Inter Press Service » Green Economy http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:25:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 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.

In a concept paper released ahead of the upcoming forum, 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, says 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, argues 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 Prickly Pears Drive Local Development in Northern Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 14:51:45 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145260 Marta Maldonado, secretary of the “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” association, standing next to a prickly pear, a cactus that is abundant in this municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Making use of the fruit and the leaves of the plant has changed the lives of a group of local families. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Marta Maldonado, secretary of the “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” association, standing next to a prickly pear, a cactus that is abundant in this municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Making use of the fruit and the leaves of the plant has changed the lives of a group of local families. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
CORZUELA, Argentina , May 23 2016 (IPS)

Family farmers in the northern Argentine province of Chaco are gaining a new appreciation of the common prickly pear cactus, which is now driving a new kind of local development.

Hundreds of jars of homemade jam are stacked in the civil society association “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” (smallholders of Corzuela united), ready to be sold.

Until recently, the small farmers taking part in this new local development initiative did not know that the prickly pear, also known as cactus pear, tuna or nopal, originated in Mexico, or that its scientific name was Opuntia ficus-indica.

But now this cactus that has always just been a normal part of their semi-arid landscape is bringing local subsistence farmers a new source of income.

“The women who took the course are now making a living from this,” Marta Maldonado, the secretary of the association, which was formally registered in 2011, told IPS. “They also have their vegetable gardens, chickens, pigs and goats.”

“The prickly pear is the most common plant around here. In the project we set up 20 prickly pear plantations,” she said.

Local farmers work one to four hectares in this settlement in the rural municipality of Corzuela in west-central Chaco, whose 10,000 inhabitants are spread around small settlements and villages.

The initiative, which has benefited 20 families, made up of 39 women, 35 men and four children, has been implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the U.N. Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Small Grants Programme (SGP).

The SGP, which is active in 125 countries, is based on the sustainable development concept of “thinking globally, acting locally”, and seeks to demonstrate that small-scale community initiatives can have a positive impact on global environmental problems.

The aim of these small grants, which in the case of the local association here amounted to 20,000 dollars, is to bolster food sovereignty while at the same time strengthening biodiversity.

The SGP has carried out 13 projects so far in Chaco, the poorest province in this South American country of 43 million people.

In the region where Corzuela is located, “there are periods of severe drought and fruit orchards require a lot of water. The prickly pear is a cactus that does not need water,” said Gabriela Faggi with the National Agricultural Technology Institute (INTA).

The large-scale deforestation and clear-cutting of land began in 1990, when soy began to expand in this area, and many local crops were driven out.

“The prickly pear, which is actually originally from Mexico but was naturalised here throughout northern Argentina centuries ago, had started to disappear. So this project is also important in terms of rescuing this local fruit,” said Faggi.

“Sabores de Corzuela” (Flavours of Corzuela) reads the label on the jars of prickly pear fruit jam produced by an association of local families in this rural municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Credit: UNDP Argentina

“Sabores de Corzuela” (Flavours of Corzuela) reads the label on the jars of prickly pear fruit jam produced by an association of local families in this rural municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Credit: UNDP Argentina

This area depends on agriculture – cotton, soy, sunflowers, sorghum and maize – and timber, as well as livestock – cattle, hogs, and poultry.

However, it is now impossible for local smallholders to grow crops like cotton.

“In the past, a lot of cotton was grown, but not anymore,” the association’s treasurer, Mirtha Mores, told IPS. “It’s not planted now because of an outbreak of boll weevils (Anthonomus grandis), an insect that stunts growth of the plant, and we can’t afford to fight it, poor people like us who have just a little piece of land to farm.”

Before launching the project, the local branch of INTA trained the small farmers in agroecological techniques for growing cotton, and helped them put up fences to protect their crops from the animals.

They also taught them how to build and use a machine known as a “desjanadora” to remove the spines, or “janas”, from the prickly pear fruits, to make them easier to handle.

“It’s going well for us. Last year we even sold 1,500 jars of prickly pear fruit jam to the Education Ministry,” for use in school lunchrooms, Maldonado said proudly.

