on agriculture was with Cambodia in 2013 with a 70-million-dollar climate-smart agriculture initiative called the Climate-Resilient Rice Commercialization Sector Development Program that will include generating seeds that are better adapted to Cambodia’s climate.

ADB has committed two billion dollars annually to meet the rising demand for nutritious, safe, and affordable food in Asia and the Pacific, with future support to agriculture and natural resources to emphasize investing in innovative and high-level technologies.

By 2025, the institution said Asia Pacific will have a population of 4.4 billion, and with the rest of Asia experiencing unabated rising populations and migration from countryside to urban areas, the trends will also be shifting towards better food and nutritional options while confronting a changing environment of rising temperatures and increasing disasters that are harmful to agricultural yields.

ADB president Nakao said Asia will face climate change and calamity risks in trying to reach the new Sustainable Development Goals. The institution has reported that post-harvest losses have accounted for 30 percent of total harvests in Asia Pacific; 42 percent of fruits and vegetables and up to 30 percent of grains produced across the region are lost between the farm and the market caused by inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water, power, market facilities and transport systems.

Gathering about 250 participants from governments and intergovernmental bodies in the region that include multilateral and bilateral development institutions, private firms engaged in the agriculture and food business, research and development centers, think tanks, centers of excellence and civil society and advocacy organizations, the ADB held the food security summit with inclusiveness in mind and future directions from food production to consumption.

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Aquaculture Meets Agriculture on Bangladesh’s Low-Lying Coasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 12:25:31 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145746 Bangladeshi farmer Aktar Hossain using the Sarjan model. He just planted eggplant (known locally as brinjal) worth 700 dollars and released fish worth 240 dollars. Hossain expects a profit of 1,200 dollars by the end of the season. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Bangladeshi farmer Aktar Hossain using the Sarjan model. He just planted eggplant (known locally as brinjal) worth 700 dollars and released fish worth 240 dollars. Hossain expects a profit of 1,200 dollars by the end of the season. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
BHOLA, Bangladesh, Jun 22 2016 (IPS)

A continuous influx of sea water is threatening agriculture and food security in vast coastal areas of Bangladesh, but farmers are finding ways to adapt, like cultivating fish and crops at the same time.

The coastal and offshore areas of this low-lying, densely populated country include tidal estuaries and river floodplains in the south along the Bay of Bengal. Here the arable land is about 30 percent of the total available in the country.

In a recent study, experts observed that salinity intrusion due to reduction of freshwater flow from upstream, salinization of groundwater and fluctuation of soil salinity are major concerns and could seriously hamper country’s food production.

According to salinity survey findings, salinity monitoring information, and interpretation of Land and Soil Resource Utilization Guides, about one million hectares, or about 70 percent of cultivated lands of the southern coastal areas of Bangladesh, are affected by various degrees of soil salinity.

It is already predicted that if the current trend of climate change continues, rice production could fall by 10 percent and wheat by 30 percent.

Dr. Mohiuddin Chowdhury, principal scientific officer of Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute or BARI, told IPS, “We are indeed greatly concerned by the loss of arable land in the coastal areas that is already happening and the future from the past trends looks bleak.”

Dr. Chowdhury explained that salinity in the coastal regions has a direct relation with temperature. If the temperature rises, the soil loses moisture and the salt from tidal or storm surges becomes concentrated, which results in crops wilting or dying – a phenomenon that is is already widely evident.

Dr. Chowdhury stressed adaptation measures and crop management, since at this point, climate change “cannot be avoided, but we have to live with it.”

Salinity in Bangladesh, one of the countries worst affected by decades of sea level rise, causes an unfavorable environment that restricts normal crop production throughout the year. The freshly deposited alluviums from upstream in the coastal areas of Bangladesh become saline as it comes in contact with the sea water and continues to be inundated during high tides and ingress of sea water through creeks.

A study found that the affected area increased from 8,330 square km in 1973 to 10,560 square km in 2009, according to the Soil Resource Development Institute in 2010.

Despite efforts to increase resilience, climate challenges continue to result in large economic losses, retarding economic growth and slowing progress in reducing poverty.

To confront the challenges, farming communities in the coastal areas that always relied on traditional agricultural practices are now shifting to research-based farming technology that promises better and safer food production.

The chief of BARI, Dr. Mohammad Rafiqul Islam Mondal, who describes climate change as a tragedy, told IPS, “At BARI, we are concentrating on developing agriculture practices towards adaptation to the extreme weathers, particularly in the coastal regions.”

Recognizing the adaptation strategies, BARI, blessed with years of research, has successfully introduced best farming practices in coastal regions. One is called the Sarjan model and is now very popular.

A leading NGO in Bangladesh, the Coastal Association for Social Transformation Trust (COAST), which has over 35 years of experience working mostly in coastal areas, has played a key role in supporting farmers with adaptive measures.

During a recent visit to an island district of Bhola, this correspondent witnessed how COAST in collaboration with the local agriculture department has introduced the farming model that is making huge positive impacts.

Mohammad Jahirul Islam, a senior COAST official in Char Fasson, a remote coastal region barely 30 cms above sea level, told IPS, “The traditional agricultural practices are threatened, largely due to salt water intrusion. High salt concentration is toxic to plants and we are now forced to seek alternative ways of growing crops.”

The Coastal Integrated Technology Extension Programme (CITEP) being implemented by COAST in Char Fasson has been helping farmers since 2003 with alternative farming practices to improve crop production in the face of climate change.

As part of its capacity-building programmes, CITEP encourages farmers to use the Sarjan model of long raised rows of soil about one metre wide and 90 cm high for cultivating varieties of vegetables. The trenches between the rows are filled with water into which various types of fish are released for maturing. The water for irrigating the plants comes from nearby lakes filled with freshwater drawn from the Meghna River.

The advantage of using Sarjan model is that it protects cropland from inundation during storm surges, tidal waves and flash flooding and avoids high salinity.

CITEP project coordinator in Char Fasson, Mizanur Rahman, told IPS, “These lowlands, hardly 25 kms from the sea at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal, are prone to tidal waves and storm surges during the seasons. So the recent farming models introduced here have been designed to protect the crops.”

According to Sadek Hossain, a veteran farmer who is already benefitting from the Sarjan model, said it “is safer and gives risk-free crops as the spaces between the crops allow more sunlight exposure and also has far less pest attacks.”

The new farming practice has turned out to be very popular in Char Fasson, where over 9,000 farmers are now using the model. Many farmers have also formed self-help groups where members benefit from sharing each others’ experiences.

Manzurul Islam, a local official of the government’s agriculture department in Char Fasson, told IPS, “At the beginning, the challenges were huge because farmers refused to adapt to the new model. Realising the benefits farmers are now convinced.”

Losses of crops on flat lands are disastrous. Mohammad Joynal recalls how tidal waves three years ago destroyed huge crops. “We were helpless when the crops were inundated on about 5,500 hectares of flat land. The sea water inundation for four months caused all crops to wilt and eventually rot,” said a dishearten face of Joynal.

Hundreds of farmers have been trained using demonstration crop fields on the adaptation techniques. “We have many different models developed to grow crops at different levels of salinity which are already proven successes,” said BARI Director General Dr. Mondol.

