Inter Press ServiceNatural Resources – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 18 Nov 2017 01:29:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 Good to Know (Perhaps) That Food Is Being ‘Nuclearised’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/good-know-perhaps-food-nuclearised/#comments Thu, 16 Nov 2017 13:00:51 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153061 It might sound strange, very strange, but the news is that scientists and experts have been assuring, over and again, that using nuclear applications in agriculture –and thus in food production—are giving a major boost to food security. So how does this work? To start with, nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of […]

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Using nuclear sciences to feed the world. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 16 2017 (IPS)

It might sound strange, very strange, but the news is that scientists and experts have been assuring, over and again, that using nuclear applications in agriculture –and thus in food production—are giving a major boost to food security. So how does this work?

To start with, nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of isotopes and radiation techniques to combat pests and diseases, increase crop production, protect land and water resources, and ensure food safety and authenticity, as well as increase livestock production.

This is how the UN food and agriculture organisation and the UN atomic energy agency explain this technique, highlighting that some of the most innovative ways being used to improve agricultural practices involve nuclear technology.

Both the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been expanding knowledge and enhancing capacity in this area for over 50 years.

Climate Change

One reason is that the global climate is changing, altering the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and seriously impacting food security.

Rising sea levels, ecosystem stress, glacier melt and altering river systems exacerbate the vulnerability of particular social groups and economic sectors, FAO reports, adding that it is also altering the distribution, incidence and intensity of terrestrial and aquatic animal and plant pests and diseases.

“Most developing countries are already subject to an enormous disease burden, and both developing and developed countries could be affected by newly emerging diseases. Making global agricultural systems resilient to these changes is critical for efforts to achieve global food security.”

The two UN agencies have been assisting countries to develop capacity to optimise their use of nuclear techniques to confront and mitigate impacts of climate change on agricultural systems and food security – nuclear techniques that can increase crop tolerance to drought, salinity or pests; reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase carbon sequestration from agricultural systems.

They can also track and control insect pests and animal diseases; adjust livestock feed to reduce emissions and improve breeding; optimise natural resource management through isotopic tracking of soil, water and crops; and provide information essential for assessing ecosystem changes and for forecast modelling.

The results of “using nuclear sciences to feed the world” have led to some major success stories, they say.

The agricultural sector uses nuclear and related technologies to adapt to climate change by increasing resource-use efficiency and productivity in a sustainable way. Credit: FAO

Seven Examples

FAO provides the following seven examples of how nuclear technology is improving food and agriculture:

1. Animal Productivity… and Health

Nuclear and related technologies have made a difference in improving livestock productivity, controlling and preventing trans-boundary animal diseases and protecting the environment.

For example, Cameroon uses nuclear technology effectively in its livestock reproduction, breeding, artificial insemination and disease control programmes. By crossing the Bos indicus and the Bos taurus (two local cattle breeds), farmers have tripled their milk yields – from 500 to 1 500 litres – and generated an additional 110 million dollars in farmer income per year.

Another programme has dramatically curbed the incidence of Brucellosis, a highly contagious zoonosis, or disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans who drink unpasteurised milk or eat undercooked meat from infected animals.

2. Soils and Water

Nuclear techniques are now used in many countries to help maintain healthy soil and water systems, which are paramount in ensuring food security for the growing global population.

For instance, in Benin, a scheme involving 5 000 rural farmers increased the maize yield by 50 per cent and lowered the amount of fertiliser used by 70 per cent with techniques that facilitate nitrogen fixation.

Similarly, nuclear techniques allow Maasai farmers in Kenya to schedule small-scale irrigation, doubling vegetable yields while applying only 55 per cent of the water that would normally be applied using traditional hand watering.

3. Pests

The nuclear-derived sterile insect technique (SIT) involves mass-rearing and sterilising male insects before releasing them over pest-infested areas.

The technique suppresses and gradually eliminates already established pests or prevents the introduction of invasive species – and is safer for the environment and human health than conventional pesticides.

The governments of Guatemala, Mexico and the United States have been using the SIT for decades to prevent the northward spread of the Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) into Mexico and USA.

In addition, Guatemala sends hundreds of millions of sterile male medflies every week to the US states of California and Florida to protect valuable crops, such as citrus fruits. With the sterile male medflies unable to reproduce, it is really the perfect insect birth control.

The nuclear-derived sterile insect technique (SIT) involves mass-rearing and sterilizing male insects before releasing them over pest-infested areas. Credit: FAO

4. Food Safety

Food safety and quality control systems need to be robust at the national level to facilitate the trade of safe food and to combat food fraud, which costs the food industry up to 15 billion dollars annually.

Nuclear techniques help national authorities in over 50 countries to improve food safety by addressing the problem of harmful residues and contaminants in food products and to improve their traceability systems with stable isotope analysis.

For example, scientific programmes in Pakistan, Angola and Mozambique now enable the testing for veterinary drug residues and contaminants in animal products.

Already some 50 Pakistani food production and export institutions benefit from the new laboratory testing capabilities, which help ensure they meet international food standards and boost the country’s reputation in the international food trade.

5. Emergency Response

Radioactivity is present in everything that surrounds us – from the sun to soil. But should a nuclear incident or emergency happen, an understanding of the movement of radioactivity through the environment becomes crucial to prevent or alleviate the impact on agricultural products.
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During the 2011 nuclear emergency in Japan, FAO and IAEA compiled an extensive and authoritative database on food contaminated with radioisotopes. This database supported the information exchange and facilitated appropriate follow-up actions to protect consumers, the agri-food sector and the world at large.

6. Climate Change

The agricultural sector uses nuclear and related technologies to adapt to climate change by increasing resource-use efficiency and productivity in a sustainable way.

The nuclear-derived crossbreeding programme in Burkina Faso is a great example of helping farmers to breed more productive and climate-resistant animals. It is underpinned by genetic evaluations in four national laboratories, with scientists also able to use associated technology to produce a lick feed that provides the bigger, more productive livestock with the nutrients they need.

7. Seasonal Famine

Crop-breeding programmes use nuclear technology to help vulnerable countries ensure food security, adapt to climate change and even to tackle seasonal famine. New mutant crop varieties shorten the growing process, thereby allowing farmers to plant additional crops during the growing season.

In recent years, farmers in northern Bangladesh have been using a fast-maturing mutant rice variety called Binadhan-7. This variety ripens 30 days quicker than normal rice, giving farmers time to harvest other crops and vegetables within the same season.

Now that you know that food has been “nuclearised”… enjoy your meal!

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Coal Pollution Continues to Spread in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/coal-pollution-continues-spread-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coal-pollution-continues-spread-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/coal-pollution-continues-spread-latin-america/#comments Wed, 15 Nov 2017 22:23:29 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153053 Despite growing global pressure to reduce the use of coal to generate electricity, several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean still have projects underway for expanding this polluting energy source. These plans run counter to the climate goals voluntarily adopted by the countries in the region and to the commitment to increase clean and […]

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In the Nov. 11 Climate March through the main streets of the German city of Bonn, protesters called for an end to the use of coal as a power source, especially by German companies, such as RWE. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

In the Nov. 11 Climate March through the main streets of the German city of Bonn, protesters called for an end to the use of coal as a power source, especially by German companies, such as RWE. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

By Emilio Godoy
BONN, Nov 15 2017 (IPS)

Despite growing global pressure to reduce the use of coal to generate electricity, several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean still have projects underway for expanding this polluting energy source.

These plans run counter to the climate goals voluntarily adopted by the countries in the region and to the commitment to increase clean and renewable sources, as part of the Paris Climate Agreement, approved in December 2015.

“Latín America doesn’t have a major global role in the sector, but it does have influence on the region…Colombia (for example) exports lots of coal. The problem is that there are many projects in the pipeline and that’s a threat of locking-in dependency for years,” Heffa Schucking, head of the non-governmental organisation Urgewald, told IPS in the German city of Bonn.

The Global Coal Exit List (GCEL), drawn up by the German organisation, reflects the use of coal in the region, in a global context.“A speedy coal divestment by the financing industry isn't only a matter of avoiding stranded assets, but keeping a livable planet too.” -- Heffa Schucking

Urgewald presented the report during the 23rd annual Conference of the Parties (COP 23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), taking place Nov. 6-17 in Bonn, a city that is part of what used to be Germany’s industrial belt, driven precisely by coal.

The list, a comprehensive database of some 770 companies participating in the thermal coal industry, points out that in Latin America and the Caribbean, the installed thermoelectric capacity based on coal amounts to 17,909 MW, most of which operates in Mexico (5,351 MW), Chile, (5,101 MW) and Brazil (4,355 MW).

However, new projects for the use of coal will add an additional 8,427 MW, of which Chile will contribute 2,647, Brazil 1,540, the Dominican Republic 1,070, Venezuela 1,000, Jamaica 1,000, Colombia 850 and Panama 320. These ventures will further expand the use of coal in the region, hindering its removal to combat climate change.

The GCEL identifies 14 companies based in the region, of which five are Brazilian, another five Colombian and one per country from Chile, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

It also identifies transnational corporations that operating in the coal industry in the region such as the U.S.-based AES and Drummond; Italy’s Enel, France’s Engie, the Anglo-Swiss Glencore, the Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton and the British Anglo American.

At COP 23, whose electricity comes partially from the lignite mine Hambach, near Bonn, the protests against coal have resonated, due to the major role it plays in the emission of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

At the climate summit in Bonn, coal is a main focus of criticism from environmentalists and academics. In the image, a banner reads "coal to museums", during the hearings of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal, which were held on Nov. 7- 8 in the German city. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

At the climate summit in Bonn, coal is a main focus of criticism from environmentalists and academics. In the image, a banner reads “coal to museums”, during the hearings of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal, which were held on Nov. 7- 8 in the German city. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

Colombia extracts the largest volume of coal in the area – 90 million tons in 2016 – in a sector dominated by Drummond, Glencore, BHP Billiton and Anglo American.

Since 2013, coal extraction in Colombia has ranged between 85 and 90 million tons, mainly from open-pit mines and chiefly for export.

Meanwhile, thermoelectric generation from coal climbed to 1,369.5 MW in 2016.

Brazil produces about eight million tons of coal per year and operates 21 coal-fired thermoelectric plants, generating 3.71 million kilowatts, equivalent to 2.27 percent of the country’s installed capacity.

In 2015, Mexico produced about 7.25 million tons a year, the lowest level in recent years due to the fact that the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) has reduced its coal imports.

The country’s coal-fired power generation totaled 30.124 billion MW/h in 2015, 34.208 billion in 2016 and 24.274 billion in 2017, from three CFE plants.

Chile is one of the largest thermoelectric generators in the region, with 29 coal-fired power plants that produce 14,291 MW, equivalent to 61.5 percent of the national installed capacity.

Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, a network of Brazilian environmental organisations, complained that his country lacks a clear policy on coal.

“There are renewable energy goals for 2030, but the electricity capacity continues to be auctioned for fossil fuels and more thermoelectric plants are being built. There is no link between the energy agenda” and the voluntary goals of reducing polluting gases in Brazil, Rittl stressed.

The Brazilian ecologist is one of the 20,000 participants at COP 23, who include academics and delegates from government, civil society, international organisations and the business community.

The GCEL covers 88 percent of the world’s coal production and 86 percent of coal-driven thermoelectric installed capacity.

In addition, the database identifies 225 companies that plan to expand coal mining, and 282 that project more power plants.

Of the 328 mining companies listed, 30 are responsible for more than half of the world’s coal production, and of the 324 thermoelectric plants, the largest 31 cover more than half of the global installed capacity.

The campaign seeks for investors to withdraw funds from the coal industry, in order to cancel new projects and gradually close down existing plants.

Colombia has 16.54 billion tons in coal reserves. Mariana Rojas, director of Climate Change in the Environment Ministry, acknowledged to IPS the difficulty of abandoning coal.

“Different strategies are being used for the different sectors. We want to encourage the increase of renewables in the energy mix; they have become more competitive due to the lower prices. But we cannot reach all sectors,” she said.

Coal was left out of the carbon tax created by the December 2016 tax reform – a reflection of the industry’s clout.

The report “Coal in Colombia: Who wins? Who loses? Mining, global trade and climate change“, drawn up in 2015 by the non-governmental Tierra Digna Centre for Studies on Social Justice, warned that the Andean country plans to continue mining coal until at least 2079.

Brazil already has another plant under construction with a capacity of 340 MW, and plans for at least six more facilities, that would generate 804 MW.

Mexico is in a similar situation, since the current mining permits would expire in 2062, for over 700 million tons in reserves.

Since 2015, the state-run company CFE has been holding online auctions of coal, to control the supply of more than two million tons per year and regulate the activity.

Urgewald’s Schucking called for turning off the financial tap for these projects. “A speedy coal divestment by the financing industry isn’t only a matter of avoiding stranded assets, but keeping a livable planet too.”

Germany has set a 2018 deadline for shutting down its last coal mines, while Canada announced that it would stop using coal by 2030 and Italy promised to do so by 2025.

“The first step is to eliminate subsidies for coal” and redirect them to solar and wind energy, Rittl proposed.

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The Mekong, Dammed to Diehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/mekong-dammed-die/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mekong-dammed-die http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/mekong-dammed-die/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 11:45:35 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153012 In Laos, the lush forests are alive with the whines of drills that pierce the air. On the Mekong, a giant concrete wall rises slowly above the trees. The Don Sahong dam is a strong symbol, not only for a power-hungry Asia but also for what critics fear is a disaster in the making. Landlocked […]

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A boat navigates the Mekong, whose combined fisheries are valued at 17 billion dollars. Credit: Francisco Anzola/cc by 2.0

A boat navigates the Mekong, whose combined fisheries are valued at 17 billion dollars. Credit: Francisco Anzola/cc by 2.0

By Pascal Laureyn
PHNOM PENH, Nov 14 2017 (IPS)

In Laos, the lush forests are alive with the whines of drills that pierce the air. On the Mekong, a giant concrete wall rises slowly above the trees. The Don Sahong dam is a strong symbol, not only for a power-hungry Asia but also for what critics fear is a disaster in the making.

Landlocked Laos wants to become ‘the battery of Southeast Asia’. The mountainous country with swirling rapids has the ideal geography for hydropower production and Don Sahong is just one of nine dams that Laos wants to build on the mainstream Mekong, claiming that this is the only way to develop the poor country.Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.

But there are serious drawbacks. The Don Sahong dam is being built with little or no consideration of the impact on ecosystems and communities along the Mekong. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Mekong is the second most biodiverse river in the world, after the Amazon. It supports the world’s largest freshwater capture fishery. The Lower Mekong Basin provides a wide variety of breeding habitats for over 1,300 species of fish. But damming the Mekong will block fish migration towards these habitats.

The FAO calculated that about 85 percent of the Lower Mekong Basin’s population lives in rural areas. Their livelihoods and food security is closely linked to the river and is vulnerable to water-related shocks – not just for fishers but for thousands more who sell food products or provide hundreds of related services, says FAO. Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.

Chhith Sam Ath, the Cambodian director of the World Wide Fund (WWF), claimed in The Diplomat that the Don Sahong Dam is “an ecological time bomb”.

Millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam could lose the fish they rely on for food.
“It threatens the food security of 60 million people living in Mekong basin,” he said. “The dam will have disastrous impacts on the entire river ecosystem all the way to the delta in Vietnam.” This is particularly devastating for downstream Cambodia because more than 70 percent of the protein consumed there comes from fish.

The 260-megawatt dam can also endanger the Irrawaddy dolphins, which are an important source of ecotourism on the Cambodian side of the Mekong. There are only 80 dolphins left. Some live just a few miles from the Don Sahong dam site. WWF warns that damming the Mekong will soon drive all the remaining dolphins to extinction.

