Inter Press ServiceCombating Desertification and Drought – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 19 Dec 2018 06:34:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Q&A: Creating an African Bamboo Industry as Large as China’shttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas/#respond Wed, 05 Dec 2018 09:57:24 +0000 Jamila Akweley Okertchiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159042 IPS correspondent Jamila Akweley Okertchiri interviews DR. HANS FRIEDERICH, Director General of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)

The post Q&A: Creating an African Bamboo Industry as Large as China’s appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

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

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
ACCRA, Dec 5 2018 (IPS)

The bamboo industry in China currently comprises up to 10 million people who make a living out of production of the grass. But while the Asian nation has significant resources of bamboo — three million hectares of plantation and three million hectares of natural forests — the continent of Africa is recorded to have an estimated three and a half million hectares of plantations, excluding conservation areas.

This means that there is a possibility of creating a similar size industry in Africa, according to International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) director general Dr. Hans Friederich.

“In China, where the industry is developed, we have eight to 10 million people who make a living out of bamboo. They grow bamboo, manufacture things out of bamboo and sell bamboo poles. That has given them a livelihood and a way to build a local economy to create a future for themselves and their children,” he tells IPS.

INBAR is the only international organisation championing the development of environmentally sustainable bamboo and rattan. It has 44 member states — 43 of which are in the global south — with the secretariat headquarters based in China, and with regional offices in India, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Ecuador. Over the years, the multilateral development organisation has trained up to 25,000 people across the value chain – from farmers and foresters to entrepreneurs and policymakers.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Africa is estimated to have three and a half million hectares of bamboo. While China has about six million hectares of natural forests, almost double the size of Africa’s, experts say there is potential for developing the industry on the continent. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Inter Press Service (IPS): What has been INBAR’s Role in the South-South Cooperation agenda?

Dr. Hans Friederich (DHF): In fact, a lot of our work over the last 21 years is to link our headquarters in China with our regional offices and our members around the world to help develop policies, put in place appropriate legislation and regulations to build capacity, train local people, provide information, and carry out real field research to test new approaches to manage resources in the most efficient way.

I think we [have been] able to help our members more effectively and do more in the way of training and capacity building. I also hope we can develop bamboo and rattan as vehicles for sustainable development with our member countries around the world, especially in the Global South.

IPS: What are the prospects for Africa’s bamboo and rattan industry?

DHF: The recorded statistics say that Africa has about three and half million hectares of bamboo, which excludes conservation [areas].

So, if I were to make a guess, Africa has as much bamboo as China [excluding China’s natural forests] and that means theoretically, we should have the possibility of creating an industry as large as China’s in Africa. That means an industry of 30 billion dollars per a year employing 10 million people.

IPS: How is INBAR helping to develop such a huge potential in Africa?

DHF: The returns we are seeing in China may not happen overnight in Africa, China has had 30 to 40 years to develop this industry.

But what we are doing is working with our members in Africa to kick off the bamboo value chain to start businesses and help members make the most out of these plants.

IPS: Working with countries from the global south means replication of best practices and knowledge sharing among member states. Are there any good examples worth mentioning?

DHF: China is the world’s leading country when it comes to the production and management of bamboo so we have a lot to learn from China. Fortunately China has the financial resources that makes it easy to share that information and knowledge with our members …Looking at land management activities in Ghana, as an example, I think bamboo can really help in restoring lands that have been damaged through illegal mining activities.

Maybe that is actually where we can learn from other African countries because we are already looking at how bamboo can help with the restoration of degraded lands in Ethiopia.

Also, when we had a training workshop in Cameroon last year and we looked at architecture, we brought an architect from Peru who shared his experience of working with bamboo in Latin America, which was quite applicable to Cameroon. So we are using experience from different parts of the world to help others develop what they think is important.

IPS: What is the most important thing in the development of the bamboo and rattan value chain for an African country like Ghana?

DHF: There are a number of things that we can do. One area that Ghana is already working on with regards to bamboo and rattan, is furniture production. I know that there is fantastic work being done with skills development.

The value chain of furniture production is an area where Ghana already has a lot to offer. But if we can improve quality, if we can make the furniture more interesting for consumers, through skills training [of artisans], then that is an area where we can really help.

IPS: Which other opportunity can Ghana look at exploring in the area of Bamboo and Rattan value chain?

DHF: Another area of opportunity is to use bamboo as a source of charcoal for household energy. People depend on charcoal, especially in rural areas in Ghana, but most of the charcoal comes from often illegally-cut trees.

Instead of cutting trees we can simply harvest bamboo and make charcoal from this, which is a legally produced source.

The great thing about Bamboo is that it re-grows the following growing season after harvesting, so it is a very sustainable source of charcoal production.

IPS: What does the future look like for INBAR?

