Inter Press ServiceNatural Resources – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 22 Aug 2018 01:30:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Mixed Signals as Guyana Develops its Green Economy Strategyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 11:52:57 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157293 Guyana is forging ahead with plans to exploit vast offshore reserves of oil and gas, even while speaking eloquently of its leadership in transitioning to a green economy at a recent political party congress addressed by the country’s president. The mixed signals on plans for a green economy have increased in the past year, in […]

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About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, some 15 million hectares, have remained untouched over time. The country is making plans for a green economy while also looking to exploit its fossil fuel reserves. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Jewel Fraser
GEORGETOWN, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

Guyana is forging ahead with plans to exploit vast offshore reserves of oil and gas, even while speaking eloquently of its leadership in transitioning to a green economy at a recent political party congress addressed by the country’s president.

The mixed signals on plans for a green economy have increased in the past year, in the wake of a 2015 discovery of what has been termed one of the largest discoveries of oil and gas 120 miles off Guyana’s shores, which saw major international oil companies vying for exploration rightseven as the government began work on a Green State Development Strategy (GSDS).

Central to the GSDS is “the structural transformation of Guyana’s economy into a green and inclusive one [that] will recognise the economic value of the extractive sectors, instituting measures to ensure their environmental sustainability while facilitating new economic growth from a more diverse set of inclusive, green and high value-adding sectors.”

In line with its goal to transition to a green economy, Guyana entered into a seven-year partnership with Norway for a REDD+ investment fund, on the basis of its 19 million hectares of forest with a carbon sink capacity of 350 tons/hectare, in what it described as “the world’s first national-scale, payment-for-performance forest conservation agreement.” The USD250 million investment fund from Norway is earmarked for pioneering Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy.

At the same time, government agencies of this small South American country, the only English-speaking one on the continent, gave some assistance to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as it researched the most effective measures for ensuring the Guyanese labour force developed the skills needed in a green economy.

The ILO agreed to respond to IPS’ queries about the paradox of Guyana exploiting its fossil fuel reserves while making plans for a green economy, whereas repeated efforts by the IPS to obtain an interview with Guyana’s Office of Climate Change were unsuccessful.

Andrew Small, the consultant commissioned by the ILO to carry out the study on greening Guyana’s labour force, told IPS via e-mail that he thinks the country is indeed ready and positioning itself for a green economy. He pointed to changes in the education curricula at both secondary school and tertiary level, as well as efforts at encouraging climate smart agriculture. “Guyana is indeed a small country but a major contributor to the global effort to reduce carbon emissions from economic and social activities,” he said.

He also pointed out the move by some large businesses to incorporate renewable energy into their buildings and processes, and an attendant move by the government to enable further uptake of renewable energy. “In particular the Guyana Energy Agency and Guyana Power and Light Company are leading the final draft and implementation of the Draft Guyana Energy Policy (2017) and Guyana Energy Sector Strategic Plan (2015-2020), respectively. These policies outline anticipated energy demand, an optimal energy mix for Guyana including a 100 percent increase in renewable energy sources aligned to Guyana’s transition to an environmentally sustainable economy,” he said.

However, with an estimated four billion barrels of oil in its waters, the pull of oil money has been creating a shift in focus for some who might potentially have taken up working in green jobs. Small admits, “The shift is already happening. The magnitude of this sector will attract many highly skilled Guyanese. There have been some local concerns expressed about this, in particular in the case of engineers from the Public Infrastructure Ministry or [with regard to those] who would otherwise seek employment with this Ministry among others.”

At the same time, the ILO Caribbean’s Enterprise and Job Creation Specialist Kelvin Sergeant told IPS that the impact of oil and gas exploration on the green transition could go either way. “It can be positive or negative. Positive if the resources from the oil sector are used to develop the green economy and ensure sustainability of the environment and the rest of the society, especially the more vulnerable in the society. If this is not done, then there could be many new problems in the future.”

Nevertheless, he explained, the ILO commissioned the “Skills for green jobs” in Guyana study because his organisation believes a green economy is a sustainable one. “The ILO places great emphasis on greening of the economy and green jobs. This is critical towards sustainable economies and societies. …The ILO, however, argues that policies towards greening of the economy will have an impact on workers. There will be job losses, job gains or jobs will be redefined. Because of this, the ILO believes that any policy towards greening of the economy should be just and fair and must leave no one behind.”

The focus on fossil fuels “can be only detrimental if there is no trickling down of the gains from the oil sector. The whole process has to be carefully managed to avoid Dutch disease and other problems which have plagued Caribbean countries that have oil,” he said. “There needs to be careful policies which ensure that everyone benefits from the oil finds.”

Apart from labour market concerns, it remains to be seen how Guyana will live up to its Nationally Determined Contributions tabled last year. The country promised “to avoid emissions in the amount of 48.7 MtCO2e annually if adequate incentives are provided”, on the basis of its forest cover. If the four billion barrel estimate given is correct, Guyana’s reserves alone represent almost four-fifths of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 estimate of the amount of energy that will be generated by Latin America’s industrial sector including its fossil fuel industry in the years leading up to 2030. The IPCC estimates the approximately 33 EJ of energy (roughly equivalent to 5.4 billion barrels of oil) Latin America will generate up to 2030 will result in 2,417 MtCO2 emissions, making Guyana’s promises in support of the Paris Agreement inconsequential in the light of emissions its billions of barrels would produce.

But Sergeant remains upbeat about the viability of a green economy. He said the focus on fossil fuel exploration does not mean efforts to promote green skills for a green economy are moot. “It does not have to, if the guidelines for a just transition are followed.”

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Poverty-Stricken Communities in Ghana are Restoring Once-Barren Landhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2018 13:53:53 +0000 Albert Oppong-Ansah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157270 In the scorching Upper East Region of Ghana, the dry seasons are long and for kilometres around there is nothing but barren, dry earth. Here, in some areas, it is not uncommon for half the female population to migrate to the country’s south in search of work, often taking their young children with them. “We […]

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Drone visual of the area in Upper East Region, Ghana that have not been restored. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah /IPS

By Albert Oppong-Ansah
GARU and TEMPANE, Ghana, Aug 20 2018 (IPS)

In the scorching Upper East Region of Ghana, the dry seasons are long and for kilometres around there is nothing but barren, dry earth. Here, in some areas, it is not uncommon for half the female population to migrate to the country’s south in search of work, often taking their young children with them.

“We realised that the long dry spell, bare land and high temperature of 40 degrees and the absence of irrigation facilities for farmers to [allow them] to farm year-round…effectively made them unemployed for the seven-month dry season,” Ayaaba Atumoce, chief of the Akaratshie community from the Garu and Tempane districts, tells IPS.“But for this initiative, our younger and future generation may have never known the beauty and importance of such indigenous trees as they [would have] all been destroyed." Talaata Aburgi, a farmer from the Garu and Tempane districts in Ghana.

The Garu and Tempane districts, which encompass 1,230 square kilometres or 123,000 hectares, had large portions of barren and degraded land until just three years ago. Now, there are pockets of lush grass, neem trees, berries and indigenous fruit growing on some 250 hectares of restored land. The dry earth is beginning to flourishing, albeit it slowly.

Atumoce remembers that growing up in the area, there was dense forest cover. But it gradually diminished over time as the mostly farming communities here supplemented their income by making charcoal and selling it at regional centres. According to the 2015 Ghana Poverty Mapping report, the rate of poverty in these two districts is 54.5 percent or 70,087 people—accounting for the highest number of impoverished people in the entire region.

The rate at which trees were cut down surpassed the rate at which new trees grew, if they did at all. And soon there were less and less trees for people to make charcoal with. Sprouts were soon unable to grow also as the land became hard and lacked nutrients.

And rainfall patterns changed.

“Previously, we would prepare our farmlands in early February and start planting when the rains begin in late March or early April and ended in late September or mid-October. Now, our planting is pushed to the end of June or early July and ends just around the same period it used to. We are getting low yields,” Atumoce says.

Carl Kojo Fiati, director of Natural Resources at Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency, tells IPS that deforestation and indiscriminate bush burning in the Upper Region has reduced the natural water cycles band, a natural cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation, and resulted in the reduced rainfall pattern and unproductive land.

“When the shrubs are allowed to grow it draws water from the ground that evaporates into the atmosphere and becomes moisture. This moisture adds to other forms of evaporation and this is condensed and comes down as rain,” he explains.

Women and children affected

The reduced rainfall affected this community significantly. According to the Garu and Tempane districts Annual Report, 2014, large portions of the population migrated south in search of jobs from November 2013 to April 2014. According to the report, 53 percent of women in the Kpikpira and Worinyanga area councils migrated with their children to the southern part of Ghana to engage in menial jobs, exposing their children to various forms of abuse, and depriving them of basic needs such as shelter, education, health care and protection.

But three years ago, World Vision International (WVI) Ghana began implementing the Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) programme. FMNR is a low-cost land restoration technique.

“After watching the video [presented by WVI] we got to know and accepted that we are suffering all these consequences because we harvested trees for timber, firewood, and constantly cleared our farmlands, engaged in indiscriminate burning and cutting,” Atumoce says.

But by this time, farmers in Garu and Tempane already knew that their crops like maize, millet, groundnuts, onions and watermelon would not grow without the use of chemical fertilisers, Atumoce explains.

“For the past 20 years, our parcels of land have not been fertile because one cannot plant without applying fertiliser. There was a long spell of drought; I observed that because the rainy season was delayed and the period of rain has now shortened. It decreased our crop yield and left us poor,” Atumoce says.

Asher Nkegbe, the United Nation Convention to Combating Desertification and Drought focal person for Ghana, explains to IPS that Ghana has adopted Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and set nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs are commitments by government to tackle climate change by 2030. As part of Ghana’s NDCs, the country has committed to reforesting 20,000ha of degraded lands each year.

This includes identifying highly-degraded areas, establishing a baseline and increasing the vegetation cover. The Garu and Tempani districts are considered LDN key areas.

Ghana’s natural resources are disappearing at an alarming rate. More than 50 percent of the original forest area has been converted to agricultural land by slash and burn clearing practices. Wildlife populations are in serious decline, with many species facing extinction, according to a World Bank report.

The Garu and Tempane districts were the second and third areas in which the project was implemented, run in conjunction with the ministry of food and agriculture, the Ghana National Fire Service and other government agencies. From 2009 to 2012 the pilot was conducted in Talensi, Nabdam District, which is also here in Upper East Region.

The projects have been handed over to the communities and another one is now being introduced in Bawku East District, also in Upper East Region.

Farmers undertaking periodic pruning at vegetation Susudi, in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

Simple restoration methods

The restoration in Garu and Tempane began using simple principles. This community of mostly farmers selected a degraded area and were asked to not destroy the shrubs there but to protect and allow them to grow.

They were also taught by the ministry of food and agriculture how to periodically prune away weak stems, allowing the shoots to grow into full sized trees rapidly. They were also advised to allow animals to graze on the vegetation so that their droppings could become a source for manure.

“The critical science behind regeneration and improved soil nutrient are that the leaves of the shrubs or vegetation drops and decay. The decayed leaves constitute carbon in the soil and that promotes plant growth,” says Fiati.

So far, 23 communities in Garu and Tempane have adopted the approach, and 460 people were trained by the ministry of food and agriculture. Volunteers were also trained in fire fighting techniques by the Ghana Fire Service. Community volunteer brigades were then formed, and these play an active role in quashing bushfires threatening the land.

New bylaws to regulate the harvesting of surplus wood, grasses, and other resources were also passed and enforced to prevent the indiscriminate felling of trees.

The Garu, Tempane and Talensi districts are estimated to now have over 868,580 trees, with an average density of about 4,343 trees per hectare, compared to a baseline of around 10 trees per hectare.

“We gave the farmers animals to keep as a source of an alternative livelihood so that farmers do not go back to the charcoal burning,” Maxwell Amedi, Food Security and Resilient Technical officer of WVI Ghana tells IPS.

A significant number of people, including mothers and their children, now remain in the area thanks to this alternative source of livelihood.

Amedi notes that forests are essential to realising the world’s shared vision for its people, and the planet. Forests, he says, are central to future prosperity as well as the stability of the global climate.

Talaata Aburgi, 60, from Susudi community in the Garu and Tempane districts, tells IPS that neem trees have always been used here to cure ailments including diabetes, skin ulcers, birth controls, malaria fever and stomach ache. She is glad that these trees are now repopulating the area.

In addition, red and yellow berries and other indigenous fruit have started growing again. Birds, butterflies and wild animals, like monkeys and rabbits, have reappeared. As IPS travelled through the region and visited Aburgi’s farm, we saw a significant number of farmers adopting FMNR.

The FMNR project, Fiati says, is an excellent method of correcting the problem of reduced rainfall by bringing the production cycle in sync with nature.

Nkegbe is optimistic.

“With lessons learned and the results observed with regeneration initiatives, there is hope. We are scaling it up and have even expanded it to include traditional healers and have set up 14 herbaria. It may not be 100 percent but for sure there are positive signs. More support is needed,” Nkegbe says.

Meanwhile, Aburgi says that adopting the initiative has contributed to young herders spending less time seeking grazing land and allows them to attend school for longer periods.

“But for this initiative, our younger and future generation may have never known the beauty and importance of such indigenous trees as they [would have] all been destroyed,” Aburgi says.

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Blue Economy Movement Gains Traction in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa/#respond Mon, 16 Jul 2018 10:42:42 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156707 An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs–particularly extreme poverty and hunger. Countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and the Seychelles–which has already established the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy–are recognising the need […]

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A coastal city, Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, is an area where people have relied on the ocean for food and employment for as long as they have lived there. An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jul 16 2018 (IPS)

An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs–particularly extreme poverty and hunger.

Countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and the Seychelles–which has already established the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy–are recognising the need to diversify their economies.

“The African Union has also adopted the blue economy, which is about exploiting resources such as oceans, lakes and rivers, into its 2063 development agenda for socio-economic transformation,” Danson Mwangangi, an independent economic researcher and analyst, tells IPS.

He says that for agrarian economies like Kenya, “agriculture alone will not be sufficient to drive the economy since the sector is facing many challenges, including shrinking farmlands, pest infestations and unpredictable weather changes.”The blue world will only be a win for Africa if there are strategies in place to exploit and protect it. -- Caesar Bita, head of underwater archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya

In Kenya, for instance, World Bank statistics show that in 2017 alone maize production dropped 20 to 30 percent due to insufficient rains and army worm infestation. The country has an annual maize shortfall of eight million bags per year.
Against this backdrop, experts are urging African countries to diversify and look beyond land-based resources by exploring the blue economy as it presents immense untapped potential.

