Inter Press Service » Labour http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 31 May 2016 17:15:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.11 The Idiocy of Things Requires an “Information Habeas Corpus”!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-idiocy-of-things-requires-an-information-habeas-corpus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-idiocy-of-things-requires-an-information-habeas-corpus http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-idiocy-of-things-requires-an-information-habeas-corpus/#comments Tue, 31 May 2016 16:12:38 +0000 Hazel Henderson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145378 Hazel Henderson, President of Ethical Markets Media (US and Brazil), publisher of the Green Transition Scoreboard®. She has authored many books, including Building a Win-Win World and is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science and Britain’s Royal Society of Arts.]]>

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

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

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

Hazel Henderson

Hazel Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is time for an Information Habeas Corpus!

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-idiocy-of-things-requires-an-information-habeas-corpus/feed/ 0
A Jarring Anomaly of Societyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-jarring-anomaly-of-society/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-jarring-anomaly-of-society http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-jarring-anomaly-of-society/#comments Mon, 30 May 2016 17:56:30 +0000 Aasha Mehreen Amin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145367 By Aasha Mehreen Amin
May 30 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

It is easy to miss stories about child domestic workers being tortured and killed. Easy because stories of children being killed have become eerily regular. It is May 28 and there is the report of 14-year-old Konika Rani being hacked to death by a drug addict with three of her classmates also grievously injured by him. There is also the horror of having to read about a six-year-old being left critically wounded after being raped by her neighbour. Next to this is the news of 11-year-old Hasina Akhter dying in hospital from the fatal wounds inflicted on her, presumably by her employers.

child_domestic_workerIt’s hard to choose which incident merits more attention – they are, after all, all children. But for now let’s just focus on the child domestic worker. Why? Because in the other two cases, such attacks, though heinous and reprehensible, are unpredictable. In the case of Hasina, however, the chance of abuse is uncomfortably high. Child domestic workers – a staggering 421,000 in number, according to Unicef (2015) – are possibly the most vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse mainly because they are confined to a house 24-7 and have little means of escape.

Extreme poverty forces families to send their children to homes of the more privileged. Once they are employed, they are at the mercy of their employers and their families. They are often made to do the work of an adult and paid a pittance. They work odd hours and are given hardly any time to rest, least of all play. School, for most, is no longer a part of their lives. But the worst part of their working environment is that they will be severely reprimanded in the form of verbal or physical abuse for making the smallest of mistakes. A Unicef study has reported as much as 60 percent of child domestic workers saying that they faced some kind of abuse during work, such as slapping and scolding; more than half received no wage at all.

The fact that Hasina Akhter did not even get a chance to say goodbye to her mother before her frail little body gave in to the injuries inflicted on her, is not surprising. Yet the extent to which her tormenters went will not fail to make one feel sick to the stomach: her hand and leg were broken, there were burns on her back and injuries on her head and other parts of her body, her face bloodied. This is how her mother Salma Begum found her when she rushed from her home in Mymensingh to Dhaka Medical College.

Salma, a domestic worker, had fallen ill and she sent her little daughter Hasina to her employer Shariful Islam’s house in Mohammadpur. She was to do some light housework and play with the children. For four months, however, Salma had no news of her child, until she got the ominous call from her employer that Hasina had typhoid and malaria and was in hospital. According to a news report, Shariful Islam had brought a severely injured Hasina to the hospital, telling the police on duty that he had found her lying on the street. After admitting her to the hospital, Shariful quickly left the scene. Later, when the police went to Shariful’s house, after Salma had spoken to them, the couple had already fled. They were later arrested from Sreepur while in hiding.

There may be all kinds of socio-psychological explanations behind such barbarity inflicted by people who otherwise appear quite ‘normal’. Think of the well-known cricketer and his wife who turned out to be sadistic torturers of their child domestic worker. We don’t need experts to tell us, however, why employers think they can get away with abusing child workers. Despite the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy-2015, which has been approved by the cabinet, there has been virtually no move to enforce this policy that would require all domestic workers to be registered as well as be guaranteed basic rights in terms of working hours, leave, benefits, health care and legal redress. Despite laws that serve the harshest punishment for physical torture, rape and murder of children, child domestic workers continue to be victims of all kinds of abuse.

The reason is simple. It is easy to beat and torture a child and get away with it. Child workers do not have a voice and there are no avenues by which they can get help when they are being victimised. The worst part is that in many cases the entire family collaborates in the torture. There is no one to speak out for the child domestic worker. Neighbours may hear their cries of help but few will try to intervene.

The idea of child labour is abhorrent in any society but it is a reality that we have done little to fix. Poverty compels families to send their children to the city to work in strangers’ homes in the hope that they will be fed, clothed and given some money to help them survive. This makes it a complex issue, one that cannot be solved with blanket bans without addressing the factors that push children into domestic work. But can we call ourselves a civilised nation if we continue to employ little children to work like adults who are vulnerable to abuse? It is hard to accept the truth that while employers shower their own children with love, caring and indulgence, when it comes to their child domestic worker, she/he is treated with contempt, neglect and sometimes brutality. Essentially, it is a class issue and the feudal mindset of society serves to perpetuate the idea that domestic workers are inferior beings with child domestic workers falling in the lowest rung of the ladder.

While we may wait for the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy-2015 to make any significant change in the lives of domestic workers in general, the state must work towards the total prohibition of employing children for household work, which can only be defined as hazardous child labour. This is because no matter how much we harp on having helplines, monitoring teams, mandatory schooling and enforcement of stringent laws to ensure the safety and wellbeing of child domestic workers, in the real world, human beings have a propensity to become monsters when no one is looking.

The writer is Deputy Editor, Editorial & Opinion, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-jarring-anomaly-of-society/feed/ 0
The Price of Non-Governmental Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-price-of-non-governmental-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-price-of-non-governmental-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-price-of-non-governmental-growth/#comments Sun, 29 May 2016 12:05:17 +0000 Rashaad Shabab http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145348 By C. Rashaad Shabab
May 29 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

It is well known that since the 1980s, Bangladesh has made astonishing progress on a wide variety of development indicators such as reducing the prevalence of extreme hunger and poverty, increasing primary education enrolment rates, and reducing child and maternal mortality. This progress has been mirrored by an impressive record of sustained GDP growth, spanning decades. In contrast to these successes, the quality of our democratic institutions has languished to the point where they now threaten to undermine all these hard-won gains. This article argues that the provision of public goods and services by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has not only contributed to these successes, but also to this failure.

Much, if not most, of Bangladesh’s development has happened outside the purview of its successive governments. The vibrant community of NGOs and civil society organisations working across the spectrum of development issues have been the principal drivers of progress, and undoubtedly, things like reduced infant mortality are progress. But by satisfying the immediate needs of Bangladesh’s citizens, the NGO movement has severed a critical link between us and our government. It has decoupled our access to services that would otherwise be provided by the state, and our ability to effectively demand these services from the state.

The delivery of public goods and services by non-state actors has crowded out not only the capacity of the state to serve its people, but also the capacity of the people to hold the state accountable. And whenever a people have failed to hold their government to account, state policy has followed a predictable trajectory. Unconstrained by the will of the people, the powers that be adopt policies that are designed to extract the nation’s wealth for their own enrichment.

It is not hard to list examples of extractive institutions in Bangladesh: overly complicated clearing and forwarding procedures at our ports, a lack of transparency in public procurement, bribes that must be paid before the receipt of most public services – the list is long, and growing. That is because over time, the extractive institutions tend to reinforce themselves. As the political elite divert more and more state’s resources under their control, they amass ever increasing means to consolidate their own power.

For the beneficiaries of an extractive system to continue enriching themselves without effective resistance, it becomes necessary for them to attack people’s freedom of speech and expression. This is because extractive policies cannot hope to stand up to the scrutiny of open, public debate.

The filling of key positions by loyalists rather than by the meritorious is also part of the process of extraction. This helps seal off institutions where we citizens might have sought redress from the influence of the will of the people, which becomes increasingly opposed to the incentives of their rulers. This gradual but deliberate erosion of the responsiveness of political institutions to the will of the people makes the prospect of organising any effective countervailing power within the existing system more and more grim.

So far, however, robust economic growth and the widespread provision of social services by NGOs meant that we, the people, were quite satisfied to pay the dues demanded of us by the extractive system, because we could still get on with the business of bettering our own lives. But robust economic growth and extractive institutions cannot coexist in the long term.

Institutions that are designed to extract wealth are very bad at creating it. At the most basic level, if anything of value can be expropriated by the state, nobody has an incentive to invest in creating anything valuable. If we continue on this path towards ever more extractive institutions, growth will stagnate.