 

A battery worth 800 million dollars

Laos is going forward with the dam all the same, without approval from the Mekong River Commission and in defiance of protests from NGOs and downstream countries. Lao officials say that they cannot stop the country from pursuing its right to development. They argue that they will address some of the concerns with ‘fish-friendly turbines’ and fish ladders. But critics are not convinced that these measures are sufficient.

Downstream, Cambodia is making things much worse. On a Monday morning in September, Prime Minister Hun Sen pushed a symbolic button. For the first time the floodgates of Lower Sesan 2 Dam closed and an artificial lake started to fill. Cambodia now has its own 800-million-dollar battery, built with Chinese funds and knowhow.

In the opening ceremony, Hun Sen praised the technological miracle and the Chinese investors. He pointed out that the need for electricity is growing rapidly. Cambodia has the most expensive electricity in Southeast Asia. That will change with this 400-megawatt dam on the river Sesan, close to its confluence with the Mekong.

 

Drowning village

In Kbal Romeas, upstream the Sesan, fishermen waited in vain for the yearly migration in May and June. No more fish to catch. The villagers have moved elsewhere, escaping the rising water and increasing poverty. The only reminder of a once lively Kbal Romeas is the roof of a pagoda that seems to float on the empty water.

“The river Sesan is blocked by the dam,” Maureen Harris of NGO International Rivers writes in her report. “That’s a problem for the 200 species that migrate from the Mekong to their breeding grounds in the Sesan.”

The American National Academy of Sciences predicts that the fish population in the Lower Mekong Basin will decline by 9.3 percent. That’s just one dam. More dams are on the drawing table. The Mekong River Commission (MRC), the intergovernmental body charged with coordinating the river’s management, recently released provisional but alarming results of their research. The two finished dams and the 11 scheduled dams will decimate the fish population in the Lower Mekong Basin by half.

The dams would also affect roughly 20 million Vietnamese people in the Mekong Delta, an area that accounts for more than a quarter of the country’s GDP. Dams block the flow of sediments, rich with nutrients needed to make soil suitable for cultivation. In Vietnam eroded riverbanks and houses tumbling in the water have become a common spectacle.

The Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen dismissed these environmental concerns, criticising “radical environmentalists”.

“How else can we develop?” he said. “There is no development that doesn’t have an effect on the environment.”

The international NGO Mother Nature mapped the environmental consequences of the Lower Sesan 2 dam. Consequently, the Cambodian government revoked its license. One of the founders, Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, has been banned from the country.

 

Costs outweigh benefits

The dams come at a high environmental cost, imperil food security and risk increasing poverty for millions of people. Moreover, the river’s potential is overestimated by dam developers, says the Mekong River Commission. Dams will meet just 8 percent of the Lower Mekong Basin’s projected power needs. The MRC proposes a ten-year moratorium on dam building. But few governments are listening.

The MRC valued the combined fisheries for the Mekong Basin at 17 billion dollars. Energy from the 13 dams may yield 33.4 billion, according to an international study by Mae Fa Luang University in Chiang Rai. But a denuded river system carries a price tag of 66.2 billion dollars, the same study predicts.

The real costs of hydropower seem to outweigh the benefits. But the projects still go ahead. The thump of jackhammers will become more common. The mother of all rivers will have to face an army of men with safety hats that want to stop her from flowing freely.

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Conservation Agriculture: Zambia’s Double-edged Sword against Climate Change and Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/conservation-agriculture-zambias-double-edged-sword-climate-change-hunger/#comments Tue, 07 Nov 2017 15:41:58 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152923 As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020. While achieving this goal requires […]

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Minimum tillage (ripping) in Kasiya Camp, Zambia. Credit: Crissy Mupuchi/DAPP

Minimum tillage (ripping) in Kasiya Camp, Zambia. Credit: Crissy Mupuchi/DAPP

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, Nov 7 2017 (IPS)

As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020.

While achieving this goal requires serious mitigation ambitions, developing country parties such as Zambia have also been emphasising adaptation as enshrined in Article 2 (b) of the Paris Agreement: Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.“My skepticism turned into real optimism when the two hectares I cultivated under conservation farming redeemed me from a near disaster when the five hectares under conventional farming completely failed." --farmer Damiano Malambo

The emphasis by developing country parties on this aspect stems from the fact that negative effects of climate change are already taking a toll on people’s livelihoods. Prolonged droughts and flash floods have become common place, affecting Agricultural production and productivity among other ecosystem based livelihoods, putting millions of people’s source of food and nutrition in jeopardy.

It is worth noting that Zambia’s NDC focuses on adaptation. According to Winnie Musonda of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “There are three mitigation components—renewable energy development, conservation farming and forest management, while adaptation, which has a huge chunk of the support programme, has sixteen components all of which require implementation.”

This therefore calls for the tireless efforts of all stakeholders, especially mobilisation and leveraging of resources, and community participation anchored on the community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) approach.

Considering the country’s ambitious emission cuts, conservation agriculture offers a good starting point for climate resilience in agriculture because it has legs in both mitigation and adaptation, as agriculture is seen as both a contributor as well as a solution to carbon emissions.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Conservation Agriculture (CA) is an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security, while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment. Minimum tillage, increased organic crop cover and crop rotation are some of the key principles of Conservation Agriculture.

As a key stakeholder in agriculture development, FAO is doing its part by supporting the Ministry of Agriculture in the implementation of the Conservation Agriculture Scaling Up (CASU) project. Targeting to benefit a total of 21,000 lead farmers and an additional 315,000 follower farmers, the project’s overall goal is to contribute to reduced hunger, improved food security, nutrition and income while promoting sustainable use of natural resources in Zambia.

So what is emerging after implementation of the 11 million Euro project? “The acid test was real in 2015 when the rainfall pattern was very bad,” says Damiano Malambo, a CA farmer of Pemba district in Southern Zambia. “My skepticism turned into real optimism when the two hectares I cultivated under conservation farming redeemed me from a near disaster when the five hectares under conventional farming completely failed.”

The bad season that farmer Malambo refers to was characterized by El Nino, which affected agricultural production for most African countries, especially in the Southern African region, leaving millions of people without food. But as the case was with farmer Malambo, CA farmers thrived amidst these tough conditions as the CASU project discovered in its snap assessment.

“CA has proved to be more profitable than conventional agriculture”, says Precious Nkandu Chitembwe, FAO Country Communications Officer. “In seasons when other farmers have struggled, we have seen our CA farmers emerging with excellent results”, she adds, pointing out that the promotion of legumes and a ready market has improved household nutrition and income security for the farmers involved in CA.

And farmer Malambo is a living testimony. “In the last two seasons, I have doubled my cattle herd from 30 to 60, I have bought two vehicles and my overall annual production has increased from about 150 to 350 by 50kg bags.

“I am particularly happy with the introduction of easy to grow cash crops such as cowpeas and soybeans which are not only money spinners but also nutritious for my family—see how healthy this boy is from soya-porridge,” says Malambo pointing at his eight-year-old grandchild.

While Zambia boasts a stable food security position since the introduction of government farmer input subsidies in early 2000s, the country’s record on nutrition leaves much to be desired. Hence, the recent ranking of the country in the top ten hungriest countries in the world on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) may not come as a surprise, as the most recent Zambia Demographic and Health survey shows that 40 per cent of children are stunted.

The GHI, now in its 12th year, ranks countries based on four key indicators—undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, of the countries for which scores could be calculated, the top 10 countries with the highest level of hunger are Central African Republic, Chad, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Zambia, Yemen, Sudan, Liberia, Niger and Timor-Leste.

“The results of this year’s Global Hunger Index show that we cannot waiver in our resolve to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030,” says Shenggen Fan, director general of IFPRI, adding that progress made since 2000 is threatened, emphasising the need to establish resilience for communities at risk of disruption to their food systems from weather shocks or conflict.

It is worth noting that Zambia has recognized the challenges of nutrition and has put in place several multi-sectoral measures such as the First 1000 Most Critical Days campaign—an integrated approach to address stunting by tackling both direct and indirect causes of under-nutrition. Unlike the standalone strategies of the past, the 1000 Most Critical Days campaign brings together all key Ministries and stakeholders of which the Ministry of Agriculture is a key stakeholder and entry point.

And the implementation of CA, of which crop diversification is a key principle, is one of the Ministry’s contributions to the overall objective of fighting under-nutrition. As alluded to by farmer Malambo, promotion of crops such as soy beans and cowpeas among other food legumes is critical to achieving household nutrition security.

“With a known high demand for good nutrition in the country, especially for rural populations, soybean and other food legumes offer an opportunity to meet this demand—from soybean comes soy milk which is as competitive as animal milk in terms of nutrition, use in the confectionary industry and other numerous value addition options at household level for nutritional diversity,” explains Turnbull Chama, Technical Assistant, Climate Change component at the FAO Country Office.

While CA is a proven approach to climate resilience in agricultural production for food and nutrition security, its adoption has not been without hitches. According to a study conducted by the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI), adoption rates for Conservation Agriculture in Zambia are still very low.

The study, which used data from the 2015 national representative rural household survey, found that only 8.8% of smallholder households adopted CA in the 2013/14 season. The report notes, however, that social factors, such as belief in witchcraft and prayer as enhancement of yields, were found to influence decision-making considerably.

But for the Southern Province Principal Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Paul Nyambe, CA adoption should not be measured in a generic manner.

“The package for conservation agriculture is huge, if you measure all components as a package, adoption is low but if you looked at the issues of tillage or land preparation, you will find that the adoption rates are very high,” he says. “So, that’s why sometimes you hear of stories of poor adoption because there are several factors that determine the adoption of various principles within the package of conservation agriculture.”

Agreeing with these sentiments, Douty Chibamba, a lecturer at the University of Zambia Department of Geography and Environmental studies, offers this advice.

“It would be thus important for future policies and donor projects to allow flexibility in CA packaging because farmers make decisions to adopt or not based on individual components of CA and not CA as a package,” says Chibamba, who is also chairperson of the Advisory and Approvals committee of the Zambia Civil Society Environment Fund phase two, funded by the Finnish Embassy and managed by Panos Institute Southern Africa under its (CBNRM) forum.

This year’s World Food Day was themed around investing in food security and rural development to change the future of migration—which has over the years been proved to be as a result of the former. And FAO Country Representative George Okechi stresses that his organization is committed to supporting Zambia in rural development and food security to reduce rural-urban drift.

“With our expertise and experience, working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, we continue providing policy support to ensure that farmers get desired services for rural development,” says Okechi.

“We are also keen to help farmers cope with effects of climate change which make people make a move from rural areas to urban cities in search of opportunities,” he added, in apparent reference to Climate Smart Agriculture initiatives that FAO is implementing in Zambia, among which is CASU.

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Protein Plants Bolster Animal Feed in Cubahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/protein-plants-bolster-animal-feed-cuba/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protein-plants-bolster-animal-feed-cuba http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/protein-plants-bolster-animal-feed-cuba/#respond Tue, 07 Nov 2017 02:03:32 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152907 Based on protein plants, pasture and fodder, Orlando Corrales produces cow and goat milk on a farm located next to a major road in the Cuban capital. “We do not use any industrial feed here,” he says proudly. Calm prevails on the seven-hectareJibacoa farm, despite its proximity to the heavy traffic on Boyeros road, in […]

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Orlando Corrales grows forage plants interspersed within banana plantations, using the leaves and stems for feeding his cattle on the Jibacoa farm, which is surrounded by live fences, in the south of the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/ IPS

Orlando Corrales grows forage plants interspersed within banana plantations, using the leaves and stems for feeding his cattle on the Jibacoa farm, which is surrounded by live fences, in the south of the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/ IPS

By Ivet González
HAVANA, Nov 7 2017 (IPS)

Based on protein plants, pasture and fodder, Orlando Corrales produces cow and goat milk on a farm located next to a major road in the Cuban capital. “We do not use any industrial feed here,” he says proudly.

Calm prevails on the seven-hectareJibacoa farm, despite its proximity to the heavy traffic on Boyeros road, in the southern outskirts of Havana. In the stables, the cows, goats and sheep eat a mixture of several plants that Corrales grows on his not very fertile land, where he raises livestock and grows fruit trees.

“You can replace the feed with these plants because they have a high level of protein,” said the farmer, who grows, even in the living fences that surround his farm, more than 15 varieties of plants to feed 32 cows, 36 goats and 54 sheep, besides experimenting with breeding rabbits and guinea pigs."Good scientific studies have been produced in Latin America and the Caribbean in response to the need to find forage sources to increase livestock production. This is a global challenge." -- Theodor Friedrich

In his own way, Corrales follows the recommendation of specialists aimed at helping small farmers like him to boost production of meat and milk – two food items that are scarce on the tables of Cuban families and are among the most expensive in local markets.

In this Caribbean island nation in recession, the limited availability of industrial animal feed, produced and imported in low quantities, is one of the factors threatening livestock-raising, with the resulting impact on local food security.

For this reason, state research centers, together with the Ministry of Agriculture and farmers such as Corrales, are promoting the use of shrubs such as moringa (Moringa oleifera), mulberry (Morus) and red sunflower (T. rotundifolia) to feed livestock on small farms that often adverse climatic conditions such as drought.

“Many of these forage plants stimulate the production of milk in females,” added Corrales, who in 2016 produced 1,800 litres of goat’s milk, 6,000 litres of cow’s milk and three tons of tubers, fruits and vegetables. Additionally, his farm supplies a natural juice store and a stand in an agricultural market.

Thanks to training received and accumulated experience, Corrales, who is a mechanical engineer, today makes “a nutritionally balanced diet for animals with these plants, especially for those pregnant or milking. Everything is milled in forage machines and mixed with other foods,” he explained.

“We have moringa, red sunflower, mulberry, and the hybrid grasses ‘king grass’ and common grass. We intersperse fodder within banana plantations for example, and we use the leaves and stems for animal feed. This is the Inca peanut (Plukenetia volubilis),” Corrales said during a tour of his farm, which he was leased in 2008 by the state as part of a land redistribution process.

The livestock on the Jibacoa farm are fed with a mixture of forage plants grown on the farm, in the municipality of Boyeros in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/ IPS

The livestock on the Jibacoa farm are fed with a mixture of forage plants grown on the farm, in the municipality of Boyeros in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/ IPS

“We also grow sugar cane, which does not provide much protein but does provide energy and good flavour, piñon florido (Gliricidia sepium), Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), gumbo-limbo (Bursera simaruba) and poplar (Populus)… we have a bank of seeds of these plants and a lot of food even for times of severe drought,” he told IPS.

Although he has pending challenges such as making use of the parts of his farm that are still idle, incorporating semi-confined livestock production systems, and growing hay, Corrales’ use of pastures, fodder and protein plants demonstrates that it is possible to replace traditional mixed or compound feed.

“The recommendation in the tropics is to feed cattle with more than 70 percent of local pastures and fodder, and the rest of the deficit protein is complemented by protein plants,” agronomist Francisco García, president of the non-governmental Society of Production of Pastures and Forage in Havana, told IPS.

Facing resistance from farmers, the agricultural sector established in 2011 a programme to promote the use of protein plants and expand their cultivation in the country. The best-known among the local population is moringa, to which late former president Fidel Castro (1926-2016) dedicated several of the columns he wrote for the local press.

Even in parliamentary meetings, the deficient local production of animal feed has been analysed as an obstacle for the increase in meat and milk supplies for the local population. The only successful experience identified is pork production, which has grown steadily by 10,000 tons per year.

In 2016, the equivalent of 338,000 tons of pork on the hoof, 167,000 tons of cattle and 39,000 tons of barnyard fowl were slaughtered in Cuba, according to figures from the state National Bureau of Statistics and Information, which include livestock raised in backyards.

The production of cow’s milk totaled 594 million litres, which is below demand in this country of 11.2 million people.

Several sectors of Cuban agriculture suffered a decline in the first half of 2017, compared to the same period of the previous year, due to longstanding problems of deficiencies and the severe 2014-2017 drought. The outlook may be worse at the end of the year, due to Hurricane Irma, which hit the north coast of Cuba in early September.

