Inter Press Service » Advancing Deserts http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 25 Jul 2016 15:10:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Rewriting Africa’s Agricultural Narrativehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 11:08:02 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146098 Albert Kanga's plantain farm on the outskirts of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Albert Kanga's plantain farm on the outskirts of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
ABIDJAN, Cote d'Ivoire, Jul 18 2016 (IPS)

Albert Kanga Azaguie no longer considers himself a smallholder farmer. By learning and monitoring the supply and demand value chains of one of the country’s staple crops, plantain (similar to bananas), Kanga ventured into off-season production to sell his produce at relatively higher prices.

“I am now a big farmer. The logic is simple: I deal in off-season plantain. When there is almost nothing on the market, mine is ready and therefore sells at a higher price,” says Kanga, who owns a 15 Ha plantain farm 30 kilometres from Abidjan, the Ivorian capital.

Harvesting 12 tonnes on average per hectare, Kanga is one of a few farmers re-writing the African story on agriculture, defying the common tale of a poor, hungry and food-insecure region with more than 232 million undernourished people – approximately one in four.

Albert Kanga on his plantain farm. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Albert Kanga on his plantain farm. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

With an estimated food import bill valued at 35.4 billion dollars in 2015, experts consider this scenario ironic because of Africa’s potential, boasting 60 percent of the world’s unused arable land, and where 60 percent of the workforce is employed in agriculture, accounting for roughly a third of the continent’s GDP.

The question is why? Several reasons emerge which include structural challenges rooted in poor infrastructure, governance and weak market value chains and institutions, resulting in low productivity. Additionally, women, who form the backbone of agricultural labour, are systematically discriminated against in terms of land ownership and other incentives such as credit and inputs, limiting their opportunities to benefit from agricultural value chains.

“Women own only one percent of land in Africa, receive one percent of agricultural credit and yet, constitute the majority of the agricultural labour force,” says Buba Khan, Africa Advocacy Officer at ActionAid.

Khan believes Africa may not be able to achieve food security, let alone sovereignty, if women remain marginalised in terms of land rights, and the World Bank Agenda for Global Food System sourcebook supports the ‘closing the gender gap’ argument.

According to the sourcebook, ensuring that women have the same access to assets, inputs, and services in agriculture as men could increase women’s yields on farms by 20-30 percent and potentially reduce the number of hungry people by 12-17 percent.

But empowering women is just one of the key pieces to the puzzle. According to the African Development Bank’s Feeding Africa agenda, number two on its agenda is dealing with deep-seated structural challenges, requiring ambition and investments.

According to the Bank’s analysis, transforming agricultural value chains would require approximately 280-340 billion dollars over the next decade, and this would likely create new markets worth 55-65 billion dollars per year by 2025. And the AfDB envisages quadrupling its investments from a current annual average of US 612 million to about 2.4 billion dollars to achieve this ambition.

“Our goal is clear: achieve food self-sufficiency for Africa in 10 years, eliminate malnutrition and hunger and move Africa to the top of agricultural value chains, and accelerate access to water and sanitation,” said Akinwumi Adesina, the AfDB Group President at the 2016 Annual Meetings, highlighting that the major focus of the bank’s “Feed Africa” agenda, is transforming agriculture into a business for farmers.

But even with this ambitious goal, and the colossal financial resources on the table, the how question remains critical. Through its strategy, the Bank sets to use agriculture as a starting point for industrialisation through multi-sectoral interventions in infrastructure, intensive use of agro inputs, mechanisation, enhanced access to credit and improved land tenure systems.

Notwithstanding these well tabulated interventions, there are trade-offs required to create a balance in either system considering the climate change challenge already causing havoc in the agriculture sector. The two schools of thought for agriculture development—Intensification (more yields per unit through intensive agronomical practices) and Extensification (bringing more land under cultivation), require a right balance.

“Agriculture matters for Africa’s development, it is the single largest source of income, food and market security, and it is also the single largest source of jobs. Yet, agriculture faces some enormous challenges, the most urgent being climate change and the sector is called to act. But there are trade-offs to either approaches of up-scaling. For example, extensification entails cutting more forests and in some cases, displacing people—both of which have a negative impact on Agriculture’s role to climate change mitigation,” says Sarwatt Hussein, Head of Communications at World Bank’s Agriculture Global Practice.

And this is a point that Ivorian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mamadou Coulibaly Sangafowa, stresses regarding Agricultural investments in Africa. “The emphasis is that agricultural investments should be climate-sensitive to unlock the opportunities especially for young Africans, and stop them from crossing the Mediterranean seeking economic opportunities elsewhere,” he said.

Coulibaly, who is also president of the African conference of Agricultural Ministers, identifies the need to improve specialised agricultural communication, without which farmers would continue working in the dark. “Farmers need information about latest technologies but it is not getting to them when they need it the most,” he said, highlighting the existing information gap, which the World Bank and the African Media Initiative (AMI) have also noted regarding media coverage of Agriculture in Africa.

While agriculture accounts for well over 60 percent of national economic activity and revenue in Africa, the sector gets a disproportionately small amount of media coverage, contributing less than 10 percent to the national economic and political discourse. And this underreporting has resulted not only in limited public knowledge of what actually goes on in the sector, but also in general, misconceptions about its place in the national and regional economy, notes the AMI-World bank analysis.

Whichever route Africa uses to achieve the overall target of feeding itself and be a net food exporter by 2025, Ivorian farmer, Albert Kanga has already started the journey—thanks to the World Bank supported West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme-WAAPP, which introduced him to off-season production techniques.

According to Abdoulaye Toure, lead agro-economist at the World Bank, the WAAPP initiative which started in 2007 has changed the face of agriculture in the region. “When we started in 2007, there was a huge food deficit gap in West Africa, with productivity at around 20 percent, but it is now at 30 percent, and two similar programmes in Eastern and Southern Africa, have been launched as a result,” said Toure.

Some of the key elements of the programme include research, training of young scientists to replace the older generation, and dissemination of improved technologies to farmers. With in-country cluster research stations set up based on a particular country’s potential, there is improved information sharing on best practices.

“With new varieties introduced and off-season irrigation techniques through WAAPP, I am now an example,” says Farmer Kanga, who does not only supply to big supermarkets, but also exports to international markets such as Italy.

He recalls how he started the farm named after his late brother, Dougba, and wishes “he was alive to see how successful it has become.”

The feed Africa agenda targets to feed 150 million, and lift 100 million people out of poverty by 2025. But is it an achievable dream? Farmer Kanga is already showing that it is doable.

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Large-Scale Rainwater Harvesting Eases Scarcity in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/large-scale-rainwater-harvesting-eases-scarcity-in-kenya/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2016 21:02:07 +0000 Justus Wanzala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146014 African Water Bank technicians put the final touches on a water storage tank at a homestead in the Duka Moja area of Narok County, Kenya. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

African Water Bank technicians put the final touches on a water storage tank at a homestead in the Duka Moja area of Narok County, Kenya. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

By Justus Wanzala
NAROK, Kenya, Jul 12 2016 (IPS)

Rainwater harvesting in Kenya and other places is hardly new. But in this water-stressed country, where two-thirds of the land is arid or semiarid, the quest for a lasting solution to water scarcity has driven useful innovations in this age-old practice.

The African Water Bank (AWB), an international nonprofit, has committed to providing and managing clean water using a much cheaper and efficient method.

The technology’s main focus is to harvest and store rainwater on a large scale. It has features such as an enhanced collection area, a guttering system and a storage system. Additional features include filters, water gauges and first flush devices.

A typical AWB rainwater harvesting system collects 400,000 to 450,000 litres of rainwater within two to three hours of steady rain. It has an artificial roof of 900 to 1,600 square metres and storage tanks. The largest tank ever constructed in Narok County has a capacity of 600,000 litres. All the units can be expanded per the owners’ needs.

This amount of water can serve a community of 400 people for approximately 24 months without extra rain. The capacity can be added at a rate of 220,000 litres per year. The system is low cost and can be 100 percent maintained locally. It also uses local skills, labour, materials and technology.A typical AWB harvesting system collects 400,000 to 450,000 litres of rainwater within two to three hours of steady rain.

Chip Morgan, AWB’s Chief Executive Officer, says their system collects huge volumes of rainwater and conserves it in large storage tanks. “This is akin to one earning money and saving it in a bank, the reasons we are called AWB,” he says.
He adds that the size of the system installed by households is dependent on their needs.

Currently, AWB focuses on the semiarid Narok County, in Kenya’s Rift Valley region, mainly occupied by the pastoral Maasai community. The technology has also been introduced in the semiarid Pokot, Machakos, Samburu and Kajiado counties in Kenya as well as in Zambia’s Chavuma district. Most of the clients are homes and institutions such as hospitals and schools.

Construction of tanks is funded by communities, donors and individuals who pay 50 percent up front before construction begins. Morgan says that despite growing demand, they are still in a phase where people are learning of the immense potential of the initiative. “This year we are fully booked. Our target is to build 50 units in a year,” he says.

The AWB CEO, who has worked for decades in the development sector starting in his native Australia, where water scarcity is a challenge to communities residing in remote areas, argues that one of the reasons why people are poor in many parts of the developing world is lack of water.

According to the 2012 Joint Monitoring Programme’s report, access to safe water supplies throughout Kenya was only 59 percent, while access to improved sanitation was 32 percent. The situation might have improved of late, but the challenge of access to water in both rural areas and urban areas still abounds.

Due to poor access to water and sanitation, says Morgan, water, sanitation and hygiene-related illnesses and conditions are the main cause of disease among children under five.

Meanwhile, just a small tank can irrigate a greenhouse on a one-third acre piece of land, thus promoting food security. As a result, AWB is keen to work with companies involved in the provision of greenhouse irrigation services to assist communities engaged in commercial farming.

Access to water and sanitation is also vital in reducing women and girls’ workload since culturally, fetching water is their job. This enables them to attend to other activities, such as school and homework.

Morgan notes that they use both skilled and unskilled local labour and continuously train their technicians. This is essential because the emergence of plastic tanks had killed demand for concrete ones, resulting in a decline of the number of concrete tank technicians. He says concrete/masonry tanks can last a lifetime.

AWB has two engineers. They offer training to technicians from outside Kenya. Four Ugandan community-based organisations have benefited from AWB’s skills transfer programme by sending their members to be trained on AWB rainwater harvesting technology.

Wataka Stephen, a trainee from Mbale, Uganda, says he was keen to acquire skills and transfer them to Uganda. “I intend to utilize the skills that I have acquired to employ myself,” says Wataka.

Swaga Jaberi, another Ugandan undergoing training at AWB, says his home region in eastern Uganda relies heavily on boreholes, but they are drying up as the water table decreases. Borehole digging is also expensive.

AWB’s rainwater harvesting technology is unique compared to the systems common in Uganda, he says. Jaberi intends to target hospitals, schools, and community centres as his potential clients.