DHF: Two months ago Beijing hosted the China Africa Forum and we were very, very pleased to have read that the draft programme of work actually includes the development of Africa’s bamboo industry. There is a paragraph that says China and Africa will work together to establish an African training centre.

We understand this will most likely be in Ethiopia and it will happen hopefully in the coming years.

Another thing is that China and Africa will work closely together to develop the bamboo and rattan industry. They will also develop specific activities on how to use bamboo for land restoration and climate change mitigation and to see how bamboo can help with livelihood development in Africa in partnership with China.

This is a very exciting development, a new window of opportunity has opened for us to work together to develop bamboo and rattan in Africa.

 

The post Q&A: Creating an African Bamboo Industry as Large as China’s appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Jamila Akweley Okertchiri interviews DR. HANS FRIEDERICH, Director General of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)

The post Q&A: Creating an African Bamboo Industry as Large as China’s appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas/feed/ 0
Over Half of the World’s Tropical Forests Have been Destroyed, Say Conservationistshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/half-worlds-tropical-forests-destroyed-say-conservationists/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=half-worlds-tropical-forests-destroyed-say-conservationists http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/half-worlds-tropical-forests-destroyed-say-conservationists/#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 06:53:06 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158917 Biodiversity conservationists have revealed that at least 10 more percent of land than what is currently being used to grow green crops will be required to successfully replace fossil fuels with alternatives derived from natural sources such as biofuel. Speaking to government ministers and other high level representatives at the ongoing Biodiversity Conference in Egypt, […]

The post Over Half of the World’s Tropical Forests Have been Destroyed, Say Conservationists appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

UN Biodiversity Conference in progress in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. The conference ends November 29. Credit: International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

By Rabiya Jaffery
SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt, Nov 28 2018 (IPS)

Biodiversity conservationists have revealed that at least 10 more percent of land than what is currently being used to grow green crops will be required to successfully replace fossil fuels with alternatives derived from natural sources such as biofuel.

Speaking to government ministers and other high level representatives at the ongoing Biodiversity Conference in Egypt, Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), said that the increase in the need for land for energy-related uses could undermine natural habitats across the world.

Deforestation and forest degradation are one of the biggest threats to forests worldwide and, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in the last 60 years, over half of the tropical forests worldwide have been destroyed.

Currently, one of the biggest drivers of deforestation is the meat industry with over 2.71 million hectares of tropical forests destroyed to pasture for beef cattle every year. To put it into perspective, this is more than half of tropical deforestation in South America, and more than five times as much as any other commodity in the region. Other significant drivers also include wood products, soybeans, and palm oil.

“Degradation and loss of forests threatens the survival of many species, and reduces the ability of forests to provide essential services,” states Larigauderie. “And an increase in the need for more land could have devastating impacts that undermine the essential diversity of species on Earth.”

Established by 130 member governments in 2012, IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body that provides objective scientific assessments regarding the planet’s biodiversity to global policymakers – similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that was established 30 years ago.

During a panel discussion, Larigauderie said IPCC’s latest report gives a sense of “extreme urgency” on “tradeoffs and synergies between climate, biodiversity and land degradation.”

While it is uncertain just how much land is currently being used for biofuel crops, several researches estimate it lies between 15 and 30 million hectares. Meanwhile, IPCC predicts an increase of up to 744 million hectares in the land area needed to grow biofuel crops to slow down global warming.

“Where would this huge amount of new land come from?” asked Larigauderie. “Is there currently such a large amount of ‘marginal land’ available or would this compete with biodiversity?”

‘Marginal land’ refers to areas of land that have little to no agricultural potential because of poor soil or other undesirable characteristics.

Scientific studies on the better use of marginal lands have been going on for nearly two decades and studies show that marginal lands represent significant untapped resources to grow plants specifically used for biofuel production.

But some scientists also argue that there is not enough marginal land left to grow enough biofuels to significantly replace fossil fuels.

Larigauderie pointed out that the important issue of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities which drives up global warming needs to be addressed but relying on biofuels as a replacement for fossil fuels will almost certainly result in an increase in the demand for land which will have negative consequences on biodiversity – and consequently, carbon dioxide emissions.

Land ecosystems today soak up about a third of annual carbon dioxide emissions, with the world’s oceans accounting for about another quarter annually.

“Reforestation and safeguarding plant and animal species is far better at protecting the climate than most biofuel crops,” she stated. ““All methods that produce healthier ecosystems should be promoted as a way to combat climate change.”

IPBES intends to publish a primer detailing elements of its Global Assessment of Biodiversity in May 2019.