The association, whose work is mainly done by women, also sells its products at local and provincial markets. And although prickly pear fruit is their star product, when it is not in season, they also make jam and other preserves using papaya or pumpkin.

“It has improved our incomes and now we have the possibility to sell our merchandise and to be able to buy the things that are really needed to help our kids who are studying,” Mores said.

The project, which began in 2013, also trained them to use the leaves as a supplementary feed for livestock, especially in the winter when there is less fodder and many animals actually die of hunger.

“We make use of everything. We use the leaves to feed the animals – cows, horses, goats, pigs. The fruit is used to make jam, removing the seeds,” said Mores.

The nutrition and health of the families have improved because of the properties of the fruit and of the plant, said Maldonado and Mores. And now they need less fodder for their animals, fewer of which die in the winter due to a lack of forage.

At the same time, the families belonging to the association were also trained to make sustainable use of firewood from native trees, and learned to make special stoves that enable them to cook and heat their modest homes.

In addition, because women assumed an active, leading role in the activities of the association, the project got them out of their homes and away from their routine grind of household tasks and gave them new protagonism in the community.

“Living in the countryside, women used to be more isolated, they didn’t get out, but now they have a place to come here. They get together from Monday through Friday, chat and are more involved in decision-making. In the association they can express their opinions,” said Maldonado.

“When women get together, what don’t we talk about?” Mores joked.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Will Canada Recognise Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Developing Countries Too?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/will-canada-recognise-rights-of-indigenous-peoples-in-developing-countries-too/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-canada-recognise-rights-of-indigenous-peoples-in-developing-countries-too http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/will-canada-recognise-rights-of-indigenous-peoples-in-developing-countries-too/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 15:09:32 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145192 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/will-canada-recognise-rights-of-indigenous-peoples-in-developing-countries-too/feed/ 1 Making Bangladesh Ready for Renewableshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/making-bangladesh-ready-for-renewables/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-bangladesh-ready-for-renewables http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/making-bangladesh-ready-for-renewables/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 16:41:46 +0000 Sohara Mehroze http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145159 By Sohara Mehroze Shachi
May 17 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

All his life, farmer Nasiruddin saw his poverty ridden village in complete darkness after dusk, with electricity being a distant dream. That changed last year when he installed a solar lantern system.

Photo: BGR

Photo: BGR

“Life used to stop here after sundown,” he says, “Kerosene lamps were expensive. My children studied in candle light with a lot of difficulty, and we couldn’t do any work properly at night. But now solar power has changed all that.”

Nasiruddin’s case is emblematic of that of millions of Bangladeshis living in underdeveloped areas of the country, such as the enclave in which he lives, most of which don’t have electric grids. The energy starved nation faces significant challenges to achieve its vision of universal electricity access by 2021 by relying only on grid power development. The dispersed nature of rural settlements and the numerous rivers that crisscross Bangladesh make grid electrification difficult and expensive. It is also environmentally unsustainable, as it is primarily dependent on fossil fuels, which exacerbate global warming.

In recognition of these challenges, the government promoted the development of off-grid renewable energy schemes as one of the viable near-to-medium-term options to provide electricity for millions of households in the remote areas of the country. And development organisations have got onboard. Some organisations, including the UNDP through their Sustainable Renewable Energy for Power Generation (SREPGEN) project of which Nasiruddin is a beneficiary, provide solar lanterns to those who do not have grid connection in rural areas and cannot afford solar home system, with a portion of grant via partner organisations. The aim here is to reduce the annual growth rate of GHG emissions from fossil fuel-fired power generation by exploiting Bangladesh’s renewable energy resources for electricity generation.

Measures to promote renewable energy investment can be expected to improve energy security, generate employment and serve as a cost-effective GHG emission reduction option. In recognition of this fact, the government has set up the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) to develop policies for renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes, and to mobilise resources for such programmes in Bangladesh. But the renewables landscape is still riddled with challenges. Organisations assert that solar energy is costly, and the components being imported have high duties. Currently the high tariffs are driving up the cost of equipment such as solar lanterns, rendering them unaffordable for many without external financial assistance. To counter this challenge, however, some organisations, like the Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), are developing their capacity to lobby for renewable energy investment incentives such as duty free import of renewables’ equipment and tax holidays for investors.