Once this is understood, our right to free speech, our right to be free of state coercion, and our right to an independent judiciary cease to be the idealised luxuries that our leaders would have us believe. Rather, these things are the fundamental building blocks of sustainable economic growth. And without growth, none of the progress that Bangladesh has made in alleviating the human suffering that is symptomatic of poverty can be maintained.

The ability of citizens to effectively make demands of their government and to constrain the power of those who govern them is the key to long term growth and the sustainable eradication of poverty. The NGO movement in Bangladesh has temporarily circumvented, but ultimately failed to address this necessary condition for sustainable development. In the meantime, we the people, having our basic needs met, allowed the system to pervert the nation’s institutions; to silence all dissenting voices; and to coerce our fellow citizens who attempted to organise any countervailing power. Such is the price for decades of non-governmental growth.

The writer is a PhD. student in the Economics Department of the University of Sussex, UK.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-price-of-non-governmental-growth/feed/ 0
Latest Population Projection of 25 Million Poses Serious Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/latest-population-projection-of-25-million-poses-serious-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latest-population-projection-of-25-million-poses-serious-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/latest-population-projection-of-25-million-poses-serious-challenges/#comments Sun, 29 May 2016 11:50:05 +0000 Editor sunday http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145346 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
May 29 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

The most recent population projections expect the Island’s population to reach 25 million by 2042 and 25.8 million by 2062. It is expected to stabilise around the mid 2060s at 25-26 million. This is a significant departure from earlier projections that expected population stability much earlier at around 23-24 million in the 2030s and to decline thereafter.

This higher population growth that is mainly due to the recent increase in fertility from below replacement level to above replacement level, poses serious social and economic challenges in education, health, care of the elderly, public finances and retirement benefits.

Twenty Five million
Prof. Indralal de Silva’s and Dr. Ranjith de Silva’s recent book, Sri Lanka: 25 Million People and Implications, Population and Housing Projections 2012-2062, presents comprehensive population projections for 2012-2062 incorporating the latest information revealed in the Census of Population and Housing 2012. These expect population growth to be higher than experienced in recent years.

Projected population increase
This standard population projection of the authors projects that the population would reach 21.3 million in 2017, 22.2 million by 2022, 25 million by 2042 and 25.8 million by 2062. The population reaches stability around the mid 2060s at 25-26 million.

This population projection is a significant departure from earlier projections that expected population stability much earlier at around 23-24 million in the 2030s and then begin to decline. This revision is mainly due to the increase in fertility from below replacement level to above replacement level in the past ten years.

Econ-Cartoon2Fertility
The revised population projections are different to those made several years ago since fertility trends have changed recently. The previous projections expected the country’s population to stabilize at around 23 to 24 million in 2025. This was based on the total fertility rate declining to below replacement level of 2.1 and reaching 2.0 in 2010. With the total fertility rate increasing to 2.4 in 2012-13, the population is increasing faster.

Growth of population
Since a large number of women will enter reproductive age in the next few years and the expected total fertility rate would be above the replacement level for some time, there is an in-built momentum for the growth of population in the next three to four decades. However, the rate of population growth will be on a declining trend and a near zero population growth rate would be attained after 2062.

Gender balance
According to the projection the sex ratio would favour females for the next two decades. However due to an expected improvement in male health in the next decade, and the elimination of some factors, such as the war that reduced male life expectancy in the past, male survival rates could improve.

The Sri Lankan population is becoming increasingly feminised. In the aged category, a high proportion is female due to their increased life expectancy compared to males. According to the authors of this book, female life expectancy today exceeds male life-expectancy by a wide margin as a majority of this female elderly category are economically inactive in contrast to males in the same category. This implies increased attention to coping with the increasing female aged dependents.

Migration
The out-migration of females, especially to the Middle East, and the transition from extended to nuclear families has led to inadequate familial care for elderly at home. The government needs to provide social security mechanisms for the increasing female elderly population. As the number of the elderly grows, the higher mortality among them would result in an increase in the crude death rate.

Population pyramid

The shape of Sri Lanka’s population pyramid has been changing rapidly over the years. This pyramid, which had a classical shape in 1981, changed into a pagoda like structure by 2012. During the interim period, the working age population grew significantly. The proportion of children (below 15 years) declined from 35 per cent in 1981 to 25 per cent in 2012. The declining fertility over the years led to the progressive decline in the base of the pyramid.

The number of children is significant when making projections on expenditure on education. This number that was 5.1 million in 2012 will increase to 5.3 million in 2017, remain fairly static for the next ten years, and fall once again to 5.1 million by 2032. Thereafter, it would be on a declining trend and drop to 4.4 million by 2062. This contrasts with earlier predictions of a continuous decline in the child population.

Unenviable predicament

Although this age structure transition was an expected phenomenon with society undergoing the demographic transition, what was unexpected was the increase in fertility that arrested the deckling child dependency. Sri Lanka is now in an unenviable predicament of both child dependency and old age dependency being high in the next few decades.

While the ageing of the population poses serious economic and social challenges, child dependency will not decrease as expected earlier owing to the increasing fertility. The proportion of females would be higher than of males and the labour force would not decline.

Problems and challenges
The new population projections that are different to what was expected earlier have to be taken into account in the planning of health facilities, education and social welfare, particularly the care of the elderly. The ageing population requires the enhancement of medical care for illnesses associated with ageing and the expansion of institutional homes for the elderly. The retirement schemes now in operation are limited in coverage, inadequate to the beneficiaries and a strain on the resources of the pension funds or the government. A total revamping of these schemes to make them more supportive of the elderly, while at the same time financially viable is a serious challenge facing the country. The continuing increase in the child populations means that maternal and child care and primary education will require adequate resources. These critical issues that must be addressed without delay if the country is to avoid severe social strains will be discussed in next Sunday’s column.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/latest-population-projection-of-25-million-poses-serious-challenges/feed/ 0
New International Accord to Tackle Illegal Fishinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-international-accord-to-tackle-illegal-fishing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-international-accord-to-tackle-illegal-fishing http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-international-accord-to-tackle-illegal-fishing/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 16:27:29 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145337 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-international-accord-to-tackle-illegal-fishing/feed/ 0 Traditional Mexican Recipes Fight the Good Fighthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/traditional-mexican-recipes-fight-the-good-fight/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=traditional-mexican-recipes-fight-the-good-fight http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/traditional-mexican-recipes-fight-the-good-fight/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 11:54:49 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145330 AraceliMárquez prepares dishes based on Mexico’s rich, nutritional traditional cuisine, at a fair in the southeast of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But its measures have not yet yielded clear dividends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/traditional-mexican-recipes-fight-the-good-fight/feed/ 0
Prickly Pears Drive Local Development in Northern Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 14:51:45 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145260 Marta Maldonado, secretary of the “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” association, standing next to a prickly pear, a cactus that is abundant in this municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Making use of the fruit and the leaves of the plant has changed the lives of a group of local families. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/feed/ 0
Bangladesh’s Urban Slums Swell with Climate Migrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/bangladeshs-urban-slums-swell-with-climate-migrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bangladeshs-urban-slums-swell-with-climate-migrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/bangladeshs-urban-slums-swell-with-climate-migrants/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 11:34:55 +0000 Rafiqul Islam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145249 Abdul Aziz stands with one of his children in Dhaka's Malibagh slum. He came here a decade ago after losing everything to river erosion, hoping to rebuild his life, but has found only grinding poverty. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Abdul Aziz stands with one of his children in Dhaka's Malibagh slum. He came here a decade ago after losing everything to river erosion, hoping to rebuild his life, but has found only grinding poverty. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

By Rafiqul Islam
DHAKA, May 23 2016 (IPS)

Abdul Aziz, 35, arrived in the capital Dhaka in 2006 after losing all his belongings to the mighty Meghna River. Once, he and his family had lived happily in the village of Dokkhin Rajapur in Bhola, a coastal district of Bangladesh. Aziz had a beautiful house and large amount of arable land.

But riverbank erosion snatched away his household and all his belongings. Now he lives with his four-member family, including his 70-year-old mother, in the capital’s Malibagh slum.

“Once we had huge arable land as my father and grandfather were landlords. I had grown up with wealth, but now I am destitute,” Aziz told IPS.

Fallen on sudden poverty, he roamed door-to-door seeking work, but failed to find a decent job. “I sold nuts on the city streets for five years, and then I started rickshaw pulling. But our lives remain the same. We are still in a bad plight,” he said.

Aziz is too poor to rent a decent home, so he and his family have been forced to take shelter in a slum, where the housing is precarious and residents have very little access to amenities like sanitation and clean water.

“My daughter is growing up, but there is no money to enroll her school,” Aziz added.