The post Over Half of the World’s Tropical Forests Have been Destroyed, Say Conservationists appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/half-worlds-tropical-forests-destroyed-say-conservationists/feed/ 0
Cuba’s Only Semiarid Region Reinvents Agriculture to Survivehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/cubas-semiarid-region-reinvents-agriculture-survive/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cubas-semiarid-region-reinvents-agriculture-survive http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/cubas-semiarid-region-reinvents-agriculture-survive/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 04:02:00 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158713 At a brisk pace, Marciano Calamato and Mireya Noa walk along the dry, yellow soil of their farm, where they even manage to grow onions in Cuba’s unique semi-arid eastern region. The region, which has a particularly sensitive ecosystem due to the large number of endemic species, covers 1,752 square kilometers in the southern part […]

The post Cuba’s Only Semiarid Region Reinvents Agriculture to Survive appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Mireya Noa and Marciano Calamato are a couple who have a farm in Cuba's only semiarid zone, in the eastern province of Guantánamo. Thanks to the trees they planted, they were able to shade areas of the land, cool things down and counteract the strong evaporation of water from the soil in this coastal and semi-desert eco-region. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Mireya Noa and Marciano Calamato are a couple who have a farm in Cuba's only semiarid zone, in the eastern province of Guantánamo. Thanks to the trees they planted, they were able to shade areas of the land, cool things down and counteract the strong evaporation of water from the soil in this coastal and semi-desert eco-region. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

By Ivet González
SAN ANTONIO DEL SUR, Cuba, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

At a brisk pace, Marciano Calamato and Mireya Noa walk along the dry, yellow soil of their farm, where they even manage to grow onions in Cuba’s unique semi-arid eastern region.

The region, which has a particularly sensitive ecosystem due to the large number of endemic species, covers 1,752 square kilometers in the southern part of the province of Guantánamo. It is the only semi-arid ecoregion in this Caribbean island nation, and is a world rarity because it is a coastal desert on a relatively large island like Cuba, according to experts.

“It’s difficult, you have to make a great effort. We implement irrigation systems and maintain a well from which we pump to a water tank, and from there to the area of the crops,” explained Calamato, a farmer who in 2008 was granted the 12.4-hectare La Cúrbana farm in usufruct."This is an atypical municipality, with many risks of disasters from drought, coastal flooding from high tides, high-intensity hurricanes and even tsunamis." -- Tania Hernández

As in the rest of the province, one of the least developed in the country, the population of 25,796 inhabitants of the municipality of San Antonio del Sur depends almost exclusively on agriculture, which represents a challenge in the local semi-desert ecozone.

“I participate in everything from planting to putting organic matter around the plant. We have harvested very large onions, beans, tomatoes, beets, cucumbers. Everything we plant grows well, as long as it has water,” Noa said, discussing how they manage their nutrient-poor soils.

The leafy canopies of fruit trees and drought-resistant species provide shade in the centre of La Cúrbana, where the small rustic wooden house of Calamato and Noa is located, along with a greenhouse, water tanks for human consumption, a storehouse for household goods and corrals for 40 head of goats and more than 20 barnyard fowl.

La Cúrbana, where the family grows crops on a small scale, and which is self-sufficient in animal feed, also has small livestock – the type of farm recommended by experts in agriculture in a semi-arid ecosystem.

“The farms down here are very focused on animal production, small livestock, which is the most suitable for this land. And there are alternatives for achieving self-sufficiency, that is, for family self-consumption and animal feed,” said geographer Ricardo Delgado.

He forms part of the coordinating committee for the project “Ponte Alerta Caribe: Harmonising risk management strategies and tools with an inclusive approach in the Caribbean”, which is being implemented in Cuba and the Dominican Republic until early 2019, in order to strengthen national and regional institutional capacities.

The project is executed by the international organisations Oxfam, based in the UK, and Humanity and Inclusion, based in Canada, and has funding from the Directorate General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.

Agricultural worker Abigail Castro points to where the sea is, from the La Fortuna farm in the municipality of San Antonio del Sur, Guantánamo province in eastern Cuba, which has a unique semiarid coastal ecosystem. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Agricultural worker Abigail Castro points to where the sea is, from the La Fortuna farm in the municipality of San Antonio del Sur, Guantánamo province in eastern Cuba, which has a unique semiarid coastal ecosystem. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Among its diverse actions in Cuba is strengthening drought resilience in San Antonio del Sur, IPS learned during several tours of farms seeking to adapt to climate change in this municipality, where this reporter spoke to farmers, specialists and authorities in the area.

Ponte Alerta strengthened the Guantánamo meteorological centre to process drought data and equipped it with portable weather stations for distribution on some farms and the data processing system. It also supported the adaptation of a drought resilience tool to the coastal conditions in the municipality.

“This is the most disadvantaged part of the municipality’s land. But La Cúrbana is a very good experience of a farm that has adapted to these conditions,” said geologist Yusmira Savón, who has participated in several projects involving efforts to adapt to drought in the area.

A cocktail of agroecological techniques, water management, soil management, productive reconversion, resilience to drought and the use of renewable energies make up the formula prescribed by experts to farmers in a municipality that reports a very low average annual rainfall, less than 200 millimeters.