While solar data is considered to be adequate for current purposes, datasets for wind and biomass resources do not have sufficient geographic coverage or volume to induce investment decisions. The available data sets are also not compiled in user-friendly formats, and there is no central repository of renewable energy information. Moreover, access to these data is difficult, as it requires contacts with various government departments, discouraging potential renewable energy developers and investors.

Moreover, as one of the most densely populated nations of the world, land is a scarce commodity in Bangladesh. Disputes exist regarding land ownership in different parts of the country, which makes installation and scaling up of solar photovoltaic difficult, according to Saiful Alam, Director of Dhaka University’s Energy Institute. However, he thinks an easy solution exists for this problem – rooftops. “We may have land scarcity but we have plenty of rooftops, enough to produce 3000 megawatts, and we are trying to convince the government to do so,” he says.

After the historic Paris climate agreement last year, the world received a clear signal – the fossil fuel era is over. An energy transition is needed for all nations, which leaves coal, gas and oil in the ground and leads to a 100 percent renewable energy powered world. Developing nations such as Bangladesh that have escalating energy needs should lay the framework now for sustainable development.

With that aim, civil society organisations and climate conscious people are mobilising around the world as part of the Break Free campaign, urging governments and corporations to phase out fossil fuels and phase in renewable energy. In line with the campaign, SUPRO – a national network of grassroots NGOs in Bangladesh – formed a human chain on May 14 around the National Press Club to bring to the attention of media and people on the ground the need to protect climate policying from big polluters.

Pressure is mounting on all governments, including those of developing nations such as Bangladesh, to develop a credible plan to end their dependence on fossil fuels and decarbonise their economies in favour of renewable energy, in line with their COP 21 pledges. And this necessitates effective government action and international assistance to overcome the obstacles in the path to proliferation of renewable energy.

The writer is a development professional working at UNDP Bangladesh on Climate Change, Environment and Disaster Management issues.

his story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Justice for Berta Caceres Incomplete Without Land Rights: UN Rapporteurhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/justice-for-berta-caceres-incomplete-without-land-rights-un-rapporteur/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=justice-for-berta-caceres-incomplete-without-land-rights-un-rapporteur http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/justice-for-berta-caceres-incomplete-without-land-rights-un-rapporteur/#comments Fri, 13 May 2016 21:44:24 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145113 UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an Igorot from the Cordillera region in the Philippines. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an Igorot from the Cordillera region in the Philippines. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, May 13 2016 (IPS)

The murder of Honduran Indigenous woman Berta Caceres is only too familiar to Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

All around the world, Indigenous peoples are murdered, raped and kidnapped when their lands fall in the path of deforestation, mining and construction. According to the group Global Witness, one Indigenous person was killed almost every week in 2015 because of their environmental activism, 40 percent of the total 116 people killed for environmental activism.

“We shouldn’t forget that the death of Berta is because of the protest that she had against the destruction of the territory of her people,” Tauli-Corpuz told IPS in a recent interview.

Caceres, who was murdered at the beginning of March, had long known her life was in danger. She experienced violence and intimidation as a leader of the Lenca people of Rio Blanco who protested the construction of the Agua Zarca dam on their traditional lands.

“A very crucial part of the problems that Indigenous peoples face is that many of the things happening in their communities are happening because of the investments that are coming in from these richer countries." -- Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

Caceres activism received international recognition, including through the 2015 Goldman Prize, however this was not enough to protect her.

She knew she was going to die, she had even written her own obituary, said Tauli-Corpuz who met with Caceres during a visit to Honduras in 2015.

Four men were arrested in relation to Caceres death earlier this week.

While Tauli-Corpuz welcomed the arrests she said that justice would not be clear until after the trial, and that real justice was about more than the criminal proceedings for Caceres murder.