The World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in their 2018 policy brief make a strong case in favour of the blue economy.
Mwangangi says that it can significantly enable Africa to improve its volumes of global trade, achieve food security and meet its energy demands.

Ocean renewable energy has the potential to meet up to 400 percent of the current global energy demand, according to the International Energy Agency.

“Seventy percent of African countries are either coastal or islands, we need to harness such valuable coastlines,” says Caesar Bita, head of underwater archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya.
He tells IPS that the blue world can significantly transform the lives of communities that live closest to those bodies of water since they lead very precarious lives.

According to John Omingo, head of commercial shipping at the Kenya Maritime Authority, very little has been done in the way of harnessing these vast water-based resources for economic gain.
“Africa’s coastline is about 31,000 kilometres long and yet trade among African countries accounts for 11 percent of the total trade volume, which is the lowest compared to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Europe and America,” he expounds.

Bita tells IPS that while Africa is the largest island on earth as it has the Atlantic Ocean on the west; the Indian Ocean on the east; the Antarctic ocean on the south, and the Mediterranean and Red Sea on the north, “there is very little shipping that is going on in Africa. African-owned ships account for less than 1.2 percent of the world’s shipping.”

Ahead of the upcoming Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, that will be co-host by Kenya and Canada this November, in Nairobi, economic experts are optimistic that the blue economy movement is gaining traction.
The high-level conference is expected to advance a global agenda on sustainable exploitation of oceans, seas, rivers and lakes.

One of Freetown’s larger fishing harbours is Goderich Beach, less than 30 minute’s drive from the city’s downtown core. There, a single motorised boat can bring in as much as 300 dollars worth of fish in a single day. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

“Holding the conference in Africa with Canada as a co-host is also very strategic and shows that the continent is coming into this agenda as an important partner. Some of the most important gateways for international trade are actually in Africa,” says Bita.
Mwangangi says that African countries will need to assess their own individual capacities and interpret the blue economy in the manner that makes most economic sense to them.

“The concept is not a one-size-fits-all. Each country will need to evaluate what water-based natural resources are at their disposal,” he says. “On the Indian Ocean side of the continent where we have South Africa and Mauritius, countries tend to embrace an industrial approach,” he adds.

Research shows that South Africa’s Operation Phakisa, a national development plan, also places a focus on the blue economy as it is expected to create one million new jobs by 2030 and add approximately USD13 billion into the country’s economy.

Experts also point to Mauritius which is among the smallest countries in the world but has territorial waters the size of South Africa, making the small nation one the strongest blue economies in Africa. It ranked as Africa’s wealthiest nation based on its per capita income in 2015. Bita adds that Mozambique, which lies alongside the Indian Ocean, is characterised by the highest species of diverse and abundant natural resources.

Kenya is among African countries that are developing strategies to mainstream the blue economy within its national economic blueprint. Bita says that this East African nation’s blue economy includes maritime transport and logistics services, fisheries and aquaculture, tourism as well as the extractive industries such as the offshore mining of gas and oil, titanium and niobium.

Nonetheless, environment experts, including Bita, have expressed concerns that ongoing talks on the blue economy have largely revolved around full exploitation, in order for countries to develop rapidly in the next 10 years, and little on sustainability.

“This is a problem since there is evidence to show that oceans resources are limited. For instance, explorers have presented evidence to show that at least 90 percent of the largest predatory fishes have disappeared from the world’s oceans,” he cautions.

The blue world will only be a win for Africa if there are strategies in place to exploit and protect it, he adds.

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Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time/#respond Fri, 13 Jul 2018 10:54:03 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156690 IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

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Soil degradation, climate change, heavy tropical monsoonal rain and pests are some of the challenges the young farmers face. Soil degradation will impact two-thirds of humanity who will be food-insecure while societies are left with a heightened risk of instability. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 13 2018 (IPS)

Land degradation caused by human activities is occurring at an alarming rate across the world, and the cost will be steep if no action is taken.

In recent years, environmental groups have been sounding the alarm on land degradation while stories of the human impact on the environment have inundated twitter feeds and development news—and with good reason.

This year, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) produced the world’s first comprehensive, evidence-based assessment highlighting the dangers and far-reaching impacts of land degradation.

The United Nations-backed study found that land degradation has reached “critical” levels across the world as 75 percent of land is already degraded and projections show that such degradation will increase to over 90 percent by 2050.

Since then, more reports have poured in highlighting concerns over the issue.

Most recently, the Joint Research Centre at the European Commission created a “World Atlas of Desertification” and found that an area half the size of the European Union is degraded every year by farming, city expansion, and deforestation.

Before that, the U.N Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) reported that the global economy will lose a staggering USD23 trillion by 2050 because of land degradation.

Not only will it affect economies, but the phenomenon will impact two-thirds of humanity who will be food-insecure while societies are left with a heightened risk of instability.

IPS spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of IPBES’ assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

Q: How is land degradation caused, and what are the dangers? 

Land degradation is kind of at the overlap of many contemporary concerns. For instance, a very long proportion of the current drivers of climate change come out of things that are related to land degradation.

About one-third of current climate change relates to processes of land degradation—either deforestation or decrease in soil carbon for agriculture and other similar processes.

Climate change has a reverse effect on land degradation—as the climate changes, the ecosystems that were in a particular place can no longer exist there. In the transition period while ecosystems try to sort everything out, those ecosystems lose their ability to supply the things on which we come to rely.

The current major driver of biodiversity loss is the loss of habitat, and loss of habitat is directly related to land degradation.

From the human side, these direct impacts come through the supply of food.

The result of a lot of this is that for people who depend on ecosystems for their livelihoods, their livelihoods are undermined. So those people are either worse off or are forced to move off the land and into other people’s territories and that leads to problems of conflict.

Q: What were some of the more concerning or surprising findings in the IPBES assessment?

This is quite likely the single environmental issue within the world today that affects the largest number of people.

There are many environmental issues that are going to have a big effect as the century unfolds—things like climate change and biodiversity loss— and there are many environmental issues that affect limited populations, like air pollution.

But when you look over the entire world, about two people out of every five are directly materially impacted by land degradation.

Q: What are some of the challenges around acting on land degradation? And what action(s) should governments take to overcome such challenges? 

The biggest single constraining factor is the fragmentation of land issues across many authorities … This is costing us, in terms of lost production and risks, billions and billions of dollars. But it’s not obvious to anyone because no one sees the full picture.

I think you need to attack the problem of integration between authorities at multiple levels.

First, the kind of management we do on the land physically has to move to what we call landscape-scale management. In other words, you don’t look at all the little bits individually, you actually look across the landscape and then you fit the bits into it.

When you get a level up, which is national management, it’s probably better that we do this by arranging for more than communication but coordination between the various agencies which have partial responsibility.

We also need coordination at the international level because although land degradation has its primary impact on the local level, many of the drivers of the causes of it have international manifestations.

So you can’t solve it purely at the local level—you have to have a national level which sets in place the right policies, and you need an international level to ensure, for instance, that global trade does not take place in such a way that it drives land degradation.

Q: Is it a matter of achieving land degradation neutrality or do people need to make a shift in lifestyle?

Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

We do need to achieve land degradation neutrality, which is basically equivalent to saying that you are halting the decline. The only way to achieve that in the long term is to alter many of our lifestyle impacts because it is those that are ultimately driving the increasing degradation of the land.

Land degradation neutrality is the strategy we would take but it has to be underpinned by these bigger scale changes in the demands that we put on ecosystems.

Q: What is your message to the international community to act on this issue? 

I am concerned that not enough is being done.

There’s a distribution of responsibility—you can’t solve this all at the international level nor all at the local level. It requires really strong action at all of those levels.

If you think of the Rio Conventions—the three conventions including the Climate Change Convention, the Biodiversity Convention, and the one related to land degradation, which was specifically around dry land degradation—the climate convention has moved forward with some ground breaking international collaborative agreements. Biodiversity is sort of moving forward but perhaps not as fast, and the convention on desertification hasn’t gone anywhere at all. The question is why?

Partly, because up until now, this has not been seen as a critically important issue. [It is an] ‘it affects far away people; it doesn’t affect us’ kind of issue.

What we point out is that both the causes and the consequences ultimately end up being international so it does affect everyone.

It’s a key driver of both the biodiversity loss and climate change, and that’s one of the reasons we have to raise its profile and address it sooner rather than later.

Other ambitions like many of the Sustainable Development Goals will not be possible unless we sort this one out too.

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Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

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Ocean Conservation Is an Untapped Strategy for Fighting Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/ocean-conservation-untapped-strategy-fighting-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ocean-conservation-untapped-strategy-fighting-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/ocean-conservation-untapped-strategy-fighting-climate-change/#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 12:02:37 +0000 Eliza Northrop http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156578 Eliza Northrop is an Associate in the International Climate Action Initiative at World Resources Institute.

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Eliza Northrop is an Associate in the International Climate Action Initiative at World Resources Institute.

By Eliza Northrop
WASHINGTON DC, Jul 6 2018 (IPS)

The ocean contributes $1.5 trillion annually to the global economy and assures the livelihood of 10-12 percent of the world’s population. But there’s another reason to protect marine ecosystems—they’re crucial for curbing climate change.

2018: A Year for the Ocean and Climate Action

This year is shaping up to be a critical one for ocean action. The 53 member countries of the Commonwealth adopted the Commonwealth Blue Charter on Ocean Action earlier this year, a plan to protect coral reefs, restore mangroves and remove plastic pollution, among other actions.

A new United Nations assessment has found the world’s oceans to be in dire shape. Credit: Shek Graham/CC-BY-2.0

Ocean conservation was a centerpiece of the G7 meeting resulting in the ‘Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Communities’ which commits the G7 to supporting better adaptation planning, emergency preparedness and recovery; support innovative financing for coastal resilience; and launch a joint G7 initiative to deploy Earth observation technologies and related applications to scale up capacities for integrated coastal zone management.

In addition, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the European Union agreed to tackle ocean plastic in the ‘Ocean Plastics Charter.’ Such action lays important groundwork for substantial negotiations for the first ever international treaty for conservation of the high seas to begin in September. The negotiations will last 2 years, culminating in 2020. The high seas cover nearly half the planet and are filled with marine life, from fish to plankton that are crucial to generating oxygen and regulating the global climate.

Approximately 40 percent of all CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels is absorbed by the ocean. The new treaty will be negotiated under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, joining other agreements that govern sea bed mining and highly migratory fish stocks. It has been dubbed the “Paris Agreement for the Ocean”, potentially enabling the creation of large marine protected areas in the high seas that have long been called for as crucial to curbing the decline of global fish stocks and other marine life.

Speaking of the Paris Agreement, this year is also a turning point for international climate action. The first stocktake of progress under the Paris Agreement on climate change, known as the Talanoa Dialogue, is currently underway, and is expected to highlight tangible opportunities for countries to further advance climate action. Countries are also expected to agree later this year on a rulebook for implementing the Paris Agreement.

The ocean and coastal ecosystems provide an untapped, nature-based climate solution that needs to be part of both conversations.

The Ocean as a Climate Solution

“Blue carbon” ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass meadows and kelp forests are 10 times more effective at sequestering carbon dioxide on a per area basis per year than boreal, temperate, or tropical forests and about twice as effective at storing carbon in their soil and biomass. They also play a crucial role in protecting coastal infrastructure and communities from climate impacts, including extreme weather events.

• Mangroves are found in 123 countries and territories and are estimated to cover more than 150,000 square kilometres globally. Mangroves buffer coastal communities from wind and waves, acting as a frontline defense against storms and sea level rise.
• If the world halted just half of annual coastal wetlands loss, it would reduce emissions by 0.23 gigatonnes, Spain’s total annual emissions in 2013.
• Restoring coastal wetlands to their 1990 extent would increase annual carbon sequestration by 160 megatonnes a year, equivalent to offsetting the burning of 77.4 million tonnes of coal.

National Climate Commitments: An Opportunity to Advance Action on Climate and the Ocean

Commitments made by countries to advance climate action in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement are a vehicle to advance action on both agendas. Known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the ocean and coastal ecosystems are currently underrepresented in these commitments.

There are a number of policy options for incorporating blue carbon ecosystems into NDCs. These include:

• Creating or protecting blue carbon ecosystems (including through Marine Protected Areas). This includes establishing buffer zones to reduce impacts from adjacent land-use and allowing mangroves to migrate inland in response to sea level rise.
• Reforesting or rehabilitating degraded blue carbon ecosystems.
• Introducing incentives to create new or protect existing blue carbon ecosystems on privately owned land, including through access to carbon markets.
• Ensuring the mitigation potential of blue carbon ecosystems is included in national greenhouse gas inventories.

Recognizing the Blue Carbon Economy

Of course, curbing climate change isn’t the only reason to invest in ocean and coastal ecosystem protection. Coastal ecosystems can also but the resilience of coastal communities to natural hazards—including storms (mangroves absorb the energy of storm-driven waves and wind), flooding, erosion and fire. Wetlands provide nurseries for the many species of fish that support economies and improve food security. And marine protected areas can also protect biodiversity.

Fighting climate change is just yet another benefit the ocean provides us. It’s time to start recognizing its protection as a climate change solution.

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Excerpt:

Eliza Northrop is an Associate in the International Climate Action Initiative at World Resources Institute.

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Experts Decry Exclusion of Africa’s Local Farmers in Food Security Effortshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts/#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 10:36:49 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156574 Joshua Kiragu reminisces of years gone by when just one of his two hectares of land produced at least 40 bags of maize. But that was 10 years ago. Today, Kiragu can barely scrape up 20 bags from the little piece of land that he has left – it measures just under a hectare. Kiragu, […]

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Ibrahim Ndegwa at his farm in Ngangarithi, Wetlands in Nyeri County, Central Kenya. Experts are are concerned that local farmers remain at the periphery of efforts to address the impact of desertification. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jul 6 2018 (IPS)

Joshua Kiragu reminisces of years gone by when just one of his two hectares of land produced at least 40 bags of maize. But that was 10 years ago. Today, Kiragu can barely scrape up 20 bags from the little piece of land that he has left – it measures just under a hectare.

Kiragu, who is from Kenya’s Rift Valley region, tells IPS that years of extreme and drastic weather patterns continue to take their toll on his once-thriving maize business. His business, he says, has all but collapsed.

