Inter Press Service » Labour http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 09 Feb 2016 15:55:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Family Planning in India is Still Deeply Sexisthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/family-planning-in-india-is-still-deeply-sexist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=family-planning-in-india-is-still-deeply-sexist http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/family-planning-in-india-is-still-deeply-sexist/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 08:11:24 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143833 Rural Indian women are under enormous pressure from family to not go in for any oral contraceptive method or injections but opt for surgery instead. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Rural Indian women are under enormous pressure from family to not go in for any oral contraceptive method or injections but opt for surgery instead. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

The tragic death of 12 women after a state-run mass sterilisation campaign in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh went horribly wrong in 2014 made global headlines. The episode saw about 80 women “herded like cattle” into makeshift camps without being properly examined before the laparoscopic tubectomies that snuffed out their lives. In another incident in 2013, police in the eastern Indian state of Bihar arrested three men after they performed a botched sterilisation surgery without anaesthesia on 53 women over two hours in a field.

Deaths due to sterilisation are hardly new in India. According to records, over four million such operations were performed in 2013-14 resulting in a total of 1,434 deaths between 2003 and 2012. Between 2009 and 2012 the government paid compensation for 568 deaths resulting from sterilisation according to health ministry data.

Health activists point out that the primary reason for this mess is an overt focus on female
sterilisation in the government’s family planning programme and a woeful lack of birth-control choices for women. Other forms of contraception are not available on an adequate basis because of the lack of health-care facilities. Injectable and Progestin-only pills are on offer only in private hospitals which severely inhibits their usage by poor women.

Worse, male sterilisation is still frowned upon socially. This places the onus of birth control on women with limited participation from men. According to latest research by the global partnership, Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), female sterilisation accounts for 74.4 per cent of the modern contraceptive methods used in India.

As against this, male sterilisation is merely 2.3 per cent, while use of condoms is 11.4 per cent. The use of pills constitutes just 7.5 per cent of modern methods, whereas injectables and implants are almost absent. In the southern state of Karnataka, for instance, women account for 95 per cent of sterilisations conducted at family welfare centres.

Family planning experts attribute this sharp gender disparity to an entrenched patriarchal mindset and ingrained societal attitudes. This is the main reason, say activists, why despite vasectomy being a far less invasive and less complicated procedure as compared to tubectomy, more women are forced to undergo sterilisation. Doctors reckon that tubectomies are about 10 times more common in India.

“In male sterilisation, surgeons cut and seal the tube that carries sperm from the testicles to the penis. This is far less painful than female sterilisation that involves cutting, sealing or blocking the fallopian tubes which requires the entire abdomen of a woman to be cut open,” explains Dr. Pratibha Mittal, senior gynaecologist and obstetrician, Fortis Hospital, New Delhi.

The Family Planning Association of India (FPAI), Bengaluru chapter says it receives requests from 70 to 80 women for tubectomy every month. “Rarely, if ever, does a man enquire about vasectomy,” stated a doctor.

According to health activists, rural women are under enormous pressure from husbands and in-laws to not go in for any oral contraceptive method or injections. Hence, they’re left with no option but to opt for surgery. The women are also offered all kinds of petty inducements to undergo sterilisation surgery highlighting the risks women face in reproductive health in a country battling high rates of poverty. Everything from washing machines to blenders to cash incentives are used to lure women to opt for sterilisation.

Health workers say sterilisation targets set by the government also push women into surgery. It is due to regressive societal attitudes that even the government’s marketing and advertising campaigns for family planning programme emphasise promotion of contraceptive pills that are used by women, instead of condoms used by men to tackle the issue of population control. “The government’s overemphasis on female sterilisation is following the easy way out thereby avoiding the difficult task of educating a vast population about other options. Teaching poorly educated women in remote communities how to use pills or contraceptives is more expensive than mass sterilisation campaigns,” says Neha Kakkar, a volunteer for non-profit Family Planning Association of India that promotes sexual health and family planning in India.

What is worrisome, say experts, is that the number of men seeking sterilisation has plummeted in the last five years. Statistics released by Delhi government show that in 2009-10 men accounted for 20 per cent of all sterilisations. It reduced to 14 per cent in 2010-11, 13 per cent in 2011-12, 8 per cent in 2012-13, 7 per cent in 2013-14 and
5 per cent in 2014-15.

Sterilisation camps were started in 1970 under the family planning programme in India with the help of the UN Population Fund and the World Bank. However, they acquired infamy during the 22-month-old Emergency in the mid-1970s when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended democratic rule and state-funded organisations unleashed a draconian campaign to sterilise poor men through coercive means. Hundreds of men — some as young as 16 or 17, some even unmarried — were herded into trucks and taken to operating theatres in makeshift camps. Those who refused had to face police atrocities.

Health activists say such coercion never works. “There needs to be a concerted campaign to educate men about sterilisation. Most men believe that they become sexually weak after getting sterilised which isn’t true. Wives, under pressure, then take on the onus of family planning on themselves forgetting the fact that their husbands are equally responsible for this,” explains Dr. Mittal.

Experts emphasise that a paradigm shift in attitudes is what’s needed to change sterilisation trends in the country. More so as India is all set to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030 with numbers approaching 1.5 billion. Worse, 11 per cent more male children are born every year as compared to
females, as against a benchmark of 5 per cent shows UN data deepening an already skewed sex ratio.

A 2012 report by Human Rights Watch urged the government to set up an independent grievance redress system to allow people to report coercion and poor quality services at sterilisation centres. It also said the government should prioritise training for male government workers to provide men with information and counselling about contraceptive choices. But there is little evidence that this has been implemented.

Be that as it may, there’s succour to be derived from the fact India’s population growth rate has declined significantly from 21.54 per cent in 1991-2000 to 17.64 per cent in 2001-11. According to government data, India’s total fertility rate has also plunged from 2.6 in 2008 to 2.3 in 2013.

With constant media pressure, besides sterilisation, the government is also trying to increase the basket of contraceptives and making them available under the national family planning programme. India has recently introduced injectable contraceptive as part of national family planning programme.

“Providing greater choice and improved access to modern contraceptives should become an inextricable part of India’s health and gender-equality programme,” advises Kakkar. “Public sensitisation campaigns about the benefits of family planning, and replacing coercive surgeries with access to a range of modern reproductive health choices, should form the bedrock of our health strategy.”

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/family-planning-in-india-is-still-deeply-sexist/feed/ 0
Women of Haitian Descent Bear the Brunt of Dominican Migration Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/women-of-haitian-descent-bear-the-brunt-of-dominican-migration-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-of-haitian-descent-bear-the-brunt-of-dominican-migration-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/women-of-haitian-descent-bear-the-brunt-of-dominican-migration-policy/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 02:49:07 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143793 Two women selling fruit, grains and vegetables in the Little Haiti street market in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. They allowed their picture to be taken but preferred not to talk about their situation. Fear is part of daily life for Haitian immigrants in this country. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

Two women selling fruit, grains and vegetables in the Little Haiti street market in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. They allowed their picture to be taken but preferred not to talk about their situation. Fear is part of daily life for Haitian immigrants in this country. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

By Ivet González
SANTO DOMINGO, Feb 5 2016 (IPS)

A middle-aged woman arranges bouquets of yellow roses in a street market in Little Haiti, a slum neighbourhood in the capital of the Dominican Republic. “I don’t want to talk, don’t take photos,” she tells IPS, standing next to a little girl who appears to be her daughter.

Other vendors at the stalls in the street market, all of them black women, also refuse to talk. “They’re afraid because they think they’ll be deported,” one woman whispers, as she stirs a pot of soup on a wood fire on the sidewalk.

That fear was heightened by the last wave of deportations, which formed part of the complicated migration relations between this country and Haiti – the poorest country in the Americas, with a black population – which share the island of Hispaniola.

According to official figures, the Dominican Republic’s migration authorities deported 15,754 undocumented Haitian immigrants from August 2015 to January 2016, while 113,320, including 23,286 minors, voluntarily returned home.

“This process has a greater impact on women because when a son or a daughter is denied their Dominican identity, the mothers are directly responsible for failing to legalise their status,” said Lilian Dolis, head of the Dominican-Haitian Women’s Movement (MUDHA), a local NGO.

“If the mother is undocumented then the validity of her children’s documents is questioned,” she told IPS.

“And in the case of Haitian immigrant women, it’s not enough to marry a Dominican man even though the constitution grants them their husband’s nationality,” said Dolis, whose movement emerged in 1983. “That right is often violated.”

The latest migration crisis broke out in 2013 when a Constitutional Court ruling set new requirements for acquiring Dominican citizenship.

The aspect that caused an international outcry was the fact that the verdict retroactively denied Dominican nationality to anyone born after 1929 who did not have at least one parent of Dominican blood, even if their births were recorded in the civil registry.

This affected not only the children of immigrants, but their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

Tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent were left in legal limbo or without any nationality, international human rights groups like Human Rights Watch complained.

In response to the international outrage, the Dominican government passed a special law on naturalisation that set a limited period – May 2014 to February 2015 – for people born to undocumented foreign parents between 1929 and 2007 to apply for citizenship.

Antonia Abreu, one of the few street vendors who agreed to talk to IPS about the harsh reality faced by Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic, at her street stall where she sells flowers in the Little Haiti neighbourhood in Santo Domingo. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

Antonia Abreu, one of the few street vendors who agreed to talk to IPS about the harsh reality faced by Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic, at her street stall where she sells flowers in the Little Haiti neighbourhood in Santo Domingo. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

But only 8,755 people managed to register under this law.

At the same time, the authorities implemented a national plan for foreigners to regularise their status, from June 2014 to June 2015.

Under this plan, 288,466 undocumented immigrants, mainly of Haitian descent, applied for residency and work permits. But only about 10,000 met all the requirements, and only a few hundred were granted permits.

Since August, the police have been carrying out continuous raids, and undocumented immigrants are taken to camps along the border, to be deported to Haiti.

“Most Haitian women work outside the home; very few can afford to be homemakers,” said Antonia Abreu, a Haitian-Dominican woman who has sold floral arrangements for parties, gifts and funerals in the Little Haiti market for 40 years.

Abreu, known by her nickname “the Spider”, said “women sell clothes or food, they apply hair extensions, they’re domestic employees and some are sex workers. Many are ‘paleteras’ (street vendors selling candy and cigarettes) who suffer from police abuse – the police take their carts and merchandise when they don’t have documents.”

“Those who work as decent people have integrated in society and contribute to the country,” she told IPS.

Among the unique mix of smells – of spices, open sewers, traditional foods and garbage – many women barely eke out a living in this Haitian neighbourhood market, selling flowers, prepared foods, fruit and vegetables, clothing, household goods and second-hand appliances.

The small neighbourhood, which is close to a busy commercial street and in the middle of the Colonial City, Santo Domingo’s main tourist attraction, has been neglected by the municipal authorities, unlike its thriving neighbours.

No one knows exactly how many people live in Little Haiti, which is a slum but is virtually free of crime, according to both local residents and outsiders.

Most of the people buying at the market stalls in the neighbourhood are Haitian immigrants, who work in what are described by international rights groups as semi-slavery conditions.

The street market is also frequented by non-Haitian Dominicans with low incomes, in this country of 10.6 million people, where 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to World Bank figures from 2014.

A Haitian immigrant in the rural settlement of Mata Mamón in the Dominican Republic, where she works as a ‘bracera’ or migrant worker in agriculture. Haitian women who work on plantations in this country are invisible in the statistics as well as in programmes that provide support to rural migrants, activists complain. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

A Haitian immigrant in the rural settlement of Mata Mamón in the Dominican Republic, where she works as a ‘bracera’ or migrant worker in agriculture. Haitian women who work on plantations in this country are invisible in the statistics as well as in programmes that provide support to rural migrants, activists complain. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

“Undocumented immigrants can’t work, study or have a public life,” Dolis said. “They go directly into domestic service or work in the informal sector. And even if they have documents, Haitian-Dominican women are always excluded from social programmes.”

In this country with a deeply sexist culture, women of Haitian descent are victims of exclusion due to a cocktail of xenophobia, racism and gender discrimination, different experts and studies say.

“They are made invisible,” said Dolis. “We don’t even know how many Haitian-Dominican women there are. The census data is not reliable in terms of the Dominican population of Haitian descent, and the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) survey is out-of-date.”

