Inter Press ServiceEditors’ Choice – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 26 Sep 2017 06:04:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Indigenous Land Conflicts Finally Garner Attention in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/indigenous-land-conflicts-finally-garner-attention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-land-conflicts-finally-garner-attention http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/indigenous-land-conflicts-finally-garner-attention/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 16:36:36 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152204 The territorial claims of hundreds of indigenous communities, which extend throughout most of Argentina’s vast geography, burst onto the public agenda of a country built by and for descendants of European colonisers and immigrants, accustomed to looking at native people as outsiders. It all started with the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado, a 28-year-old artisan who […]

The post Indigenous Land Conflicts Finally Garner Attention in Argentina appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
An indigenous demonstration in the city of San Miguel de Tucumán, demanding justice for the murder of Javier Chocobar, leader of a Diaguita indigenous community that is fighting against the exploitation of a quarry in northern Argentina. Credit: Courtesy of ANDHES

An indigenous demonstration in the city of San Miguel de Tucumán, demanding justice for the murder of Javier Chocobar, leader of a Diaguita indigenous community that is fighting against the exploitation of a quarry in northern Argentina. Credit: Courtesy of ANDHES

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Sep 22 2017 (IPS)

The territorial claims of hundreds of indigenous communities, which extend throughout most of Argentina’s vast geography, burst onto the public agenda of a country built by and for descendants of European colonisers and immigrants, accustomed to looking at native people as outsiders.

It all started with the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado, a 28-year-old artisan who on Aug. 1 participated in a protest in the southern Patagonian province of Chubut by Mapuche indigenous people, who were violently evicted by security forces. Since then, there has been no news of his whereabouts.

This mobilised broad sectors of society, and brought out of the shadows a conflict that in recent years has flared up into violence on many occasions, but which historically has been given little attention.

“I hope the sad incident involving Santiago Maldonado will help Argentina understand that it is necessary and possible to find legal and political solutions for theindigenous question,” said Gabriel Seghezzo, director of the Foundation for Development in Justice and Peace (Fundapaz) .

“It is imperative to work to defuse conflicts, because otherwise, the violence will continue,” added the head of Fundapaz, anorganisation that works to improve the living conditions of communities living in the Argentine portion of the Chaco, a vast subtropical forest that extends to Paraguay and Bolivia.

Fundapaz was one of the organisations that worked for more than 20 years on a territorial claim of rural lands in the northwestern province of Salta, which ended in 2014, when the local government transferred ownership of 643,000 hectares to the families that lived there.

Communal ownership of over 400,000 hectares was recognised for members of the Wichi, Toba, Tapiete, Chulupí and Chorote indigenous peoples, while the rest was granted in joint ownership to 463 non-indigenous peasant families.

The case, however, was merely one happy exception, since the vast majority of the country’s indigenous communities still do not have title to their lands.

Ten years ago, the government launched the National Programme for the Survey of Indigenous Territories, in which 1,532 communities were registered. To date, only 423 of them have been surveyed, although they do not yet have title deeds, while there are another 401 in process.

According to the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs (INAI), these 824 communities are demanding that 8,414,124 hectares be recognised as their ancestral lands. That is bigger than several countries in the continent, such as Panama or Costa Rica, but it is only about three percent of the 2,780,400 square km of the Argentine territory.

In the remaining communities, the survey has not even started.

This means the constitution, which recognises “the ethnic and cultural pre-existence of indigenous peoples” and guarantees not only “respect for their identity and the right to a bilingual and intercultural education”, but also “the communal possession and ownership of the lands they traditionally occupy,” is not being fulfilled.

These principles were incorporated in the constitution during the latest reform, in 1994, and marked a tremendous paradigm shift for a nation that has historically seen native people as an alien element, to be controlled.

"Where is he?" That is the question repeated on numerous posters on walls in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina regarding the Aug. 1 of Santiago Maldonado during a demonstration in the southern region of Patagonia. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

“Where is he?” That is the question repeated on numerous posters on walls in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina regarding the Aug. 1 of Santiago Maldonado during a demonstration in the southern region of Patagonia. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

In fact, up to 1994, Argentina’s laws actually instructed the authorities to “preserve the peaceful treatment of Indians and promote their conversion to Catholicism.”

However, the extraordinary progress on paper seems to have brought few concrete improvements for native people, whose proportion in the Argentine population is difficult to establish.

In the last National Census in 2010, 955,032 people identified themselves as belonging to or descended from an indigenous group, which represented 2.38 percent of the total population at that time of 40,117,096.

But the number of indigenous people is believed to be higher, since many people are reluctant to acknowledge indigenous roots, due to the historical discrimination and stigma that native people have suffered. The largest indigenous groups are the Mapuche in the south, the Tobas in the Chaco region, and the Guarani in the northeast.

“Since the constitutional reform that recognised indigenous peoples’ rights, we have had 23 years of absolute failure of public policies to solve the indigenous question. There has been a terrible postponement of the issue by all government administrations in this period,” said Raúl Ferreyra, a professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Buenos Aires.

For Ferreyra, “land disputes have clear roots in the uncontrolled advance of soy monoculture in the north of the country, and the passage to foreign hands of vast swathes of land in the south.”

“What we need is dialogue, but there is a lack of will and of tools,” he told IPS.

What happened with the land question is a good example of the gap between rules and reality.

In November 2006, the national Congress passed Law 26,160 on Indigenous Communities, which declared an “emergency with regard to the possession and ownership of indigenous territories” for four years.

During that period, which was to be used to determine which are the ancestral lands of the communities, as a preliminary step to the granting of title deeds, evictions were banned, even if a court order existed.

However, little progress was made on the survey, despite the fact that Congress voted for an extension of the original term of four years twice, for a total of 11 years.

The latest extension expires in November and dozens of social organisations across the country have called for its renewal until 2021, while Congress will begin debating the fate of the law on Sept. 27.

The demand was backed by hundreds of intellectuals, in a public letter in which they pointed out that “in Argentina, the recognition of indigenous peoples’ collective rights over their ancestral territories is increasingly irreconcilable with the expansion of profitable lands for capital.”

According to a study by global rights watchdog Amnesty International, there are 225 conflicts in the country involving indigenous communities, nearly all of them over land.

In 24 of them there were acts of violence with the intervention of the security forces, and even deaths. One case was the 2009 murder of Javier Chocobar, the leader of a Diaguitacommunityin the northwestern province of Tucumán, which is still unsolved.

“In all these years, many judges have continued to order evictions of indigenous communities despite the law prohibiting it. That is why we believe that if the emergency is not extended, the situation will get worse, “explained BelénLeguizamón, coordinator of the Indigenous Rights area of the Lawyers Association for Human Rights and Social Studies in Northwest Argentina (ANDHES).

In her view, “the law is an umbrella with holes, but an umbrella nonetheless.”

“The survey of Argentina’s indigenous territories should already have been completed, and today we should be studying the granting of title deeds on lands. We have to work against the strong discrimination that not only exists on the part of authorities and the mainstream media, but also among some sectors of society,” Leguizamón told IPS.

As an example, she noted that “schools in Argentina still teach that indigenous people belong to a past that no longer exists.”

The post Indigenous Land Conflicts Finally Garner Attention in Argentina appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/indigenous-land-conflicts-finally-garner-attention/feed/ 0
Mexico’s Disaster Response System Severely Stretched by Quakehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/mexicos-disaster-response-system-severely-stretched-quake/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-disaster-response-system-severely-stretched-quake http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/mexicos-disaster-response-system-severely-stretched-quake/#comments Wed, 20 Sep 2017 23:51:32 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152172 Central Mexico faced Wednesday the challenge of putting itself back together after the powerful 7.1-magnitude quake that devastated the capital and the neighbouring states of Mexico, Morelos and Puebla the day before. In Mexico City the air smells of dust, destruction, death, panic and hope, brought by the quake, whose epicenter was in Morelos, 120 […]

The post Mexico’s Disaster Response System Severely Stretched by Quake appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The Sept. 19, 2017 earthquake toppled nearly 50 buildings in Mexico City, and left many uninhabitable. Fire fighters carry out an inspection the day after in an apartment building that is still standing but will have to be demolished, in a neighbourhood in the centre of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Sept. 19, 2017 earthquake toppled nearly 50 buildings in Mexico City, and left many uninhabitable. Fire fighters carry out an inspection the day after in an apartment building that is still standing but will have to be demolished, in a neighbourhood in the centre of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

Central Mexico faced Wednesday the challenge of putting itself back together after the powerful 7.1-magnitude quake that devastated the capital and the neighbouring states of Mexico, Morelos and Puebla the day before.

In Mexico City the air smells of dust, destruction, death, panic and hope, brought by the quake, whose epicenter was in Morelos, 120 km to the south of the capital. So far the official death toll is 230, with hundreds of people injured and 44 collapsed buildings in Mexico City.

“Everything is cracked, everything’s about to fall down. Now I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Verónica, who lived in a new building on the verge of collapse on the south side of the capital, told IPS with tears in her eyes.

The mother of three, who preferred not to give her last name, was living alone for the last two years. She managed to salvage a few important things, like documents, jewelry and a TV set. She is now staying with one of her daughters in another part of greater Mexico City, which has a population of nearly 22 million people.

In Mexico City, the municipalities of Benito Juárez and Cuauhtémoc – two of the 16 “delegations” into which the city is divided and which together are home to nearly one million people – were hit hardest, along with parts of the states of Morelos and Puebla.
The capital is built on a dried-up ancient lakebed, which makes it more susceptible to earthquake damage.

On Tuesday, the interior ministry declared a state of disaster in the capital and 150 municipalities in Guerrero, Morelos and Puebla that were affected by the quake, to free up funds from the National Fund for Natural Disasters (FONDEN).

Berenice Rivera works as a seamstress, and she and her co-workers were evacuated from the building as soon as the first tremors were felt. “I ran to pick my kids up at school and went home to check if everything was ok,” the mother of two told IPS.

Given the structural damage to a tall nearby building, Rivera does not believe she can continue to live in the housing complex where she lives along with some 80 neighbours. “We’re going to pull things out and see where we can move to, what else can we do?” she sighed.

Construction workers were among the first to get involved in the effort to rescue survivors, leaving the buildings where they were working and using their hands to remove rubble to find people who might be trapped underneath. It was the start of a wave of citizen solidarity and support that continues to grow along the streets and avenues of the city.

A rescue worker attempts to secure the perimeter of a building toppled by the Sept. 19, 2017 earthquake, to keep former residents from trying to get inside – something that has happened in many buildings knocked down or badly damaged by the quake in Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Gody/IPS

A rescue worker attempts to secure the perimeter of a building toppled by the Sept. 19, 2017 earthquake, to keep former residents from trying to get inside – something that has happened in many buildings knocked down or badly damaged by the quake in Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Gody/IPS

Just like after the 8.0-magnitude quake that left 25,000 people dead in Mexico City – according to unofficial figures – on Sept. 19, 1985, people mobilised en masse to remove rubble in the search for survivors, in a brave and often disorganised show of solidarity.

Although basic public services have been restored, economic, commercial and educational activities have come to a halt. The work is focused on finding survivors under the rubble, assessing the damage to buildings, and depending on the result, demolishing them and relocating the residents while planning the reconstruction effort.

But more buildings are at risk of collapse because of the damage suffered. In addition, the quake – which happened on the 32nd anniversary of the worst quake in the history of Mexico, during a drill on how to deal with a disaster of this kind – will have environmental and health effects.

“The situation is very difficult,” Mexican-American Juan Cota, who has been living in the capital since 2011 and works in the financial sector, told IPS. “There are damaged buildings that could collapse.”

Cota was in a café on the south-central side of the city when the quake began. His apartment survived, but some of his neighbours were not so lucky.

The Mexico City government has opened at least 41 shelters for survivors throughout the capital.

Mexico’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, tweeted that the United Nations would head the rescue and aid efforts.

According to its model for estimating earthquake damage, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) predicted up to 1,000 fatalities and economic losses between 100 million and one billion dollars.

The USGS stated that “Extensive damage is probable and the disaster is likely widespread. Estimated economic losses are less than 1% of GDP of Mexico. Past events with this alert level have required a national or international level response.”

The quake has further stretched the country’s disaster response system, already overwhelmed by the 8.1-magnitude quake that hit on Sept. 7, with an epicenter off the coast of the southern state of Chiapas, and which also affected the state of Oaxaca and Mexico City.

Over two million people were affected by that quake, including some 90 people who were killed, according to government statistics.

In August, the World Bank Group issued its largest ever catastrophe bond to Mexico.

The bonds are divided into three categories of insurance: Atlantic Ocean hurricanes, Pacific Ocean hurricanes and earthquakes, providing Mexico with financial protection of up to 360 million dollars against losses.

Similar bonds were issued in 2006, 2009 and 2012.

Each year, this Latin American country dedicates some 1.5 billion dollars to the reconstruction of public infrastructure and social housing affected by natural disasters. Between 2014 and 2015, FONDEN disbursed 137 million dollars to address the damage caused by hurricanes, heavy rains and flooding.

The earthquake has fanned the flames of the debate about the construction standards in force in Mexico City, which were upgraded after the 1985 tragedy. “They say they’re stricter, but look at that building. It’s new and it’s about to come down,” said Verónica.

Cota believes the standards are not always enforced, mainly because of corruption. “They ignore them…they have to be revised and enforced, because the earth will continue to shake and there will be more damage,” he said.

Tuesday’s earthquake occurred near the area where the Cocos Plate, off Mexico’s Pacific coast, is pushing underneath the North American Plate – a phenomenon that points to further quakes.

The post Mexico’s Disaster Response System Severely Stretched by Quake appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/mexicos-disaster-response-system-severely-stretched-quake/feed/ 1
Small Farmers in Brazil’s Amazon Region Seek Sustainabilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/small-farmers-brazils-amazon-region-seek-sustainability/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=small-farmers-brazils-amazon-region-seek-sustainability http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/small-farmers-brazils-amazon-region-seek-sustainability/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 23:00:28 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152139 The deforestation caused by the expansion of livestock farming and soy monoculture appears unstoppable in the Amazon rainforest in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. But small-scale farmers are trying to reverse that trend. Alison Oliveira is a product of the invasion by a wave of farmers from the south, lured by vast, cheap […]

The post Small Farmers in Brazil’s Amazon Region Seek Sustainability appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
After living in the city for 10 years, Oliveira and Marcely Federicci da Silva, a young married couple, decided to return to work on their farm with a sustainable agriculture project, nearby Alta Floresta, in the so-called Portal of the Amazon, in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

After living in the city for 10 years, Oliveira and Marcely Federicci da Silva, a young married couple, decided to return to work on their farm with a sustainable agriculture project, nearby Alta Floresta, in the so-called Portal of the Amazon, in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ALTA FLORESTA, Brazil, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

The deforestation caused by the expansion of livestock farming and soy monoculture appears unstoppable in the Amazon rainforest in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. But small-scale farmers are trying to reverse that trend.

Alison Oliveira is a product of the invasion by a wave of farmers from the south, lured by vast, cheap land in the Amazon region when the 1964-1985 military dictatorship aggressively promoted the occupation of the rainforest.