But Kiragu’s situation is not unique. Effects of land degradation and desertification are some of the major challenges facing smallholder farmers today.

“Population pressures have led to extreme subdivision of land, farms are shrinking and this affects proper land management – smaller pieces of land mean that farmers are overusing their farms by planting every year,” says Allan Moshi, a land policy expert on sub-Saharan Africa.

Statistics from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) show that a majority of Africa’s farmers now farm on less than one hectare of land. “This is the case for Zambia where nearly half of the farms comprise less than one hectare of land, with at least 75 percent of smallholder farmers farming on less than two hectares,” Moshi tells IPS.

Although smallholder farmers contribute to land degradation through poor land management, experts like Moshi are concerned that local farmers remain at the periphery of efforts to address the impact of desertification.

“Their exclusion will continue to limit how much success we can achieve with ongoing interventions,” he adds.

Moshi says that the situation is dire as small-scale farmers across Africa account for at least 75 percent of agricultural outputs, according to FAO. In Zambia, for instance, over 600,000 farms with an average land size of less than a hectare produce about 300,000 metric tonnes of maize. While this production meets the food needs of the country’s 17 million people, they lack modernised irrigation systems, making their crops vulnerable to drastic weather changes when they occur.

He adds that in order to address the challenges of declining soil fertility and to heal the land, farmers have to “adopt a more resilient seed system, better farming practices and technologies.”

Reckson Matengarufu, an agro-forestry and food security expert in Zimbabwe, says that in the last decade Zambia has joined a growing list of countries characterised by a rainfall deficit, a shortage of water, unusually high temperatures and shrinking farmlands.

Other countries include Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Zimbabwe

“These are also countries that have signed and ratified the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) that aims to fight desertification and address the effects of drought and particularly threats to food security from unusually high temperatures,” Moshi explains.

But Matengarufu emphasises the need for countries to build the capacity and understanding of small-scale farmers about transformative efforts.

“There is a need to introduce agro-forestry, whereby farmers integrate trees, crops and livestock on the same plot of land, into discussions on food and nutrition security,” he says.

According to a UNCCD report ‘Investing in Land Degradation Neutrality: Making the Case’, in Zimbabwe alone more than half of all agricultural land is affected by soil degradation. And in Burkina Faso, approximately 470,000 of a total 12 million hectares of agricultural land are under the looming cloud of severe land degradation.

Experts like Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, a professor of horticulture at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya, are raising the alarm that desertification is rapidly reducing the amount of land available for agriculture.

Agro-forestry experts are increasingly encouraging farmers to incorporate integration efforts “so that they can benefit from the harvest of many crops and not just from planting maize on the same plot each year,” says Matengarufu.

Abukutsa-Onyango adds that the poor seed system in Africa has made it difficult for farmers to cushion their land from further degradation.

Research shows that for sub-Saharan Africa to improve production there is a need to overhaul the seed system and for the average age of commonly-grown seeds to drop from the current 15 to 20 years to below 10 years.

“Farms are rapidly losing their capacity to produce because they save seeds from previous harvests, borrow from their neighbours or buy uncertified seeds from their local markets. These seeds cannot withstand the serious challenges facing the agricultural sector,” Abukutsa-Onyango says.

In countries like Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe farmers receive at least 90 percent of their seeds from the informal sector. Research from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) shows that on average only 20 percent of farmers in Africa use improved variety seeds.

“For African countries to achieve food and nutrition security, farmers must have access to high-yielding varieties that are designed to adapt and flourish despite the high temperatures and erratic weather we are experiencing,” Abukutsa-Onyango says.

Within this context, AGRA decries the fact that there are still very few local private seed-producing companies across Africa.

AGRA continues to push for more of these companies. The alliance has contributed to the rise in local seed companies across sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, from a paltry 10 in 2007 to at least 10 times that by 2018.

Experts emphasise that on average the use of improved seeds and proper farming practices will enable farmers to produce more than double what they are currently producing.

Moshi nonetheless says that the battle to combat the effects of drought and desertification is far from won.

He decries the exclusion of local communities and the general lack of awareness, particularly among farmers, on the connection between poor land management and land degradation.

“We also have divided opinions among stakeholders and experts on effective strategies to combat desertification, financial constraints and in many countries, a lack of political goodwill,” he concludes.

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Bamboo, A Sustainability Powerhousehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse/#respond Fri, 29 Jun 2018 11:30:32 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156466 A landmark conference bringing more than 1,200 people from across the world together to promote and explain the importance of bamboo and rattan to global sustainable development and tackling climate change has ended with a raft of agreements and project launches. The three-day Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress in Beijing this week, organised by multilateral […]

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Bamboo is stronger than concrete or steel but is a renewable resource, providing refuge and food for wildlife as well as biomass. Credit: CC by 2.0

Bamboo is stronger than concrete or steel but is a renewable resource, providing refuge and food for wildlife as well as biomass. Credit: CC by 2.0

By Ed Holt
VIENNA, Jun 29 2018 (IPS)

A landmark conference bringing more than 1,200 people from across the world together to promote and explain the importance of bamboo and rattan to global sustainable development and tackling climate change has ended with a raft of agreements and project launches.

The three-day Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress in Beijing this week, organised by multilateral development group the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) and China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA), was the first international, policy-focused conference on the use of bamboo and rattan to help sustainable development.“Bamboo is not a climate change silver bullet, but we want people to realise that it is a ‘forgotten opportunity’ in helping mitigate the effects of climate change." --INBAR Director General Dr Hans Friedrich

Organisers had pledged to ensure that the event would not be “simply a talking shop”, instead making real progress on raising awareness of the potential role of bamboo and rattan in helping solve major global problems.

As it closed, it appeared that goal had been met with the announcement of a number of agreements, including a major project to develop bamboo sectors across Africa and an agreement between INBAR members to further develop bamboo and rattan sectors in other parts of the world.

Speaking at the end of the conference, INBAR Director General Dr Hans Friedrich said: “We have made some real steps forward for the development of bamboo and rattan.”

Bamboo and rattan have long been championed by environmental organisations and groups promoting sustainable development, especially in the world’s poorest countries.

A grass, bamboo is a native plant on all continents except Antarctica and Europe, although the majority of its natural habitat is in the tropical belts.

It is stronger than concrete or steel but is a renewable resource, providing refuge and food for wildlife as well as biomass. It captures higher amounts of CO2 than most other plants and can be harvested significantly faster than wood – over a period of 20 years it can produce almost 12 times as much material as wood.

It can be used for shelter as well as, in some cases, transport, and provides sustainable, ecologically-friendly economic and commercial opportunities to people, especially in poorer communities.

Groups like INBAR point out that bamboo use can play a significant part in helping countries meet many of the UN’s sustainable development goals.

But awareness of the potential of bamboo and rattan is generally low in many countries, especially in the more developed world and particularly at senior levels of government and industry.

Dr Friedrich told IPS: “A large part of the reason for this conference is about awareness. We want to tell people who don’t yet realise it that bamboo and rattan can help them reach their sustainable development goals.

“The potential is immense. It is understood by people in, for example, the forestry industry, and others, but not really by politicians. At this conference we want to help them realise this by giving them examples.”

Bringing together ministers, industry leaders, scientists and entrepreneurs, the conference used examples of innovative bamboo use – from a thirty-foot bamboo wind turbine blade to bamboo diapers – and real-life stories from individuals of bamboo and rattan helping create sustainable livelihoods to underline to decision-makers and senior industry figures the potential.

One of the key aims of the meeting, said organisers, was to try and push those decision-makers into setting up the institutional, regulatory, policy, and business frameworks necessary to kick-start a new sustainable development paradigm.

“In the last few years I have met a number of ministers and they always start off being sceptical about bamboo but after they see everything they realise its potential.

“We want governments to think about bamboo when they think about their plans for climate change, sustainable development and green policies,” Dr Friedrich told IPS.

INBAR also used the conference to talk to representatives from large private sector firms about how to build global value chains, as well as how to set up international standards which support international bamboo and rattan trade.

Its proponents have pointed out the economic potential, particularly in poorer countries, of the bamboo industry. In China, which Dr Friedrich says has until now been the “only country taking bamboo really seriously [as an industry]”, the bamboo industry employs 10 million people and is valued at USD 30 billion per year.

“People are beginning to realise the economic potential and opportunities for bamboo,” Friedrich told IPS.

The conference also highlighted the impact bamboo and rattan could have on climate change.

Speakers from various countries, including politicians, spoke about how bamboo and rattan was being used to help combat the effects of climate change and help the environment.

Experts outlined its potential and current use in areas like forest protection, restoration of degraded land, and carbon capture as well as a replacement for more carbon-intensive materials such as cement and steel in construction and industry.

An INBAR report released ahead of the conference gave an analysis of the carbon which is saved by substituting more emissions-intensive products for bamboo. It found the carbon emissions reduction potential of a managed giant bamboo species forest is potentially significantly higher than for certain types of trees under the same conditions.

Combining bamboo’s potential displacement factor with bamboo’s carbon storage rate, bamboo can sequester enormous sums of CO2 – from 200 to almost 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare. In China alone, the plant is projected to store more than one million tons of carbon by 2050.

Bamboo can also be used in durable products, including furniture, flooring, housing and pipes, replacing emissions-intensive materials including timber, plastics, cement and metals.
It can also be used as a substitute for fossil fuel-based energy sources – research by INBAR has shown that substituting electricity from the Chinese grid with electricity from bamboo gasification would reduce CO2 emissions by almost 7 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Bamboo can also help communities adapt to the effects of climate change, serving as a strong but flexible building material for shelter, as well as helping restore degraded land and combat desertification.

Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said at the conference: “In short, bamboo and rattan represent an important part of reducing net emissions. And this is exactly what the world needs right now.”

Speaking to IPS on the eve of the conference, Dr Friedrich said he hoped that policymakers would realise the potential for bamboo as part of solutions for dealing with climate change.

“Bamboo is not a climate change silver bullet, but we want people to realise that it is a ‘forgotten opportunity’ in helping mitigate the effects of climate change,” he said.

INBAR officials readily admit that it is likely to take time to raise awareness of the potential of bamboo and rattan, but they are encouraged by the fact that more countries are starting to look at it seriously as an industry, including in Africa and South America.

But Dr Friedrich was keen to stress that the conference was just a beginning and that, with international agreements on important projects being signed, he was hopeful of real change in the future use and awareness of the potential of bamboo and rattan.

“I hope this conference is going to be a landmark moment. I want it to be the catalyst and inspiration for real change,” he told IPS.

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West Africa Moves Ahead with Renewable Energy Despite Unpredictable Challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 18:22:03 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156416 The West African nation of Guinea may be a signatory of the Paris Agreement, a global undertaking by countries around the world to reduce climate change, but as it tries to provide electricity to some three quarters of its 12 million people who are without, the commitment is proving a struggle. Mamadou Bangoura, head of […]

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Forested hills in Guinea’s Kintampo area. Credit: CC by 3.0

Forested hills in Guinea’s Kintampo area. Barely a quarter of the population has access to electricity. Credit: CC by 3.0

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jun 26 2018 (IPS)

The West African nation of Guinea may be a signatory of the Paris Agreement, a global undertaking by countries around the world to reduce climate change, but as it tries to provide electricity to some three quarters of its 12 million people who are without, the commitment is proving a struggle.

Mamadou Bangoura, head of planning and energy management at Guinea’s Ministry of Energy, told IPS that his country faced a major challenge implementing its programme for the development and provision of energy resources to all citizens at a lower cost. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, only 26 percent of the population has access to electricity. “Our main concern is to find a balance between the implementation of this programme and the protection of biodiversity." --Mamadou Bangoura of Guinea’s Ministry of Energy

“Our main concern is to find a balance between the implementation of this programme and the protection of biodiversity. This is further compounded by a requirement to take into rigorous account the environmental and social aspects in the framework of the realisation of any infrastructure project,” Bangoura explained.

According to conservation organisation Fauna and Flora International, Guinea’s wildlife is already under threat. “Conservation solutions need to be found that enable people to make a living while protecting their natural assets into the future,” the organisation reports.

Unlike other African nations that are heavily reliant on fossil fuels, only 43 percent of Guinea’s electricity is generated from this as more than half (55 percent) is produced by hydropower.

The country’s potential for hydropower is significant. Guinea is regarded as West Africa’s water tower because 22 of the region’s rivers originate there, including Africa’s third-longest river, the Niger.

Bangoura added that despite the challenges, his country was making progress and several hydropower projects were being constructed. The Kaléta project, which will produce 204MW, is already completed. However, the Souapiti (459MW) and Amaria (300MW) hydropower plants “are still work in progress.”

He said negotiations were also underway for the construction of a 40MW solar power and a 40MW power plant. “Concession and power purchase agreements are being finalised,” he added.

In the Gambia, challenges in implementing renewable energy exist also. The small West African nation of only 1.8 million people is considered to be rare in its ambitious commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — it pledged a 44 percent reduction below its business-as-usual emission level. It’s a big task as currently around 96 percent of all electricity produced in the country comes from fossil fuels.  

Sidat Yaffa, an agronomist with expertise in climate change at the University of The Gambia, told IPS there were barriers to renewable energy programmes because the sector was still new to the Gambia.

“Therefore, a better understanding of the technology is still a challenge, securing adequate funding for implementation is a gap, and availability of trained human resources using the technology is also a gap,” Yaffa said.

He added that the Gambia’s renewable energy programmes included a wind energy pilot project at Nema Kunku village in West Coast Region.

“The agriculture sector’s GHG could be drastically reduced in the next five years in the Gambia if adequate solar panel water irrigation technologies are implemented,” Yaffa added.

Cote d’Ivoire also has strong ambitions for the development of reliable and profitable renewable energies, a cabinet minister said last year, adding that the country is committed to produce 42 percent of its energy through renewable energy.

This week representatives from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Guinea and Senegal will meet in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou to discuss both the challenges and successes they have had in reaching their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs are blueprints or outlines by countries on how they plan to cut GHG emissions.

The regional workshop, the first of its kind, is hosted by the Global Green Growth Institute in association with the International Renewable Energy Agency and the Green Climate Fund.

It aims to enhance capacity for NDC implementation, share experiences and best practices, and discuss renewable energy opportunities and associated challenges in the region.

Rural electrification headache

This regional cooperation is a significant step forward as 60 percent of the West African population living in the rural areas continue to depend on firewood as their primary source of energy.