The activist was referring to the last available population figures gathered by the National Survey on Immigrants carried out in 2012 by the National Statistics Office with UNFPA support.

At the time, the survey estimated the number of immigrants in the Dominican Republic at 560,000, including 458,000 born in Haiti.

The lack of up-to-date statistics hinders the work of Mudha, which defends the rights of Haitian-Dominican women in four provinces and five municipalities, with an emphasis on sexual and reproductive rights.

The movement is led by a group of 19 women and has 62 local organisers carrying out activities in urban and rural communities, which have reached more than 6,000 women.

Mudha says the Dominican authorities have never recognised the rights of women of Haitian descent. “They’ve always talked about immigration of ‘braceros’ (migrant workers), but never ‘braceras’ – that is, the women who come with their husbands, or come as migrant workers themselves,” Dolis said.

Since the mid-19th century Haitians have worked as braceros in the sugarcane industry, the main engine of the Dominican economy for centuries. But today, they are also employed in large numbers in the construction industry, commerce, manufacturing and hotels.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/women-of-haitian-descent-bear-the-brunt-of-dominican-migration-policy/feed/ 4
“A Fair Day’s Wage for a Fair Day’s Work?”http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/a-fair-days-wage-for-a-fair-days-work/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-fair-days-wage-for-a-fair-days-work http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/a-fair-days-wage-for-a-fair-days-work/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 14:45:42 +0000 Francesco Farne http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143790 According to the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy estimates, three out of four Bangladeshi workers in Italy work in the tertiary sector. 23,3% of them are employed in the hotel, restaurant and catering sector.  Credit: Simba Shani Kamaria Russeau/IPS

According to the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy estimates, three out of four Bangladeshi workers in Italy work in the tertiary sector. 23,3% of them are employed in the hotel, restaurant and catering sector. Credit: Simba Shani Kamaria Russeau/IPS

By Francesco Farnè
Rome, Feb 4 2016 (IPS)

“During the first months in Italy, I always prayed for rain. I spent hours checking the weather forecast” said Roni, a 26 year old graduate from a middle-income family in Bangladesh. His father, a public servant and his mother a home maker, Roni had to sell umbrellas on the streets of Rome for more than a year before finding a summer job by the sea at a coffee shop, popularly known as a ‘bar’ in Italy.

In a recent interview with IPS, Roni explained that in 2012, he left his country, like many other Bangladeshis, in search of better opportunities in Europe. “I decided to leave for economic reasons; it was impossible to get a job in Bangladesh, even though I am a University graduate. I had heard that many friends and relatives made a fortune in Italy and wanted to be like them”, said Roni.

According to ISTAT 2015 (Italian National Institute of Statistics) estimates, there are more than 138.000 Bangladeshi nationals legally residing in Italy – a 9 % increase compared to 2014. Like Roni, many in the Bangladeshi community play a significant role in the Italian economy as part of the labour force. In particular, 75.6% of Bangladeshi workers in Italy are employed in the service sector.

Additionally, more than 20.000 Bangladeshi entrepreneurs were registered as business owners in 2013, according to the “Annual report on the presence of immigrants – The Bengali Community” issued by the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.

Roni describes the process of getting a visa as very complex. “There are two kinds of visas, one for agricultural workers and one for all the others. The former is quite easy to obtain and costs less, about € 8.000, while for the latter, the one I obtained, a sponsor residing in Italy is required and the cost is over € 12.000.”


“I paid my sponsor directly, and he completed all the required documentation”, he continued, “and once he obtained the nullaosta (clearance), I could apply for my visa at the Embassy of Italy in Bangladesh. I was lucky as it took only three months for the documents to be ready. Many other people have to wait much longer and deal with and pay two or three in between agents to connect them with the sponsor.”

Although it is widely known that the Bangladeshi migrants look out for each other, Roni says that getting support from the established Bangladeshi community has been a challenge. “Since the day I arrived, I sensed a lack of solidarity, fraternity and belonging within my national community. [Those] now in a position to help others seem to forget that once they were the ones in need. It looks like they forget their immediate past and think they are not like this anymore and therefore don’t want to do anything with them”, said Roni.

“No one helped me with my job search nor gave me any indication on where to buy umbrellas to sell, nor helped me with the language, as I did not speak Italian. My sponsor just helped me find a place to sleep – a room shared with nine other strangers I had to pay for myself – and that’s it”, he continued.

After 18 months of search, Roni has now found a job in a restaurant and is much happier. In addition, he has a contract which will enable him to renew his residency permit.

He earns more than €1000 per month, enough to send some money home. Roni explained that remittances are an integral part of his “mission” here in order to help his family back home, since his father retired. As he needs over €400 per month for his own survival in Italy, he is able to send home between €400 and €600 per month. His family uses the money for subsistence and for rent.

Indeed, after China, Bangladesh is the second country of destination of remittances from Italy, amounting to €346.1 million in 2013 (7.9% of all remittances), according to the Annual report by the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.

When asked for details of his contract, Roni revealed that even though he is contracted for six hours of work each day, he works for 10 hours or more for the same wage, and, days of leave or sickness do not count as working days.

Roni claims he is paid less than other workers with different nationalities. Although Roni’s terms of employment appeared to be better than those of other migrant workers, it nevertheless disregards many of the employment rights regarding remuneration, sick-leave, and weekly working hours outlined in the many directives set out by the EU Commission.

“This is not only about bad bosses exploiting migrants”, said Roni, “we, as migrant workers have to stand up for our rights and stop accepting these humiliating conditions. As long as there is another migrant willing to accept unfair conditions, my attempts to fight for a better contract and for workers’ rights will be in vain.”

“I think government policies to protect workers are good”, he continued. “It is not a matter of policies, it is how they are implemented to make sure that laws are respected. In fact, after government officials carried out an inspection at my workplace, we were immediately hired, gaining formal access to basic welfare and social protection measures.”

Roni concluded by making an appeal to his own people: “let’s help each other and put our strengths together. Do not forget to help the newcomers, as it will pay off! I myself had helped two Bangladeshi nationals hosting them at my place and paying the rent for them. They will repay me as soon as they get jobs. Solidarity will lead to a win-win situation and it is the only way to improve our condition.”

Roni is just one of the many faces representing the migration crisis Italy is facing today. With the weakest suffering the worst consequences of the crisis, from a policy perspective, there is no doubt that an integrated EU approach will be the only effective way to face the issue. This is especially true when attempting to ensure implementation and enforcement of the social welfare laws, human rights and labour rights laws.

At both the national and local level, Italian institutions, as well as non-governmental organizations, have a key role to play. They must raise awareness and enhance understanding of these issues. Workers must be aware of their “labour and employment rights, social and welfare rights, and where to seek assistance”, as stated by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its publication “Protecting the rights of migrant workers: a shared responsibility”.

All of this can significantly help create long-lasting legislative changes that are needed in the employment sector to ensure that migrants rights are protected. Finally, Italian institutions and civil society organisations should demand stricter controls by the authorities to ensure that existing laws are actually enforced and implemented, as suggested by Roni.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/a-fair-days-wage-for-a-fair-days-work/feed/ 0
Small-scale Fishing Is About Much More than Just Subsistence in Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/small-scale-fishing-is-about-much-more-than-just-subsistence-in-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=small-scale-fishing-is-about-much-more-than-just-subsistence-in-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/small-scale-fishing-is-about-much-more-than-just-subsistence-in-chile/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:31:46 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143772 Pedro Pascual, who has been a fisherman for 50 of his 70 years of life, prepares bait in the installations used by some 70 small-scale fisherpersons in a bay in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, Chile. This son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen is worried because very few young people are fishing today. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Pedro Pascual, who has been a fisherman for 50 of his 70 years of life, prepares bait in the installations used by some 70 small-scale fisherpersons in a bay in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, Chile. This son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen is worried because very few young people are fishing today. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
ALGARROBO, Chile, Feb 3 2016 (IPS)

“Fishing isn’t just for making a living, it’s also enjoyable,” said Pedro Pascual, a 70-year-old fisherman who has been taking his small boat out to sea off Chile’s Pacific coast in the early hours of the morning almost every day for the past 50 years, to support his family.

Impish and ebullient, he told IPS that he doesn’t like to eat much fish anymore, although he is aware of its excellent nutritional properties, which make it a key product in terms of boosting global food security. “The thing is, eating what you fish yourself is kind of boring,” he said.

“Sometimes my wife has to go out and buy fish, because I come home without a single fish – I sell all of them, so I don’t have to eat them,” he confessed, in a mischievous tone.

Pascual was born and raised in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, 100 km west of Santiago.“Artisanal fishers who used to have a quota, a share of extractive fishing activity, were left without rights, and many lost their work.” -- Juan Carlos Quezada

The son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen, he stressed that fishing is everything for him and his family, as he prepared bait on counters built on the beach, which are used by some 70 local fishers.

He and the others will sell their catch in the same place the following day, at market installations built there by the municipal government.

“We used to catch a lot of meagre (Argyrosomus regius) in this area. Now we catch hake (Merluccius) in the winter and in the summer we catch crab and some red cusk-eel (Genypterus chilensis),” he said.

As he prepared the bait, tying fish heads with twine, Pascual explained that he and his fellow fishermen go out in the afternoon, lay their lines, return to land, and head out again at 6:00 AM to pull in the catch.

“I like crabs, because there are different ways to eat them. I love ‘chupe de jaiba’ (crab quiche). You can make it with different ingredients,” he said.

He repeated several times in the conversation with IPS how much he loved his work, and said he was very worried that there are fewer and fewer people working as small-scale fishers.

“At least around here, we’re all old men…young people aren’t interested in fishing anymore,” he said. “They should keep studying, this work is very difficult,” he said, adding that he is lucky if he makes 300 dollars a month.

In response to the question “what will happen when there are no more small-scale fishers?” he said sadly: “people will have to buy from the industrial-scale fisheries.”

This is not a minor question, especially since large-scale fishing has hurt artisanal fisheries in countries along the Pacific coast of South America, which have become leaders in the global seafood industry over the last decade.

Small-scale fisheries account for over 90 percent of the world’s capture fishers and fish workers, around half of whom are women, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean, based in Santiago.

Boats anchored in a small bay in the Chilean town of Algarrobo, waiting for the local fishermen to head out to sea in the evening to put out their lines. They go out the next day at dawn to haul in their catch, in a centuries-old activity that is now threatened by overfishing and laws in favour of industrial-scale fishing.  Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Boats anchored in a small bay in the Chilean town of Algarrobo, waiting for the local fishermen to head out to sea in the evening to put out their lines. They go out the next day at dawn to haul in their catch, in a centuries-old activity that is now threatened by overfishing and laws in favour of industrial-scale fishing. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

In addition, they supply around 50 percent of all global fish catches, and fishing and aquaculture provide a livelihood for between 10 and 12 percent of the world’s population.

“Small-scale fishing makes key contributions to nutrition, food security, sustainable means of subsistence and poverty reduction, especially in developing countries,” FAO stated in response to questions from IPS.

Studies show that fish is highly nutritious, offering high-quality protein and a broad range of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A and D, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium, while saltwater fish have a high content of iodine.

Its protein, like that of meat, is easily digestible and complements protein provided by cereals and legumes that are the foundation of the diet in many countries of the developing South.

Experts say that even in small quantities, fish improves the quality of dietary protein by complementing the essential amino acids that are often present in low quantities in vegetable-based diets.

Moreover, fish oils are the richest source of a kind of fat that is vital to normal brain development in unborn babies and infants.

Chile, a long, narrow country between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes mountains to the east, has 6,435 km of coast line and a broad diversity of marine resources.

Official figures indicate that 92 percent of fishing and fish farming activity involves fish capture, five percent seaweed harvesting, and the rest seafood harvesting.

The three main fish captured in Chile are the Chilean jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi), sardines and the anchoveta, which bring in more than 1.2 billion dollars a year in revenues on average, but are facing an overfishing crisis.

Extractive fishing provides work for more than 150,000 people in this country of 17.6 million and represents 0.4 percent of GDP. Of the industry’s workers, just over 94,000 are small-scale fishers and some 22,700 are women, according to the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service.

About three million tons of fish are caught every year in this South American country. But fish consumption is just 6.9 kilos per person per year – less than eight percent of the 84.7 kilos of meat consumed annually per capita.

The low level of fish consumption in Chile is attributed to two main reasons: availability and prices.