The AWB rainwaters harvesting is indeed beneficial to communities in the semi arid Narok County. Apart from saving livestock during perennial droughts, it is also boosting education. Tonkei Ole Tempa, headmaster of the Ilkeek Aare mixed Day and Boarding Primary School, cannot hide his satisfaction. He says  that since the school completed construction of its 600,000-litre water tank in March, it has enough water to meet all its needs.

The system has a rainwater collecting roof of 400 square metres and was put up at a cost Kenya shillings 4.3 million (USD 43,000). Ole Tempa says the school, which has a total of 410 pupils with 180 pupils being boarders, now has enough water to last from one rainy season to the next.

Ole Tempa reveals that enrolment has gone up. “In 2013 the school had only 106 pupils but this year it has grown to 410,” says the headmaster. He adds that the availability of water has enhanced the school’s feeding programme. This has improved student health and performance. Hygiene standards in the school, adds Ole Tempa, have equally improved.

Indeed, various studies commissioned by Kenya’s ministry of education and other independent bodies in the past have indicated that in schools without clean water and toilets, pubescent female pupil’s absenteeism is rampant during days when they are menstruating. This affects their performance in school, with some dropping out altogether.

According to Ole Tempa, it is because of the vulnerability of girls that they offer boarding facilities to girls as matter of priority courtesy of availability of enough water. He adds that previously they used to spend 48,000 Kenya shillings (480 USD) every three months to buy water, but since they stared harvesting rainwater, the cost is zero.

The head teacher says that they intend to establish a vegetable garden through irrigation to supply fresh vegetables to the school and also rear two dairy cows to lower spending on milk for pupils. Funds for the construction of the roof and tank were provided by the Rotary Club in Kenya and the African Water Bank partners. Parents also chipped in by contributing Kenya shillings 5,000 each (USD 50). “The input by the parents was meant to ensure ownership of the project for sustainability purposes,” he says.

The government has equally recognized the impact of rainwater harvesting technologies in arid and semiarid areas on education. Speaking in Baringo County in June 2016, Fred Segor, Principal Secretary, Kenya’s ministry of water, urged schools to practice rainwater harvesting. He said the move will reduce incidences of water related diseases among pupils.

Apart from boosting access to water in arid and semi regions, rainwater harvesting contributes to water conservation thus reducing overexploitation of water resources. Moreover, rainwater harvesting reduces surface runoff during heavy precipitation which causes floods and erosion as water is harvested.

Morgan says AWB is keen to surmount challenges such as scarcity financial constraints by partnering with financial institutions. This will eliminate dependence on donors and lessen the burden on communities which lack funds to put up large scale rainwater harvesting units.

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Rethinking the Population Problemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rethinking-the-population-problem/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rethinking-the-population-problem http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rethinking-the-population-problem/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2016 15:47:12 +0000 Muhammad Azizul Haque http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146002 Illustration: Michael Morgenstern

Illustration: Michael Morgenstern

By Muhammad Azizul Haque
Jul 11 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

With the knowledge that Bangladesh’s population – which was about 75 million in 1971 – now stands bloated to more than 160 million, all crammed into a land area of only 50,260 sq miles and that the population density is already five times that in any other ‘mega’ country, contemplate the following scenarios and see if you want to picture the country with any further addition to its population. A population that renders running trains to become invisible under loads of humanity spilling out of their interiors and clinging to all over their exteriors, while carrying people to their homes in the countryside on the eve of Eids; traffic jams resulting into prolongation of say a 30-minute trip in the cities to an absurd three-hour trip; unbridled population increase that has already brought down the per capita land to 24 decimals or less and cultivable land to some 11 decimals; law courts reeling under the unwieldy burdens of hundreds of thousands of civil and criminal suits; innumerable daily occurrences of land-related disputes, countless crimes and murders; dying and moribund rivers; desertification and salinity intrusion from the sea; dire inadequacy of water supply causing distress to an enormous segment of the urban and rural population; a catastrophe from the rising sea-level looming large and threatening to submerge one-third of the land area of the country, which could thus engender the need to move and rehabilitate over 50 million internal migrants in the remaining two-thirds of the country’s land territory, which could in turn raise the already high population density to an absurd level; fast-shrinking agricultural and cultivable land due to unplanned and uncontrolled urbanisation, industrialisation, infrastructural and development projects implementation; increasing cost of living, healthcare and education, and rampant and ubiquitous corruption and unscrupulousness; admission of even infants to schools depending on lottery and parents’ capability to pay donations and; myriads of such other woes afflicting our daily life.

The root of nearly all our socioeconomic agonies can be traced back to the overpopulation of the country. Bangladesh’s population has long ago exceeded the combined population of Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Singapore. We do not have enough land even to properly house the existing population, let alone housing any additional people. All the strides and all the remarkable successes that Bangladesh has achieved in various socioeconomic sectors since its independence, and particularly under the present government since 2009, will be nullified if the population growth remains unbridled.

With population growth remaining unbridled, no government can implement development programmes and ensure their long-duration benefits to people. And with hundreds of thousands of young people joining the ranks of jobseekers every year, there is bound to be unmanageable unemployment problems and the resultant negative impact on the society. The world may not keep its doors wide open to perennially absorb our additional manpower and emigrants. There could be many impediments in the receiving countries, including racism and cultural repulsion.

During the first two decades after it came into being, Bangladesh was deemed by the West as a perfect example of a nation ‘whose poverty was a direct consequence of over-breeding’. It was considered a basket-case that barely subsisted on handouts from rich and developed countries. Notable ecologists and leading biologists, like Garrett Hardin, wrote in The New York Times and scholarly journals, that all aids to Bangladesh should be ceased. Very few Bangladeshis were aware of those write-ups and they just occupied themselves resiliently with rebuilding their war-ravaged country. And belying all sinister predictions, today Bangladesh has graduated itself to a lower middle income country.

However, in order to sustain and further augment our socioeconomic progress, we urgently need a sound and effective population policy. We need to plan and regulate the growth of our population so as to avert any big addition to our already huge and absurd population. This small country is comparable to a perilously overloaded ferry that cannot simply accommodate any more passengers. We must not lose our rising living standards. We must not revert to the extreme poverty we had before and be known as a basket case again. We must not return to our pitiable square one and to the mercy of the international community. We certainly don’t want that people of Garrett Hardin’s sort to want to ‘punish’ us for over-breeding.

The government should recognise overpopulation as a priority issue. And in order to address it aptly, a permanent national council or body, comprising eminent demographers, efficient public officials, notable scholars, experts and planners, should be in place to advise the government on the actions to be taken in its bid to manage and regulate our population size, its growth, and its age groups composition, so that it does not show any further significant increase. At the same time, such measures can enable us to avert serious impacts of the ageing of our population on the size of our workforce, which should be as large as we may need.

It may be difficult to achieve and sustain that balance, but solutions to a complicated problem is never easy, although not unattainable. Uncontrolled and unmanaged population is already an existential threat to our nation. We cannot afford to paper over the problem and delay addressing it any more. Over-breeding of any particular species of animal or creature, even human beings, in a land tends to have an adverse impact on the ecology of that land. It upsets the ecological equilibrium and triggers natural cataclysms by over-exploitation of natural resources of the land and polluting its environment.

How can one imagine this little country of already teeming crores to have, say 25 crore people, in the future and still ensure decent lives for them? No government, for all its best intentions and efforts, has the power to do that if the population grows to such a ludicrous size. And every political party in the country, if it calls itself patriotic, must extend unstinting support to the government to forthwith adopt the strictest possible measures to control the growth and size of the population.

With growing cities, townships and urban centres across the whole country, Bangladesh is likely to become a huge city-state in about three decades from now, if the current rate of economic growth is sustained. That, however, will gluttonously swallow the country’s invaluable agricultural land, unless we determine the minimum amount of it that we must unwaveringly protect to ensure food security in times of global food shortage, akin to what we witnessed in 2008.

While many of our neighbours are doing extremely well, progressing and consolidating their progress, we cannot live under the shadow of an existential threat due to the still growing overpopulation. Even our immediate neighbor, Myanmar, under its nascent and still shaky democracy, is showing great promise. In FY2015-2016, Myanmar received an FDI of US$9 billion. The total amount of the FDI received by Myanmar from 1988 to 2015 was around US$60 billion. And the country is expected to attain an economic growth rate of 8.4 percent in the current fiscal year (April 2016 – March 2017). Territorially, Myanmar is more than 4.5 times larger than Bangladesh, with an area equal to about half the country under rich forests. It has natural resources of all kinds, including gems, valuable minerals, oil, and offshore natural gas reserves estimated at 10 trillion cubic feet as well as huge areas of rice producing fertile agricultural land. Yet, it has a population of around 50 million, i.e. less than one-third of the population of Bangladesh. I strongly feel that Bangladesh must keep pace with its neighbours in the matter of progress in socioeconomic areas and other spheres. Bangladesh needs to sustain the progress it has attained so far and achieve more. There cannot be any falling back to our past.

The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Malagasy Children Bear Brunt of Severe Droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/malagasy-children-bear-brunt-of-severe-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=malagasy-children-bear-brunt-of-severe-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/malagasy-children-bear-brunt-of-severe-drought/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 10:39:53 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145975 Nearly half the children in drought-stricken South Madagascar are malnourished. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Nearly half the children in drought-stricken South Madagascar are malnourished. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
AMBOVOMBE, Madagascar, Jul 8 2016 (IPS)

Voahevetse Fotetse can easily pass for a three-year-old even though he is six and a pupil at Ankilimafaitsy Primary School in Ambovombe district, Androy region, one of the most severely affected by the ongoing drought in the South of Madagascar.

“Fotetse is just like many of the pupils here who, due to chronic malnutrition, are much too small for their age, they are too short and too thin,” explains Seraphine Sasara, the school’s director.

The school has a total population of 348 – 72 boys and 276 girls – and they range from three to 15 years. Fewer boys stay in school as they spend most of their time helping on the farm or grazing the family livestock.

The tide, however, turns when the girls reach 15 years, at which point most are withdrawn from school and married off.

But in school or out of school, nearly half of the children in Southern Madagascar have not escaped malnutrition. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says that stunting –  where children are too short for their age – affects at least 47 percent of children under five.“I feed my eight children on rice for breakfast and supper but for lunch, they have to eat cactus fruits." -- Mamy Perline

Compared to acute malnutrition, which can develop over a short period and is reversible, stunting has more far-reaching consequences.

“Stunting is a gradual and cumulative process during the 1,000 days from conception through the first two years of a child’s life,” Sasara told IPS.

It develops as a result of sustained poor dietary intake or repeated infections, or a combination of both.

“It is not just about a child being too short for their age, it has severe and irreversible consequences including risk of death, limited physical and cognitive capacities,” Sasara said.

Statistics show that two million children in this Southern African country are stunted, placing Madagascar fourth in the “Global Chronic Malnutrition” table.