“I was born here in 1984, but my grandfather came from Paraná (a southern state) and bought about 16 hectares here, which are currently divided between three families: my father’s, my brother’s and mine,” Oliveira told IPS while milking his cows in a barn that is small but mechanised.

“Milk is our main source of income; today we have 14 cows, 10 of which are giving milk,” he explained. “I also make cheese the way my grandfather taught me, and I sell it to hotels and restaurants, for twice the price of the milk.”

But what distinguishes his farm, 17 km from Alta Floresta, a city of about 50,000 people in northern Mato Grosso, is its mode of production, which involves an agroforestry system that combines crops and trees, irrigated pastureland, an organic garden and free-range egg-laying chickens.

Because of its sustainable agriculture system, the farm is used as a model in an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) programme, and is visited by students and other interested people.

“We want more: a biodigester, solar power and rural tourism, when we have the money to make the investments,” said Oliveira’s wife, 34-year-old Marcely Federicci da Silva.

The couple discovered their vocation for sustainable farming after living for 10 years in Sinop, which with its 135,000 people is the most populated city in northern Mato Grosso, and which owes its prosperity to soy crops for export.

“Raising two small children in the city is harder,” she said, also attributing their return to the countryside to Olhos de Agua, a project promoted by the municipal government of Alta Floresta to reforest and restore the headwaters of rivers on small rural properties.

 Alison Oliveira, surrounded by the organic crops that he and his wife grow on their small-scale farm outside the city of Alta Floresta, on the southern edge of Brazil’s Amazon region. Sustainable family farming, supported by several organisations, acts as a barrier against deforestation and soy monoculture. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


Alison Oliveira, surrounded by the organic crops that he and his wife grow on their small-scale farm outside the city of Alta Floresta, on the southern edge of Brazil’s Amazon region. Sustainable family farming, supported by several organisations, acts as a barrier against deforestation and soy monoculture. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The financial viability of the farm owes a great deal to the support received from the non-governmental Ouro Verde Institute (IOV), which in addition to providing technical assistance, created a mechanism for on-line sales, creating links between farmers and consumers, Oliveira pointed out.

The Solidarity-Based Marketing System (Siscos), launched in 2008, is“an on-line market that allows direct interaction between 30 farmers and over 500 registered customers, zootechnician Cirio Custodio da Silva, marketing consultant for the IOV, explained to IPS.

Customers place weekly orders, the system chooses suppliers and picks up the products to be delivered to the buyers in a shop on Wednesdays.

Besides, Siscos supports sales in street markets, and the school feeding programme, which by law in Brazil buys at least 30 per cent of its food products from family farmers, and the women textile workers’ network, who make handcrafted textiles.

The IOV, founded in 1999 in Alta Floresta to drive social participation in sustainable development, especially in agriculture, has promoted since 2010 a network of native seeds, to encourage reforestation and crop diversification.

Alison Oliveira milks one of his cows, which feed on a pasture with nocturnal irrigation, which cuts power costs by 60 per cent. Together with an organic garden and an agroforestry system, it makes their farm an example of sustainability which attracts many visitors. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Alison Oliveira milks one of his cows, which feed on a pasture with nocturnal irrigation, which cuts power costs by 60 per cent. Together with an organic garden and an agroforestry system, it makes their farm an example of sustainability which attracts many visitors. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Seed collectors organised in a 115-member cooperative, with 12 seed banks, 200 selected tree species, and mainly oilseeds for agriculture, represent an activity that is also a source of income, said agronomist Anderson Lopes, head of that area at the IOV.

Initially, the interest of the farmers was limited to having access to agricultural seeds, but later it also extended to
seeds of native tree species, for the restoration of forests, springs and headwaters, and degraded land, he said.

Silva and Lopes have similar backgrounds. Their farming families, from the south, ventured to the so-called Portal of the Amazon, a region that covers 16 municipalities in northern Mato Grosso, where the rainforest begins.

It is a territory with a rural economy, where one-third of the 258,000 inhabitants still live in the countryside, according to the 2010 national census.

It is a transition zone between the area with the largest soybean and maize production in Brazil, in north-central Mato Grosso, and the Amazon region with its dense, sparsely populated jungle.

This is reflected in 14 indigenous territories established in the area and in the number of family farmers – over 20,000 – in contrast with the prevalence of large soybean plantations that are advancing from the south.

The road that connects Sinop – a kind of capital of the empire of soy – with Alta Floresta, 320 km to the north, runs through land that gradually becomes less flat and favourable for mechanised monoculture, with more and more forests and fewer vast agricultural fields.

Pedro Kingfuku, owner of four supermarkets, stands among fruit and vegetables that come from Paraná, 2,000 km south of Paranaita, a municipality with a population of 11,000 people. Local family farming has a great capacity for expansion to cater to the large market in the north of the state of Mato Grosso, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Pedro Kingfuku, owner of four supermarkets, stands among fruit and vegetables that come from Paraná, 2,000 km south of Paranaita, a municipality with a population of 11,000 people. Local family farming has a great capacity for expansion to cater to the large market in the north of the state of Mato Grosso, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

That tendency is accentuated towards Paranaita, a municipality with a population of 11,000 people, 54 km west of Alta Floresta, which announces the last frontier of livestock farming and soy monoculture, at least through that south-north highway across Mato Grosso, the national leader in the production of soy.

Movements in favour of sustainability, such as the one supported by IOV, and the important presence of family farmers, are joining forces to help curb the invasion of the Amazon region by soy monoculture which dominated north-central Mato Grosso, creating a post-harvest desert-like landscape.

Another non-governmental organisation, the Center of Life Institute (ICV), also active in Alta Floresta and surrounding areas, has a Sustainable Livestock Initiative, with reforestation and restoration of degraded pastures.

The “colonisation” process of the Portal of the Amazon was similar to that of the rest of Mato Grosso. People from the south came with dreams of working in agriculture, after previous waves of loggers and “garimpeiros” – informal miners of gold and precious stones – activities that still continue but have become less prevalent.

“Many of those who obtained land harvested the timber and then returned south,” because planting crops was torture, without roads, marketing or financial support, recalled Daniel Schlindewein, another migrant from Paraná who settled in Sinop in 1997.

Agriculture failed with coffee, rice and other traditional crops that were initially tried, until soy monoculture spread among the small farms, rented from the large producers.

But family farming has survived in the Portal of the Amazon.

“If the town of São Pedro didn’t exist, I would have to close the store in Paranaíta,“ Pedro Kingfuku, the owner of a chain of four supermarkets in the area, told IPS. He opened the stores in 2013 betting that the construction of the Teles Pires Hydropower Plant nearby would generate 5,000 new customers.

“But not even a tenth of what was expected came,“ he lamented.

The 785 farming families who settled in São Pedro, near Paranaíta, saved the local supermarket because they mainly buy there, said Kingfuku, the son of Japanese immigrants who also came from Paraná.

“Among the settlers, the ones who earn the most are the dairy farmers, like my father who has 16 hectares of land,” said Mauricio Dionisio, a young man who works in the supermarket.

The post Small Farmers in Brazil’s Amazon Region Seek Sustainability appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/small-farmers-brazils-amazon-region-seek-sustainability/feed/ 0
Islamic Organization Promotes Cultural Rapprochement Between US & Muslim Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/islamic-organization-promotes-cultural-rapprochement-us-muslim-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=islamic-organization-promotes-cultural-rapprochement-us-muslim-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/islamic-organization-promotes-cultural-rapprochement-us-muslim-world/#respond Mon, 18 Sep 2017 11:44:28 +0000 Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152117 Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen is Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

The post Islamic Organization Promotes Cultural Rapprochement Between US & Muslim World appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen. Credit: OIC

By Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen
NEW YORK, Sep 18 2017 (IPS)

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), by virtue of its position of being the second largest international organization outside the UN system with 57 member countries comprising one fifth of the world population and covering Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, is indeed an important actor in dealing with rapprochement between cultures, in particular rapprochement between the Muslim World and its international partners like the USA.

Rapprochement between cultures through dialogue among civilizations and diverse faiths as an agenda item was pioneered by the OIC at the international level as early as 1998.

The OIC believes in dialogue and communication in order to foster mutual respect and understanding. Its focus continues to be one of outreach and engagement with the international stakeholders like the USA to form a meaningful and functional partnership to work together in engendering a culture of peaceful coexistence and upholding human dignity.

Communication makes people more connected and raises awareness among them on the implications of hatred and discrimination based on their faith, culture and religion. Based on these premises, the OIC has established a separate full-fledged Department of Dialogue and Outreach in its General Secretariat. The main objective of this Department is to reach out to different cultures with an aim to reduce misunderstanding and cultural gap between them and the Muslim World.

With this in mind, the Department has established a close relationship of collaboration and cooperation with the King Abdullah International Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), an Intergovernmental setup established at the initiative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia along with Austria and Spain to highlight the efficacy of cultural rapprochement as an effective tool to reduce conflict through building bridges between cultures.

We all want to live in dignity, in peace, in security, to raise our children, to protect our families. Muslims are not exception to that. Islam like any other religion advocate for the same values of humanity, mercy, solidarity, peace.

To this end, contemporary challenges like xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, discrimination, and hatred must be tackled through inclusive dialogue and tolerance. For this, uniting our efforts is what the world needs today.

Much has been achieved in this regard, nevertheless, as the challenges around us continue to grow and expand, much more is yet to be done. We believe that there is more to unite us than to divide. As such, in order to focus on the factors that bring us together, cultural rapprochement through communication, dialogue and inclusiveness needs to be nurtured and demonstrated in our everyday life.

Meanwhile, an OIC press release says the Organization will hold several meetings on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York starting Monday, 18 September 2017.

The foreign ministers of the OIC Member States are expected to hold a coordination meeting to discuss the issues of interest to the OIC that are on the agenda of the current session of the UNGA.

Also, the Special Ministerial Committee on Palestine will hold a meeting to discuss the developments regarding the Palestinian issue, and the Secretary General Dr. Yousef Al Othaimeen will chair an international high-level meeting to support the Palestinian refugees.

There will also be a ministerial meeting of the Contact Group on the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, who are being subjected to persecution, displacement and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar for years. The situation has exacerbated in the past weeks, which caused more than 300,000 of the Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh.

Other contact group meetings will also be held on Somalia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Yemen, Jammu and Kashmir, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and on the aggression of Armenia on Azerbaijan to discuss the situations and developments in these countries and regions.

In addition, the second meeting of the Contact Group on Muslims in Europe will be held, which aims to promote understanding and respect between Muslims living in the West and their communities and protecting their rights in light of heightened Islamophobia across Europe.

The recent terrorist attacks combined with the current economic crisis and high unemployment rates have increasingly strained relations between immigrant Muslim communities and the larger societies in which they live, a situation that has been used by the far right groups to exacerbate tensions.

The OIC Secretary General is expected to have bilateral meetings with a number of presidents, foreign ministers and high officials from the member states and non-member states during the UNGA to discuss issues of mutual interest.

Furthermore, Al-Othaimeen and his accompanying delegation of senior officials will participate in the opening of the UNGA session and several meetings and activities that are to be held on its sidelines on important regional and international issues.

The post Islamic Organization Promotes Cultural Rapprochement Between US & Muslim World appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/islamic-organization-promotes-cultural-rapprochement-us-muslim-world/feed/ 0
Communities Can be Role Models for Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/communities-can-role-models-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=communities-can-role-models-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/communities-can-role-models-sustainable-development/#respond Fri, 15 Sep 2017 14:29:46 +0000 Nik Sekhran http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152084 Nik Sekhran is Director of Sustainable Development, UN Development Programme (UNDP)

The post Communities Can be Role Models for Sustainable Development appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Mikoko Pamoja is a community-based initiative that has pioneered carbon credit payments for mangrove restoration. Credit: Mikoko Pamoja

By Nik Sekhran
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 15 2017 (IPS)

The United Nations, governments, civil society, business, thought leaders and media will gather in New York on September 17 to celebrate the winners of the Equator Prize 2017. The 15 prize winning communities successfully advance innovative solutions for poverty, environment, and climate challenges.

The Equator Prize 2017 winners will join a prestigious group of 208 previous Equator Prize winners that have been recognized by the UNDP Equator Initiative partnership since its inception in 2002. Together, these prize winners tell a compelling story about the power of local action. This year, among the winners is the Federación de Tribus Indígenas Pech de Honduras, a cooperative that sells an essential ingredient in the international fragrance and flavor industry.

Nik Sekhran

Across the Atlantic, the Mali Elephant Project works in a region torn asunder by violent extremism to protect the endangered African elephant and advance local development priorities. Moving further east, in Indonesia, Raja Ampat Homestay Association has created an innovative, community-run web platform for ecotourism, garnering over 600 new jobs for the community and catalyzing the creation of 84 community businesses, all while conserving fragile marine ecosystems.

The stories of these groups are not simply colorful reminders that people can live in harmony with nature. They illustrate how community action is essential to achieve sustainable development.

In 2015, the world agreed to an ambitious set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). From ending extreme poverty and hunger, to ensuring resilient communities, to ensuring water security, to sustaining life on land and life below water, this agenda defines the world we want in 2030. Achieving these goals will require a significant departure from business as usual.

Take the environment as an example – on our current trajectory, we will lose 68% of biodiversity by 2020. We are losing a rhino every eight hours, and an elephant every 15 minutes. Losing biodiversity also hurts the economy – we have lost US$20 trillion dollars in economic value since 1970 due to the degradation of ecosystems and the disappearance of biodiversity.

Further challenges arise from the trends we will face over the next 13 years, as we look towards 2030. With 1.3 billion more people on the planet, demand for food will increase by 35%, for water by 40%, and for energy by 50%.

We are approaching, and may have already surpassed, the planetary boundaries that define the thresholds of sustainability. We must learn to stay within these limits, to address the coming challenges, and to not only stem the loss of biodiversity but to transform nature to become an engine of sustainable development.

The village of Bang La sustainably manages a 192-hectare forest that has shielded the community from devastating disasters and improved livelihoods through increased fish catch. Credit: Community Mangrove Forest Conservation of Bang La


We at UNDP believe that no one actor – not governments, not companies, not cities and not NGOs – can achieve the SDGs alone. We also believe that local action will be an essential component to achieve the goals. Local communities and indigenous peoples face the very real consequences of biodiversity loss and climate change daily – consequences which can mean life or death for their families, communities, and ways of life.

The Equator Prize teaches us that these same communities excel in developing innovative tactics that deliver high-impact, scalable solutions to address these challenges and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our awardees demonstrate that successful approaches combine multiple sustainable development benefits. Each Equator Prize 2017 winner’s actions address at least five SDGs in a holistic way. In Kenya, for example, Mikoko Pamoja is the first community-based initiative of its kind to sell carbon credits generated through the protection of mangrove forests. The community reinvests income from these credits into clean water and education, providing a virtuous cycle of development dividends that deliver on SDG1 (no poverty), 4 (quality education) and 6 (clean water and sanitation), in addition to SDG13 (climate action), SDG14 (life under water), and SDG15 (life on land).