With regard to the former, a large proportion of the industrial-scale fish catch is exported.

A controversial law on fisheries and aquaculture in effect since 2013, promoted by the right-wing government of former president Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014), has played a major role in this scenario.

The law grants fishing concessions for 20 years, renewable for another 20, and establishes that large companies can receive fishing rights in perpetuity, which can be passed from one generation to the next.

“Artisanal fishers who used to have a quota, a share of extractive fishing activity, were left without rights, and many lost their work,” Juan Carlos Quezada, spokesman for the National Council for the Defence of Artisanal Fishing (CONDEPP), told IPS.

The representative of the union of small farmers added that “ninety percent of artisanal fishers have been left without fish catch quotas, because concessions and quotas were only assigned to industrial fisheries and shipowners.”

While small-scale fishers are fighting for the law to be repealed, the government continues to support the Development Fund for Artisanal Fishing which, contradictorily, is aimed at the sustainable development of Chile’s small-scale fishing industry, and backs the efforts of organisations of small fishers.

Pascual sees things clearly: “Fishing is my life and it will always be. The sea will always give us something, even if it offers us less and less.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/small-scale-fishing-is-about-much-more-than-just-subsistence-in-chile/feed/ 0
The Lesson from Davos: No Connection to Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-lesson-from-davos-no-connection-to-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-lesson-from-davos-no-connection-to-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-lesson-from-davos-no-connection-to-reality/#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 18:04:26 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143712

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

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jan 27 2016 (IPS)

The rich and the powerful, who meet every year at the World Economic Forum (WEF), were in a gloomy mood this time. Not only because the day they met close to eight trillion dollars has been wiped off global equity markets by a “correction”. But because no leader could be in a buoyant mood.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is losing ground because of the way she handled the refugee crisis. French President Francois Hollande is facing decline in the polls that are favoring Marine Le Pen. Spanish president Mariano Rajoy practically lost the elections. Italian President Matteo Renzi is facing a very serious crisis in the Italian banking system, which could shatter the third economy of Europe. And the leaders from China, Brazil, India, Nigeria and other economies from the emerging countries (as they are called in economic jargon), are all going through a serious economic slowdown, which is affecting also the economies of the North. The absence of the presidents of Brazil and China was a telling sign.

However the last Davos (20-23 January) will remain in the history of the WEF, as the best example of the growing disconnection between the elites and the citizens. The theme of the Forum was “how to master the fourth revolution,” a thesis that Klaus Schwab the founder and CEO of Davos exposed in a book published few weeks before. The theory is that we are now facing a fusion of all technologies, that will completely change the system of production and work.

The First Industrial Revolution was to replace, at beginning of the 19th century, human power with machines. Then at the end of that century came the Second Industrial Revolution, which was to combine science with industry, with a total change of the system of production. Then came the era of computers, at the middle of last century, making the Third Industrial Revolution, the digital one. And now, according Schwab, we are entering the fourth revolution, where workers will be substituted by robots and mechanization.

The Swiss Bank UBS released in the conference a study in which it reports that the Fourth Revolution will “benefit those holding more.” In other words, the rich will become richer…it is important for the uninitiated to know that the money that goes to the superrich, is not printed for them. In other words, it is money that is sucked from the pockets of people.

Davos created two notable reactions: the first came with the creation of the World Social Forum (WSF), in 1991, where 40,000 social activists convened to denounce as illegitimate the gathering of the rich and powerful in Davos. They said it gave the elite a platform for decision making, without anything being mandated by citizens, and directed mainly to interests of the rich.

The WSF declared that “another world is possible,” in opposition to the Washington Consensus, formulated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Treasury of the United States. The consensus declared that since capitalism triumphed over Communism, the path to follow was to dismantle the state as much as possible, privatize, slash social costs which are by definition unproductive, and eliminate any barrier to the free markets. The problem was that, to avoid political contagion, the WSF established rules which reduced the Forums to internal debating and sharing among the participants, without the ability to act on the political institutions. In 2001, Davos did consider Porto Alegre a dangerous alternative; soon it went out of its radar.

At the last Davos, the WSF was not any point of reference. But it was the other actor, the international aid organization Oxfam, which has been presenting at every WEF a report on Global Wealth.

Those reports have been documenting how fast the concentration of wealth at an obscene level is creating a world of inequality not known since the First Industrial Revolution. In 2010, 388 individuals owned the same wealth as 3.6 billion people, half of humankind. In 2014, just 80 people owned as much as 3.8 billion people. And in 2015, the number came down to 62 individuals. And the concentration of wealth is accelerating. In its report of 2015, Oxfam predicted that the wealth of the top 1 per cent would overtake the rest of the population by 2016: in fact, that was reached within ten months. Twenty years ago, the superrich 1 per cent had the equivalent of 62 per cent of the world population.

It would have been logical to expect that those who run the world, looking at the unprecedented phenomena of a fast growing inequality, would have connected Oxfam report with that of UBS, and consider the new and immense challenge that the present economic and political system is facing. Also because the Fourth Revolution foresees the phasing out of workers from whatever function can be taken by machines. According to Schwab, the use of robots in production will go from the present 12 per cent to 55 per cent in 2050. This will cause obviously a dramatic unemployment, in a society where the social safety net is already in a steep decline.

Instead, the WEF largely ignored the issue of inequality, echoing the present level of lack of interest in the political institutions. We are well ahead in the American presidential campaign, and if it were not for one candidate, Bernie Sanders, the issue would have been ignored or sidestepped by the other 14 candidates. There is no reference to inequality in the European political debate either, apart from ritual declarations: refugees are now a much more pressing issue. It is a sign of the times that the financial institutions, like IMF and the World Bank, are way ahead of political institutions, releasing a number of studies on how inequality is a drag on economic development, and how its social impact has a very negative impact on the central issue of democracy and participation. The United Nations has done of inequality a central issue. Alicia Barcena, the Executive secretary of CEPAL, the Regional Center for Latin America, has also published in time for Davos a very worrying report on the stagnation in which the region is entering, and indicating the issue of inequality as an urgent problem.

But beside inequality, also the very central issue of climate change was largely ignored. All this despite the participants in the Paris Conference on Climate, recognized that the engagements taken by all countries will bring down the temperature of no more than 3.7 degrees, when a safe target would be 1.5 degrees. In spite of this very dangerous failure, the leaders in Paris gave lot of hopeful declarations, stating that the solution will come from the technological development, driven by the markets. It would have been logical to think, that in a large gathering of technological titans, with political leaders, the issue of climate change would have been a clear priority.

So, let us agree on the lesson from Davos. The rich and powerful had all the necessary data for focusing on existential issues for the planet and its inhabitants. Yet they failed to do so. This is a powerful example of the disconnection between the concern of citizens and their elite. The political and financial system is more and more self reverent: but is also fast losing legitimacy in the eyes of many people. Alternative candidates like Donald Trump or Matteo Salvini in Italy, or governments like those of Hungary and Poland, would have never been possible without a massive discontent. What is increasingly at stage is democracy itself? Are we entering in a Weimar stage of the world?

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-lesson-from-davos-no-connection-to-reality/feed/ 1
Bali holds Family Planning Conference Amidst Many Unmet Needshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/icfp-2016-begins-in-bali-amidst-unmet-needs-of-many/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=icfp-2016-begins-in-bali-amidst-unmet-needs-of-many http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/icfp-2016-begins-in-bali-amidst-unmet-needs-of-many/#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 07:10:53 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143706 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/icfp-2016-begins-in-bali-amidst-unmet-needs-of-many/feed/ 0 Precarious Nature of Public Employment Facilitated Mass Lay-offs in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/precarious-nature-of-public-employment-facilitated-mass-lay-offs-in-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=precarious-nature-of-public-employment-facilitated-mass-lay-offs-in-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/precarious-nature-of-public-employment-facilitated-mass-lay-offs-in-argentina/#comments Sat, 23 Jan 2016 00:34:57 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143678 A group of demonstrators protest in the Argentine city of Rosario against the wave of lay-offs of public employees since President Mauricio Macri took office. Credit: Courtesy of Indymedia.org

A group of demonstrators protest in the Argentine city of Rosario against the wave of lay-offs of public employees since President Mauricio Macri took office. Credit: Courtesy of Indymedia.org

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, Jan 23 2016 (IPS)

Argentina’s new conservative government has already laid off 20,000 public employees since early December. Analysts have described the phenomenon as a “purge” of “militants” who supported the last administration, facilitated by the precarious employment conditions in the public sector, despite the steps taken to provide greater job stability over the last decade.

“What we have encountered is a state at the service of political activism,” said centre-right President Mauricio Macri, who took office on Dec. 10 after eight years of government by centre-left President Cristina Fernández and the four-year administration of her late husband Néstor Kirchner, both of whom belonged to the Front for Victory, now in the opposition.

The new minister of finance, Alfonso Prat Gay, said the state needed to shed some “militant fat” – an allusion to the supposed hiring of “Kirchnerist militants”.

A majority of employees of government ministries, state enterprises, and municipal and provincial administrations whose short-term contracts came up for renewal on Dec. 31 were laid off, according to the Social Law Observatory of the Argentine Workers’ Central Union (CTA).

In many cases, the dismissed workers had been in their positions for five to 10 years, although they worked under temporary contracts.

In La Plata, capital of the eastern province of Buenos Aires, which is now governed by Macri’s Cambiemos coalition, 4,500 public employees were dismissed, and their protests were targeted by a police crackdown.

“The way we found out about the dismissals was traumatic,”one of the laid-off workers, Marcela López, told IPS. She worked for eight years for a municipal programme that helps the homeless, under a contract that was renewed every three months.

“When I got to my workplace one day, I discovered they had taken me off the payroll. They sent us to human resources, who told us we had been fired, although they didn’t say we were laid off – they said our contracts expired,” said López, who supports her family, including a disabled son.

The government argues that the laid-off workers were“ñoquis” – slang for employees who only show up for work on the 29th of every month, the day ñoquis (or gnocchis), classic Italian dumplings, are traditionally eaten in Argentina.

But Lópezand many other laid-off public employees say they can prove that they had good work attendance records.

“I think the ñoquis business is a longstanding phenomenon that has to do with the way politics work here,” she said. “I don’t think that trying to fix this problem is a bad idea. But they can’t just throw everyone into the same category. Especially not those of us who do work, and who turned a (social) programme into a public policy.”

Julio Fuentes, a leader of the ATE public employees union, said that if the government really wanted to root out those who “collect paychecks without working, no one would come out to defend these people.”

“But that would have to be done on the basis of a serious analysis, with the participation of the trade unions and guarantees that arbitrary measures will not be taken,” Fuentes, who is also the president of the Latin American and Caribbean Federation of Public Employees, told IPS.

In different government offices, employees have complained that they have been asked who recommended them for the job, and that they have been questioned about their professional and educational background. Some protested that their social network profiles were searched for signs of political activism.

Despite a 15 percentage point drop over the last decade, 35 percent of the population of Argentina still works in the informal economy, like Daniel Reynoso, who supports his family selling dusters on a busy street in central Buenos Aires. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Despite a 15 percentage point drop over the last decade, 35 percent of the population of Argentina still works in the informal economy, like Daniel Reynoso, who supports his family selling dusters on a busy street in central Buenos Aires. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

“Is the state in a position today to carry out an exhaustive, systematic assessment of the situation of public employees,when official statistics do not even exist, and there is no office dedicated exclusively to the systematic compilation of information?” Gonzalo Diéguez, director of the Centre for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth’s (CIPPEC) public administration programme, remarked to IPS.

According to the ATE, the government’s argument is an excuse to justify indiscriminate dismissals and shrink the state, as part of its adjustment plan.

These arbitrary measures, Fuentes says, were made possible by the precarious nature of public employment, the result of neoliberal labour flexibility measures adopted in Argentina in the 1990s.

“For a long time we have been complaining in Latin America, and in Argentina in particular, about informal employment or so-called ‘junk contracts’, which are basically ways used by governments to get around the constitution, which guarantees job stability for public employees,” he said.

Argentina, Latin America’s third-largest economy, has a total population of 43.4 million, an economically active population of 19 million,and an unemployment rate that according to official figures stood at six percent in the last quarter of 2015 – a figure considered unrealistically low by independent experts.

According to Fuentes, of the 3.9 million state employees, some 600,000 work under different kinds of temporary contracts, and many of these enjoy no social protection whatsoever.