In February this year, though the global acute malnutrition level reached an average of eight percent, it is much higher in many regions in Southern Madagascar where most districts have surpassed the critical threshold of 10 percent.

Rainfall deficit and recurrent drought in Southern Madagascar has led to the deterioration of household food security, which has had a significant impact on the nutritional status of children under five.

Sasara says that the situation has been worsened by the rice eating culture across Madagascar “where children eat rice for breakfast, lunch and supper.”

But Mamy Perline told IPS that even rice is not always available. “I feed my eight children on rice for breakfast and supper but for lunch, they have to eat cactus fruits,” she said.

According to the WFP, which runs a school feeding programme in affected districts, Tsihombe district in Androy region is the most affected, with an average of 14 percent of children under five presenting signs of acute malnutrition.

WFP estimates show that nearly 50 percent of the Malagasy children under five suffer from iron deficiency which causes anemia.

Consequently, of every 1,000 live births, 62 result in children dying before they reach five years.

The lack of clean water and proper sanitation has compounded the situation facing the South.

The education sector continues to bear the brunt of the severe drought, with statistics by various humanitarian agencies including WFP showing that the net primary education enrolment rate in Madagascar is on a downward spiral.

Though an estimated 96.2 percent of children were enrolled in 2006, the number had dwindled to 69.4 percent in 2012, with Sasara saying that the current enrolment is likely to be much lower as children are too hungry to stay in school.

This is the case in Tanandava village, Amboasary district, Anosy region, where hundreds of out of school children gather each day to receive a meal from the village canteen offered by Catholic Relief Services, a humanitarian agency working in the area.

WFP statistics further show that the number of out of school children between six and 12 years is estimated at 1.5 million, with regions such as Anosy, Androy and Atsimo Andrefana in the South of Madagascar which have high rates of food insecurity posting alarmingly low levels of school performance.

Since 2005 WFP has implemented a school feeding programme, providing daily fortified meals to nearly 300,000 children in 1,300 primary schools in the south of the country but also in the urban slums of Antananarivo, Tulear and Tamatave.

“The meals are fortified with micronutrients and are crucial in breaking the malnutrition cycle in this country,” Sasara said.

The school feeding programme is a joint community effort where parents are involved in the preparation of the food, therefore providing a platform for the implementation of other interventions geared towards improving the health and nutrition of vulnerable children.

These interventions access to water and sanitation, which are twin problems in this region.

“When it rains and water collects in potholes on the road, this is the water we collect in containers for drinking, cooking and washing. It does not matter how many cars or people have stepped into the water, it is the only source we have,” says Perline.

Given the increase in acute malnutrition, a contributing factor to child mortality, WFP supports the National Office for Nutrition through its Regional Office for Nutrition, which continues to provide supplementary feeding programs for the treatment of moderate acute malnutrition across villages in the South.

“Treating children affected by moderate acute malnutrition can reduce drastically the number of those affected by severe acute malnutrition and to restore an adequate nutritional status,” says Yves Christian, Head of Regional Office for Nutrition.

WFP is further providing technical assistance to the government at various levels that is expected to result in a nationally owned school feeding programme.

New modalities of school feeding will also be piloted at the start of the next school year later in September 2016.

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International Organizations Concerned by El Niño Funding Gaphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/international-organizations-concerned-by-el-nino-funding-gap/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-organizations-concerned-by-el-nino-funding-gap http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/international-organizations-concerned-by-el-nino-funding-gap/#comments Tue, 05 Jul 2016 20:04:16 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145931 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/international-organizations-concerned-by-el-nino-funding-gap/feed/ 0 Can Better Technology Lure Asia’s Youth Back to Farming?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:38:29 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145811 ADB president Takehiko Nakao speak at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

ADB president Takehiko Nakao speaks at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Farming and agriculture may not seem cool to young people, but if they can learn the thrill of nurturing plants to produce food, and are provided with their favorite apps and communications software on agriculture, food insecurity will not be an issue, food and agriculture experts said during the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Food Security Forum from June 22 to 24 at the ADB headquarters here.

The prospect of attracting youth and tapping technology were raised by Hoonae Kim, director for Asia and the Pacific Region of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Nichola Dyer, program manager of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), two of many forum panelists who shared ideas on how to feed 3.74 billion people in the region while taking care of the environment.

“There are 700 million young people in Asia Pacific. If we empower them, give them voice and provide them access to credit, they can be interested in all areas related to agriculture,” Kim said. “Many young people today are educated and if they continue to be so, they will appreciate the future of food as that of safe, affordable and nutritious produce that, during growth and production, reduces if not eliminate harm to the environment.”

Dyer, citing the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year worldwide, said, “We have to look at scaling up the involvement of the private sector and civil societies to ensure that the policy gaps are given the best technologies that can be applied.”

Dyer also said using technology includes the attendant issues of gathering and using data related to agriculture policies of individual countries, especially those that have recognized the need to lessen harm to the environment while looking for ways to ensure that there is enough food for everyone.

“There is a strong need to support countries that promote climate-smart agriculture, both financially and technically as a way to introduce new technologies,” she said.

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Ministers of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. - Credit: ADB

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Ministers of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. – Credit: ADB

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific estimated in 2014 that the region has 750 million young people aged 15 to 24, comprising 60 percent of the world’s youth. Large proportions live in socially and economically developed areas, with 78 percent of them achieving secondary education and 40 percent reaching tertiary education.

A regional paper prepared by the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) in 2015, titled “A Viable Future: Attracting the Youth Back to Agriculture,” noted that many young people in Asia choose to migrate to seek better lives and are reluctant to go into farming, as they prefer the cities where life is more convenient.

“In the Philippines, most rural families want their children to pursue more gainful jobs in the cities or overseas, as farming is largely associated with poverty,” the paper stated.

Along with the recognition of the role of young people in agriculture, the forum also resonated with calls to look at the plight of farmers, who are mostly older in age, dwindling in numbers and with little hope of finding their replacement from among the younger generations, even from among their children. Farmers, especially those who do not own land but work only for landowners or are small-scale tillers, also remain one of the most marginalised sectors in every society.

Estrella Penunia, secretary-general of the AFA, said that while it is essential to rethink how to better produce, distribute and consume food, she said it is also crucial to “consider small-scale farmers as real partners for sustainable technologies. They must be granted incentives and be given improved rental conditions.” Globally, she said “farmers have been neglected, and in the Asia Pacific region, they are the poorest.”

The AFA paper noted that lack of youth policies in most countries as detrimental to the engagement of young people. They also have limited role in decision-making processes due to a lack of structured and institutionalized opportunities.

But the paper noted a silver lining through social media. Through “access to information and other new networking tools, young people across the region can have better opportunities to become more politically active and find space for the realization of their aspirations.”

Calls for nonstop innovation in communications software development in the field of agriculture, continuing instruction on agriculture and agriculture research to educate young people, improving research and technology development, adopting measures such as ecological agriculture and innovative irrigation and fertilisation techniques were echoed by panelists from agriculture-related organizations and academicians.

Professor David Morrison of Murdoch University in Perth, Australia said now is the time to focus on what data and technology can bring to agriculture. “Technology is used to develop data and data is a great way of changing behaviors. Data needs to be analyzed,” he said, adding that political leaders also have to understand data to help them implement evidence-based policies that will benefit farmers and consumers.

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao - Credit: ADB

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao – Credit: ADB

ADB president Takehiko Nakao said the ADB is heartened to see that “the world is again paying attention to food.” While the institution sees continuing efforts in improving food-related technologies in other fields such as forestry and fisheries, he said it is agriculture that needs urgent improvements, citing such technologies as remote sensing, diversifying fertilisers and using insecticides that are of organic or natural-made substances.

Nakao said the ADB has provided loans and assistance since two years after its establishment in 1966 to the agriculture sector, where 30 percent of loans and grants were given out. The ADB will mark its 50th year of development partnership in the region in December 2016. Headquartered in Manila, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled 27.2 billion dollars, including cofinancing of 10.7 billion dollars.

In its newest partnership is with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which is based in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines, Nakao and IRRI director general Matthew Morell signed an agreement during the food security forum to promote food security in Asia Pacific by increasing collaboration on disseminating research and other knowledge on the role of advanced agricultural technologies in providing affordable food for all.

The partnership agreement will entail the two institutions to undertake annual consultations to review and ensure alignment of ongoing collaborative activities, and to develop a joint work program that will expand the use of climate-smart agriculture and water-saving technologies to increase productivity and boost the resilience of rice cultivation systems, and to minimize the carbon footprint of rice production.

Nakao said the ADB collaboration with IRRI is another step toward ensuring good food and nutrition for all citizens of the region. “We look forward to further strengthening our cooperation in this area to promote inclusive and sustainable growth, as well as to combat climate change.” Morell of the IRRI said the institution “looks forward to deepening our already strong partnership as we jointly develop and disseminate useful agricultural technologies throughout Asia.”

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman - Credit: ADB

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman – Credit: ADB

The ADB’s earlier agreements on agriculture was with Cambodia in 2013 with a 70-million-dollar climate-smart agriculture initiative called the Climate-Resilient Rice Commercialization Sector Development Program that will include generating seeds that are better adapted to Cambodia’s climate.

ADB has committed two billion dollars annually to meet the rising demand for nutritious, safe, and affordable food in Asia and the Pacific, with future support to agriculture and natural resources to emphasize investing in innovative and high-level technologies.

By 2025, the institution said Asia Pacific will have a population of 4.4 billion, and with the rest of Asia experiencing unabated rising populations and migration from countryside to urban areas, the trends will also be shifting towards better food and nutritional options while confronting a changing environment of rising temperatures and increasing disasters that are harmful to agricultural yields.

ADB president Nakao said Asia will face climate change and calamity risks in trying to reach the new Sustainable Development Goals. The institution has reported that post-harvest losses have accounted for 30 percent of total harvests in Asia Pacific; 42 percent of fruits and vegetables and up to 30 percent of grains produced across the region are lost between the farm and the market caused by inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water, power, market facilities and transport systems.

Gathering about 250 participants from governments and intergovernmental bodies in the region that include multilateral and bilateral development institutions, private firms engaged in the agriculture and food business, research and development centers, think tanks, centers of excellence and civil society and advocacy organizations, the ADB held the food security summit with inclusiveness in mind and future directions from food production to consumption.