In Indonesia, Raja Ampat Homestay Association’s web portal for community homestays provides a scalable avenue for local development and ocean conservation. Credit: Raja Ampat Homestay Association


Equator Prize winning communities also show that investing in nature is an effective and efficient pathway to sustainable development. Because its mangroves were intact, the village of Bang La in Thailand was largely spared the devastating force of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The community formed an association – the Mangrove Forest Conservation Group of Bang La Community – to legally protect their mangroves for future generations, at a fraction of what the cost of rebuilding a devastated community would be.

I look forward to celebrating and honoring these environmental heroes. Our venue for the Equator Prize Award Ceremony gala is a testimony to the power of local action – The Town Hall theatre in New York City was built in the early 1920s as a meeting place for a vibrant group of suffragists. The success of their struggle shows us how the commitment and perseverance of a small group of individuals can change the world for the better. Just like these suffragists, the Equator Prize 2017 winners provide powerful stories of hope amidst chaos, showing us that local action can create powerful impacts for people, planet, and prosperity.

The post Communities Can be Role Models for Sustainable Development appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/communities-can-role-models-sustainable-development/feed/ 0
Latin America in Search of Sustainable Food Systemshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latin-america-search-sustainable-food-systems/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-search-sustainable-food-systems http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latin-america-search-sustainable-food-systems/#respond Mon, 11 Sep 2017 20:42:42 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152021 A paradigm shift is needed regarding how food is produced, consumed and marketed in Latin America and the Caribbean, in order to curb health problems related to poor nutrition. Finding healthy and sustainable food production systems was the idea debated by experts, academics and representatives of governments of the region and United Nations agencies, at […]

The post Latin America in Search of Sustainable Food Systems appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Students at the Pepenance Canton School, in the municipality of Atiquizaya, in western El Salvador, wait for lunch to be prepared with local recipes and products purchased from farmers in the surrounding community, as part of the Sustainable Schools project’s healthy meals programme. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Students at the Pepenance Canton School, in the municipality of Atiquizaya, in western El Salvador, wait for lunch to be prepared with local recipes and products purchased from farmers in the surrounding community, as part of the Sustainable Schools project’s healthy meals programme. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR/ATIQUIZAYA, El Salvador , Sep 11 2017 (IPS)

A paradigm shift is needed regarding how food is produced, consumed and marketed in Latin America and the Caribbean, in order to curb health problems related to poor nutrition.

Finding healthy and sustainable food production systems was the idea debated by experts, academics and representatives of governments of the region and United Nations agencies, at a regional forum held Sept. 5-7 in San Salvador.

The challenge is overwhelming: to fight against not just hunger and malnutrition, but also overweight and obesity in Latin America and the Caribbean, which are on the rise in this region of over 640 million people.“It is necessary to buy from family farmers, because that produces changes in the local economy and empowers the communities." -- Najla Veloso

The three-day Regional Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Eating in San Salvador was organised by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

“This space is an opportunity to share experiences, because we are working hard to have standards, as a challenge for society as a whole: urbanism, a sedentary lifestyle, changes in eating habits, over-processed fast foods, end up being a threat,” said Carlos Garzón, PAHO representative in El Salvador.

In 2012, 38 million people died from non-communicable diseases, 48 percent of them under 70 – “people who shouldn’t have died,” he said.

“And a good part of these diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, are linked to overweight and obesity, and thus, related to diet,” he stressed.

For his part, Julio Berdegué, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, said this part of the world is losing the fight against hunger and overweight.

He said this region had had an important leadership role at a global level, with comprehensive public policies to tackle hunger, and had managed to lift 26 million people from a state of food insecurity since 1990.

“But for the last five years we have not been making the progress we had been making. I regret to have to announce that the data that FAO will publish next week will confirm that, for the first time in a generation, the world, including our region, are experiencing a setback in the fight against hunger,” he said during the forum.

And with regard to obesity, he said that in 24 countries in the region, 20 percent or more of the population is overweight.

In Chile, Mexico and the Bahamas the proportion is over 30 percent, while in Uruguay, Argentina and Trinidad and Tobago it is nearly 29 percent.

According to FAO, obesity is eroding the development opportunities of nearly four million children in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Brazil and Paraguay, 12 percent of children are overweight, in Chile, Bolivia and Mexico the proportion is nine percent, and in El Salvador, six percent.

Some of the participants in the forum visited the village of Pepenance, in the municipality of Atiquizaya, 83 kilometers west of San Salvador, to learn about the effort made since 2013 by the local school to promote the Sustainable Schools programme.

This project is part of the Sustainable School Feeding Program of El Salvador’s Education Ministry.

FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, Julio Berdegué (right), and other visitors listen to two students at the school in Pepenance, a village in El Salvador, as they talk about their school vegetable garden. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, Julio Berdegué (right), and other visitors listen to two students at the school in Pepenance, a village in El Salvador, as they talk about their school vegetable garden. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

In the programme, students learn to produce food in the school garden, and eat a nutritional daily meal based on vegetables and other natural products purchased from local family farmers.

The Sustainable Schools initiative, supported by FAO and financially backed by Brazil, is implemented in 10 of El Salvador’s 14 departments, and covers 40 of the 262 municipalities and 215 of the over 3,000 schools located in rural areas. It benefits a total of 73,000 students.

Principals from a dozen other schools in the municipality visited the school in Pepenance, along with local farmers and others involved in the project, to stress that the effort must be sustained and expanded.

Ana Fajardo, head teacher at the Parvularia Cordelia Ávalos Vda. de Labor School, explained that some students used to miss class because they were malnourished, before the local schools in this Central American country of 6.4 million people began to serve nutritional meals.

But things have changed since the school joined the programme, she said. Now they eat healthy meals at school, based on cereals, grains, fruits, vegetables and sources of protein.

Ninth grade student Yajaira Ortiz said the school garden not only helps them learn to grow food, but is also useful in subjects like math.

“The gardens make our class more interesting, we get out of the classroom and see that we have many geometric figures there too,” she said. In the gardens, the crops are planted in geometric shapes, like triangles and circles.

Exploring experiences like El Salvador’s school meals programme and similar initiatives in other countries was part of the debate in the forum held in the Salvadoran capital.

“This is the concrete, real face of the debate in the San Salvador symposium,” Berdegué told IPS. “We are discussing big ideas there, public policies, but when we talk about healthy, sustainable systems, we’re referring to programmes like this one.”

El Salvador is among the group of 13 countries from this region that since 2009 have formed part of an initiative sponsored by FAO and the Brazilian government, aimed at expanding the programme of sustainable schools, adapting what Brazil has achieved through its national school feeding programme.

The FAO regional coordinator for the Strengthening of School Feeding Programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean project, Brazilian expert Najla Veloso, underscored that it is important to get local farmers involved, because this strengthens the social and economic fabric of the communities.

Veloso explained to IPS that in Brazil, 30 percent of the food served daily to 42 million students comes, by law, from local producers.

“It is necessary to buy from family farmers, because that produces changes in the local economy and empowers the communities,” she said.

The post Latin America in Search of Sustainable Food Systems appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latin-america-search-sustainable-food-systems/feed/ 0
Taking Stock of SDG Actions on UN’s Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/taking-stock-sdg-actions-uns-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=taking-stock-sdg-actions-uns-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/taking-stock-sdg-actions-uns-development-agenda/#respond Mon, 11 Sep 2017 05:47:38 +0000 Peter Thomson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152006 Peter Thomson is President of the UN General Assembly

The post Taking Stock of SDG Actions on UN’s Development Agenda appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Peter Thomson is President of the UN General Assembly

By Peter Thomson
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 11 2017 (IPS)

Taken together, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, provide humanity with a masterplan for a sustainable way of life on this planet.

Peter Thomson

If we maintain our fidelity to this masterplan, we will end extreme poverty and create economic growth and prosperity that is more equitably shared both between and within countries. And in so doing, we will empower billions of women and girls; advance human rights and reduce the risk of violent extremism. Most importantly, we will restore balance to our relationship with the planetary ecosystem, both on land and in the Ocean, while addressing the realities of Climate Change.

We set the bar high with the Agenda because conditions, both today’s and those to come, demand that we do so. Thus the goals we have set ourselves present enormous challenges and require of us huge transformations of systems and behavior.

Their realization demands political foresight, collaboration and the deployment of resources, expertise and technology on a scale that has perhaps never before been seen. But we do have these qualities and resources. Potentially, we have reserves of them sufficient to well exceed the goals before us. Thus it is a matter of deployment, of marshalling our forces, both morally and practically, to undertake the tasks at hand in a spirit of inclusivity and universality.

In these early years of the 2030 Agenda, it is essential that we generate an unstoppable momentum towards the way stations of 2020 and 2025, and ultimately on to our 2030 destination. In November last year, I presented to you my PGA plan to generate such momentum. As you know, I assembled a high-quality team of SDG experts within my office, supported by Chef de Cabinet, Ambassador Tomas Anker Christensen, my Special Adviser on SDGs, Ambassador Dessima Williams, and the PGA’s Special Envoy on SDGs and Climate Change, Ambassador Macharia Kamau, to help me implement that plan.

Over the course of the last twelve months, we have pursued activities to bring progress to each of the 17 SDGs. This work has been captured in the report prepared for today’s meeting, a copy of which should now be with you.

I will summarize a sample of those activities now, by talking to three main streams of work.

The first work-stream relates to SDG Advocacy.

In order to keep the SDGs at the top of the global agenda, my office travelled to 32 countries across every region of the world. This was a time-consuming exercise, and I particularly want to thank Ambassadors Kamau and Williams for putting in the hard yards attained. From COP22 in Morocco to Habitat III in Ecuador; from the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and the OECD in France; from the African Union in Ethiopia to the European Union in Belgium, to the Belt and Road Forum in China and to the SIDS Symposium in the Bahamas, we were present at the forefront.

We visited the UN Offices in Bangkok, Nairobi, Vienna, Rome and Geneva to convene with them on the Sustainable Development Goals. On each occasion, we drove home our key 2030 Agenda messages, urging all actors to get on board the SDG train, to get the wheels of implementation turning, and to join the journey to a better world by 2030.

During the 71st session, we placed particular focus on engaging young people, believing them to be the most effective agents of transformation given the importance of the 2030 Agenda to their lives. We met with groups of young people at every given opportunity and I wrote to every Head of State and Government encouraging them to incorporate the SDGs into national school curricula, making a similar request to the heads of over 4,000 universities.

In addition, we strove to bring the attention of the global public to the SDGs. As part of this effort, we organized a series of SDG Media Zones to allow the global social media community to engage with leaders and speakers at the High Level Week in September and other High Level Meetings. All this to burn the candle of enlightenment better and brighter.

The second work-stream has focussed on generating collaboration across a range of SDGs.

Here, we convened a host of meetings in New York and elsewhere. You will recall the five SDG Action Events convened during the resumed session. Cognizant of the busy GA, ECOSOC and Security Council schedules, many of these action events were organized back to back with other meetings.

The first of them was held in January; when in keeping with the Secretary-General’s focus on prevention and in advance of next year’s High Level Meeting on Sustaining Peace, we looked closely at the links between the 2030 Agenda and the concept of Sustaining Peace. We emerged from that day with the mantra, ‘There can be no sustainable development without sustaining peace, and no sustaining peace without sustainable development.’

In March, we held a meeting with UNFCCC on the SDGs and Climate Change. It was hugely reassuring to observe at this meeting that the great mass of humanity, along with the governments that lead us, are united behind the Paris Agreement. The meeting made clear that proactive Climate action will have direct positive impacts across all of the SDGs, with a lack of Climate action having the opposite effect.

In April, with a view to identifying the steps required to unlock the massive resources required by the 2030 Agenda from international private finance, we held an SDG Financing Lab. This event illustrated how different goals require different sources of finances; how action must be taken to bring key financial stakeholders together on a UN platform to get investments flowing; and how the financial system must be aligned with the SDGs in order to facilitate the financing of the Goals.

In May, we held a memorable meeting on Innovation, kick-starting a reflection on how the UN system and Member States alike can embrace innovation for the benefit of SDG progress. We concluded that the fourth industrial revolution will be a boon to the 2030 Agenda, but that we must manage both the benefits and the risks associated with exponential technological change.

As we engaged with both the worlds of finance and technology during the 71st session, it became clear to us that there is a strong demand from outside the UN for a port of call, a docking station at the UN, for partnerships to be structured in support of the implementation of the SDGs.

And then in June, to bring a fresh spirit of collaboration and action to one of the most crucial SDGs, we held the SDG Action Event on Education and SDG 4. The meeting brought together key stakeholders to discuss what it will take to realize the Education Goal, looking at financing needs, at empowering youth, at education in humanitarian and emergency settings as well as at education for sustainable development, and at how connectivity and exponential technology advances can transform the way we educate for progress.

Finally, there was The Ocean Conference, held in support of the implementation of SDG14. Working with the Co-Chairs, Fiji and Sweden, with DESA, OLA, DOALOS, UNDP, UNEP, FAO, IOC and the entire UN membership, agencies and programmes, we raised global consciousness on the plight of the Ocean and produced a huge work plan of solutions from the congregation of world expertise assembled. The conference generated almost 1400 voluntary commitments for Ocean action and a global community of actors now committed to working with us in reversing the cycle of decline in which the Ocean has been currently caught.

I am very proud of what The Ocean Conference achieved. Ahead lies the implementation of the work plan, with the necessary discipline of the proposed 2020 UN Ocean Conference to work towards in support of SDG14.

The third work-stream has been the implementation of SDG-related mandates within the General Assembly.

Here, resolutions were passed on key issues like the Technology Bank for LDCs, and the Global SDG Indicator Framework. Lengthy consultations were conducted on the alignment of the GA Agenda with the SDGs, and important GA meetings were held on the UN’s response to individual SDGs such as those relating to biodiversity, water and urbanization. During the session, we advanced preparations for major meetings on SDG-related matters including migration, human trafficking, and South-South cooperation.

Having analyzed and reflected on what we have busied ourselves with during the 71st session, I draw a few key conclusions that I would like to share with you.

First, I believe that together we have generated momentum across the SDGs. Through our advocacy efforts, the New York element of the 2030 Agenda has been properly applied to ensuring the SDGs are at the forefront of the global agenda. Through our SDG action events, we have brought new actors to the table and encouraged those already involved to collaborate more actively with others. And through our work here at the General Assembly, we have strengthened the overall architecture for implementing and following up on the SDGs, and broadened global awareness of the SDGs.

Second, based on our experience and on all of the above-mentioned efforts and more, the outlook for SDG implementation is positive.

Headway is being made in many key areas, as captured in this year’s UN SDG Progress Report. Governments have made great strides in incorporating the SDGs into their national development plans, as was further evidenced by the strong interest in voluntary national reviews at this year’s HLPF.

Meanwhile it is heartening to see the business sector becoming increasingly aware of the SDGs and expressing a desire to play an active part in their implementation. Progressive actors in the financial world see that the future is green and that the 2030 Agenda presents incredible investment opportunities.

An army of innovators are at their keyboards and in their labs ready to unleash their ideas and new technologies to support the SDGs. And civil society actors, many of whom helped us to conceive this masterplan, are ready to push us forward day in day out.

Here at the UN in New York we see positive signs. The High Level Political Forum is growing in strength year on year. The appointments of Secretary General Guterres; of DSG Mohammed; of UNDP Administrator Steiner; and of UN DESA’s Mr Liu and many more, means that the UN has recruited an inspiring team to lead the charge of the 2030 Agenda.