About the harsh erosion of the Meghna River, he said the family of his father-in-law is still living in Bhola, but he fears that they too will be displaced this monsoon season as the erosion worsens.

Like Aziz, people arrive each day in the major cities, including Dhaka and Chittagong, seeking refuge in slums and low-cost housing areas, creating various environmental and social problems.

Bachho Miah, 50, is another victim of riverbank erosion. He and his family also live in Malibagh slum.

“We were displaced many times to riverbank erosion. We had a house in Noakhali. But the house went under river water five years ago. Then we built another house at Dokkhin Rajapur of Bhola. The Meghna also claimed that house,” he said.

According to scientists and officials, Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change and rising sea levels. Its impacts are already visible in the recurrent extreme climate events that have contributed to the displacement of millions of people.

Cyclone Sidr, which struck on Nov. 15, 2007, triggering a five-metre tidal surge in the coastal belt of Bangladesh, killed about 3,500 people and displaced two million. In May 2007, another devastating cyclone – Aila – hit the coast, killing 193 people and leaving a million homeless.

Migration and displacement is a common phenomenon in Bangladesh. But climate change-induced extreme events like erosion, and cyclone and storm surges have forced a huge number of people to migrate from their homesteads to other places in recent years. The affected people generally migrate to nearby towns and cities, and many never return.

According to a 2013 joint study conducted by the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), Dhaka University and the Sussex Centre for Migration Research (SCMR), University of Sussex, riverbank erosion displaces 50,000 to 200,000 people in Bangladesh each year.

Eminent climate change expert Dr Atiq Rahman predicted that about 20 million people will be displaced in the country, inundating a huge amount of coastal land, if the global sea level rises by one metre.

The fifth assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made a similar prediction, saying that sea levels could rise from 26cm – 98cm by 2100, depending on global emissions levels. If this occurs, Bangladesh will lose 17.5 percent of its total landmass of 147,570 square kilometers, and about 31.5 million people will be displaced.

“The climate-induced migrants will rush to major cities like Dhaka in the coming days, increasing the rate of urban poverty since they will not get work in small townships,” urban planner Dr. Md. Maksudur Rahman told IPS.

Dr. Rahman, a professor at Dhaka University, said the influx of internal climate migrants will present a major challenge to the government’s plan to build climate-resilient cities.

Bangladesh is a disaster-prone country. Floods also hits the country each year. The Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna river basin is one of the most flood-prone areas in the world. Official data shows that the devastating 1998 flood alone caused 1,100 deaths and rendered 30 million people homeless.

Disaster Management Secretary Md Shah Kamal said Bangladesh will see even greater numbers of climate change-induced migrants in the future.

“About 3.5 lakh [350,000] people migrated internally after Aila hit. Many climate victims are going to abroad. So the government is considering the issue seriously. It has planned to rehabilitate them within the areas where they wish to live,” he said.

Noting that the Bangladeshi displaced are innocent victims of global climate change, Kamal stressed the need to raise the issue at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on May 23-24 and to seek compensation.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/bangladeshs-urban-slums-swell-with-climate-migrants/feed/ 1
Refugees Bring Economic Benefits to Citieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/refugees-brings-economic-benefits-to-cities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugees-brings-economic-benefits-to-cities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/refugees-brings-economic-benefits-to-cities/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 16:41:33 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145210 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/refugees-brings-economic-benefits-to-cities/feed/ 0 Bees and Silkworms Spin Gold for Ethiopia’s Rural Youthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/bees-and-silkworms-spin-gold-for-ethiopias-rural-youth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bees-and-silkworms-spin-gold-for-ethiopias-rural-youth http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/bees-and-silkworms-spin-gold-for-ethiopias-rural-youth/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 11:30:41 +0000 Munyaradzi Makoni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145124 Mulunesh Ena is part of an existing project supported by icipe, working with five other women in her community near Arba Minch to raise silkworms. She then sells the cocoons to a large cooperative in Arba Minch where she earns 70-100 Ethiopian birr per KG (approximately $3-5 US). On the racks in front of her, silkworms are eating castor leaves. Credit: Brendan Bannon, The MasterCard Foundation/IPS

Mulunesh Ena is part of an existing project supported by icipe, working with five other women in her community near Arba Minch to raise silkworms. She then sells the cocoons to a large cooperative in Arba Minch where she earns 70-100 Ethiopian birr per KG (approximately $3-5 US). On the racks in front of her, silkworms are eating castor leaves. Credit: Brendan Bannon, The MasterCard Foundation/IPS

By Munyaradzi Makoni
ADDIS ABABA, May 16 2016 (IPS)

Beekeeping and silkworm farming have long been critical cogs of Ethiopian life, providing food, jobs and much needed income.

According to some scholarly research, beekeeping is an ancient tradition dating back to Ethiopia’s early history – between 3500 and 3000 B.C.

Collecting and selling honey and other bee products produced in homes and home gardens is common throughout the country.

Meanwhile, silk production or sericulture is a growing industry in Ethiopia and it offers a solution for the government’s quest for ways to expand the textile industry.  But both practices have never been fully exploited to directly benefit young people.

Alemayehu Konde Koira, Youth Livelihoods Program, senior manager with The MasterCard Foundation, views it as a huge opportunity.

“With relevant and adequate support, honey and silk production and engagement across their respective value chain could be key sectors of opportunity for young people,” he said.

The result has been combining expertise on insects with funding to empower youth in Ethiopia.

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology known as icipe with over 20 years of experience in implementing beekeeping and silk farming enterprises in Ethiopia’s Tigray, Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples regions has been matched with the MasterCard Foundation’s commitment of more than 31 million dollars in financial inclusion towards youth employment and education initiatives in Ethiopia since 2010.

Earlier this year, the two organisations announced a 10.35-million-dollar (about 220 million Ethiopian birr) five-year Young Entrepreneurs in Honey and Silk farming initiative aimed at creating employment opportunities for young people through beekeeping and silkworm farming.

The project leaders said they will mainly focus on peri-urban and rural youth who face a variety of constraints to ensuring sustainable livelihoods and decent incomes. Women will also be employed by the project.

“The opportunity exists for harnessing the not often exploited potential of honey and silk-based value-added products through income-generating enterprises owned and run by Ethiopian youth,” icipe Director General Segenet Kelemu told IPS.

She said this will enable youths to establish and grow their own businesses.

Kelemu said honey and silk production business activities have the potential to provide a wide range of economic contributions, mainly income generation from marketing honey and its by-products (beeswax, royal jelly, pollen, propolis, bee colonies, and bee venom) and the creation of non-gender-biased employment opportunities.

“Ethiopian honey production is characterised by the widespread use of traditional technology resulting in relatively low honey supply and poor quality of honey harvested when compared to the potential honey yields and quality gains associated with modern beehives,” she said.

According to Kelemu, modern beehives yield around 20kg of high quality honey as compared to 6-8 kg of yields from traditional beehives.

“Silkworm rearing, on the other hand, is a new agrobusiness technology in Ethiopia and on various occasions has been targeted as a tool for employment creation and poverty reduction,” she said.

The Ministry of Women, Youth and Children Affairs and other government departments will select the youth between 18 and 24 years of age who have completed a grade 10 education from the East and West Gojjam of Ethiopia’s Amhara region and Gamo Gofa in the Southern Nations.

“It’s a project that applies research and technology for the benefit of young people and communities,” Koira told IPS.

He said young entrepreneurs will receive starter kits and equipment that include modern beehives, honey processors, silkworm rearing trays and silk yarn spinning wheels to get their businesses started.

Koira said the project design combines technical skills in production, processing and marketing across the honey and silk value chains, as well as life skills, including entrepreneurship, leadership, interpersonal and communication, business development, and access to financial education and services.

Importantly, the project will create links to local, regional and international markets, he said, adding young entrepreneurs will make the best uses of innovative technologies and acquire tools and resources to develop their own enterprises.

Koira anticipates the project will create employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for 12,500 young people in beekeeping and silk farming in Ethiopia for youths out of school and earning an income of less than two dollars day.

He said it’s expected that an additional 25,000 people involved in the value chain will benefit from the project.

Beekeeping has the potential to generate positive externalities such as ecosystem services through pollination by bees for several food crops within the project region, which will increase the yields of agricultural production thus enhancing food security for the local farming community, added Kelemu.

“This project has the potential to benefit 80,000 households indirectly from pollination services,” she said.

On the other hand, Kelemu said, the bee and silk enterprises established by the youth are expected to generate income and hence support the household food security.