“The soils of the semiarid ecosystem in San Antonio del Sur have exploitable qualities from a chemical point of view, because they are loose soils that are prepared and, with the help of organic matter and water, can be farmed with a certain margin of profitability,” said agronomist Loexys Rodríguez.

The expert warned about changes that affect the eco-region, such as the one degree Celsius increase in the current temperature with respect to the average recorded between 1980 and 2010, and changes in rain intensity and seasonal rainfall variability.

All of these factors increase drought-related problems and put pressure on the area’s productive sector, where environmental authorities are also implementing programmes to combat deforestation and desertification.

Just nine meters from the sea, Abigail Castro is working on the La Fortuna farm, which on six hectares produces more than 46 tons a year of various crops such as onions, tomatoes, beans, yucca, melons, plantains (cooking bananas) and beans (Phaseolus vulgaris).

 Marciano Calamato stands next to the well and water tank on his farm, which enable him to irrigate his crops at least once a day, in Cuba's only semi-desert zone, in San Antonio del Sur, a municipality in southeast Cuba. Credit: Ivet González/IPS


Marciano Calamato stands next to the well and water tank on his farm, which enable him to irrigate his crops at least once a day, in Cuba’s only semi-desert zone, in San Antonio del Sur, a municipality in southeast Cuba. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

“We have a natural windbreak to protect the crops from strong sea winds,” he said proudly.

Castro said: “We don’t have coastal flooding from high tides here, but the river does flood everything when there are cyclones, and we remain incommunicado. The people are evacuated to the town and we take the animals to the mountains,” he said, explaining how the local farmers face climatic events, the most serious in recent times being Hurricane Matthew, which hit the eastern part of the island in 2016.

In La Fortuna, the shiny green crops contrast with the dry soil and the scorching sun. “The problem along the coast is drought, which is very bad, but here the crops suffer fewer pests,” said José Luis Rustán, who in 2008 was granted use of this land, where weeds used to rule.

“In addition to ensuring irrigation, we apply a lot of organic matter. I produce it myself: I use manure from the corrals and I make compost and green fertiliser. I’ve also used bat guano,” said the farmer, who has developed his farm with his own means.

For his part, agronomist Yandy Leyva, who works on the La Piedra farm, where sheeps are raised for meat, and who takes part in Ponte Alerta Caribe, recommended greater use of efficient microorganisms (biofertilisers) by farms in the semiarid ecosystem, where he believes they could even be sold.

He also lamented the fact that the irrigation systems available to the farmers are very old, “and are flood irrigation systems, which wash away and degrade the land.”

“We have to take measures like dams and soil cover and increase the density of crops in order to mitigate this problem,” he said.

Other national and international cooperation projects in the semiarid region promote the use of renewable energies and the planting of species adapted to this ecosystem, which contribute to reforestation and create jobs.

These species include the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), which originates in India and is mainly used to make fertilisers, and jatropha (Jatropha curcas), which is used to produce biodiesel.

“This is an atypical municipality, with many risks of disasters from drought, coastal flooding from high tides, high-intensity hurricanes and even tsunamis,” said Tania Hernández, vice president for local government risk management.

And like the rest of the Cuban municipalities, San Antonio del Sur aspires to strengthen food security. “We are 100 percent self-sufficient in tubers and vegetables, but other items have to be imported,” said the official.

The post Cuba’s Only Semiarid Region Reinvents Agriculture to Survive appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/cubas-semiarid-region-reinvents-agriculture-survive/feed/ 0
Using Data to Restore Landhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/using-data-restore-land/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=using-data-restore-land http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/using-data-restore-land/#respond Tue, 13 Nov 2018 18:55:44 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158650 A new landmark initiative aims to make quality data and tools available to the international community in order to combat an “existential crisis”: land degradation. The Land Degradation Neutrality Initiative (LDN), launched by United Nations-backed partnership the Group of Earth Observations (GEO), aims to put data directly into the hands of local and national decision […]

The post Using Data to Restore Land appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Large tracts of land, like these in the Sinhapura area of Sri Lanka’s North Central Polonnaruwa Province, have been degraded by years of overuse. Credit: Sanjana Hattotuwa/IPS

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

A new landmark initiative aims to make quality data and tools available to the international community in order to combat an “existential crisis”: land degradation.

The Land Degradation Neutrality Initiative (LDN), launched by United Nations-backed partnership the Group of Earth Observations (GEO), aims to put data directly into the hands of local and national decision makers to help stop and reverse environmental degradation.

“Land degradation is an existential crisis. Until now, monitoring it in real time felt like an insurmountable challenge. No longer,” said Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) upon welcoming the new initiative.

“With Earth observation datasets and the practical tools to use them readily available, decision-makers and land users will have immediate and actionable information to scale up sustainable land management and planning. It is a first step to boosting our resilience,” she added.