The Secretary General’s report on the UN System that was released in July demonstrates his resolve to do what is needed to ensure the UN is fit to discharge its mandates to best effect and to better support Member States in realizing the SDGs. In this regard, I urge Member States to get behind the Secretary General’s efforts, to look beyond the pain of short-term changes and embrace the systemic shift needed to move us closer to the achievement of our universal goals.

My third conclusion is not yet an alarm bell, more in the nature of an early morning wake-up call. Two years after the momentous adoption of the 2030 Agenda, implementation is not yet moving at the speed or scale required to meet our ambitious goals.

Progress on individual goals is at best uneven, as evidenced on the ground where it matters most. This mixed picture is reflected across regions, between the sexes, and among people of different ages, wealth and locales, including urban and rural dwellers. Thus a much greater focus on leaving no one behind, on empowering women and girls, young people and vulnerable groups is asked of us at all levels.

UN DPI, the SDG Action Campaign and Project Everyone are diligently performing their respective roles in bringing the SDGs to the people. But popular awareness of the SDGs at individual and community levels across the world remains far too low. This is a serious flaw, for without knowledge of the rights and responsibilities inherent in the SDGs, people are not directly motivated to work on the transformations of thought and action the 2030 Agenda requires.

To correct this, further emphasis is needed in national plans and policies – be they in the global North or South – to better promote the central demands of the 2030 Agenda. These should include a focus on inclusion; an integrated approach across the three dimensions of sustainable development; and an emphasis on participation, transparency and accountability.

As indicated in the Secretary-General’s report, big gaps also exist in the UN’s current approach, particularly in the areas of partnership, finance, data and innovation.

More broadly, it is clear that we have yet to see the levels of collaboration and collective action that helped governments make major inroads on the MDGs. There is clearly a need for a more systematic approach to SDG partnerships and collective action across the range of SDGs and the UN has a critical role to play in making this so. The Ocean Conference demonstrated the power of bringing together a wide-range of actors to support the implementation of a particular SDG, and this model can be replicated elsewhere.

Similarly, we have yet to witness the dramatic shift in financing and global economic policy that is necessary to align the financial system with the SDGs. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda must be implemented, say it loud and say it clear. A shift away from unsustainable investments and a surge of private investment into developing countries, particularly in areas such as energy and infrastructure, is urgent business at hand. We need to see a significant increase in development assistance; a dramatic improvement in global tax cooperation; and meaningful review of macroeconomic policies to align them with the SDG’s focus on inclusion and sustainability. The UN has a more proactive role to play in promoting these issues, given its status as a trusted convener.

In conclusion, the UN needs to build a capacity, a docking station capacity, to convene, engage and create coalitions for collective action across the Means of Implementation, be it partnerships with the private sector, harnessing the potential of exponential technological change or convening the titans of public and private finance to support achieving the SDGs.

During the 71st session, we tried to leave no stone unturned in the search for SDG momentum.

I want to thank you, the Member States, for your support and good advice throughout. For those among you who at my request took on onerous roles of facilitation and chairmanship, I applaud you here in front of your peers. I congratulate the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General for grasping the baton of responsibility and leadership without breaking stride.

I thank UN DESA and many other parts of the Secretariat, especially those in the field in the service of the UN system, for putting their shoulders to the wheel; likewise, the wonderful team at the Office of the President of the General Assembly for doing all that was possible to keep us moving forward on the 2030 Agenda.

As you begin your preparations for the High-level week of the 72ndsession, I urge you to give this message to your capitals: we have achieved momentum on the SDGs, but there can be no rest. To get to the promise of the 2030 Agenda, we now need a shift in gears. It is time to crank it up a notch, for time is not on our side.

The message should also be that we find ways to collaborate better with non-governmental actors. Partnerships at times may involve risks, but if we partner right and partner strong, the rewards far outweigh them. And the message should include strong support for the Secretary-General in bringing forward his reforms of the UN System, so that we are in best possible shape to help others along the journey to 2030.

We have the resources, the ideas, the technology and the motivation. Add leadership, courage and an unwavering commitment to progress and we will reach our 2030 destination with goals fulfilled. As I have said many times, together we are strong.

When it comes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we succeed or fail together, for we are addressing the sustainability of our planetary ecosystem, the integrity of our global economic system, and the equity of humanity. We will not fail because we love our grandchildren. We will succeed because we have not come this far only to be defeated by greed.

The post Taking Stock of SDG Actions on UN’s Development Agenda appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/taking-stock-sdg-actions-uns-development-agenda/feed/ 0
Latin America Discusses How to Finance the Sustainable Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latin-america-discusses-finance-sustainable-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-discusses-finance-sustainable-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latin-america-discusses-finance-sustainable-development-agenda/#respond Fri, 08 Sep 2017 21:52:37 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151998 Is it possible for the financial sector of Latin America and the Caribbean not only to think about earning money but also to contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development? The answer was sought in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at a regional roundtable on sustainable finance, the United Nations Environment Finance Initiative. “How to mobilise […]

The post Latin America Discusses How to Finance the Sustainable Development Agenda appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Canadian economist Eric Usher, director of the United Nations Environment Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), explains to financial sector executives from Latin America and the Caribbean their ideas for its institutions to promote the Sustainable Development Goals, atn a meeting in Argentina´s capital. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Canadian economist Eric Usher, director of the United Nations Environment Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), explains to financial sector executives from Latin America and the Caribbean their ideas for its institutions to promote the Sustainable Development Goals, atn a meeting in Argentina´s capital. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Sep 8 2017 (IPS)

Is it possible for the financial sector of Latin America and the Caribbean not only to think about earning money but also to contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development? The answer was sought in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at a regional roundtable on sustainable finance, the United Nations Environment Finance Initiative.

“How to mobilise sufficient funds is obviously one of the critical aspects of the agenda for sustainable development,” said Eric Usher, a Canadian economist with experience in the renewable energies sector and current director of the initiative, known as UNEP FI.

“Of course, profit maximisation is a tool for delivering economic development and it should be. But there’s a role for governments to play, to create the right framework and the enabling environment, to make sure that the private sector makes money doing the right things,” he told IPS, during the roundtable on Sept. 5-6, which brought together dozens of representatives of banks, investment funds and international bodies.

“I don’t think there is any discrepancy or problem with making money on sustainable development. The public and private sectors need to work together so we can deliver in a way that creates the most benefits,” said Usher.

UNEP FI is a global partnership between U.N. Environment and more than 200 financial entities – 129 banks, 58 insurance companies and 26 investment funds – from some 60 countries, created in the context of the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. The meeting in Buenos Aires meant a return, after 25 years, to the region where the initiative first emerged.“If the risk assessment is comprehensive, it should not be purely financial and short-term. For example, when a bank carries out an analysis before investing in a renewable energy project, it should take into account the kind of energy mix the country is moving towards.” -- María Eugenia Di Paola

The Latin America and Caribbean round table will be followed by four other regional roundtables this year: North America (in New York), Europe (Geneva), Africa and the Middle East (Johannesburg) and Asia and the Pacific (Tokyo).

Financial bodies and business chambers from many countries explained in Buenos Aires the progress they have made in recent years with regard to the introduction of questions such as environmental and social risk or the calculation of carbon footprints in the assessment prior to granting loans, as well as their own energy efficiency goals or the reduction of paper consumption.

It became clear, nonetheless, that the certainties are still outweighed by the unanswered questions regarding the financial sector’s participation in the 2030 Agenda, which the U.N. member countries have been working towards since 2016, through the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

“We are barely at the start of the journey and this is not easy,” admitted Mario Vasconcelos, director of institutional relations of the Brazilian Federation of Banks (Febraban), which represents 123 financial institutions, 29 of which, he explained, have committed to finance productive projects to contribute to reducing carbon emissions.

“There are many business opportunities in the transition towards a low-carbon economy, which has already begun,” Vasconcelos said with enthusiasm.

Forty financial institutions in the region have signed the UNEP Statement of Commitment by Financial Institutions (FI) on Sustainable Development. UNEP FI has been working mainly towards building expertise in the sector about how to identify social and environmental risks in investment projects, so that these can be considered along with the economic risks.

This is perhaps the most difficult task, as Beatriz Ocampo, manager of Sustainability of Grupo Bancolombia, the most important private bank in Colombia, acknowledged to some extent.

“If you tell bankers they have to finance projects that contribute towards the fight against climate change, they will not understand what you are talking about. That is why it is important to establish what sustainable finance means,” she said.

In this sense, the region still has a long way ahead.

In Argentina, for example, questions related to sustainable finance are not a priority for most banks, due to the fact that there is no involvement by the state, and the adoption of these criteria is completely voluntary.

This was the conclusion of a report carried out in 2016 by UNEP FI together with CAF – the Development Bank of Latin America – on the basis of a survey which found that only 39 per cent of Argentine banks have implemented social environmental management systems.

One of the most commented topics during the meeting in Buenos Aires was the speech by Javier González Fraga, president of the Banco de la Nación Argentina, the largest public financial entity in the country.

He was the first speaker in the meeting and was critical of the financial sector while he praised environmentalists, which took many by surprise.

“The financial logic of these days does not allow us to protect the environment. We must not let economists, and especially not financial experts, express their opinion about the planet we are going to leave to our grandchildren,” he said.

González Fraga is a centre-right economist with vast experience, who presided over Argentina’s Central Bank during the presidency of Carlos Menem (1989-1999) and was appointed by the current president Mauricio Macri as head of Argentina’s only national bank.

In dialogue with IPS, González Fraga, who has postgraduate degrees from Harvard and the London School of Economics, expressed a conviction that “we must go about finance a different way, especially public banks.”

“Many years of experience have shown me that the classical or neoliberal theory will in no way solve environmental problems. The government must lead the way and have institutions such as state banks head up the process of change in approach,” he said.

González Fraga also condemned the U.S. government’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“We see on TV what happened in Texas with Hurricane Harvey and it is clear that there is no need to explain what the future might hold, because it is already happening today. Donald Trump can say many things, but the reality in the U.S. can’t be denied, and people on the streets are starting to play an increasingly important role in the environmental issue,” he said.

For María Eugenia Di Paola, coordinator of Environment for the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) in Argentina, financial institutions in the region should not find it so difficult to add social and environmental criteria to economic factors, in risk assessment.

“If the risk assessment is comprehensive, it should not be purely financial and short-term. For example, when a bank carries out an analysis before investing in a renewable energy project, it should take into account the kind of energy mix the country is moving towards,” she told IPS.

“This way, the financial sector will acquire a perspective more attuned to the 2030 Agenda. And the climate catastrophes are already occurring, so that the concepts of medium and long term are very relative,” Di Paola said.

The post Latin America Discusses How to Finance the Sustainable Development Agenda appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latin-america-discusses-finance-sustainable-development-agenda/feed/ 0
Robots: A Solution to Declining and Aging Populations?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/robots-solution-declining-aging-populations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=robots-solution-declining-aging-populations http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/robots-solution-declining-aging-populations/#respond Mon, 04 Sep 2017 16:38:37 +0000 Joseph Chamie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151917 Joseph Chamie is an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division.

The post Robots: A Solution to Declining and Aging Populations? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
TOPIO ("TOSY Ping Pong Playing Robot") is a bipedal humanoid robot designed to play table tennis against a human being. Photo: Humanrobo. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

TOPIO ("TOSY Ping Pong Playing Robot") is a bipedal humanoid robot designed to play table tennis against a human being. Photo: Humanrobo. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

By Joseph Chamie
NEW YORK, Sep 4 2017 (IPS)

Are humanoid robots or androids a solution to declining and aging populations? Given the prospects of demographic decline and population aging coupled with growing opposition to immigration, countries are increasingly turning to and investing in advanced robotics and androids to address shrinking workforces and rising numbers of elderly.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for example, has called for a more rapid development of advanced robotics. He believes that robotics “could help the country overcome the handicap of a fast-aging populace and a declining workforce and to help the country to use robotics from large-scale factories to every corner of our economy and society”.

More than 80 countries, representing 46 percent of world population, are experiencing fertility below the replacement level of about two births per woman (Figure 1). In many of those countries, including Canada, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Italy, South Korea, Spain and the United Kingdom, fertility levels have remained below replacement for several decades.

 

Robots: A Solution to Declining and Aging Populations? - Proportion of World Population by Fertiliity Rate of Countries

Source: United Nations Population Division.

 

Largely as a consequence of sustained levels low fertility about 50 countries or areas are projected to have smaller populations by midcentury. Some of those countries, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine, will likely see their populations decline by more than 15 percent by midcentury.

In addition, many countries are also experiencing rapid population aging. Due to low fertility rates and increased longevity, population age structures are becoming older than ever before. The median age of developed countries, for example, is now more than 40 years, an increase of 13 years since 1950. By midcentury the median age of about a dozen countries will be 50 years or more, including Japan (53 years), Spain (52), Italy (51) and Germany (50).

Also, in some countries, such as Greece Italy, Japan, Portugal and Spain, one in three people is expected to be 65 years and older by 2050. Consequently, potential support ratios in those countries are projected to decline to less than two people in the working ages 15 to 64 years per one elderly person aged 65 years and older (Figure 2).

 

Robots: A Solution to Declining and Aging Populations? - Potential Support Ratios for Selected Contries

Source: United Nations Population Division.

At the same time that many countries are facing demographic decline and population aging, opposition to immigration is increasing among most migrant-receiving countries.  Opinion surveys report that majorities in dozens of countries, including Germany, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and the United States, consider immigration to have a “very or fairly negative impact”.  In addition to rising public opposition to immigration, governments in a growing number of countries are tightening border controls, erecting fences, walls and barricades, and adopting policies to significantly restrict immigration.

Facing declining and aging populations coupled with resistance to immigration, countries are increasingly turning to and investing in advanced robotic technology to meet their labor needs and also increase productivity, reduce labor costs and improve goods and services. Recent examples of robotic technology include: a self-driving pizza delivery car; a robotic bricklayer that can lay 1,000 standard bricks in one hour, which typically takes two men about a day; and a robotic barista that can serve 120 coffees in an hour.

High robot-to-worker ratios are found in South Korea, Japan and Germany (Figure 3).  While more than half of the top ten countries in robot-to-worker ratios belong to the European Union, 75 percent of the world’s robots are geographically concentrated in five countries: China, Germany, Japan, South Korea and the United States. The International Federation of Robotics forecasts that the number of industrial robots deployed worldwide will increase to around 2.6 million by 2019, which is nearly a doubling since 2015.

 

Source: United Nations Population Division.

 

Advances in robot technology and artificial intelligence are contributing to the humanization of robots and the emergence of androids that look, move and act like a human being, even having a human-like body with a flesh-like appearance. In addition to being a solution to shrinking workforces, some believe that androids will be able to provide valuable services, including being personal companions for the growing numbers of elderly living alone, providing a platform for basic healthcare services and doing the dirty, dangerous and difficult work that many eschew.