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Grim News from Cape Grim puts ​Australians on Alerthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/grim-news-from-cape-grim-puts-%e2%80%8baustralians-on-alert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=grim-news-from-cape-grim-puts-%25e2%2580%258baustralians-on-alert http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/grim-news-from-cape-grim-puts-%e2%80%8baustralians-on-alert/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 20:23:50 +0000 Dan Bloom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145711 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/grim-news-from-cape-grim-puts-%e2%80%8baustralians-on-alert/feed/ 0 Building Africa’s Energy Grid Can Be Green, Smart and Affordablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/building-africas-energy-grid-can-be-green-smart-and-affordable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-africas-energy-grid-can-be-green-smart-and-affordable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/building-africas-energy-grid-can-be-green-smart-and-affordable/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 15:24:55 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145650 A Congolese man transports charcoal on his bicycle outside Lubumbashi in the DRC. An estimated 138 million poor households spend 10 billion dollars annually on energy-related products such as charcoal, candles, kerosene and firewood. Credit: Miriam Mannak/IPS

A Congolese man transports charcoal on his bicycle outside Lubumbashi in the DRC. An estimated 138 million poor households spend 10 billion dollars annually on energy-related products such as charcoal, candles, kerosene and firewood. Credit: Miriam Mannak/IPS

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, Jun 16 2016 (IPS)

It’s just after two p.m. on a sunny Saturday and 51-year-old Moses Kasoka is seated outside the grass-thatched hut which serves both as his kitchen and bedroom.

Physically challenged since birth, Kasoka has but one option for survival—begging. But he thinks life would have been different had he been connected to electricity. “I know what electricity can do, especially for people in my condition,” he says.

“With power, I would have been rearing poultry for income generation,” says Kasoka, who is among the estimated 645 million Africans lacking access to electricity, hindering their economic potential.

“As you can see, I sleep beside an open fire every night, which serves for both lighting and additional warmth in the night,” adds Kasoka, inviting this reporter into his humble home.

But while Kasoka remains in wishful mode, a kilometer away is Phinelia Hamangaba, manager at Pemba District Dairy milk collection centre, who is now accustomed to having an alternative plan in case of power interruptions, as the cooperative does not have a stand-by generator.

Phinelia has daily responsibility for ensuring that 1,060 litres of milk supplied by over a hundred farmers does not ferment before it is collected by Parmalat Zambia, with which they have a contract.

“Electricity is our major challenge, but in most cases, we get prior information of an impending power interruption, so we prepare,” says the young entrepreneur. “But when we have the worst case scenario, farmers understand that in business, there is profit and loss,” she explains, adding that they are called to collect back their fermented milk.

Moses Kasoka sits in his wheelchair outside his grass-thatched hut in Pemba, Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Moses Kasoka sits in his wheelchair outside his grass-thatched hut in Pemba, Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

The cooperative is just one of several small-scale industries struggling with country-wide power rationing. Due to poor rainfall in the past two seasons, there has not been enough water for maximum generation at the country’s main hydropower plants.

According to the latest Economist Intelligence Unit report, Zambia’s power deficit might take years to correct, especially at the 1,080MW Kariba North Bank power plant where power stations on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi River are believed to have consumed far more than their allotted water over the course of 2015 and into early 2016.

The report highlights that in February, the reservoir at Kariba Dam fell to only 1.5 meters above the level that would necessitate a full shutdown of the plant. Although seasonal rains have slightly replenished the reservoir, it remained only 17 percent full as of late March, compared to 49 percent last year. And refilling the lake requires a series of healthy rainy seasons coupled with a moderation of output from the power plant—neither of which are a certainty.

This scenario is just but one example of Africa’s energy and climate change nexus, highlighting how poor energy access hinders economic progress, both at individual and societal levels.

And as the most vulnerable to climate change vagaries, but also in need of energy to support the economic ambitions of its poverty-stricken people, Africa’s temptation to take an easy route through carbon-intensive energy systems is high.

“We are tired of poverty and lack of access to energy, so we need to deal with both of them at the same time, and to specifically deal with poverty, we need energy to power industries,” remarked Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the 2016 African Development Bank Annual meetings in Lusaka, adding that renewables can only meet part of the need.

But former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan believes Africa can develop using a different route. “African nations do not have to lock into developing high-carbon old technologies; we can expand our power generation and achieve universal access to energy by leapfrogging into new technologies that are transforming energy systems across the world. Africa stands to gain from developing low-carbon energy, and the world stands to gain from Africa avoiding the high-carbon pathway followed by today’s rich world and emerging markets,” says Annan, who now chairs the Africa Progress Panel (APP).

In its 2015 report Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities, the APP outlines Africa’s alternative, without using the carbon-intensive systems now driving economic growth, which have taken the world to the current tipping point. And Africa is therefore being asked to lead the transition to avert an impending disaster.

The report recommends Africa’s leaders use climate change as an incentive to put in place policies that are long overdue and to demonstrate leadership on the international stage. In the words of the former president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, “For Africa, this is both a challenge and an opportunity. If Africa focuses on smart choices, it can win investments in the next few decades in climate resilient and low emission development pathways.”

But is the financing mechanism good enough for Africa’s green growth? The APP notes that the current financing architecture does not meet the demands, and that the call for Africa’s leadership does not negate the role of international cooperation, which has over the years been a clarion call from African leaders—to be provided with finance and reliable technology.

The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) mourns the vague nature of the Paris agreement in relation to technology transfer for Africa. “The agreement vaguely talks about technologies without being clear on what these are, leaving the door open to all kinds of false solutions,” reads part of the civil society’s analysis of the Paris agreement.

However, other proponents argue for home solutions. According to available statistics, it is estimated that 138 million poor households spend 10 billion dollars annually on energy-related products, such as charcoal, candles, kerosene and firewood.

But what would it take to expand power generation and finance energy for all? The African Development Bank believes a marginal increase in energy investment could solve the problem.

“Africa collects 545 billion dollars a year in terms of tax revenues. If you put ten percent of that to electricity, problem is solved. Second, share of the GDP going to energy sector in Africa is 0.49 percent. If you raise that to 3.4 percent, you generate 51 billion dollars straight away. So which means African countries have to put their money where their mouth is, invest in the energy sector,” says AfDB Group President, Akinwumi Adesina, who also highlights the importance of halting illicit capital flows out Africa, costing the continent around 60 billion dollars a year.

While Kasoka in Southern Zambia’s remote town awaits electricity , the country’s Scaling Solar programme, driving the energy diversification agenda, may just be what would light up his dream of rearing poultry. According to President Edgar Lungu, the country looks to plug the gaping supply deficit with up to 600 MW of solar power, of which 100 MW is already under construction.

With the world at the tipping point, Africa will have to beat the odds of climate change to develop. Desmond Tutu summarises what is at stake this way: “We can no longer tinker about the edges. We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow. For there will be no tomorrow. As a matter of urgency we must begin a global transition to a new safe energy economy.

“This requires fundamentally rethinking our economic systems, to put them on a sustainable and more equitable footing,” the South African Nobel Laureate says in the APP 2015 report.

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Soil Degradation Threatens Nutrition in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/soil-degradation-threatens-nutrition-in-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=soil-degradation-threatens-nutrition-in-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/soil-degradation-threatens-nutrition-in-latin-america/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 17:32:05 +0000 Orlando Milesi and Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145637 Las Canoas Lake in the town of Tipitapa, near Managua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon affects Nicaragua, leaving local residents without fish and without water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores/IPS

Las Canoas Lake in the town of Tipitapa, near Managua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon affects Nicaragua, leaving local residents without fish and without water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores/IPS

By Orlando Milesi and Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Jun 15 2016 (IPS)

Curbing soil degradation is essential for ecological sustainability and food security in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Everyone knows how important water is, but not everyone understands that soil is not just what we walk on, it’s what provides us with food, fiber and building materials, and it is where water is retained and atmospheric carbon is stored,” said Pilar Román at the regional office of the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

More than 68 percent of the soil in South America is currently affected by erosion: 100 million hectares of land have been degraded as a result of deforestation and 70 million have been over-grazed.

For example, desertification plagues 55 percent of Brazil’s Northeast region – whose nearly 1.6 million sq km represent 18 percent of the national territory – affecting a large part of the staple food crops, such as maize and beans.

In Argentina, Mexico and Paraguay, over half of the territory suffers problems linked to degradation and desertification. And in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, between 27 and 43 percent of the territory faces desertification.

An especially serious case is Bolivia, where six million people, or 77 percent of the population, live in degraded areas.

The situation is not much different in Central America. According to the 2014 Soil Atlas of Latin America and the Caribbean produced by the EUROCLIMA program, erosion affects 75 percent of the land in El Salvador, while in Guatemala 12 percent is threatened by desertification.

FAO stresses that as much as 95 percent of the food consumed worldwide comes from the soil, and 33 percent of global soils are degraded.

In Africa, 80 percent of land is moderately to severely eroded, and another 10 percent suffers from slight erosion.

To alert the global population about the dangers posed by desertification and soil degradation, the world celebrates the World Day to Combat Desertification on Jun. 17, under the theme this year of “Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People”.

“Without a long-term solution, desertification and land degradation will not only affect food supply but lead to increased migration and threaten the stability of many nations and regions,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on the occasion of the international day this year.

Román, with the FAO regional office’s technical support for South American subregional coordination, told IPS that there are close links between poverty, desertification and land degradation.

“Numerous studies show that the poorest and most vulnerable communities have the worst access to inputs. A poor community has access to less fertile land, and more limited access to seeds, water, productive resources, agricultural machinery and incentives,” she said.

Terraces built by Atacameño indigenous people in the village of Caspana, in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta. This age-old farming technique represents local adaptation to the climate and arid soil to guarantee the food supply for Andean highlands people. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Terraces built by Atacameño indigenous people in the village of Caspana, in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta. This age-old farming technique represents local adaptation to the climate and arid soil to guarantee the food supply for Andean highlands people. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

“In these poor communities, the most vulnerable are women, who have fewer land titles and more restricted access to economic incentives, and indigenous people.

“There is a direct correlation in that direction and vice versa: degraded soil will push a community to migrate and will generate conflicts over a limited resource,” she said in an interview in the FAO regional office in Santiago.

One example is Chile, where 49 percent of the land suffers from moderate to severe erosion and 62 percent faces desertification.

To address this severe problem, the authorities updated a land degradation map, with the aim of designing and implementing strategic climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

The map was updated using meteorological and bioclimatic data from the last 60 years, as well as physiographical, socioeconomic and environmental indicators, and statistics on natural resources.

Efraín Duarte, an expert with Sud-Austral, a private consultancy, who is the author of the updated map, told IPS that “the main direct causes of desertification, land degradation and drought at a national level are deforestation, degradation of forests, forest fires and processes arising from land-use changes.”

“The impact of climate change” should also be factored in, he said.

According to several studies, at least 25 percent of the rainfall shortage during the current drought in Chile, which has dragged on for nearly five years, is attributable to human-induced climate change, said Duarte.

He also cited indirect causes: “Inadequate public policies for oversight, regularisation and fomenting of ‘vegetational’ resources (forests, bushes and undergrowth), combined with rural poverty, low levels of knowledge, and a lack of societal appreciation of plant resources.”

Using the updated map, the government designed a national strategy focused on supporting the recovery and protection of native forests and plants adapted to desert conditions, and on fomenting reforestation and revegetation.