In the Gambia and Senegal a quarter of the rural population has access to electricity, while the number is slightly higher in Cote d’Ivoire with about 29 percent having access.

But in Guinea and Burkina Faso only three and one percent of the respective rural populations have electricity.

Last year, Smart Villages Initiatives (SVI) conducted energy workshops in West Africa and it attributes poor electricity access in the region to insufficient generation, high prices of petroleum, lack of financing and transmission and distribution losses.

The World Bank’s 2017 State of Electricity Access Report makes the link that energy is inextricably linked to every other critical sustainable development challenge, including health, education, food security, gender equality, poverty reduction, employment and climate change, among others.

The Agence Française de Développement acknowledged the benefits of rural electrification programmes, stating, “(they) have the opportunity to reach more poor households and have larger impacts in the lives of the rural poor by providing new opportunities and enhancing the synergies between the agricultural and non-agricultural sector,”

Bangoura has acknowledged his country’s challenge to electrify rural areas. He said his government has just created the Guinean Rural Electrification Agency and launched a couple of projects, including a collaboration with the Electricity of Guinea, that will pave the way for the electrification of rural areas.

However, SVI said while most governments had set up rural electrification agencies or funds, the impact of such organisations may be hampered by a lack of financial and technical expertise. Hence the need to turn to international institutions and experts for capacity building and green energy finance.

Bangoura agreed that one of the problems his country is struggling with is implementation. “The problems at this level lies in the adaptation of the texts of the country to those governing the Paris Agreement…Hence the importance of this workshop that is focusing on capacity building.”

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Building West Africa’s Capacity to Access Climate Fundinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/building-west-africas-capacity-access-climate-funding/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-west-africas-capacity-access-climate-funding http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/building-west-africas-capacity-access-climate-funding/#respond Mon, 25 Jun 2018 17:06:46 +0000 Nalisha Adams http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156390 When Senegalese president Macky Sall opened the 30MW Santhiou Mékhé solar plant last June, the country gained the title of having West Africa’s largest such plant. But the distinction was short lived. Less than six months later, that November, the mantle was passed over to Burkina Faso as a 33MW solar power plant on the […]

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Solar panels in Dakar, Senegal. Credit: Fratelli dell'Uomo Onlus/cc by 3.0

Solar panels in Dakar, Senegal. Credit: Fratelli dell'Uomo Onlus/cc by 3.0

By Nalisha Adams
JOHANNESBURG, Jun 25 2018 (IPS)

When Senegalese president Macky Sall opened the 30MW Santhiou Mékhé solar plant last June, the country gained the title of having West Africa’s largest such plant. But the distinction was short lived.

Less than six months later, that November, the mantle was passed over to Burkina Faso as a 33MW solar power plant on the outskirts of the country’s capital, Ouagadougou, went online. But as in the case of Senegal, it is a title that Burkina Faso won’t hold for long as another West African nation, Mali, plans to open a 50MW solar plant by the end of this year.What may seem like increasing rising investment in renewables in West Africa is a combination of public-private partnerships and strong political will by countries to keep the commitments made in the Paris Agreement.

“It’s like a healthy competition…In Senegal in 2017 there have a been a number of solar plants that have quite a sizeable volume of production feeding into the electricity network. And this is turning out to be a common trend I think. Because it is one of the ways to actually fill the gap in terms of electricity, affordability and access,” says Mahamadou Tounkara, the country representative for the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Senegal and Burkina Faso. The institute has a mandate to support emerging and developing countries develop rigorous green growth economic development strategies and works with both the public and private sector.

What may seem like increasing rising investment in renewables in West Africa is a combination of public-private partnerships and strong political will by countries to keep the commitments made in the Paris Agreement, a global agreement to tackle climate change. In the agreement countries declared their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which are outlines of the actions they propose to undertake in order to limit the rise in average global temperatures to well below 2°C. According to an 2017 International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report, 45 African countries have quantifiable renewable energy targets in their NDCs.

However, many African countries still rely heavily on fossil fuels as a main energy source.

And while the countries are showing good progress with the implementation of renewables, Dereje Senshaw, the principal energy specialist at GGGI, tells IPS that it is still not enough. He acknowledges though that the limitation for many countries “is the difficulty in how to attract international climate finance.”

In a 2017 interview with IPS, IRENA Policy and Finance expert, Henning Wuester, said that there was less than USD10 billion investment in renewables in Africa and that it needed to triple to fully exploit the continent’s potential.

Representatives from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea and Senegal will meet in Ouagadougou from Jun. 26 to 28 at a first ever regional capacity development workshop on financing NDC implementation in the energy sector. One of the expected outcomes of the workshop, organised by GGGI, IRENA and the Green Climate Fund, is that these countries will increase their renewable energy target pledges and develop concrete action plans for prioritising their energy sectors in order to access climate funding.

Senshaw points out that these West African countries, and even those in sub-Saharan Africa where most of the energy source comes from hydropower and biomass, “can easily achieve 100% renewable energy.”

“Increasing their energy target means they are opening for climate finance. International climate finance is really willing to [provide] support when you have more ambitious targets,” he says.

IRENA estimates that Africa’s potential for renewables on the continent is around 310 GW by 2030, however, only 70 GW will be reached based on current NDCs.

While the opportunities for investment in renewables “is quite substantial,” African countries have lacked the capacity to access this, according to Tounkara.

“One reason is the quality of their portfolio of programs and projects. It is very difficult to attract investment if the bankability of the programmes and projects are not demonstrated,” Tounkara says.

Christophe Assicot, green investment specialist at GGGI, points out that existing barriers to investment in renewables in Africa include political, regulatory, technology, credit and capital market risks. “Other critical factors are insufficient or contradictory enabling policies, limited institutional capacity and experience, as well as immature financial systems.”

“Governments need to create an enabling environment for investments, which means abiding by strategies and objectives defined in NDCs, designing policy incentives, strengthening the country’s capacity and knowledge about clean technologies, engaging stakeholders, mobilizing the private sector, and facilitating access to international finance,” Assicot says.

Senshaw adds that private sector involvement will provide sustainability for the implementation of NDCs. “Private sector involvement is engineered to reach the forgotten grassroots people. Mostly access to energy is in the urban areas. Whereas in the rural areas  people are far away from the grid system. So how you reach this grid system is through collaborative works with the private sector.”

Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso have built their solar plants with public-private sector funding, with agreements in place that the energy created will be sent back to their country’s power grid. But, despite having the largest solar plant in West Africa, only about 20 percent of Burkina Faso’s 17 million people have access to electricity.

Toshiaki Nagata, senior programme officer for NDC implementation at IRENA, adds that public finance needs to be utilised in a way that leverages private finance.

“To this end, public finance would need to be used beyond direct financing, i.e., grants and loans, to focus on risk mitigation instruments and structured finance mechanisms, which can help address some of the risks and barriers faced by private investors.”

Mitigation instruments are staring to be used in Africa, with GGGI recently designing instruments for Rwanda and Ethiopia. In addition, Senegal’s Ministry of Finance requested GGGI and the African Development Bank design a financing mechanism for the country. It is called the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund (REEF).

“The REEF is a derisking mechanism that [Senegal] had to have in place so that the local banks are interested in financing renewable energy projects and energy-efficiency projects,” says Tounkara.

Senegal’s REEF will become operational in October, starting with 50 million dollars and reaching its optimum size of 200 million dollars in 24 months. Senegal will become the first country in the region to have an innovative financing mechanism.

“That is the kind of mechanism that we think is going to be needed in countries to make sure that we accelerate the access to climate finance,” Tounkara says, adding that GGGI will provide the technical assistance for capacity building needs of the banks as well as the projects developers and project promoters.

Senshaw adds that GGGI has also been supporting countries with financial modelling and  leveraging and submitting proposals for funding. “So we support in terms of business model analysis, in terms of supporting them in business model development, in terms of how they can leverage finance. If you see the experience of GGGI, last year we leveraged for member countries USD0.5 billion.”

Capacity building has been considered vital for African countries attempting to access investment for renewables, as a major area of concern for financing has been the quality of the projects and the capacity of banks to assess the quality of those projects.

“By filling that gap we actually increase the interest of the investors, particularly of the local banks and the local financing institutions, to get on board and then invest in renewable energy as well as supporting the private sector to have the necessary capacity,” Tounkara says.

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Ukraine Puts Water Strategy High on Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/ukraine-puts-water-strategy-high-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ukraine-puts-water-strategy-high-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/ukraine-puts-water-strategy-high-development-agenda/#respond Thu, 21 Jun 2018 00:01:25 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156328 A campaign to raise awareness of water security in Ukraine could be an inspiration around the world, activists behind it say, after it forced a change in the country’s approach to its water resources. After almost five years of promoting a vision of water security and proactive water management among various stakeholders and the government […]

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A lake in Ukraine, which has a relative scarcity of naturally-occurring water supplies in populated areas. Credit: Vitaliy Motrinets/cc by 4.0

A lake in Ukraine, which has a relative scarcity of naturally-occurring water supplies in populated areas. Credit: Vitaliy Motrinets/cc by 4.0

By Ed Holt
KIEV, Jun 21 2018 (IPS)

A campaign to raise awareness of water security in Ukraine could be an inspiration around the world, activists behind it say, after it forced a change in the country’s approach to its water resources.

After almost five years of promoting a vision of water security and proactive water management among various stakeholders and the government in Kiev, the issue of water security is now a top development priority for the government.“Ageing infrastructure dating back to Soviet times, canals, dams and reservoirs require huge resources – financial, human and technical – and there are new challenges as the climate changes." --Andriy Demydenko

Anna Tsvietkova of local NGO MAMA-86, a partner of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) intergovernmental organisation, and which was involved in the campaign, told IPS this was an example of how expert knowledge combined with awareness-raising could move water, or potentially other topics, to near the top of a country’s development agenda.

“Our work could be an inspiration for groups in other countries. We were active and we gave the best advice. Our government had to accept our proposals [on water security],” she said.

Like many countries, the issue of water security is becoming increasingly important for Ukraine.

Groups like GWP Ukraine have said that the state of water resources and water supply in Ukraine is a serious threat to national security, with its effects exacerbated by economic and political crisis, military conflict and climate change.

The country has a relative scarcity of naturally-occurring water supplies in populated areas and studies have shown that surface and ground water resources are unequally distributed between seasons and across the country.

The inefficient management of available water resources, including excess abstraction and pollution, has led to depletion and contamination of water resources, according to local environmental groups.

Meanwhile, ageing and poorly-maintained infrastructure and outdated water and wastewater treatment and technology have caused further problems, including serious sanitation and related health issues.

But until relatively recently, water security in Ukraine was not viewed by the authorities as a concept on its own and was dealt with as part of wider, overarching environmental protection legislation. Authorities – and the wider public at large – were fixed on the concept of water protection rather than risk-based management.

“One of the main threats to water security is that water management is perceived by the people managing it as management of water infrastructure and extracted water, which leaves all other sources of water unmanaged,” Dr Andriy Demydenko of the Ukrainian Center of Environmental and Water Projects told IPS.

“As a result authorities just control water quality and quantity parameters without having any responsibility to reach water targets,” he explained.

He added: “Ageing infrastructure dating back to Soviet times, canals, dams and reservoirs require huge resources – financial, human and technical – and there are new challenges as the climate changes.

“Also, a lack of a scientific basis for decision making and management, shortages in in knowledge and capacity building leave Ukraine very vulnerable and unprepared for events such as water scarcity, droughts and floods.”

However, through campaigns and national stakeholder dialogues over the last five years, GWP and local partner groups introduced and promoted the new concept of risk–based or proactive water management.

In 2016 GWP Ukraine organized four stakeholder consultations on the strategic issues of water policy entitled “Rethinking of Water Security for Ukraine”.

As a result, GWP Ukraine prepared a publication presenting a proposed set of national water goals, targets of sustainable development, and indicators to assess the progress in achieving goals on the water-energy-food nexus.

And in the last year, multi-stakeholder consultations have taken place to push Ukraine to an integrated water resources management approach.

Indeed, the GWP Ukraine’s work has helped change the Environment Ministry’s policy on water strategy.

Having initially said its water sector development programme was covered under other state programmes and strategic documents for water sector development, after seeing GWP’s proposals for a water strategy the ministry decided to approach the EU Water Initiative+ project to help develop its strategy.

Of GWP Ukraine’s original proposals in its consultation document, the Ukrainian government has already accepted proposals on some targets and indicators for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on ensuring access to water and sanitation for all.

The group continues to work with the government to accept other SDG 6 indicators and include them in the country’s development strategy.

It is hoped a concept paper on water sector reforms will be formulated this summer and then passed to government for approval. A draft of the country’s water strategy is to be presented and discussed at the next National Water Policy Dialogue, which is expected to take place sometime at the end of this year.

But, stresses Tsvietkova, the importance of GWP Ukraine’s work is not confined to Ukraine.

The group’s success in pushing change in Ukraine has led to other groups within the GWP CACENA network – covering Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia – to ask for support in the development of their countries’ water policies as part of national development programmes.

“They have been very interested,” she said.

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Food Sustainability, Migration, Nutrition and Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/#respond Tue, 19 Jun 2018 18:02:14 +0000 Enrique Yeves http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156293 We worry about how we can continue to put food on our tables; and yet one-third of food is never eaten, instead being lost or wasted. We worry about eating properly, and yet in many countries, poor nutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies are increasingly common. This trend is taking place in the Americas, Oceania, Asia, […]

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Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Enrique Yeves
ROME, Jun 19 2018 (IPS)

We worry about how we can continue to put food on our tables; and yet one-third of food is never eaten, instead being lost or wasted.

We worry about eating properly, and yet in many countries, poor nutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies are increasingly common. This trend is taking place in the Americas, Oceania, Asia, Africa and in Europe.

Enrique Yeves

We want to empower women and girls, yet in every sector we still see serious disparities in terms of equal pay for equal wages and getting more women into senior management positions. We worry about the mass movement of people, many of them disenfranchised, and yet fail to stop the exploitation and even death that too often awaits those who try to migrate.

What is to be done? First, we must understand how each of these issues is interlinked and how they can be alleviated using an integrated approach involving agriculture, education, social services, health and infrastructure. If we channel development assistance in an integrated way, rather than towards specific sectors, we are more likely to achieve sustainable changes – these in turn can ease the burden of coordination and enhance our ability to help governments to achieve more effective and long term improvements.

For this to happen, we need the political will of governments to achieve change, coupled with adequate resources.