Currently there are 3,979,700 head of cattle, 56,700 water buffalo, 2,376,000 sheep and 1,154,300 goats.

An employee of the juice shop El Framboyán serves a papaya (Carica papaya) juice. Their juices are made with fruits harvested on the Jibacoa farm located nearby in Boyeros, on the southern outskirts of Havana, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/ IPS

An employee of the juice shop El Framboyán serves a papaya (Carica papaya) juice. Their juices are made with fruits harvested on the Jibacoa farm located nearby in Boyeros, on the southern outskirts of Havana, Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/ IPS

“In Cuba we have to introduce alternative products to lower the costs of animal production, in order for it to be sustainable,” said researcher Lourdes Lucía Savón, who is studying other ways to locally feed livestock.

Results obtained by the Cuban scientist are part of the compilation launched in May in Havana, entitled “Mulberry, moringa and red sunflower in animal feed and other uses. Results in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

“These are fast growing species and should be used in the Cuban context, where there are so many problems with meat,” said Savón, a biochemist. “We analysed their use and make recommendations based on the digestive tract of the animals to avoid disorders.”

Savón told IPS that traditional foods made from “corn and soybean make animals grow faster” but warned of a little-known problem.

“Today there is a trend of importing feed, which sometimes has microtoxins that cause disorders in animals,” she said. “With alternative products, animals grow slower, but it ensures local availability and guarantees the health of livestock.”

The scientist clarified that alternative feeds “are very difficult to produce on an industrial level”, which is why their use is recommended “in medium and small-scale productions”.

Due to the importance of the issue, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) promotes national efforts in this regard. It even supported the preparation and publication of the book in which Savón participated along with other colleagues from Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela.

“Good scientific studies have been produced in Latin America and the Caribbean in response to the need to find forage sources to increase livestock production. This is a global challenge,” FAO representative in Cuba Theodor Friedrich told IPS.

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Argentina Aims to Be a Leader in Mining, But Obstacles Aboundhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/argentina-aims-leader-mining-obstacles-abound/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentina-aims-leader-mining-obstacles-abound http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/argentina-aims-leader-mining-obstacles-abound/#respond Sat, 04 Nov 2017 19:52:23 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152890 Argentina does not have the mining tradition of other South American countries, but this could begin to change. The government wants to draw 30 billion dollars in foreign investment to tap the great mining potential along the eastern slope of the Andes mountain range, stretching from north to south. However, added to the complexities involved […]

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A lithium mine in the Salar de Cauchari-Olaroz, in the Andean highlands of the province of Jujuy, in northwestern Argentina. The government says it aims to attract 30 billion dollars in investment to develop mining. Credit: Chamber of Mining of the Province of Jujuy

A lithium mine in the Salar de Cauchari-Olaroz, in the Andean highlands of the province of Jujuy, in northwestern Argentina. The government says it aims to attract 30 billion dollars in investment to develop mining. Credit: Chamber of Mining of the Province of Jujuy

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Nov 4 2017 (IPS)

Argentina does not have the mining tradition of other South American countries, but this could begin to change. The government wants to draw 30 billion dollars in foreign investment to tap the great mining potential along the eastern slope of the Andes mountain range, stretching from north to south.

However, added to the complexities involved in the task of seducing big capital, there is a major obstacle: the resistance of the environmental movement against large-scale mining, which in many parts of the country has mobilised entire communities and which has chalked up several major victories.

“We have a great opportunity to develop a resource that Argentina possesses and which could be even more important than what agriculture generates,” President Mauricio Macri said in June at the Casa Rosada, the seat of government, during an event also attended by governors and vice-governors of 12 of the country’s 23 provinces.

On that occasion, Argentina signed the Federal Mining Agreement, which establishes uniform guidelines for the entire country in terms of royalties to be charged by the provincial governments, and minimal regulation of environmental protection.

But, above all, the government was seeking to send out a signal of commitment to the activity and to dispel the doubts of investors, in a country where mining has been rejected by many communities.

Under Argentina’s constitution, natural resources belong to the provinces, which set the rules with regard to environmental protection.

Currently, there are seven provinces that have, due to social pressure, regulations that prohibit open-pit mining or the use of cyanide and other hazardous substances, which are usually used to separate valuable metals from rock.

The pioneer in the anti-mining movement was the southern province of Chubut, in Patagonia, which passed a law in 2003, after the population of the city of Esquel protested to keep out a Canadian mining company that sought to extract gold and silver.

The pressure forced the call for a plebiscite, in which more than 80 percent of voters rejected the mine. That milestone is considered the birth of the anti-mining movement in the country.

“The social movement against mining is one of the best organised and most powerful in Latin America,” said Enrique Viale, founder of the Argentine Association of Environmentalist Lawyers.

“That is the main concern of the national government and of companies, as evidenced by the fact that the Federal Mining Agreement stipulates that schools should teach the economic importance of mining. It seeks to indoctrinate the young, which we reject,” Viale told IPS.

President Mauricio Macri (front) and governors of different Argentine provinces in La Casa Rosada, seat of the government, when they signed the Federal Mining Pact, which sent out a signal for the enormous investments that they intend to attract to the sector. Credit: Presidency of the Nation

President Mauricio Macri (front) and governors of different Argentine provinces in La Casa Rosada, seat of the government, when they signed the Federal Mining Pact, which sent out a signal for the enormous investments that they intend to attract to the sector. Credit: Presidency of the Nation

From the beginning of his term, Macri has been a staunch advocate of mining. In February 2016, when he had only been in office for two months, he eliminated taxes on mineral exports, as he also did for most agricultural commodities.

He also authorised all companies to transfer dividends abroad, which was restricted until 2015, as part of measures aimed at fomenting investment and the creation of employment.

However, the latest recent mining figures are not optimal.

Mining exports in 2016 totaled 3.619 billion dollars, six percent more than in 2015, while in the first eight months of this year exports reached 2.186 billion dollars, 0.8 percent less than in the same period of 2016.

This data is from a report by the economic consultancy firm Abeceb, which adds that there are 84,000 jobs in the sector, although there has been a 1.8 percent decline in jobs in the third quarter of this year.

Mining potential

Argentina has granted mining rights over 266,000 square kilometers (almost 10 percent of the country's territory), mostly in the Andes mountain range that constitutes the natural border with Chile, but according to the Secretariat of Mining Development there is mining potential in over 750,000 square kilometres of the national territory.

The main reserves are copper, gold, silver and lithium.

Argentina’s mining potential is reflected by the fact that there is only one active copper mine, but 10 projects in an advanced stage of exploration and 85 in the initial stage, and only seven active gold mines and more than 200 in the stage of exploration.

According to official data, the most advanced exploration projects have total combined reserves of 53.5 million tons of copper, 66.6 million ounces of gold and 2.4 million ounces of silver.

Javier Cao, Abeceb project leader, clarified that, “without these measures favorable to mining, the latest numbers would surely have been worse”.

The expert told IPS that “we must bear in mind that several large mines were reaching the end of their useful life when the government took office. And that reality was offset. They were able, for example, to extend the life of the Alumbrera mine.”

This is the largest open pit mine in the country, which since 1997 has been producing copper, gold and molybdenum in the province of Catamarca, in the northwest of the country.

Cao added that it also conspires against investments in places where the government has not yet defined which are the mountainous areas with glaciers.

This generates uncertainty about the application of the 2010 Glacier Protection Law which prohibits mining on glaciers.

“No one is going to invest the huge sums that mining requires, with the risk of being told later that it is on a glacier and it is being closed down,” he said.

The law requires a “national inventory of glaciers”, which neither the previous government of Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) nor the current administration have carried out, which keeps delaying its enforcement.

That is one of the main arguments of those who question the government because they maintain that it prioritises mining over the preservation of the environment.

Pía Marchegiani, of the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN), said “the Federal Mining Agreement stipulates the control of activities carried out on glaciers, while the law, which has not yet been applied, prohibits mining there absolutely.”

“These kinds of issues show us that the official discourse favorable to environmentally sustainable mining does not reflect the reality,” she added in her conversation with IPS.

Marchegiani said that the main foreign investors in the mining industry in Argentina are Australia, Canada and the United States, while China still has very little weight, although its involvement is expected to grow, as it has elsewhere in Latin America.

That is precisely the door that the Argentine government wants to open.

In September, Undersecretary of Mining Development Mario Capello traveled to China with businessmen from the sector, and said that “mining has become a new pillar of the relationship between the two countries.”

In different cities in China, Capello presented the government’s program “Mining, a state policy”, with a digital presentation in which it claims that 750,000 of Argentina’s 2,800,000 square kilometers have a “high mining potential.”

This year, a Chinese company, Shandon Gold, already bought, for 960 million dollars, a 50 percent share of the Veladero gold and silver mine in the northwestern province of San Juan, which was operated by the Canadian company Barrick Gold, and was questioned by social and political sectors for repeated cyanide spills that affected water courses more than 4,000 meters above sea level.

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Impending Drought? There’s an App for That – Or Should Behttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/impending-drought-theres-app/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=impending-drought-theres-app http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/impending-drought-theres-app/#comments Mon, 30 Oct 2017 20:48:34 +0000 Sam Otieno http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152807 Fostering and harnessing innovative technologies could significantly reduce the negative impacts from climate change, including drought, water scarcity and food insecurity in African countries. According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) by 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions. […]

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A cornfield in Zimbabwe shrivels under poor rainfall conditions that affected the crop nationwide. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

A cornfield in Zimbabwe shrivels under poor rainfall conditions that affected the crop nationwide. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Sam Otieno
NAIROBI, Oct 30 2017 (IPS)

Fostering and harnessing innovative technologies could significantly reduce the negative impacts from climate change, including drought, water scarcity and food insecurity in African countries.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) by 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions. By 2050, the demand for water is expected to increase by 50 percent.Drought-prone regions also run the risk of becoming a breeding ground for insurgencies, extremism, and terrorism across borders.

Likewise, drought caused as a result of climate change, a complex global phenomenon with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts, is causing more deaths and displacing more people than any other natural disaster.

UNCCD told IPS that extreme and erratic weather events such as droughts, flash floods, hurricanes, and typhoons increase food insecurity. For instance, droughts create food shortages. Flashfloods erode fertile soil. These phenomena degrade the land, reducing its capacity to absorb and store water, in turn, its productivity.

Therefore, the continent needs a paradigm shift that would lead to the effective mitigation and resilience to the effects of climate change.

For example, implementing early warning systems and new technologies by metrological agencies, use of cell phones to share climate information with local communities, the creation of climate maps and deployment of drones to collect climate data.

“Comprehensive early warning systems would help countries to analyze drought risk, to monitor and predict the location and intensity of an upcoming drought, to alert and communicate in time to the authorities, media and vulnerable communities and to inform affected populations what options or courses of action they can take to pre-empt or reduce the potential impact of an oncoming drought,” said UNCCD.

According to UNCCD, adopting smart tech strategies would help Africa to address the drought challenges in many ways, depending on the action strategy and the technology and its application. For herders and pastoralists in the African drylands, for example, smart techs/mobile applications would help increase the security of pastoral zones by guiding them to the nearest water resources so as to ensure year-round access to grazing and water.

Moreover, it would support them to create networks as they arrive in unfamiliar communities, helping them gather relevant information related to their livestock as well as access to emergency management and weather.

According to the Confronting Drought in Africa’s Drylands: Opportunities for Enhancing Resilience report, while drought is a global phenomenon, the impacts are more severe in developing countries where coping capacities are limited.

In sub-Saharan Africa, drought causes significant food insecurity and famine. It has crippled countries from Ethiopia to Zimbabwe and affected as many as 36 million people in the region.

Drought in sub-Saharan Africa is also associated with social unrest, local conflict, and forced migration. Drought-prone regions run the risk of becoming a breeding ground for insurgencies, extremism, and terrorism across borders.

Nicholas Sitko, Programme Coordinator, Agricultural Development Economics Divisions at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and an expert in rural development with extensive experience in Africa, told IPS that much needs to be done in Africa, where large shares of the population rely directly on agriculture production or indirectly on agriculture.

When farmers have knowledge of impending climate events, they can select more appropriate seed types or crop varieties, or can shift their investments and labor to other activities that are less prone to the climate shock.

“This is really critical for building resilience to climate change. The use of new forecasting models coupled with ICT that can link this information to policymakers and farmers provides new opportunities for adaptation than existed just a few years ago. Yet, they still remain fairly limited in scope and need to be scaled out to more users,” said Sitko.

He noted that there is already a range of on-the-shelf farm practices that can help farmers improve and stabilize yields in the context of climate change, but what is appropriate for a farmer varies considerably by climate region and their economic conditions.

FAO is working with the World Meteorological Organization to better respond to climate variability and climate change on the basis of better and more readily accessible data.

Speaking at a G7 Agriculture Ministers meeting on Oct. 14, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva noted that some 75 countries mainly in Africa, and many Small Island Developing States (SIDS), do not have the capacity to translate the weather data, including longer-term forecasts, data into information for farmers.

“There is an urgent need to take the data which is available globally and to translate it to the ground level,” he said.

Florence Atieno, a smallholder farmer from Western Kenya, would welcome technology that enabled farmers to obtain accurate scientific information on when to plant, to assess the mineral deficiencies in the soil to purchase the right fertilizers, to access knowledge about improved farming techniques and to negotiate better prices for their crop.

She told IPS not all people, systems, regions and sectors are equally vulnerable to drought, stressing that it was important to combine forecasts with detailed knowledge of how landscapes and societies respond to the lack of rain. That knowledge is then turned into an early intervention.

“Africa needs to understand who is vulnerable and why, as well as the processes that contribute to vulnerability in order to assess the risk profiles of vulnerable regions and population groups,” said Atieno.

 

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Pollution or How the ‘Take-Make-Dispose’ Economic Model Does Killhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/pollution-take-make-dispose-economic-model-kill/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pollution-take-make-dispose-economic-model-kill http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/pollution-take-make-dispose-economic-model-kill/#respond Thu, 26 Oct 2017 05:08:14 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152732 The prevailing “Take-Make-Dispose” linear economic model consisting of voracious depletion of natural resources in both production and consumption patterns has proved to be one of the world’s main killers due to the huge pollution it causes for air, land and soil, marine and freshwater. Just to have an idea, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) […]

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Oil fields ablaze in Mosul, Iraq. Credit: UNEP

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 26 2017 (IPS)

The prevailing “Take-Make-Dispose” linear economic model consisting of voracious depletion of natural resources in both production and consumption patterns has proved to be one of the world’s main killers due to the huge pollution it causes for air, land and soil, marine and freshwater.

Just to have an idea, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly a quarter of all deaths worldwide, amounting to 12.6 million people in 2012, are due to pollution, with at least 8.2 million attributable to non-communicable environmental causes, and more than three quarters occurring in just three regions.

As in most other pollution-related impacts, low- and middle-income countries –those who are among the least industrialised nations on Earth– bear the brunt of pollution-related illnesses, with a disproportionate impact on children.

The latest global and regional environmental assessments give an indication of the magnitude of current threats: air pollution; land and soil pollution; freshwater pollution, and marine and coastal pollution. All this in addition to crosscutting causes such as chemicals and waste, reports the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

As if the death of millions of humans every year due to human-made pollution were not enough, it also impacts the global economy. The UN estimates that outdoor air pollution costs about 3 trillion dollars, while the cost of indoor pollution reaches 2 trillion dollars a year.

Climate change is also modifying weather patterns, affecting the levels and occurrence of pollutants and airborne allergens, such as ozone and pollen, and in some cases exposing people to higher concentrations over longer periods than in previous decades, according to UNEP’s report Towards a Pollution-Free Planet.