Of these 600,000, 90,000 work in the national administration and 510,000 work for provincial or municipal governments, without counting outsourced services, “another way to get around guarantees for public employees,” he said.

To justify the lay-offs, the government also points to how much the state has grown.

An as-yet unpublished CIPPEC study reports that between 2003 and 2015, the number of public employees rose 55 percent, in the central administration, decentralised state bodies and public enterprises.

In that period, six ministries, 14 decentralised bodies, 10 new state-owned companies and 15 new universities were created.

“Public employment grew because the state also grew, along with its organisational structure. Today the state provides a number of goods and services that it did not previously offer,” Diéguez argued.

Fuentes said that despite this growth, the recovery in the number of public sector jobs was “absolutely insufficient” after the “dismantling” of the state that began with the broad privatisation process launched by former president Carlos Menem (1989-1999).

“The number of public employees is not excessive. There are shortages of public employees, such as nurses, or professionals in all areas,” the trade unionist said.

In his view, the new government thinks there are too many public workers because “it believes in a discourse that no one believes in anymore: that the market is going to regulate economic activities and run a country.”

Fuentes said that what were recovered in the last decade were “good quality jobs with poor quality contracts.”

The problem, he said, is that the public administration has increasingly depended on workers with flexible labour contracts, “who are easily fired, which turns them into political hostages.”

Over the last decade, some six million jobs have been created in Argentina, 19 percent of them in the public sector and the rest in the private sector, where roughly 10,000 people have been laid off as well, according to trade union sources.

Informal employment has also shrunk, from 50 to 35 percent, according to the latest figures. But four million people, especially the young, still work in the informal economy.

“Above and beyond the government’s political decision on whether or not to renew contracts, the underlying issue here is the informal nature of public employment,” said Diéguez.

This, he said, is aggravated by the state’s hiring practices, which are not based on public competitions but on contracts that depend on “changes of political stripe.”

He said the previous administration made strides in formalising public employment.

But the big pending challenge, he argued, is to avoid a repeat of cases such as the mass lay-offs that occur when there is a change in the party in power. And when a new administration takes office in 2019, “there shouldn’t be a review of contracts, or if there is, it shouldn’t look like a witch hunt,” he added.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/precarious-nature-of-public-employment-facilitated-mass-lay-offs-in-argentina/feed/ 0
After a Historic Success, Urgent Challenges Face the WTOhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/after-a-historic-success-urgent-challenges-face-the-wto/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=after-a-historic-success-urgent-challenges-face-the-wto http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/after-a-historic-success-urgent-challenges-face-the-wto/#comments Fri, 22 Jan 2016 07:05:26 +0000 Roberto Azevedo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143665

Roberto Azevêdo is the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO)

By Roberto Azevêdo
GENEVA, Jan 22 2016 (IPS)

In 2015 the international community took some huge strides forward on a number of vital issues.

There was the agreement on the United Nations new Sustainable Development Goals.

There was the remarkable breakthrough in Paris in the fight against climate change.

Roberto Azevêdo

Roberto Azevêdo

And, late in December, at the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference in Nairobi, members agreed a set of very significant results. In fact, they delivered some of the biggest reforms in global trade policy for 20 years.

We must seek to capitalise on this progress in 2016.

Let me explain in a bit more detail what was delivered in Nairobi.

The Nairobi Package contained a number of important decisions ­ including a decision on export competition. This is truly historic. It is the most important reform in international trade rules on agriculture since the creation of the WTO.

The elimination of agricultural export subsidies is particularly significant in improving the global trading environment.

WTO members ­ especially developing countries ­ have consistently demanded action on this issue due to the enormous trade-distorting potential of these subsidies. In fact, this task has been outstanding since export subsidies were banned for industrial goods more than 50 years ago. So this decision corrected an historic imbalance.

Countries have often resorted to export subsidies during economic crises ­ and recent history shows that once one country did so, others quickly followed suit. Because of the Nairobi Package, no-one will be tempted to resort to such action in the future.

This decision will help to level the playing field in agriculture markets, to the benefit of farmers and exporters in developing and least-developed countries.

This decision will also help to limit similar distorting effects associated with export credits and state trading enterprises.

And it will provide a better framework for international food aid ­ maintaining this essential lifeline, while ensuring that it doesn’t displace domestic producers.

Members also took action on other developing-country issues, committing to find a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes, and to develop a Special Safeguard Mechanism.

And members agreed a package of specific decisions for least developed countries, to support their integration into the global economy. This contained measures to enhance preferential rules of origin for these countries and preferential treatment for their services providers.

And it contained a number of steps on cotton ­ helping low-income cotton producers to access new markets.

Finally, a large group of members agreed on the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement. Again, this was an historic breakthrough. It will eliminate tariffs on 10 per cent of global trade ­ that’s 1.3 trillion dollars worth of trade, making it the WTO’s first major tariff cutting deal since 1996.

Altogether, these decisions will provide a real boost to growth and development around the world.

This success is all the more significant because it comes so soon after our successful conference in Bali that delivered a number of important outcomes, including the Trade Facilitation Agreement. (TFA)

The TFA will bring a higher level of predictability and transparency to customs processes around the world, making it easier for businesses ­ especially smaller enterprises ­ to join global value chains.

It could reduce trade costs by an average of 14.5 per cent – with the greatest savings being felt in developing countries.

The Agreement has the potential to increase global merchandise exports by up to 1 trillion dollars per annum, and to create 20 million jobs around the world.

That’s potentially a bigger impact than the elimination of all remaining tariffs.

So the challenge before us is very significant.

For instance, during or the last two years, we have been trying to reinvigorate the Doha agenda on development, exploring various ways of overcoming the existing difficulties. We tested different alternatives over several months of good engagement, but the conversations revealed significant differences, which are unlikely to be solved in the short term.

But the challenge is not limited only to the question of what happens to the Doha issues, it is about the negotiating function of the WTO. It is about what members want for the future of the WTO as a standard and rule-setting body. And the challenge is urgent.

The world won’t wait for the WTO. Other trade deals will keep advancing.

The wider the gap between regional and multilateral disciplines, the worse the trade environment becomes for everyone, particularly businesses, small countries and all those not involved in major regional negotiations.

But the outlook is not bleak. I said at the outset that 2016 was full of promise. I truly believe that ­ because, while we face real challenges, there are also real opportunities before us.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/after-a-historic-success-urgent-challenges-face-the-wto/feed/ 0
Fire a Hot Topic in Youth Employment in South Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/fire-a-hot-topic-in-youth-employment-in-south-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fire-a-hot-topic-in-youth-employment-in-south-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/fire-a-hot-topic-in-youth-employment-in-south-africa/#comments Wed, 20 Jan 2016 15:51:05 +0000 Munyaradzi Makoni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143642 Fire fighters from Working on Fire on fire line at recent Muizenberg fires. Credit: IPS-WoF1

Fire fighters from Working on Fire on fire line at recent Muizenberg fires. Credit: IPS-WoF1

By Munyaradzi Makoni
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Jan 20 2016 (IPS)

Nolukhanyo Babalaza finished her final year of high school and received her diploma in 2000, but this was not an immediate passport to a good life. She was frustrated to see some people making it while she struggled to afford basic things like everyday food.

“It gives one negative thoughts. One ends up doing things you regret,” she said.

A breakthrough came three years later. Babalaza became a fire fighter. She joined the South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affair’s Working on Fire Programme (WoF).

Fires are considered a persistent problem in South Africa, a merciless destroyer of life, property and environment.

Either in the dry summer months in the Western Cape, or in the dry winter months in the rest of the country, wildland fires are started by lightning or, in mountainous regions, by falling rocks or accidentaly from careless individuals. Millions of properties are lost annually. Lives and the environment are wasted.

Good things have, however, emerged from this perennial problem.

South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affair’s Working on Fire Programme started in 2003 has become a means to fight unemployment and poverty.

Youths have been drawn from the ranks of the unemployed and poor.

“These young people are trained to help fight unwanted veld and forest fires across the country and often they use their skills as a stepping stone into the formal job market,” says Linton Rensburg, WoF National Communications Manager.

The youths are trained as drivers, brush cutters, dispatchers, helicopter safety leaders and in environmental education. It isn’t big money but it offers a gateway to the future.

The jobless rate in South Africa increased to 25.5 per cent in the third quarter of 2015 from 25 per cent in the previous period, according to Trading Economics. The unemployment rate rose 3.6 per cent while employment went up 1.1 per cent and more people joined the labour force. The unemployment rate in South Africa averaged 25.27 per cent from 2000 until 2015, reaching an all time high of 31.20 per cent in the first quarter of 2003 and a record low of 21.50 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008. The unemployment rate data in South Africa is reported by Statistics South Africa.

Fire employees

Babalaza has grown with the programme. From her start as an ordinary fire fighter she became a crew leader, and then moved to become an administration assistant. Today she is a finance control officer in the programme in the Western Cape.

She admits the programme has greatly improved her life.

“Things are much better. I am able to at least support my family and I can pay my bills,” she said.

Babalaza’s story is one of many involved in the programme, Rensburg told IPS.

“Thousands of young people first found meaningful work opportunities in the programme and later on through the training and skills development aspects of WoF they were able to progress from being a fire fighter earning a stipend to being a salaried employee in WoF,” he said.

Take Justine Lekalakala’s story, for instance. Lekalakala, a former fire fighter at the Dinokeng Base in Hammanskraal North of Pretoria, now works in the South African National Defence Force.

“I was able to use the stipend I earned at WoF to apply for other jobs and educate myself by doing computer courses. It was easier for me to be absorbed into the military as I had the self-discipline and fitness which I acquired in WoF,” he said.

Christalene De Kella was clueless about what she wanted out of life after completing her secondary school in 2004. She grabbed the opportunity to become a fire fighter in her hometown, Uniondale. The single mother of a seven-year old daughter, she has since established a career path for development.

Starting as an entry level fire fighter, she attended several intensive fire management training courses and even participated in opening a new base. In 2005 she was promoted to a stock control officer for WoF.

In 2009 Kella became the media and community liaison officer in the Southern Cape Region and in 2013 she was given the opportunity of becoming a video journalist for the WoF video unit.

“Working on Fire has had a positive impact on my life,” she said, adding she currently travels across the country to interview and record stories for the WoF TV news as featured on You Tube.

The progression could not be sweeter for two former fire fighters who started two-year training in May last year to become spotter pilots at the Kishugu Aviation Academy in Mbombela, Mpumalanga.

Themba Maebela, 27, from Mpumalanga and Siyabonga Varasha, 26, from the Eastern Cape are employed as helicopter personal assistants.

“It was like I was dreaming, my family did not believe me when I told them that I will train to become a pilot,” said Maebela, who joined working for the fire unit in 2010.

South African youth who do not have this necessary diploma must excel in their work and employers will then recognise their talents and skills, he advised.

As Naome Nkoana patrols the streets as a metro police officer in Pretoria. She recalls how participation in the WoF programme, where she underwent advanced driver training in Nelspruit, helped her to not only pass the metro police fitness tests, but her advanced driving skills and made it easier to become a metro police officer.

Rensburg says since the Working on Fire Programme started, it has changed the lives of the 5,000 participants and indirectly benefited 25,000 other dependents.

A 2012 Social Impact Study on participants said that the training presented by WoF boosted beneficiaries’ knowledge and self-worth.

“Through the WoF programme, they were able to get to know their own weaknesses and strengths better,” the study concludes.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/fire-a-hot-topic-in-youth-employment-in-south-africa/feed/ 0
Zimbabwe: Poverty Stunting Minds and Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/zimbabwe-poverty-stunting-minds-and-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zimbabwe-poverty-stunting-minds-and-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/zimbabwe-poverty-stunting-minds-and-growth/#comments Tue, 12 Jan 2016 06:10:55 +0000 Ignatius Banda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143557 A small boy plays with his toys. Poor nutrition in Zimbabwe is exposing vulnerable children nutrition to mental health challenges according to humanitarian agencies. Credit: Ignatius Banda/IPS

A small boy plays with his toys. Poor nutrition in Zimbabwe is exposing vulnerable children nutrition to mental health challenges according to humanitarian agencies. Credit: Ignatius Banda/IPS

By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jan 12 2016 (IPS)

Mildren Ndlovu* knows the mental toll of Zimbabwe’s long-drawn economic hardships in a country where a long rehashed statistic by labour unions puts unemployment at 90 per cent.