Although still under development, first stage androids are becoming more apparent in warehouses, retail stores, reception/information centers, hospitals, military installations, industrial parks and television. Several years ago scientists in Japan developed the world’s first news-reading android that not only had perfect language skills, but also possessed a sense of humor. Another recent example is an android developed at a research institute in Singapore that works as a university receptionist.

In the past the possibility of androids existing within human societies was limited mainly to science-fiction writers, moviemakers and futurists. More recently, scientists, innovators and industrial leaders are addressing the emergence of the transformative era of humanoid robots with artificial intelligence.

The benefits and advantages of androids or human-like robots are widely recognized by governments, businesses, the military and research centers. In addition to performing repetitive manual tasks, androids are able to converse and interact with people, provide customer service and artificial companionship, undertake dangerous assignments, potentially saving human lives, and even have sex. Also, in contrast to humans, androids don’t need food or financial compensation, don’t tire or require sleep, follow instructions explicitly and automatically, work without perks, and do not have feelings of fear, anger, pain or depression.

Others, however, have voiced serious concerns about the possible negative and even dangerous consequences of androids with enhanced artificial intelligence. As androids become increasingly humanlike, they are believed pose a potential threat to societies. Advanced machine learning algorithms, for example, are permitting robots to self learn and replicate themselves.

Some have also warned that advanced robotics threatens the prospect of mass unemployment, affecting everyone from drivers to sex workers. Others have also raised concerns about people getting emotionally attached to androids that provide artificial companionship. In contrast to rudimentary robotic devices, studies have reported people relating to androids as though they were human. A recent example of such emotional attachment is the Japanese male who decided to “marry” his robot.

Regarding mass unemployment, some argue that as has been the case in the past – for example, when Luddites were proved wrong – the emerging android and robotic technologies will eventually lead to more jobs and prosperity as well as improved and less costly goods and services. While many human jobs will be taken over by robots, recent evidence from Germany and the United States suggests that automation programs with robots have a positive effect on employment opportunities.

However, others counter that the development of androids and robots are coming up so rapidly and across such a broad spectrum of jobs that large numbers of workers, especially those lacking technical training and skills, are being displaced and encountering difficulties finding suitable employment. One economic study found that since 1990, each robot added to an American factory reduced employment in the surrounding areas by 6.2 workers.

In response to those concerns, some have recommended a robot tax to raise revenues to retrain those workers displaced by robots or provide them with a universal basic income if they remain unemployed. Another suggestion is that governments may be pressured by their constituents to legislate quotas for human workers.

Such suggestions, however, do not address the needs of the millions of young people seeking employment in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the population aged 15 to 24 years is expected to more than double by midcentury, exceeding more than 400 million youths. Seeking employment and a better life, many young men and women are deciding to migrate illegally to the industrialized countries.

Another worrying dimension is that governments have not yet devised a body of laws, standards and regulations regarding the use of androids. Issues of android registration, taxation, liability, application and safety are just a few of the practical concerns. More serious matters are protections against hackers, cybercriminals, terrorists, and others getting control of androids and robots that could cause disruption and harm to people, property and the environment.

More than 40 countries already have robotic programs with developed unmanned aerial bombers. In many countries the military is a prime driver in robotic and android development as it seeks to reduce risks to soldiers and acquire enhanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

The International Committee for Robot Arms Control fears that advances in robotics will lead to more countries involved in war, as androids and armed robot combatants replace human soldiers on the battlefield. Recently, 116 founders of robotics and AI companies from 26 countries signed a petition calling for a ban of killer robots, or lethal autonomous weapons systems, arguing that only humans should be permitted to kill humans.

While some see androids as one solution to declining and aging populations, others view it as a worrisome development that poses a potential threat to human societies. Given the profound implications of the emerging transformative era of androids, the international community of nations should address and seek to establish a global agreement or protocol on the use of androids.

 

The post Robots: A Solution to Declining and Aging Populations? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/robots-solution-declining-aging-populations/feed/ 0
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 […]

The post Climate-Smart Agriculture Urgently Needed in Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
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.

The post Climate-Smart Agriculture Urgently Needed in Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/climate-smart-agriculture-urgently-needed-africa/feed/ 1
Latin America Calls for Free Movement of Persons in Global Compact on Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latin-america-calls-free-movement-persons-global-compact-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-calls-free-movement-persons-global-compact-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latin-america-calls-free-movement-persons-global-compact-migration/#comments Mon, 04 Sep 2017 00:38:33 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151896 Latin America and the Caribbean called for the free movement of persons to be included in the Global Compact on Migration, which will be negotiated within the United Nations in 2018, in the first meeting held by any of the world’s regions to decide on the position to be adopted on the future agreement. Nearly […]

The post Latin America Calls for Free Movement of Persons in Global Compact on Migration appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The post Latin America Calls for Free Movement of Persons in Global Compact on Migration appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latin-america-calls-free-movement-persons-global-compact-migration/feed/ 2
More Than 18,000 Rohingya Flee as Violence Renewshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/18000-rohingya-flee-violence-renews/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=18000-rohingya-flee-violence-renews http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/18000-rohingya-flee-violence-renews/#respond Fri, 01 Sep 2017 17:04:41 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151893 A surge in deadly violence in Myanmar has forced over 18,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee in less than one week, a migration agency said. The movement began after the Southeast Asian nation’s government launched “clearance operations” following attacks on security posts on Aug. 25 by an armed group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army […]

The post More Than 18,000 Rohingya Flee as Violence Renews appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Border guards in Bangladesh are refusing entry to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Credit: Anurup Titu/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 1 2017 (IPS)

A surge in deadly violence in Myanmar has forced over 18,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee in less than one week, a migration agency said.

The movement began after the Southeast Asian nation’s government launched “clearance operations” following attacks on security posts on Aug. 25 by an armed group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) which left almost 110 dead.

Security forces have since reportedly burned villages and conducted attacks on Rohingya Muslims.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an estimated 18,500 have since crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine state and thousands more are trapped in the no-man’s land in between the two countries.

Some have reportedly fled by crossing the bordering Nauf river where Bangladeshi border guards have already pulled out the bodies of up to 20 Rohingya Muslims.

“I utterly condemn the violent attacks on security personnel, which have led to the loss of many lives and the displacement of thousands of people,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, but highlighted the need for government forces to employ a proportionate response.

“Unfortunately, what we feared appears to be occurring. Decades of persistent and systematic human rights violations, including the very violent security responses to the attacks since October 2016, have almost certainly contributed to the nurturing of violent extremism, with everyone ultimately losing,” he continued.

In October 2016, Myanmar’s military conducted a counterinsurgency operation after Rohingya militants attacked border posts, forcing almost 90,000 to flee.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that attacks against Rohingya civilians during those operations may “very likely” amount to crimes against humanity.

Myanmar authorities however have repeatedly denied the allegations.

A Long History

The government has long disputed the Rohingya people’s status as Burmese citizens and has restricted their movement and excluded them from social services, rendering the majority of the group stateless and impoverished.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) previously described the Rohingya community as one of the most “excluded, persecuted, and vulnerable communities in the world.”

Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim urged the government to prevent human rights violations from being inflicted on the civilian population in the current escalation of military conflict.

“The disturbing testimonies of the Rohingyans fleeing Myanmar confirm that serious human rights violations are being carried out against the civilian population. The world society cannot turn a blind eye to the disturbing situation in Myanmar. The Geneva Centre appeals for an immediate end to the persecution of the Rohingyans,” Al Qassim added.

The UN Responds

In response to the violence, the UN Security Council held a closed door discussion.

Though no formal statement was made, British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft called on all parties to de-escalate and to look to the long-term during a press conference.

Rycroft added that the council still supports Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Myanmar’s State Counsellor.

“We look to her to set the right tone and to find the compromises and the de-escalation necessary in order to resolve the conflict for the good of all the people in Burma,” he said.

Fresh violence erupted just two days after a long-awaited report investigating the situation in Rakhine State by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.

“Tensions remain high and they risk becoming worse. Violence will not bring lasting solutions to the acute problems that afflict Rakhine State,” said Chair of the Commission Kofi Annan.

“Nevertheless, the status quo cannot continue,” he added.

Among the recommendations in the 63-page report is for Myanmar’s government to revisit its citizenship law, grant freedom of movement for Rohingya Muslims, and invest in the socio-economic development of Rakhine.

Annan warned that failure to implement its recommendations will only lead to another cycle of violence and radicalization which will further deepen chronic poverty in the state.

Zeid similarly called on the Myanmar Government to follow the recommendations in order to “address rather than sacrifice human rights concerns in the interests of maintaining peace and order.”

Calling for and Criticizing International Support

IOM’s Director-General William Swing called for more international support for civilians fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh.

The South Asian nation has already been hosting an estimated 500,000 Rohingya Muslims for over three decades.

Swing appealed to Bangladesh to either admit people fleeing violence, many of whom are women, children, and the elderly, or facilitate better access for humanitarian aid to reach them.

He also called on Myanmar authorities in Rakhine State to facilitate the work of humanitarian agencies and provide unfettered humanitarian access to help stabilize the situation and reduce the number of people trying to flee the country.

However, the office of Aung San Suu Kyi has accused international organizations of helping “terrorists,” prompting fears for the safety of aid workers and continued violence.

“I am extremely concerned that the unsupported allegations against international aid organizations place their staff in danger and may make it impossible for them to deliver essential aid,” Zeid said.

“Such statements are irresponsible and only serve to increase fears and the potential for further violence,” he continued.

The post More Than 18,000 Rohingya Flee as Violence Renews appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/18000-rohingya-flee-violence-renews/feed/ 0
Climate Smart Crops: A Necessity for Future Food & Nutrition Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-smart-crops-necessity-future-food-nutrition-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-smart-crops-necessity-future-food-nutrition-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-smart-crops-necessity-future-food-nutrition-security/#respond Thu, 31 Aug 2017 21:53:38 +0000 Bev Postma http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151877 Bev Postma is CEO of HarvestPlus

The post Climate Smart Crops: A Necessity for Future Food & Nutrition Security appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Bev Postma is CEO of HarvestPlus

By Bev Postma
WASHINGTON DC, Aug 31 2017 (IPS)

Climate change is taking a severe toll on farmers, as they watch their livelihoods disappear with the onslaught of floods, droughts and rising sea levels and temperatures. With agriculture currently employing over 1.3 billion people throughout the world, or close to 40 percent of the global workforce, it is imperative that we incorporate climate resilience into all aspects of crop breeding and food innovation.

Developing ways to improve staple crops so that they can withstand some of the adverse effects of climate change will ensure food security and agricultural livelihood for generations to come.

A recent report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) found that at current rates of climate change, it is likely that global food production will decline by two percent every decade until at least 2050, just as the world’s population is expected to reach 9.7 billion people.

As a result of these factors, people may be forced to eat fewer fruits, vegetables, and red meat products because their availability may be scarce and prices may rise accordingly. Access to food may also be limited by climate-related vulnerabilities in transportation, storage, and processing.

Projection models from the World Bank likewise show that by the 2030s-2040s, between 40 to 80 percent of cropland used to grow staple crops like maize, millet and sorghum could be lost due to the effects of higher temperatures, drought and aridity.

At the same time, increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are already decreasing the nutritional quality of crops – lowering their concentrations of vital micronutrients like zinc and iron. In a 2014 study on CO2 and crop nutrition, Samuel Myers of Harvard University and his colleagues determined that the CO2 levels in the second half of this century would likely reduce the levels of zinc, iron, and protein in wheat, rice, peas, and soybeans.

Some two billion people live in countries where citizens receive more than 60 percent of their zinc or iron from these foods. Many already suffer from diets that lack enough of these important minerals, and increased deficiencies of these vital nutrients would have even more devastating health consequences.

A new technology known as biofortification – the process of increasing the nutrient content of staple food crops – is a promising tool in the global effort to mitigate these trends.

Many of the effects of climate change are already being felt. Increased drought and aridity are now a reality in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, leading to widespread harvest losses and livestock death. As a result, malnutrition levels in the area have skyrocketed. In Somalia alone, the UN says more than six million people are in need of urgent help.

Though climate change continues to progress at an advanced pace, researchers and policymakers can help offset some of the negative impact on farmers by focusing on crop adaptation strategies. Organizations like HarvestPlus and our global partners recognize the necessity of climate resilience and our scientists, plant breeders and country teams are working daily to scale out more climate-resilient crops.

At the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Palmira, Colombia, researchers are developing beans that can “beat the heat.” Often referred to as “the meat of the poor,” beans offer a crucial source of vitamins and protein as well as income for millions of people, particularly in Africa and Latin America.

But climate modeling suggests that, over the coming decades, higher temperatures will threaten bean production, reducing yields and quality. Moreover, heat stress could diminish the area for growing beans by up to 50% in eastern and central Africa by the year 2050.

By identifying elite lines of beans that show strong tolerance to heat – up to 30 degrees Celsius – breeders can develop more productive, nutritionally improved beans that are resilient even in harsh growing conditions.

Indeed, climate resistant traits are integral to all 150 varieties of the 12 staple crops we and our partners have developed. We run extensive tests to ensure crops will be successful, from stress tests in the field mimicking intense climate conditions, to studies in laboratories.

Under repeatable stress conditions, we generate an environment for testing which allows breeding for climate smart, robust varieties with high micro¬nutrient and high yield stability.

The traits bred into our crops are virus, disease and pest resistance, as well as drought and heat tolerance. These selective plant breeding techniques are just one means of securing agriculture in areas vulnerable to climate change, but we have to do more.

As climate change continues to play a dominant role in agriculture and food security, we have to remain committed to continued research to be sure people in rural communities receive the most nutritious and resilient crop varieties available.

With ongoing crises of famine in five countries stretching from Africa to the Middle East, farmers and vulnerable populations are relying on policymakers, scientists and aid workers to provide the necessary tools to mitigate hunger and prevent additional harvest losses.

The post Climate Smart Crops: A Necessity for Future Food & Nutrition Security appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-smart-crops-necessity-future-food-nutrition-security/feed/ 0
Latin America Seeks New Ways to Fight Rural Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-seeks-new-ways-fight-rural-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-seeks-new-ways-fight-rural-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-seeks-new-ways-fight-rural-poverty/#respond Thu, 31 Aug 2017 20:49:05 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151873 Experts in Latin America warned about the serious risk that would be posed if the fight against hunger, still suffered by 33 million people in the region, is abandoned, while proposing new alternatives and insights which include linking social protection with economic growth. More than 25 high-level experts met in Santiago, Chile on Aug. 28-29 […]

The post Latin America Seeks New Ways to Fight Rural Poverty appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Some of the academics, representatives of international organisations and former government authorities in social areas who took part in the workshop to launch the alliance to end rural poverty in Latin America at the FAO regional headquarters in Santiago, Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Some of the academics, representatives of international organisations and former government authorities in social areas who took part in the workshop to launch the alliance to end rural poverty in Latin America at the FAO regional headquarters in Santiago, Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Aug 31 2017 (IPS)

Experts in Latin America warned about the serious risk that would be posed if the fight against hunger, still suffered by 33 million people in the region, is abandoned, while proposing new alternatives and insights which include linking social protection with economic growth.