#CleanSeas. Credit: UNEP


The report provides some key examples: air quality is a problem in nearly all regions; water pollution is a major cause of death of children under five years of age; nutrient over-enrichment of land and water is causing shifts in ecosystems and loss of biodiversity; plastics in the ocean is on the rise and there is still no acceptable “storage or disposal option” for processing of older-generation nuclear fuel. See: World Campaign to Clean Torrents of Plastic Dumped in the Oceans

Here are some key details regarding the major threats caused by the prevailing linear economic model as summarised by UNEP’s Towards a Pollution Free Planet report:

Air

Air pollution is the world’s single greatest environmental risk to health. Some 6.5 million people across the world die prematurely every year from exposure to out-door and indoor air, and nine out of ten people breathe outdoor air polluted beyond acceptable World Health Organization guidelines levels.

WHO also reports that air pollution disproportionately affects the most vulnerable, including those with mental disabilities and young children.

On this, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that approximately 2 billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds the guidelines, and 300 million in areas where outdoor air pollution is at least six times higher.

In addition to the impact on human health, other air pollutants cause climate change and affect ecosystems, such as short-lived climate pollutants including black carbon and ground-level ozone, warns WHO.

The main sources of outdoor air pollution are fossil fuel emissions from coal burning for power and heat, transport, industrial furnaces, brick kilns, agriculture, domestic solid fuel heating, and the unregulated burning of waste materials such as plastics and batteries in open pits and incinerators, according to UNEP’s report.

Other important sources include the burning of peat-lands, both of which generate haze, sand and dust storms, as well as desertification, which often results from land degradation, including deforestation and wetland drainage.

The report says indoor air pollution accounts for 4.3 million deaths, 18 per cent of ischaemic heart disease and 33 per cent of all lower respiratory infections. It in particular affects women, children, the sick and elderly, and those in low-income groups, as they are often exposed to high levels of pollutants from cooking and heating.

The UN Environment Assembly, the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, will gather in Nairobi, Kenya, from 4-6 December 2017 under the overarching theme of pollution. Credit: UNEP


Land and Soil

“Towards a Pollution-Fee Planet” also informs that land and soil pollution is largely the product of poor agricultural practices, inefficient irrigation, improper solid waste management – including unsafe storage of obsolete stockpiles of hazardous chemicals and nuclear waste – and a range of industrial, military and extractive activities.

“Leachates from mismanaged landfills and uncontrolled dumping of waste from households, industrial plants and mine tailings can contain heavy metals, such as mercury and arsenic, as well as organic compounds and pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics and microorganisms.”

UNEP explains that pollutants easily degrade land, soils and the underlying aquifers and are hard to remove, thus humans and wildlife living near former industrial sites and some reclaimed lands are at potential risk of continued exposure to pollution if sites are not decontaminated properly.

The primary pollutants of concern in land and soil include heavy metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and chromium, persistent organic pollutants and other pesticides, and pharmaceuticals, such as antibiotics used for livestock management, the report adds.

Globally, estimates indicate that at least 1 million people are unintentionally poisoned every year by excessive exposure and inappropriate use of pesticides, with health effects on all, according to UNEP.

The main driver for the use of synthetic chemical pesticides is the reduction of the negative impacts of pests, such as insects, diseases and weeds, on crop yields, estimated in the 1990s to account for 40 per cent of the world’s losses, it informs.

Women

The number of women working as pesticide applicators varies, but in some countries, women make up 85 per cent or more of the pesticide applicators on commercial farms and plantations, often working while pregnant or breastfeeding, says the report. Women are also uniquely exposed to pesticides even when they do not directly apply them.

Just a couple of examples: in Pakistan, where cotton is picked by women, a survey found that 100 per cent of the women picking cotton 3-15 days after pesticides had been sprayed suffered acute pesticide poisoning symptoms. And in Chile, in 1997, of the 120 reported pesticide poisonings, 110 were women, nearly all employed in the lower industry.

Pesticide exposure can cause lifelong harm and increase the risk of preterm births, birth defects, childhood mortality, reduced sperm function and a range of adult diseases, warns the report.

Otherwise, the rise of antimicrobial resistance as a result of overuse and improper use of antimicrobials, including antibiotics used in food production, is now a globally significant issue. See: When Your Healers Become Your Killers and What Do You Really Eat When You Order a Steak, Fish or Chicken Filet?

A major concern is that this may cause rapid changes to the microbial composition of soil, freshwater and biota, and drive the development of multi-strain microbial resistance worldwide, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Freshwater

As if all tis were not sufficient, the Towards a Pollution-Free Planet says that freshwater bodies are heavily affected by pollution, particularly by a range of nutrients, agro-chemicals and pathogens from untreated wastewater, and heavy metals from mining and industrial effluents

Moreover, polluted water is also more likely to host disease vectors, such as cholera-causing Vibrio and parasitic worm-transmitted bilharzia.

Another scary fact in the report is that over 80 per cent of the world’s wastewater is released into the environment without treatment. Globally, 58 per cent of diarrhoeal disease –a major driver of child mortality– is due to a lack of access to clean water and sanitation.

These are just some of the major consequences of the current so-called linear economic model, which perhaps should be rather known as the relentless destruction of both nature… and humans.

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Innovation for Climate-Smart Agriculture Key to Ending Hunger in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/innovation-climate-smart-agriculture-key-ending-hunger-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=innovation-climate-smart-agriculture-key-ending-hunger-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/innovation-climate-smart-agriculture-key-ending-hunger-kenya/#comments Mon, 23 Oct 2017 07:15:32 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152645 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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Vaccination of live stock in Samburu County, Kenya. Credit: @FAO/LUIS TATO

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya , Oct 23 2017 (IPS)

Some parts of Kenya are reeling from the effects of probably the worst drought in the last 20 years. With nearly 3.4 million people food insecure, Kenya’s food security prognosis looks gloomy, with climate change and natural resource depletion set to pose even greater risks in the long term.

Rising temperatures and unpredicatble rainy seasons could destroy crop yield gains made in the recent past, and the threats of extreme weather such as flooding, drought and pests becoming more real. These will make production more difficult and spike food prices, hurting the prospects of reaching SDG 2 on ending hunger.

Already, many countries in Africa have seen a decline in food security, with other key factors contributing to this deterioration being urban growth, greater household expenditures on food and decrease in international food aid programmes.

The recent drought across Eastern and Southern Africa has slowed down programmes for adaptation and resilience-building, forcing a shift towards alleviating hunger and malnutrition-related crises.

Now observing 40 years since opening operations in Kenya, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that in the first quarter of 2017, 2.6 million Kenyans were already classified as severely food insecure. Up to three consecutive years of poor rains have led to diminished food production and exhausted people’s coping capacities particularly in the North Eastern, Eastern and Coastal areas of Kenya.

FAO is at the centre of response initiatives that require significant collaboration by the national and county governments, the private sector, non-profit organisations and other stakeholders, whose objectives include developing structurally-sound food systems and fixing dysfunctional markets.

One example is an agreement between FAO and Kenya signed in early 2017 to provide immediate assistance for affected pastoral households in the country. So far, it has provided animal feed and water, animal health programmes and purchase of animals for slaughter (de-stocking).

A return on investment study carried out by FAO in Kenya in July 2017 revealed that providing animal feed for key breeding stock – at a cost of USD 92 per household – ensured their survival and increased milk production. As a result, there was a return of almost USD 3.5 on every USD 1 spent.

FAO’s highly committed and passionate Kenya Representative, Dr. Gabriel Rugalemasays, “given the long-term threats, sustainable agriculture as envisaged under SDG 2 calls for innovation towards climate-smart agriculture. Some of the goals must be better seeds, better storage, more water-efficient crops and technologies that put agricultural data into the hands of farmers”.

FAO Representative Gabriel Rugalema visits Nadzua Zuma in Kilifi. Nadzua lost 36 of her 40 cattle during Kenya’s 2016-2017 drought. Credit: @FAO/TONY KARUMBA


It also requires looking into areas with untapped potential. This is what the FAO-led Blue Growth initiative aims to achieve towards building resilience of coastal communities and restoring the productive potential of fisheries and aquaculture.

Kenya has a large aquatic biodiversity, with estimates of sustainable yield of between 150,000 and 300,000 metric tonnes, while the current production level is only about 9,000 metric tonnes per year. Optimal harnessing of resources is often hindered by infrastructural limitations and inappropriate fishing craft and gear.

Targeted improvements include regulatory changes, research and development, and access to markets, all aimed at empowering the small fish farmers who contribute consistently to the seafood supply chain.

As Africa’s population continues to grow, the continent can only harness the demographic dividend by creating a huge working-class youth base. Agriculture is undoubtedly the one sector that can absorb most of the unemployed young people in Kenya as well as semi-skilled to highly skilled labour.

FAO is part of the efforts by the government of Kenya to create opportunities that will present youth with the allure and career progression currently lacking in agriculture.

Through National Youth in Agribusiness Strategy (2017-2021), Kenya seeks to enable access by youth to friendly financial services for agricultural entrepreneurship, improve access to markets, promote climate-smart agricultural technologies and address cross-cutting challenges including gender disparities, cultural barriers, alcohol and substance abuse and HIV & AIDS.

A young man, inspecting and packaging fingerlings for sale – Kakamega County, Kenya. Credit: @FAO/TONY KARUMBA


FAO together with the United Nations family in Kenya is determined to work with the government and people of Kenya to turn the country’s youthful population into an agricultural asset, because agriculture presents the best opportunity for attaining Vision 2030 and achieve SDG 2.

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Cycles of Wealth in Brazil’s Amazon: Gold, Lumber, Cattle and Now, Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/cycles-wealth-brazils-amazon-gold-lumber-cattle-now-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cycles-wealth-brazils-amazon-gold-lumber-cattle-now-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/cycles-wealth-brazils-amazon-gold-lumber-cattle-now-energy/#respond Sat, 21 Oct 2017 07:50:23 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152630 The burning down of the local forest, on Jun. 29, 1979, was the first step towards the creation of the city of Paranaita, in a municipality that is now trying to shed its reputation as a major deforester of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest and has named itself “the energy capital.” Two large hydropower plants, one of […]

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Aerial view of the TelesPires Hydropower Plant, which has been operating since 2015.With an installed capacity of 1,820 MW, it is the biggest plant on the TelesPires River, which runs across the west-central state of MatoGrosso. Built in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, the reservoir is only 160 sq km in size and only displaced one family. Credit: Courtesy of CHTP

Aerial view of the TelesPires Hydropower Plant, which has been operating since 2015.With an installed capacity of 1,820 MW, it is the biggest plant on the TelesPires River, which runs across the west-central state of MatoGrosso. Built in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, the reservoir is only 160 sq km in size and only displaced one family. Credit: Courtesy of CHTP

By Mario Osava
PARANAITA, Brazil, Oct 21 2017 (IPS)

The burning down of the local forest, on Jun. 29, 1979, was the first step towards the creation of the city of Paranaita, in a municipality that is now trying to shed its reputation as a major deforester of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest and has named itself “the energy capital.”

Two large hydropower plants, one of which is still being built, have changed life in Paranaita. But its future is not yet clearly defined between the rainforest, cattle-breeding and soy and maize monoculture that have advanced from the south, deforesting the west-central state of MatoGrosso, which is the southeastern gateway to the Amazon jungle region.

Construction of the plants has brought investment, new housing and hotels and has given a new boost to the local economy in the city, which now has large supermarkets. “My hotel only had six apartments; now it has 12 complete apartments and a more attractive facade,”Francisco Karasiaki Júnior said brightly, during a tour of the area by IPS.

The Teles Pires dam, 85 km northwest of Paranaita, employed 5,719 workers at the height of construction, in July 2014.

The dam began to be built in August 2011 and was completed in late 2014, when work had already begun on the São Manoel – the former name of the Teles Pires river – dam, which is smaller and located farther away from the city, 125 km downstream.

São Manoel suffered delays when construction was temporarily halted by court order and when the company building it came close to bankruptcy as a result of corruption scandals, which led to massive lay-offs in late 2016.

“I lost money, many of the people who stayed here didn’t pay their bills,” complained Ster Seravali Petrofeza, 68, the owner of the Petros Hotel and of a large store that sells machinery and appliances for production, construction and households in a building on the main street of the city that she saw grow up from nothing.

“The era of the ‘garimpo’ brought me my best business,” she said, recalling the boom in informal gold mining that brought Paranaitaprosperity during the 1980s and the early 1990s.

The sales of dredges, motors and other equipment purchased by miners ensured the success of the business she ran with her late husband, who “used to spend all his time on the road, looking for products, assembling dredges and delivering them to the ‘garimpeiros’ (informal gold-miners) on the river, working round the clock,” she said.

Pedro Correa, director of the environment in the Paranaita city government, looks at a photo of the city surrounded by forests, on his computer screen. Originally from the southern state of São Paulo, he worked for a few months on the construction of the Teles Pires hydropower dam and decided to stay in this town because he likes the quality of life. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Pedro Correa, director of the environment in the Paranaita city government, looks at a photo of the city surrounded by forests, on his computer screen. Originally from the southern state of São Paulo, he worked for a few months on the construction of the Teles Pires hydropower dam and decided to stay in this town because he likes the quality of life. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“The ‘garimpo’ led to the emergence of 11 hotels in the city, between 1982 and 1989,” and put an end to frustrated attempts to grow tomatoes, coffee, cacao and tropical fruit like the guaraná, said Karasiaki, another pioneer who has lived 37 of his 53 years in Paranaíta and inherited the hotel built by his father.

“Our employees would disappear; they would go and ‘garimpar’ (mine for gold),” he said.

But the mining industry declined in the 1990s. The crisis was overcome by the intensification of the extraction of timber and the mushrooming of sawmills in the city. “We started selling chainsaws like hotcakes, about 12 a day,” said Petrofeza.

That era ended in turn the following decade, as a result of increasingly strict environmental controls.

The construction of hydropower dams gave the city new life, reviving the local market, “but they didn’t leave us anything permanent,” lamented the businesswoman, who was widowed in 1991.

“Agriculture isour hope,” said Petrofeza, whose two adult children produce soy and maize.

Paranaita exemplifies the “boom and collapse” cycles that affect an economy based on the exploitation of natural resources in Brazil’s rainforest, said economist João Andrade, coordinator of Socioenvironmental Networks at the non-governmental Centre of Life Institute (ICV), which operates in the north of the state of MatoGrosso.

Mining, rubber, timber, livestock and monoculture – all environmentally unsustainable activities – have succeeded each other in different areas, some of which have now been affected by the construction of hydropower plants.

The hotel and construction materials store owned by Ster Seravali Petrofeza in the city of Paranaita, in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. The business and its owner have experienced the economic cycles of boom and collapse in this city, which now aims to become the capital of hydroelectricity. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The hotel and construction materials store owned by Ster Seravali Petrofeza in the city of Paranaita, in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. The business and its owner have experienced the economic cycles of boom and collapse in this city, which now aims to become the capital of hydroelectricity. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The plants do not change the model of occupation and domination of the Amazon, but could kick off a new cycle, by providing more accessible energy to the mining industry and facilitating the expansion of export agriculture with new roads, Andrade fears.

Paranaíta, a city of just under 11,000 people in 2010, according to the latest census, declared a state of emergency in November 2013, due to the collapse in public services, because the population had expanded by two-thirds in the first few years of construction of the TelesPires plant, according to the city government.

Rents, the prices of goods and services, crime rates, and demand for health and education suddenly shot up, said biologist Paulo Correa, director of Environmental Projects and Licensing in the city government and a former employee of the Teles Pires dam, who decided to stay in Paranaita.

Contagious diseases like malaria and sexually transmitted infections also increased when the construction work was at its peak in the affected municipalities, said Carina Sernaglia Gomes,analyst of municipal environmental management at ICV.