These issues are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Governments committed to the SDGs in 2015, pledging to end hunger, extreme poverty, and other social, environmental and health evils that have left over 815 million people undernourished, and in many areas barely surviving in squalid and inhumane conditions.

The role of governments is central. Only they can exert the political will to enforce the required changes and to set aside the critically needed resources.

The role of development organizations, including the UN, non-governmental organizations and international and regional financial institutions, is also critical. They exist to support governments determined to achieve the SDGs and in so doing to improve their overall social, economic and political wellbeing.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been working for over 70 years on both the policy front and on the ground, doing so globally, regionally, nationally and at the community level. We have been documenting the state of food insecurity in the world, exploring and emphasizing the all-important role of small producers in achieving food security. Small-scale farmers, fishers and foresters, constituting a vast number of the rural poor, are vulnerable to environmental and market forces often beyond their control.

Yet it is they who, using tried and tested traditional systems enhanced where possible by improved technologies adapted to their needs, hold the keys to a world without hunger. As FAO has documented, family farmers produce more than two-thirds of the world’s food, with smallholders producing more per unit of land.

In the long run, tackling the direct relationship between mass migration and poverty and instability entails addressing basic challenges in the countries that people are leaving, and by providing more integrated assistance to refugees to improve their health and capacity to earn livelihoods in the receiving countries.

An important but frequently underplayed aspect for governments in developing countries is their need for assistance in defining and quantifying their present situation through internationally accepted benchmarks. Reliable statistics are crucial in order to measure progress towards attainment of the SDGs and general progress in development.

FAO delivers a lot of services to its members in this regard. And the effort produces globally relevant information, some of it alarming. Right now, for example, the global number of undernourished people is estimated at 815 million and that figure is rising for the first time in more than a decade. The number of countries reliant on external food assistance is now 39, the highest it’s ever been since FAO started tracking.

Eradicating hunger is a lynchpin for the entire 2030 Agenda, and governments must raise awareness about why achieving the SDGs is critical. This effort will both enable and benefit from women’s empowerment.

Programmes such as food for work, food stamps or a mix of both – especially in situations where conflict or natural disaster have impacted local production – are all part of the toolkit and are demonstrably efficient in fostering women’s power and interests. Increasing access to food is a building block to goals ranging from nutrition to women’s rights and assuring resilient livelihoods for producers.

What is essential is to find synergies – not only to avoid wasteful duplication but to forge the basis for sustainable solutions. Otherwise our worries are in vain.

Enrique Yeves is Director of Communications, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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When a Grass Towers over the Treeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/grass-towers-trees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=grass-towers-trees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/grass-towers-trees/#comments Tue, 12 Jun 2018 11:30:37 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156163 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

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Instead of cutting forests to make charcoal for household energy, these Chinese women use bamboo which will grow back. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

Instead of cutting forests to make charcoal for household energy, these Chinese women use bamboo which will grow back. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI, Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

As governments scramble for corrective options to the worsening land degradation set to cost the global economy a whopping 23 trillion dollars within the next 30 years, a humble grass species, the bamboo, is emerging as the unlikely hero.

“Bamboo being grass, all 1640 species have a very strong root system that binds soil, and are the fastest growing plants making them best suited for restoring unproductive farmland, erosion control and maintaining slope stability,” Hans Friederich, Director-General of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), told IPS from their Beijing headquarters.

Bamboo is a strategic resource that many countries are increasingly using to restore degraded soil and reverse the dangers of desertification.

“Our members pledged to restore 5 million hectares degraded land with bamboo plantation by 2020 for the Bonn Challenge in 2015. Political pledges have already exceeded the commitment and are today close to 6 million hectares,” Friederich said. “Planting on the ground however is much less , because nurseries have to be set up and planting vast areas takes a few years,” he added.

INBAR, an intergovernmental organization, brings together 43 member countries for the promotion of ecosystem benefits and values of bamboo and rattan. Before joining INBAR in 2014, Friederich was regional director for Europe at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Bonn Challenge is the global effort to restore 150 million hectares – an area three times the size of Spain – of deforested and degraded land by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.

Western Allahabad rural farmland under 150 brick kilns in the 1960s. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

Western Allahabad rural farmland under 150 brick kilns in the 1960s.
Photo Courtesy of INBAR

The same farmland today revived by integrated bamboo plantations. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

The same farmland today revived by integrated bamboo plantations.
Photo Courtesy of INBAR

When soil health collapses, food insecurity, forced migration and conflict resurrect themselves

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’s (UNCCD) latest review released in May, to take urgent action now and halt these alarming trends would cost 4.6 trillion dollars, which is less than a quarter of the predicted 23-trillion-dollar loss by 2050.

Globally, 169 countries are affected by land degradation or drought, or both. Already average losses equal 9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) but for some of the worst affected countries, such as the Central African Republic, total losses are estimated at a staggering 40 percent of GDP. Asia and Africa bear the highest per year costs, estimated at 84 billion and 65 billion dollars, respectively.

“Healthy land is the primary asset that supports livelihoods around the globe – from food to jobs and decent incomes. Today, we face a crisis of unseen proportions: 1.5 billion people – mainly in the world’s most impoverished countries – are trapped on degrading agricultural land,” said Juan Carlos Mendoza, who leads the UNCCD Global Mechanism, which helps countries to stabilize land and ecosystem health.

Hans Friederich at a Chinese bamboo plantation. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

Hans Friederich at a Chinese bamboo plantation. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

Indian farmlands ravaged by 150 brick kilns are nurtured back by bamboo plantations

In the 1960s, construction was newly taking off in India. Brick kiln owners came calling at the 100 villages of Kotwa and Rahimabad in western Allahabad, a developing centre in central India’s Uttar Pradesh state. Rice, sugarcane, and bright yellow fields of mustard flowers extended to the horizon on this fertile land. Attracted by incomes doubling, the farmers leased their farmlands to the brick makers. Within a decade, over 150 brick kilns were gouging out the topsoil from around 5,000 hectares to depths from 3 to 10 feet.

When the land was exhausted, the brick makers eventually left. Thousands of farm-dependent families sat around, their livelihoods lost, while others migrated away because nothing would grow on this ravaged land anymore. With the topsoil cover gone, severe dust storms, depleted water tables and loss of all vegetation became the norm.

Starting bamboo plantations on 100 hectares at first in 1996, today local NGO Utthan with the affected community and INBAR have rehabilitated 4,000 hectares in 96 villages. Here bamboo is grown together with moringa, guava and other fruits trees, banana, staple crops, vegetables, medicinal plants and peacocks, oxen and sheep. Annually bamboo stands add 7 inches of leaf humus to the soil and have also helped raise the water table by over 15 metres in 20 years.

Selling bamboo adds 10 percent to the farmers’ income now. But the best benefit has accrued to women – 80 percent of cooking is done with biogas, not charcoal or wood. Much of the waste bamboo goes into biomass gasifiers that run 10 am to 1 pm powering 120 biogas generators at the NGO’s centres to keep refrigerators running, keeping vaccines and critical medicines safe during the regular power shortages.

A family of bamboo artisans sells household items in Satkhira district of Bangladesh. Bamboo provides a sustainable livelihood for the poorest communities in Asia and Africa. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

A family of bamboo artisans sells household items in Satkhira district of Bangladesh. Bamboo provides a sustainable livelihood for the poorest communities in Asia and Africa. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Multi-functional bamboo’s global market is 60 million dollars and community is reaping benefits

Today, bamboo and rattan are already among the world’s most valuable non-timber forest products, with an estimated market value of 60 million dollars. Rural smallholder communities are already benefiting by innovating beyond their traditional usages.

“The more they benefit from this growing market of bamboo and rattan, the more they can become an integral part of conservation efforts,” according to Friederich, an explorer and bamboo enthusiast.

He narrates to IPS how rural Chinese women have carved out economic opportunities, are being innovative and entrepreneurial with bamboo to reap rich incomes. After the devastating 1998 Yangtze floods and 1997 severe drought in the Yellow River basin, the Chinese government began a massive restoration programme afforesting degraded farmland with bamboo which today involves 32 million farming households in 25 provinces.

Like millions of others, a woman in Guizhou province in central China made furniture out of the abounding bamboo available. As she expanded the business, the larger pieces of bamboo waste went into the furnace generating electricity and heating but the bamboo powder heaps grew mountainous. She experimented growing mushrooms on them – high value delicacies restaurants vie to buy from her today.

The bamboo leaves are fodder for her 20,000 free-running plump chickens. A 2017 study shows fiber in the bamboo leaves enlarges the chickens’ digestive tract, enabling them to consume more and increase in body weight by as much as 70 percent more than chicken fed on standard organic diets. The dye in bamboo leaves the chicken eggs a slightly bluish tinge akin to the pricey duck egg. Consumers pay more for her blue chicken eggs. She’s not complaining.

Her yearly earnings have grown to 30,000 million Renminbi or 5 million dollars.

In Ghana again, a young woman manufacturing sturdy bamboo bicycles, employing and training local village girls who have few opportunities, is already exporting her innovation to Netherlands, Germany and the US.

Realizing bamboo’s disaster reconstruction value

“Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and other earthquake-prone regions have changed building regulations to allow bamboo as a structural element. They have seen, after disasters bamboo structures may crack or damage but have not collapsed as often as concrete structures have,” Friederich said.

Nepal is building 6,000 classrooms still in need of repairs post -2015 earthquake, with round earthen walls, and bamboo roofs which allow the building to flex a little bit even when the ground trembles.

Besides housing, furniture, household items, bamboo can be used for a number of other durable products, including flooring, house beams, even water carrying pipes.

An efficient carbon sink

But in a warming world, that bamboo as a very effective carbon sink is not as widely known. Because of their fast growth rates and if regularly harvested allowing it to re-grow and sequestrate all over again, giant woody bamboos (grown in China) can hold 100 – 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare. But bamboo’s carbon saving potential increases to 200 – 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare if it replaces more emissions-intensive materials like cement, plastic or fossil fuels, according to Friederich.

Partnering with International Fund for Agricultural Development from its start, INBAR now has recently entered a strategic intra-Africa project with the UN organization, focusing on knowledge sharing between Ghana, Cameroon, Madagascar and Ethiopia, regions in dire need of re-greening.

The Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress (BARC 2018), starting 25 June in Beijing will see this project kick-started, besides plenary discussions on bamboo and rattan’s innovative, low-carbon applications, and how bamboo has and can further support climate-smart strategies in farming and job creation.

The post When a Grass Towers over the Trees appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

The post When a Grass Towers over the Trees appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Q&A: Greening Colombia’s Energy Mixhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/qa-greening-colombias-energy-mix/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-greening-colombias-energy-mix http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/qa-greening-colombias-energy-mix/#respond Wed, 06 Jun 2018 01:15:11 +0000 Constanza Vieira http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156075 Constanza Vieira interviews JUHERN KIM, GGGI acting representative in Colombia

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Juhern Kim, acting representative of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Colombia, gives a presentation on the intergovernmental organisation’s strategies. Credit: GGGI Colombia

Juhern Kim, acting representative of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Colombia, gives a presentation on the intergovernmental organisation’s strategies. Credit: GGGI Colombia

By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTA, Jun 6 2018 (IPS)

Colombia is a global power in biodiversity and water resources, but at the same time it depends on exports of fossil fuels, coal and oil, to the world. But don’t panic: in the green economy there are also incomes and jobs – says a world expert on the subject, Juhern Kim.

“If Colombia makes intelligent use of its abundant natural resources, its natural capital, it can create new business opportunities linked to bio-economics, sustainable agriculture and forestry, which have the potential to generate income and create green jobs,” Kim, an environmental economist and ecosystem management specialist, told IPS in an interview.

Kim is acting representative in Colombia of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an intergovernmental organisation created in 2012, which promotes sustainable development that is both economically viable and socially inclusive. It works directly in 26 countries, including Colombia.

In June last year, Colombia ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, by which it pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2030, to help fight global warming.

Among other issues, Kim analysed in his interview with IPS how this South American country is moving towards climate change mitigation and adaptation and a low-carbon economy, as committed to in the climate agreement signed in December 2015 in the French capital, at the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The expert, who previously represented the GGGI in Vietnam and worked on issues related to the green economy at the UN Environment, also analysed how Colombia can make its energy mix and its economy greener in general.

IPS: Colombia is the world’s fifth largest producer of coal. How does the GGGI suggest bringing about an end to mining, an activity that runs counter to the climate accords?

JUHERN KIM: Coal production plays an important role in the Colombian economy: it contributes around 1.5 percent of GDP and 18 percent of total exports. Since about 95 percent of the coal produced in Colombia is exported, national coal production is affected by international market trends.

The recent volatile price fluctuation for commodities, and the associated impact on the Colombian economy, clearly shows that the country’s economy needs to be diversified in order to grow more and better.

Furthermore, future global demand for coal will tend to fall, although it will happen progressively and not for all types of coal.

Many countries have started to shut down their coal plants, and have been working on reducing the consumption of other fossil fuels, reinforced by international commitments such as the Paris Agreement, where Colombia made its own commitment as well.

GGGI promotes a sustainable and inclusive economic growth path, which implies the reduction of coal and other fossil fuel use, due to the negative environmental impacts.

That’s why GGGI has been supporting the government of Colombia for the last year and a half through the National Planning Department (DNP) to formulate a long-term green growth policy, that proposes actions related to the economic activity of coal in three ways:

1. Incorporation of renewable energy in the energy mix. GGGI advocates for countries to achieve energy transitions towards cleaner technologies. In Colombia, the production of electricity from coal amounts to 8 percent of the total.

2. Exploring new economic growth drivers to diversify the economy currently depending on the mining-energy sector (oil and coal exports). For instance, Colombia has abundant resources associated with natural capital, such as biodiversity – if Colombia utilizes these resources wisely, they can create new business opportunities related to bio-economy, sustainable agriculture, forest economy, which have the potential to generate income and create jobs (green jobs).

3. Curbing the environmental impacts of coal mining, especially by informal miners. Coal mining has informality rates close to 40 percent, while many productive units do not have an environmental license and have exploitation techniques that are harmful to the environment. It is intended to strengthen the mining formalization and provide technical assistance to reduce pollution.

IPS: How can the coastal population be protected from the intensification of tropical storms and the advance of coastal erosion?

JK: Colombia is being highly threatened by tropical storms and coastal erosion in two coastal areas that represent nearly 1,700 km in the Caribbean and 1,300 km in the Pacific.