“This will be instrumental, especially in overcoming food insecurity when economic factors are a fundamental cause of food insecurity,” she said.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/bees-and-silkworms-spin-gold-for-ethiopias-rural-youth/feed/ 0
Deadly Algal Bloom Triggers Social Uprising in Southern Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/deadly-algal-bloom-triggers-social-uprising-in-southern-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=deadly-algal-bloom-triggers-social-uprising-in-southern-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/deadly-algal-bloom-triggers-social-uprising-in-southern-chile/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 23:08:05 +0000 Orlando Milesi and Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145082 Fisherpersons in Chiloé have cut off the 5 Sur highway on its way to the Chacao channel, which separates Isla Grande from mainland Chile. Protesting decades of neglect of this part of southern Chile, thousands of residents of the archipelago have joined the demonstrations by fishing communities affected by the ban on seafood harvesting due to the red tide. Credit: Pilar Pezoa/IPS

Fisherpersons in Chiloé have cut off the 5 Sur highway on its way to the Chacao channel, which separates Isla Grande from mainland Chile. Protesting decades of neglect of this part of southern Chile, thousands of residents of the archipelago have joined the demonstrations by fishing communities affected by the ban on seafood harvesting due to the red tide. Credit: Pilar Pezoa/IPS

By Orlando Milesi and Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, May 11 2016 (IPS)

A ban on harvesting shellfish in Chiloé due to a severe red tide outbreak sparked a social uprising that has partially isolated thousands of local residents of the southern Chilean archipelago and revived criticism of an export model that condemns small-scale fishing communities to poverty and marginalisation.

“I was born and raised on this island,” said Carlos Villarroel, the president of the Mar Adentro union of artisanal fishers in the municipality of Ancud, 1,100 km south of Santiago. “I am the son and grandson of artisanal fishermen. My father, who is now 70, taught me and my brother to work out at sea. None of us ever suffered before when there was a red tide,” he told IPS by phone.

But Villarroel and another 5,000 fishers in the southern Chilean region of Los Lagos are affected today by the red tide, a phenomenon caused when microscopic algae reproduce and cluster in one area of the ocean.

This “algal bloom”, which contains toxins lethal to marine life and also affects human health, can change the colour of the water – hence the name.

The latest red tide, the cause of which is not yet totally clear, and the solution for which is still being studied, began in February and reached its current intensity in April. This prompted health authorities to ban the harvest of shellfish within 1,000 kilometres of the country’s southern Pacific coast.

Small-scale fishers responded by launching protests on May 3, which have included roadblocks that have cut Chiloé off from food and fuel supplies and left local residents without transportation, classes or pension payments, while hospitals are facing serious difficulties and hundreds of tourists are stranded.

Thousands of the archipelago’s local residents have taken part in the demonstrations, complaining about decades of neglect by the government – the same complaint that sparked a similar social outbreak in 2012 in another southern region, Aysén.

On Monday, May 9, protests also broke out in Santiago and other cities around the country in solidarity with the demands voiced by the people of Chiloé.

The archipelago has a total territory of 9,181 sq km and is home to some 167,600 people in this country of 17.6 million, which has 6,435 km of shoreline.

Chiloé Island or Isla Grande, the main island, is the archipelago’s political, social and economic centre, where the two main cities are located: Ancud and the provincial capital Castro, world-famous for its palafitos, picturesque wooden houses on stilts. Chiloé is also known for its local myths, legends and beliefs.

Aquaculture and fishing are the economic mainstays of the islands, followed by the production of potatoes and grains, and crafts using fibers, wool and wood. An estimated 80 percent of the population depends on fishing.

“Chiloé is significant not in economic, political or social terms, but with regard to how the country sees itself,” social anthropologist Juan Carlos Skewes told IPS. “Chiloé is a powerful part of this country’s mystique, image and identity.”

He added that the conflict brought to light the neglect suffered by this part of Chile and the shortcomings of the current model of development, where large-scale seafood exporters largely monopolise profits in the industry.

“What the ‘Chilotes’ (Chiloé islanders) have seen in recent years is that salmon farming has flourished, but not much has changed in their lives.”

Skewes said that in this conflict, “local communities have more clearly seen the neglect and vulnerability they suffer, and how economically powerful groups operate without curbs.

“Apparently the convergence of these factors, added to the loss of a fundamental component, seafood harvesting, triggered this social outbreak,” he said.

The union headed by Villarroel represents 35 fishers who mainly catch the Chilean blue mussel (Mytilus chilensis), Chilean abalone (Concholepas concholepas), the hard clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) and the surf clam (Mesodesma donacium).

All of these have been contaminated by the red tide.

In previous outbreaks, “the seaweed hadn’t been contaminated, but now it has been. We’ve never seen that before,” Villarroel said.

He believes the salmon companies “have destroyed the marine system and seabed.”

The protests, which have included the burning of tires and clashes with the police, worry the government of socialist President Michelle Bachelet, which offered 1,100 dollars indemnification each for 5,500 artisanal fishers, to be paid in four installments, subject to the evolution of the red tide.

The compensation, which also included a basket of basic foodstuffs worth 37 dollars, was rejected by union leaders, who argued that the amount was too small and that it wasn’t being paid to all of the affected fishers.

In a new 28-point list of demands, they demanded the payment of 2,650 dollars in six installments, cancellation of their debts, and the declaration of a large part of Chiloé as a “disaster zone”.

They also called for greater regional control of local natural resources, lower fuel prices, a special regional minimum wage, guaranteed public health coverage, and a regional university.

Most scientists blame the red tide on climate change, which drove up water temperatures and caused an increase in algae and toxins.

But fishers and a number of experts blame the salmon industry, because it dumped nearly 5,000 tons of dead fish in the Pacific after they were killed by an earlier algal bloom.

However, SalmónChile, the salmon farming industry association, said the dumping of the fish “has no relation to” the current red tide, because “what is happening today has occurred normally for a long time in this area,” although with less intensity.

A study commissioned by the government to determine what caused the red tide could help clarify other unusual phenomena that have happened in recent months, such as the beaching of 337 sei whales in the gulf of Penas in the south of Chile in late 2015, or the mass die-off of 10,000 giant squid along the coast of the southern region of Bío Bío in January.

In addition, in the first week of May, some 20 tons of sardines washed up along the shore in the southern coastal region of Araucania – a repeat of a similar phenomenon involving more than 1,000 tons of sardines in mid-April.

Enrique Calfucura, an expert in the economics of natural resources at Diego Portales University in Santiago, told IPS that the red tide “could be explained by the fact that this year’s El Niño (a cyclical climate phenomenon that affects weather patterns around the world) was more intense than in 2015, heating up the temperatures in the Pacific and inland waters.”

He said water temperatures in Chiloé Island’s Reloncavi Sound rose between two and four degrees this year, leading to blooms of harmful algae.

With respect to the impacts of the salmon industry, Calfucura said “it is suspected that the phosphorus, nitrogen and other elements that fish farms discharge into the sea reduce oxygen and foment the growth of harmful algae.”

He said, however, that “other human factors that could influence red tide outbreaks still need to be scientifically studied.”

The expert said attempts to combat the red tide phenomenon around the world have been ineffective and will eventually have negative impacts on ecosystems.

In the midst of efforts by the government and scientific researchers to control the problem, Chiloé island residents remain adamant in their demand for assistance in keeping with the magnitude of the catastrophe, while at the same time insisting on measures to address what they describe as the long-time neglect of their region.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/deadly-algal-bloom-triggers-social-uprising-in-southern-chile/feed/ 2
Climate Change Leaves Kashmir’s Economy High and Dryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/climate-change-leaves-kashmirs-economy-high-and-dry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-leaves-kashmirs-economy-high-and-dry http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/climate-change-leaves-kashmirs-economy-high-and-dry/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 11:28:15 +0000 Umar Shah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145043 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/climate-change-leaves-kashmirs-economy-high-and-dry/feed/ 0 WFO Calls for Farmer-Centred Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/wfo-calls-for-farmer-centred-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wfo-calls-for-farmer-centred-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/wfo-calls-for-farmer-centred-sustainable-development/#comments Mon, 09 May 2016 14:03:53 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145035 By Friday Phiri
LIVINGSTONE, Zambia, May 9 2016 (IPS)

Over 600 delegates representing at least 570 million farms scattered around the world gathered in Zambia from May 4-7 under the umbrella of the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) to discuss climate change, land tenure, innovations and capacity building as four pillars on which to build agricultural development.

Among the local delegates was Mary Nyirenda, a farmer from Livingstone, where the assembly was held.

“I have a 35-hectare farm but only use five hectares due to water stress. With one borehole, I am only able to irrigate limited fields. I gave up on rainfall in the 2013/14 season when I lost about five hectares of maize to drought,” Nyirenda told IPS.