“We cannot rest on our laurels to say the whole thing is finished because that’s not the point,” she said. “The point is this whole issue about the dam still being there.”

Tauli-Corpuz has witnessed accounts of violence against many other Indigenous activists around the world, in her role as Special Rapporteur.

Their experiences have startling similarity, Indigenous peoples are subjected to rape, murder and kidnap, whenever they stand in the way of access to lands or natural resources.

“You cannot delink the fight of indigenous people for their lands, territories and resources from the violence that’s committed against indigenous women (and men), especially if this is a violence that is perpetrated by state authorities or by corporate security,” said Tauli-Corpuz.

Tauli-Corpuz also said that a look at the bigger picture reveals the increasingly international nature of the problems experienced by Indigenous peoples worldwide.

“A very crucial part of the problems that Indigenous peoples face is that many of the things happening in their communities are happening because of the investments that are coming in from these richer countries,” she said.

“You see a situation where the state is meant to be the main duty bearer for protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples, but at the same time you see investors having strong rights being protected and that is really where a lot of conflicts come up,” she said.

In Guatemala, Tauli-Corpuz says that 50 Indigenous women are still waiting for justice after their husbands were murdered and their lands taken in 1982.

“(Their) husbands were killed by the military because they were demanding the rights to their lands then (the military) took the women (to) the military camps and raped them and made them sexual slaves,” said Tauli-Corpuz.

Tauli-Corpuz said that the women were brave enough to take their case to the courts but had to cover their faces because they were still being harassed by the military.

She said that when she recently asked the women what they would like if they won their case, they said that they would like their land back. After 33 years, their lands have never been returned.

Tauli-Corpuz also noted that for Indigenous peoples justice is incomplete if their lands are protected but they are denied access to them.

“(The land) is the source of their identities, their cultures and their livelihoods,” she said. If the forest is preserved but people are kicked off their lands, “than that’s a another problem that has to be prevented at all costs.”

In other cases, Indigenous peoples are forced off their lands when their food sources are destroyed.

For example said Tauli-Corpuz a major dam being built in the Amazon is not only destroying the forest but also means that there are no longer any fish in the rivers for the Indigenous people who rely on them.

Tauli-Corpuz said that it is important to remember that Indigenous peoples are contributing to climate change and environmental solutions by continuing their traditional ways of forest and ecosystem management.

Tauli-Corpuz has first-hand experience as an Indigenous activist and environmental defender. As a leader of the Kankanaey Igorot people of the Cordillera Region in the Philippines she helped successfully protest the construction of the Chico River Hydroelectric dam in the 1970s.

She notes that dams shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a climate change solution because they destroy forests and produce methane which is more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon.

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Biomass Could Help Power Africa’s Energy Transitionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/biomass-could-help-power-africas-energy-transition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biomass-could-help-power-africas-energy-transition http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/biomass-could-help-power-africas-energy-transition/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 10:55:33 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145058 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/biomass-could-help-power-africas-energy-transition/feed/ 1 No Farmers, No Food — True But Not Enoughhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/no-farmers-no-food-true-but-not-enough/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-farmers-no-food-true-but-not-enough http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/no-farmers-no-food-true-but-not-enough/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 13:14:15 +0000 Evelyn Nguleka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145006 Evelyn Nguleka is president of the World Farmers Organisation, an international organisation of Farmers for Farmers, which aims to bring together all the national producer and farm cooperative organisations with the objective of developing policies which favour and support farmers' causes in developed and developing countries around the world. Nguleka introduces the key issues discussed at the May 4-7 2016 WFO conference in Lusaka.]]>

Evelyn Nguleka is president of the World Farmers Organisation, an international organisation of Farmers for Farmers, which aims to bring together all the national producer and farm cooperative organisations with the objective of developing policies which favour and support farmers' causes in developed and developing countries around the world. Nguleka introduces the key issues discussed at the May 4-7 2016 WFO conference in Lusaka.