The number of rapes rose more than threefold in the city of Alta Floresta, an important regional hub of50,000 people, with an airport and institutions of higher learning. The total climbed from 11 cases in 2011 to 36 in 2015, according to police records, Gomes pointed out.

In Paranaita, homicides and other violent crimes rose from 20 to 70 cases in that period.

One of the new avenues in Paranaita, whose population rose 70 percent between 2010 and 2014, which threatened to bring about a collapse in public services, during the nearby construction of two hydroelectric dams on the Teles Pires river, at the gateway to Brazil’s Amazon jungle region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

One of the new avenues in Paranaita, whose population rose 70 percent between 2010 and 2014, which threatened to bring about a collapse in public services, during the nearby construction of two hydroelectric dams on the Teles Pires river, at the gateway to Brazil’s Amazon jungle region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

These negative visions contrast with the enormous social and environmental investments made by the companies, especially the TelesPires Hydroelectric Company (CHTP). But nearly always in this kind of project, the compensation and mitigating measures arrive too late, after the worst impacts of the works have already been felt.

Paving the 55-km road to Paranaitaconnected the once-isolated city with the rest of the world. “It wasn’t an obligation, but we understood what the local populace was longing for and we did it,” said CHTP environment director Marcos Azevedo Duarte.

A road trip between the two towns was cut from three hours to just over half an hour, making it possible for the young people of Paranaitato study at the universities in Alta Floresta.

The training of 2,800 local workerswas “a legacy of knowledge,” said Duarte. Local labour power represented 20 percent of the company’s total at the height of construction.

The company returned outside workers to their homes after the work was done, to ease the demographic pressure on Paranaíta, the most heavily affected town due to its proximity and small population, he said.

Besides the 44 projects aimed at compensating for the damage in the affected municipalities, CHTP has attempted to boost local development.

Along with the city government and ICV, it has fomented improvements in production and administration in the rural settlement of São Pedro, population 5,000, located 40 km fromParanaita, and still dependent on food shipped in from southern Brazil.

Ensuring land titles to family farmers is a priority, said Duarte.

Getting Paranaitaoff the Environment Ministry’s black list of municipalities guilty of the worst deforestation in the Amazon is a goal of the city government that has the support of CHTP. Reducing the deforested area and legalising rural properties in a national land registry are the requirements for achieving that.

With respect to indigenous people, who the company compensated with 20 specific programmes, mainly the donation of vehicles, boats, fuel and community centres, Duarte acknowledged a major failing: the flooding of a site sacred to the Munduruku people, the “seven falls”.

“There is no way to compensate for a sacred site,” and the company feels the obligation to address proposals like building a centre for memory and culture for local indigenous communities and handing over the funeral urns found in the excavation during the construction of the plant, he said.

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World Campaign to Clean Torrents of Plastic Dumped in the Oceanshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-campaign-clean-torrents-plastic-dumped-oceans/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 13:39:18 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152613 With 30 countries from Kenya to Indonesia and from Canada to Brazil now involved in the world campaign to beat pollution by countering the torrents of plastic trash that are degrading oceans and endangering the life they sustain, the UN has strengthened its massive efforts to clean up the seas, which are the Earth’s main […]

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"Oceans: our allies against climate change. How marine ecosystems help preserve our world." Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 20 2017 (IPS)

With 30 countries from Kenya to Indonesia and from Canada to Brazil now involved in the world campaign to beat pollution by countering the torrents of plastic trash that are degrading oceans and endangering the life they sustain, the UN has strengthened its massive efforts to clean up the seas, which are the Earth’s main buffer against climate change.

The 30 countries – all members of UN Environment Programme (UNEP)’s #CleanSeas campaign – account for about 40 per cent of the world’s coastlines–they are drawing up laws, establishing marine reserves, banning plastic bags and gathering up the waste choking their beaches and reefs.

Five ways the oceans help fight climate change and its effects:


1. Trapping carbon: Mangroves, coral reefs, salt marshes and sea-grasses make up just 1 per cent of the ocean’s seabed, but they contain between 50-70 per cent of the carbon stored in the oceans.
- Like forests, marine ecosystems take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and trap them, some of it for thousands of years. As such, these ecosystems are known as “blue carbon sinks.”

2. Reducing coastal erosion: Overtime, waves carry away sediment from the shore. When this happens more quickly or forcefully, for example because of large storms, it has the potential of causing major damage to homes and coastal infrastructure.
- Sea grasses may look like our grass fields on land, but they are actually flowering plants that live in the salty environments of the sea floor and help hold sediment in place. Salt marshes, mangroves and coral reefs also help in slowing erosion and protecting shorelines.

3. Protecting marine life and biodiversity: Coral reefs occupy less than 0.1 per cent of the world's ocean surface, yet they provide a home for at least 25 per cent of all marine biodiversity. Often popular tourist attractions, coral reefs are the least secret of the ocean’s secret weapons. They draw people in to observe the wealth of marine life that they host.
- However, coral reefs are delicate ecosystems that are increasingly strained by human activity. Careless tourism, water pollution, overfishing, rising temperature and acidity are all damaging these ecosystems, sometimes beyond repair.

4. Forming barriers to storms: Mangroves, salt-tolerant shrubs or small trees that grow in saline water of coastal areas, create barriers to destructive waves and hold sediments in place with their underwater root systems. This protects coastal communities in times of cyclones or other tropical storms.
- In fact, scientists concluded that mangroves could have reduced the damages caused by the 2008 Nargis cyclone in Myanmar, where parts of the coastline had lost up to 50 per cent of its mangrove cover.

5. Slowing down destructive waves: Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides. Salt marshes are well-known for protecting the coast from soil erosion.
- However, they are also an effective defence against storm surges and devastating waves. Salt marshes can reduce wave sizes by up to 20 per cent.
- As the waves move through and around these marshes, the vegetation quells the force of the water and buffers the effects of these waves on coastal communities, FAO reports, adding that once viewed as wastelands, salt marshes can rival tropical rainforests in terms of biologically productive habitats, as they serve as nurseries and refuges for a wide variety of marine life.

SOURCE: FAO’s Guide to the Ocean

The populous nations of East and South-East Asia account for most of the plastic trash entering the global ocean, UNEP reports, adding that in order to address this menace at its source, Indonesia has pledged to reduce its generation of plastic trash by 70 per cent by 2030, while the Philippines plans new laws targeting single-use plastics.

Human Addiction To Plastic Bags

Humanity’s unhealthy addiction to throwaway plastics bags is a particular target, the UN environment agency warns, while informing that countries including Kenya, France, Jordan, Madagascar and the Maldives have committed to banning plastic bags or restricting consumers to re-usable versions for which they have to pay. See: Plastic No More… Also in Kenya

“Legislation to press companies and citizens to change their wasteful habits is often part of broader government strategies to foster responsible production and consumption – a key step in the global shift toward sustainable development.”

According to UNEP, Belgium and Brazil, for instance, are both working on national action plans to curb marine pollution. Costa Rica has embarked on a five-year strategy to improve waste management that includes a push to reduce the use of plastics.

Eight Billion Tonnes of Plastic… A Year

The flow of pollution means detritus such as drink bottles and flip-flops as well as tiny plastic fragments including micro-beads used in cosmetics are concentrating in the oceans and washing up on the most remote shorelines, from deserted Pacific islets to the Arctic Circle, the UN specialised body informs.

“Humans have already dumped billions of tonnes of plastic, and we are adding it to the ocean at a rate of 8 million tonnes a year,” UNEP warns, adding that as well as endangering fish, birds and other creatures who mistake it for food or become entangled in it, plastic waste has also entered the human food chain with health consequences that are not yet fully understood.

It also harms tourist destinations and provides breeding grounds for mosquitoes carrying diseases including dengue and Zika.

The #CleanSeas campaign aims to “turn the tide on plastic” by inspiring action from governments, businesses and individuals on ocean pollution. See also: UN Declares War on Ocean Plastic

Pollution is the theme of the 2017 United Nations Environment Assembly, which is meeting in Nairobi, Kenya from 4 to 6 December.

Forming barriers to storms. Credit: FAO


The Main Buffer against Climate Change

Another UN agency reminds that while it is well known that forests, especially rainforests, are key allies in the fight against climate change as they absorb greenhouse gas emissions, oceans are the earth’s main buffer against it.

In fact, about 25 per cent of the greenhouse gases that we emit actually gets absorbed by the oceans, as does over 90 per cent of the extra heat produced by human-induced climate change, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports.

“However, oceans are also one of the most affected by it.”

According to the Rome-based UN agency, human activities are resulting in acidification and increasing water temperatures that are changing our oceans and the plant and animal life within them.

More Plastic than Fish?

The UN estimates that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 – with over 5 trillion pieces of plastic weighing more than 260,000 tonnes currently floating in the world’s oceans. Meanwhile, harmful fishing subsidies that contribute to overfishing are estimated to be as high as 35 billion dollars.

Coral reefs and coastal environments in tropical regions, including mangroves and salt marshes, are in particular danger, warns the UN food and agriculture agency.

“These ecosystems store much of the carbon, which then remains in the oceans for hundreds of years, and are thus one of our “allies” against climate change.”

However, since the 1940s, over 30 per cent of mangroves, close to 25 per cent of salt marshes and over 30 per cent of sea-grass meadows have been lost.

“Right when we need them the most, we are losing these crucial ecosystems.”


UN #CleanSeas campaign aims to combat marine plastic litter

Did You Know That…

FAO tells some key facts about the oceans:

— The ocean has it all: from microscopic life to the largest animal that has ever lived on earth, from the colourless to the iridescent, from the frozen to the boiling and from the sunlit to the mysterious dark of the deepest parts of the planet.

— The ocean is the largest ecosystem on earth and provides 99 per cent of the living space for life. It is a fascinating, but often little explored place.

— The ocean affects us in many different ways. It provides us with an important source of food and other natural resources. It influences our climate and weather, provides us with space for recreation and gives us inspiration for stories, artwork and music.

— The list of benefits we get from the ocean is almost endless! But we are also affecting the ocean.

— Overfishing is reducing fish populations, threatening the supply of nutritious food and changing marine food webs.

— Our waste is found in massive floating garbage patches and plastics have been found from the arctic to the bottom of the deepest places in the ocean.

— Climate change and its related impacts, such as ocean acidification, are affecting the survival of some marine species.

— Coastal development is destroying and degrading important marine habitats. Even recreation is known to impact marine habitats and species.

— We need a clean and healthy ocean to support our own health and survival, even if we don’t live anywhere near it.

Now you know! It would good to also remember that humankind managed to survive over millions and millions of years… without plastic!

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How to Eradicate Rural Poverty, End Urban Malnutrition – A New Approachhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach/#respond Mon, 09 Oct 2017 06:40:57 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152386 Population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace. But what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefitting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to […]

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Nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of isotopes and radiation techniques to combat pests and diseases, increase crop production, protect land and water resources, ensure food safety and authenticity, and increase livestock production. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 9 2017 (IPS)

Population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace. But what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefitting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to enter labour markets in the decades to come?

These are some of the main questions posed by the just-released State of Food and Agriculture 2017 report, which argues that a key part of the response to these challenges must be transforming and revitalising rural economies, particularly in developing countries where industrialisation and the service sector are not likely to be able to meet all future job demand. “Unless economic growth is made more inclusive, the global goals of ending poverty and achieving zero hunger by 2030 will not be reached,” Graziano da Silva.

“It lays out a vision for a strategic, ‘territorial approach’ that knits together rural areas and urban centres, harnessing surging demand for food in small towns and mega cities alike to reboot subsistence agriculture and promote sustainable and equitable economic growth,” says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its report, issued on 9 October.

One of the greatest challenges today is to end hunger and poverty while making agriculture and food systems sustainable, it warns, while explaining that this challenge is “daunting” because of continued population growth, profound changes in food demand, and the threat of mass migration of rural youth in search of a better life.

The report analyses the structural and rural transformations under way in low-income countries and shows how an “agro-territorial” planning approach can leverage food systems to drive sustainable and inclusive rural development.

Otherwise, the consequences would be dire. In fact, the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers risk being left behind in structural and rural transformations, the report says, while noting that small-scale and family farmers produce 80 per cent of the food supply in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and investments to improve their productivity are urgently needed.

“Urbanisation, population increases and income growth are driving strong demand for food at a time when agriculture faces unprecedented natural-resource constraints and climate change.”

Harvesting sunflowers in Pakistan. Credit: FAO

Moreover, urbanisation and rising affluence are driving a “nutrition transition” in developing countries towards higher consumption of animal protein. “Agriculture and food systems need to become more productive and diversified.”

Catalytic Role of Small Cities, Towns

According to the report, small cities and towns can play a catalytic role in rural transformation rural and urban areas form a “rural–urban spectrum” ranging from megacities to large regional centres, market towns and the rural hinterland, according to the report. In developing countries, smaller urban areas will play a role at least as important as that of larger cities in rural transformation.

“Agro-territorial development that links smaller cities and towns with their rural ‘catchment areas’ can greatly improve urban access to food and opportunities for the rural poor.” This approach seeks to reconcile the sectoral economic aspects of the food sector with its spatial, social and cultural dimensions.

On this, the report explains that the key to the success of an agro-territorial approach is a balanced mix of infrastructure development and policy interventions across the rural–urban spectrum.

“The five most commonly used agro-territorial development tools –agro-corridors, agro-clusters, agro-industrial parks, agro-based special economic zones and agri-business incubators – provide a platform for growth of agro-industry and the rural non-farm economy.”

A Clear Wake-Up Call

Announcing the report, FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva said that in adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development two years ago, the international community committed itself to eradicating hunger and poverty and to achieving other important goals, including making agriculture sustainable, securing healthy lives and decent work for all, reducing inequality, and making economic growth inclusive.

With just 13 years remaining before the 2030 deadline, concerted action is needed now if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be reached, he added.

“There could be no clearer wake-up call than FAO’s new estimate that the number of chronically undernourished people in the world stands at 815 million. Most of the hungry live in low-income and lower-middle-income countries, many of which have yet to make the necessary headway towards the structural transformation of their economies.”

Graziano da Silva said that successful transformations in other developing countries were driven by agricultural productivity growth, leading to a shift of people and resources from agriculture towards manufacturing, industry and services, massive increases in per capita income, and steep reductions in poverty and hunger.

Countries lagging behind in this transformation process are mainly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Most have in common economies with large shares of employment in agriculture, widespread hunger and malnutrition, and high levels of poverty, he explained.

Nuclear techniques are now used in many countries to help maintain healthy soil and water systems, which are paramount in ensuring food security for the growing global population. Credit: FAO

1.75 Billion People Survive on Less than 3.10 Dollars a Day

According to the latest FAO estimates, some 1.75 billion people in low-income and lower-middle-income countries survive on less than 3.10 dollars a day, and more than 580 million are chronically undernourished.

The prospects for eradicating hunger and poverty in these countries are overshadowed by the low productivity of subsistence agriculture, limited scope for industrialization and –above all– by rapid rates of population growth and explosive urbanisation, said Graziano da Silva.

In fact, between 2015 and 2030, their total population is expected to grow by 25 percent, from 3.5 billion to almost 4.5 billion. Their urban populations will grow at double that pace, from 1.3 billion to 2 billion.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people aged 15–24 years is expected to increase by more than 90 million by 2030, and most will be in rural areas.

“Young rural people faced with the prospect of a life of grinding poverty may see few other alternatives than to migrate, at the risk of becoming only marginally better off as they may outnumber available jobs in urban settings.”

Enormous Untapped Potential

The overarching conclusion of this report is that fulfilling the 2030 Agenda depends crucially on progress in rural areas, which is where most of the poor and hungry live, said the FAO Director General.

“It presents evidence to show that, since the 1990s, rural transformations in many countries have led to an increase of more than 750 million in the number of rural people living above the poverty line.”