Privileged to be part of the 2016 WFO General Assembly, Nyirenda hoped to learn innovative ways to improve productivity and market access for her garden and poultry produce. But did the conference meet her expectations?

Mary Nyirenda in her garden at her farm in Livingstone, Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Mary Nyirenda in her garden at her farm in Livingstone, Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

“Yes it has, especially on market access. I’ve learnt that working as groups gives us a strong voice and bargaining power. I’ve been struggling on my own but now I understand that two is better than one, and so my task from here is to strengthen our cooperative which is still disjointed in terms of producer partnerships,” said Nyirenda, emphasising the power of farmer organisations – for which WFO exists.

Convened under the theme ‘Partnerships for Growth’, the clarion call by delegates throughout the conference was to change the narrative that, while they are at the centre of a multi-billion-dollar food sector, responsible for feeding the whole world, farmers are the world’s poorest people.

And WFO President Evelyn Nguleka says the situation has to change. “It is true that farmers in almost all corners of the world constitute the majority poor, but the question is why?” asked Nguleka while responding to journalists during the closing WFO General Assembly Press briefing.

She said the meeting established that poor organisation and lack of information were the major reasons for farmers’ lack of progress, noting, “If farmers remain in isolation, they will continue to be poor.”

“It is for this reason that we developed a legal tool on contract farming, which will be mostly useful for smallholders whose knowledge on legal matters is low, and are easily taken advantage of,” said David Velde, president of the National Farmers Union in the U.S. and a board member of WFO.

Velde told IPS that various tools would be required to help smallholders be well equipped to fully benefit from their work, especially in a world with an unstable climate, a sub-theme that found space in all discussions at the conference due to its multifaceted nature.

With technology transfer being one of the key elements of the sustainable development agenda as enshrined in the Paris climate deal, delegates established that both innovation and capacity building for farmers to improve productivity cannot be discussed in a vacuum.

“Agriculture is indeed a global sector that needs serious attention. The fact that a world farmers’ organization exists is a sign that food production, food security, climate change are global issues that cannot be looked at in isolation. Farmers need information on best methods and technologies on how best to enhance productivity in a climate conscious manner,” said Zambian President Edgar Lungu in his address to the WFO General Assembly.

In the world’s quest to feed the hungry 793 million people by 2030, and and the projected population growth expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, more than half in Africa, WFO is alive to the huge task that its members have, which can only be fulfilled through increased productivity.

“WFO is in recognition that the world has two conflicting issues on face value—to feed the world and mitigate climate change. Both require huge resources but we believe that it is possible to tackle both, through increased productivity using latest technology,” said William Rolleston, president of the Federated Farmers of New Zealand.

Rolleston, who is also Vice President of WFO, told IPS that while WFO’s work does not involve funding farmers, it helps its members to innovate and forge partnerships for growth.

It has long been recognised globally that climate change, if not tackled, could be a barrier to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And this presented, perhaps, the hardest of choices that world leaders had to make—tackling climate change, with huge implications on the world’s productive capacity, which has over the years largely relied on a carbon intensive economy.

By approving the SDGs and the historic climate agreement last year, the world’s socio-economic agenda is set for a complete paradigm shift. However, WFO President Evelyn Nguleka wants farmers to remain the focus of the world’s policies.

“Whatever changes the world decides moving forward, it should not be at the expense of farmers to survive and be profitable,” she stressed.

For Nyirenda, access to markets holds the key to farmers’ productive capacity, especially women, who, according to FAO, constitute half of the global agricultural labour force, while in Africa, the figure is even higher—80 percent.

“My interactions with international organisations such as IFAD and others who are interested in women empowerment was a serious-eye opener moving forward,” she said.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/wfo-calls-for-farmer-centred-sustainable-development/feed/ 0
May Day Hijacked by Politicianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/may-day-hijacked-by-politicians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=may-day-hijacked-by-politicians http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/may-day-hijacked-by-politicians/#comments Sat, 07 May 2016 14:19:03 +0000 Editor sunday http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145020 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
May 7 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

Workers of the world – or at least in Sri Lanka – ‘Divide’. The rallying call of the International Workers, from the barricades as they romantically say, for workers of the world to ‘Unite’ is now a thing of the past. The interests of the working class have been submerged by the interests of the political class.

May Day celebrations in Sri Lanka are dominated by the politicians who have hijacked the occasion. They want to creep into every sphere of activity — be the centre of the universe. The world must revolve around them. They want to divide the working class and every professional class. Divide-and-Rule is their motto inherited from the colonial rulers of yore just so they can survive – and so they will as long as there are lackeys in these classes willing to sell their soul for a mess of pottage.

Today’s May Day is a test of political strength, especially between the Maithripala Sirisena faction and the Mahinda Rajapaksa faction of the same party – the SLFP. The former is desperate to win over the party faithful. While every effort is being made, every sinew exerted, to cajole by way of ministerial portfolios, government jobs and even enlisting the support of those rascals who were at the bottom of crooked deals during the previous administration, the Rajapaksa faction has seemingly the support of the grassroot membership of the SLFP. The Rajapaksa faction feels that their party was deprived of total control of the incumbent Government by the defection of those who formed a National Government with the UNP.

What has all this to do with today’s May Day? Nothing. Trade unions are already up in arms with this Government. The GMOA was the first off the block with its work-to-rule which was met with a ferocious response from the Prime Minister, no less. Now the Prime Minister talks of Sri Lanka being the ‘hub of South Asia’ and as he does, so workers who are at the port, the gateway to this hub are threatening strikes in protest against the minister and the chairman, two brothers in charge of the port. During a pre-Avurudu work-to-rule there were 42 ships anchored out-harbour as shipping lines looked to India and Singapore as alternate routes. Telecom trade unions are threatening action and the JVP says May Day is only a prelude to a General Strike.

Around the world, this day is marked differently. Some countries show off their military muscle on this day. In Britain, junior doctors are already on strike so too the airports in Germany this week. Violent street protests against Labour reforms are taking place in France. In Europe there is a major issue brewing over the pay gap between men and women for the same work; as wide as 31 per cent on average in favour of men.

In Sri Lanka politics overshadows worker issues.
Three categories of persons are largely ignored on this Workers’ Day. Firstly, the unemployed. There’s no day dedicated for the ‘Jobless’, whose numbers, according to official statistics stand at half a million. The under-employed – those with part-time jobs swell the ranks of this group. Secondly, the farmer community that is usually left out of the proceedings on May Day. And last, but certainly not least, the overseas Sri Lankan workers without whose remittances this country would be on the brink of economic collapse by now.

These three categories will be of least concern to the country’s political leadership today. Their argument will naturally be that to do anything for them one must first win political power. But when they do get that power, often riding on the shoulders of these very persons to whom promises are solemnly made, promising them the sun, moon and the stars, they still do very little, pre-occupied as they are with staying in office. This Government is no different to its predecessors from the looks of it.

There is also the need to provide employment for skilled and unskilled labour in this country in view of a huge shortage. The construction industry is facing an acute shortage in the midst of development plans that are on-going and in blue print form. Young men prefer to be tuk-tuk drivers these days, lament industry sources. The latest Central Bank report released just this week says that there are 635 public institutions providing technical and vocational education and training and some 718 registered private institutions and NGOs also offer courses but add that the availability of both skilled and unskilled labour in the market “had worsened”. There is a skills “mismatch” in the labour market, the report adds.

The Youth Affairs Ministry statistics for student enrolment for Vocational Training is as gloomy. Of those following courses in Technical Education and Training under the Department of Technical Education, there’s a drop-out rate of 30 per cent. In the National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority the drop-out figure is between 20-30 percent. Has there been a study as to the reasons for this?

Asked what it had to offer the workers today, the Labour Minister had little to say except to hark back to the Rs. 10,000 wage increase for public servants and the minimum wage of last year. On the other hand, there is a different kind of present on offer; an increase in VAT (Value Added Tax) on several items that will hit the workers and un-employed alike in the solar plexus. The people are being asked to underwrite and pay for a bloated, obese, top-heavy Government.

Many are the arguments for and against the imposition of a higher VAT. The Finance Minister originally had ideas of to replace VAT with some other, unknown to many, tax. He wanted to change the tax regime, but only he and a select few knew what on earth it was going to be. Fortunately for all, the rest of the Government shot the idea down and stuck to VAT as the ‘known devil’.

The crux of the issue is that the Government Treasury is broke. But whether the Government should have moderated the proposed VAT hike, say by only a 1 % increase and brought it to the 2014 level of 12% is something the Government could have easily defended.