More than 25 high-level experts met in Santiago, Chile on Aug. 28-29 in a workshop to launch the Alliance to End Rural Poverty, sponsored by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

After debating “concrete and feasible proposals” to address the problem, they announced that they would take their initiatives in the next few weeks to the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean, a region with a population of over 640 million.“There are a series of new spaces for policies that are aimed at different purposes, such as social protection or climate change mitigation, but that at the same time can generate pathways out of poverty for the extreme poor.” -- Alain De Janvry

“The Alliance is a group that began to generate knowledge and proposals and to interact with the countries in the region to once again sink our teeth into the challenge of reducing rural poverty,” said Carolina Trivelli, a former Peruvian minister of social development and Inclusion who heads the Peruvian Studies Institute.

“We need a very strong narrative to put the eradication of rural poverty on the agenda of the countries and the region. For many, it is currently a not very attractive challenge because it goes unnoticed and the rural poor are out there in remote areas,” the expert told IPS.

Besides, “the rural poor have declined in number so it’s as if there was no longer a need to worry about them. But the opposite is true. We do need to worry because rural poverty has consequences not only for the lives of the poor but also for the national economies, for inequality and for the possibility of creating more integrated countries,” she added.

Trivelli, who will draft the workshop’s conclusions, stressed that “because the rural poor of today are not the same as they were 20 years ago, the initiatives to help them cannot be the same either.”

“We need policies to address different kinds of rural poor, in different territories, but they have to be smart policies that allow us to reinforce what already exists,” she said.

According to Trivelli, “there are many social programmes that reach poor people in rural areas, but we can add productive or economic development components that allow us to use the social protection platform to boost economic opportunities for the rural poor.”

Alain de Janvry, a professor from the Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics at the University of California-Berkeley, cited an example to illustrate.

“Rural poverty in Latin America is increasingly indigenous: 40 per cent of the rural poor are indigenous,” said David Kaimowitz, head of natural resources and climate change at the Ford Foundation, during his presentation at the workshop to launch the alliance to end rural poverty in the region. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

“Rural poverty in Latin America is increasingly indigenous: 40 per cent of the rural poor are indigenous,” said David Kaimowitz, head of natural resources and climate change at the Ford Foundation, during his presentation at the workshop to launch the alliance to end rural poverty in the region. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

“We have carried out a study on a monetary transference made in Mexico, after NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and in compensation for the low prices of maize due to competition from maize imported from the United States,” the academic told IPS.

“A cash transfer was made to all producers of maize and basic grains. These transfers were specifically to farmers – to the male head of the household. The funds were multiplied by two: for every peso received they used it to generate another peso. The second peso was generated by how they used the first peso in a productive investment,” he said.

According to De Janvry, “the potential that is being explored is that social protection can have positive impacts together with economic initiatives, and can eventually generate employment, incomes and economic growth – a strategy to generate profits.”

“Economic efficiency and productivity,” said the expert, stressing the initiative’s intergenerational impact.

“Educating children and giving them better health coverage makes it possible to keep them from falling into poverty because they have poor parents who have not educated them or given them proper healthcare. The idea is to give them the possibility to pull out of poverty thanks to education and improved health,” he said.

De Janvry advocated the promotion of small-scale family farming and rethinking social protection policies in rural areas, but also called for “identifying critical sectors in rural poverty such as indigenous poverty, problems of discrimination and the relation with the preservation of natural resources, such as climate change mitigation.”

“There are a series of new spaces for policies that are aimed at different purposes, such as social protection or climate change mitigation, but that at the same time can generate pathways out of poverty for the extreme poor,” he said.

For Trivelli, the new proposals of policies to end rural poverty “require new institutional arrangements” since “there is no ministry taking care of the rural poor, different sectors and levels of government have to pitch in, besides many private sector actors.”

“Extractive industries, for example, that operate in rural areas, and we have to get these institutions involved, different ministries, public entities, levels of government, private companies and organisations of farmers and rural dwellers themselves to reach agreements,” she said.

But the plans of the emerging Alliance are facing key constraints, such as the backdrop of a difficult decade for the region in terms of economic peformance, as projected by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

“The macro-fiscal context in the region is not the most positive. Clearly the battle for public resources is increasingly fierce, and therefore the narrative is very important,” Trivelli acknowledged.

In her opinion, “we have to make a good case for why governments should invest in ending poverty instead of doing a bunch of other things for which there are also lots of interest and pressure groups.”

During the launch of the Alliance,, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean Julio Berdegué said it was necessary “to not lower our guard” in the fight against poverty in the region, stating that 27 per cent of the rural population living in extreme poverty “is not an insignificant proportion.”

“We cannot evade the link between poverty and inequality,” he said, pointing out the people hit hardest by extreme poverty are indigenous women in remote areas.

Berdegué described the emerging Alliance as “a regional public good that transcends FAO and IFAD,” which will mobilise Latin America’s wealth and experience “to give the best support to the governments of the region interacting with them and with their organisations committed to ending rural poverty.”

Through the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)’s Plan for Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication, the region was the first in the developing South to commit to eradicating hunger by 2025, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which have set that goal for 2030 at a global level.

IFAD expert in public policies Lauren Phillips told IPS that the joint efforts together with FAO and other institutions that will join the Alliance “aim to propose better solutions to end extreme poverty in the region, which is very important for local people.”

“We are thinking of focusing on some key ideas where there is already evidence of the possibility of public policies achieving benefits, and also focusing on certain countries,” she said.

For Phillips, “we have to think strategically about where are the possibilities of achieving the most… we have to also think about the political situation of the countries and where we have evidence about the routes we need to take to make progress over the next few weeks.”

“We have to always think about what is feasible and realistic and what are the governments’ capacities,” the expert said. “We know that the governments of some countries need more technical support to implement the public policies.”

She believes that “it is a huge challenge faced by all developing regions, including Latin America. Perhaps the capacity to develop strategies exists, but to implement them is always harder due to a lack of resources and capacities.”

The post Latin America Seeks New Ways to Fight Rural Poverty appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-seeks-new-ways-fight-rural-poverty/feed/ 0
Alliance to the Rescue of 33 Million Latin American Rural Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/alliance-rescue-33-million-latin-american-rural-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alliance-rescue-33-million-latin-american-rural-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/alliance-rescue-33-million-latin-american-rural-poor/#comments Tue, 29 Aug 2017 02:01:46 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151824 “There are 33 million rural dwellers in Latin America who are still living in extreme poverty and can’t afford a good diet, clothes or education, and we are not going to help them move out of poverty if we use the same strategies that worked 20 years ago,” FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué told IPS. […]

The post Alliance to the Rescue of 33 Million Latin American Rural Poor appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Indigenous women, such as these farmers on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia’s official capital, are part of a group with the most difficulties to overcome extreme poverty in Latin America, and therefore require specific policies to give them equal opportunities. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

Indigenous women, such as these farmers on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia’s official capital, are part of a group with the most difficulties to overcome extreme poverty in Latin America, and therefore require specific policies to give them equal opportunities. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Aug 29 2017 (IPS)

“There are 33 million rural dwellers in Latin America who are still living in extreme poverty and can’t afford a good diet, clothes or education, and we are not going to help them move out of poverty if we use the same strategies that worked 20 years ago,” FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué told IPS.

Since 1990, rural poverty in the region was reduced from 65 per cent to 46 per cent, while extreme poverty fell from 40 per cent to below 27 per cent.

But while the proportion of rural extreme poor decreased by 1 percentage point a year between 1997 and 2007, the rate of decrease was only 0.2 per cent a year between 2007 and 2014.

To break that pattern in the most vulnerable rural group, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are launching this last week of August in Santiago, Chile the “Alliance to end rural poverty in Latin America.”

FAO regional representative Julio Berdergué. Credit: FAOALC

FAO regional representative Julio Berdergué. Credit: FAOALC

“There is a strong deceleration in the reduction of poverty, five times slower than before, only just 0.2 per cent per year,” noted with concern Berdegué, who attributed the phenomenon, among other causes, to a regional economic slowdown which has had an impact on employment and incomes.

“The strong, sustainable, solid solution to rural poverty is economic development in rural areas. Quality jobs, better wages: that is the best strategy to reduce rural poverty,” said Berdegué, who is also FAO deputy director-general, in the body’s regional office in the Chilean capital.

For Berdegué, “social policies compensate for the effects of economic development, but what we want is for people to stop being poor because they have better jobs and not because of good social programmes…that is a second best option.”

In his interview with IPS, the Mexican senior U.N. official said the region has already done a great deal to reduce poverty and extreme poverty and what remains is to eradicate the most difficult part of poverty, harder to combat because it is structural.

He cited the example of Chile, where less than three per cent of the rural population suffer from extreme poverty, but the people affected are indigenous women in remote areas, which makes the task of rescuing them from deep poverty especially complicated.

According to Berdegué, the policies and programmes created and implemented in Latin America to eradicate poverty successfully served their purpose ,“but not necessarily the same strategies and same programmes are the ones that will work for us in the final push” of putting an end to hard-core, entrenched poverty.

Luiz Carlos Beduschi, a Brazilian academic and policy officer in the FAO regional office,pointed out to IPS that one of the most significant programmes to combat poverty in Nicaragua consisted of giving extremely poor people chickens, pigs or pregnant cows along with technical assistance.

Specific policies for women

“The same policies that help rural men move out of poverty don’t work for rural women,” said Julio Berdegué, who stressed that in the region “we have a generation of women with levels of education that their mothers never dreamed of.”

“We must soon achieve labour policies that allow these women to fully accede to formal employment. They are all working a lot, but on their farms or in unpaid, informal work,” he explained.

“These young rural women under 35 are going to stay on their farms producing food, but many of them are going to be employed in manufacturing and services, in nearby cities or in the rural communities themselves,” he added.

The FAO senior official stressed that “economic empowerment and autonomy are key, absolutely key, and this requires policies designed with a gender perspective. Without this, we are not going anywhere.”

Another thing that is essential, he added, is access to financing because “a poor woman farmer goes to ask for a loan and a poor male farmer goes, and the chances that the woman and the man get it are very different.”

“In all elements that are necessary for the development of family agriculture: access to markets, to technical assistance, land, etc, we need to multiply them by two, three or four in order to guarantee women equal opportunities,” he concluded.

“A woman from District 7, in the periurban area of Managua, discovered a dormant entrepreneurial potential. She was given a cow, and today, eight years later, she has 17 cows. Her oldest daughter left to study and graduated as a dentist. The woman sold three cows to finance a clinic (for her daughter) in the neighbourhood. She is now involved in the economic and social fabric of that area,” Beduschi said. Her second daughter is now studying medicine.

He added that the beneficiaries of this programme do not so much need advice as other elements such as credit at an interest rate lower than the 20 to 30 per cent offered by local creditors.
“We have to design a new plan for new times,” he concluded.

Launching the new Alliance
More than 25 experts, researchers and decision-makers are meeting Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 in Santiago, summoned by FAO and IFAD to seek new strategies and instruments to combat rural poverty.

In this new Alliance Launch Workshop, the participants are identifying and disseminating a politically viable and technically feasible package of proposals to be implemented by Latin American governments, for each country to face the challenge of ending rural poverty from an innovative perspective.

The activities of this initiative will be carried out from now until July 2019, and will count on FAO resources for the initial phase.

Berdegué said the first successful result of the Alliance was bringing together this group of experts with the commitment of “putting their shoulders to the wheel” in seeking innovative solutions to put an end to rural poverty.

“We want to release the 1.0 version of a proposal that we are going to offer to the countries. Not more of the same, because that has us at a five times slower rate. And we want to produce the first ideas, the best that we can, but we don’t want to spend the next six months writing documents. The best that we can, the sooner we can, and with those instruments we will go to the countries,” he said.

“The meeting will be a successful one if we come out of it with a very concrete working plan, detailed in such a way that the following week we can be going to the countries, as we have already started to do in Ecuador and Nicaragua,” he told IPS.

“We have a specific work agenda for collaboration to put these ideas into practice, with public programmes and policies,” he added.

Among the new tools that are being discussed in the world and in Latin America, Berdegué pointed out the concept of a universal basic income, which has its pros and cons, and is hotly debated.

There is also the issue of rural labour markets “which are in general in a state of true disaster, with high levels of informality and very low female participation rates, among them young women who have received 10 to 12 years of schooling and have no job offers in line with this human capital they have acquired.”

And a crucial issue in the new agenda, not taken into account in the past decades, is inequality.

“Many of these 33 million poor are poor because they are first victims of inequality. A rural indigenous woman, in a less developed area, is victim of more than four inequalities: gender, ethnicity, rural and territorial. Besides, economic inequality, on grounds of social class,” Berdegué said.

“Good quality employment, better wages, that is the best strategy for reducing rural poverty. And we have an accumulation of inequalities that, if we do not solve them, it will be very hard to return to the rate of one percentage point of reduction of rural extreme poverty,” he concluded.

Academics, as well as government officials and representatives of social organisations are taking part in the FAO and IFAD meeting, joining forces to think about how to keep on combating rural poverty with the goal of eradicating it.

The post Alliance to the Rescue of 33 Million Latin American Rural Poor appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/alliance-rescue-33-million-latin-american-rural-poor/feed/ 1
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 […]

The post Geothermal – a Key Source of Clean Energy in Central America appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The post Geothermal – a Key Source of Clean Energy in Central America appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/geothermal-key-source-clean-energy-central-america/feed/ 0
Energy Habits Are Changing in Latin America’s Citieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/energy-habits-changing-latin-americas-cities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=energy-habits-changing-latin-americas-cities http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/energy-habits-changing-latin-americas-cities/#respond Thu, 24 Aug 2017 22:44:57 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151787 The Vaz de Souza’s were so keen on the solar water heater that they made it their mission and business, which prospered with the surge in innovation in their city, Belo Horizonte, recognised as the solar energy capital of Brazil. In 1998 they founded the Maxtemper company, which has already installed over 40,000 solar water […]

The post Energy Habits Are Changing in Latin America’s Cities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Alejandro Casas’s electric taxi, which he drives in Montevideo, cost him 63,000 dollars, but he was given a five-year loan and he gets free recharges, as part of an initiative supported by the state-owned electric company and the government of the Uruguayan capital. Credit: Verónica Firme/IPS

Alejandro Casas’s electric taxi, which he drives in Montevideo, cost him 63,000 dollars, but he was given a five-year loan and he gets free recharges, as part of an initiative supported by the state-owned electric company and the government of the Uruguayan capital. Credit: Verónica Firme/IPS

By Mario Osava
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, Aug 24 2017 (IPS)

The Vaz de Souza’s were so keen on the solar water heater that they made it their mission and business, which prospered with the surge in innovation in their city, Belo Horizonte, recognised as the solar energy capital of Brazil.

In 1998 they founded the Maxtemper company, which has already installed over 40,000 solar water systems in homes, pools, companies and public facilities in the eastern state of Minas Gerais, mainly in Belo Horizonte, where similar suppliers have mushroomed.

“The success was due to the fact that ‘mineiros’ (people from Minas Gerais) are thrifty, careful with their money,” said 62-year-old Cornelio Ferreira Vaz, co-owner of the company. The savings in electricity pays off the initial investment in a maximum of two years, and the equipment lasts two decades, he told IPS.“Buildings used to be passive resource consuming spaces, but with the new concepts and policies they have become active in generating electricity.” -- Rodrigo Sauaia

“It is appealing because of its economic and ecological benefits, for your pocketbook and for nature,” said his wife and partner, 59-year-old Aildes de Souza.