Ndlovu, a 27-year-old single mother is raising two children, both under 5-years old, and survives on menial jobs such as doing laundry and dishes in neighbouring homes, says she has watched their health deteriorate and not just physically.

“I know they are not growing up the way other children are,” Ndlovu said, as she changed the underwear of her four-year who had just soiled himself.

“At his age, he should be able to visit the toilet by himself, yet I still have to change him,” she said from her one roomed shack in one of Bulawayo’s poor townships that litter the city’s north.

Ndlovu’s concerns about the slow development of her children point to the broader effects of Zimbabwe’s economic decline on vulnerable groups, with the UNICEF early this month releasing the Zimbabwe Poverty Atlas 2015 (http://unicef.org/zimbabwe/resources_17478.html) showing high poverty levels across the country that are affecting children’s mental health.

At the launch of the report, UNICEF, the World Bank and government officials said the poverty atlas is an attempt recognise that “Children are rarely recognised in poverty alleviation efforts and their needs are not properly addressed.”

According to the report, no child from the poorest health quintile reaches higher education, with eight of the country’s ten provinces registering poverty levels between 65 and 75 per cent.

“Child poverty has reduced (their) mental health and is reponsible for poverty when they are adults,” said Dr. Jane Muita, UNICEF’s deputy resident representative in Zimbabwe.

“It (child poverty) results in lower skills and productivity, lower levels of health and educational achievement,” Dr. Muita said.

According Zimbabwe’s health and child welfare, the country has witnessed an increase in mental health diagnoses, and has put in place a Mental Health Strategy 2014-18 to deal with the crisis.

The ministry blames the tough economic conditions that have thrown millions into the streets of unemployment.

There are no available figures of how mental health has affected children, but concerns by parents such as Ndlovu are giving a human face to a crisis that has been highlighted by the UNICEF report on child poverty and their mental health.

In some parts of Zimbabwe in the south-west districts such as Nkayi were found to have up to 95.6 per cent of poverty, while Lupane poverty levels stood at 93 per cent according to the UNICEF’s Zimbabwe Poverty Atlas.

There are concerns that this will slow the country’s march towards realising its Sustainable Development Goals to reduce child poverty by 2030.

Last year, the Zimbabwe Vulnerable Assessment Committee found that up to 36 per cent of children in Zimbabwe have stunted growth which experts say has not only affected them physically, but has also slowed their mental growth because of poor diets.

“The problem with children’s health and their mental development is that the attitude of both parents and some health workers is that these children will soon grow out of these challenges,” said Obias Nsamala, a Bulawayo pediatrician.

“But what I have seen with many children under 5 years is that these mental deficits can be detected when they come for treatment but only become an issue by the time they have began school. I think that is why for a long time this country had something like special classes for children not intellectually gifted,” Nsamala told IPS.

“I believe its been a wrong approach because some of these children may be slow learners or intellectually challenged not because of some genetic deficit but because all the signs were ignored earlier on based on their backgrounds and access to adequate meals,” he said.

As the country seeks to improve the lives of vulnerable groups such as children with government officials saying the country needs to grow the economy in order to reduce poverty, there is no consensus on how exactly this will be achieved to attract investment, with the country continuing to rely on international development partners to create safety nets for the poor.

From 2014 to June last year, UNICEF says it spent 363 million dollars on social services, this at time the country’s critical social services ministries are facing budget cuts which officials have admitted made it impossible to provide adequate assistance such as health care.

Under the 2016 national budget, the health and child welfare ministry received 330 million dollars which will largely be funded by donor countries, leaving a huge deficit which Minister David Parirenyatwa said is not enough to meet such such sectors as the poorly funded psychiatric clinics.

Perhaps to highlight these funding challenges, officials at the country’s largest psychiatric institution which caters for adults, Ingutsheni Hospital in Bulawayo early this year told Minister Parirenyatwa that the mental health hospital requires 23 doctors but only had six.

The social welfare ministry, also previously offering financial support for vulnerable group’s such Ndlovu’s children, has complained of poor funding from government.

Aid agencies say millions will require food assistance in 2016, further pushing Ndlovu and many others on the edge of what UNICEF’s Poverty Atlas says are their mental needs.

*name changed to protect her identity

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/zimbabwe-poverty-stunting-minds-and-growth/feed/ 1
India Needs to “Save its Daughters” Through Education and Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/india-needs-to-save-its-daughters-through-education-and-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=india-needs-to-save-its-daughters-through-education-and-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/india-needs-to-save-its-daughters-through-education-and-gender-equality/#comments Fri, 08 Jan 2016 07:42:22 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143540 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/india-needs-to-save-its-daughters-through-education-and-gender-equality/feed/ 0 Women Inmates Sow Hope in Prisons in El Salvadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/women-inmates-sow-hope-in-prisons-in-el-salvador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-inmates-sow-hope-in-prisons-in-el-salvador http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/women-inmates-sow-hope-in-prisons-in-el-salvador/#comments Tue, 29 Dec 2015 18:58:02 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143462 Jannete Salvador and Doris Zabala plant chives on the Izalco prison farm for women in the western Salvadoran department of Sonsonate. The government is extending the use of farm work and other activities in prisons to keep inmates active and productive. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Jannete Salvador and Doris Zabala plant chives on the Izalco prison farm for women in the western Salvadoran department of Sonsonate. The government is extending the use of farm work and other activities in prisons to keep inmates active and productive. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
IZALCO, El Salvador, Dec 29 2015 (IPS)

Doris Zabala squats down in the field to pull up radishes. She is working on a prison farm in El Salvador, where more and more penitentiaries are incorporating agricultural work and other activities to keep prisoners busy.

“The harvest has been good – nice, big red radishes,” Zabala told IPS. She is one of 210 inmates at the Centro Penitenciario para Mujeres Granja Izalco – a prison farm for women in the municipality of Izalco in the western department of Sonsonate.

This facility is only for minimum-security women prisoners who already have weekend leave to visit their families.

Of the 210 prisoners, 80 work in the fields, while the rest are active in other areas, such as cooking in the prison kitchen or taking care of the inmates’ children.

On the 26 hectares of land used by the prison farm, the women use agroecological methods to grow radishes, sesame, tomatoes, corn, papaya and other fruit and vegetables. A small chicken farm has also begun to operate, and a tilapia fish farm is on the cards.

“At my house there is land for growing things, so when I’m free I plan to continue gardening because I like it,” said 32-year-old Cecilia Méndez, who has spent six years in prison. She told IPS she is set to be released in eight months.

The farm was inaugurated in January 2011 as part of the government’s efforts to offer occupational alternatives in the country’s overpopulated prisons, to gradually ease the problems of idle prisoners, overcrowding, violence and crime that have reigned supreme in the penitentiaries for decades.

This Central American country’s 21 prisons were built for a combined total of 8,100 prisoners, but currently hold 32,300 – four times the capacity – according to official figures.

There is an “enormous humanitarian crisis in the penitentiary system” says the report “The Salvadoran Prison System and its Facilities”, published in November this year by the University Institute for Public Opinion (IUDOP) at the catholic José Simeón Cañas Central American University (UCA), under the auspices of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

The Izalco prison farm is part of the government programme Yo Cambio (I Change), which includes a number of measures aimed at boosting the reintegration of prisoners and reducing recidivism.

The programme offers skills training, activities and work to keep inmates busy and improve their reinsertion into society once they are released. Projects also include rebuilding, enlarging and refurbishing existing prisons and the construction of new facilities, to ease the serious problem of overcrowding.

“Everyone thinks we don’t do anything, that we sit around thinking abut things that we shouldn’t, but we actually keep busy,” said Méndez, walking between rows of chives (Allium schoenoprasum).

The use of environmentally-friendly farming techniques, such as organic fertiliser, is a key part of the process.

“The idea is to teach the inmates new practices,” Óscar Menéndez, the farm administrator, told IPS.

“Anyone who likes to work keeps busy here,” María Cristina Vásquez, 53, who is in charge of the papaya crop and the small chicken coop with 100 chicks that arrived recently, which she cares for with dedication.

The farm’s output is for internal prison consumption and the surplus is sent to other penitentiaries.

On Dec. 22, the government signed a 4.2 million dollar contract with a construction company to refurbish the facilities in Izalco, to improve conditions.

A similar prison farm is located outside the city of Santa Ana in the department of the same name in western El Salvador.

The programme is not limited to farms but also includes other employment activities, in other prisons, such as carpentry and shoe production and repair.

In the Centro Penal Apanteos prison, 72 km west of San Salvador, also in the department of Santa Ana, the inmates set up a novel laboratory where they produce 60,000 tilapia fish in the larval stage per month.

They also created a factory that produces bleach and disinfectant, based on the expertise passed along by a former prisoner.

“He knew how to do this, and our motto here is that whoever knows something teaches it to others who don’t know,” said Rolando Artiaga, 24, who is in charge of running the small factory. They produce 200 gallons of disinfectant and 150 gallons of bleach a month, which are sold inside the prison itself.

The programme also includes activities like sports, education, healthcare, religion, art and culture.

But not all the inmates have access to these benefits.

Of the 32,300 prisoners in the country, only one-third benefit from the project, in 12 prisons around the country, Orlando Elías Molina, assistant director of the government’s prison administration agency, the DGCP, told IPS.

In the biggest prison, La Esperanza, to the north of San Salvador, the authorities tried to launch some of the activities used by the programme, in mid-2015, but the efforts were frustrated because of the gangs that control the prison, he added.

“If we let the criminal structures run this, it’s not going to work,” Molina said.

Next year, he added, they will try to get activities going even in those prisons that specifically hold gang members, such as the one in Chalatenango, in the north of the country, which houses members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang. It is one of the most violent gangs along with Barrio 18.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/women-inmates-sow-hope-in-prisons-in-el-salvador/feed/ 1
Insecurity in Dominican Countryside Threatens Local Food Supplyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/insecurity-in-dominican-countryside-threatens-local-food-supply/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=insecurity-in-dominican-countryside-threatens-local-food-supply http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/insecurity-in-dominican-countryside-threatens-local-food-supply/#comments Mon, 28 Dec 2015 16:39:47 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143452 Cecilia Joseph is a small farmer in Mata Mamón who says she crossed the border from Haiti “when I was just a girl.” Credit: Dionny Matos

Cecilia Joseph is a small farmer in Mata Mamón who says she crossed the border from Haiti “when I was just a girl.” Credit: Dionny Matos

By Ivet González
MATA MAMÓN, Dominican Republic , Dec 28 2015 (IPS)

“Sometimes we have too much water, which washes everything away,” Cecilia Joseph, originally from Haiti, said in heavily accented Spanish while pulling up a ñame root (a kind of yam) on her farm in the municipality of Santo Domingo Norte in the Dominican Republic.

Joseph was referring to the frequent flooding caused when the Ozama, Cabón and Tosa rivers, which run through the rural area of Mata Mamón 30 km north of the Dominican capital, overflow their banks.

The heavy rains hurt her subsistence crops – corn, banana, papaya, avocado, ñame and mango – which sometimes produce a surplus that she sells, complained this small, thin, agile 70-year-old.Today, 1.5 million of the Dominican Republic’s 9.3 million inhabitants are still malnourished.

Cecé, as she is known here, depends completely on her one-hectare farm for a living, because her son and her husband are both dead.

This community of 1,714 inhabitants, where most people are small farmers like Joseph, is one of 1,100 that are registered by the civil defence agency in the province of Santo Domingo as vulnerable to flooding and landslides due to the overflowing of rivers and the lack of stormwater drainage systems.

The overwhelming consensus in the scientific community is that climate change and global warming are to blame for erratic weather patterns such as what is being seen in this country today.

Besides the threats posed to their health – and to their very lives – local farmers consulted by IPS say the environmental problem has reduced their production levels, and as a result they don’t have enough food anymore to feed their families.

“Five years ago I stopped planting rice and pumpkin on the land next to the river, because it overflowed its banks more and more frequently, to the point that it wasn’t worth investing there, just to lose everything,” said 56-year-old José Corcino, who also works as a skilled construction worker to support his family.

To feed his family, José Corcino plants crops and raises pigs in his backyard, which the floodwaters reach when the nearby river overflows its banks. Credit: Dionny Matos

To feed his family, José Corcino plants crops and raises pigs in his backyard, which the floodwaters reach when the nearby river overflows its banks. Credit: Dionny Matos

“We have made several requests through the United Hearts Association of Farmers of Mata Mamón for the state to dredge the rivers so they won’t overflow their banks. But everything has been in vain. We still can’t plant our crops,” complained Corcino, one of the more than 100 members of the organisation.