To achieve the same results in the countries that have been left behind, the report outlines a strategy that would leverage the “enormous untapped potential of food systems” to drive agro-industrial development, boost small-scale farmers’ productivity and incomes, and create off-farm employment in expanding segments of food supply and value chains.

“This inclusive rural transformation would contribute to the eradication of rural poverty, while at the same time helping end poverty and malnutrition in urban areas.”

A major force behind inclusive rural transformation will be the growing demand coming from urban food markets, which consume up to 70 per cent of the food supply even in countries with large rural populations, he added.

The FAO chief explained that thanks to higher incomes, urban consumers are making significant changes in their diets, away from staples and towards higher-value fish, meat, eggs, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, and more processed foods in general.

The value of urban food markets in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow from 150 billion dollars to 500 billion dollars between 2010 and 2030, said Graziano da Silva.

Urbanisation thus provides a “golden opportunity for agriculture”, he added. However, it also presents challenges for millions of small-scale family farmers. “More profitable markets can lead to the concentration of food production in large commercial farms, to value chains dominated by large processors and retailers, and to the exclusion of smallholders.”

Small-Scale Producers

According to the FAO head, to ensure that small-scale producers participate fully in meeting urban food demand, policy measures are needed that: reduce the barriers limiting their access to inputs; foster the adoption of environmentally sustainable approaches and technologies; increase access to credit and markets; facilitate farm mechanisation; revitalise agricultural extension systems; strengthen land tenure rights; ensure equity in supply contracts; and strengthen small-scale producer organisations.

“No amount of urban demand alone will improve production and market conditions for small-scale farming,” he said. “Supportive public policies and investment are a key pillar of inclusive rural transformation.”

The second pillar is the development of agro-industry and the infrastructure needed to connect rural areas and urban markets, said Grazano da Silva, adding that in the coming years, many small-scale farmers are likely to leave agriculture, and most will be unable to find decent employment in largely low-productivity rural economies.

Agro-Industry Already Important

In sub-Saharan Africa, food and beverage processing represents between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of total manufacturing value added in most countries, and in some more than 80 per cent, he said. “However, the growth of agro-industry is often held back by the lack of essential infrastructure – from rural roads and electrical power grids to storage and refrigerated transportation.”

In many low-income countries, such constraints are exacerbated by a lack of public- and private sector investment, FAO chief explained.

The third pillar of inclusive rural transformation is a territorial focus on rural development planning, designed to strengthen the physical, economic, social and political connections between small urban centres and their surrounding rural areas.

In the developing world, about half of the total urban population, or almost 1.5 billion people, live in cities and towns of 500,000 inhabitants or fewer, according to the report.

“Too often ignored by policy-makers and planners, territorial networks of small cities and towns are important reference points for rural people – the places where they buy their seed, send their children to school and access medical care and other services.”

Recent research has shown how the development of rural economies is often more rapid, and usually more inclusive, when integrated with that of these smaller urban areas.

“The agro-territorial development approach described in the report, links between small cities and towns and their rural ‘catchment areas’ are strengthened through infrastructure works and policies that connect producers, agro-industrial processors and ancillary services, and other downstream segments of food value chains, including local circuits of food production and consumption.”

“Unless economic growth is made more inclusive, the global goals of ending poverty and achieving zero hunger by 2030 will not be reached,” warned Graziano da Silva.

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Mercury Mining Awaits International Control in Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/mercury-mining-awaits-international-control-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mercury-mining-awaits-international-control-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/mercury-mining-awaits-international-control-mexico/#respond Tue, 26 Sep 2017 19:30:22 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152208 For environmentalist Patricia Ruiz the only word that comes to mind is “devastating,” when describing the situation of mercury mining in her home state of Querétaro in central Mexico. “There are a large number of pits (from which the mercury is extracted), and there are the tailing ponds containing mining waste, all of which drains […]

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Artisanal gold mining in Latin America uses mercury, a practice that should be modified in countries that have ratified the international Minamata Convention for the control of this toxic metal. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Artisanal gold mining in Latin America uses mercury, a practice that should be modified in countries that have ratified the international Minamata Convention for the control of this toxic metal. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Sep 26 2017 (IPS)

For environmentalist Patricia Ruiz the only word that comes to mind is “devastating,” when describing the situation of mercury mining in her home state of Querétaro in central Mexico.

“There are a large number of pits (from which the mercury is extracted), and there are the tailing ponds containing mining waste, all of which drains into the rivers. These are people who don’t have other options, they risk their health, their family genetics. There are many people involved, who have no alternative employment,” said Ruiz, the founder of the Sierra Gorda Ecological Group.

Her non-governmental organisation is dedicated to protecting the 383,567-hectare Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, which is home to a rich ecosystem as well as100,000 people, distributed in five municipalities and 638 communities.

Querétaro and the northern state of Zacatecas have become major producers of mercury, the extraction of which is mainly in private hands and practiced without a license. The mercury is mostly exported to countries such as Bolivia and Colombia, where it is used mainly in the artisanal mining of gold.

The rise in production in Mexico was a consequence of export bans in the United States and the European Union since 2011, which prompted Mexico to step in to fill the gap.

Replacing mercury in artisanal mining is a challenge that Mexico is now facing in order to comply with the Minamata Convention, which entered into force on Aug. 16, and which will celebrate its first meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Geneva from Sept. 24-29.

The treaty prohibits new mercury mines and stipulates the phasing out of existing mines, the reduction of mercury use in a number of products and processes, the promotion of measures to curb emissions into the atmosphere and seepage into the soil and water, the regulation of artisanal and small-scale gold mining and proper management of contaminated sites.

The “Mexican Mercury Market Report”, produced in 2011 by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, estimated that there are nearly 27 million tonnes of mercury waste accumulated in mines and the chlor-alkali industry.

Primary mercury mines account for 43 percent of these deposits – some 11.75 million tons – while the secondary production of old deposits of mine waste or tailings in Zacatecas contribute another 14.9 million, and the chlor-alkali industry accounts for 240,000 tonnes in two plants.

A report by the governmental National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC), obtained by IPS, shows that eight of Mexico’s 31 states have mercury mines that feed the national trade in dental fillings, lamps and raw materials for artisanal gold mining, as well as the increasing exports.

Some 300 artisanal mercury mines operate in Querétaro, while extraction from tailings ponds is attractive due the value of amalgamated silver. Mercury mining in Querétaro is concentrated in three municipalities.

In that state, two regions, with a total of nine mining districts, contain mercury. Between 1995 and 2016, the state government supported three projects with potential mercury deposits.

In Zacatecas, four of 17 mining regions have mercury and six of 116 mining projects involve mercury exploration and exploitation.

Artisanal gold mining is active in 10 states, and more than 3,000 people work in this activity.

Mercury is obtained from cinnabar ore, which is crushed and fed into a furnace or kiln to be heated, generating toxic mercury vapor with toxic properties.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the main effect of exposure to fish and seafood contaminated by mercury in fetuses and infants is impaired neurological development. Mercury, which has
neurotoxic characteristics, accumulates in the body.

In Latin America, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Uruguay have already ratified the Convention. But only Brazil has submitted its report to the secretariat of the mercury control treaty, as only nine other countries around the world and the European Union have done.

Measures to curb the production of mercury in other countries have turned Mexico into the second largest supplier in the world, after Indonesia. In July this country exported 75 tons to Bolivia and 9.55 to Chile, while sporadic sales were reported to Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama and Paraguay.

In 2016, Bolivia was also the top destination, with 193 tons, while Colombia imported 41.5, even though it had banned the use of mercury in artisanal mining in 2013.

The coordinator of the non-governmental Center for Analysis and Action on Toxics and their Alternatives (CAATA), Fernando Bejarano, said that Mexico saw the upturn in mercury mining coming and did not take action.

“This is a social problem linked to poverty and we must treat it according to that perspective, and not only as an environmental issue. But there is no clear multisectoral approach. In the coming years production may grow even further,” the expert told IPS.

In his view, “Mexico lacks a clear policy on the handling of hazardous substances and people continue to be exposed to them.”

A report by the Federal Attorney General’s Office of Environmental Protection (Profepa), to which IPS had access, states that mining is carried out with no environmental damage mitigation or prevention of health effects.

Mines, the report adds, lack the infrastructure to prevent polluting emissions from the furnaces, and there is inadequate management of mining waste, which pollute water and soil.

Their “2015 studies on air quality and its impact in the central region of Mexico”, obtained by IPS, which assessed emissions from 83 mines, concluded that there is a risk of toxicity for workers in the mining area of Querétaro and the surrounding population, where it found high concentrations of the mineral.

INECC this year detected high concentrations of mercury in the basement of a shopping center in Zacatecas, where products for sale are stored.

For activist Patricia Ruiz, winner of at least five prizes in ecology, Mexico should work on a plan based on people´s needs.

“The semi-desert (of the region) offers possibilities. It can provide employment for many years and the mines would be shut down. It requires financial resources to be able to pay temporary employment and cover the pits,” she said.

Mexico, which anticipates designing a plan of action to modify artisanal gold mining, will have to adapt its legal framework to the Minamata Convention. It has already identified four sites and 15 communities contaminated with mercury.

“The state and municipal actors must be informed about the risks. There must be an orderly plan of transition. It is a national responsibility, we should not just wait for international resources to come,” Bejarano said.

In Geneva, CAATA and other NGOs will determine the presence of mercury in body creams from places such as Quéretaro.

Mexico is waiting for approval by the Global Environment Facility to finance a seven million dollar environmental risk reduction initiative in mining in Querétaro. At the end of the year, the government will complete an assessment of the country’s situation in this regard.

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World Hunger on the Rise Againhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/world-hunger-rise/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-hunger-rise http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/world-hunger-rise/#comments Fri, 15 Sep 2017 15:48:09 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152101 Exacerbated by climate-related shocks, increasing conflicts have been a key driver of severe food crisis and recently re-emerged famines, a major United Nations joint report has just revealed. Hunger and under nutrition are significantly worse where conflicts are prolonged and institutional capacities weak, on 15 September warned the first-ever UN report measuring progress on meeting […]

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Children drink from a tap during recess at a UNICEF supported primary school inside Bukasi internally displaced people's camp, in Maiduguri, Borno state, Nigeria. Credit: UNICEF/Gilbertson

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 15 2017 (IPS)

Exacerbated by climate-related shocks, increasing conflicts have been a key driver of severe food crisis and recently re-emerged famines, a major United Nations joint report has just revealed.

Hunger and under nutrition are significantly worse where conflicts are prolonged and institutional capacities weak, on 15 September warned the first-ever UN report measuring progress on meeting new international goals pegged to eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030. “After steadily declining for over a decade, global hunger is on the rise again, affecting 815 million people in 2016, or 11 per cent of the global population, says a new edition of the annual report on world food security and nutrition.”“Addressing food insecurity and malnutrition in conflict-affected situations cannot be business as usual”

At the same time, multiple forms of malnutrition are threatening the health of millions worldwide, it adds.

“The increase – 38 million more people than the previous year – is largely due to the proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks, according to the study.”

Addressing food insecurity and malnutrition in conflict-affected situations cannot be “business as usual,” alerts the new edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, Building Resilience for Peace and Food Security.

It requires a conflict-sensitive approach that aligns actions for immediate humanitarian assistance, long-term development and sustaining peace, says this year’s report, which has been elaborated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the UN World Food Program (WFP), along with the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Key numbers

Hunger and food security


• Overall number of hungry people in the world: 815 million, including:
o In Asia: 520 million
o In Africa: 243 million
o In Latin America and the Caribbean: 42 million

• Share of the global population who are hungry: 11%
o Asia: 11.7%
o Africa: 20% (in eastern Africa, 33.9%)
o Latin America and the Caribbean: 6.6%

Malnutrition in all its forms

• Number of children under 5 years of age who suffer from stunted growth (height too low for their age): 155 million.
o Number of those living in countries affected by varying levels of conflict, ranging from South Sudan to India: 122 million

• Children under 5 affected by wasting (weight too low given their height): 52 million

• Number of adults who are obese: 641 million (13% of all adults on the planet)

• Children under 5 who are overweight: 41 million

• Number of women of reproductive age affected by anaemia: 613 million (around 33% of the total)

The impact of conflict

• Number of the 815 million hungry people on the planet who live in countries affected by conflict: 489 million

• The prevalence of hunger in countries affected by conflict is 1.4 - 4.4 percentage points higher than in other countries

• In conflict settings compounded by conditions of institutional and environmental fragility, the prevalence is 11 and 18 percentage points higher

• People living in countries affected by protracted crises are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be undernourished than people elsewhere

SOURCE: The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017

The Consequences

The consequences are striking—around 155 million children aged under five are stunted (too short for their age), the report says, while 52 million suffer from wasting, meaning their weight is too low for their height.

Meantime, an estimated 41 million children are now overweight. Anaemia among women and adult obesity are also cause for concern. These trends are a consequence not only of conflict and climate change but also of sweeping changes in dietary habits and economic slowdowns.

The report is the first UN global assessment on food security and nutrition to be released following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 as a top international policy priority.

It singles out conflict – increasingly compounded by climate change – as one of the key drivers behind the resurgence of hunger and many forms of malnutrition.

And it sends a clear warning signal that the ambition of a world without hunger and malnutrition by 2030 will be challenging – achieving it will require renewed efforts through new ways of working.

More Chronically Undernourished People

The joint report provides estimates of the number and proportion of hungry people on the planet and includes data for the global, regional, and national levels, while offering a significant update on the shifting global milieu that is today affecting people’s food security and nutrition, in all corners of the globe.

Among other key findings, it reveals that in 2016 the number of chronically undernourished people in the world is estimated to have increased to 815 million, up from 777 million in 2015 although still down from about 900 million in 2000.

After a prolonged decline, this recent increase could signal a reversal of trends.

“The food security situation has worsened in particular in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, South-Eastern Asia and Western Asia, and deteriorations have been observed most notably in situations of conflict and conflict combined with droughts or floods.”

The apparent halt to declining hunger numbers is not yet reflected in the prevalence of child stunting, which continues to fall, though the pace of improvement is slower in some regions, the report warns.

Globally, the prevalence of stunting fell from 29.5 per cent to 22.9 percent between 2005 and 2016, although 155 million children under five years of age across the world still suffer from stunted growth.

Children, Stunned

According to the report, wasting affected one in twelve of all children under five years of age in 2016, more than half of whom (27.6 million) live in Southern Asia.

Multiple forms of malnutrition coexist, with countries experiencing simultaneously high rates of child undernutrition, anaemia among women, and adult obesity, t reports, adding that rising rates of overweight and obesity add to these concerns.

Levels of child stunting are still unacceptably high in some regions, and if current trends continue, the SDG target on reducing child stunting by 2030 will not be reached, according to the report.

Economic Slowdown

Another key finding is that worsening food security conditions have also been observed in more peaceful settings, especially where economic slowdown has drained foreign exchange and fiscal revenues, affecting both food availability through reduced import capacity and food access through reduced fiscal space to protect poor households against rising domestic food prices.

Credit: WHO/C. Black

“While underlining that the failure to reduce world hunger is closely associated with the increase in conflict and violence in several parts of the world, the report attempts to provide a clearer understanding of the nexus between conflict and food security and nutrition, and to demonstrate why efforts at fighting hunger must go hand-in-hand with those to sustain peace.”

Famine struck in parts of South Sudan for several months in early 2017, and there is a high risk that it could reoccur there as well as appear in other conflict-affected places, namely northeast Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, they reminded.

Alarm Bells

Over the past decade conflicts have risen dramatically in number and become more complex and intractable in nature, said José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General; David Beasley, WFP Executive Director; Gilbert F. Houngbo, IFAD President; Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Some of the highest proportions of food-insecure and malnourished children are found in countries affected by conflict, a situation that is even more alarming in countries characterised by prolonged conflicts and fragile institutions.