The household system, consisting of a solar collector, water tanks and pipes, costs nearly 1,000 dollars for a family of four or five to provide about 400 litres of hot water a day, he estimated.

It began to be used in the 1970s, but spread after the blackout crisis which led to power rationing measures between July 2001 and February 2002 and drove up its price, in this country of 207 million people.

“Our turnover has multiplied fivefold since then,” said De Souza. Maxtemper secured a contract with the state-owned Energy Company of Minas Gerais (Cemig) to install 14,000 heaters in new houses built by government social programmes.

At its height, the company had 110 employees. That number has been reduced to seven due to the economic recession that has plagued Brazil over the three last years, which forced many companies into bankruptcy. “We survived because there are still consumers seeking to save electricity and money,” said Vaz.

The use of solar radiation, not always taken into account in official reports on energy use, also benefits the entire national power grid, by replacing electric shower heaters, which are widely used in Brazil.

Electric showers consume a great deal of energy and trigger a peak in energy demand in the early evening, when most of the population takes showers, requiring an increased supply capacity.

Five per cent of households in Brazil – 3.4 million – already have solar heated water, according to the Brazilian Association of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, Ventilation and Heating.

In most gas stations in Brazil, consumers can choose at the pump either gasoline and ethanol fuel, whose price is appealing when it does not exceed 70 per cent of the price of gas, to compensate for its lower efficiency. The fall in gas prices led to a reduction in the use of biofuel and that aggravated pollution in cities such as São Paulo. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

In most gas stations in Brazil, consumers can choose at the pump either gasoline and ethanol fuel, whose price is appealing when it does not exceed 70 per cent of the price of gas, to compensate for its lower efficiency. The fall in gas prices led to a reduction in the use of biofuel and that aggravated pollution in cities such as São Paulo. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Brazil ranks first in Latin America and fifth in the world in installed capacity of solar power for heating water – an aspect that tends to be ignored by the statistics because electricity is not generated and the solar collectors are somewhat different from photovoltaic panels.

Mexico ranks a distant second in a region that underutilises solar heating, which globally prevented the emission of 130 million tons of carbon in 2016, according to a study by the International Energy Agency (AIE).

The different uses of solar energy allow cities to go from mere consumers and wasters of energy to generators of a part of their energy needs.

Rooftops with photovoltaic panels could provide up to 32 per cent of the world cities’ electricity demand by 2050, the AIE projects in its report Energy Technology Perspectives 2016.

“Buildings used to be passive resource consuming spaces, but with the new concepts and policies they have become active in generating electricity,” Rodrigo Sauaia, head of the Brazilian Photovoltaic Solar Energy Association, told IPS.

Large cities in Latin America stand out in rankings as among the most sustainable or green in the world, but that is in large part due to the consumption of renewable energies, especially hydropower, which is abundant in this region, as a result of national policies.

But city governments have no or little influence on hydropower, with the exception of Colombia, with its traditional municipal utilities, such as the power company in Medellín, which owns 25 hydroelectric plants.

“Brazil has passed a groundbreaking law in Latin America, allowing electricity from distributed generation to be injected into the power grid, said Mauro Passos, head of the Institute for the Development of Alternative Energies (Ideal).

This 2012 measure gave rise to a photovoltaic boom, since it allowed distributed or decentralised generators, small residential or business plants mainly devoted to self-consumption, to sell their surplus, contributing to the social generation of energy.

The National Agency of Electric Power regulator projects that by 2024 Brazil will have over 800,000 households generating their own electricity. “And this is a conservative goal,” said Sauaia.

Currently, there are only 12,520 distributed generation photovoltaic systems connected to the grid, with a capacity of 100 MW; 42 per cent are households.

The headquarters of the Latin American Energy Organisation (Olade) in Quito, which brings together 27 countries in the region, is supplied with solar energy through photovoltaic panels installed on the building, in an initiative to promote the use and generation of solar energy among the country member’s public institutions. Credit: : Mario Osava/IPS

The headquarters of the Latin American Energy Organisation (Olade) in Quito, which brings together 27 countries in the region, is supplied with solar energy through photovoltaic panels installed on the building, in an initiative to promote the use and generation of solar energy among the country member’s public institutions. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Belo Horizonte, a city of 2.5 million, is the champion in generation of solar power for water heating, as well as for electricity. Its 210 solar plants include the ones in the Mineirão football stadium and the seat of government of Minas Gerais, which have panels on their roofs.

In addition, the urban waste in a sanitary landfill generates 4.2 MW of power with the gases that feed an electric plant, said Marcio de Souza, an engineer withEfficientia, a company created by Cemig to promote energy efficiency.

Distributed solar generation is a decision by consumers, whether families or companies.

Energy companies, such as Cemig, “only absorb the generated energy”, which is why distributed generation involves aspects such as the investment capacity of families, cost of conventional energy, levels of solar radiation and whether or not there is a favourable climate, Souza explained to IPS.

But the distributors can offer incentives, such as the Photovoltaic Bonus – a 60 per cent subsidy – launched this year by the state Electric Plants of Santa Catarina (Celesc), with a goal for the installation of 1,000 residential plants in the state of Santa Catarina, in southern Brazil.

“Seven minutes after opening up the registration we already had 200 candidates for the Florianópolis quota”, the capital of the state, with a population of half a million, Marcio Lautert, head of Celesc’s Energy Efficiency Projects, told IPS.

“The expense to consumers is amortised in two or three years” with the electricity generated, Lautert said. Many other interested parties will be able to join in 2018 if the first group is successful, he added.

Quito’s system of trolleys with a dedicated lane was celebrated for reducing pollution in Ecuador’s capital. But the buses driven through overhead electric rails have been replaced by diesel motor vehicles, because they cost less. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Quito’s system of trolleys with a dedicated lane was celebrated for reducing pollution in Ecuador’s capital. But the buses driven through overhead electric rails have been replaced by diesel motor vehicles, because they cost less. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

But consumption is the area where the municipalities are changing the most, trying to reduce costs, pollution and social problems.

Some examples are vehicles replacing polluting fuels with electricity, LED public lighting, and traffic lights activated with solar panels, which have already been installed in many cities, such as San José, the capital of Costa Rica.

Montevideo, a model of electric mobility

Electric taxis are already circulating in many Latin American capitals, such as Bogotá, Mexico City, Montevideo and Santiago, although the experiment has been flawed in some cases due to a shortage of charging stations and the solitude of the pioneers.

This is not the case in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, a country of 3.5 million people.

“I started to look at the numbers and I took the leap,” Alejandro Casas said, explaining his decision to buy an electric taxi in February.

The vehicle cost 63,000 dollars, but he is paying it off with a five-year loan. “The difference in price you pay each month with what you save in fuel. A taxi uses 1,200 or 1,300 pesos (between 41.5 and 45 dollars) of fuel per day – that’s more than 1,200 dollars a month – and with the electric taxi you pay nothing,” he told IPS.

Further down the line he will pay a fee, but it will be subsidised and the first taxi drivers to participate in the initiative told him that they spend less than 73 dollars a month in recharging. “That’s nothing,” said Casas, before pointing out other advantages such as the automatic transmission engine and the comfort of the taxi. “It’s awesome,” he concluded.

“Today, on the street, there are 12 electric taxis in Montevideo. In the following months another 12 will be incorporated, reaching a total of 24,” Fernando Costanzo, manager of the Market Sector of the national power utility, UTE, told IPS.

An UTE substation with four quick chargers, two points in Montevideo, others in the nearby department of Maldonado and promises of new ones along the highway that runs through Uruguay from Argentina to Brazil ensure that drivers – including those who operate the dozens of electric vehicles belonging to UTE – will be able to recharge their batteries.

The government of the department of Montevideo, population 1.4 million, also supports electric taxis by offering licenses at a preferential price, among other measures, as part of a strategic energy plan that promotes clean and innovative sources.

“The aim is to generate an initial critical mass which allows electric mobility to be introduced as a market option, since economically it is more convenient with no need for subsidies,” Gonzalo Márquez, from the Mobility Department of the Montevideo government’sTransport Division, told IPS.

The Montevideo government has contributed around 500,000 dollars to the promotion of electric mobility.

But some Latin American cities have also suffered setbacks. Air pollution in São Paulo worsened when the difference in prices spurred consumption of gasoline to the detriment of ethanol, which is less polluting than fossil fuels. Another example is Quito, where the celebrated trolleys were replaced by diesel driven buses, because they are cheaper.

With reporting by Verónica Firme in Montevideo.

The post Energy Habits Are Changing in Latin America’s Cities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/energy-habits-changing-latin-americas-cities/feed/ 0
Soy Changes Map of Brazil, Set to Become World’s Leading Producerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 17:22:11 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151713 “Our wealth lies in the climate, not in the land,” said Antonio Galván, president of the Rural Union of Sinop, a municipality created just 37 years ago, which has prospered due to the continued expansion of soy in Brazil. Sinop, population 133,000, is the biggest city in northern Mato Grosso, a state in west- central […]

The post Soy Changes Map of Brazil, Set to Become World’s Leading Producer appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The soybean harvest this year in Brazil will hit record levels and reaffirm that the country is about to displace the United States as the world’s top producer of soy. Credit: Embrapa

The soybean harvest this year in Brazil will hit record levels and reaffirm that the country is about to displace the United States as the world’s top producer of soy. Credit: Embrapa

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 17 2017 (IPS)

“Our wealth lies in the climate, not in the land,” said Antonio Galván, president of the Rural Union of Sinop, a municipality created just 37 years ago, which has prospered due to the continued expansion of soy in Brazil.

Sinop, population 133,000, is the biggest city in northern Mato Grosso, a state in west- central Brazil which has experienced a major expansion of the agricultural frontier since the 1970s, and is currently the leading national producer of soy, accounting for 27 per cent of Brazil’s production.

“We have 14 to 15 million hectares of land available to expand soybean crops by 150 per cent in Mato Grosso, with no need to deforest,” Galván told IPS from Sinop.

For this reason, “it is a natural tendency,” he said, for Brazil to soon overtake the United States as the world’s leading producer of soy, as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predict, in the report “2017-2026 Agricultural Outlook”.

More or less regular rainfall from October to May is the main factor for the growth of agriculture in northern Mato Grosso, explained Galván.

Besides soy, which is planted at the start of the rainy season and harvested about four months later, other crops are also planted, but at the end of the rainy season – generally cotton and maize, of which Mato Grosso has also become the biggest producer in the country in the past four years.

State-owned lands, divided between the “Cerrado” ecoregion – the Brazilian savannah – and the Amazon forest, used to be undervalued for their low fertility, until they became the new agricultural frontier.

Galván, originally from the far south of Brazil, moved to Sinop in 1986, when land was still cheap. “Soybean was just starting in Sinop when I came, the local economy was only based on livestock and logging,” he recalled.

That year, Mato Grosso produced 1.9 million tons of soybean. But by 2016 the state’s soy crop reached 26.03 million tons, and this year it is expected to increase between 11 and 12 per cent, according to the Agriculture Ministry’s National Supply Agency.

Many of the migrants from southern Brazil who founded and settled in Sinop did not share that prosperity reflected in one of the highest human development rates in Brazil’s hinterland. “They went bankrupt and returned to their places of origin,” defeated by the harsh living conditions and lack of transport at the beginning, lamented Galván.

The city’s name comes from the initials (in Portuguese) of the company that “colonised” the area, the Real Estate Company of Northeastern Paraná (a southern state), buying lands, building the first houses and streets, and attracting families to an illusory El Dorado.

 Complex of soy and maize storehouses and processing plants in Lucas Rio Verde, in the heart of the state of Mato Grosso, the country’s main producer of soy, maize and cotton, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


Complex of soy and maize storehouses and processing plants in Lucas Rio Verde, in the heart of the state of Mato Grosso, the country’s main producer of soy, maize and cotton, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This is how Brazil’s Amazon region was populated, with the 1964-1985 military dictatorship promoting internal migration, which expanded the deforestation and provoked land conflicts, massacres of indigenous people and malaria epidemics.

The production of soy also expanded from south to northwest, although more slowly.

Soy began to be grown in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state, in 1914, because it had the most temperate climate, the only one suitable at the time. The expansion began in 1970, when national output was just 1.5 million tons.

In a decade production rose tenfold, and it more than doubled again in the 1990s, advancing towards the north until Mato Grosso took the lead in production in 2000.

While production stagnated in the south, in Mato Grosso it tripled so far this century, and expanded to previously inconceivable areas, such as the Northeast, including the semi-arid parts, and the humid northern Amazon region.

Soy became the main national agricultural product, representing half of the production of cereals, pulses and oilseeds, and the largest export revenues: 25 billion dollars in 2016. The rural map and economy of Brazil changed radically in the process.

“The main obstacles for the expansion of soy are infrastructure and logistics. On the large agricultural estates technology continues to improve while productivity grows, with yields approaching the U.S. average of 3,730 kilos per hectare,” said Alexandre Cattelan, head of Technology Transfer in Embrapa Soy.

Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), created in 1973 by the Agriculture Ministry, is a complex of 47 specialised units, including Embrapa Soy, scattered around the country.

It played a decisive role in the adaptation of soy to Brazil’s tropical climate, with increasing productivity. Output, using new seeds and techniques, increased 6.17 times, while the cultivated area grew 3.82 times since 1980.

“We have the land and know-how to overtake the U.S., but we lack proper roads, ports, railways and sufficient storage facilities,” Cattelan told IPS. This year, because of a record harvest, the storehouses are full and there is no space for the maize that is now being harvested.

Highway BR163, which crosses the most productive area in Mato Grosso and runs to the river ports in the Amazon, is the shortest way for exporting locally produced soy and maize. But it still has an unpaved 100-km stretch and is impassable during the rainy season.

Adequate seeds and the use of lime, fertilisers and micronutrients to improve the soil helped to expand the crop to the Cerrado savannah region, said Cattelan, an agronomist who has a PhD in soil microbiology.

Direct seeding, which excludes plowing of the earth and involves covering it with straw, the inoculation of bacteria which fix nitrogen in the soil, reduce costs and environmental damage, such as the contamination of the water table, he said.

A bottleneck for the production of soy could be a slowdown in the consumption of protein in China, from a 7.9 per cent increase in the last decade to a 2.3 per cent increase over the next decade, according to the FAO and OECD report.

The report also projects a lower level of growth of per capita consumption of food in the countries of the developing South, from 1.1 per cent against the previous 3.1 per cent, and the stabilisation of the use of vegetable oils for making biodiesel.

Moreover, the expansion of soy generates controversy, especially because of the intense use of genetically modified seeds and agrochemicals, sald Alice Thuault, associate director of the non-governmental Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV), which operates in northern Mato Grosso.

In 2011, a study identified toxic agrochemicals in the breastmilk of many women in Lucas do Rio Verde, a municipality next to Sinop.

The production of soy also drives the deforestation of the Amazon forest, although in a much lower proportion than livestock production, which “occupies 50 to 70 per cent of the recently deforested areas,” Thuault told IPS.