According to the UNCCD, land quality is getting worse as over 75 percent of the world’s land surface is significantly and negatively impacted by human activity across 169 countries.

The consequences of the growing problem includes more and severe droughts, high loss of wildlife, internal displacement, and forced migration.

In fact, without urgent climate action, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America could see more than 140 million people move within their own countries by 2050, further increasing competition for shrinking space.

The lack of action on one of the world’s biggest environmental problems is largely due to the lack of accurate data and tools to monitor it.

“At national and local levels, monitoring has been essential to government responses to land degradation,” UNCCD’s Policy Officer Sasha Alexander and lead scientist Barron Joseph Orr told IPS.

They also noted the lack of uniform indicators in order to monitor and measure land degradation.

In 2009, a global survey revealed that nearly 1,500 unique indicators were being used by countries to monitor the challenge.

“In order to have a harmonised understanding of this major environmental challenge, it has become clear that a minimum set of essential variables, combined with the flexibility for countries to add additional indicators deemed nationally or locally relevant, would be necessary,” Orr said.

The GEO LDN initiative, unveiled in Kyoto last week, hopes to bring together Earth Observation (EO) data providers and governments in order to develop quality standards, analytical tools, and capacity-building to strengthen land degradation monitoring and reporting.

The importance of such data is also recognised in the globally-adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which includes a target to combat desertification and land degradation and an indicator to assess the proportion of land that is degraded over total land area.

Of course, data alone will not be enough to combat degradation.

But with the right data, governments will be able to prioritise interventions as well as plan and manage land better.

“Using an agile development approach…governments with limited capacity are now able to do far more with monitoring data than in the past, not only reporting at the global level, but using what is being learned from these data sets to make the course corrections necessary to help ensure the right mix of interventions to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation,” Alexander told IPS.

She pointed to the case of Brazil which successfully implemented a project to reverse degradation in the drylands region of northeastern Brazil.

After using data to identify priority areas, the Recovery Units of Degraded Areas and Reduction of Climate Vulnerabilities (URAD) initiative was established to finance actions including the provision of techniques and trainings to municipal governments.

The initiative recognised that environmental actions alone will not be sufficient as economic and social aspects must be taken into account in order to have lasting change.

While local communities have long been suspicious of government projects, the effective participation of populations and the project’s promotion of sustainable value chains and income generation help inspire “noticeable attitude and behaviour changes.”

Alexander noted that Brazil provides an example of how LDN can be achieved, and why it is crucial to link global and national monitoring with more site-specific monitoring at the project level.

The GEO LDN initiative has already been garnering interest worldwide from developing and developed countries alike.

Following the launch, Germany committed 100,000 Euros towards the cause, and more can be expected to come.

The GEO LDN initiative is a result of UNCCD’s call made at the Conference of the Parties (COP13) to bring data providers and users together and support global efforts to halt, reduce, and reverse land degradation.

The post Using Data to Restore Land appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/using-data-restore-land/feed/ 0
Diversifying Crops to Help Overcome Drought in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/diversifying-crops-help-overcome-drought-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=diversifying-crops-help-overcome-drought-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/diversifying-crops-help-overcome-drought-brazil/#respond Fri, 09 Nov 2018 16:19:01 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158617 Dozens of trucks used to leave São Gonçalo every day, carrying the local agricultural production, mainly coconuts, to markets throughout Brazil, including the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, more than 2,000 kilometers away. The prosperity of that district in Sousa, a municipality in the northeastern state of Paraíba that has some 70,000 […]

The post Diversifying Crops to Help Overcome Drought in Brazil appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The post Diversifying Crops to Help Overcome Drought in Brazil appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/diversifying-crops-help-overcome-drought-brazil/feed/ 0
The importance of goats in East Africa’s recovery from droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/importance-goats-east-africas-recovery-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=importance-goats-east-africas-recovery-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/importance-goats-east-africas-recovery-drought/#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2018 18:41:56 +0000 Jeffrey Labovitz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158583 Jeffrey Labovitz, is IOM Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa

The post The importance of goats in East Africa’s recovery from drought appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Nomads pass the carcass of a goat in April 2000, near Geladid, southwestern Ethiopia, following three years of drought. Picture: REUTERS

By Jeffrey Labovitz
East Africa , Nov 5 2018 (IOM)

Conflict, insecurity, political unrest and the search for economic opportunities continue to drive migration in the East and Horn of Africa.

However, one of the biggest drivers of displacement is not war or the search for better jobs, but changing weather patterns. After five years of drought, more that 1.5-million people were uprooted from their homes as their soils slowly, year by year, dried and cracked.

This year the skies opened up, lonely clouds joined each other, and the rains finally came. But the immediate effect was not joy as one would hope, because whenever there is drought, what follows are floods. Tract of soil hardened by years baking in the sun, turn into racing river beds. Hundreds of thousands who withstood the long dry period lost their homes to an unrelenting wet season. More than 311,000 people were displaced in the May flooding in Kenya alone.