According to Duarte, “Chile could carry out early mitigation actions focused on fighting deforestation, forest degradation, excessive extraction of forest products, forest fires, over-grazing, over-use of land and unsustainable land use, and lastly, the employment of technologies inappropriate for fragile ecosystems.”

The expert said the fight against desertification is a shared responsibility at the national and international levels.

Román concurred and proposed that the prevention of soil degradation should be carried out “in a holistic manner, based on adequate information and training and awareness-raising among communities and decision-making agents on protection of the soil.”

Also important in this effort are agricultural production, avoiding the use of bad practices that prioritise short-term results, and pressure on land, he added.

For FAO, sustainable agricultural production practices would make it possible to produce 58 percent more food, besides protecting the soil for future generations.

Prevention not only consists of applying techniques in the countryside, but also making efforts at the level of government and legal instruments, and working with the communities, said Román.

While the ideal is to prevent degradation and desertification, there have been successful initiatives in the recovery of desertified areas.

In Costa Rica, for example, the two main causes of degradation were reduced between 1990 and 2000, when the area affected by deforestation shrank from 22,000 to 8,000 hectares, while the area affected by forest fires shrank from 7,103 to 1,322 hectares.

Román underlined that, as a form of mitigation, it is important to diversify and expand the range of foods consumed, as potatoes, rice, wheat and maize – just four of the 30,000 edible plants that have been identified – currently represent 60 percent of all food that is eaten.

“On one hand, monoculture plantations of these plants are one of the factors of soil degradation, and on the other hand, a diet based on carbohydrates from these plants generates malnutrition,” she said.

Edited by Estrella Gutierrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Drought Dries Up Money from Honeyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-dries-up-money-from-honey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-dries-up-money-from-honey http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-dries-up-money-from-honey/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 13:14:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145631 Zimbabwean farmer and beekeeper Nyovane Ndlovu with some of the honey produced under his own label. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Zimbabwean farmer and beekeeper Nyovane Ndlovu with some of the honey produced under his own label. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jun 15 2016 (IPS)

“It is everything” is how smallholder farmer Nyovane Ndlovu describes beekeeping, which has long been an alternative sweet source of income for drought-beaten farmers in Zimbabwe.

A drought worsened by the El Nino phenomenon – which has now eased – led to a write-off of crops in many parts of Zimbabwe and across the Southern Africa region where more than 28 million people will need food aid this year. More than four million people need assistance in Zimbabwe, which has made an international appeal for 1.6 billion dollars to cover grain and other food needs. The drought, the worst in 30 years, has destroyed crops and livestock.

Ndlovu, 57, from a village in the Lupane District, a dry area prone to drought and hunger, is one of the country’s growing number of honey heroes, using forest resources to cope with a changing climate and complement his farming income.

But even beekeeping has not been immune to the latest severe drought , and many farmers who have depended on honey to make ends meet are reporting major losses this year.“Last year I got three 25-litre buckets of honey and this year not even one bucket. The weather changed so that the bees lacked enough flowers for food." -- Nyovane Ndlovu

“Honey is my food and my children love it because they know each time I harvest they never go hungry,” says Ndlovu, who trained in beekeeping more than 10 years ago.

Beekeeping, practiced by more than 16,000 farmers in Zimbabwe, generally complements maize and grain crops. Last season, Ndlovu harvested a tonne of maize and 0.5 tonnes of sorghum, low numbers even for a drought year.

“Even in times of drought I have realized something from the field, especially small grains, but this past season has been terrible for many farmers,” says Ndlovu, who won a scotch cart and a plough in 2012 for emerging as the top farmer in an agriculture competition. “I turned to beekeeping when I realized the benefits. The proceeds from my honey sales have allowed me to pay school fees for my children and cover other household needs. I am getting more from honey than I do from cropping.”

Lupane District located 172km North West of Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo is home to more than 90,000 people, many who get by through limited cropping and extensive cattle rearing. The area is also home to state-owned indigenous hardwood forests, on which communities depend for fuel and food.

More honey, more money

Ndlovu has more than 20 Kenya Top Bar hives and two Langstroth hives – considered the best technology for apiculture because they give a higher production and quality honey. In a good season Ndlovu earns more than 500 dollars from honey sales. He even has his own label, Maguswini Honey, which he plans to commercialize once his honey has received a standard mark. A 375ml bottle of honey sells for four dollars in the village but five dollars when he delivers it to customers in Bulawayo and beyond.

Last year, Ndlovu and his neighbours, who belong to Bumbanani, a 30-member local beekeepers association, sold 900 dollars worth of honey within three days of exhibiting at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, an annual business showcase hosted in the city of Bulawayo. This year, they did not even make half the amount because they harvested less honey because of the drought.

“Last year I got three 25-litre buckets of honey and this year not even one bucket. The weather changed so that the bees lacked enough flowers for food and the water was also scarce and the hives did not have a lot of honey,” Ndlovu told IPS.

Another farmer, Nqobani Sibanda from Gomoza village in Ward 12 in Lupane, this year harvested one 20-litre bucket of honey compared to 60 litres last year.

“This year the flowers withered early and we think the bees did not have enough food, hence the honey harvest was low. I have four hives and each hive can give me up to 20 litres of honey on a good season and I can get 300 dollars or more, but not this year,” Sibanda said.

Development researcher with the Institute of Development Studies at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Everson Ndlovu, told IPS that income-generating projects such as beekeeping are an easy way for farmers to earn extra income in times of poor or no harvests and these projects can be up scaled into viable commercial enterprises.

“There is need for more training in business management, linking such small scale businesses to the market and business associations to get them properly registered and empowered,” said Ndlovu adding that, “the impact of drought has made it strategic for smallholder farmers to diversity their livelihoods but they need to receive weather information on time and in a manner they understand for them to make right decisions.”

Honey is traded globally and last year’s sales of natural honey were worth 2.3 billion dollars, according the World Top Exports website that tracks key exports. The sales were led by Europe with 35.2 percent of international honey sales, with Africa accounting for just 0.4 percent of the exports.

Bees which provide honey, propolis, Queen Jelly and beeswax among other products, help boost food security for some two billion smallholder farmers worldwide at no cost, a February 2016 study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found. The FAO has called for the protection of bees and insects that play a vital role of pollination thereby sustainably increasing food supply. However, climate change is affecting global bee colonies.

A drought of many things

“Farmers have been affected by the drought and beekeeping was not spared, as seen by the low amount of honey they realized this year compared to last year in Lupane, a dry area,” said Clifford Maunze, a beekeeping trainer and Project Officer with Environment Africa under the Forestry Forces Programme supported by the FAO.

“We have trained farmers on beekeeping and helped them counteract the effects of the drought by planting more trees that bees like such as Moringa Oleifera, commonly known as the drumstick tree, which flowers constantly and have promoted the development of homestead orchard where they can have citrus trees to provide forage for the bees,” Maunze said.

Environment Africa, working with the Department of Agriculture Extension Services (Agritex), has trained 1,382 farmers in Lupane District and over 800 in Hwange District on beekeeping under a programme started in 2011. Lupane was chosen for apiculture projects because of its indigenous forests, some of which are threatened by expanding agricultural land, veld fires and deforestation.

“While the drought has affected farmers in Lupane, apiculture is the way to go providing income and jobs because it is cost-effective,” Maunze said.

In drier regions like Matabeleland North Province, farmers can harvest honey twice a season and with at least five hives a farmer can get 100 litres of honey. This can be even more in regions with higher rainfall and forage, where farmers can harvest up to four times a season.

Figures from the national statistical agency Zimstats and Agritex show that Zimbabwe produces over 427,000 kg of honey annually against a local demand of 447,000 kg. The deficit of nearly 20,000 metric tonnes is made up through imports, a situation that farmers like Ndlovu are seeking to change through intensive investment in apiculture.

Zimbabwe is aiming to raise honey production to a target 500,000 litres by 2018, according to Zim-Asset, a national strategy to revive the country’s battered economy, currently facing a cash crisis.

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Climate-Proofing Agriculture Must Take Centre Stage in African Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/climate-proofing-agriculture-must-take-centre-stage-in-african-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-proofing-agriculture-must-take-centre-stage-in-african-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/climate-proofing-agriculture-must-take-centre-stage-in-african-policy/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 12:34:01 +0000 Katrin Glatzel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145621 Peter Mcharo's two children digging their father’s maize field in Kibaigwa village, Morogoro Region, some 350km from Dar es Salaam. Mcharo has benefitted greatly from conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Orton Kiishweko/IPS

Peter Mcharo's two children digging their father’s maize field in Kibaigwa village, Morogoro Region, some 350km from Dar es Salaam. Mcharo has benefitted greatly from conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Orton Kiishweko/IPS

By Dr. Katrin Glatzel
KIGALI, Rwanda, Jun 14 2016 (IPS)

After over a year of extreme weather changes across the world, causing destruction to homes and lives, 2015-16 El Niño has now come to an end.

This recent El Niño – probably the strongest on record along with the along with those in 1997-1998 and 1982-83– has yet again shown us just how vulnerable we, let alone the poorest of the poor, are to dramatic changes in the climate and other extreme weather events.

Across southern Africa El Niño has led to the extreme drought affecting this year’s crop. Worst affected by poor rains are Malawi, where almost three million people are facing hunger, and Madagascar and Zimbabwe, where last year’s harvest was reduced by half compared to the previous year because of substantial crop failure.

However, El Niño is not the only manifestation of climate change. Mean temperatures across Africa are expected to rise faster than the global average, possibly reaching as high as 3°C to 6°C greater than pre-industrial levels, and rainfall will change, almost invariably for the worst.

In the face of this, African governments are under more pressure than ever to boost productivity and accelerate growth in order to meet the food demands of a rapidly expanding population and a growing middle class. To achieve this exact challenge, African Union nations signed the Malabo Declaration in 2014, committing themselves to double agricultural productivity and end hunger by 2025.

However, according to a new briefing paper out today from the Montpellier Panel, the agricultural growth and food security goals as set out by the Malabo Declaration have underemphasised the risk that climate change will pose to food and nutrition security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. The Montpellier Panel concludes that food security and agricultural development policies in Africa will fail if they are not climate-smart.

Smallholder farmers will require more support than ever to withstand the challenges and threats posed by climate change while at the same time enabling them to continue to improve their livelihoods and help achieve an agricultural transformation. In this process it will be important that governments do not fail to mainstream smallholder resilience across their policies and strategies, to ensure that agriculture continues to thrive, despite the increasing number and intensity of droughts, heat waves or flash floods.

The Montpellier Panel argues that climate-smart agriculture, which serves the triple purpose of increasing production, adapting to climate change and reducing agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions, needs to be integrated into countries’ National Agriculture Investment Plans and become a more explicit part of the implementation of the Malabo Declaration.

Across Africa we are starting to see signs of progress to remove some of the barriers to implementing successful climate change strategies at national and local levels.  These projects and agriculture interventions are scalable and provide important lessons for strengthening political leadership, triggering technological innovations, improving risk mitigation and above all building the capacity of a next generation of agricultural scientists, farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs. The Montpellier Panel has outlined several strategies that have shown particular success.