Sea level rise is already evident in coastal Bangladesh. Projections show that 97 percent of coastal areas and over 40 million people living in coastal Bangladesh are vulnerable to multiple climate change hazards.

The Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) for 2014, which evaluated the sensitivity of populations, the physical exposure of countries, and governmental capacity to adapt to climate change over the following 30 years, ranks Bangladesh as the number one economy in the world at risk to climate change.

Globally, emissions of carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere are growing at a rate of 5 percent annually, according to a joint publication by COAST and the Equity and Justice Working Group (EJWG) on ‘Climate Change Impact and Disaster Vulnerabilities in the Coastal Areas of Bangladesh’.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, executive director of COAST Trust and one of the authors of the joint publication, told IPS, “The impacts of climate change with time would become more acute hitting right at the core of our economy – agriculture on which over 70 percent of our rural population rely on.”

Rezaul, well known for his contributions to development in the coastal regions, added, “We acted early considering the harsh realities of extreme weathers. Introducing the Sarjan model is one of many which we have successfully implemented, building capacities of the local farmers.”

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The Environment: Latin America’s Battleground for Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 00:12:40 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145737 Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
NEW YORK, Jun 22 2016 (IPS)

2015 was the deadliest year on record for the killings of environmental activists around the world, according to a new Global Witness report.

The report, On Dangerous Ground, found that in 2015, 185 people were killed defending the environment across 16 countries, a 59 percent increase from 2014.

“The environment is becoming a new battleground for human rights,” Global Witness’ Campaign Leader for Environmental and Land Defenders Billy Kyte told IPS.

“Many of these activists are being treated as enemies of the state when they should be treated as heroes,” he continued.

The rise in attacks is partially due to the increased demand for natural resources which have sparked conflicts between residents in remote, resource-rich areas and industries such as mining, logging and agribusinesses.

“The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world." -- Billy Kyte.

Among the most dangerous regions for environmental activists is Latin America, where over 60 percent of killings in 2015 occurred. In Brazil, 50 environmental defenders were killed, the world’s highest death toll.

A majority of the murders in Brazil took place in the biodiverse Amazon states where the encroachment of ranches, agricultural plantations and illegal loggers has led to a surge in violence.

The report stated that criminal gangs often “terrorise” local communities at the behest of “timber companies and the officials they have corrupted.”

The most recent murder was of Antônio Isídio Pereira da Silva, the leader of a small farming community in the Amazonian Maranhão state. Isídio suffered years of assassination attempts and death threats for defending his land from illegal loggers and other land grabbers. Despite appeals, he never received protection and police have never investigated his murder.

Indigenous communities, who depend on the forests for their livelihood, particularly bear the brunt of the violence. Almost 40 percent of environmental activists killed were from indigenous groups.

Eusebio Ka’apor, member of the Ka’apor indigenous tribe living in Maranhão state, was shot and killed by two hooded men on a motorbike. He led patrols to monitor and shutdown illegal logging on the Ka’apor ancestral lands.

One Ka’apor leader told Survival International, an indigenous human rights organisation, that loggers have said to them that it is better to surrender the wood than let “more people die.”

“We don’t know what to do, because we have no protection. The state does nothing,” the leader said.

Thousands of illegal logging camps have been set up across the Amazon to cut down valuable timber such as mahogany, ebony and teak. It is estimated that 80 percent of timber from Brazil is illegal and accounts for 25 percent of illegal wood on global markets, most of which is sold to buyers in the United States, United Kingdom and China.

“The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world,” Kyte stated.

Kyte also pointed to a “growing collusion” between corporate and state interests and high levels of corruption as reasons for the attacks on environmental defenders.

This is reflected through the ongoing corruption case involving the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam which continued despite concerns over the project’s environmental and community impact and was used to generate over $40 million for political parties.

Even in the face of a public scandal, Kyte noted that environmental legislation has continued to weaken in the country.

The new interim Brazilian government, led by former Vice President Michel Temer, has proposed an amendment that would diminish its environmental licensing process for infrastructure and development mega-projects in order to revive Brazil’s faltering economy.

Currently, Brazil has a three-phase procedure where at each step, a project can be halted due to environmental concerns.

Known as PEC 65, the amendment proposes that industries only submit a preliminary environmental impact statement. Once that requirement is met, projects cannot be delayed or cancelled for environmental reasons.

The weakening of key human rights institutions also poses a threat to the environment and its defenders.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), whose goal is to address and investigate human rights issues in Latin America, is currently facing a severe funding deficit that could lead to the loss of 40 percent of its personnel by the end of July, impacting the ability to continue its work. It has already suspended its country visits and may be forced to halt its investigations.

Many countries in Latin America have halted financial support to the commission due to disputes over investigations and findings.

In 2011, IACHR requested that Brazil “immediately suspend the licensing” for the Belo Monte project in order to consult with and protect indigenous groups. In response, the Brazilian government broke off ties with IACHR by withdrawing its funding and recalling its ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), which implements IACHR.

“It’s a huge crisis,” Kyte told IPS.

While speaking to the Human Rights Council in May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also expressed concern over budget cuts to IACHR, stating: “When the Inter-American Commission announces it has to cut its personnel by forty percent – and when States have already withdrawn from it and the Inter-American Court…then do we really still have an international community? When the threads forming it are being tugged away and the tapestry, our world, is unravelling? Or are there only fragmented communities of competing interests – strategic and commercial – operating behind a screen of feigned allegiance to laws and institutions?”

He called on member states to defend and financially support the commission, which he noted was an “important strategic partner and inspiration for the UN system.”

In its report, Global Witness urged Brazil and other Latin American governments to protect environmental activists, investigate crimes against activists, expose corporate and political interests that lie behind the persecution of land defenders, and formally recognize land and indigenous rights.

Kyte particularly highlighted the need for international investigations to expose the killings of environmental activists and those responsible for them.

He pointed to the murder of Berta Cáceres, an environmental and indigenous leader in Honduras, which gained international attention and outrage.

“It’s a positive step that because of international outrage, the Honduran government was compelled to arrest these killers,” he said.

“If we can push for an international investigation into her death, which I think is the only way that the real criminal masterminds behind her death will be held to account, then that could act as an example for future cases,” Kyte concluded.

In March, Cáceres, who campaigned against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, was shot in her home by two armed men from the Honduras’ military.

A whistleblower alleges that Cáceres was on a hit list given to U.S.-trained units of the Honduran military.

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What is Missing on the Global Health Front?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 13:54:49 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145722 Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.]]>

Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Jun 21 2016 (IPS)

The last World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva (23-28 May) discussed the manifold global health crises that require urgent attention, and adopted resolutions to act on many issues. We are currently facing many global health related challenges, and as such multiple actions must be taken urgently to prevent these crises from boiling over.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

The WHA is the world’s prime public health event and this year 3,500 delegates from 194 countries took part, including Health Ministers of most countries. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan gave an overview of some of the successes and further work needed on the global health front.

The good news includes 19,000 fewer children dying every day, 44% drop in maternal mortality, 85% of tuberculosis cases that are successfully cured, and the fastest scale-up of a life-saving treatment in history, with over 15 million people living with HIV now receiving therapy, up from just 690,000 in 2000. As a result, aid for health is now far more effective, and the issue of health has become an investment for stable and equitable societies, not just a drain on resources.

The recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks showed how global health emergencies can develop very quickly. There is a dramatic resurgence of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, which the world is currently not prepared to cope with. Dr. Chan gave three examples of the emerging global health emergencies: climate change, antimicrobial resistance, and the rise of chronic-communicable diseases as the leading causes of death worldwide.

Many of the issues addressed are largely anthropogenic, created by policies that place economic interests above health and environmental concerns. Fossil fuels power economies, medicines for treating chronic conditions are more profitable than a short course of antibiotics, and highly processed foods provide longer term profit than fresh fruits and vegetables.

Unchecked, these emergencies will eventually reach a tipping point and become irreversible and as regards antimicrobial resistance, “we are on the verge of a post-antibiotic era in which common infectious diseases will once again kill.” On moving ahead, Dr. Chan highlighted universal health coverage as an essential aspect of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is the ultimate expression of fairness that ensures no one is left behind, and to provide comprehensive care for all.

A question however, was not covered by Dr Chan in her speech; how can some governments- especially in underdeveloped countries, obtain enough funds to finance the idealistic goal of providing healthcare for their citizens?

The Assembly agreed that WHO set up a new Health Emergencies Programme, enabling it to provide rapid, consistent, and comprehensive support to countries and communities facing or recovering from various emergencies, disease outbreaks, disasters or conflicts.

The WHO has produced a new paper to set up a global stewardship framework to support the development, control and appropriate use of new antimicrobial medicines and diagnostic tools to counter the threat of a global increase in antimicrobial resistance. The Secretariat has made quite a lot of progress, but action on the ground is still slow, in the Asia-Pacific region so far, only six countries have completed their national plans and another five have plans that are being developed.

WHO assistant Director-General, Keiji Fukuda said that focus in the upcoming year will include: making progress on the Global Action Plan (established in 2015), further developing the global stewardship framework, and involving political leaders by meeting in the United Nations headquarters in New York in September.

There were two issues on childhood nutrition that highlighted the need to put health concerns above corporate interests. The first of these issues was childhood and adolescent obesity. In 2014, an estimated 41 million children under 5 years were affected by being overweight or obese, and 48% of them lived in Asia and 25% in Africa.

The Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity recommended the promotion of healthier foods, reducing the consumption of highly processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages by children and adolescents. It proposed more effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages and curbing the marketing of unhealthy foods.

On the second issue, the Assembly welcomed WHO guidance on ending the inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children. According to the guidelines, to support breastfeeding, the marketing of “follow-up formula” and “growing-up milks” targeted for babies aged 6 months to 3 years should be regulated in the same manner as infant formula for babies below 6 months.

On access to medicines and vaccines, the WHA agreed on measures to address the global shortage of medicines and vaccines, including monitoring supply and demand, improving procurement systems and improving affordability through voluntary or compulsory licensing of high-priced medicines.

An interesting and well-attended side event was organised by India on behalf of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on the effects of free trade agreements on access to medicines. After remarks from the health ministers of these, the main speaker, American law professor Frederick Abbott, spoke about why the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) could make it very difficult for the TPPA members to have access to affordable medicines.

His warning was complemented by the head of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé who estimated that the annual cost of treating 15 million AIDS patients could increase from US$2 to US$150 billion without the availability of generic drugs, costing about US$10,000 per patient annually.

Air pollution and the use of chemicals were other important environmental issues highlighted by the Assembly. Every year, 8 million deaths are attributed to air pollution – 4.3 million indoor and 3.7 million due to outdoor air pollution. The Assembly has also welcomed a new WHO roadmap to respond to the adverse health effects of increasing air pollution.

Since 1.3 million deaths worldwide are caused by exposure to extremely harmful chemicals, among them lead and various pesticides. WHA would like to ensure that the use and production of chemicals is regulated to minimize adverse health and environmental effects by 2020. Some agreed actions include the transfer of expertise, technologies and scientific data, and exchanging good practices to manage chemicals and waste between cooperating countries. WHO will develop a roadmap to meet the 2020 goals and the associated SDG targets.

A controversial issue that has taken two years of negotiations was how WHO should cooperate with non-state actors. The WHA finally adopted the WHO Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA), which provides WHO with policies and procedures to engage with NGOs, private sector entities, philanthropic foundations and academic institutions.

On the one hand, there is the aim to strengthen WHO’s engagement with non-state stakeholders. On the other hand, there is the need for WHO to avoid conflicts of interest that may arise when corporations and their foundations, associations and lobbies wield large and undue influence if they are allowed to get too close to WHO. Many NGOs and several developing countries are concerned about how this corporate influence is undermining WHO’s public health responsibilities, and that FENSA will worsen rather than reverse this trend.

On the health-related Sustainable Development Goals, the Assembly agreed to prioritize universal health coverage; to work with actors outside the health sector to address the social, economic and environmental causes of health problems, including antimicrobial resistance; to expand efforts to address poor maternal and child health, infectious diseases in developing countries; and to put a greater focus on equity within and between countries.

The WHA also adopted many other resolutions on international health regulations including; tobacco control, road traffic deaths and injuries, HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, Mycetoma, integrated health services, the health workforce, the Global Plan of Action on Violence, Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, and healthy ageing.

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Building Africa’s Energy Grid Can Be Green, Smart and Affordablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/building-africas-energy-grid-can-be-green-smart-and-affordable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-africas-energy-grid-can-be-green-smart-and-affordable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/building-africas-energy-grid-can-be-green-smart-and-affordable/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 15:24:55 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145650 A Congolese man transports charcoal on his bicycle outside Lubumbashi in the DRC. An estimated 138 million poor households spend 10 billion dollars annually on energy-related products such as charcoal, candles, kerosene and firewood. Credit: Miriam Mannak/IPS

A Congolese man transports charcoal on his bicycle outside Lubumbashi in the DRC. An estimated 138 million poor households spend 10 billion dollars annually on energy-related products such as charcoal, candles, kerosene and firewood. Credit: Miriam Mannak/IPS

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, Jun 16 2016 (IPS)

It’s just after two p.m. on a sunny Saturday and 51-year-old Moses Kasoka is seated outside the grass-thatched hut which serves both as his kitchen and bedroom.

Physically challenged since birth, Kasoka has but one option for survival—begging. But he thinks life would have been different had he been connected to electricity. “I know what electricity can do, especially for people in my condition,” he says.

“With power, I would have been rearing poultry for income generation,” says Kasoka, who is among the estimated 645 million Africans lacking access to electricity, hindering their economic potential.

“As you can see, I sleep beside an open fire every night, which serves for both lighting and additional warmth in the night,” adds Kasoka, inviting this reporter into his humble home.

But while Kasoka remains in wishful mode, a kilometer away is Phinelia Hamangaba, manager at Pemba District Dairy milk collection centre, who is now accustomed to having an alternative plan in case of power interruptions, as the cooperative does not have a stand-by generator.

Phinelia has daily responsibility for ensuring that 1,060 litres of milk supplied by over a hundred farmers does not ferment before it is collected by Parmalat Zambia, with which they have a contract.

“Electricity is our major challenge, but in most cases, we get prior information of an impending power interruption, so we prepare,” says the young entrepreneur. “But when we have the worst case scenario, farmers understand that in business, there is profit and loss,” she explains, adding that they are called to collect back their fermented milk.