A reasonable VAT rate of 12% (not 15% as will be the case post-May Day) coupled with further cuts in uneconomical domestic capital expenditures (which is large in the 2016 budget) plus pruning of profligate recurrent expenditure on government ministers etc., could have achieved the same goal of keeping the budget deficit below 5.4% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Last year, the same Government reduced VAT as a populist measure because of a looming election, knowing the General Treasury was broke. Yet, it had nothing to show for it in the form of lowered prices; much like the drop in petrol prices last year did not see tuk-tuk fares become any cheaper.

The people have learnt from the Government how not to lower prices merely because the taxes are lowered. That benefit accruing to them by a lowering of taxes is not passed down to the consumer or end-user. After all, everyone knows world oil prices have fallen but the Government is not pegging its prices to the lower world market price.

On the other hand, a Government increase like VAT will see a quantum leap in retail prices. Unscrupulous retailers take undue advantage of such tax increases to increase their profit margins and blame it on the new tax. It is not a case of one for all and all for one as is the workers slogan on International Workers Solidarity Day. In Sri Lanka, it is each for each and God for all.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/may-day-hijacked-by-politicians/feed/ 0
Farmers Can Weather Climate Change – With Financinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-can-weather-climate-change-with-financing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmers-can-weather-climate-change-with-financing http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-can-weather-climate-change-with-financing/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 18:27:52 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145012 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-can-weather-climate-change-with-financing/feed/ 0 Farmers Hold Keys to Ending Poverty, Hunger, FAO Sayshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-hold-keys-to-ending-poverty-hunger-fao-says/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmers-hold-keys-to-ending-poverty-hunger-fao-says http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-hold-keys-to-ending-poverty-hunger-fao-says/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 14:50:02 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144989 Dr. Evelyn Nguleka, WFO President, seated with Secretary General Marco Marzano de Marinis. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-hold-keys-to-ending-poverty-hunger-fao-says/feed/ 0
Seeking a New Farming Revolutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/seeking-a-new-farming-revolution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=seeking-a-new-farming-revolution http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/seeking-a-new-farming-revolution/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 13:20:49 +0000 Kitty Stapp http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144975 Processing baby vegetables at Sidemane Farm in Swaziland. An EU grant helped local farmers to buy equipment and get training in business management and marketing. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS

Processing baby vegetables at Sidemane Farm in Swaziland. An EU grant helped local farmers to buy equipment and get training in business management and marketing. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS

By Kitty Stapp
May 5 2016 (IPS)

As the World Farmers’ Organization meets for its annual conference in Zambia to promote policies that strengthen this critical sector, IPS looks at how farmers across the globe are tackling the interconnected challenges of climate change, market fluctuations, water and land management, and energy access.

 

Women working in their vegetable gardens at the Capanda Agroindustrial Pole in Angola. Although almost half of the agricultural workers in sub-Saharan Africa are women, productivity on their farms is significantly lower per hectare compared to men because they tend to be locked out of land ownership, access to credit and productive farm inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and farming tools, support from extension services, and access to markets and other factors essential to their productivity. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Women working in their vegetable gardens at the Capanda Agroindustrial Pole in Angola. Although almost half of the agricultural workers in sub-Saharan Africa are women, productivity on their farms is significantly lower per hectare compared to men because they tend to be locked out of land ownership, access to credit and productive farm inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and farming tools, support from extension services, and access to markets and other factors essential to their productivity. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

 

Gadam sorghum was introduced to semi-arid regions of eastern Kenya as a way for farmers to improve their food security and earn some income from marginal land. The hardy, high-yielding sorghum variety has not only thrived in harsh conditions, it has won a place in the hearts - and plates - of local farmers. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

Gadam sorghum was introduced to semi-arid regions of eastern Kenya as a way for farmers to improve their food security and earn some income from marginal land. The hardy, high-yielding sorghum variety has not only thrived in harsh conditions, it has won a place in the hearts – and plates – of local farmers.
Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

 

Organically grown baby spinach, like this for sale in Johannesburg, South Africa, fetches a higher price for farmers in the market. Credit: Johan Eybers/IPS

Organically grown baby spinach, like this for sale in Johannesburg, South Africa, fetches a higher price for farmers in the market. Credit: Johan Eybers/IPS

 

Mbuya Erica Chirimanyemba in her maize field in Guruve, Zimbabwe. Conservation agriculture techniques have turned her fortunes around. Credit: Ephraim Nsingo/IPS

Mbuya Erica Chirimanyemba in her maize field in Guruve, Zimbabwe. Conservation agriculture techniques have turned her fortunes around. Credit: Ephraim Nsingo/IPS

 

For 12 years now, the women around Tsangano in Malawi’s southern district of Ntcheu have put together their tomato harvest, selling some 20 tons at the outdoor markets that abound in Lilongwe, the capital. Now they aim to diversify from selling to processing vegetables, since they could earn more if they canned the tomatoes and made jam and juice. Credit: Claire Ngozo/IPS

For 12 years now, the women of the Tsangano cooperative in Malawi’s southern district of Ntcheu have pooled their tomato harvest, selling some 20 tonnes at the outdoor markets that abound in Lilongwe, the capital. Now they aim to diversify from selling to processing vegetables, since they could earn more if they canned the tomatoes and made jam and juice. Credit: Claire Ngozo/IPS

 

Zero hunger is the goal, but this is all the production of corn and pulses for this household. Credit: TERI University

Zero hunger is the goal, but this is all the production of corn and pulses for this household. Credit: TERI University

 

Forests still support a major part of household income in rural communities, like this one in Odisha, India. Credit: TERI University

Forests still support a major part of household income in rural communities, like this one in Odisha, India. Credit: TERI University

 

Kenyan farmer Isaac Ochieng Okwanyi has had his most successful harvest ever after using lime to improve the quality of his soil. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

Kenyan farmer Isaac Ochieng Okwanyi has had his most successful harvest ever after using lime to improve the quality of his soil. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

 

Presenting a solution to both climate and energy needs, solar-based irrigation systems can transform fields in semi-arid areas. Credit: TERI University

Presenting a solution to both climate and energy needs, solar-based irrigation systems can transform fields in semi-arid areas. Credit: TERI University

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/seeking-a-new-farming-revolution/feed/ 0
In sight but out of mindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/in-sight-but-out-of-mind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=in-sight-but-out-of-mind http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/in-sight-but-out-of-mind/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 11:02:53 +0000 Upashana Salam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144868 By Upashana Salam
Apr 28 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

This year Bangladesh exceeded all expectations, achieving a GDP rate of over 7 percent. With higher growth, the issue of labour rights is also gaining prominence in our national discourse, with more and more emphasis being given on workplace safety and wellbeing. Those amongst us who are educated are becoming more and more aware of our rights in our workplace, as we unhesitatingly demand for better pay, better facilities, a better life, really. And why shouldn’t we? This is our right as promised by our Constitution and by our state. But there still remains a large portion of our workforce, over 80 percent to be precise, who are not warranted recognition by any of our state apparatuses. When we talk proudly of progress and development, we tend to take for granted that only those who fall under a formalised structure deserve acknowledgement and thereby can demand their rights under the law. We choose to ignore more than half of Bangladesh’s population who, despite their indispensible contribution, are regarded as expendable, replaceable, and thus, undeserving of formal rights or protection.

world_day_for_safety_In Asia, the informal economy accounts for 78.2 percent of total employment. It’s ironic that in a world which still depends on informal employment to run their economies, those working in this sector continue to be treated as necessary but unacknowledged and invisible clogs of society. There is a not-so-subtle disdain for those who make our beds or build our homes; we choose to ignore that as human beings they too might have the same concerns and needs as the rest of us. Most people enter the informal economy because they have no other means to sustain themselves, with no education, skills or capital to participate in the formal workforce. But this does not mean that the risks associated with their work is only theirs to accept; the employment of workers in the informal economy, including housemaids, agricultural labourers, construction workers, day labourers, fishermen, vegetable vendors, etc, might be self-managed but the services they provide is universal.

While those working in the informal economy are not even recognised as ‘workers’ in the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006, the Informal Sector Survey 2010 by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics asserted that the informal sector was the major source of employment in the country, amounting for 89 percent of the total jobs. As self-managed employment is socially unrecognised as work, it becomes easier for workers to be exploited. Thus, you hear of the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rakib Hawladar, whose former employer killed him in an inexplicably violent manner when he switched jobs. You regularly read stories of construction workers falling to their deaths, due to the lack of safety gears or adequate protection. How many times have you looked up a building to see a person dangling from a scaffolding, with nothing but a rope as a measure of safety? Every time I look up at them, I am overpowered by a sense of dread, and am forced to look away after a few minutes when I start feeling dizzy; but these people continue doing their work in the only way they know how to – with confidence galore and little attention to the risk that they are putting themselves in.