After suffering from a sustained dry period and now a definitive wet period, dare we hope for a return of internally displaced peoples to normalcy with sustained and viable livelihoods?

According to the World Bank, the most recent drought, which lasted four consecutive years, cost the economy of Somalia an estimated $3.2bn. Remarkably, livestock exports fell by 75% and reached a low of 1.3-million live animals compared with a high of 5.3-million in 2015.

This is why, today, we need to talk about goats.

Goats are the prime offering at any celebration in East Africa, whether it is a barbecue, breaking the fast of Ramadan, Christmas dinner, or the culmination of a wedding feast. Nyama choma is the Swahili word for barbecue and it’s the talk of any party. The success of an event corresponds with the quality of the meat.

Goats are omnipresent in the city and in any village. You can see them on the side of bustling markets, dodging cars and people, grazing; their coats dirtied by the East African red cotton soil. They stand below the blooming jacarandas, filling the open space of what is usually a football pitch, crossing pot-holed streets while a fresh-faced boy with a pointed stick, wearing a tattered shirt and shorts, urges them onwards.

Among many rural households in East and Horn of Africa, goats represent the rural community’s social safety net. They represent a marriage dowry, a measure of wealth and prestige.

In Kenya, one goat can sell at market for $70. A juvenile, cherished for its soft meat, goes for $30. In countries where half the population live on less than $1.50 a day, the goat herd represents the family fortune, their bank account, their life savings. When goats go missing, when they die of thirst or starve from hunger, the resiliency of the entire community is compromised. Then, it is the people who are endangered.

While we are talking goats, we can also talk about cows and camels. Cows can be sold for upwards of $500, and camels fetch upwards of $1,000 when sold to Saudi Arabia.

All in all, experts estimate that about 20% of the entire livestock of drought-affected areas has died. While these estimates are not precise, it is safe to say millions of animals died. It is not a stretch to think of more than 10-million livestock deaths.

As aid workers, we talk about people, and we should. When the Horn of Africa last had a famine in 2011, we talked of numbers which are hard to articulate. Years on, it is still hard to imagine the scale of a drought which cost an estimated 250,000 people their lives.

Over the past year, governments and aid agencies worked hard to avoid famine, and large-scale death was averted. We avoided a repeat of 2012. However, this is not a celebration.

Earlier this year Sacdiya, an elderly woman from Balli Hille, Somalia complained: “This drought is absolutely terrible. It’s even worse than the last one in 2011. I have already lost 150 animals to thirst and starvation. How am I supposed to provide for my family with no livestock?”

Ahmed, who lives with his family in a makeshift home built from aluminum and fabric in the outskirts of Hargesia, Somaliland, said: “I lost all of my animals decades ago during my first famine in the 1980s. Back then, as all of my animals were dying, we got so desperate that we started selling the skin hoping to make any money at all. In the past three droughts I have seen in my lifetime, this one is by far the worst I have seen.”

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a UN organisation, tracks the displacement of people. We know that when people leave their homes, they have lost their survival mechanisms. People don’t leave behind their goats and their land, unless they fear they will die. It’s that simple.

Those displaced by environmental conditions surpassed 300,000 in Kenya, half a million in Ethiopia and a million in Somalia. And experts predict that the unpredictable and extreme weather events will only get worse.

For the people affected we need to ask, what will they do?

The Famine Early Warning System network offers evidence-based analysis to governments and relief agencies. While this past year has brought rains to most areas, changing weather patterns mean this is an impasse and we need to think of the future. At the same time, we still have millions in need of our help.

We as humanitarians need to remind the world that we continue to need resources to help our people to survive. We also need to remind the world that we need to take care of our goats as we need livelihoods for sustainable return or people will have nothing to go back to.

More importantly, we need to diversify livelihood strategies if indeed changing weather patterns continue to result in mass displacement and current population growth rates continue to prevail. In other words, we need to help the most vulnerable people to adapt.

For the more than 1.5-million people displaced over the past year, they will continue to be stuck in dismal camps for years to come and are dependent on our generosity.

The irony is that all they want is their goats.

• Labovitz is the regional director for East and the Horn of Africa for IOM, the UN migration agency.