Moses Kasoka sits in his wheelchair outside his grass-thatched hut in Pemba, Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Moses Kasoka sits in his wheelchair outside his grass-thatched hut in Pemba, Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

The cooperative is just one of several small-scale industries struggling with country-wide power rationing. Due to poor rainfall in the past two seasons, there has not been enough water for maximum generation at the country’s main hydropower plants.

According to the latest Economist Intelligence Unit report, Zambia’s power deficit might take years to correct, especially at the 1,080MW Kariba North Bank power plant where power stations on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi River are believed to have consumed far more than their allotted water over the course of 2015 and into early 2016.

The report highlights that in February, the reservoir at Kariba Dam fell to only 1.5 meters above the level that would necessitate a full shutdown of the plant. Although seasonal rains have slightly replenished the reservoir, it remained only 17 percent full as of late March, compared to 49 percent last year. And refilling the lake requires a series of healthy rainy seasons coupled with a moderation of output from the power plant—neither of which are a certainty.

This scenario is just but one example of Africa’s energy and climate change nexus, highlighting how poor energy access hinders economic progress, both at individual and societal levels.

And as the most vulnerable to climate change vagaries, but also in need of energy to support the economic ambitions of its poverty-stricken people, Africa’s temptation to take an easy route through carbon-intensive energy systems is high.

“We are tired of poverty and lack of access to energy, so we need to deal with both of them at the same time, and to specifically deal with poverty, we need energy to power industries,” remarked Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the 2016 African Development Bank Annual meetings in Lusaka, adding that renewables can only meet part of the need.

But former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan believes Africa can develop using a different route. “African nations do not have to lock into developing high-carbon old technologies; we can expand our power generation and achieve universal access to energy by leapfrogging into new technologies that are transforming energy systems across the world. Africa stands to gain from developing low-carbon energy, and the world stands to gain from Africa avoiding the high-carbon pathway followed by today’s rich world and emerging markets,” says Annan, who now chairs the Africa Progress Panel (APP).

In its 2015 report Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities, the APP outlines Africa’s alternative, without using the carbon-intensive systems now driving economic growth, which have taken the world to the current tipping point. And Africa is therefore being asked to lead the transition to avert an impending disaster.

The report recommends Africa’s leaders use climate change as an incentive to put in place policies that are long overdue and to demonstrate leadership on the international stage. In the words of the former president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, “For Africa, this is both a challenge and an opportunity. If Africa focuses on smart choices, it can win investments in the next few decades in climate resilient and low emission development pathways.”

But is the financing mechanism good enough for Africa’s green growth? The APP notes that the current financing architecture does not meet the demands, and that the call for Africa’s leadership does not negate the role of international cooperation, which has over the years been a clarion call from African leaders—to be provided with finance and reliable technology.

The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) mourns the vague nature of the Paris agreement in relation to technology transfer for Africa. “The agreement vaguely talks about technologies without being clear on what these are, leaving the door open to all kinds of false solutions,” reads part of the civil society’s analysis of the Paris agreement.

However, other proponents argue for home solutions. According to available statistics, it is estimated that 138 million poor households spend 10 billion dollars annually on energy-related products, such as charcoal, candles, kerosene and firewood.

But what would it take to expand power generation and finance energy for all? The African Development Bank believes a marginal increase in energy investment could solve the problem.

“Africa collects 545 billion dollars a year in terms of tax revenues. If you put ten percent of that to electricity, problem is solved. Second, share of the GDP going to energy sector in Africa is 0.49 percent. If you raise that to 3.4 percent, you generate 51 billion dollars straight away. So which means African countries have to put their money where their mouth is, invest in the energy sector,” says AfDB Group President, Akinwumi Adesina, who also highlights the importance of halting illicit capital flows out Africa, costing the continent around 60 billion dollars a year.

While Kasoka in Southern Zambia’s remote town awaits electricity , the country’s Scaling Solar programme, driving the energy diversification agenda, may just be what would light up his dream of rearing poultry. According to President Edgar Lungu, the country looks to plug the gaping supply deficit with up to 600 MW of solar power, of which 100 MW is already under construction.

With the world at the tipping point, Africa will have to beat the odds of climate change to develop. Desmond Tutu summarises what is at stake this way: “We can no longer tinker about the edges. We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow. For there will be no tomorrow. As a matter of urgency we must begin a global transition to a new safe energy economy.

“This requires fundamentally rethinking our economic systems, to put them on a sustainable and more equitable footing,” the South African Nobel Laureate says in the APP 2015 report.

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Climate-Proofing Agriculture Must Take Centre Stage in African Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/climate-proofing-agriculture-must-take-centre-stage-in-african-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-proofing-agriculture-must-take-centre-stage-in-african-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/climate-proofing-agriculture-must-take-centre-stage-in-african-policy/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 12:34:01 +0000 Katrin Glatzel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145621 Peter Mcharo's two children digging their father’s maize field in Kibaigwa village, Morogoro Region, some 350km from Dar es Salaam. Mcharo has benefitted greatly from conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Orton Kiishweko/IPS

Peter Mcharo's two children digging their father’s maize field in Kibaigwa village, Morogoro Region, some 350km from Dar es Salaam. Mcharo has benefitted greatly from conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Orton Kiishweko/IPS

By Dr. Katrin Glatzel
KIGALI, Rwanda, Jun 14 2016 (IPS)

After over a year of extreme weather changes across the world, causing destruction to homes and lives, 2015-16 El Niño has now come to an end.

This recent El Niño – probably the strongest on record along with the along with those in 1997-1998 and 1982-83– has yet again shown us just how vulnerable we, let alone the poorest of the poor, are to dramatic changes in the climate and other extreme weather events.

Across southern Africa El Niño has led to the extreme drought affecting this year’s crop. Worst affected by poor rains are Malawi, where almost three million people are facing hunger, and Madagascar and Zimbabwe, where last year’s harvest was reduced by half compared to the previous year because of substantial crop failure.

However, El Niño is not the only manifestation of climate change. Mean temperatures across Africa are expected to rise faster than the global average, possibly reaching as high as 3°C to 6°C greater than pre-industrial levels, and rainfall will change, almost invariably for the worst.

In the face of this, African governments are under more pressure than ever to boost productivity and accelerate growth in order to meet the food demands of a rapidly expanding population and a growing middle class. To achieve this exact challenge, African Union nations signed the Malabo Declaration in 2014, committing themselves to double agricultural productivity and end hunger by 2025.

However, according to a new briefing paper out today from the Montpellier Panel, the agricultural growth and food security goals as set out by the Malabo Declaration have underemphasised the risk that climate change will pose to food and nutrition security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. The Montpellier Panel concludes that food security and agricultural development policies in Africa will fail if they are not climate-smart.

Smallholder farmers will require more support than ever to withstand the challenges and threats posed by climate change while at the same time enabling them to continue to improve their livelihoods and help achieve an agricultural transformation. In this process it will be important that governments do not fail to mainstream smallholder resilience across their policies and strategies, to ensure that agriculture continues to thrive, despite the increasing number and intensity of droughts, heat waves or flash floods.

The Montpellier Panel argues that climate-smart agriculture, which serves the triple purpose of increasing production, adapting to climate change and reducing agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions, needs to be integrated into countries’ National Agriculture Investment Plans and become a more explicit part of the implementation of the Malabo Declaration.