Accidents and deaths on site go largely unreported; in the rare occasions that the death of a worker is reported, there is no follow-up from the police, government, media or their own families who, in their struggle to make ends meet with one less earning member, are unwilling to demand compensation that they will not get or go to the court where their voices will be muffled.

A report published by the Asian Development Bank stated that unlike employees working under a formalised structure, workers with irregular employment don’t have any specified working hours, as they often have to work an average of 54 hours a week “with non-commensurate compensation.” Workplace safety is practically unheard of in the informal economy, and there’s no question of holidays, sick days or downtime. Brick kiln and construction workers have scarce drinking water and no toilet facilities to speak of. With wages being disbursed on a daily basis and no bargaining power with employers, they rarely take days off even when they suffer from ailments resulting from having to work long hours in intense heat. Let’s not talk about education or training opportunities, which cannot even be regarded as luxuries in a sector that is not officially recognised by the law.

Given the dearth of official data, it is difficult to even ascertain the particular health problems faced by people working in the informal economy. However, according to a report titled ‘Health Vulnerabilities of Informal workers’ by the Rockefeller Foundation, there is increased risks of malnutrition, physical and psychological disorder, respiratory trouble, heart attack, etc, due to the nature of their work, where they are forced to endure excessive labour, and an unhealthy work environment. More than a million workers who work in the brick kilns of the country, which produce over 12 million bricks a year, often suffer from skin diseases and are susceptible to bronchial infections. As per the report, workers often take drugs “to boost their physical and mental energy” when their body no longer supports their need to earn a livelihood. Rickshaw pullers, for example, are addicted to various drugs as these help them deal with the intense temperament of their work.

Article 15 of Bangladesh’s Constitution ensures guaranteed employment, work with reasonable wage, recreation and leisure for all workers, while Article 20 argues that employment should be a right for every citizen, insisting that workers should be “treated with justice.” Moreover, Article 10 prohibits social exploitation of any worker. However, in this case, there seems to be a clear divide in the treatment of those who are considered “actual workers” and the unrecognised millions who simple cannot be brought under a structure, thereby making it impossible to ensure them the same rights reserved for everyone else. Equality, once more, becomes a tool to bandy around when talking about the achievements of our country and its legal apparatus.

In fact, the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy 2015, one of the few measures taken to prevent the exploitation of a segment of the workers of the informal economy, is still to be implemented, even though a draft of the policy has already been approved by the cabinet.

There is an urgent need to change our perception toward informal workers, which can help bring a shift in the way they are treated in law and policy. We need to introduce a feasible wage structure, which runs parallel with their working hours and is in sync with their work environment. Moreover, experts have also stressed the need for a pension/insurance scheme, something that has already been undertaken by the Government of Delhi in September 2013 for the informal workers of India. As suggested by lawyer Kawsar Mahmood in a piece he wrote for the Dhaka Law Review, this will offer security for workers in the informal economy during their sickness or after they retire from work. “On registration, workers will be saving a portion of their income per month or per annum in a provident fund where the government will equally contribute,” he writes.

As human beings, we have the right to demand better pay, better working conditions and fair treatment from our employers. It’ll be a shame if this right continues to be reserved for some of us, while the majority are left stumbling, persisting through life as nameless, faceless beings.

The writer is a member of the editorial team, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/in-sight-but-out-of-mind/feed/ 0
When Only Men Make the Newshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/when-only-men-make-the-news/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-only-men-make-the-news http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/when-only-men-make-the-news/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 16:10:10 +0000 Sushmita Preetha http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144730 men_news_

By Sushmita S. Preetha
Apr 20 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

On the onset, it seems women are everywhere in the media. You switch on the TV, there is inevitably an attractive woman luring you into buying a product. On the radio, there is the ‘young new thing’ vivaciously flirting with her male co-host while shuffling through songs; and in print, the entertainment pages would simply not sell without a titillating image of a female celebrity and a scoop on her latest rendezvous. But take a closer look, beyond the objectified and stereotypical images of women, being manufactured and mass consumed ad nauseam, and where are the women, really? Take a look at the news media, for instance. Where are the women in the newsrooms, in the bylines on the front and back pages, in the column spaces of our opinion pages, in the talk shows, not simply as hosts, but as commentators on so-called hard issues such as politics and foreign affairs? Where are the women in our news (discounting the PM and her alter-ego), except as wailing victims of violence, natural disasters and such and as muses of our male photographers during cultural festivals?

A recent report by the Gender Media Monitoring Project 2015 – a project initiated since 1995 to analyse news media in 71 countries – presents some alarming, but not altogether shocking, statistics on representation of women in news media in Bangladesh. Analysing the content of 12 newspapers (8 national, 4 local), 8 TV channels, three radio channels, and two online platforms, the Project found that the presence of women in radio-TV-newspapers have actually decreased compared to the last decade. In sharp contradiction to our loud proclamations of women’s equality and progress, women are mentioned as little as one-fifth of the time in news. The number of bylines by women has remained stuck at 8 percent over the last five years. Women reporters in radio constitute only one-third of all reporters, while the condition of women reporters in TV is even worse. Since 2010, the number of TV women reporters has increased by only 1 percent, but overall, they still constitute less than one-fifth of reporters. The only instance where women overshadow men is at hosting shows; in two-thirds of the cases, the hosts are women.

These statistics are downright embarrassing for us who work in news media. At a day and age when women are making their mark in all sectors, no matter how challenging, why is it that journalism remains, still, a male-dominated profession? Why, even today, do the newsrooms remain hostile to female reporters, comfortable to designate “soft” bits to women, such as social welfare, women’s issues or at best health or education, while “hard” bits, such as politics, remain the prerogative of men? Women, in the logic of patriarchy, make sense in the supplements, but not in news and business which are “manly” serious affairs. Opinions, too, are apparently a “male” thing, with an overwhelming majority of commentators, whether in print or electronic media, being old, privileged and male.

Yes, it’s true that journalism in a country like Bangladesh can pose added security risks to women, when they go out to collect information at random places at random hours of the day, or meet and interview unknown sources; it’s also true that the ungodly working hours are not what many women with families can negotiate with ease, in a society where women, even if and when they work outside, are expected to take care of the household and children single-handedly. But rather than enable its women colleagues to face these challenges, for instance, by providing safe transport support and flexible work hours, media houses seem content with the status quo. Even if and when they make these adjustments, such as allowing women to leave early, there is the obvious implication that women just aren’t as adept at the job as their male counterparts (how many times have we heard, “This job is just too demanding for women!”), as if the only marker of efficiency is one’s ability to stay late in the office (even if staying in the office means smoking cigarettes and discussing the ongoing IPL match). On the other hand, the “protective” regime of the office can be equally stifling, such as when bosses think that women shouldn’t be given challenging tasks with the supposedly good intention of protecting them from harm.

While the NGO, banking and public sectors have made considerable progress in instituting gender-friendly policies, our media houses seem to be stuck in the days of horse shoe tables, copy boys and typewriters. It is unfortunate that most media houses, which should lead by example, do not have a gender policy or strict guidelines on how to institute gender equality within the organisation. Most of them don’t even have a sexual harassment policy, or a designated committee to oversee complaints, despite a HC ruling making it mandatory for print and electronic media houses to have a committee in their respective organisations as per Article 9 of the guideline.

Given that it is men in the management positions, it is hardly a surprise that there is severe resistance to the idea of gender sensitivity trainings, even though as members of the media community, we hold tremendous power over the masses to disseminate and reproduce gender stereotypes and harmful discourses about women and children through what we write (or don’t write). So forget that many reporters, subeditors and even editors don’t realise that there’s something severely problematic in using the word “dishonoured” when referring to rape or in revealing the name and details of the survivors; they fail to see that by circulating the seemingly harmless image of a “violated” and “victimised” woman hiding her face in fear while strong male hands grip her, they are reproducing the idea of women as helpless and weak; they do not comprehend that they reinscribe gender inequality when they only interview male sources or experts, or when they decide a story with a gender dimension is just not “news-y” enough to make a lead story. Within the organisations, these esteemed male colleagues do not seem to understand that it is inappropriate to make crude jokes about women, objectifying them, that unwarranted sexual attention is “sexual harassment” not flattery, that they take up way too much space during meetings when their voice rings the loudest and for the longest, silencing others who may not feel quite as comfortable to challenge the hierarchical power structure of a media house, and that it’s institutionalised sexism when you pay the male staff more than the female staff even when they do the same amount of work.

If the media is really to change the world for the better, and play a progressive role in transforming how women are perceived in society, then we must begin by changing our institutions from within. And this task of gender sensitisation should not fall on the women alone, but on the editor, management, board of directors and department heads, who must assess the ways in which their institutions sustain inequality and play a proactive role to recruit more women, promote qualified women to important positions, and ensure a respectable workplace for all. Pretending we’re all equal while retaining the same old patriarchal mindsets and structures simply won’t do if we want women to also make the news.