Building a Knowledge Economy

A “knowledge economy” improves the scientific capacities of both individuals and institutions, supported by financial incentives and better infrastructure. A good example is the “Global Change System Analysis, Research and Training” (START) programme, that promotes research-driven capacity building to advance knowledge on global environmental change across 26 countries in Africa.

START provides research grants and fellowships, facilitates multi-stakeholder dialogues and develops curricula. This opens up opportunities for scientists and development professionals, young people and policy makers to enhance their understanding of the threats posed by climate change.

Sustainably intensifying agriculture

Agriculture production that will simultaneously improve food security and natural resources such as soil and water quality will be key for African countries to achieve the goal of doubling agriculture productivity by 2025. Adoption of Sustainable Intensification (SI) practices in combination has the potential to increase agricultural production while improving soil fertility, reducing GHG emissions and environmental degradation and making smallholders more resilient to climate change or other weather stresses and shocks.

Drip irrigation technologies such as bucket drip kits help deliver water to crops effectively with far less effort than hand-watering and for a minimal cost compared to irrigation. In Kenya, through the support of the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute, the use of the drip kit is spreading rapidly and farmers reported profits of US$80-200 with a single bucket kit, depending on the type of vegetable.

Providing climate information services

Risk mitigation tools, such as providing reliable climate information services, insurance policies that pay out to farmers following extreme climate events and social safety net programmes that pay vulnerable households to contribute to public works can boost community resilience. Since 2011 the CGIAR’s Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Senegalese National Meteorological Agency and the the Union des Radios Associatives et Communautaires du Sénégal, an association of 82 community-based radio stations, have been collaborating to develop climate information services that benefit smallholder farmers.

A pilot project was implemented in Kaffrine and by 2015, the project had scaled-up to the rest of the country. Four different types of CI form the basis of advice provided to farmers through SMS and radio: seasonal, 10-day, daily and instant weather forecasts, that allow farmers to adjust their farming practices. In 2014, over 740,000 farm households across Senegal benefitted from these services.

Now is the time to act

While international and continental processes such as the Sustainable Development Goals, COP21 and the Malabo Declaration are crucial for aligning core development objectives and goals, there is often a disconnect between the levels of commitment and implementation on the ground. Now is an opportune time to act. Governments inevitably have many concurrent and often conflicting commitments and hence require clear goals that chart a way forward to deliver on the Malabo Declaration.

The 15 success stories discussed in the Montpellier Panel’s briefing paper highlight just some examples that help Africa’s agriculture thrive. As the backbone of African economies, accounting for as much as 40% of total export earnings and employing 60 – 90% of the labour force, agriculture is the sector that will accelerate growth and transform Africa’s economies.

With the targets of the Malabo Declaration aimed at 2025 – five years before the SDGs – Africa can now seize the moment and lead the way on the shared agenda of sustainable agricultural development and green economic growth.

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Seeds for Supper as Drought Intensifies in South Madagascarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/seeds-for-supper-as-drought-intensifies-in-south-madagascar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=seeds-for-supper-as-drought-intensifies-in-south-madagascar http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/seeds-for-supper-as-drought-intensifies-in-south-madagascar/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 11:18:10 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145619 Farmers are in despair at the drought crisis in Southern Madagascar, where at least 1.14 million people are food insecure. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Farmers are in despair at the drought crisis in Southern Madagascar, where at least 1.14 million people are food insecure. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
BEKILY, Madagascar, Jun 14 2016 (IPS)

Havasoa Philomene did not have any maize when the harvesting season kicked off at the end of May since like many in the Greater South of Madagascar, she had already boiled and eaten all her seeds due to the ongoing drought.

Here, thousands of children are living on wild cactus fruits in spite of the severe constipation that they cause, but in the face of the most severe drought witnessed yet, Malagasy people have resorted to desperate measures just to survive.

“We received maize seeds in January in preparation for the planting season but most of us had eaten all the seeds within three weeks because there is nothing else to eat,” says the 53-year-old mother of seven.

She lives in Besakoa Commune in the district of Bekily, Androy region, one of the most affected in the South of Madagascar.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says that an estimated 45,000 people in Bekily alone are affected, which is nearly half of the population here.

Humanitarian agencies like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) estimate that 1.14 million people lack enough food in the seven districts of Southern Madagascar, accounting for at least 80 percent of the rural population.

The United Nations World Food Programme now says that besides Androy, other regions, including Amboassary, are experiencing a drought crisis and many poor households have resulted to selling small animals and their own clothes, as well as kitchenware, in desperate attempts to cope.

After the USAID’s Office of U.S Foreign Disaster Assistance through The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) organised an emergency response in January to provide at least 4,000 households in eight communes in the districts of Bekily and Betroka with maize seeds, many families had devoured them in less than three weeks.

Philomene told IPS that “the seeds should have been planted in February but people are very hungry.”

Due to disastrous crop production in the last harvesting season, many farmers did not produce enough seeds for the February planting season, hence the need for humanitarian agencies to meet the seed deficit.

Farmers like Rasoanandeasana Emillienne say that this is the driest rainy season in 35 years.

“I have never experienced this kind of hunger. We are taking one day at a time because who knows what will happen if the rains do not return,” says the mother of four.

Although the drought situation has been ongoing since 2013, experts such as Shalom Laison, programme director at ADRA Madagascar, says that at least 80 percent of crops from the May-June harvest are expected to fail.

The Southern part of Madagascar is the poorest, with USAID estimates showing that 90 percent of the population earns less than two dollars a day.

According to Willem Van Milink, a food security expert with the World Food Programme, “Of the one million people affected across the Southern region, 665,000 people are severely food insecure and in need of emergency food support.”

Against this backdrop, the U.S. ambassador to the UN Agencies in Rome (FAO, IFAD and WFP), David Lane, has urged the government to declare the drought an emergency as an appeal to draw attention to the ongoing crisis.

Ambassador Lane says that though the larger Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) member states are making plans to declare an emergency situation in 13 countries in the southern region, including Madagascar, “the government of Madagascar needs to make an appeal for help.”

“Climate change is getting more and more volatile but the world does not know what is happening in Southern Madagascar and this region is indicative of what is happening in a growing number of countries in Southern Africa,” he told IPS during his May 16-21 visit to Madagascar.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), these adverse weather conditions have reduced crop production in other Southern African nations where an estimated 14 million people face hunger in countries including Southern Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi and South Africa.

Thousands of households are living precarious lives in the regions of Androy, Anosy and Atsimo Andrefana in Southern Madagascar  because they are unable to meet their basic food and non-food needs through September due to the current El Niño event, which has translated into a pronounced dry spell.

“An appeal is very important to show that the drought is longer than usual, hence the need for urgent but also more sustainable solutions,” says USAID’s Dina Esposito.

The ongoing situation is different from chronic malnutrition, she stressed. “This is about a lack of food and not just about micronutrients and people are therefore much too thin for their age.”

She says that the problem with a slow onset disaster like a drought as compared to a fast onset disaster like a cyclone – also common in the South – is to determine when to draw the line and declare the situation critical.

Esposito warns that the worst is yet to come since food insecurity is expected to escalate in terms of severity and magnitude in the next lean season from December 2016 to February 2017.

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‘What Can We Do for You?’ Aid Projects Pour Into Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-can-we-do-for-you-aid-projects-pour-into-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-can-we-do-for-you-aid-projects-pour-into-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-can-we-do-for-you-aid-projects-pour-into-myanmar/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 16:25:06 +0000 Guy Dinmore http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145525 Villagers sort the morning catch in Myanmar's southern Rakhine State. The area is being considered as a possible site for a project by IUCN focused on water, food and biodiversity. Credit: Guy Dinmore/IPS

Villagers sort the morning catch in Myanmar's southern Rakhine State. The area is being considered as a possible site for a project by IUCN focused on water, food and biodiversity. Credit: Guy Dinmore/IPS

By Guy Dinmore
YANGON, Jun 9 2016 (IPS)

International aid agencies, big and small, are beating a path to Myanmar, relishing the prospect of launching projects in a nation of 51 million people tentatively emerging from more than five decades of military rule.

Nay Pyi Taw, the grandiose but forlorn capital built in the dry-zone interior by the military junta 10 years ago, is starting to see flights filled with prospective aid workers, diplomats and businesses coming to lobby newly appointed ministers. Predictably, the elected civilian government, which took office in late March, is already under strain. Some ministries are still in the throes of reorganising following major reshuffles and mergers aimed at cutting costs.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace laureate who is de facto head of government while barred by the constitution from holding the presidency, has a reputation among established aid workers in Yangon for harbouring considerable scepticism towards the development world. But a recent meeting with heads of UN agencies went well, with participants saying they were pleasantly surprised to be listened to and not receive a lecture.

Her scepticism is justified on some fronts. The aid effort during the past five years of quasi civilian rule was disjointed and often wasteful. Rents were driven up in Yangon and the private sector lost qualified staff to higher paying NGOs, even if it was good news for the bars and restaurants that open weekly.

Not all blame can be laid at the foot of the aid world, however. For example, international de-mining organisations have not been able to clear a single landmine over the past four years, despite Myanmar being one of the world’s most mined countries. But this is because the military and the ethnic armed groups locked in decades-long civil wars have failed to reach necessary agreements.

However, the military, known as the Tatmadaw, still holds powerful levers, including control of three key ministries. This poses a risk to prospective development partners as not all aid projects will be able to go ahead, even if the civilian side of the government agrees.

Still, enthusiasm is running high.

“A new era is starting with a lot of economic development and a new government that puts environment on the agenda, opening up a lot of opportunities,” Marion van Schaik, senior policy advisor for water and environment for the Dutch foreign ministry, told a workshop in Yangon this week held by the Netherlands Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“We need to help Myanmar get on the road of sustainable development,” she said.

Men build a fishing boat on a beach in Myanmar's Rakhine State. Credit: Guy Dinmore/IPS

Men build a fishing boat on a beach in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Credit: Guy Dinmore/IPS

Rather than following the top-down approach of bigger agencies, IUCN Netherlands held the three-day workshop with Myanmar Environmental Rehabilitation-Conservation Network (MERN), an alliance of 21 local NGOs, to analyse development needs. The primary aim was to identify one or two “landscapes” where projects would focus on strengthening the capacity of civil society organisations in public advocacy and lobbying.

This would include training for CSOs in dealing with the private sector, understanding financial flows and making such decisions as whether to “dialogue” with concerned businesses or resort to the courts – a risky undertaking in Myanmar where corruption in the judiciary is widespread.

Professor Kyaw Tint, chairman of MERN and a former director general of the Myanmar Forest Department, said in his opening address that the network aimed to be a strong voice on environmental issues promoting public awareness.