Across Africa we are starting to see signs of progress to remove some of the barriers to implementing successful climate change strategies at national and local levels.  These projects and agriculture interventions are scalable and provide important lessons for strengthening political leadership, triggering technological innovations, improving risk mitigation and above all building the capacity of a next generation of agricultural scientists, farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs. The Montpellier Panel has outlined several strategies that have shown particular success.

Building a Knowledge Economy

A “knowledge economy” improves the scientific capacities of both individuals and institutions, supported by financial incentives and better infrastructure. A good example is the “Global Change System Analysis, Research and Training” (START) programme, that promotes research-driven capacity building to advance knowledge on global environmental change across 26 countries in Africa.

START provides research grants and fellowships, facilitates multi-stakeholder dialogues and develops curricula. This opens up opportunities for scientists and development professionals, young people and policy makers to enhance their understanding of the threats posed by climate change.

Sustainably intensifying agriculture

Agriculture production that will simultaneously improve food security and natural resources such as soil and water quality will be key for African countries to achieve the goal of doubling agriculture productivity by 2025. Adoption of Sustainable Intensification (SI) practices in combination has the potential to increase agricultural production while improving soil fertility, reducing GHG emissions and environmental degradation and making smallholders more resilient to climate change or other weather stresses and shocks.

Drip irrigation technologies such as bucket drip kits help deliver water to crops effectively with far less effort than hand-watering and for a minimal cost compared to irrigation. In Kenya, through the support of the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute, the use of the drip kit is spreading rapidly and farmers reported profits of US$80-200 with a single bucket kit, depending on the type of vegetable.

Providing climate information services

Risk mitigation tools, such as providing reliable climate information services, insurance policies that pay out to farmers following extreme climate events and social safety net programmes that pay vulnerable households to contribute to public works can boost community resilience. Since 2011 the CGIAR’s Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Senegalese National Meteorological Agency and the the Union des Radios Associatives et Communautaires du Sénégal, an association of 82 community-based radio stations, have been collaborating to develop climate information services that benefit smallholder farmers.

A pilot project was implemented in Kaffrine and by 2015, the project had scaled-up to the rest of the country. Four different types of CI form the basis of advice provided to farmers through SMS and radio: seasonal, 10-day, daily and instant weather forecasts, that allow farmers to adjust their farming practices. In 2014, over 740,000 farm households across Senegal benefitted from these services.

Now is the time to act

While international and continental processes such as the Sustainable Development Goals, COP21 and the Malabo Declaration are crucial for aligning core development objectives and goals, there is often a disconnect between the levels of commitment and implementation on the ground. Now is an opportune time to act. Governments inevitably have many concurrent and often conflicting commitments and hence require clear goals that chart a way forward to deliver on the Malabo Declaration.

The 15 success stories discussed in the Montpellier Panel’s briefing paper highlight just some examples that help Africa’s agriculture thrive. As the backbone of African economies, accounting for as much as 40% of total export earnings and employing 60 – 90% of the labour force, agriculture is the sector that will accelerate growth and transform Africa’s economies.

With the targets of the Malabo Declaration aimed at 2025 – five years before the SDGs – Africa can now seize the moment and lead the way on the shared agenda of sustainable agricultural development and green economic growth.

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Asia-Pacific Region Aims at Hunger-Free Goal by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/asia-pacific-region-aims-at-hunger-free-goal-by-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asia-pacific-region-aims-at-hunger-free-goal-by-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/asia-pacific-region-aims-at-hunger-free-goal-by-2030/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 14:26:12 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145523 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 9 2016 (IPS)

The Asia Pacific region – home to two of the world’s most populous countries – faces major food security challenges.

According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), both China and India are not only two of the world’s biggest producers of food but also the world’s biggest consumers.

Dr. Mahfuz Ahmed

Dr. Mahfuz Ahmed

Collectively, the Asia & Pacific region is one of the lowest-scoring regions for food security, coming ahead of only sub-Saharan Africa.

However, this low overall score disguises striking differences between wealthy and underdeveloped nations of the region.

If the top five countries within the region — Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and South Korea — were considered separately, that region would rank second globally, says ADB.

By contrast, poor countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, and Cambodia have some of the highest levels of food insecurity seen around the world.

A three-day food security forum, scheduled to take place June 22-24 at the ADB headquarters in Manila, is billed as a key platform for all stakeholders to exchange knowledge and build partnerships for an innovative strategy for a hunger-free Asia Pacific by 2030.

Dr. Mahfuz Ahmed, Technical Adviser, Rural Development and Food Security, at ADB’s Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department told IPS that while many of the economies in the Asia and Pacific region are evolving from low-income to middle-income countries, the largest numbers of the food and nutrition insecure people in the world are still found in the region. “And they face new challenges to produce and access more nutritious and safe food for its growing populations.”

He pointed out that climate change, and economic and demographic transformations will have a major influence on the future of food in the region.

Shrinking natural resources, degrading environments, climate change and disaster risks, financing gaps, poor logistics and infrastructure deficits are among the major constraints to realize the objectives of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.

“ADB’s support to agriculture and natural resources in the future will emphasize investing in innovative and high-level technologies, for which partnership building, experiential learning and knowledge sharing will be crucial,” said Dr Ahmed.

ADB says Asia Pacific accounts for 61 percent of the world’s total population, and with three countries, China, India and Indonesia, jointly accounting for 40 percent of the world’s population.

Total population of the region is estimated at 4.4 billion in 2015 and projected to increase to 5.2 billion by 2050.

First, in order to feed these 0.8 billion additional people by 2050, food production has to increase. Secondly, with the increase of total population, the demographic composition will also change to an inverse-pyramid shape, including the farming community.

As a result, according to ADB, the agriculture sector may suffer from shortage of labour and food security may be at risk unless less labor-intensive technology is not introduced in the sector.

The nature of the food security challenge in the Asia Pacific region cannot be fully understood just by the current context which is constantly changing. Overall food security in the region will become increasingly complex due to various emerging challenges.

These challenges, says ADB, can be broadly categorized into three groups; (i) population growth, and changes in demographic and economic structures, (ii) changes in composition of crop market, and (iii) climate change and natural disaster.

Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director at the Oakland Institute, told IPS Asia-Pacific is still the region with the largest number of hungry people in the world.

For the largest Asian countries such as China, India or Indonesia, food sovereignty has been upheld has an overarching principle as seen during the 2008 food price crisis when countries regulated food prices and food supply, including export bans of food commodities, widely criticized by the proponents of free trade, notably international financial institutions, he noted.

Indonesia was for instance successful in preventing the transmission of high food prices to domestic markets.

He said the price of rice actually decreased in Indonesia in 2008 while it was escalating in the rest of the world thanks to public interventions to prevent this transmission with a mix of trade facilitation policies (cutting import tariffs or negotiating with importers) and trade restrictions or regulations (such as export bans, use of public stocks, price control, and anti-speculation measures).

However, said Mousseau, a number of Asian governments pursue today policies that seriously threaten the food security and the well being of the poorest people, domestically and abroad, as seen with the forced displacement of hundreds of millions of farmers in China, the land grabbing and corporatization of agriculture in India, the grabbing of land in Africa by Indian companies, or the plundering of natural resources in Pacific Islands and Africa by Malaysia or Indonesia.