“We are going hungry because we don’t grow enough to be able to swap products with other local farmers,” he said. “And we don’t have markets here. Sometimes people come in trucks, selling vegetables and things, or we have to go and shop at La Victoria, which is six km away.”

Corcino, a father of three, grows banana, guava, soursop, avocado and mango to feed his family, on the one-hectare plot of land where his house is located. And farther away, on a 1.5-hectare plot where he used to grow rice, he grazes his 15 head of cattle, mainly dairy cows.

“Every afternoon I bring the cattle to my yard because the thieves take everything,” he said, referring to another factor that is a hindrance to agriculture. In his view, what the farmers in Mata Manón need is less vandalism and rustling, and more environmental services and investment, to boost local food production.

Today, 1.5 million of the Dominican Republic’s 9.3 million inhabitants are still malnourished, even though the country managed to reduce the number of people suffering from hunger in the last 20 years, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FA0).

As they chat, local men point to the town, which is mainly populated by people originally from neighbouring Haiti or descendants of Haitians. Credit: Dionny Matos

As they chat, local men point to the town, which is mainly populated by people originally from neighbouring Haiti or descendants of Haitians. Credit: Dionny Matos

Food insecurity and poverty are largely rural phenomena in this Caribbean nation which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, according to the Panorama of Food and Nutritional Security in Central America and Dominican Republic 2014, published for the first time this year by FAO.

In fields in the Dominican Republic, where food availability is determined, it is small farmers and blacks who suffer the most, according to the study.

“Peasant farmers have to feel security for themselves and their families in terms of labour, income, food, and access to school and healthcare. And environmental security is also important, because sometimes heavy rains fall and wipe away their crops,” said Manuel Rodríguez at the Labour Ministry’s Agriculture Office.

He said the office offers advice to help generate more secure jobs, as part of a larger government programme aimed at increasing employment in agriculture from the current 20 percent to 40 percent of the total workforce.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, only 609,197 people work in this sector: 559,428 men and 49,769 women.

“Peasants are abandoning their land today because there isn’t any money or work. But in the next few years, the Dominican countryside is going to undergo a radical change,” the official predicted.

The project will also involve technological modernisation projects like the expansion of greenhouse areas, initiatives for incorporating more women in farming, reduced interest payments to the agricultural bank, and more credit for farmers.

The Dominican Republic is a major exporter of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers, while production of Chinese vegetables is growing, said Rodríguez. This country is also one of the world’s leading exporters of organic tropical products like bananas.

However, Dominican society is marked by a high level of inequality, and hunger and malnutrition are still top-priority problems, as recognised by the authorities when parliament approved a law on food and nutritional sovereignty and security in 2014.

Mata Mamón, a “batey” – a term that refers to rural shantytowns that originally sprung up on sugarcane plantations, as well as to urban slums surrounding cities and populated mainly by Haitians and Dominican-Haitians – is an area of potted roads lined by earth-floored wooden shacks and a few modest cinder-block dwellings.

“We have made some progress in education and among the youth, who have calmed down,” said Cornelio Guzmán, chairman of the Human Rights Committee for the last 15 years, with regard to the declining rates of juvenile delinquency and the construction of a local school.

“With respect to economic questions, the community has almost no income because the rivers destroy the crops and it’s impossible to fight the theft of cattle, goats and pigs, because we only have one policeman,” lamented the 44-year-old activist.

Edited by Verónica Firme/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/insecurity-in-dominican-countryside-threatens-local-food-supply/feed/ 0
Coffee Rust Aggravates Poverty in Rural El Salvadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/coffee-rust-aggravates-poverty-in-rural-el-salvador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coffee-rust-aggravates-poverty-in-rural-el-salvador http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/coffee-rust-aggravates-poverty-in-rural-el-salvador/#comments Fri, 18 Dec 2015 17:39:39 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143400 Ilsy Membreño separates green and red coffee beans, part of the tasks involved in the harvest on the Montebelo farm in El Salvador. The drop in production caused by coffee leaf rust has driven wages down to just three dollars a day. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Ilsy Membreño separates green and red coffee beans, part of the tasks involved in the harvest on the Montebelo farm in El Salvador. The drop in production caused by coffee leaf rust has driven wages down to just three dollars a day. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
EL CONGO, El Salvador , Dec 18 2015 (IPS)

Sitting in front of a pile of coffee beans that she has just picked, Ilsy Membreño separates the green cherries from the ripe red ones with a worried look on her face, lamenting the bad harvest on the farm where she works in western El Salvador and the low daily wages she is earning.

As it spread through this country and the rest of Central America, the fungus (Hemileia vastatrix) that causes coffee leaf rust infected the farm where she works.

“There is less coffee to pick, and in the end there is less money for us,” lamented Membreño, one of 30 people working in the harvest on the Montebelo farm in the municipality of El Congo in the western Salvadoran department (province) of Santa Ana.

The parasitic fungus feeds off the leaves of the plants, infecting them with yellow and brown spots. The leaves fall off and the beans are unable to mature.

Coffee production generates some 150,000 direct jobs and 500,000 indirect jobs, according to the report “Coffee Cultivation in El Salvador 2013”, drawn up by the governmental Salvadoran Coffee Council (CSC). Between 1995 and 2012, coffee represented 7.5 percent of the country’s total exports.

The fungus threatens to further impoverish El Salvador’s rural areas, where 36 percent of households already live in poverty, according to the government’s Multiple-Purpose Households Survey 2013.

Membreño told IPS that before the coffee leaf rust outbreak ravaged the farm, she picked two quintals (92 kilos) a day, earning around eight dollars a day during the three-month harvest.“The disease caught us with our pants down.” -- Julio Grande

“But now I don’t even manage to pick one quintal, and I earn just three dollars a day,” she said with resignation.

The other day labourers who talked to IPS described a similar situation when we visited the privately-owned farm, which is 116 manzanas (a manzana is equivalent to 0.7 hectare) in size.

Climate change has also hurt the coffee crop, with lengthy droughts in the rainy season and heavy rains in the dry season.

“The rain has knocked the coffee beans off, and we lose time picking them up,” said Sonia Hernández, a mother of three who is also working on the Montebelo farm, told IPS.

Official figures published on the CSC web site show that output plunged from 1.7 million quintals in the 2012-2013 harvest to just 700,000 in the 2013-2014 harvest, due to the coffee leaf rust outbreak.

In the period in question, the total payments to temporary harvest workers dropped from 21.6 million dollars to 8.7 million dollars.

Production rallied somewhat during the 2014-2015 harvest, to 925,000 quintals. The CSC’s forecast for the 2015-2016 harvest is 998,000 quintals – still below the output obtained prior to the outbreak.

“Without a harvest, these poor people don’t have work,” Manuel Morán, the foreman, told IPS.

Montebelo is in the Apaneca-Lamatepec mountains, where conditions are perfect for coffee cultivation. But neither corn nor beans, the staples of the Salvadoran diet, are grown in the area.

And without land to grow subsistence crops or money to buy food, the people in this rural community face threats to their food security.

“We don’t have anywhere to plant corn or beans, we depend on our work on this farm for a living,” said Membreño.

There are approximately 19,500 coffee growers in the country, 86 percent of whom are small farmers with less than 10 manzanas of land, who represent 21 percent of the total national output, according to the CSC.

“Outside of harvest time, we gather firewood, that’s how we support ourselves, because there isn’t anything else here,” said Membreño, who has an eight-year-old son. Her husband works in the same activities.

Coffee leaf rust, found in El Salvador since the late 1970s, began to spread rapidly in 2012. But the devastating effects were not felt until 2013, and caught coffee growers as well as the government off guard.

“The disease caught us with our pants down,” Julio Grande, a researcher at the governmental National Centre of Agricultural and Forest Technology (CENTA), told IPS.

In one area of the Montebelo farm, he is studying the biology of the parasite and the epidemiology of the disease, while testing fungicides.

The idea is integral treatment of the disease, simultaneously focusing on fertilisation of the plant, pruning, and the use of fungicides, he said.

These three elements together can bring good results, he added.

In fact, in the areas where he used fungicides, the coffee bushes are relatively healthy, and out of danger.

“The fungicides work, but if the other aspects of the equation are neglected, the effect is limited,” he added.

Renewing coffee plantations is an effective technique, because the older the plants, the more vulnerable they are to the fungus, the researcher added. El Salvador’s coffee trees are considered old – over 30 years old.

Besides technical assistance, fungicides and other inputs, the government distributed around eight million coffee rust-resistant plants to 4,200 farmers, to begin a process of renewal of their fields, Adán Hernández, manager of Centa’s coffee division, told IPS.

And on their own, farmers have planted another eight million, he added.

But large-scale renovation would require heavy government investment, to buy from private nurseries the 300 million seedlings needed to plant the 217,000 manzanas of coffee bushes in the country. And at any rate, there are not enough seeds available to do that.

Meanwhile, sitting next to the pile of coffee cherries, Ilsy Membreño has just one thing on her mind: how to get by on three dollars a day.

Edited by Verónica Firme/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/coffee-rust-aggravates-poverty-in-rural-el-salvador/feed/ 1
2016: The Forthcoming Adjustment Shockhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/2016-the-forthcoming-adjustment-shock-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2016-the-forthcoming-adjustment-shock-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/2016-the-forthcoming-adjustment-shock-2/#comments Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:24:17 +0000 Isabel Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143284 Isabel Ortiz, is the director of the Social Protection Department at the International Labour Organization (ILO). This column is based on the working paper “The Decade of Adjustment: A Review of Austerity Trends 2010-2020 in 187 Countries” by Isabel Ortiz, Matthew Cummins, Jeronim Capaldo and Kalaivani Karunanethy, and its policy brief, published by the ILO Social Protection Department, the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University and the South Centre.]]> Isabel Ortiz, is the director of the Social Protection Department at the International Labour Organization (ILO). This column is based on the working paper “The Decade of Adjustment: A Review of Austerity Trends 2010-2020 in 187 Countries” by Isabel Ortiz, Matthew Cummins, Jeronim Capaldo and Kalaivani Karunanethy, and its policy brief, published by the ILO Social Protection Department, the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University and the South Centre.]]> http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/2016-the-forthcoming-adjustment-shock-2/feed/ 0 Opinion: Retirement Unlikely Option for Most Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/opinion-retirement-unlikely-option-for-most-people-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-retirement-unlikely-option-for-most-people-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/opinion-retirement-unlikely-option-for-most-people-2/#comments Wed, 09 Dec 2015 07:36:22 +0000 Joseph Chamie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143265

Joseph Chamie is an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division.

By Joseph Chamie
Dec 9 2015 (IPS)

Pensionable retirement ages and government pension programs have been established for men and women in countries around the world. Nevertheless, retirement remains an unlikely option for most people.

Nearly half – 48 per cent – of all people above pensionable age do not receive a pension, according to the International Labour Organization. And for many who do, the pension levels are inadequate. Consequently, the majority of world’s elderly, especially women who more often work outside the formal labor force, lack income security, have to work as long as they can and in many instances are obliged to rely on family for support and assistance.

Old age pensionable retirement is a relatively recent social institution. Throughout most of the past workers by and large continued to work until death or major disability. They were obliged to continue working to due to the absence of pension systems, little accumulated personal savings and low life expectancies.

In 1889 Otto von Bismarck introduced the world’s first national pension program for workers, setting the pensionable age at 70, many years beyond the Germany’s life expectancy at birth. In 1935 the United States established its social security program with the normal pensionable age set at 65, or about three years beyond U.S. life expectancy at that time.

Today virtually all countries recognize in principle the right to income security in old age, including the right to an adequate social security pension. And nearly all governments have established pensionable retirement ages and pension programs that vary considerably by eligibility, scope, contributions, credits, coverage, benefits, taxes, bonuses, penalties, etc.

The current range of normal, pensionable retirement ages worldwide covers a span of 20 years, varying from a low of age 50 to a high of 70 years. Most of the retirement ages, however, are concentrated at 60 and 65, and also 55 for many women (Figure 1).

Source: U.S. Social Security Administration.

Source: U.S. Social Security Administration.