The post The importance of goats in East Africa’s recovery from drought appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jeffrey Labovitz, is IOM Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa

The post The importance of goats in East Africa’s recovery from drought appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/importance-goats-east-africas-recovery-drought/feed/ 0
Youth in Latin America Learn About Paths to Clean Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/youth-latin-america-learn-paths-clean-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=youth-latin-america-learn-paths-clean-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/youth-latin-america-learn-paths-clean-energy/#respond Mon, 29 Oct 2018 03:34:17 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158404 Young Peruvians plan to take advantage of the knowledge acquired in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast to bring water to segments of the population who suffer from shortages, after sharing experiences in that ecoregion on the multiple uses of renewable energies in communities affected by climatic phenomena. Freyre Pedraza and Yeffel Pedreros, both 24-year-old environmental engineers, were […]

The post Youth in Latin America Learn About Paths to Clean Energy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The post Youth in Latin America Learn About Paths to Clean Energy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/youth-latin-america-learn-paths-clean-energy/feed/ 0
Water Scarcity and Poor Water Management Makes Life Difficult for Egyptianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/water-scarcity-poor-water-management-makes-life-difficult-egyptians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-scarcity-poor-water-management-makes-life-difficult-egyptians http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/water-scarcity-poor-water-management-makes-life-difficult-egyptians/#respond Thu, 27 Sep 2018 15:24:44 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157820 Local residents in Cairo are becoming concerned and discontent as water scarcity is reaching a critical point in the capital and the rest of the country. Although not all areas of the country are affected in the same way, many Cairo residents say they don’t have water for large portions of the day. And some […]

The post Water Scarcity and Poor Water Management Makes Life Difficult for Egyptians appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Houseboats line the Nile bank in Cairo. Some 85 million Egyptians depend on the Nile for water. According to the United Nations, Egypt is currently below the U.N.’s threshold of water poverty. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Sep 27 2018 (IPS)

Local residents in Cairo are becoming concerned and discontent as water scarcity is reaching a critical point in the capital and the rest of the country.

Although not all areas of the country are affected in the same way, many Cairo residents say they don’t have water for large portions of the day. And some areas are affected more than most.

“Where my grandmother lives, in a central area and near a hospital, water is almost never missing, but where I live with my family in a more peripheral area, water is missing several times during the week if not during the day,” one local resident from Cairo, who did not want to be named, tells IPS.

According to the United Nations, Egypt is facing an annual water deficit of around seven billion cubic metres and the country could run out of water by 2025, when it is estimated that 1.8 billion people worldwide will live in absolute water scarcity.

The U.N. World Water Development report for 2018, warns that Egypt is currently below the U.N.’s threshold of water poverty, it is currently facing water scarcity (1,000 m3 per capita) and dramatically heading towards absolute water scarcity (500 m3 per capita).

“The water goes away all the time, we don’t know how to handle this issue. The other day I even opened the tap and the water that came out was stinking of sewer,” the Cairo resident adds.

As highlighted in the ‘Egyptian Journal of Aquatic Research’, problems affecting the Nile River’s flow are many and range from inefficient irrigation to water pollution. In addition, the uncontrolled dumping of anthropogenic waste from different drains located along the Nile River’s banks has significantly increased water contamination to a critical level, warns the research. 

The pollution of the river—considered the longest river in the world—is an issue that has been underestimated over the past few decades. “Most of the industries in Egypt have made little effort to meet Egyptian environmental laws for Nile protection, where, the Nile supplies about 65 percent of the industrial water needs and receives more than 57 percent of its effluents,” the study says. 

As so many people rely on the Nile for drinking, agricultural and municipal use, the water quality is of concern. 

The reality is that the Nile is being polluted by municipal and industrial waste, with many recorded incidents of leakage of wastewater and the release of chemical waste into the river. 

But Dr. Helmy Abouleish, president of SEKEM, an organisation that invests in biodynamic agriculture, says there is increasing awareness in the country about its water challenges.

“I can see the awareness towards the water insecurity challenge is now spreading in society more than before,” Abouleish tells IPS. “We all should be quite aware of the fact that whatever we are doing today, our children will pay for it in the future. None of the current resources will be available forever,” he adds.

SEKEM has converted 70 hectares of desert into a green and cultivated oasis north east of Cairo, which is now inhabited by a local community.  

These futuristic innovations is what Egypt needs more of, considering that water availability is progressively worsening in the country.

“In Egypt rainfall is limited to the coastal strip running parallel to the Mediterranean Sea and occurs mainly in the winter season,” Tommaso Abrate, a scientific officer in the Climate and Water Department at the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), tells IPS. 

“The amounts are low (80 to 280 mm per year), erratic and variable in space and time hence rainfall cannot be considered a reliable source of water.”  

“Climate models indicate that Egypt, especially the coastal region, will experience significant warming and consequent substantial drought by the end of the century, while rainfall is expected to show just a small decrease in annual means,” Abrate says. 

He warns that other factors like abstraction (removal of water from a source) and pollution, have major effects on water quality. 

Another concern is the fact that the country uses 85 percent of its water resources for agricultural activities—with 90 percent of this being used for conventional agriculture. 

But agricultural wastewater, which carries the residual of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, is drained back into the Nile River.

It is a vicious cycle that is worsening the quality and the sustainability of Egypt’s farmlands.

However, this year the Egyptian government and partners announced the allocation of about USD4 billion in investment to address the water shortage.