At the site for internally displaced persons in Mellia, Chad. Credit: OCHA/Ivo Brandau

“This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore: we will not end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 unless we address all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition,” the chiefs of the five UN agencies participating in the elaboration of the report have stated.

The five UN agencies heads also reaffirmed their determination and commitment now more than ever to step up concerted action to fulfil the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda and achieve a world free from hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

“Ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition is an ambitious goal, but it is one we strongly believe can be reached if we strengthen our common efforts and work to tackle the underlying causes that leave so many people food-insecure, jeopardizing their lives, futures, and the futures of their societies.”

In response to a question raised by IPS at a press conference held this morning to launch the report at FAO headquarters, the FAO DG da Silva emphasized that to reverse the adverse trend in the number of undernourished people, ‘we are all working together, especially in countries affected by conflict and climate change, and continuing our focus on emergencies and humanitarian issues. There are new tools available now, such as cash vouchers and food for work. Although lives were lost, we were able to pull South Sudan out of famine in three months and Somalia in six months. There is no illusion that all protracted crisis can be solved immediately’.

IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo said that ‘We should not wait for conflicts to be over. Long term investment is core to the solution, not only as seen from an agriculture perspective, but there are also issues of governance. Agriculture investment must also be combined with investment in technology and fighting food losses and creating access to markets’

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Alert: Nature, on the Verge of Bankruptcyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/alert-nature-verge-bankruptcy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alert-nature-verge-bankruptcy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/alert-nature-verge-bankruptcy/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 14:26:02 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152040 Pressures on global land resources are now greater than ever, as a rapidly increasing population coupled with rising levels of consumption is placing ever-larger demands on the world’s land-based natural capital, warns a new United Nations report. Consumption of the earth’s natural reserves has doubled in the last 30 years, with a third of the […]

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The on-going drought in the Horn of Africa is widespread, triggering a regional humanitarian crisis with food insecurity skyrocketing, particularly among livestock-owning communities, and devastating livelihoods. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 12 2017 (IPS)

Pressures on global land resources are now greater than ever, as a rapidly increasing population coupled with rising levels of consumption is placing ever-larger demands on the world’s land-based natural capital, warns a new United Nations report.

Consumption of the earth’s natural reserves has doubled in the last 30 years, with a third of the planet’s land now severely degraded, adds the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) new report, launched on 12 September in Ordos, China during the Convention’s 13th summit (6-16 September 2017).

“Each year, we lose 15 billion trees and 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil,” the UNCCD’s report The Global Land Outlook (GLO) says, adding that a significant proportion of managed and natural ecosystems are degrading and at further risk from climate change and biodiversity loss."Land degradation also triggers competition for scarce resources, which can lead to migration and insecurity while exacerbating access and income inequalities."

In basic terms, there is increasing competition between the demand for goods and services that benefit people, like food, water, and energy, and the need to protect other ecosystem services that regulate and support all life on Earth, according to new publication.

At the same time, terrestrial biodiversity underpins all of these services and underwrites the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, such as the rights to a healthy life, nutritious food, clean water, and cultural identity, adds the report. And a significant proportion of managed and natural ecosystems are degrading and at further risk from climate change and biodiversity loss.

The report provides some key facts: from 1998 to 2013, approximately 20 per cent of the Earth’s vegetated land surface showed persistent declining trends in productivity, apparent in 20 per cent of cropland, 16 per cent of forest land, 19 per cent of grassland, and 27 per cent of rangeland.

These trends are “especially alarming” in the face of the increased demand for land-intensive crops and livestock.”

More Land Degradation, More Climate Change

Land degradation contributes to climate change and increases the vulnerability of millions of people, especially the poor, women, and children, says UNCCD, adding that current management practises in the land-use sector are responsible for about 25 per cent of the world’s greenhouses gases, while land degradation is both a cause and a result of poverty.

“Over 1.3 billion people, mostly in the developing countries, are trapped on degrading agricultural land, exposed to climate stress, and therefore excluded from wider infrastructure and economic development.”

Land degradation also triggers competition for scarce resources, which can lead to migration and insecurity while exacerbating access and income inequalities, the report warns.

Bandiagara, a town in the semi-arid central plateau of Mali inhabited by mainly agricultural Dogon people. Credit: UN Photo/Alejandra Carvajal

“Soil erosion, desertification, and water scarcity all contribute to societal stress and breakdown. In this regard, land degradation can be considered a ‘threat amplifier’, especially when it slowly reduces people’s ability to use the land for food production and water storage or undermines other vital ecosystem services. “

High Temperature, Water Scarcity

Meanwhile, higher temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and increased water scarcity due to climate change will alter the suitability of vast regions for food production and human habitation, according to the report.

“The mass extinction of flora and fauna, including the loss of crop wild relatives and keystone species that hold ecosystems together, further jeopardises resilience and adaptive capacity, particularly for the rural poor who depend most on the land for their basic needs and livelihoods.”

Our food system, UNCCD warns, has put the focus on short-term production and profit rather than long-term environmental sustainability.


Monocultures, Genetically Modified Crops

The modern agricultural system has resulted in huge increases in productivity, holding off the risk of famine in many parts of the world but, at the same time, is based on monocultures, genetically modified crops, and the intensive use of fertilisers and pesticides that undermine long-term sustainability, it adds.

And here are some of the consequences: food production accounts for 70 per cent of all freshwater withdrawals and 80 per cent of deforestation, while soil, the basis for global food security, is being contaminated, degraded, and eroded in many areas, resulting in long-term declines in productivity.

In parallel, small-scale farmers, the backbone of rural livelihoods and food production for millennia, are under immense strain from land degradation, insecure tenure, and a globalised food system that favours concentrated, large-scale, and highly mechanised agribusiness.

This widening gulf between production and consumption, and ensuing levels of food loss/waste, further accelerates the rate of land use change, land degradation and deforestation, warns the UN Convention.

Credit: UNCCD

Global Challenges

Speaking at the launch of the report, UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut said, “Land degradation and drought are global challenges and intimately linked to most, if not all aspects of human security and well-being – food security, employment and migration, in particular.”

“As the ready supply of healthy and productive land dries up and the population grows, competition is intensifying, for land within countries and globally. As the competition increases, there are winners and losers.

No Land, No Civilisation

According the Convention, land is an essential building block of civilisation yet its contribution to our quality of life is perceived and valued in starkly different and often incompatible ways.

A minority has grown rich from the unsustainable use and large-scale exploitation of land resources with related conflicts intensifying in many countries, UNCCD states.

“Our ability to manage trade-offs at a landscape scale will ultimately decide the future of land resources – soil, water, and biodiversity – and determine success or failure in delivering poverty reduction, food and water security, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

A Bit of History

Except for some regions in Europe, human use of land before the mid-1700s was insignificant when compared with contemporary changes in the Earth’s ecosystems, UNCCD notes, adding that the notion of a limitless, human-dominated world was embraced and reinforced by scientific advances.

“Populations abruptly gained access to what seemed to be an unlimited stock of natural capital, where land was seen as a free gift of nature.”

The scenario analysis carried out for this Outlook examines a range of possible futures and projects increasing tension between the need to increase food and energy production, and continuing declines in biodiversity and ecosystem services.

From a regional perspective, these scenarios predict that sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa will face the greatest challenges due to a mix of factors, including high population growth, low per capita GDP, limited options for agricultural expansion, increased water stress, and high biodiversity losses.

The Solution

These are the real facts. The big question is if this self-destructive trend can be reversed? The answer is yes, or at least that losses could be minimised.

On this, Monique Barbut said that the GLO report suggests, “It is in all our interests to step back and rethink how we are managing the pressures and the competition.”

“The Outlook presents a vision for transforming the way in which we use and manage land because we are all decision-makers and our choices can make a difference – even small steps matter,” she further added.

For his part, UN Development Programme Administrator Achim Steiner stated, “Over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification, and about one billion people in over one hundred countries are at risk.”

They include many of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people, he said, adding that achieving land degradation neutrality can provide a healthy and productive life for all on Earth, including water and food security.

The Global Land Outlook shows that “each of us can in fact make a difference.”

Can Mother Nature recover? The answer is a clear yes. Perhaps it would suffice that politicians pay more attention to real human real needs than promoting weapons deals — and that the big business helps replenish the world’s natural capital.

Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN)

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Europe, New Border of Africa’s ‘Great Desert’ – The Saharahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/europe-new-border-africas-great-desert-sahara/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-new-border-africas-great-desert-sahara http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/europe-new-border-africas-great-desert-sahara/#respond Tue, 05 Sep 2017 03:57:31 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151910 With the highest temperatures on record and unprecedented heat waves hitting Europe this year, Africa’s ‘Great Desert’, the Sahara, is set continue its relentless march on the Southern European countries until it occupies more than 30 per cent of Spain just three decades from now. The Sahara is the largest hot desert on Earth, covering […]

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By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 5 2017 (IPS)

With the highest temperatures on record and unprecedented heat waves hitting Europe this year, Africa’s ‘Great Desert’, the Sahara, is set continue its relentless march on the Southern European countries until it occupies more than 30 per cent of Spain just three decades from now.

The Sahara is the largest hot desert on Earth, covering more than 9,000 square kilometres, comparable to the surface of China or the United States. Called originally in Arabic “Al Sahara Al Kubra’ (the Great Desert), it comprises much of North Africa, the Atlas Mountains of the Maghreb, and the Nile Valley in Egypt and Sudan.


Land Degradation Neutrality – UNCCD

It stretches from the Red Sea in the West and the Mediterranean in the North to the Atlantic Ocean in the West, including 10 countries: Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, and Tunisia.

For its part, the European Union’s RECARE project (Preventing and Remediating degradation of soil in Europe through Land Care), estimates that 20 per cent of all Europe’s land surface is already subject to erosion rates above 10,000 hectares per year, while soil sealing (the permanent covering of soil with an impermeable material) leads to the loss of more than 1,000 sq km of productive land each year.

The European Union also reports that between 1990 and 2000, at least 275 hectares of soil were lost per day in the EU, amounting to 1,000 sq km per year. Between 2000 and 2006, the EU average loss increased by 3 per cent, but by 14 per cent in Ireland and Cyprus, and by 15 per cent in Spain.

Africa

Meantime, Africa is prey to a steady process of advancing droughts and desertification, posing one of the most pressing challenges facing the 54 African countries, home to more than 1.2 billion people.

Right now, two-thirds of Africa is already desert or dry-lands. While this land is vital for agriculture and food production, nearly three-fourths of it is estimated to be degraded.

Asia

In a parallel process, desertification manifests itself in many different forms across the vast region of Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations reports. Out of a total land area of 4.3 billion hectares reaching from the Mediterranean coast to the shores of the Pacific, Asia contains some 1.7 billion hectares of arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid land.

Land degradation varies across the region. There are expanding deserts in China, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan, encroaching sand dunes in Syria, steeply eroded mountain slopes of Nepal, and deforested and in Laos and overgrazed in central Asia counties. In terms of the number of people affected by desertification and drought, Asia is the most severely affected continent.


#UNCCDCOP13: 6-16 September 2017, Ordos, China

In 2015, Asia-Pacific continued to be the world’s most disaster-prone region. Some 160 disasters were reported in the region, accounting for 47 per cent of the world’s 344 disasters.

The region bore the brunt of large-scale catastrophic disasters with over 16,000 fatalities — more than a two-fold increase since 2014. South Asia accounted for a staggering 64 per cent of total global fatalities — the majority was attributed to the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal in April, which caused 8,790 deaths.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Meanwhile, Latin America and the Caribbean are home to some of the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems in the world, according to the World Resources Institute’s report The Restoration Diagnostic.

The region holds about half of the world’s tropical forests, and more than 30 per cent of its mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians.

But despite the region’s ecological importance, more than 200 million hectares of land has been completely deforested or degraded in the past century, an area the size of Mexico.

Summit in China

These are just some of the facts that the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will put before the eyes of world leaders during the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) in Ordos, China (6 -16 September 2017).

The Convention will also highlight to political leaders, decision makers, experts and civil society organisations participating in COP13 the fact that Africa is severely affected by frequent droughts, which have been particularly severe in recent years in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.

And that the consequences are there: widespread poverty, hard socio-economic conditions, and many people dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods.

For many African countries, says UNCCD, fighting land degradation and desertification and mitigating the effects of drought are prerequisites for economic growth and social progress.

But not all news is bad news. In fact, increasing sustainable land management (SLM) and building resilience to drought in Africa can have profound positive impacts that reach from the local to the global level.

The UNCCD has elaborated ways how to achieve this vital objective thought its Regional Implementation Annex for Africa, which outlines an approach for addressing desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) on the African continent.

Work in Progress

Meanwhile, progress is underway. All African countries are Parties to the UNCCD and most of have developed and submitted National Action Programmes (NAPs). Also in order to facilitate cooperation on issues related to land degradation, African countries have created five Sub-Regional Action Programmes (SRAPs) and a Regional Action Programme (RAP).

The RAPs compose six thematic programme networks (TPNs) that concern integrated water management; agro-forestry; soil conservation; rangeland management; ecological monitoring and early warning systems; new and renewable energy sources and technologies, and sustainable agricultural farming systems.

Since the adoption of the UNCCD’s 10-Year Strategy, the sub-regional entities have begun aligning their action programmes to it, particularly the North, Central and Western African programmes. The other two sub-regions have already benefited from training by the UNCCD on how to align their programmes to the Strategy.

Similar actions to mitigate, halt and prevent the widespread process of advancing droughts and desertification are being implemented in all other impacted regions, and further efforts will be required. Not an easy task for decision-makers in this COP 13 in Ordos, China.

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Towards a Resource Efficient and Pollution Free Asia-Pacifichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/towards-resource-efficient-pollution-free-asia-pacific/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=towards-resource-efficient-pollution-free-asia-pacific http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/towards-resource-efficient-pollution-free-asia-pacific/#respond Mon, 04 Sep 2017 10:31:46 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar and Erik Solheim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151906 Shamshad Akhtar, is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Erik Solheim, is Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

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Shamshad Akhtar, is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Erik Solheim, is Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

By Shamshad Akhtar and Erik Solheim
BANGKOK, Thailand, Sep 4 2017 (IPS)

Senior government officials from across Asia and the Pacific will meet in Bangkok this week for the first-ever Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment. The high-level meeting is co-convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) and UN Environment and is a unique opportunity for the region’s environment leaders to discuss how they can work together towards a resource efficient and pollution-free Asia-Pacific.

Shamshad Akhtar

At the core of the meeting is the question: how can we use our resources more efficiently to continue to grow our economies in a manner that does not tax our natural environment or generate pollution affecting public health and ecosystem health. There is certainly much room for improvement to make in this area.

Resources such as fossil fuels, biomass, metals and minerals are essential to build economies. However, the region’s resource efficiency has regressed in recent years. Asia is unfortunately the least resource efficient region in the world. In 2015, we used one third more materials to produce each unit of GDP than in 1990. Developing countries use five times as many resources per dollar of GDP in comparison to rest of the world and10 times more than industrialized countries in the region. This inefficiency of resource use results into wastage and pollution further affecting the natural resources and public health which are the basic elements for ensuring sustainable economic growth.

As the speed and scale of economic growth continues to accelerate across the region, pollution has become a critical area for action. While the challenge of pollution is a global one, the impacts are overwhelmingly felt in developing countries. About 95 per cent of adults and children who are impacted by pollution-related illnesses live in low and middle-income countries. Asia and the Pacific produces more chemicals and waste than any other region in the world and accounts for the bulk – 25 out of 30 – of cities with highest levels of PM 2.5, the tiny atmospheric particulate matter that can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and cancer. More than 80 per cent of our rivers are heavily polluted while five of the top land-based ocean plastic sources are from countries in our region. Estimates put the cost of marine pollution to regional economies at a staggering US$1.3 billion.