The lowest pensionable retirement ages of 50 and 55 are typically in developing countries with comparatively low life expectancies. In about twenty countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, retirement ages exceed life expectancies at birth.

Also in high mortality countries, such as Angola, Chad, and Nigeria, the chances of a 15-year old dying before reaching age 60 are about 1in 3. And in some extreme cases, such as Lesotho and Swaziland, more than half of 15-year olds are not expected to survive to age 60.

The highest pensionable retirement ages of 65 or older are in wealthy developed countries with high life expectancies at birth. In many instances, life expectancies at birth in developed countries are more than ten years greater than the retirement ages.

The chances of a 15-year old not reaching age 60 in the low-mortality countries, such as Italy, Japan and Sweden, are comparatively low, about 1 in 20. In addition, average life expectancy at age 65 among the more developed countries is 17 years for men and 21 years for women.

Due to their lower mortality rates, women typically live longer than men. However, in no country are pensionable retirement ages higher for women than for men. In about two-thirds of the countries or roughly half the world’s population, including Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and United States, women and men have the same retirement ages.

In contrast, one-quarter of the countries, including Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, China, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Poland, Russia and Saudi Arabia, have set women’s retirement age five years less than men’s. In the remaining countries, which include Bangladesh, Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland, Turkey and United Kingdom, women’s retirement ages are one to four years less than men’s.

A possible explanation for lower pensionable retirement ages of women is to permit couples to retire at approximately the same time given that women are usually younger than their spouses. However, women’s lower retirement ages are not advantageous in terms of pension benefits, especially as many women have work histories interrupted by childbearing and family responsibilities and consequently accumulate fewer pension-contributing years than men.

In countries providing general social security pensions for their elderly, government budgets have remained largely in the black during past decades. This is primarily due to favorable population age structures, which provided many pension-contributing people in the working ages and relatively few elderly persons drawing benefits.

For instance, whereas developed countries in the mid-20th century had more than eight people in the working ages (15 to 64) for each elderly person (aged 65 and older), the current ratio is slightly less than four. By the year 2050 the ratio for the developed countries is projected to fall to two working age people per elderly person.

With the changing demographics, notably fewer workers per elderly person and increasing longevity, many governments are concerned that red ink budgets for the elderly are arriving in the near term. Avoiding the red ink threat to the sustainability of retirement systems poses major social, economic and political challenges, especially for many of the oldest countries, such as Greece, Italy, Japan and Spain.

A general aim of governments is to control the growing expenditures for the elderly. More than half of all countries and most developed countries have adopted changes during the past five years to increase the pensionable retirement age or reform pension systems, including reducing retiree benefits, increasing contribution levels and rates, encouraging work beyond normal retirement age, and linking retirement ages to life expectancies.

Continuing to increase retirement ages would certainly reduce governmental pension expenditures for the elderly. Among the OECD countries, for example, retirement ages have increased by several years, with 67 becoming the new 65 in many countries. Some countries are also considering moving towards a retirement age of 70, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Italy and the United Kingdom.

However, such increases in pensionable retirement ages are generally not sufficient in themselves to offset the effects of population ageing and increasing longevity. In order to maintain today’s ratios of workers to the elderly, retirement ages would need to be raised by more than just a few years, which would be very difficult politically.

An important consequence of recent pension reforms has been transferring more of the costs directly to the elderly. Unfortunately, most of the world’s elderly and near elderly do not have sufficient financial resources in savings, investments or private pension schemes that would permit them to retire adequately.

Over the past century noteworthy progress has been made globally in establishing pensionable retirement ages and tax-financed pension programs for the elderly. However, for most of world’s population these pension programs are either unavailable or insufficient to meet their needs in old age.

Consequently, except for the well off, men and women should expect to continue working well beyond normal pensionable retirement ages in order to have sufficient income for old age. Succinctly reflecting this retirement predicament facing people worldwide, one comedian aptly remarked, “I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need, if I die by 4 o’clock.”

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/opinion-retirement-unlikely-option-for-most-people-2/feed/ 0
Soy, an Exotic Fruit in Brazil’s Amazon Junglehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/soy-an-exotic-fruit-in-brazils-amazon-jungle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=soy-an-exotic-fruit-in-brazils-amazon-jungle http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/soy-an-exotic-fruit-in-brazils-amazon-jungle/#comments Tue, 08 Dec 2015 00:36:47 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143252 Members of the São Raimundo do Fe em Deus cooperative in the rural municipality of Belterra in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest peel manioc, to make flour. The associations of small farmers help them defend themselves from the negative effects of the expansion of soy in this region on the banks of the Tapajós River. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Members of the São Raimundo do Fe em Deus cooperative in the rural municipality of Belterra in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest peel manioc, to make flour. The associations of small farmers help them defend themselves from the negative effects of the expansion of soy in this region on the banks of the Tapajós River. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BELTERRA, Brazil, Dec 8 2015 (IPS)

In the northern Brazilian state of Pará, the construction of a port terminal for shipping soy out of the Amazon region has displaced thousands of small farmers from their land, which is now dedicated to monoculture.

The BR-163 highway, along the 100-km route from Santarém, the capital of the municipality of that name, to Belterra runs through an endless stretch of plowed fields, with only a few isolated pockets of the lush rainforest that used to cover this entire area.

State-of-the-art tractors and other farm machinery, a far cry from the rudimentary tools used by the local small farmers in the surrounding fields, are plowing the soil this month, ahead of the planting of soy in January.

José de Souza, a small farmer who owns nine hectares in the rural municipality of Belterra, sighs.

“Soy benefits the big producers, but it hurts small farmers because the deforestation has brought drought,” he tells IPS. “The temperatures here were pleasant before, but now it’s so hot, you can’t stand it.”

The effects are visible in his fields of banana plants, which have been burnt by the hot sun.

Resigned, De Souza waters a few sad rows of straggling cabbages and scallions.

Like other farmers, he has been hemmed in by the expansion of soy in the municipalities of Santarém and the nearby Belterra and Mojuí dos Campos.

According to the Santarém municipal government, of the 740,000 cultivable hectares in this region, soy now covers 60,000.

But Raimunda Nogueira, rector of the Federal University of Western Pará, offers a much higher figure. “Land-use change has involved 112,000 to 120,000 hectares, which have been turned into soy plantations,” she tells IPS.

And with the soy came the spraying.

“The soy fields bring a lot of pests because the poison they use to fight them drives them off their plantations onto our small fields,” laments De Souza.

The agrochemicals have polluted the soil and poisoned crops and animals, local farmers complain.

“The crops die, and as a result the property becomes completely unproductive – and the solution is to sell,” Jefferson Correa, a representative of the local non-governmental organisation Fase Amazonia, tells IPS.

There are no epidemiological data. But in these rural municipalities, the widespread perception is that health problems like respiratory and skin ailments have become more common.

According to Selma da Costa with the Rural Workers Union of Belterra, the threats to their health and the temptation to sell their land have led 65 percent of local small farmers to leave the municipality, which had a population of 16,500.

“They end up leaving, because who is going to put up with the stench of the pesticides? No one. People are getting sick. Pregnant women often feel ill and they don’t know why,” she tells IPS.

José de Souza waters the garden on his nine-hectare farm in the municipality of Belterra in the northern Brazilian Amazon rainforest state of Pará, where his vegetables grow sparsely due to the effects of the spread of soy monoculture, which has hurt family farmers in the area, who produce 70 percent of the food consumed by the local population. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

José de Souza waters the garden on his nine-hectare farm in the municipality of Belterra in the northern Brazilian Amazon rainforest state of Pará, where his vegetables grow sparsely due to the effects of the spread of soy monoculture, which has hurt family farmers in the area, who produce 70 percent of the food consumed by the local population. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

“They sold their land for a pittance. They practically gave away their land to the big producers, thinking their lives would get better, that they would build a nice house in Santarém But they can’t support themselves because they can’t grow anything,” she explains.

Correa points out that back in 2000, land here was cheap. There were people who sold 100 hectares for 1,000 to 2,000 dollars, and later regretted it.

“They went to the city, spent all the money, and without any formal education, the only solution was to go back to work in the countryside, as rural labourers for the people who had bought their land,” he says.

Others scrape by on the outskirts of Santarém as street vendors or in other informal sector activities.

“The farmers had their property, their own food, like beans, rice, flour and what they could fish and hunt; but in the city they no longer have that,” adds Claudionor Carvalho with the Federation of Agricultural Workers of the State of Pará.

The change, he explains to IPS, has fuelled prostitution in the slums surrounding the city, “because the families weren’t prepared for what they would face.”

The process was accentuated 15 years ago, with the construction of a port facility in Santarém by the US commodities giant Cargill.

Through the new port terminal in Santarém, on the banks of the Tapajós River where it runs into the Amazon River, soy and other grains can be exported to the Atlantic Ocean.

The aim was to reduce the distance and the costs of transporting soy from the neighbouring state of Mato Grosso, Brazil’s biggest producer.

Brazil is the world’s second-largest producer and leading exporter of soy, which it sells to China, Europe and other markets.

Ports like this one in the Amazon basin have nearly cut in half the transport distance from Mato Grosso, which is around 2,000 km from the congested ports in the southeast, such as Santos in the state of São Paulo.

The new Amazon port, with silos that now have a total capacity of 120,000 tons – double the initial capacity – has drawn hundreds of soy producers from the south of the country, leading to a land-buying stampede and driving up property prices.

One of those who came with his family was Luiz Machado, from Mato Grosso.

“We had 90 hectares that we sold to buy a bigger farm here because the land was cheap,” he tells IPS. “Besides, we would be closer to the port, so we could get a better price for our product.”

Machado says the purchase was legal, and that he has left untouched the rainforest surrounding his property, much of which had already been deforested.

But many others did not do this, and the expansion of soy has devastated large swathes of forest, Cándido Cunha with the National Institute of Colonisation and Agrarian Reform explains in a conversation with IPS.

In 2006, in a “soy moratorium,” associations of producers, many of whom had ties to Cargill, pledged not to sell any more soy from deforested areas.

There was a temporary drop in deforestation. But it once again increased because the farmers that sold their land cleared property in other areas.

“What happened was what we call ‘grillaje’ of land: forged documents or illegal appropriation of public land,” which further complicated the already highly irregular land tenure situation in the Amazon region, says Cunha.

Of the two million and a half tons of soy exported annually from Santarém, just six percent is locally grown; the rest comes from Mato Grosso.

But Nelio Aguiar, secretary of planning in Santarém, says it helped modernise the economy, fomenting a shift from family farming to mechanised agriculture.

“Today we have larger scale, dollarised agriculture, and every harvest produces great riches,” he tells IPS.

But while some celebrate the expansion of agribusiness here, others are worried about the future of local food security.

The greater metropolitan region, population 370,000, depends on family farming for 70 percent of the local food supply.

“Now you have to buy everything in the market, even rice and beans – things we didn’t have to buy before because we produced everything ourselves. And we also sold what we produced,” complains De Souza.

“Why are we buying? Because we don’t have land anymore. And what we plant is being poisoned,” says Da Costa.

For Correa, one solution is to expand government programmes that support family farming. De Souza is a beneficiary of one of them.

Another solution is to join together in farming associations or cooperatives.

De Souza proudly takes IPS to the São Raimundo do Fe em Deus cooperative, of which he is a member, where a festive group of men and women are sharing the tasks of peeling, grating and cooking manioc to make the flour that is a staple food in Brazil.

“We have to help each other, because small farmers face a difficult situation today,” he says.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/soy-an-exotic-fruit-in-brazils-amazon-jungle/feed/ 0
Aspects of Dualism in the Gulfhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/aspects-of-dualism-in-the-gulf/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aspects-of-dualism-in-the-gulf http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/aspects-of-dualism-in-the-gulf/#comments Thu, 03 Dec 2015 21:33:33 +0000 N Chandra Mohan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143209

Chandra Mohan is an economics and business commentator.

By N Chandra Mohan
NEW DELHI, Dec 3 2015 (IPS)

The crash in oil prices is not the only challenge confronting the Gulf States in West Asia. Economic disorder and lack of opportunity are contributing to instability in the region, stated Bahrain’s minister for industry, commerce and tourism, Zayed Al Zayani, while kicking off the recent IISS Bahrain Bay Forum. He emphasized the need for “unprecedented” economic reform across the Gulf in the wake of the lower oil revenues. These policies include the generation of millions of jobs for the youth in these economies that continue to depend heavily on expatriate labour from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Philippines.