By Evelyn Nguleka
LUSAKA, May 6 2016 (IPS)

Agriculture is the primary sector of all economies. It is the sector responsible for granting food and nutrition security to all human beings. Consequently it is responsible for social stability and health. And it provides work opportunities to families, men, women and youth, and largely contributes to the country Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Evelyn Nguleka

Evelyn Nguleka

However, this would never be possible without the support of our partners and friends from the public and private sectors, from local and international arena, who believe in our daily work and in our central role for the socio-economic well being of this planet.

It is to the above extent that the 2016 General Assembly of the World Farmers’ Organisation, WFO, has been held under the overarching theme of “Partnership for Growth”, with a view to promoting the importance of a holistic approach to the agricultural sector, where different actors stand together for the same goal:

Implementing sustainable food systems ensure that farmers of the world gain an effective position in the food chain look after the environment to implement together the Sustainable Development Goals and the overall agenda 2030.

Establishing effective partnership is and remains a great priority to the WFO.

For this reason, WFO has accepted the burden and the honour to act as the reference organisation representing the world farmers’ community at the most relevant policy processes in agriculture, including:

the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, and Agenda 2030
the Climate negotiations, COPs
the Committee on World Food Security, CFS

As farmers, we are on the front line of the climate change agenda, we are directly impacted by climate change and they are vital in implementing many of the solutions the world needs in order to adapt and mitigate it.

Most of the WFO’s success lies in its constituency; a farmer organisation, made by farmers, serving the interests of farmers of all scale, small, medium and large who are able to engage in dialogue and advocate for the conception of policies that create an enabling environment for farmers and their organisations, allowing them to develop and thrive.

Nowadays, the estimated population growth, the changing climate, the competitive markets are challenging farmers more than ever. In order to tackle these new challenges, introducing sustainable agricultural practices and increasing productivity are highly important to the farmers themselves as well as the entire society.

The slogan of the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) which I have the honour to chair is ‘No Farmers, No Food’.

But while this is an indisputable fact, farmers now a day need to develop the right skills and knowledge needed to effectively improve their capacity.

We need a secure access to the land, ownership and control over land, access to productive resources and inputs, including modern technology, markets, inputs and financial resources.

Moreover, farmers need to develop their agricultural management and marketing skills to efficiently strengthen their entrepreneurial skills. In this respect, agricultural extension and advisory services are increasingly seen as a key means to build farmers’ capacity.

These services help farmers deal with risk and change, by providing options and capabilities to make the right choices at the right time. The services assist rural actors to share technology and practices, and support farmers to acquire a better position in value chains and markets.

The global economy is based on the assets of efficiency and profitability. Farmers, likewise all other categories of entrepreneurs, deserve to see their work duly compensated by an appropriate income and their products effectively absorbed by the market.

Farmers are ready to invest their days in the field, while looking for new solutions to increase the profitability of their farm while taking care of the quality of food produced. In this context, there is only one path farmers can follow to achieve this goal, which is running the way of Innovation.

Innovation and new technologies stand at the basis of modern economy as agents of solutions for making economic systems more efficient. Farmers from all over the world, in their capacity of economic actors, need to access innovative techniques for making their business more profitable.

This view and this stand are not solely those of the WFO’s and the farmers. Leading international organisations specialised in agriculture and food share the WFO’s position.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) understands the enormity of the challenge ahead, and the importance of the producers of food – the farmers – to meet the set target.

In his message to the WFO conference, the FAO Director General, General José Graziano Da Silva, recalled in this respect that the international community has committed to end worldwide hunger and poverty in 15 years, with the endorsement of the 2030 Agenda.

Mr Graziano has also renewed FAO full engagement to help address this challenge. “But we know that this is only possible with solid partnerships, especially with non-state actors,” he said, while highlighting the strategic role of farmers not only in producing food but also in the preservation of the environment, considering the impact of climate change on agriculture – singled out by scientists as the most vulnerable sector.

In view of all the above, we all call for solid support for farmers, a support that should be placed at the core of any strategy for increased responsible investments in agriculture,” stressing the importance of the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems.