The writer is a journalist and activist.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/when-only-men-make-the-news/feed/ 0
Maquilas Help Drive Industrialisation in Paraguayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/maquilas-help-drive-industrialisation-in-paraguay/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=maquilas-help-drive-industrialisation-in-paraguay http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/maquilas-help-drive-industrialisation-in-paraguay/#comments Sat, 16 Apr 2016 01:59:21 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144645 Texcin, the garment plant built by Brazilian company Riachuelo near the airport in Asunción, under Paraguay’s maquila law, which offers tax exemptions and other incentives for export-oriented production. In the foreground a garment worker in training (“entrenamiento”). Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Texcin, the garment plant built by Brazilian company Riachuelo near the airport in Asunción, under Paraguay’s maquila law, which offers tax exemptions and other incentives for export-oriented production. In the foreground a garment worker in training (“entrenamiento”). Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ASUNCION, Apr 16 2016 (IPS)

“There were cases of people who stopped coming to work after receiving their first wages and then came back a few days later to ask if there was more work,” because they were used to casual work in the informal economy, said Ivonne Ginard.

Ginard, a human resources manager in the textile firm Texcin, was in charge of hiring the plant’s 353 employees and helping them make the transition from informal labour to working in a factory with set schedules, uniforms, safety measures and medical certificates to justify absences.

Texcin, a garment factory near the Asunción airport, is emblematic of the incipient industrialisation process in Paraguay, which is still an agriculture-based economy, where soy and beef are the main exports and informal employment is predominant in the cities.

The plant is a joint venture between members of the Paraguayan business community and Riachuelo, one of the biggest clothing brands in Brazil, where it has 285 stores and two industrial plants. Riachuelo decided to take advantage of the incentives provided by the law on maquila export plants, in effect in Paraguay since 2000, to produce clothing in this neighbouring South American country instead of importing from Asia.

The aim is to increase the number of workers twofold by the end of 2016 and to continue to expand, since the company has the space to build a new plant.

“Paraguay offers abundant, young, easily trained workers, cheap energy, and tax incentives for maquilas and duty-free zones, which make it possible to import raw materials tariff-free,” said Andrés Guynn, one of the Paraguayan partners, who heads Texcin.

“Our production is competitive with costs similar to those of Asia, with a big advantage in terms of time: it takes 90 days for products to be shipped from China to Brazil, while ours get to (the Brazilian city of) São Paulo in 72 hours, by truck,” he said.

“Under the maquila regime, 108 companies set up shop in Paraguay, 62 of them in the last two years, and 80 percent of them come from Brazil,” the director of the maquila sector in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ernesto Paredes, told IPS.

Maquila or maquiladora plants are built by foreign corporations, generally in free trade zones. They import materials and equipment duty-free for assembly or manufacturing for re-export, and enjoy other tax breaks and incentives, as well as more flexible labour conditions.

Texcin human resources manager Ivonne Ginard (right), next to the woman who trains the garment workers, Rosa Prieto. “Texcin changed my life,” said Prieto, who was a self-employed seamstress in the informal sector of the economy for 15 years, before she was hired by the company in January 2015. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Texcin human resources manager Ivonne Ginard (right), next to the woman who trains the garment workers, Rosa Prieto. “Texcin changed my life,” said Prieto, who was a self-employed seamstress in the informal sector of the economy for 15 years, before she was hired by the company in January 2015. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“The maquiladora industry is dynamic, but it does not accept trade union freedom, it does not allow unions to be organised in its factories, which violates constitutional rights,” the president of the Confederation of the Working Class (CCT) labour federation, Julio López, told IPS.

Auto parts factories are predominant in the industry, in terms of both revenue and jobs generated by maquiladoras in Paraguay, Paredes said. He said the sector uses the “just-in-time” delivery system developed by Japan’s auto industry, which is an inventory strategy employed to boost efficiency and reduce waste by receiving goods only as they are needed in the production process, which cuts inventory costs.

The Japanese company Yasaki and Germany’s Leoni have recently set up plants in Paraguay, employing thousands of people, nearly all of them women, in the production of electrical car cables.

And Paraguay now has its first car assembly plant. A national company, Reimplex, began to assemble J2 cars for Chinese auto maker JAC Motors on the outskirts of Asunción on Mar. 28.

Clothing factories also employ large numbers of women.

In addition, the plastics industry is expanding fast in the eastern department of Alto Paraná, on the border with Brazil, Paredes said.

Cheap local labour, which he said is “low-cost not so much because of the wages paid, but due to the low social charges” and low taxes, are especially attractive for Brazilian companies. To that is added the cost of electricity, which is 63 percent cheaper than in Brazil, according to the head of the maquila sector.

One limitation is transport and energy infrastructure. “Roads, ports, highways, real estate – all of this is lacking, although Paraguay has been investing heavily in airports, hotels, and office buildings,” he said.

One solution would be to widen the two-lane highway between Asunción and Ciudad del Este, the country’s two main economic hubs. However, the plan is not to expand the existing road, but “to build a second highway exclusively for trucks and trade,” as well as a second bridge to Brazil, said Paredes.

Texcin’s textile warehouse seen behind a sign announcing the expansion of the plant which was built by Brazilian company Riachuelo with partners in Paraguay on the outskirts of Asunción. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Texcin’s textile warehouse seen behind a sign announcing the expansion of the plant which was built by Brazilian company Riachuelo with partners in Paraguay on the outskirts of Asunción. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Investment is also needed in another route for the transportation of heavy loads, the Paraguay-Paraná waterway, used to export soy.

“Better signalisation would double its capacity and speed up river traffic,” Gustavo Rojas, a researcher at the Center for Economic Analysis and Dissemination in Paraguay (CADEP), told IPS.

This land-locked country of 6.8 million people has the world’s third-largest river barge fleet, as well as shipyards that build them, which favours an increase in river traffic, Paredes said.

Electricity is, potentially, Paraguay’s biggest comparative advantage, since the country owns half of the energy from two huge hydropower dams: Itaipú, shared with Brazil, and Yacyretá, on the border with Argentina, with the capacity to produce 14,000 and 3,200 MW, respectively.

But it only began to use part of that energy when a power line from Itaipú to Villa Hayes, near Asunción, was completed in October 2013. The power line was financed by a Brazilian fund aimed at narrowing the development gap between countries in the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) trade bloc, made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Without an adequate distribution network, however, the new energy supply did not eliminate problems like the February blackout that left 300,000 homes without power in Greater Asunción.

Achieving a more secure energy supply “is a question of time,” said Guynn, who tried to place his company near the new power line.

The problem is that the national power utility, ANDE, does not have investment capacity, and “distribution is not secure and steady,” said Fernando Masi, founding director of CADEP, which carries out research on public policies and provides graduate studies in economy.

But the broad availability of energy is a new element drawing industries to Paraguay, since the other advantages, such as low labour costs and tax incentives, already existed before.

Cheap energy also tempted the British-Australian multinational metals and mining corporation Rio Tinto, which studied the possibility of producing aluminum in Paraguay, even if it had to ship in the raw material, bauxite, from far away, because electric power is the main cost of the aluminum industry.

But a major public campaign, which collected more than 100,000 signatures, managed to block the project, “which would consume more energy than all of the national industries combined,” while requiring subsidies and employing a relatively small number of people, Mercedes Canese, an engineer who was deputy minister of industry during the government of Fernando Lugo (2008-2012), told IPS.

However, another engineer, Francisco Scorza, who studied the case, said the Rio Tinto project became unviable because “China began to produce very cheap aluminum, at 1,200 dollars a ton, 40 percent less expensive than here, and Paraguay can’t afford to subsidise energy.”

CADEP’s Masi said attracting small and medium-sized industries is better for development and employment, but the maquila sector has limits. The auto parts industry, for example, is limited to producing wiring, “because there is no bilateral agreement with Brazil on the car industry,” he said.

Brazil demands that Paraguay stop imports of used automobiles, “a very high cost for Paraguay to pay,” as it has a large fleet of used Japanese vehicles known as the “Vía Chile” cars because they come into Paraguay through that neighbouring country.

The maquila industry only exported 284 million dollars worth of goods in 2015 – very little in comparison to Paraguay’s overall industrial exports of 3.0 to 3.5 billion dollars, said Masi.

Industrialisation in Paraguay “has taken off, but not at the fast pace that was expected,” he said, adding that improving energy and logistics infrastructure could help.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/maquilas-help-drive-industrialisation-in-paraguay/feed/ 1