N Chandra Mohan

N Chandra Mohan

The Gulf States face the prospect of a demographic dividend of a youth bulge in the population rapidly turning into a curse, thanks to high and rising rates of unemployment for those between 15 to 24 years of age. The highest rates are in Saudi Arabia (28.7 per cent), Bahrain (27.9 per cent), Oman (20.5 per cent) and Kuwait (19.6 per cent). India, too, has double digit rates of joblessness among the young like many of these economies. There was a suggestion at the Bahrain Bay Forum that such high rates of youth unemployment are a proximate factor behind the surge in militant terrorism, exemplified by the rise of the Daesh or ISIS.

The prospect of lower oil revenues certainly will constrain the Gulf States to diversify their economies away from dependence on this commodity. Countries like Bahrain seek to focus on education and training, communications and infrastructure and promoting a start-up ecosystem for fostering entrepreneurship. The level of ambition is also high as they intend to generate high skill jobs and build a knowledge- based economy. The technology sector in the Gulf States is likely expected to grow by 10 per cent per annum over the next five years while the spending on technology in the Middle East as a whole is expected to touch $200 billion.

However, the transition to this brave new world requires bridging the skills gap. The labour market in this region depends heavily on low skilled and low wage earning migrant labour. More than 80 per cent of the workforce in private sector employment in Bahrain is comprised of expatriates. It goes up to 96 per cent and 98 per cent in Kuwait and Qatar respectively. In sharp contrast, the nationals are disproportionately represented in the bloated public sector. So, one form of dualism in the labour market is that the private sector is dominated wholly by expatriates while the public sector is largely for the locals in the Gulf.

Another source of dualism is that women are not adequately represented in the labour market due to pervasive gender discrimination in these conservative economies. Although women’s enrolment in higher educational institutions is rapidly rising of late — a case in point are courses in financial services in Bahrain which attract a lot of women — female labour force participation rates are well below 30 per cent as against the global average of 50 per cent. Jobless among young females is as high as 55 per cent in Saudi Arabia which is three-times higher than that of young males, according to the World Bank’s World Development Indicators.

Gulf’s labour market thus is “locked in a low skills, low wages and low productivity equilibrium” argued Frank Hagemann, deputy regional director of ILO, at one of the sessions at the Bay Forum. This dualism is reflected in a substantial wage gap between the private and public sector. At the lower end, the living and working conditions of migrants is sub-standard and highly exploitative in nature. Dependency-driven employee-employers relations are rife. The big challenge for the Gulf States is to kick-start the transition from this state of affairs to one driven by higher skills, higher wages and productivity.

What is the impact of abundant supplies of low skilled, low productivity expatriate population queried Ausamah Al Absi, chief executive, Labour Market Regulatory Authority in Bahrain? If an entrepreneur were to make an investment in a state-of-the-art printing press in Germany, he has to employ high technology and productivity tools as the cost of manpower is high. But in Bahrain, he can go for lower technology supported by a low skilled workforce. Pursuing a capital-intensive option in a low wage economy is not on. For such demand-side reasons, this entrepreneur will naturally be rendered uncompetitive in this economy, felt Al Absi.

Low oil prices complicate the efforts of the Gulf States to address these distortions without throwing out the baby with the bathwater. If revenues continue to decline, a worry is that it reduces the fiscal space to pay nationals in the public sector. At the same time, there is a compulsion to reduce subsidies on water, electricity and school fees that will disproportionately hit the expatriate workforce. The Gulf economies thus will make it more and more difficult for the expatriates to work in these economies over the near-term Controls on migration appear inevitable, regardless of the heavy dependence on such labour at present.

The transition to a higher skills, wages and productivity equilibrium is far from easy. It entails changes over a generation. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, 40 per cent of the graduates come from humanities or Islamic studies while only 4 per cent are engineers. Stepping up the numbers of engineers takes more time. Yet there is a temptation to look for quick fixes like inviting tech giants in the US to set up cloud computing courses in the Gulf States! At the Bay Forum, Bahrain announced a $100 million venture capital based fund to that will work as the first cloud technology accelerator in the region. Can such moves kick-start hi-tech start-ups? Intermediate steps are perhaps more necessary like vocational and on-the-job training. Only 17 per cent of firms in the Gulf States provide on-the-job training as against the global average of 35 per cent. The best bet for these countries is greater gender empowerment in the labour market than expat-bashing policies to reduce sources of instability.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/aspects-of-dualism-in-the-gulf/feed/ 0
Native Seeds Help Weather Climate Change in El Salvadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/native-seeds-help-weather-climate-change-in-el-salvador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=native-seeds-help-weather-climate-change-in-el-salvador http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/native-seeds-help-weather-climate-change-in-el-salvador/#comments Mon, 30 Nov 2015 22:34:40 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143159 Domitila Reyes, 25, picks a cob of native corn in a field in the Mangrove Association, one of the two small farmer organisations that produce these seeds for the government’s Family Agriculture Plan in El Salvador. The seeds are not only high yield but are also more tolerant of the climate changes happening in this Central American country. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Domitila Reyes, 25, picks a cob of native corn in a field in the Mangrove Association, one of the two small farmer organisations that produce these seeds for the government’s Family Agriculture Plan in El Salvador. The seeds are not only high yield but are also more tolerant of the climate changes happening in this Central American country. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
JIQUILISCO /SAN MIGUEL, El Salvador , Nov 30 2015 (IPS)

Knife in hand, Domitila Reyes deftly cuts open the leaves covering the cob of corn, which she carefully removes from the plant – a process she carries out over and over all morning long, standing in the middle of a sea of corn, a staple in the diet of El Salvador.

Reyes is taking part in the “tapisca” – derived from “pixca” in the Nahat indigenous tongue, which means harvesting the field-dried corn.

The process will end, weeks later, with the selection of the best quality seeds, in order to ensure food sovereignty and security for poor peasant farmers in this Central American country of 6.3 million people.

Some 614,000 Salvadorans are farmers, and 244,000 of them grow corn or beans on small farms averaging 2.5 hectares in size, the Ministry of Agriculture and Stockbreeding reports.

In rural areas, 43 percent of households are poor, compared to 29.9 percent in urban areas, according to the latest annual survey by the Ministry of Economy.

“I see that the harvest is good, even though the rain was causing problems,” Reyes, 25, told IPS. She earns 10 dollars a day “tapiscando” or harvesting corn.

Climate change has modified the production cycles in this country, which is experiencing lengthy droughts in the May to October wet season and heavy rain in the November to April dry season. The erratic weather has ruined corn and bean crops.“High quality seeds are strategic for the country, because they make it possible for farming families to grow their crops in periods of national and global crisis, given the problem of climate change.” -- Alan González

But Reyes, covered head to toe to protect herself from the sun in jeans, a long-sleeved blouse and a hat, is relieved that the high-quality or “improved” seeds have managed to resist the effects of the changing climate.

“This corn has withstood it better…the rain hurt it but not very much. Other seeds wouldn’t have survived the blow,” she told IPS in the middle of the cornfield.

Reyes is one of the nearly two dozen workers who, under the burning sun, are harvesting corn on this seven-hectare field, one of several that belong to the Mangrove Association in Ciudad Romero, a rural settlement in the municipality of Jiquilisco in the eastern department of Usulután.

The region is known as Bajo Lempa, named after the river that crosses El Salvador from the north, before running into the Pacific Ocean. In that region there are 86 communities, with a total population of 23,000 people.

Many of the inhabitants are former guerrilla fighters of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), which fought the country’s right-wing governments in the 1980-1992 armed conflict that left a death toll of around 75,000, mainly civilians.

The Mangrove Association is one of the two producers of open-pollinated (the opposite of hybrid) native seeds in El Salvador. The other is the Nancuchiname Cooperative, also in the Bajo Lempa region.

They sell their annual output of 500,000 kilos of seeds to the government for distribution to 400,000 small farmers, as part of the Family Agriculture Plan (PAF). Each farmer receives 10 kg of seeds of corn and beans, as well as fertiliser.

“One achievement by our organisation is that the government has accepted us as a supplier of native seeds to the PAF,” said Juan Luna, coordinator of the Mangrove Association’s Agriculture Programme.

The hard-working hands of Ivania Siliézar, 55, pick improved beans she grew on her three-hectare farm on the slopes of the Chaparrastique volcano in the eastern Salvadoran department of San Miguel. Thanks to these native seeds, her output has doubled. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The hard-working hands of Ivania Siliézar, 55, pick improved beans she grew on her three-hectare farm on the slopes of the Chaparrastique volcano in the eastern Salvadoran department of San Miguel. Thanks to these native seeds, her output has doubled. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Luna told IPS that with these seeds, Salvadoran small farmers are better prepared to confront the effects of climate change and ensure food security and sovereignty.

In this country, 12.4 percent of the population – around 700,000 people – are undernourished, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The Mangrove Association and another three cooperatives in the area produce 40 percent of the improved seeds purchased by the PAF, whether native or the H59 hybrid variety developed by the government’s Enrique Álvarez Córdova National Centre for Agricultural and Forest Technology (CENTA).

The rest are produced by cooperatives in other regions of the country.

“The seeds produced by CENTA are high quality genetic material adapted to growing everywhere from sea level to 700 metres altitude,” FAO resident coordinator in El Salvador, Alan González, told IPS.

Two farmers carry dry leaves of corn, after the harvest of field-dried corn, on a parcel of land belonging to the Mangrove Association, one of the cooperatives that produce native corn seeds in El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Two farmers carry dry leaves of corn, after the harvest of field-dried corn, on a parcel of land belonging to the Mangrove Association, one of the cooperatives that produce native corn seeds in El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

He added that the effort to promote this kind of seeds as a tool to weather the effects of climate change and strengthen food security and sovereignty are part of the Hunger Free Mesoamerica programme launched by FAO in 2014 in Central America, Colombia and the Dominican Republic.

“High quality seeds are strategic for the country, because they make it possible for farming families to grow their crops in periods of national and global crisis, given the problem of climate change,” said González.

Up to 2009, PAF purchased seeds from only five companies. But that year the FMLN, which became a political party after the 1992 peace deal, was voted into office and modified the rules of the game in order for small farmers to participate in the business, through cooperatives.

Another of the advantages of these improved seeds, besides their resistance to drought and heavy rains, is their high yields. FAO estimates that productivity has increased by 40 percent in the case of beans and 30 percent in the case of corn, which has boosted the food and nutritional security of the poorest families.

“We produce more, and we earn a bit more income,” said Ivania Siliézar, 55, who produces an improved variety of bean in the village of El Amate in the department of San Miguel, 135 km east of San Salvador.

Siliézar told IPS that she took the time to count how many bean pods one single plant produces: “More than 35 pods; that’s why the yield is so high,” she said proudly.

The variety of bean grown by her and 40 other members of the Fuentes y Palmeras cooperative is called chaparrastique, and was also developed by the CENTA technicians. The name comes from the volcano at whose feet this and six other cooperatives grow the bean, which they sell in local markets, as well as to the PAF.

Siliézar grows her crops on her farm that is just over three hectares in size, and in the last harvest of the year, she picked 1,250 kg of beans, a very high yield.

Similar excellent results were obtained by all 255 members of the seven cooperatives, who founded a company, Productores y Comercializadores Agrícolas de Oriente SA (Procomao), and have managed to mechanise their production with the installation of a plant that has processing equipment such as driers.

The plant was built with an investment of 203,000 dollars, financed by Spanish development aid and support from FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the San Miguel city government, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Stockbreeding. It has the capacity to process three tons of beans per hour.

Cooperatives grouping another 700 families from the departments of San Miguel and Usulután also set up three similar companies.

“We have had pests, but thanks to God and the quality of the seeds, here is our harvest,” Siliézar said happily.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/native-seeds-help-weather-climate-change-in-el-salvador/feed/ 1
“Jasmine Revolution” Challenges Male Domination of Tea Trade Unionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/jasmine-revolution-challenges-male-domination-of-tea-trade-unions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jasmine-revolution-challenges-male-domination-of-tea-trade-unions http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/jasmine-revolution-challenges-male-domination-of-tea-trade-unions/#comments Wed, 18 Nov 2015 08:11:27 +0000 Harikrishnan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143041 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/jasmine-revolution-challenges-male-domination-of-tea-trade-unions/feed/ 0