Developed by the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) composed of FAO, UNCTAD, IFAD and the World Bank, the guidelines draw attention to rights and livelihoods of rural populations and the need for socially and environmentally sustainable agricultural investments.

They cover all types of investment in agriculture, including between principal investors and contract farmers.

The Principles are based on detailed research on the nature, extent and impacts of private sector investment and best practices in law and policy.

They are intended to distil the lessons learned and provide a framework for national regulations, international investment agreements, global corporate social responsibility initiatives, and individual investor contracts.

This was on the realisation that land tenure still represents one of the major challenges that farmers face, especially in developing countries. In particular, many small-scale farmers, especially women, work on land that they don’t own, exacerbating their poverty and lack of political power.

The role played by agriculture and farmers in tackling many of the goals set by the new agenda is fundamental, as it encompasses several of the proposed targets.

We also fully share what Given Lubinda, Zambia’s minister of agriculture, has said– “Since Africa is the home of small-scale farmers who create wealth and feed the world,” access to land, ownership and control, and modern technology, markets and financial resources are essential elements to enable them improve agricultural efficiency and productivity.

For her part, while adding impetus to the land and food security nexus as a key element in the achievement of the SDGs, the chair of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS), Ambassador Amira Gornass of Sudan also agreed that, “Farmers are the backbone of any efforts for food and nutrition security.”

We have to move ahead and we willing to. We have to invest in our farmers, in our agriculture, in our land. What is at stake in nothing less than our food, our health, and our future, not only in Africa but also all over the world.

(End)

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An Inclusive and Sustainable Approach to Rural Electrification in India: Case of Decentralized Renewable Systemshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/an-inclusive-and-sustainable-approach-to-rural-electrification-in-india-case-of-decentralized-renewable-systems/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=an-inclusive-and-sustainable-approach-to-rural-electrification-in-india-case-of-decentralized-renewable-systems http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/an-inclusive-and-sustainable-approach-to-rural-electrification-in-india-case-of-decentralized-renewable-systems/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 12:01:59 +0000 Gopal K Sarangi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145003 Dr. Gopal K Sarangi is Assistant Professor. Department of Policy Studies TERI University, New Delhi ]]>

Dr. Gopal K Sarangi is Assistant Professor. Department of Policy Studies TERI University, New Delhi

By Dr. Gopal K Sarangi
NEW DELHI, May 6 2016 (IPS)

The Declaration of 2014- 2024 as the ‘Decade of Sustainable Energy for All’ by the United Nations (UN) is a clear manifestation of the importance attached to energy in the process of development. Setting ‘Universal Access to Energy’ as one of the goals of UN’s ‘SE4All’ initiative is reiteration of the fact that access to energy constitutes an essential ingredient in the process of economic development of any country. This underscores the complex and inextricable link that exists between energy and sustainable development.

Dr. Gopal K Sarangi

Dr. Gopal K Sarangi

The size of the energy challenge can be evident as 1.2 billion people are still deprived of basic minimum access to electricity along with 2.8 billion lacking safe and clean cooking energy. The challenge is more pronounced when one observes the presence of regional disparities in access statistics, with Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia known as the hot spots for lack of access to energy.

Often the prevailing electricity regime is ridiculed for causing such distortions and anomalies. The existing regime, which relies on the centralized supplied systems, is argued to have widened social inequities, caused irreparable environmental damages, and nurtured a culture of inertia and inefficiency. Of late, decentralized renewable energy systems have emerged globally as an effective alternative mode to supplement the efforts of grid based centralized electricity systems. In particular, developing countries are looking forward to it not as an engineering solution to the energy access challenges, rather as an integral component of rural community life, considering the larger context of overall rural development efforts.

While technological advancements, in particular, solar PV technologies, have provided the necessary impetus to decentralized renewable energy systems to flourish, accommodative policy space has also been created in recent years to accelerate the deployment of these systems. A multitude of drivers such as threats posed by climate change, issues around energy security and the urgency to provide minimum basic level of energy at a universal scale, have led to reshaping of the policy and regulatory landscape governing the decentralized energy systems. Though, India has a long and extended history of renewable energy based decentralized energy systems, the efforts in early years were sporadic and piecemeal in nature and characterized by lack of integrated approach. However, enactment of the Electricity Act 2003 ushered a new era in the decentralized energy promotion in India with its specific focus on de-licensing of electricity generation and distribution for rural areas. This was further boosted by the Rural Electrification Policy 2006 and the National Tariff Policy 2006.