Erik Solheim

If left unattended, these trends threaten to up end hard-won economic gains and hamper human development. But while these challenges appear intractable, the region has tremendous strengths and opportunities to draw from. Many countries hold solid track records of successful economic transformation. The capacity for promoting environmental sustainability as an integral pillar of sustainable development must now be developed across all countries in the region

There are some profound changes underway in Asia and the Pacific. The region is experiencing the largest rural to urban migration in history. Developing these new urban areas with resource-efficient buildings, waste water and solid waste management systems can do much to advance this agenda. Advancing the “sharing economy” might mean we have better utilization of assets such as vehicles, houses or other assets, greatly reducing material inputs and pollution. The widespread move to renewable energy should rein in fossil fuel use. And advances in recycling, materials technology, 3D printing and manufacturing could also support greater resource circularity.

Moving to green technologies and eco innovation offer economic and employment opportunities. Renewable energy provided jobs for 9.8 million people worldwide in 2016. Waste can be converted into economic opportunities, including jobs. In Cebu City– the second-largest city in the Philippines, concerted Solid Waste Management has borne fruit: waste has been reduced by 30 per cent in 2012; treatment of organic waste in neigbourhoods has led to lower transportation costs and longer use period in landfills. The poor have largely benefited from hundreds of jobs that have been created.

At the policy level, it is vital that resource efficiency and pollution prevention targets are integrated into national development agendas, and targeted legal and regulatory measures to enforce resource efficiency standards should be established. For example, the Government of China has instituted a national system of legislation, rules and regulations that led to the adoption of a compulsory national cleaner production audit system that has been in place for more than 10 years. The direct economic benefits from this system is estimated to be more than $3 billion annually.

Further, we need an urgent reform of financial instruments. Too little capital is supporting the transition to green and resource efficient economy – major portion of current investments is still in high-carbon and resource-intensive, polluting economies. Polluter pay principle and environmental externalities are not yet fully integrated into pricing mechanisms and investment models. The availability of innovative financing mechanisms and integrated evaluation methods are important for upscaling and replicating resource-efficient practices. For example, the large-scale promotion of biogas plants in Viet Nam was made possible by harnessing global climate finance funds. Several countries in the region area are already emerging as leaders in the development of comprehensive, systemic approaches that embed sustainable finance at the heart of financial market development, such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and we should draw from the positive lessons learned from these experiences.

Resource efficiency and pollution prevention must be recognized as an important target for action by science, technological and innovation systems. This is important for the ongoing development of technology, and for scaling up technologies. Research shows that developing countries could cut their annual energy demand by more than half, from 3.4 percent to 1.4 percent, over the next 12 years. This would leave energy consumption some 22 percent lower than it would otherwise have been – an abatement equivalent to the entire energy consumption in China today.

We need to move to a more resource efficient and pollution free growth path that supports and promotes healthy environments. The cost of inaction for managing resources efficiently and preventing pollution is too high and a threat to economies, livelihoods and health across the region.

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Climate-Smart Agriculture Urgently Needed in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/climate-smart-agriculture-urgently-needed-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-smart-agriculture-urgently-needed-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/climate-smart-agriculture-urgently-needed-africa/#comments Mon, 04 Sep 2017 04:55:22 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151903 Africa contributes only 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while six of the 10 most affected countries by climate change are in Africa, warns a major agricultural research for development partnership, while stressing the urgent need to scale up climate-smart agriculture, improve forestry and transform the productivity of water use. In an interview […]

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Climate-smart agriculture includes practices that increase productivity in a sustainable manner and support farmers' adaptation to climate change

Members of the Kenyan Kadokoi community water project show how they use drip irrigation to grow vegetables with water from their borehole. Credit: Protus Onyango/IPS

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 4 2017 (IPS)

Africa contributes only 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while six of the 10 most affected countries by climate change are in Africa, warns a major agricultural research for development partnership, while stressing the urgent need to scale up climate-smart agriculture, improve forestry and transform the productivity of water use.

In an interview with IPS, Elwyn Grainger-Jones, Executive Director of the CGIAR System Organization, analyses the impact of this staggering fact, which is based on the AAA Initiative report (Initiative for the Adaptation of Africa Agriculture to Climate Change), as well as the needed solutions.

Elwyn Grainger-Jones

The increasing occurrence and severity of weather events such as droughts and floods, high heat and cold stress, will impact agriculture in Africa, threatening regional food systems, explains Grainger-Jones.

Smallholder farmers and those who primarily draw their incomes from agriculture value chains will be affected, which will in turn threaten the region’s food security, adds the executive director of this partnership comprising 15 independent, non-profit research organisations, home to over 8,000 scientists, researchers and technicians.

“Agriculture and our global food systems, however, contribute up to 29 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions which needs to urgently be addressed,” Grainger-Jones underlines.

He further explains that CGIAR is helping the developing world to harness an environmental transformation, to drastically cut the environmental footprint of the food system, including climate emissions, land degradation, water, land pollution and food waste.

Smart Agriculture, Forestry, Water

Grainger-Jones adds that CGIAR is leading a major effort to develop and scale up climate-smart agriculture, to improve forestry practices and governance, and to transform the productivity of water use.

“We’re also working to apply relevant new science to develop a new suite of tools and approaches to transform agricultural systems – ranging from policy advice on nutrition and market development, new tools to harness satellite based information and forecasting and new approaches to landscape-level planning.”

Urgent Need to Adapt Agriculture

According to Grainger-Jones, there is an urgent need to adapt agriculture — which feeds this chronically food insecure region and forms the backbone of its economy — to extreme weather conditions.

Asked what are the most urgent priorities now and in the medium- and long-term, he explains that climate risks to crops, livestock and fisheries are expected to increase in the coming decades, particularly in low-income countries where adaptive capacity is weaker.

Impacts on agriculture threaten both food security and agriculture’s pivotal role in rural livelihoods and broad-based development, adds Grainger-Jones.

“There is an urgent need to implement climate-smart solutions to help smallholder farmers adapt to a changing climate.”

Climate-smart agriculture, one of the key approaches, includes practices and technologies that increase productivity in a sustainable manner, support farmers’ adaptation to climate change and mitigate levels of greenhouse gas emissions, he explains.

Climate-smart agriculture includes practices that increase productivity in a sustainable manner and support farmers' adaptation to climate change

In Ajegunle, a low-lying slum in Lagos, flooding is also disrupting the economic activities of women. Credit: Sam Olukoya/IPS

Technologies and Policies Already Exist

“We have technologies and policy recommendations that can be implemented now, and our work through the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security is central to supporting smallholder farmers now and in the future.”

“Looking beyond the near-term priorities, we need to continue supporting research to find new ways to adapt and maintain sustainable food systems, which will be under increasing stress to be able to feed a growing population in the face of climate change,” Grainger-Jones adds to IPS.

“It’s not just about growing more food, but making safe, healthy food available that supports healthy diets. We need to reform policies and practices in food systems in the developing world to tackle malnutrition and an emerging global obesity epidemic.”

Poor Rural Populations Forced to Flee

IPS asked Grainger-Jones about the fact that poor rural populations, in particular in Africa, are being forced to flee conflicts and climate change’s severe impacts, and what are the most pressing policies to be followed in order to prevent massive migration?

It is widely believed that climate change will have negative impacts on agricultural communities, he says, adding that research is supporting the theory that climate impacts will catalyse tragedy among vulnerable populations.

“We need to invest in helping farmers produce more on their existing land using sustainable approaches.”

Asked how, Grainger-Jones explains that with proper foresight and better understanding of the connections between climate change, food security and migration, world leaders can address one of the main contributors to this crisis, and create better lives and futures for vulnerable people.

“With early warning, early action can be taken towards planning and preparedness that can reduce the negative impacts on society.”

Climate-smart agriculture includes practices that increase productivity in a sustainable manner and support farmers' adaptation to climate change

Irrigation near Kakamas, South Africa : how can optimal and sustainable use of water be achieved? / Credit: Patrick Burnett/IPS

Drought, Advancing Desertification

Drought and advancing desertification have been aggravating the growing water scarcity challenges.

Asked what CGIAR recommended at the World Water Week 2017 (August 27 to September 1, 2017) in Stockholm, Grainger-Jones says that CGIAR, through the International Center for Agriculture in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), a CGIAR Research Center, is developing technologies that are combatting drought and desertification.

“For example, in Jordan, to cope with water scarcity, we have developed practical mechanised water harvesting techniques that support the revegetation of degraded rangeland ecosystems,” he adds.

Recent research found that untreated wastewater from cities used to irrigate crops downstream is 50 percent more widespread than researchers had previously thought.

“There is a need to mitigate public health risks and avoid a major environmental hazard through measures taken along the entire food supply chain, and includes improved wastewater treatment, but also preventative methods on farms and food handling.”

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a CGIAR Research Center, and the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), have outlined a dual approach to enhance water quality and wastewater management that consists of practical safety measures as well as green business solutions, concludes Grainger-Jones.

CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. Its science is dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, and improving natural resources and ecosystem services.

Based in Montpellier, France, its research is carried out by 15 CGIAR centers in close collaboration with hundreds of partners, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, development organisations and the private sector.

All 15 Research Centers are independent, non-profit research organisations, innovating on behalf of poor people in developing countries. . Each Center has its own charter, board of trustees, director general, and staff.

Elwyn Grainger-Jones (UK), joined CGIAR in October 2016 with over 20 years experience and expertise in development, agriculture and climate change, including previous positions at the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank.

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Protecting Africa’s Drylands Key to the Continent’s Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/protecting-africas-drylands-key-continents-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protecting-africas-drylands-key-continents-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/protecting-africas-drylands-key-continents-future/#comments Tue, 29 Aug 2017 12:43:51 +0000 Sam Otieno http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151832 Africa’s population continues to grow, putting intense pressure on available land for agricultural purposes and life-supporting ecosystem services even as the scenario is compounded by the adverse impacts of climate change. But the adoption of land degradation neutrality (LDN) measures is helping ensure food and water security, and contributing to sustainable socioeconomic development and wellbeing, […]

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The impacts of fire and ecosystem fragmentation on a community can be devastating. Credit: Cheikh Mbow/ICRAF/Flickr

By Sam Otieno
NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 29 2017 (IPS)

Africa’s population continues to grow, putting intense pressure on available land for agricultural purposes and life-supporting ecosystem services even as the scenario is compounded by the adverse impacts of climate change.

But the adoption of land degradation neutrality (LDN) measures is helping ensure food and water security, and contributing to sustainable socioeconomic development and wellbeing, especially for Eastern African countries that face immense challenges.With over half of sub-Saharan Africa consisting of arid and semi-arid lands, the livelihoods of over 400 million people who inhabit these areas are at risk.

LDN will also help to achieve some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Vision 2063, launched in 2013 a strategic framework for the socioeconomic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years.

According to Economics of Land Degradation Initiative, a report by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and others, land degradation and desertification are among the world’s greatest environmental challenges. It is estimated that desertification affects approximately 33 per cent of the global land surface. Over the past 40 years, erosion has rendered close to one-third of the world’s arable land unproductive.

Africa is the most exposed, with desertification affecting around 45 per cent of the continent’s land area, out of which 55 per cent is at high or very high risk of further degradation. Dry lands are particularly affected by land degradation and with over 50 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa being arid and semi-arid lands, the livelihoods of over 400 million who inhabit these areas are at risk.

In an interview with IPS, Ermias Betemariam, a land health scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) with research interest in land degradation, landscape ecology, restoration ecology, soil carbon dynamics and spatial science, said that increasing population is an important driver of the rising demand for natural resources and the ecosystem services they provide, including food and energy.

“Africa, in particular, faces the critical challenge of its population continuing to grow at a rapid rate while natural resources, arable, grazing, forest lands, and water resources become increasingly scarce and degraded,” he said.

Betemariam noted that food is mostly produced by small-scale farmers who may not have the resources, or be in an enabling economic and policy environment, to close the “yield gap” between current and potential yields.

Hence the increase in food needs of the rising population in Africa has been met by expanding agriculture into new lands which are often marginal, semi-arid zones that are climatically risky for agriculture – changing the local landscape, economy and society.

Such change in land use has been recorded as a major cause of land degradation in Africa.

Betemariam explained that achieving SDG 15.3 (a land degradation neutral world by 2030) is critical for Sub-Saharan African countries. LDN is about maintaining and improving the productivity of land resources by sustainably managing and restoring soil, water and biodiversity assets, while at the same time contributing to poverty reduction, food and water security, and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

UNCCD says that so far 110 countries have committed to set LDN targets. The Secretariat and the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD are supporting governments in this process, including the definition of national baselines, targets and associated measures to achieve LDN by 2030 through the LDN Target Setting Programme (TSP).

“LDN is a target that can be implemented at local, national and even regional scales,” Betemariam told IPS. “At the heart of LDN are Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices that help close yield gaps and enhance the resilience of land resources and communities that directly depend on them while avoiding further degradation.”

For example, he cited the farmer-managed natural resources in Niger and livestock enclosure management and soil conservation at the Konso Cultural Landscape in Ethiopia which is registered by UNESCO.

Oliver Wasonga, a dryland ecology and pastoral livelihoods specialist at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, says there is little investment in sustainable land management, especially in the drylands, and yet many communities living in rural Africa increasingly lose their livelihoods due to loss of land productivity resulting from land degradation.

Wasonga told IPS that land degradation costs Africa about 65 billion dollars annually, around five per cent of its gross domestic product. Globally, the cost of land degradation is estimated at about 295 billion dollars annually.

Investment in restoration of degraded land is critical in enhancing household food and income security, he said, especially for the majority of Africa’s rural populace that relies almost entirely on natural resources for their livelihoods.

“This is more so for the millions of pastoralists and agro-pastoralists who inhabit the dry lands of Africa that form more than 40 per cent of the continent’s land surface. Any attempt to attain LDN is therefore key to achieving both poverty reduction and development goals,” said Wasonga.

He said there is a need to create a platform to showcase success stories that may motivate land users, decision makers, development agencies, and private investors to act better. And also to reward individuals, communities, and institutions for their outstanding efforts towards a LDN continent as an incentive to engage and invest in sustainable land management (SLM) practices.

Investment in SLM provides opportunities for not only enhancing the current productivity of land, but also offers solutions that go beyond technological approaches by including aspects of social participation and policy dialogue.

Levis Kavagi, Africa Coordinator, Ecosystems and Biodiversity at the United Nations Environment Programme, said SLM ensures that maximisation of benefits from land resources do not cause ecological damage, economic risks and social disparity. The approach combines maintaining and enhancing condition of land which is still in good health, as well as restoration of the already degraded land.

However, the success of any SLM programmes is dependent upon the governance system. A governance system that recognises and integrates customary institutions and practices is shown to yield better results than statutory interventions.

“African governments need to develop policies that promote SLM and specifically those aimed at restoration of degraded lands. There is need for ‘win-win’ approaches with multiple short- and long-term benefits in combating land degradation, as well as restoring or maintaining ecosystem functions and services, thereby contributing to sustainable livelihoods and rural development,” said Kavagi.

Involvement of land users and communities is key to success of any attempt to promote SLM and restoration of degraded lands, he stressed. Such approaches should seek integration of low-cost customary institutions and practices that are familiar to the communities as a way of decentralizing governance.

There is also a need to sensitize and motivate the private sector to invest in SLM. Payment for ecosystem services should be promoted as way of giving incentive to the communities to use land in a sustainable manner, he concluded.

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Geothermal – a Key Source of Clean Energy in Central Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/geothermal-key-source-clean-energy-central-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=geothermal-key-source-clean-energy-central-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/geothermal-key-source-clean-energy-central-america/#respond Sat, 26 Aug 2017 12:44:37 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151797 Energy from the depths of the earth – geothermal – is destined to fuel renewable power generation in Central America, a region with great potential in this field. “Volcanoes have always been a menace to humanity but now in El Salvador they are a resource to generate clean, renewable and cheap energy. Now they represent […]

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