Colombia has coasts on two oceans, and the frequency and intensity of such extreme events have been increasing, which, added to the deficient planning of urban development, increases the vulnerability and risk of people, infrastructure, and ecosystems.

The National Adaptation Plan recognises the country’s vulnerability to this type of events.

The country is now moving in the right direction led by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS) by including climate change variables within the planning and zoning of the territories, which will be articulated with adequate financing and technology transfer to implement mitigation measures for this type of risks.

Of particular importance is the ecosystems-based adaptation measure.

In this case, protecting and increasing the mangroves on the coastal lines will reduce coastal erosion, and at the same time allow the sustainable use of this type of ecosystem for the benefit of local people’s livelihood.

In other cases, it will be necessary to implement traditional infrastructure measures that avoid short-term calamities. Increasing local capacities, public awareness, adequate planning and the implementation of risk mitigation measures are key to achieving this objective.

IPS: A key question is the energy transition. How can clean energy be promoted in Colombia? Is community self-management better, or are large regional concessions, criticised as monopolies, preferable?

JK: Colombia has a high proportion of clean energy from hydroelectric generation (70 percent). However, this energy depends on the hydrological cycle which makes it vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

In that sense, it will be beneficial for Colombia to diversify its energy mix with other sources of clean energy, with some policy changes and regulations in the wholesale energy market.

Colombia currently lags behind in terms of the production of non-conventional renewable energy resources, compared to neighboring Latin American countries like Chile. However, Colombia has a strong potential for generation of solar, wind and biomass energy, and those can also serve as alternative off-grid solutions.

We believe that renewable energy projects should be carried out by entities that have the right technical and financial strengths required to develop, operate and maintain this type of projects.

IPS: What does the GGGI think of fracking?

JK: Fracking, like any other exploitation technique, has associated risks in its implementation and management, as it is known for generating many environmental impacts, such as potential contamination of ground and surface aquifers, methane emissions, air pollution, etc. In addition, it also has a potential for increasing oil spills, which can harm soil and surrounding vegetation.

In general, as an institute dedicated to green growth, we promote the development of alternative renewable energy sources to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. As mentioned above, it would be expected that the government make some efforts to diversify their economy to generate new sources of economic development while taking care of the environment and social impact.

IPS: According to environmental analysts, when the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) withdrew from the territories it controlled, it became evident that the guerrillas had played a role as forest rangers in those areas, because thousands of hectares have been razed since then. What is your take on the situation and what do you think can be done?

JK: Although the presence of guerrillas in many forested zones of the country prevented the entry of agricultural expansion and exploration for natural resources in some sense, it is probably not that simple to say that they played a role as forest rangers, because they also supported the production of illicit crops that generated deforestation.

In brief, understanding the reasons for the increase in deforestation in the country is not simple math at all. And finding solutions is not simple as well.

It seems that the post-conflict process has been generating a change in the territorial dynamics, in some cases through an absence of control arguably provided by guerrillas in the past, in other cases through a high-level of speculation associated with unproductive land use, with false hope embedded for some people wanting to be awarded land titles if they put any type of activities in the land, and sell their land at a better price in the future.

The playing field must be levelled. The abovementioned situation prevents rural producers and entrepreneurs from accessing land with adequate support for productive activities and conservation incentives, such as credits (i.e. financial instruments), access to markets, financial incentives for conservation (e.g. payment for ecosystem services), and so on.

In fact, the whole landscape should be properly planned in an integrated way – i.e. sustainable landscapes approach, which promotes economic gains but minimising environmental impact and increasing social returns.

For instance, productive zones for local economic development should be set up, but it is not wise to set them in the biological corridor. Also, financial instruments designed to promote sustainable agriculture methods, such as agroforestry, can be a driver for making a sustainable transition.

Also, Colombia has defined an Integrated Strategy for the Control of Deforestation and Forest Management, which sets clear guidelines on how to address this issue. However, having this strategy is not enough if there is no tight alliance among Colombian society as a whole.

In addition, the public authorities have an important role to play to implement the vision for conservation of forests (i.e. command and control) – e.g. functions of the prosecutor offices, judges and many other actors, committed to reduce illegality.

The post Q&A: Greening Colombia’s Energy Mix appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Constanza Vieira interviews JUHERN KIM, GGGI acting representative in Colombia

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South African Lawsuit Could Bring Sweeping Changes to Land and Mining Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/south-african-lawsuit-bring-sweeping-changes-land-mining-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-african-lawsuit-bring-sweeping-changes-land-mining-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/south-african-lawsuit-bring-sweeping-changes-land-mining-rights/#respond Tue, 05 Jun 2018 11:41:53 +0000 Mark Olalde http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156057 South Africans await judgement to be handed down in a court case that could set a sweeping precedent by empowering communities on communal land with the right to reject new mining projects. Calling the case a referendum on “the right to say no,” residents of several rural villages along the country’s eastern coast are asking […]

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Amadiba residents gather to oppose a mine that has the support of a local chief and that has gained approval from the minerals department. Photo courtesy of Nonhle Mbuthuma

Residents of the Eastern Cape's Amadiba coastal area gather in September 2015. Many fear mining would threaten their way of life by destroying grazing land and creating rifts in the community. Courtesy: Nonhle Mbuthuma

By Mark Olalde
PRETORIA, Jun 5 2018 (IPS)

South Africans await judgement to be handed down in a court case that could set a sweeping precedent by empowering communities on communal land with the right to reject new mining projects.

Calling the case a referendum on “the right to say no,” residents of several rural villages along the country’s eastern coast are asking the court to reinterpret current minerals extraction legislation to compel mining companies to gain explicit community consent prior to breaking ground on new operations.

The court case, for which arguments were heard in late April in Pretoria, stems from a dispute over a proposed titanium mine that has raged for more than a decade in the country’s rural Eastern Cape province in an area known as the “Wild Coast.” The project has pitted Australian mining company Mineral Commodities Ltd against a group of five local villages, collectively known as Amadiba. Locals consistently turned back the company’s attempts to mine, but bouts of violence have left several people dead.

“Their way of life is intrinsically linked to the land. Customary communities tend to suffer disproportionately from the impacts of mining,” the plaintiffs argued in their submission to the court, noting environmental degradation, displacement and loss of agricultural land. “Without free, prior and informed consent, they are at real risk of losing not only rights in their land, but their very way of being.”

Nonhle Mbuthuma is the secretary and acting leader of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, which represents many residents of the villages. She took over the group’s mantle of leadership when the committee’s chairperson, Sikhosiphi ‘Bazooka’ Radebe, was gunned down in front of his home in March 2016. Radebe was widely thought to have been murdered for his activism against the mine, and Mbuthuma’s name is believed to be written on a hit list alongside his.

“The land is our identity. When we lose that land, we lose who we are. And when you lose who you are, that’s no different than just someone killing you,” Mbuthuma said.

Nonhle Mbuthuma of the Amadiba Crisis Committee is believed to be on a hit list due to her opposition to a proposed titanium mining project on South Africa’s east coast. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

Nonhle Mbuthuma of the Amadiba Crisis Committee is believed to be on a hit list due to her opposition to a proposed titanium mining project on South Africa’s east coast. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

The communities and civil society organizations that have joined the plaintiffs asked that if the court does not side with their argument for consent, that it at least grants them the ability to negotiate terms such as royalties prior to mining. If the court declines that too, then the plaintiffs asked that the current legislation be found unconstitutional.

In the court filings, a subsidiary of Mineral Commodities argued that the plaintiffs misinterpreted the law well beyond its intended purpose in an effort to halt the mine, which already earned permits. The company noted that “if granted, [the plaintiffs’ application] will affect land and mining rights all over the country.”

“We hope that if the judge rules in favor of us, it will help all African communities, not only Xolobeni, because the problem of mining pushing people off their land is all over Africa,” Mbuthuma said, referencing one of the five villages in Amadiba that has become synonymous with the conflict.

Formerly under the control of the oppressive apartheid system, South Africa democratically elected a new government in 1994, which worked to return the country’s mineral wealth to its citizens while also fitting into international, capitalist markets. Under current legislation, mineral rights were claimed for the state in an attempt to foster economic development.

However, as the government handed out mining licenses, conflicts arose between mining companies and rural communities living on communal land. About 13 percent of the country’s land area remains held communally in the vestiges of apartheid-era “homelands” that were created as sham independent states to remove black South Africans from urban areas. An estimated 18 million South Africans live on these lands.

Traditional leaders such as chiefs, kings and queens and councils preside over communal land, but their mandate comes from the people, according to customary law. In this set of laws, these leaders cannot make decisions for their communities without the consent of the people.

In many cases, though, traditional leaders strike deals with mining companies that open up communal land to mining, often without community-level consent. This happened in Amadiba, where one chief supported the proposed mine and was made a director of a company linked to the project. In return, the chief said in a signed statement provided to the South African Police Service, he was promised that challenges to his chieftaincy would disappear and that he would earn profits from the mine.

Through a company spokesperson, Mineral Commodities CEO Mark Caruso declined to comment for this story.

Johan Lorenzen is an associate at Richard Spoor Inc. Attorneys, which is part of the community’s legal team. He said that such conflicts are common in rural areas that are struggling to realize the full benefits of a democratic South Africa.

“The majority of rural South Africans live on communal land such as the Amadiba community. Particularly as the world’s largest platinum producer, South Africa has seen a wave of mining right applications over customary land, and, without clarity over this question of whether there’s the right to say no, it has had sweeping effects on tens-of-thousands of people in rural South Africa,” Lorenzen said. He estimates a judgement will be delivered in several months.

The minister of the Department of Mineral Resources announced an 18-month moratorium that temporarily halted both the project as well as any new permit applications for the area. That is set to expire later this year, and it remains unclear what will happen when it does.

As part of the moratorium, the department committed to commission “independent social specialist/s to…investigate the deeply rooted cause of the problems and document the causes and possible solutions” of conflict surrounding the mine.

In a statement to IPS, the department admitted to eschewing that obligation. “There was no independent investigation conducted, due to the well-publicised challenges between the parties in the area,” the statement said, also noting that the department was yet to decide whether to renew the moratorium.

As an alternative way of elevating these residents’ voices, British photographer Thom Pierce recently shot a series of portraits of Xolobeni residents and made the frames into postcards that he plans to mail to the minister of the Department of Mineral Resources. On the postcards, community members described the importance of holding the final say over their own land.

Themba Yalo invoked the memory of the Pondoland Revolt, a 1960s uprising where residents of Amadiba and surrounding communities took up arms against the apartheid government and its supporters. “My grandparents fought for this land, for me to live freely. I will never agree to a mine coming here and destroying the land and the graves of my family,” he wrote.

Others, including Mamthithala Yalo, argued for agriculture instead of mining: “I have pigs, cows and goats that I farm on this land. I also grow all of the food that I need. I will never allow the mining to come and change the way I live. This land is not for sale.”

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Why Milk, Meat & Eggs Can Make a Big Difference to World’s Most Nutritionally Vulnerable Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/milk-meat-eggs-can-make-big-difference-worlds-nutritionally-vulnerable-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=milk-meat-eggs-can-make-big-difference-worlds-nutritionally-vulnerable-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/milk-meat-eggs-can-make-big-difference-worlds-nutritionally-vulnerable-people/#respond Fri, 01 Jun 2018 10:05:59 +0000 Silvia Alonso http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156021 Silvia Alonso is a scientist-epidemiologist at the International Livestock Research Institute

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By Silvia Alonso
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Jun 1 2018 (IPS)

As the world becomes increasingly aware of the growing demands being made of our planet, more and more of us are making lifestyle choices to reduce our negative environmental impact and carbon footprint.

Understandably, this has led to calls for changes to our diets, including reducing the amount of livestock-derived foods, such as meat, milk and eggs, we consume.

However, a new, extensive review of research published today (JUNE1) has found that these foods can make an important difference to nutritional well-being in the first 1,000 days of life, with life-long benefits, particularly in vulnerable communities in low-income countries.

The report, by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Chatham House Centre on Global Health Security, highlights the unmet potential for food from livestock origin to contribute to better health and nutrition when included in the diets of pregnant and breast feeding women and their infants in resource-scarce settings.

Despite progress to tackle poor nutrition in children’s early years, undernutrition remains high, with one in four children under five in the world reported to be stunted in 2014, according to UNICEF. Deficiencies in key micronutrients, such as iron, vitamin A, iodine and zinc, are also common among children and pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries.

The research demonstrates that modest consumption of livestock-derived food in the first 1,000 days of life, particularly where other good sources of micronutrients and vitamins are scarce, is an important option to improve a child’s prospects for growth, cognition and development.

This is particularly relevant in countries in Africa and South Asia where undernutrition is highest and where consumption of livestock-derived products is commonly reported to be very low among poor families.

Livestock-derived foods are among the richest and most efficient sources of micronutrients, macronutrients and fatty acids needed by humans. For example, although spinach has a lot of iron, a woman would have to eat eight times more spinach than cow’s liver to get the same levels, because it is presented in liver in a more ready-to-use chemical form.

Yet, livestock-derived foods represented just 20 per cent of the total protein supply across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa in 2013. In North America and Europe, as much as 60 per cent of the protein supply came from meat, milk and eggs.

Based on our findings, global efforts to reduce the consumption of meat, milk and eggs to try to address environmental concerns should not be applied to pregnant and breastfeeding women and babies under the age of two (within the first 1,000 days of life), especially in regions where other sources of protein and micronutrients are not readily available and where diets lack diversity.

What this means is that we must ensure that movements in the Global North towards plant-based diets in the name of environmental sustainability do not lose sight of the nutritional needs of the most vulnerable groups of the next generation, in particular where poverty in the Global South gives people fewer food choices.

The report also shows that the total amount of livestock-derived food required to meet the nutritional needs of all infants in low-income countries throughout their first 1,000 days is low compared to the levels of current total global consumption of these foods.

A more equitable distribution of these foods is therefore needed and should be encouraged for these vulnerable populations, even if measures are taken to slow livestock production in industrialized countries, where many people are putting their health at risk from overconsuming meat and other energy dense foods.

Among our report’s recommendations is a call to increase the availability and affordability of safe livestock-derived foods in low- and middle-income countries when social and cultural norms permit, as well as to better align nutrition, health, livestock and sustainability policies at national and international levels.

Ultimately, the health and environmental concerns of producing and overconsuming livestock-derived foods, particularly in high-income countries are legitimate, but these should not be a reason to limit nutritional choices for the undernourished in poorer countries.