Speaking to IPS, the retired civil servant who worked under the former military junta said he was confident the new government would be staffed with more competent experts rather than being packed with military personnel as in the past. He particularly welcomed the commitment to tackling widespread corruption.

Carl Koenigel, senior expert on ecosystems and climate for IUCN Netherlands, said the Myanmar program known as “Shared Resources, Joint Solutions” in partnership with WWF Netherlands, was financed under the Dialogue and Dissent program of the Dutch foreign ministry, with funding of one million euros over five years. The aim is to safeguard “international public goods” in food security, water provisioning and climate change resilience.

IUCN Netherlands has similar projects in 16 countries, including the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia.

Mining, dams and agri-business were a focus of the first day of discussions as participants sought to identify geographical areas and issues where projects could have the best chance of success. A points-based ranking system was used with groups allocating marks under various headings, including climate change impact, biodiversity loss, risks to water and food supplies, and the consequences of such sectors as mining, infrastructure and agri-business.

Given conflicts between the Myanmar military and ethnic armed groups around the country’s diverse frontier regions, part of the conversation focused on whether goals were achievable in such a context, and at what risk.

Kachin State in Myanmar’s far north is home to some 100,000 civilians living in IDP camps since renewed fighting between the military and the Kachin Independence Army erupted in 2011. The stakes are high in the resource-rich state. The township of Hpakant boasts the most valuable jade mines in Asia that have devastated the environment while producing revenues worth billions of dollars a year, although a relatively small proportion reaches government coffers.

China’s multi-billion-dollar project to build the giant Myitsone hydro-power project, suspended by the previous military-backed government, hangs over the future of Kachin, with the new government under Chinese pressure to restart work, despite concerns to the environment and the danger of further fuelling ethnic conflict. Pollution of waterways through gold mining, deforestation due to illegal logging, opium poppy cultivation and rampant drug abuse, plus expanding agribusiness complete the picture.

With the KIA regarded as an illegal armed group, formal dealings under areas it controls could result in prosecution under Myanmar’s “unlawful association” law. This means in effect that many foreign aid agencies may find themselves confined to working in government-controlled territory.

Similar concerns were expressed over the difficulties of working in the western state of Rakhine, where the minority Muslim community of some one million people lives under government-enforced segregation from the Buddhist majority, with limited freedom of movement and access to public services.

The first day of discussions narrowed a shortlist of possible “landscapes” to working within Kachin State, the southern delta area of Ayeyarwady (linked to Kachin by the Irrawaddy river), and the far southern region of Thanintharyi. The latter is one of the most bio-diverse areas in southeast Asia, but threatened by mining and major infrastructure projects, including a planned Chinese oil refinery, a deep-sea port backed by Japan and the development of trans-Asian highways linking to Thailand and beyond. The expansion of agribusiness through companies linked to the former military regime, particularly in rubber and palm oil, has also resulted in extensive deforestation.

Despite its relatively small budget, IUCN Netherlands points to the possibility of bringing about meaningful change through well targeted advocacy, citing the example of a project in Cambodia linked to the drafting of a new forestry law with nationwide implications. Projects in Myanmar should avoid being a “drop in the ocean”, Koenigel said.

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Q&A: Crisis and Climate Change Driving Unprecedented Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/qa-crisis-and-climate-change-driving-unprecedented-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-crisis-and-climate-change-driving-unprecedented-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/qa-crisis-and-climate-change-driving-unprecedented-migration/#comments Mon, 06 Jun 2016 15:34:24 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145470 Owing to demographic drivers, countries are going to become more multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, says William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organisation for Migration. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Owing to demographic drivers, countries are going to become more multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, says William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organisation for Migration. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 6 2016 (IPS)

Climate change is now adding new layers of complexity to the nexus between migration and the environment.

Coastal populations are at particular risk as a global rise in temperature of between 1.1 and 3.1 degrees C would increase the mean sea level by 0.36 to 0.73 meters by 2100, adversely impacting low-lying areas with submergence, flooding, erosion, and saltwater intrusion, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

But even before such catastrophes strike, the 660 to 820 million people who depend on a fishing livelihood – more so subsistence-based traditional fisher families who already find catches sharply dwindling due to over-fishing – will have no option but to abandon both home and occupation and move.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing at 11-26 million tonnes of fish each year, worth between 10 billion and 23 billion dollars, causing depletion of fish stocks, price increase and loss of livelihoods for fishermen.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) forecasts 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis. Many of them would be coastal population.

William Lacy Swing, Director General of IOM, spoke with IPS correspondent Manipadma Jena at the second UN Environmental Assembly May 23-27 in Nairobi where 174 countries focused on environmental implementation of the work that would achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Excerpts from the interview follow.

Q: What are today the other drivers of coastal migration besides environmental crises and depleting fish stocks?

A: Political crises and natural disasters are the other major drivers of migration today. We have never had so many complex and protracted humanitarian emergencies now happening simultaneously from West Africa all the way to Asia, with very few spots in between which do not have some issue. We have today 40 million forcibly displaced people and 20 million refugees, the greatest number of uprooted people since the Second World War.

If we add to that climate change events like Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines, and the Haiti earthquake, there would be another additional group.

We do not know how many of these natural disasters are climate related, but increasingly we are paying attention to climate change. After the Paris talks it is more evident that we must figure in adaptation strategies, especially in places like Bangladesh and the Pacific Islands, so people can avoid and prepare for the natural disasters.

Anote Tong, president of Kiribati, was saying they were fearful they would lose some of their 33 atolls. They are already purchasing land in neighbouring Fiji for their people to migrate. This is the kind of adaptation action we need to take.

Q. How do you see the picture of global coastal migration by 2030 and subsequently by 2050? What are the approximate numbers of coastal people that are on the move today? From which countries are the maximum movements being seen?

A: Coastal migration is starting already but it is very hard to be exact as there is no good data to be able to forecast accurately. We do not know. But it is clearly going to figure heavily in the future. And it’s going to happen both in the low-lying islands in the Pacific [and] the Caribbean, and in those countries where people build houses very close to the shore and have floods every year as in Bangladesh. Also, we have to look out for places prone to earthquakes. Philippines officials were talking to me last week about preparing for a major earthquake that could happen anytime.

We have to have an adaptation policy. The more adaptation you have, the less mitigation you need. The more you prepare the less you have to lose.

Q. Are increasing incidences of conflict over depleting resources being reported within coastal communities or with other groups such as large fishing operators?

A: It is quite clear that we will have more and more conflicts over shortages of food and water that are going to be exacerbated by climate change. Certainly, if coastal stretches have been over-fished for years, there is going to be conflict.
But it may not be just conflict that occurs. In Indonesia for instance, IOM worked hard to evacuate hundreds of fishermen who had been kept for years in human slavery in the fishing industry. With the help of the Indonesian government we freed them, counseled them and got them back to normal life.

Q: Even while migration is increasingly being recognized as a critical global issue, the absence of strong policies on migration is often attributed to insufficient studies and hard data by migration experts. Has there been any improvement in this status after Syria, West Asia, East Africa migration crises?

A: IOM has undertaken several initiatives to support better policies. We just established a Global Data Analysis Centre in Berlin. We are in partnership with a number of leading agencies like Gallop World Poll, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) the research arm of The Economist Group. We are looking for other partners as we see large gaps in the data base.

While a lot of data we have is spotty, a lot of it inaccurate, we however have enough already to know which are the driving forces for migration today and in the future, including demographic drivers. We have an aging population in the industrialized countries that are in need of workers at all skill levels. And we have a very large youthful population in the global south that needs jobs.

Our forecast is that countries are going to become almost inevitably more multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious.
If this is going to work, economies are going to merge then it appears a pretty straightforward future scenario. But the problem is that more national migration policies are out-of-date, they have not kept up with technology. So we keep running into problems where we could in fact turn adversities into opportunities.

Q: What could be some mitigation, adaptation or preventive actions and policies affected countries should undertake? Which countries are already taking action?

A: Even if it is difficult to single out countries to mention as they are all members of IOM, Canada for instance took in 25,000 Syrian refugees earlier in the year. Several Asian countries like Thailand are providing migrants access to free public services because if this is denied you have unhealthy population living amongst you. There are other examples of proactive action being taken by countries but more is needed.

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Battered by Storms, Sri Lanka Rethinks Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/battered-by-storms-sri-lanka-rethinks-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=battered-by-storms-sri-lanka-rethinks-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/battered-by-storms-sri-lanka-rethinks-food-security/#comments Thu, 02 Jun 2016 13:58:43 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145403 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/battered-by-storms-sri-lanka-rethinks-food-security/feed/ 0 Malawi’s Drought Leaves Millions High and Dryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/malawis-drought-leaves-millions-high-and-dry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=malawis-drought-leaves-millions-high-and-dry http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/malawis-drought-leaves-millions-high-and-dry/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 15:27:22 +0000 Charity Chimungu Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145335 Felistas Ngoma, 72, from Nkhamenya in the Kasungu District of Malawi, prepares nsima in her kitchen. Credit: Charity Chimungu Phiri/IPS

Felistas Ngoma, 72, from Nkhamenya in the Kasungu District of Malawi, prepares nsima in her kitchen. Credit: Charity Chimungu Phiri/IPS

By Charity Chimungu Phiri
BLANTYRE, May 27 2016 (IPS)

It’s Saturday, market day at the popular Bvumbwe market in Thyolo district. About 40 kilometers away in Chiradzulu district, a vegetable vendor and mother of five, Esnart Nthawa, 35, has woken up at three a.m. to prepare for the journey to the market.

The day before, she went about her village buying tomatoes and okra from farmers, which she has safely packed in her dengu (woven basket).

Now she’s just waiting for a hired bicycle to take her and her merchandise to the bus station, where she will catch a minibus to Bvumbwe market. This way, her goods reach the market quicker and safer. Afterwards, she and her colleagues will pack their baskets and walk back home.

“We walk for at least three hours…our bodies have just gotten used to it because we have no choice. If I don’t do this, then my children will suffer. As I am talking to you now, they are waiting for me to bring them food,” Nthawa told IPS.

“I will buy a basin of maize there at the maize mill and have it processed into flour for nsima [a thick porridge that is Malawi’s staple food]. That’s the only meal they will eat today,” she said.

Nthawa added: “Last harvest we only realised two bags of maize as you know the weather was bad. That maize has now run out, we are living day by day…eating what we can manage to source for that day.”

Nthawa’s story resonates with many Malawians today. Almost half of the country’s population is facing hunger this year due to no or low harvests, resulting from the effects of El Nino which hit most parts of the southern and northern regions late last year.

Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda said in Parliament on May 25 that 8.4 million Malawians will be food insecure during the 2016/2017 season.

His statement clearly contradicts President Peter Mutharika, who on Friday said in his State of the Nation Address that 2.8 million people faced hunger.

The new high figure follows a World Food Programme Rapid assessment which said over eight million Malawians will be food insecure this year due to the effects of El Nino. Destructive floods in the north have compounded the country’s woes, causing the president to declare a state of emergency in April.