Furthermore, soybean growers, mostly producers with large extensions of land, dominate local politics and rule according to their interests, to the detriment of family farmers, the environment and public health. Former Mato Grosso governor Blairo Maggi is currently Brazil’s agriculture minister.

The post Soy Changes Map of Brazil, Set to Become World’s Leading Producer appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer/feed/ 0
Will Renewable Energies Finally Get Their Chance in Argentina?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/will-renewable-energies-finally-get-chance-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-renewable-energies-finally-get-chance-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/will-renewable-energies-finally-get-chance-argentina/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 12:39:10 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151672 The first thing anyone who looks at any official document this year in Argentina will read is: “2017, the year of renewable energies.” This indicates the importance that the government gives to the issue, although translating the slogan into reality does not seem as easy as putting it in the headings of public documents. Renewable […]

The post Will Renewable Energies Finally Get Their Chance in Argentina? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Will Renewable Energies Finally Get Their Chance in Argentina?

The solar farm in Arribeños, a locality in the province of Buenos Aires, which began to inject 500 Kw into the Argentinian power grid in August. Credit: Argentine Chamber of Renewable Energy

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

The first thing anyone who looks at any official document this year in Argentina will read is: “2017, the year of renewable energies.” This indicates the importance that the government gives to the issue, although translating the slogan into reality does not seem as easy as putting it in the headings of public documents.

Renewable sources of energy today make up an insignificant proportion of Argentina’s energy mix. But under a law passed in 2015, with the consensus of all political sectors, this scenario is to be reverted in the next few years.“The main driver of these initiatives is that Argentina has a large energy deficit and needs new power from all sources: from hydroelectric plants as well as the two new projected nuclear plants, while increasing its production of natural gas and also boost production from renewable sources.” -- Javier Cao

The objective is not only based on commitments of turning to clean sources of energy undertaken by Argentina within the framework of global agreements to combat climate change, but also on the need, imposed by the economy, to expand and diversify the energy mix.

For years, Argentina has been spending a fortune to import fossil fuels, although the amount has decreased, from seven billion dollars in 2014 to less than three billion dollars last year.

However, that did not happen due to increased productivity or a diversification of local sources, but because of a fall in international oil prices.

“Fossil fuels form an absurdly large portion of our energy mix. We have to change that,” Daniel Redondo, the government’s secretary of strategic energy planning, acknowledged in July in front of an auditorium of experts.

“We are going to live up to the law on renewable energies, which stipulates that 20 per cent of our energy should come from clean source by 2025,” he added.

According to official data, Argentina’s primary energy supply is based on 51 per cent natural gas and 33 per cent oil.

With respect to power generation, thermal plants which use fossil fuels cover 64 per cent of the supply, while 30 per cent comes from hydroelectric plants. The country’s three nuclear plants provide four per cent of the total.

Since 2016, the government has signed 59 contracts with private investors to develop renewable energy projects around the country. These initiatives, which should begin functioning next year, involve an overall investment of about four billion dollars, according to the Energy Ministry.

These projects will jointly add 2,423 megawatts (MW) to the energy supply, which the state has assumed the commitment to buy and incorporate into the national grid, which currently has some 30,000 MW of installed capacity.

China, a decisive player in the energy sector

Besides these projects, which form part of the government’s RenovAr Programme, the governor of the northern province of Jujuy, Gerardo Morales, announced that he signed a contract with the Power China company for the construction and financing of a 300-MW solar farm in the Salar de Cauchari, some 4,000 metres above sea level.

The contract was signed during President Mauricio Macri’s visit to China in May, when Morales was part of the official delegation. According to the governor, it will be “the biggest solar farm in Latin America.”

The first thing anyone who looks at any official document this year in Argentina will read is: “2017, the year of renewable energies.”

President Mauricio Macri signs contracts for renewable energy projects, together with members of his administration and representatives of the Buenos Aires city government. Credit: Argentine Presidency

During the visit, China consolidated its role as a key player in the renewal of the power industry in Argentina. In Beijing, an agreement was reached for the Asian giant to finance 85 per cent of the construction of two nuclear plants, with an investment of 14 billion dollars.

Before the visit, they had agreed for China to finance the construction of two hydroelectric plants in Argentina’s southern region of Patagonia, at a cost of nearly five billion dollars. But the two mega-projects are still on hold by a Supreme Court order, in response to a complaint filed by environmental organisations.

The government is keen on solving this situation, as the Chinese investors have threatened to apply a “cross-default” clause and block their investments in other projects.

Energy Ministry officials reiterate in every public forum in which they participate that the goal is for 20,000 MW of power to be added to the electric grid by 2025, and for half of this to come from renewable sources.

To finance this, the government created the Fund for the Development of Renewable Energies (Foder), which was endowed with 800 million dollars from the state, in addition to another 480 million approved by the World Bank to finance the projects.

The ones that are already underway are mainly wind and solar power projects, since Argentina has favourable conditions for the former in the windy southern region of Patagonia, and for the latter in the high plateaus of northwestern Argentina, where solar radiation is intense.

There are also small-scale hydroelectric and biogas projects.

“This is the first time that Argentina is really moving forward in the development of renewable energies. Today we have what we used to lack: financing,” said Javier Cao, an expert in renewable energies for the economic consulting firm Abeceb.

“The main driver of these initiatives is that Argentina has a large energy deficit and needs new power from all sources: from hydroelectric plants as well as the two new projected nuclear plants, while increasing its production of natural gas and also boost production from renewable sources,” he told IPS.

Will the third time be the charm?

Argentina’s dream of developing renewable energies is not new, but up to now all the efforts made had failed.

The first law that declared renewables a matter of “national interest” was passed by Congress in 1998. But the financial incentives created by that law were destroyed by the late 2001 economic and political crisis that led to the resignation of President Fernando de la Rúa.

In 2006 a second law was enacted, which set a target: eight per cent of the electric power consumed was to come from renewable sources by 2016. But once again, it failed, due to problems with financing.

The third, which will hopefully be the charm, was passed in 2015, with votes from lawmakers who backed then president Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) as well as members of the opposition, in a rare example of consensus.

This law created tax and customs incentives for investors and included among renewable sources hydroelectric dams up to 50 MW of capacity, in contrast to the ceiling of 30 MW set by the previous law.

In addition, it established the obligation to reach the target of eight per cent renewable energies in the electric grid by Dec. 31, 2017 – a deadline that will not be reached. However, the government hopes to meet the target by 2019.

The government does hope to reach the second target set by the law, on time: 20 per cent renewables by 2025.

“One of the challenges in this respect is decentralising production,” said Marcelo Álvarez, president of the Argentine Chamber of Renewable Energies, which represents companies in the sector.

Towards that end, Congress is expected to pass a new power distribution law this year, which will allow users who generate renewable power to sell their surplus to the grid, which would be a real innovation in Argentina.

“We already have achieved a unified text for the bill in the Energy Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, with the participation of technical advisers from all the parties and technicians from the executive branch,” said Juan Carlos Villalonga, a former Greenpeace environmental activist who is now a lawmaker for the governing alliance Cambiemos.

“The take-off of renewable energies will be one of the legacies of this government,” said Villalonga.

Within the Paris Agreement on climate change, signed by 196 member states in December 2015, Argentina committed itself to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent before 2030, a level criticised as low, but to which this country would add another 15 per cent if it receives special funds.

The post Will Renewable Energies Finally Get Their Chance in Argentina? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/will-renewable-energies-finally-get-chance-argentina/feed/ 0
Conservation Agriculture Sprouts in Cuban Fieldshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/conservation-agriculture-sprouts-cuban-fields/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conservation-agriculture-sprouts-cuban-fields http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/conservation-agriculture-sprouts-cuban-fields/#comments Thu, 10 Aug 2017 18:21:00 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151642 At the entrance, the Tierra Brava farm looks like any other family farm in the rural municipality of Los Palacios, in the westernmost province of Cuba. But as you drive in, you see that the traditional furrows are not there, and that freshly cut grass covers the soil. “For more than five years we’ve been […]

The post Conservation Agriculture Sprouts in Cuban Fields appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Onay Martínez holds a sugar-apple on his farm, Tierra Brava, in western Cuba, where he practices conservation agriculture and has turned this sustainable system that minimally disturbs the soil into a model in his country. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Onay Martínez holds a sugar-apple on his farm, Tierra Brava, in western Cuba, where he practices conservation agriculture and has turned this sustainable system that minimally disturbs the soil into a model in his country. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
LOS PALACIOS, Cuba, Aug 10 2017 (IPS)

At the entrance, the Tierra Brava farm looks like any other family farm in the rural municipality of Los Palacios, in the westernmost province of Cuba. But as you drive in, you see that the traditional furrows are not there, and that freshly cut grass covers the soil.

“For more than five years we’ve been practicing conservation agriculture (CA),” Onay Martínez, who works 22 hectares of state-owned land, told IPS.

He was referring to a specific kind of agroecology which, besides not using chemicals, diversifies species on farms and preserves the soil using plant coverage and no plowing.

“In Cuba, this system is hardly practiced,” lamented the farmer, who is cited as an example by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of integral and spontaneous application of CA, which Cuban authorities began to include in their policies in 2016.

This fruit tree orchard in the province of Pinar del Río, worked by four farmhands, is the only example of CA reported at the moment, and symbolises the step that Cuba’s well-developed agroecological movement is ready to take towards this sustainable system of farming. The Agriculture Ministry already has a programme to extend it on a large scale.

FAO defines CA as “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. CA is characterised by three linked principles, namely: Continuous minimum mechanical soil disturbance; Permanent organic soil cover; Diversification of crop species grown in sequences and/or associations.”

Because of the small number of farms using the technique, there are no estimates yet of the amount of land in Cuba that use the basic technique of no-till farming, which is currently expanding in the Americas and other parts of the world.

CA, which uses small machinery such as no-till planters, has spread over 180 million hectares worldwide. Latin America accounts for 45 per cent of the total, the United States and Canada 42 per cent, Australia 10 per cent, and countries in Europe, Africa and Asia 3.6 per cent.

The world leaders in the adoption of this conservationist system are South America: Brazil, where it is used on 50 per cent of farmland, and Argentina and Paraguay, with 60 per cent each.

And Argentina and Brazil, the two agro-exporter powers in the region, are aiming to extend it to 85 per cent of cultivated lands in less than a decade.

Sheep are raised for meat on the Tierra Brava farm, which also produces fruit, expensive and scarce in Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Sheep are raised for meat on the Tierra Brava farm, which also produces fruit, expensive and scarce in Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“In conservation agriculture we found the basis for development because it allowed us to achieve goals in adverse conditions,” said Martínez, a computer specialist who discovered CA when in 2009 he and his brother started to study how to reactivate lands that had been idle for 25 years and were covered by weeds.

A worker operates a kind of mower characteristic of this type of agriculture to clear the paths in Tierra Brava, which has no electricity or irrigation system. The cut grass is thrown in the same direction to facilitate the creation of organic compost.

“There are places on the farm, such as the plantation of soursop (Annona muricata), where you walk and you feel a soft step in the ground,” Martínez said, citing an example of the recovery of the land achieved thanks to the fact that “no tilling is used and the soil coverage is not removed.”

Focused on the production of expensive and scarce fruit in Cuba, the farm in 2016 produced 87 tons, mainly of mangos, avocados and guavas, in addition to 2.7 tons of sheep meat and 600 kilos of rabbit.

Now they are building a dam to practice aquaculture and are starting to sell soursop, a fruit nearly missing in local markets.

Mandarin orange, canistel (Pouteria campechiana), coconut, tamarind, cashew, West Indian cherry (Malpighia emarginata), mamey apple (Mammea americana), plum, cherry, sugar apple (Annona squamosa), cherimoya (Annona cherimola) and papaya are some of the other fruit trees growing on the family farm, until now for self-consumption, diversification or small-scale, experimental production.

An assortment of fruit grown on the Tierra Brava farm in Los Palacios, in the western Cuban province of Pinar del Río. In the cooperative of which it forms part, farmers aspire to build a processing plant to sell “healthy fruit” to tourists. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

An assortment of fruit grown on the Tierra Brava farm in Los Palacios, in the western Cuban province of Pinar del Río. In the cooperative of which it forms part, farmers aspire to build a processing plant to sell “healthy fruit” to tourists. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“Rotating crops is hard and requires a lot of training and precision, but CA is also special because it allows you time to be with your family,” said Martínez, referring to another of the benefits also mentioned by specialists.

FAO’s representative in Cuba, German agronomist Theodor Friedrich, is one of the staunch advocates of CA around the world, based on years of research.

“Agroecology, as it was understood in Cuba in the past, has excluded the aspect of healthy soil and its biodiversity,” he told IPS in an interview. “Now the government recognises that the move towards Conservation Agriculture fills in the gaps of the past, in order to achieve true agroecology.”

Friedrich said that in this Caribbean island nation of 11.2 million people, CA is new, but “several pilot projects have been carried out, and there is evidence that it works.”

In October 2016, Cuba laid out a roadmap to implement CA around the country, after an international consultation supported by FAO. And in July a special group was set up within the Agriculture Ministry to promote CA.

“CA has not been immediately adopted on a large-scale around the country,” said Friedrich. “But as of 2018, the growth of the area under CA is expected to be much faster than in countries where this system only spreads among farmers, without the coordinated support of related policies.”

A worker operates a low-impact mower, used in conservation agriculture to clear the land, on the Tierra Brava farm in Los Palacios, a municipality at the western tip of Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A worker operates a low-impact mower, used in conservation agriculture to clear the land, on the Tierra Brava farm in Los Palacios, a municipality at the western tip of Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Good practices that improve the soil, which form the basis of this system, have been promoted in Cuba for some time now by bodies such as the Soil Institute (IS). It is even among the few environmental services supported by the state in Cuba’s stagnant economy, to combat the low fertility of the land.

According to data from the IS, only 28 per cent of Cuban soils are highly productive for agriculture. Of the rest, 50 per cent is ranked in category four of productivity, one of the lowest, due to the characteristics of the formation of the Cuban archipelago and the poor management of soil during centuries of monoculture of sugarcane.

“In this municipality, the number of farms that use organic compost to improve the soils has increased. The payment for improving the soil has been an incentive,” said Lázara Pita, coordinator of the agroecological movement in the National Association of Small Farmers of Los Palacios.

“We have rice fields, where agroecology is not used, but where they do apply good practices for soil conservation such as using rice husks as nutrients,” Pita, whose association has 2,147 small farms joined together in 15 cooperatives, an agroindustrial state company and rice processing plant, told IPS.

Standing in a wide-roofed place without walls in Tierra Brava, Pita estimated that 40 farms qualify as ecological, and another 60 could shift to clean production techniques.

With the certification of a soil expert, a farmer like Martínez can earn between 120 and 240 dollars a year for offering environmental services, such as soil improvers, the use of live barriers and organic materials. This is an attractive sum, given the average state salary of 29 dollars a month.

Cuba, which depends on millions of dollars in food imports, has 6,226,700 hectares of arable land, of which 2,733,500 are cultivated and 883,900 remain idle.

The post Conservation Agriculture Sprouts in Cuban Fields appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/conservation-agriculture-sprouts-cuban-fields/feed/ 3