A recent amendment of the National Tariff Policy 2006 is a clear signal of the furtherance of efforts at the policy level to accelerate the promotion of decentralized renewable energy generation in the country. Given the constitutional recognition of energy as a concurrent item, equal emphasis is also laid by provincial governments to drive the decentralized renewable energy systems as means of electrification. In fact some states like Chhattisgarh have taken proactive initiatives by promoting decentralized renewable energy systems through dedicated support from the state government and by exemplary leadership skills by state nodal agencies.

In the last decade or so, multiple management and delivery models have evolved in the domain of decentralized renewable energy systems in the country. While on the one hand extreme electricity services are provided by government agencies, largely through the provisioning of government subsidies, as a ‘merit good’, on other hand, electricity services are increasingly perceived as ’economic commodity’ with private investors entering to this market as service providers .

Solar panels installed in Burangia village cluster, Kandhamal, Odisha

Solar panels installed in Burangia village cluster, Kandhamal, Odisha

TERI University, being a research led university has been striving hard since its genesis, not only to enrich the frontier of sustainable development (SD) education in breadth and depth, but also to intensively engage its’ students to practice the ideals of SD through various action based research projects. In this direction, TERI University, through a funding support from EPSRC/DFID, was engaged in a collaborative research project with five other universities/institutes in UK and India to develop a sustainable and viable business model for decentralized energy projects and to demonstrate the model in the field.

Odisha, one of the least electrified states located in the eastern part of India, was chosen as the ground to experiment the model. The model was demonstrated in two different socio-economic settings and was structured around two different delivery approaches. Following a scientific approach, two clusters of villages were selected to be electrified through this project. The chosen villages were located in geographically difficult locations and had little prospect of getting electrified through centralized supply systems. While one cluster i.e. Rajang village cluster in the Dhenkanal district of Odisha is located in a reserve forest, the other cluster i.e. Burangia village cluster in the Kandhmal district of Odisha is completely cut off from the mainstream development through difficult geography surrounded by a river. Solar PV technology, given its’ modular features, was preferred over other technologies as a technological option to set up decentralized renewable energy mini-grids in the both locations.

Project site in Rajanga, Dhenkanal , Odisha

Project site in Rajanga, Dhenkanal , Odisha

In case of Rajanga cluster, a Village Energy Committee (VEC) was created to operate and manage the project with support from a local NGO called the Institute for Research and Action on Development Alternatives (IRADA), stationed at Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha. Local administration was entrusted the responsibility to support the project operation and management in case of Burangia village cluster project in Kandhamal district. Both the projects have been operating successfully for more than a year and lighting up the lives of people located in such remote and geographically difficult regions echoing the spirit of UN’s SE4ALL goals.

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Farmers Hold Keys to Ending Poverty, Hunger, FAO Sayshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-hold-keys-to-ending-poverty-hunger-fao-says/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmers-hold-keys-to-ending-poverty-hunger-fao-says http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-hold-keys-to-ending-poverty-hunger-fao-says/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 14:50:02 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144989 Dr. Evelyn Nguleka, WFO President, seated with Secretary General Marco Marzano de Marinis. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Dr. Evelyn Nguleka, WFO President, seated with Secretary General Marco Marzano de Marinis. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
LIVINGSTONE, Zambia, May 5 2016 (IPS)

With recent data showing that 793 million people still go to bed hungry, ending hunger and poverty in 15 years is the next development challenge that world leaders have set for themselves.

As part of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), these two have been made a special priority because of their impact on the world’s ability to achieve the rest.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) understands the enormity of the challenge ahead, and the importance of the producers of food – the farmers – to meet the set target.