It would be irresponsible, and unethical, to fail to better utilise existing livestock resources to improve the diets of undernourished children and new mothers.

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Excerpt:

Silvia Alonso is a scientist-epidemiologist at the International Livestock Research Institute

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Harnessing the Blue Economy Must Consider Social Inclusion and Responsible Stewardshiphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/harnessing-blue-economy-must-consider-social-inclusion-responsible-stewardship/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=harnessing-blue-economy-must-consider-social-inclusion-responsible-stewardship http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/harnessing-blue-economy-must-consider-social-inclusion-responsible-stewardship/#comments Tue, 29 May 2018 15:47:21 +0000 Ambassador Macharia Kamau and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155970 Amb. Macharia Kamau is the Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya.
Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya.

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Harnessing the Blue Economy Must Consider Social Inclusion and Responsible Stewardship

Cranes used to offload containers from cargo ships at the Port of Mombasa. Kenya signed anagreement with the Government of Japan for the construction of extra berths at the port. Credit: KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By Ambassador Macharia Kamau and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 29 2018 (IPS)

In April 2018, Commonwealth leaders met in a retreat at a royal residence in the English county of Berkshire and agreed on strategies to deepen trade in their 53-member organisation, improve security, tackle climate change, and work together for the betterment of the lives of the people of the Commonwealth.

During the Commonwealth Summit, Kenya received support for its plan to host a High Level Sustainable Blue Economy Conference scheduled to take place from 26-28th November 2018 in Nairobi. Under the theme Blue Economy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the conference presents an opportune moment for advancing global conversation on both the productive and sustainable side of the blue economy.The conference will lay the case for a sustainable exploitation of the oceans, seas, rivers and lakes for the economic empowerment of all communities.

Canada stepped forward as a co-host during bilateral talks between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Lancaster House, London, on the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting. “Our meeting gives us an opportunity to speak about the great relationship between Kenya and Canada. Canada is pleased with the excellent conference on the blue economy you are hosting and is ready to partner with you,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Kenya welcomes other countries to join this important initiative as co-hosts. Kenya also welcomes partnerships from governments, academia, private sector, international organizations, political and thought leaders from around the world to share ideas, experience and knowledge on how countries can implement Blue Economy action plans in their countries.

Africa’s economies have continued to post remarkable growth rates, largely driven by the richness of its land-based natural resources. Yet even though 38 of the continent’s 54 states are coastal and 90% of its trade is sea-borne, Africa’s blue potential remains largely untapped. The African Great Lakes constitute the largest proportion of surface freshwater in the world and it is easy to see why the African Union refers to the Blue Economy as the “New Frontier of African Renaissance”.

Ambassador Macharia Kamau

The potential of the blue economy in Africa is largely unexploited due to uneven focus on land as the most important factor of production. While Africa is endowed with large water bodies, the communities living in close proximity to such lakes, seas and oceans in the continent are among the poorest in the region. The realization of the limitations presented by land as a factor of production in the continent, especially in view of climate change, has necessitated governments and other stakeholders to focus on the immense potential for growth presented by the water resources.

A good illustration of Africa’s maritime resources potential is the island nation of Mauritius, one of the smallest countries in the world, which has territorial waters the size of South Africa but has one of the strongest blue economies in Africa, ranking 3rd in per capita income in 2015.

Ironically, the narrative on the continent’s maritime space has for long veered towards the bad news on illegal harvesting, degradation, depletion and maritime insecurity. This narrative is changing gradually, with recent initiatives indicating that countries are looking at full exploitation and management of Africa’s Blue Economy as a potential source of wealth for the continent’s growing population. With forecasts placing the value of maritime-related activities at 2.5 trillion euros per year by 2020, the continent’s hidden treasure could catapult its fortunes.

Kenya is one of several African countries that are formulating strategies to mainstream the Blue Economy in national development plans. Broadly the sub-sectors of the blue economy in Kenya include fisheries & aquaculture, maritime transport & logistics services, extractive industries which include offshore mining of gas & oil, titanium, rare earth (niobium), and culture, tourism and leisure & lifestyle. In the past the country has largely focused on fisheries both for domestic and export markets – a sector that accounts for only about 0.5 per cent of GDP – yet Kenya has a maritime territory of 230,000 square kilometres and 200 nautical miles offshore.

Siddharth Chatterjee

The groundwork for regulatory and policy changes has started, with the Fisheries Management and Development Act 2016 and establishment of the Blue Economy Implementation Committee indicating the government’s intention to utilize its marine resources for economic growth while conserving the same for future generations. The government ban on single use plastic bags is another demonstration of commitment to ensuring plastic waste does not continue to threaten the environment, including marine life. There has also been a move to protect the coral reef, home to one of the world’s most diverse marine eco-systems.

As Africa enjoins itself to the a paradigm shift to the blue economy, and looks for pathways towards being at the centre of global trade based on the Blue Economy, rather than just the supplier of unprocessed raw materials, among the greatest hurdles will be responsible management, so that the wealth generation is inclusive and ecologically sound.

To achieve this, countries must importantly work on current conflicts that are driven by lack of demarcation of maritime and aquatic boundaries.This has been a constant source of tensions between neighbouring countries, not only threating any long-term investment considerations, but also leading to irresponsible use of resources.

With the potential gains from the Blue Economy, states have no option but to fast-track resolution of disputes and strengthen their maritime and riparian cooperation mechanisms. This will provide grounds for working on interstate economies of scale and develop strategies for bridging technical and infrastructure gaps among States.

In line with SDG 14, development of this sector must also promote social inclusion while ensuring environmental sustainability. In this respect, the continent owes special consideration to people living along the shores of oceans, lakes and rivers, essentially youth and women. The question of how this“new frontier” can address poverty reduction and hunger when leaving no one behind must be a central consideration.

Sadly,Global citizens have already demonstrated considerable recklessness in managing land-based resources. The relatively untouched frontier of Blue Economy must be handled with the highest environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

Kenya and Canada are committed to this and the United Nations family is fully in support of this important initiative which could leapfrog Kenya’s and indeed the world’s economic growth.

We therefore invite the world to Nairobi on 26th to 28th November 2018, to participate in a global conversation and showcase technology and innovation on the most appropriate strategies for productive, sustainable and inclusive use ofthe numerous resources in the seas, oceans, rivers and lakes.

The post Harnessing the Blue Economy Must Consider Social Inclusion and Responsible Stewardship appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Amb. Macharia Kamau is the Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya.
Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya.

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When Two Becomes One: Blending Public and Private Climate Financehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/two-becomes-one-blending-public-private-climate-finance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=two-becomes-one-blending-public-private-climate-finance http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/two-becomes-one-blending-public-private-climate-finance/#comments Wed, 23 May 2018 05:27:21 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155888 With the landmark Paris Agreement now almost two years old, funding for climate-related activities continues to be a challenge. However, efforts have been underway to bring two seemingly very different sectors together to address climate change. While developed countries have committed to channeling 100 billion dollars to developing countries by 2020, trillions may be needed […]

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The Erie Shores wind farm in Ontario, Canada. Credit: Denise Morazé/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 23 2018 (IPS)

With the landmark Paris Agreement now almost two years old, funding for climate-related activities continues to be a challenge. However, efforts have been underway to bring two seemingly very different sectors together to address climate change.

While developed countries have committed to channeling 100 billion dollars to developing countries by 2020, trillions may be needed in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

“Trying to address climate change at current financing levels is like walking into a Category 5 hurricane protected by only an umbrella,” said head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Patricia Espinosa during a conference.

“Right now, we are talking in millions and billions of dollars when we should be speaking in trillions,” she continued.

Achieving the ambitious climate goals set out by the international community will require major financial investments by both the public and private sectors in order to fill funding gaps.

It also requires coming up with ways for the two sectors to work together.

“International organizations such as the Global Green Institute (GGGI) and development banks are trying and testing different structures, different methods of financing, different blends of public and private financing all the time. And occasionally, things work,” GGGI’s Principal Climate Finance Specialist Fenella Aouane told IPS.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF), set up by UNFCC, was given an important role to serve the Paris Agreement and has since used public investment to mobilize private finance towards low-emission, climate-resilient development.

In March, the GCF approved concessional funding to 23 projects in developing countries valued together at 1 billion dollars.

“This large volume of projects for both mitigation and adaptation – and the additional USD 60 million for readiness support – shows that GCF is ready to shift gear in supporting developing countries to achieve their climate goals…. The projects adopted here will make a real impact in the face of climate challenges,” said GCF Co-Chair Paul Oquist.

Aouane echoed similar sentiments about GCF’s efforts to IPS, stating: “They are testing the waters but that was a very good move by the GCF to say if we’re going to get the private sector, we have got to start dealing with them.”

And waving a magic wand won’t get the private sector, whose sole purpose is to make profits, to funnel money into climate mitigation and adaptation.

“[We need] to make projects more attractive for private sector investment. Reduce the costs, reduce the risks, and do a few using that concessional funding to show that they worked,” Aouane said.

Already, successes can be seen in renewable energy development.

With the help of concessional finance and continued political will, there has been a boom in renewable energy development across the world, opening the door to more players.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the private sector paved the way in renewable energy investment in 2016, providing 92 percent of funding compared to 8 percent from the public sector.

This has helped rapidly reduce the cost of renewable energy, which is set to be cheaper than fossil fuels by 2020.

In fact, solar and wind energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels in many parts of the world.

The forestry sector, on the other hand, is finding it more difficult to attract investments, Aouane told IPS.

“Forestry is a struggle in the sense of what is return, where do you make your money in a project?” she said.

But there is an ongoing initiative by the aviation industry that could help protect forests, Aouane noted.

In an effort to offset its carbon emissions, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has looked to buy credits from projects that reduce emissions such as forestry.

This could not only help level out their emissions, but also help nations protect their forests from deforestation and ensure biodiversity.

“If they do this, then there will be a possible clear return for investors in forestry because they will be able to purchase the forest and then sell the emission reduction assets to an airline who will pay for it. If the price is sufficient, then it’s attractive enough for the private sector,” Aouane said.

The idea has been controversial, however, with environmental groups noting that the move is not enough to substantially offset or reduce emissions.

The environmental group Fern also found that the Virgin Atlantic airline’s carbon offsetting projects in Cambodia have actually led to local residents being “exploited and kicked off their land,” while another project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by Austrian Airlines and the San Diego Airport has resulted in increased deforestation.

Other challenges arise when bringing together two very different sectors with different goals, Aouane said.

“Using some World Bank finance and some GCF finance is relatively simple because they are both heading in the same direction culturally. But when the private sector gets involved, there can often be an issue with trying to get mindsets to work together,” she told IPS.

“You can imagine that the mindsets are very different about how you put a deal together and how you actually get the motives right that the project is right for everybody,” Aouane continued.

The GCF provides a model for bringing the two sectors together, and its new projects could help the private sector become even more involved. But it will take time, Aouane said.

“There is work happening, but I think quite often people forget how long it takes for things to change…but it will get done,” Aouane said.

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Agricultural Trade Liberalization Undermined Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 10:17:58 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155846 Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.’ For many, the answer to poverty and hunger is to accelerate […]

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Agricultural Trade Liberalization Undermined Food Security - Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR AND SYDNEY, May 21 2018 (IPS)

Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.’

For many, the answer to poverty and hunger is to accelerate economic growth, presuming that a rising tide will lift all boats, no matter how fragile or leaky. Most believe that market liberalization, property rights, and perhaps some minimal government infrastructure provision is all that is needed.

Tackling hunger is not only about boosting food production, but also about enhancing capabilities (including real incomes) so that people can always access sufficient food. As most developing countries have modest budgetary resources, they usually cannot afford the massive agricultural subsidies common to OECD economies. Not surprisingly then, many developing countries ‘protect’ their own agricultural development and food security

The government’s role should be restricted to strengthening the rule of law and ensuring open trade and investment policies. In such a business-friendly environment, the private sector will thrive. Accordingly, pro-active government interventions or agricultural development policy would be a mistake, preventing markets from functioning properly, it is claimed.

The possibility of market failure is denied by this view. Social disruption, due to the dispossession of smallholders, or livelihoods being undermined in other ways, simply cannot happen.

 

Flawed recipes

This approach was imposed on Africa and Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s through structural adjustment programmes of the Bretton Woods institutions (BWIs), contributing to their ‘lost decades’. In Africa, the World Bank’s influential Berg Report claimed that Africa’s supposed comparative advantage lay in agriculture, and its potential would be best realized by leaving things to the market.

If only the state would stop ‘squeezing’ agriculture through marketing boards and other price distortions, agricultural producers would achieve export-led growth spontaneously. Almost four decades later, Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential.

Examining the causes of this dismal outcome, a FAO report concluded that “arguments in support of further liberalization have tended to be based on analytical studies which either fail to recognize, or are unable to incorporate insights from the agricultural development literature”.

In fact, agricultural producers in many developing countries face widespread market failures, reducing their surpluses needed to invest in higher value activities. The FAO report also noted that “diversification into higher value added activities in cases of successful agriculture-led growth…require significant government intervention at early stages of development to alleviate the pervasive nature of market failures”.

 

Avoidable Haitian tragedy

In the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, former US President Bill Clinton apologized for destroying its rice production by forcing the island republic to import subsidized American rice, exacerbating greater poverty and food insecurity in Haiti.

For nearly two centuries after independence in 1804, Haiti was self-sufficient in rice until the early 1980s. When President Jean-Claude Duvalier turned to the BWIs in the 1970s, US companies quickly pushed for agricultural trade liberalization, upending earlier food security concerns.

US companies’ influence increased after the 1986 coup d’état brought General Henri Namphy to power. When the elected ‘populist’ Aristide Government met with farmers’ associations and unions to find ways to save Haitian rice production, the International Monetary Fund opposed such policy interventions.

Thus, by the 1990s, the tariff on imported rice was cut by half. Food aid from the late 1980s to the early 1990s further drove food prices down, wreaking havoc on Haitian rice production, as more costly, unsubsidized domestic rice could not compete against cheaper US rice imports.

From being self-sufficient in rice, sugar, poultry and pork, impoverished Haiti became the world’s fourth-largest importer of US rice and the largest Caribbean importer of US produced food. Thus, by 2010, it was importing 80% of rice consumed in Haiti, and 51% of its total food needs, compared to 19% in the 1970s.

 

Agricultural subsidies

While developing countries have been urged to dismantle food security and agricultural support policies, the developed world increased subsidies for its own agriculture, including food production. For example, the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) supported its own farmers and food production for over half a century.