John Coonrod, Executive Vice President at Hunger Project, told IPS his Project has strong chapters working on food and nutrition security in South Asia.

In those regions, the biggest obstacle continues to be gender discrimination and the patriarchal mindset which gives rise to it.

Social norms continue to have women and girls eat last and least, and marrying too young – giving rise to the perpetuation of a cycle of malnutrition, he pointed out.

The same mindset marginalizes “women’s priorities” such as WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), early childhood education and health care which are critical to nutrition security.

Coonrod said top-down agricultural policies favor nutrition-poor food grains rather than nutrition-rich crops such as fruits and vegetables, giving rise to the “enigma” that nutrition goes down as production goes up.

Meanwhile, global food security continues to be threatened by several factors. According to the German Renewable Energy Agency, 44 percent of food grains are currently used as food for human beings, 35 percent as animal feed, 6.0 percent as input for biofuel and the rest as “other uses.”

The most important question, says ADB, is how the increased use of grains for biofuels is going to affect the food security in the Asia-Pacific region.

And most importantly, each dimension of food security is going to be affected by climate change.

According to ADB, there is evidence of prominent increases in the intensity and/or frequency of many extreme events such as heat waves, tropical cyclones, prolonged dry spells, intense rainfall, tornadoes, snow avalanches, thunderstorms, and severe dust storms in the region.

Furthermore, the region is highly subject to natural hazards. Such impacts pose additional risks for already vulnerable communities striving to ensure adequate food.

The Asia Pacific region accounted for 91 percent of the world’s total death and 49 percent of the world’s total damage due to natural disasters in the last century.

“Therefore, climate change poses a serious and additional threat to poor farmers and rural communities in the region who live in remote, marginal areas such as mountains, drylands and deserts; areas with limited natural resources, communication and transportation networks and weak institutions”.

In particular, according to ADB, different climate models indicate temperature increase in the Asia/Pacific region by about 0.5-2°C by 2030 and 1-7°C by 2070. Temperatures are expected to increase more rapidly in the arid areas of northern Pakistan and India and western China.

ADB points out that it’s unwavering commitment to promote food security in the Asia Pacific region is reflected in its funding of hundreds of agriculture and natural resources projects.

The main objective of the forum is to provide a platform for all, including partner institutions, government leaders, private sector champions, civil society organizations, experts, farmers, youth leaders, and development practitioners to discuss strategic visions, share experiences and innovations to engineer new approaches and investment while consolidating the existing ones.

The specific objectives of the forum are: to facilitate knowledge exchange and dissemination among relevant stakeholders leading to implementable actions and strategy; (b) to showcase some state-of-the-art agricultural technologies and products, and (c) to facilitate partnership and networking to work together to promote food security in the Asia Pacific region.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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The Idiocy of Things Requires an “Information Habeas Corpus”!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-idiocy-of-things-requires-an-information-habeas-corpus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-idiocy-of-things-requires-an-information-habeas-corpus http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-idiocy-of-things-requires-an-information-habeas-corpus/#comments Tue, 31 May 2016 16:12:38 +0000 Hazel Henderson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145378 Hazel Henderson, President of Ethical Markets Media (US and Brazil), publisher of the Green Transition Scoreboard®. She has authored many books, including Building a Win-Win World and is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science and Britain’s Royal Society of Arts.]]>

Hazel Henderson, President of Ethical Markets Media (US and Brazil), publisher of the Green Transition Scoreboard®. She has authored many books, including Building a Win-Win World and is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science and Britain’s Royal Society of Arts.

By Hazel Henderson
ST. Augustine, Florida, May 31 2016 (IPS)

Today we are saturated with media hype about the joys of information and communication technology (ICT). We will all be connected, all the time, by the Idiocy of Things (IoT )devices and our social media, all converging in the cloud. Our lives will be monitored by smart sensors in homes with smart refrigerators, toasters, TVs, doorbells, alarm systems, garages, cars and electricity meters. We are bombarded with ads showing us how all these smart devices will improve our lives and health, bringing ever greater convenience. Driverless cars will be safer, allowing us to read, monitor our kids or enjoy the scenery. All this ICT and automation is already a multi-billion dollar industry and its producers are salivating over its growth and profits. Individual privacy rights and security concerns seem to be an afterthought.

Hazel Henderson

Hazel Henderson

But wait! There are increasing signs that this ICT revolution may be one more “bubble”, another example of how markets regularly overshoot. The Atlantic Council and Zurich Insurance Risk Nexus (2016) measured the overall costs and benefits of ICT. They report that ICT costs currently outweigh the benefits – even when these costs are added to gross domestic product. Markets generally over-react as expectations drive private investors, and producers go into overdrive. As a result of the hype, many of the social costs are overlooked, including job losses, growing ranks of involuntary part-time workers in the “gig” economy, from newspapers to local Main Street retailers, manufacturing, automation of asset management, legal and medical services, accounting and other white collar jobs. As many as over 2 million US workers will need retraining as a result of this information technology revolution. Unless adequately addressed and planned, much of the resulting fall-out from the automation of many sectors will be paid for by taxpayers.

Kentaro Toyama, author of Geek Heretic (2015), and co-founder of Microsoft Research India, has documented the limitations of ICT when applied to India. He recounts how ICT was over-promoted to increase economic efficiency. Toyama cites Bill Gate’s dictum “automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” Toyama redefines “efficiency” , showing how our current models and metrics have been very narrow in their focus and interpretation of this concept. He exposes the failure of many social theories of ICT interventions, which in some cases entirely ignore the cultural ramifications on peoples across the globe.

The US Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) launched in 1974, reported on many of these social costs and the environmental impacts of new products, technologies and industrial development. OTA looked at which were “producer push” or “consumer pull”, and who would be the winners and losers. As a member of OTA’s Technology Assessment Advisory Council, I insisted that for every technology we researched, on its scientific advisory group, the report would include representatives from segments of society most likely to be impacted: consumers, low-income and minority groups, workers and watchdog environmentalists.

OTA’s approach fundamentally challenged the laissez-faire economics’ Panglossian assumption: if new products and technologies appeared, consumers must have demanded them. OTA countered that markets today are driven by giant corporations with advertising to create demand, now a global $500 billion a year industry. OTA was shut down in 1996 and its reports deep-sixed until Ethical Markets and the University of Florida Press relaunched the reports that have been amongst the most prophetic and relevant to today’s technological concerns and warnings on climate change.

Concerns over the advance of big data, robots and artificial intelligence are now voiced by insiders from Edward Snowden to Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Eric Schmidt of Google and physicist Stephen Hawking. They fear that humans may lose control of their machines and their algorithms, as discussed with NASA Chief Scientist on the TV program “Robots Taking Over: What Will Humans Do?” Privacy and security issues are covered by Jon Mills in Privacy in the New Media Age (2015). The downside of big data, IoT and the new part-time “gig” economy are unravelled by Doug Rushkoff in Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus (2015) and Raw Deal (2015) by Steven Hill.

Deeper analysis means questioning the business models of most ICT companies: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn which all freely collect users’ data and then sell it to advertisers, data brokers, insurance companies, banks, credit card and insurance companies. Jaron Lanier in Who Owns the Future (2014) calls for new business models where ICT companies must pay users for any use of their personal data – quite feasible using available software.