With the drought also affecting Zimbabwe and other countries in southern Africa, an estimated 28 million people are now going hungry.

In order to deal with the crisis, Agriculture Minister Chaponda says the government has “laid out a plan to import about one million metric tons of white maize to fill the food gap”. The authorities project that at least 1,290,000 metric tons of maize are needed to deal with the food crisis, out of which 790,000 metric tons will be distributed to those heavily affected by the drought starting from April 2016 to March 2017.

The government also plans to intensify irrigation on commercial and smallholder farms, with an aim of increasing maize production at the national level. Officials say 18 million dollars is needed to carry out these measures.“There’s too much politicisation and overreliance on maize as a crop for consumption." -- Chairperson of the Right to Food Network Billy Mayaya

In the meantime, food prices continue to rise daily as the national currency, the Kwacha, continues to depreciate, forcing poor farming families to reduce their number of meals per day or sell their property in order to cope with the situation. A bag of maize which normally sells for seven dollars now costs 15 dollars.

As usual, children have been hardest hit by the situation. The latest statistics on Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) show a 100 percent increase from December 2015 to January 2016, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

UNICEF says it recorded more than 4,300 cases of severe malnutrition in the month of January alone this year, double the number recorded in December 2015.

Dr. Queen Dube, a pediatrician at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre – the main government referral hospital in southern Malawi – affirmed to IPS that there has been an increase in the number of malnutrition cases at the hospital.

“At the moment, we have about 15 children admitted at our Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit…they have Marasmus, where they’re very thin or wasted, while others have Kwashiorkor, where the body is swollen. In other cases, the children have a combination of the two. These children suffer greatly from diarrheal diseases,” said Dube.

She added that the hospital offers these children therapeutic feeding of special types of milk and chiponde (fortified peanut butter) for a determined period of time, until they pick up in weight and improve in general body appearance.

“They are also given treatment for any underlying illness which they might have. Additionally, we also provide counseling to the mothers and guardians on proper nutrition so that when they get back home they can utilize the very little foods they have to prepare nutritious meals for their children,” she explained.

Rights activists say it is high time the authorities started taking on board recommendations on how to make Malawi food secure made by independent groups such as the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee-MVAC, which said 2.8 million people faced hunger in 2015.

Chairperson of the Right to Food Network Billy Mayaya told IPS: “There’s too much politicisation and overreliance on maize as a crop for consumption. The government needs to use the data from MVAC as well as consider the Green Belt Initiative (GBI) and modalities to bring it to fruition.

Calling for greater diversity in the traditional diet, he said, “These plans can be effected as long as there‘s a sustained political will.”

In his state of the nation address on May 20, President Mutharika said the Green Belt Initiative was still his government’s priority “in order to increase productivity of selected high value crops.

“I am therefore pleased to report that construction of the irrigation infrastructure and the sugarcane factory in Salima district has been completed…the government has an ongoing Land Management Contract with Malawi Mangoes Limited where land has been provided for the production of bananas and mangoes,” he said.

In addition, the president said the government plans to increase rice production for both consumption and export, as well as make the tobacco industry vibrant again. Malawi mainly relies on tobacco for its foreign exchange earnings.

In February, President Mutharika made an international appeal for assistance, following which development partners including Britain and Japan provided over 35 million dollars. The government also obtained 80 million dollars from the World Bank for the Emergency Floods Recovery Project.

The U.S. government has been the first to respond to the latest crisis, providing the Malawian government with 55 million dollars.

Meanwhile, the struggle for survival continues for poor Malawian families such as Esnart Nthawa’s. Her children are still eating one meal a day, as those in power continue to meet to strategize on the crisis over fancy dinners in expensive hotels.

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Water Woes Put a Damper on Myanmar’s Surging Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/water-woes-put-a-damper-on-myanmars-surging-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-woes-put-a-damper-on-myanmars-surging-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/water-woes-put-a-damper-on-myanmars-surging-economy/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 14:10:46 +0000 Sara Perria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145291 People fetch water from the new well in the village of Htita, Myanmar. It is 600 feet deep and was built thanks to private donations. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

People fetch water from the new well in the village of Htita, Myanmar. It is 600 feet deep and was built thanks to private donations. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

By Sara Perria
HTITA, Myanmar, May 25 2016 (IPS)

The central plains of Myanmar, bordered by mountains on the west and east, include the only semi-arid region in South East Asia – the Dry Zone, home to some 10 million people. This 13 percent of Myanmar’s territory sums up the challenges that the country faces with respect to water security: an uneven geographical and seasonal distribution of this natural resource, the increasing unpredictability of rain patterns due to climate change, and a lack of water management strategies to cope with extreme weather conditions.

Using water resources more wisely is critical, according to NGOs and institutional actors like the Global Water Partnership, which organized a high-level roundtable on water security issues in Yangon on May 24. UN data shows that only about five percent of the country’s potential water resources are being utilised, mostly by the agricultural sector. At the same time, growing urbanisation and the integration of Myanmar into the global economy after five decades of military dictatorship are enhancing demand.

The new government of the de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi now faces the major challenge of delivering solutions to support the country’s rapid economic growth.

 

A hydroponic greenhouse allows farmers in Myanmar’s Dry Zone to grow vegetable saving up to 90 percent of water. The project is promoted by NGO Terres Des Hommes using technology developed by the University of Bologna and involves over 40 villages. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

A hydroponic greenhouse allows farmers in Myanmar’s Dry Zone to grow vegetable saving up to 90 percent of water. The project is promoted by NGO Terres Des Hommes using technology developed by the University of Bologna and involves over 40 villages. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

Water tanks and pots are used to store water all over Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Water tanks and pots are used to store water all over Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

A water carrier in Myanmar's Dry Zone. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

A water carrier in Myanmar’s Dry Zone. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

The arid village of Htita, in Bago region, Myanmar. The artificial ponds traditionally used to collect water are empty at the end of the dry season. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

The arid village of Htita, in Bago region, Myanmar. The artificial ponds traditionally used to collect water are empty at the end of the dry season. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

Members of Myanmar's Htee Tan village community. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Members of Myanmar’s Htee Tan village community. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

A temporary water tank in Myanmar's Dry Zone. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

A temporary water tank in Myanmar’s Dry Zone. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

Water tanks and pots are used to store water all over Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Water tanks and pots are used to store water all over Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

Speakers at the high level roundtable on Water Security and the Sustainable Development Goals held at Inya Lake Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar on May 24, 2016. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Speakers at the high level roundtable on Water Security and the Sustainable Development Goals held at Inya Lake Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar on May 24, 2016. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

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Water Security Critical for World Fastest-Growing Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/water-security-critical-for-world-fastest-growing-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-security-critical-for-world-fastest-growing-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/water-security-critical-for-world-fastest-growing-economy/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 17:36:42 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145277 Water tanks and pots are used to store water all over Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Water tanks and pots are used to store water all over Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

By an IPS Correspondent
YANGON, Myanmar, May 24 2016 (IPS)

Lack of water management and limited access to data risk hindering Myanmar’s economic growth, making water security a top priority of the new government.

Climate change and increased urbanisation, along with earthquakes, cyclones, periodic flooding and major drought, require an urgent infrastructural upgrade if the country is to undergo a successful integration into the global economy after five decades of economic isolation under military rule.

“Water resources are abundant in Myanmar. However, we need to manage it properly to get adequate and clean water,” said Yangon regional government chief minister U Phyo Min Thein, attending a high-level roundtable on water security organised by Stockholm-based facilitator Global Water Partnership on May 24 in Yangon.

According to IMF data, Myanmar is the fastest growing economy in the world, following an easing of sanctions in 2011, when the military handed power to a semi-civilian reformist government.

“Water security is a priority for the new government,” said Myanmar’s deputy minister of Transport and Communication U Kyaw Myo.

The challenges inherited by the now de facto leader of the country Aung San Suu Kyi, however, are enormous. An expected industrial development and urbanisation boom are only going to make more urgent the need for efficient water management solutions in one of the most challenging areas of South Asia.

Water in Myanmar is plentiful, but regional and seasonal differences are so striking that the country covers the whole range of threats posed by water insecurity: flooding in the delta’s numerous rivers, flash floods in the mountains and Dry Zone, droughts and deadly cyclones. Malnutrition and illnesses are the first consequences.

Safe drinking water is also limited. Groundwater sources are highly unexploited, but those available are often saline or contaminated, mainly by natural arsenic. Villages rely extensively on open air communal ponds to collect fresh water during the rainy season. These, however, dry out quickly during the summer.

“It is important to activate stakeholders and trigger a snowball effect at this stage,” said Global Water Partnership chair Alice Bouman. It is equally important, she said, to act only once all parties have been involved and listened to. “The emphasis has to go in particular to the so-called intrinsic indigenous knowledge: only locals have a long understanding of their environment and can help to avoid expensive mistakes.”

Action should focus on how to avert disasters in the first place, not just react afterwards – that was the message coming from the Japanese and the Dutch officials sharing their countries’ knowledge at the conference.

“Investments should happen in advance and go in the direction of disaster reduction, by building better for example, or consider climate change adaptation in time,” said Japan’s vice minister of Land, infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Koji Ikeuchi.

However, said Myanmar Water Think Tank secretary Khin Ni Ni Thein, money is currently not enough. “First we need to build trust between communities and the government. It becomes easier to access to international donors when there is this connection,” she said. “But it is also important that communities pay for the service, to guarantee the structure.”

Informative statistics but also topographical data that would support reforms are scarce in Myanmar. This is partly due to poor infrastructure and fragmented institutions, with up to six ministries in charge of water issues. But the limited access is primarily a consequence of the military still being in charge of three key ministers, including Defence, and reluctant to handover precise topographical information.

The high-level roundtable on Water Security and the Sustainable Development Goals was held less than two months after the government was sworn in. Speakers from Korea, Japan, Australia and the Netherlands stressed how new policies should refer to the framework of the UN 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. Among these are no poverty, food security, affordable and clean energy, clean water and sanitation and also gender equality.

“A lack of gender perspective is systemic to the region and many countries. We should always target an indicator, such as water and land laws, from a gender perspective. Some women, for example, cannot interact with the institutions without a male presence, [despite the fact that it’s the women in most societies who take care of the water],” said Kenza Robinson, from the UN’s department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Poverty is especially evident in rural areas. According to a 2014 census, 70 percent of the 51.5 million population live in the countryside. Life expectancy is one of the lowest of the entire ASEAN region and much of this is due to water and food security, impacting also on child and maternal mortality.

Over 40 percent of houses in rural areas are made of bamboo, with only 15 percent using electricity for lightening. A third of households in the country use water from “unimproved” water sources. A quarter of the population has no flush toilet.

“Water access is essential to economic development and effective water management requires sound institutions,” concluded Jennifer Sara, global water practice director at the World Bank.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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

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

By Rafiqul Islam
DHAKA, May 23 2016 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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