“As you know, the international community has committed to end worldwide hunger and poverty in 15 years, with the endorsement of the 2030 Agenda. FAO is fully engaged to help address this challenge. But we know that this is only possible with solid partnerships, especially with non-state actors,” said FAO Director General José Graziano Da Silva during the World Farmers’ Organisation General Assembly, which opened here Wednesday, May 4.“Sustainable development for all is possible." -- Ambassador Amira Gornass of Sudan

In his video conference message to delegates, Da Silva highlighted the strategic role of farmers not only in producing food but also in the preservation of the environment, considering the impact of climate change on agriculture – singled out by scientists as the most vulnerable sector.

“Farmers are responsible for providing the food we all need but also helping preserve and sustain our natural resources,” he said.

The FAO chief called for solid support for farmers and said that they “should be placed at the core of any strategy for increased responsible investments in agriculture,” stressing the importance of the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems.

Developed by the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) composed of FAO, UNCTAD, IFAD and the World Bank, the guidelines draw attention to rights and livelihoods of rural populations and the need for socially and environmentally sustainable agricultural investments.

They cover all types of investment in agriculture, including between principal investors and contract farmers. The Principles are based on detailed research on the nature, extent and impacts of private sector investment and best practices in law and policy. They are intended to distil the lessons learned and provide a framework for national regulations, international investment agreements, global corporate social responsibility initiatives, and individual investor contracts.

Delegates at the WFO have been called upon to use the guidelines as important tools that can be applied as they push for farmer-centred ‘Partnerships for Growth’, the overarching theme for the 2016 General Assembly.

“I am proud to say that FAO and WFO have a concrete and strategic partnership to achieve food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture worldwide. With other partners, we have improved statistics to understand the economic and social role of farmers’ organisations in sustainable development,” said the FAO chief.

Closely related to responsible investment in agriculture is the role of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT), endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security in 2012, to serve as a reference to improve the governance of land tenure with the overarching goal of achieving food security for all and supporting the progressive realisation of the right to adequate food.

This was on the realisation that land tenure still represents one of the major challenges that farmers face, especially in developing countries. In particular, many small-scale farmers, especially women, work on land that they don’t own, exacerbating their poverty and lack of political power.

Given Lubinda, Zambia’s minister of agriculture, says that since “Africa is the home of small-scale farmers who create wealth and feed the world,” access to land, ownership and control, and modern technology, markets and financial resources are essential elements to enable them improve agricultural efficiency and productivity.

Adding impetus to the land and food security nexus as a key element in the achievement of the SDGs, the chair of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS), Ambassador Amira Gornass of Sudan, agreed that, “Farmers are the backbone of any efforts for food and nutrition security.”

“Sustainable development for all is possible,” she stressed, through partnerships with all actors of the food value chain to make sure that by 2030 “We end hunger and no one is left behind.”

And in keeping with the major theme of the meeting, WFO President Evelyn Nguleka says the role played by agriculture and farmers in tackling many of the goals set by the new agenda is fundamental, as it encompasses several of the proposed targets.

“The global economy is based on the assets of efficiency and profitability. Farmers, likewise all other categories of entrepreneurs, deserve to see their work duly compensated by an appropriate income and their products effectively absorbed by the market. Farmers are ready to invest their days in the field, while looking for new solutions to increase the profitability of their farms,” she said.

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The Waves of the Pacific Are on Chile’s Energy Horizonhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-waves-of-the-pacific-are-on-chiles-energy-horizon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-waves-of-the-pacific-are-on-chiles-energy-horizon http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-waves-of-the-pacific-are-on-chiles-energy-horizon/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 16:21:32 +0000 Marianela Jarroud and Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144960 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-waves-of-the-pacific-are-on-chiles-energy-horizon/feed/ 1 New Generation Aims to Plug Africa’s Research Deficithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-generation-aims-to-plug-africas-research-deficit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-generation-aims-to-plug-africas-research-deficit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-generation-aims-to-plug-africas-research-deficit/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 12:50:48 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144964 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-generation-aims-to-plug-africas-research-deficit/feed/ 0