Ethical Markets proposes a new standard to shift the balance of power back to consumers and citizens: a new Information Habeas Corpus. In 1215, Britain adopted the rule of Habeas Corpus, which assured individuals’ rights over their own bodies, further codified by Parliament in 1679. Today, we need to extend this right to our brains and all the information we generate in all our activities, in an “Information Habeas Corpus”.

The public is awakening to the new Orwellian threat of big data while acknowledging all its potential benefits. We do not need many of the products promoted for profit in the Internet of Things. New surveys like the one from Parks Associates find that 47% of US broadband users have privacy or security concerns about smart home devices. Tom Kerber, Director of Research, cites recent media reports of hacking into baby monitors and connected cars and suggests that if firms offered a Bill of Rights to consumers, this might ease concerns. At the very least, all smart devices should allow users to switch off their connectivity and operate them manually.

In Smart Homes and the Internet of Things, New Cities Foundation’s Greg Lindsay reports that 66% of smart phone users are afraid of having their movements tracked and 45% see no reason to want a smart home. The Atlantic Council’s March 2016 seminar on “Smart Homes and Cybersecurity” airs all these concerns, with some experts saying it’s already too late to protect homeowners and other users. For example, a smart refrigerator programmed with the owner’s dietary needs can detect any bingeing, notifying the insurance company, resulting in loss of coverage. Automotive engineer Mary Louise Cummings of Duke University testified at a recent Senate hearing on driverless vehicles at which Google, General Motors and Ford were requesting over $3 billion in subsidies. She noted that these companies had done no real testing of driverless vehicles and doubted they could be autonomous and safe.

It is time for an Information Habeas Corpus!

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Achieving Universal Access to Energy; Africa Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Placehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/achieving-universal-access-to-energy-africa-caught-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=achieving-universal-access-to-energy-africa-caught-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/achieving-universal-access-to-energy-africa-caught-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place/#comments Mon, 30 May 2016 14:52:06 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145363 African Heads of State during the official opening ceremony of the AfDB Annual meetings in Lusaka. Credit: Yoka | @vandvictors

African Heads of State during the official opening ceremony of the AfDB Annual meetings in Lusaka. Credit: Yoka | @vandvictors

By Friday Phiri
LUSAKA, May 30 2016 (IPS)

“It is unacceptable that 138 years after Thomas Edison developed the light bulb, hundreds of millions of people cannot have access to electricity to simply light up the bulb in Africa,” says Africa Development Bank (AfDB) Group President, Akinwumi Adesina, mourning the gloomy statistics showing that over 645 million people in Africa lack access to electricity, while over 700 million are without clean energy for cooking.

Adesina attributes Africa’s poverty and the perennial migration of youths to Europe in search of a good life, to lack of energy. “Even insects run from the dark to where there is light. Our youths are running away, hundreds of them drowning but the future of African’s youth does not lie at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea,” he declared during the official opening of the just ended 51st AfDB annual meetings held in Lusaka, from 23-27 May under the theme, ‘Energy and Climate Change’.

It is for this reason that top on the list of the bank’s strategies for all—referred to as the High fives (5s), is Light Up and Power Africa, with the goal of achieving universal access to energy for Africa within ten years through expansion of grid power by 160 gigawatts to connect 130 million people, and 75 million people to off-grid systems.

“Africa is simply tired of being in the dark,” said Adesina, outlining AfDB’s strategy to achieve universal access to energy which he believes, would unlock Africa’s potential to feed itself, achieve industrialisation, integration and ultimately improve the quality of life for the people.

However, ambition alone is not enough—it requires a realistic roadmap. And for the bank, the plan is to increase investment into the energy sector. “To deliver on the New Deal on Energy for Africa, the African Development Bank will invest $12 billion in the energy sector over the next five years,” he said, adding that, with this investment, the bank expects to leverage $45-50 billion.

But with the 2015 Paris climate agreement centred on a transition to renewable energy, Africa may have to re-think its strategies on how to achieve its ambitious dream. And this was one key question that divided opinion at the 2016 AfDB annual meetings—Should Africa lead the way on Green growth or follow a carbon intensive path that the developed countries took to achieve industrialisation?

Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo argued for Africa’s right to do so. “We in Africa must use what we have to get what we need. The West used coal to develop and I think we should also be allowed to pollute a bit and then, we will all join in cleaning up,” said Obasanjo during a panel discussion on Africa’s New Deal on Energy, one of the bank’s initiatives launched during the annual meetings.

While Obasanjo’s line of thought seemed out of place considering the world’s renewable energy push, there was a sense of support for the continent’s right to develop as it pleases, especially that big polluters are seemingly elusive on financial support and emission cuts.

“We first have to get access to energy for us to know which one is clean and which one is dirty,” said Chadian President, Idris Derby, the current African Union Chairman, before the host President, Edgar Lungu summarised Africa’s dilemma.

“It is always challenging to make a choice when you don’t have what to choose from…while we need to provide universal access to energy, climate change hinders our efforts, as some approaches are considered dirty,” said Lungu, highlighting his own country’s energy challenges emanating from poor rainfall in two consecutive seasons leading to low water levels for electricity generation at its main hydro power stations.

Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, were more concerned as to whether renewable energy is a realistic option in relation to the industrialisation agenda on the continent.

“For us, we think renewable energy and climate change are serious but development of our people is a priority. Africa’s situation is unique, for example, we have been talking about industry here which requires base load power and this might require countries to put up hundreds of hectares of solar plants to achieve the needed power,” said Osinbajo, whose sentiments seemed to sum up those of Paul Kagame and Uhuru Kenyatta as expressed during a televised panel discussion.

The underlying tone of African leaders in these discussions pointed to inconsistent flow of climate finance and technology transfer—a subject of debate at the core of the continent’s development, in relation to climate change.

Climate change is real and it is unanimously agreed by both the North and the South that Africa is at the receiving end. This therefore entails climate justice through finance for the continent which has been short changed by climate change.

The argument is that Africa must be supported financially to adapt to negative effects of climate change ravaging its people, but at the same time play a key role in mitigation efforts. However, the much debated climate finance has not been forthcoming.

“Very little money is flowing into adaptation and the bank is concerned with this trend…wants to see more resources also being channeled to adaptation as the case is with mitigation where a huge chunk of resources is being invested,” observes Kurt Lonsway, the AfDB Manager of the Environment and Climate Change division.

The inconsistent flow of financial resources, coupled with lukewarm emission cut commitments by the developed world, could be the cause for African leaders’ defying tone to take a lead on renewable energy despite being fully in support of the Paris climate deal.

Mary Robinson making a point during a round table discussion of African Presidents.

Mary Robinson making a point during a round table discussion of African Presidents.

And former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson is alive to this state of affairs. However, she wants African leaders to use their collective voice to demand for climate justice.

“Climate finance is no longer about aid to Africa but the means by which to serve the world from catastrophic climate change. I therefore plead with you, African leaders to use your collective voice to get what you want,” stressed the former Irish President who now heads the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice.

But former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan’s concern is African leaders’ political will. “The transformation we seek also requires decisive action on the part of Africa’s leaders in reforming inefficient, inequitable and often corrupt utilities that have failed to provide firms with a reliable power supply and people with access to electricity,” said the former top UN diplomat, who now chairs the Africa Progress Panel.