This has been crucial for ensuring food security and safety in Europe after the Second World War. For Phil Hogan, the EU’s Agriculture & Rural Development Commissioner, “The CAP is at the root of a vibrant agri-food sector, which provides for 44 million jobs in the EU. We should use this potential more”.

Despite less support in some OECD countries, farmers still receive prices about 10% above international market levels on average. An OECD policy brief observed, “the benefits from agriculture for developing countries could be increased substantially if many OECD member countries reformed their agricultural policies. Currently, agriculture is the area on which OECD countries are creating most trade distortions, by subsidising production and exports and by imposing tariffs and nontariff barriers on trade”.

 

Double standards

If rich countries can have agricultural policies, developing countries should also be allowed to adopt appropriate policies to support agriculture, to address not only hunger and malnutrition, but also other challenges including poverty, water and energy use, climate change, as well as unsustainable production and consumption.

After all, tackling hunger is not only about boosting food production, but also about enhancing capabilities (including real incomes) so that people can always access sufficient food.

As most developing countries have modest budgetary resources, they usually cannot afford the massive agricultural subsidies common to OECD economies. Not surprisingly then, many developing countries ‘protect’ their own agricultural development and food security.

Hence, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to agricultural development, requiring the same rules to apply to all, with no regard for different circumstances, would be grossly unfair. Worse, it would also worsen the food insecurity, poverty and underdevelopment experienced by most African and other developing countries.


Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development, Food and Agriculture Organization, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.
Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University (Australia), held senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok.

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Shipping and Industry Threaten Famed Home of the Bengal Tigerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 11:23:43 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155835 Toxic chemical pollution in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, is threatening thousands of marine and forest species and has environmentalists deeply concerned about the future of this World Heritage Site. Repeated mishaps have already dumped toxic materials like sulfur, hydrocarbons, chorine, magnesium, potassium, arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, […]

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A sunken ship after it was salvaged in the Sundarbans last year. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A sunken ship after it was salvaged in the Sundarbans last year. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Bangladesh, May 19 2018 (IPS)

Toxic chemical pollution in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, is threatening thousands of marine and forest species and has environmentalists deeply concerned about the future of this World Heritage Site.

Repeated mishaps have already dumped toxic materials like sulfur, hydrocarbons, chorine, magnesium, potassium, arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, chromium, selenium, radium and many more into the waters. They’re killing plankton – a microscopic organism critical for the survival of marine life inside the wild forest."Obviously, such cargo accidents involving shipment of toxic heavy metals inside the Sundarbans would have irreversible impacts on this unique and compact ecosystem." --Sharif Jamil

Scientific studies warn the sudden drastic fall in the plankton population may affect the entire food chain in the Sundarbans in the near future, starving the life in the rivers and in the forest.

The latest incident involved the sinking of a coal-loaded cargo ship on April 14 deep inside the forest, popularly known as the home of the endangered Royal Bengal Tigers, once again outraging environmentalists.

Despite strong opposition by leading environmental organizations vowing to protect the biodiversity in the Sundarbans, which measure about 10,000 square kilometers of forest facing the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh in South Asia, policy makers have largely ignored conservation laws that prioritise protecting the wildlife in the forest.

Critics say influential businessmen backed by politicians are more interested in building industries on cheap land around the forest that lie close to the sea for effortless import of the substances causing the environmental damage.

Divers from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) have traced the latest sunken vessel lying some 30 feet deep underwater, but they have not been able to salvage the ship.

It is the third to have capsized in less than two years in the ecologically sensitive region, some of which remains untouched by human habitation.

The deadliest accident occurred on Dec. 9, 2014. Amid low visibility, an oil tanker collided with a cargo vessel, spilling over 350,000 liters of crude oil into the Shela River, one of the many tributaries that crisscross the forest – home to rare wildlife species like the Bengal Tiger and Irrawaddy dolphin.

Then, in May 2017, a cargo ship carrying about 500 metric tons of fertilizer sank in the Bhola River in the Sundarbans. In October the same year, a coal-laden vessel carrying an almost equal weight of coal sunk into the meandering shallow Pashur River.

Each time toxic materials pollute the rivers, the government comes up with a consoling statement claiming that the coal has ‘safe’ levels of sulfur and mercury which are the main concern of the environmentalists.

Outraged by official inaction, many leading conservationists expressed their grievances at this “green-washing.”

Sharif Jamil, Joint Secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon or BAPA, told IPS, “I feel ashamed to know that such a scientifically untrue and dishonest statement of one cargo owner (safe level of sulfur and mercury) was endorsed by our government in their reports and acts which significantly damages the credibility of the government and questions the competency of the concerned authorities.”

“Obviously, such cargo accidents involving shipment of toxic heavy metals inside the Sundarbans would have irreversible impacts on this unique and compact ecosystem,” he said.

Jamil criticized the state agency responsible for protecting the environment, saying, “The department of environment or DoE has responsibility to monitor and control the pollution by ensuring punishment to the polluters. We have not witnessed any action from DoE so far, in this case particularly.”

While coal may not be as environmentally destructive as crude oil spill, the commercial shipping path across the Sundarbans has a long track record of disasters.

Professor Abdullah Harun, who teaches environmental science at the University of Khulna, told IPS, “The cargo ship disasters are proving to be catastrophic and destructive for the wildlife in the Sundarbans. We have already performed a series of studies titled ‘Impact of Oil Spillage on the Environment of Sundarbans’.

“Laboratory tests showed startling results as the toxic levels in many dead species and water samples were found way beyond our imagination. The most alarming is the loss of phytoplankton and zooplankton diversity and populations. Both these are known to play vital role in the food chain of the aquatic environment.”

Professor Harun fears that the embryos of oil-coated Sundari seeds, decomposed as a result of the spillage across 350 square km of land, will not be germinating. Sundari trees make up the mangrove forest and it has specialised roots which emerge above ground and help in gaseous exchange.

He said, “A primary producer of the aquatic ecosystems, source of food and nutrient of the many aquatic animals, has been affected by the oil spill in 2014. The aquatic population will be decreased and long-term impacts on aquatic lives like loss of breeding capacity, habitat loss, injury of respiratory organs, hearts and skins will occur.”

He said, “Our team of scientists tested for the fish larvae population. Before the 2014 disaster we found about 6,000 larvae in a litre of water collected from rivers in the Sundarbans. After the disaster we carried out the same test but found less than half (2,500 fish larvae) in the same amount of water. This is just one species I am talking about. Isn’t it alarming enough?”

Following the latest incident, the government imposed a ban on cargo ships using the narrow channels of the Pashur River where most of the vessels sail. But there are fears that the ban will only be a temporary measure as seen in the past. After the December 2014 oil spill, a similar ban on commercial cargo was lifted soon after.

These ‘ban games’ on cargo vessels will not solve the underlying problems in the Sundarbans. Several hundred activists recently marched towards the mangrove forest in Bagerhat to protest plans to build a coal-based power plant near the Sundarbans near Rampal. The activists called on the government to stop construction of the proposed 1.3-gigawatt Rampal Power Plant, which is located about 14-km upstream of the forest.

Environmentalists are also worried about rapid industrialization near the Sundarbans. The Department of Environment (DoE) has identified 190 commercial and industrial plants operating within 10 kilometres of the forest.

It has labeled ‘red’ 24 of these establishments as they are dangerously close to the world heritage site and polluting the soil, water and air of the world’s largest mangrove forest.

Eminent environmentalist Professor Ainun Nishat, told IPS, “My main worries are whether the main concerns for safety of the wildlife in the forest is being overlooked.”

Professor Nishat said, “If we allow movement of vessels to carry shipments through the forest then I like to question a few things like, where does the coal come from? What do we do with the fly ash from cement and other materials? How and where do we dispose of the waste and do we have the cooling waters for safety?”

“What we need is a strategic impact assessment before any such industrial plant is established so that we can be safe before we repeat such mishaps,” said Nishat.

Statistics from the Mongla (sea) Port Authority show that navigation in the Sundarbans waterways has increased 236 percent in the last seven years. This means vessel-based regular pollution may continue to impact the world’s largest mangrove habitat’s health even if disasters like the Sundarbans oil spill can be prevented.

Increasing volume of shipping and navigation indicates growing industrialisation in the Sundarbans Impact Zone and the Sundarbans Ecologically Critical Area, which in turn will increase the land-based source of pollution if not managed.

The Sundarbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which hosts range of animals and fish like fishing cats, leopard cats, macaques, wild boar, fox, jungle cat, flying fox, pangolin, chital, sawfish, butter fish, electric rays, silver carp, starfish, common carp, horseshoe crabs, prawn, shrimps, Gangetic dolphins, skipping frogs, common toads and tree frogs.

There are over 260 species of birds, including openbill storks, black-capped kingfishers, black-headed ibis, water hens, coots, pheasant-tailed jacanas, pariah kites, brahminy kite, marsh harriers, swamp partridges and red junglefowl.

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Africa Gains Momentum in Green Climate Solutionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 13:07:54 +0000 Sam Otieno http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155804 Promoting the widespread use of innovative technologies will be critical to combat the hostile effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and many African countries are already leading the way with science-based solutions. The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) provide support for countries in making sound policy, […]

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Kenyan farmer Veronicah Ngau shows off her young six-week old maize crops inside (left) and outside (right) of planting basins, an adaptation technique that conserves water. Credit: Ake Mamo/IPS

Kenyan farmer Veronicah Ngau shows off her young six-week old maize crops inside (left) and outside (right) of planting basins, an adaptation technique that conserves water. Credit: Ake Mamo/IPS

By Sam Otieno
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 17 2018 (IPS)

Promoting the widespread use of innovative technologies will be critical to combat the hostile effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and many African countries are already leading the way with science-based solutions.

The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) provide support for countries in making sound policy, technology, and investment choices that lead to better approaches for mitigation, adaptation and resilience.A satellite program in Kenya measures the progressive impact of drought on loss of forage, triggering timely insurance payouts to help vulnerable pastoralists.

From biogas to solar installations and improved water conservation, success stories abound on the continent. The challenge now, experts say, is to scale them up. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Africa’s renewable power installed capacity could increase by 290 percent between 2015 and 2030 — compared to 161 percent for Asia and 43 percent for Latin America.

The global Paris Accord is underpinned by its commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, securing funding for alternative sources of energy and adaptation of technology in everyday activities that are geared towards shrinking humanity’s carbon footprint on the planet.

African countries have internalised and made considerable efforts towards these goals despite budgetary constraints, with the United Nations lauding the continent for embracing technology and innovation in its journey to fight climate change.

Jukka Uosukainen, CTCN’s director, spoke with IPS during the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) Africa Regional Forum held in Nairobi, Kenya April 9–10, stressing that technology is already changing the fortunes of people in the continent.

For instance, Mali has successfully applied field contouring technology in rural areas such as Koutiala, reducing the volume of water runoff from 20 percent to 50 percent depending on the soil type.

“This has improved the yield of crops in an area that experienced severe drought and bettered the quality of livelihoods owing to a rise in income,” he noted.

Uosukainen said that Senegal has launched massive biogas digester projects through the National Biogas Program by implementing biomethanisation technologies that facilitate faster access to cleaner energy within the republic. The country also utilises tri-generation and co-generation technologies that use waste as raw materials for energy production.

Furthermore, Mauritius has aptly integrated the use of boiler economizers, which capture the waste heat from boiler stack gases (called flue gas) and transfer it to the boiler feedwater.

This has reduced the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, cutting energy costs and boosting socioeconomic growth amongst its citizens.

Morocco has adopted photovoltaic technology that harnesses solar power for greater energy production. The Noor Ouarzazate IV power station spans 137 square kilometres and generates 582 megawatts of renewable energy for over 1 million people. This has helped increase the nation’s uptake of renewable energy sources to an impressive 42 percent, lessening the rate of air pollution and enhancing quality of life.

In Kenya, a 630 MW geothermal plant has come on line, providing electricity for 500,000 households and 300,000 small and medium-sized enterprises. Kenya alone has the potential to generate 10,000 megawatts from its geothermal resources, says an analysis by Bridges Africa.

Tony Simons, director general of the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), said that most African countries have chosen clean energy technologies as a part of their environmental solutions and ICRAF supports these efforts through its work in developing cleaner options for woody biomass-based energy, a key technology used across the continent.

According to ICRAF, Kenya is using water conservation technologies like sunken-bed kitchen gardens and terracing to successfully increase yield production and improve food security.

ICRAF has partnered with several eastern Africa countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi in a project dubbed Trees for Food Security Project which conducts extensive research and development into special tree species for each nation.

This involves detecting the seedlings suitable for specific areas and ensuring modern agricultural techniques are employed during planting. The forest cover helps prevent desertification, reduces carbon dioxide emissions through photosynthesis and enhances of the aesthetic beauty of the lands.

And the Green Cooling Africa Initiative implemented in Ghana and Namibia encompasses modern air conditioning and refrigeration appliances that use minimal electricity and generate lower volumes of toxins into the atmosphere.

Simons called for gender equality in any strategies to address climate change because in all communities, knowledge of agricultural and natural resource management differs by gender, making it is essential to include women’s perspectives in addressing climate change at the farm and local level.

Rehabilitation of water projects is another field that’s getting attention, as African countries seek to reduce the overexploitation of such resources for the benefit of all stakeholders.

For instance, in Kenya, a policy of “green water” technology has been operationalized with the support of various local and international partners with the aim of curbing water shortages and channeling it to better uses.

This technology has enabled arid and semi-arid areas to have regular instances of water supply which is used for irrigation, animal husbandry and subsistence in homesteads. Therefore, it has limited the struggles that rural people undergo in search of water and pasture.

Also the government of Kenya, in partnership with the World Bank Group, the International Livestock Research Institute, and Financial Sector Deepening Kenya, implemented the Kenya Livestock Insurance program (KLIP) in the northern part of the county. KLIP, which is Africa’s large scale public-private partnership livestock insurance program, uses satellite imagery technology to provide early warning of drought.

The satellite measures the progressive impact of drought on loss of forage in the vulnerable pastoral regions of Kenya. It then triggers timely insurance payouts to help vulnerable pastoralists to purchase fodder and animal feed supplements to keep their core breeding alive until the drought has passed.

Acceptance of climate change technologies and innovations has resulted in better farming methods, higher crop yields, lower energy consumption and a reduction in carbon emissions throughout Africa.

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