Whichever route Africa takes to achieve its ambition of universal access to energy, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Executive Secretary, Carlos Lopez wants Africa to do it with its own money because “donor money has been a disappointment, slow and not reliable.”

For Caroline Kende-Robb, Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel, African countries will have to choose an energy mix that suits them because “we cannot certainly expect Africa just to drop from fossil fuels while there are other countries at the top polluting the world.”

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Traditional Mexican Recipes Fight the Good Fighthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/traditional-mexican-recipes-fight-the-good-fight/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=traditional-mexican-recipes-fight-the-good-fight http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/traditional-mexican-recipes-fight-the-good-fight/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 11:54:49 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145330 AraceliMárquez prepares dishes based on Mexico’s rich, nutritional traditional cuisine, at a fair in the southeast of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

AraceliMárquez prepares dishes based on Mexico’s rich, nutritional traditional cuisine, at a fair in the southeast of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, May 27 2016 (IPS)

In a clay pot, Araceli Márquez mixes tiny Mexican freshwater fish known as charales with herbs and a sauce made of chili peppers, green tomatoes and prickly pear cactus fruit, preparing a dish called mixmole.

“I learned how to cook by asking people and experimenting,” the 55-year-old divorced mother of two told IPS. “The ingredients are natural, from this area. It’s a way to eat natural food, and to fight obesity and disease.”

Mixmole, which is greenish in color and has a distinctive flavour and a strong aroma that fills the air, is one of the traditional dishes of the town of San Andrés Mixquic, in Tlahuac, one of the 16 boroughs into which Mexico City, whose metropolitan region is home to 21 million people, is divided.

Márquez belongs to a cooperative named “Life and death in Tlahuac- heritage and tourist route”dedicated to gastronomy and ecotourism. The ingredients of their products and dishes, which are based on recipes handed down over the generations, come from local farmers.

Another dish on her menu is tlapique – a tamale (seasoned meat wrapped in cornmeal dough) filled with fish, chili peppers, prickly pear cactus fruit, epazote (Dysphaniaambrosioides) – a common spice in Mexican cooking – and xoconostles (Opuntiajoconostle), another kind of cactus pear native to Mexico’s deserts.

“We are trying to show people thelocal culture and cuisine.The response has been good, people like what we offer,” said Márquez, who lives in the town of San Bartolo Ameyalco, in Tlahuac, which is on the southeast side of Mexico City.

Márquez’s meals reflect the wealth of Mexican cuisine and the growing efforts to defend and promote it, in this Latin American country of 122 million people, which is one of the world’s fattest countries, meaning diabetes, hypertension, cardiac and stomach ailments are major problems.

Traditional Mexican cuisine, on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2010, revolves around corn, beans and chili peppers, staples used by native peoples long before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.

The local diet was enriched by the contributions of the invaders, and is now rich in vegetables, herbs and fruit – a multicultural mix of aromas, flavours, nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Activists offer beans on downtown Reforma Avenue in Mexico City to promote consumption of this staple of the Mexican diet, produced with non-genetically-modified native seeds, and to boost food security. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Activists offer beans on downtown Reforma Avenue in Mexico City to promote consumption of this staple of the Mexican diet, produced with non-genetically-modified native seeds, and to boost food security. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Liza Covantes is also dedicated to reviving traditional cuisine based on local products. With that aim she helped found a bartering and products cooperative in Zacahuitzco, in the south of the capital, in 2015.

“We are a group of people working for the right to a healthy, affordable diet who got together to foment healthy eating. We’re exercising the right to food, health and a clean environment,” she told IPS.

The cooperative brings together 45 families who produce food like bread, cheese and vegetables. To sell their products, in November they opened a store, Mawi, which means “to feed” in the Totonaca indigenous language.

“We don’t accept anything with artificial ingredients,” said Covantes. The cooperative sells six-kg packages of food, which always include vegetables.

Mexico’s world-renowned cuisine is a significant part of this country’s attraction for tourists.

To cite a few examples of the rich culinary heritage, there are 200 varieties of native chili peppers in Mexico, 600 recipes that use corn, and 71 different kinds of mole sauce.

But this culinary wealth exists alongside the epidemic of obesity caused by the proliferation of sodas and other processed food high in added fats and sweeteners.

The 2012 National Survey on Health and Nutrition found that 26 million adults are overweight, 22 million are obese, and some five million children are overweight orobese. This generates growing costs for the state.

The survey also found that over 20 million households were in some category of food insecurity.

Referring to the country’s traditional cuisine, expert Delhi Trejo told IPS that “its importance lies in the diversity of the food.”

“We have a great variety of fruits, vegetables and grains; they’re important sources of fiber, vitamins, protein and minerals. Their costs are low and they have benefits to the environment,” said Trejo, the senior consultant on nutrition in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Mexico office.

María Solís, who grows different varieties and colours of native corn, removes the kernels from a cob in San Juan Ixtenco, Tlaxcala state, during a traditional fair dedicated to corn, the country’s main crop, which originated in Mexico and forms the base of the national diet. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

María Solís, who grows different varieties and colours of native corn, removes the kernels from a cob in San Juan Ixtenco, Tlaxcala state, during a traditional fair dedicated to corn, the country’s main crop, which originated in Mexico and forms the base of the national diet. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

FAO declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses – one of the key elements in the Mexican diet.

But traditional cuisine not only has nutritional value; the preparation of foods employs more than five million people and the country’s 500,000 formal restaurants generate two percent of GDP in Latin America’s second-largest economy.

To improve nutrition and defend an important segment of the economy, in August 2015 the government launched a Policy to Foment National Gastronomy, aimed at fostering and strengthening the country’s gastronomic offerings, fomenting tourism and boosting local and regional development through restaurants and the value chain.

But its measures have not yet yielded clear dividends.

“The traditional diet would be a solution for diabetes or obesity,” independent researcher Cristina Barros told IPS. “It is indispensable to return to our roots…We are what we eat.”

The Dietary Guidelines launched by the United States in 2010 state that people with traditional plant-based diets are less prone to cancer, coronary disease and obesity than people with diets based on processed foods.

Márquez is calling for more support and promotion. “There is assistance, but it is not enough. I hope the federal programme brings results,” said the cook, whose goal this year is to make a Tláhuac recipe book.

For Trejo, the FAO consultant, part of the problem is that a segment of the population erroneously associates traditional food with what is sold by street vendors or food stalls.

“The country has to foster its gastronomy and do away with false ideas of combinations of fats, sugar and industrialised food that increasingly reach every corner of the country and put traditional cuisine at risk,” she said.

Initiatives in different parts of Mexico have pointed in that direction, like in the southern state of Chiapas, one of the country’s poorest, where several organizations launched in April 2015 the campaign “Pozol project: eating healthier as Mexicans”, aimed at fomenting the consumption of pozol, a nutritious fermented corn drink.

On Apr. 28, the Mexican Senate approved the draft of a Federal Law to Foment Gastronomy, which outlines measures to strengthen the sector. The bill is now pending approval by the lower house of Congress.

“Collectively we can defend these principles and create a social trend that boosts the nutritional values of our gastronomy, to also benefit local producers,” said Covantes.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Natural Capital Investment Key to Africa’s Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 17:49:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145267 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development/feed/ 0