“Major efforts are being invested in the desalination of water from the Red Sea and the Mediterranean (for example the mega scale project in Ain Sokhna, which will purify 164,000 cubic litres per day). A regional centre unit will be established to follow water movement using the latest remote sensing techniques to combat this problem,” Abouleish adds.

SEKEM says that it is working to develop a “sustainable and self-sustaining water management system in all of Egypt.” 

“We foster several research projects that are developed by the students and the research team at Heliopolis University to realise this mission. For instance, researching water desalination models from salt water, recovery systems for water from the air as well as waste water recycling systems is now considered in our core focus,” says Abouleish. 

The U.N. agrees that in the next few years Egypt will face a water crisis of considerable size, which will require a more effective management of the available, scarce resources. This should involve a modernisation of the irrigation systems to avoid the current waste. 

If water scarcity is not addressed by those accountable, there is a risk that in the coming decades, a country of nearly 80 million people could run out of water. It could result in a humanitarian crisis that would probably destabilise the entire Mediterranean region with unpredictable consequences.  

The post Water Scarcity and Poor Water Management Makes Life Difficult for Egyptians appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/water-scarcity-poor-water-management-makes-life-difficult-egyptians/feed/ 0
Four-Year Drought Forces Cuba to Find Ways to Build Resiliencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/four-year-drought-forces-cuba-find-ways-build-resilience/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=four-year-drought-forces-cuba-find-ways-build-resilience http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/four-year-drought-forces-cuba-find-ways-build-resilience/#respond Fri, 07 Sep 2018 14:08:20 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157503 Eastern Cuba has suffered drought since time immemorial. But the western and central regions of the island used to be almost free of the phenomenon, until the latest drought that plagued this country between 2014 and 2017. “For the first time drought is seen as a major threat, due to the magnitude of the economic […]

The post Four-Year Drought Forces Cuba to Find Ways to Build Resilience appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
A man rests while his horse drinks water from an almost dry stream near the village of Palenque, in the municipality of Yateras in the eastern province of Guantánamo, one of the worst affected by the long drought that affected Cuba between 2014 and 2017. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A man rests while his horse drinks water from an almost dry stream near the village of Palenque, in the municipality of Yateras in the eastern province of Guantánamo, one of the worst affected by the long drought that affected Cuba between 2014 and 2017. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
HAVANA, Sep 7 2018 (IPS)

Eastern Cuba has suffered drought since time immemorial. But the western and central regions of the island used to be almost free of the phenomenon, until the latest drought that plagued this country between 2014 and 2017.

“For the first time drought is seen as a major threat, due to the magnitude of the economic impacts it caused,” agronomist Loexys Rodríguez, who in the eastern city of Guantánamo promotes and carries out research on resilience in the productive sector in the face of drought, told IPS.

Over the past four years, Cuba has faced the most extensive drought seen in 115 years, affecting 80 percent of the country.

Prolonged rationing in the residential sector, with the suspension of water supply for up to a month, caused serious social upheaval, while economic losses amounted to 1.5 billion dollars, according to official figures.

All regions, especially the central part of the country, were ravaged by the so-called “silent disaster,” because it advances slowly and almost imperceptibly.

Latin America has suffered the worst droughts in its history in this century and the subsequent loss of income was four times more than that caused by floods, warned the World Bank, which even called for thinking about a new economy in times of scarcity and variable water supplies.

Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru are among the countries in the region that have experienced the most severe dry spells so far this century, considered part of the effects of climate change.

According to the World Bank, in general terms, this phenomenon has a greater impact on Caribbean island nations such as Cuba.

“It has been demonstrated that these droughts are recurrent, that we are practically living with them,” Rodríguez warned. However, “not all elements of resilience are being given the same level of priority or national scope,” the expert warned.

Because they are the most frequent and dreaded phenomenon in the Caribbean, especially in the islands, hurricanes capture all the attention of the national disaster response systems. Associated with cyclones, the concept of resilience began to be used recently in Cuba’s disaster response system.

With respect to the environment, this term refers to the ability of a community, economic activity or ecosystem, among others, to absorb disturbances such as the onslaught of weather events without significantly altering their characteristics of structure and functionality, so as to facilitate the subsequent return to its original state.

A peasant farmer checks the water level in his backyard well, in the municipality of Horno de Guisa, Granma province, in eastern Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A peasant farmer checks the water level in his backyard well, in the municipality of Horno de Guisa, Granma province, in eastern Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Rodríguez spoke with IPS after presenting a methodological tool that allows farmers and agricultural decision-makers to easily determine how drought-resilient a farm is, at the 10th International Congress on Disasters, held in Havana Jul. 2-6.

The tool is a result of the programme “Sustainable agricultural practices adapted to climate change in the province of Guantánamo, Cuba,” which was implemented in 2016 by local entities with the support of the international humanitarian organisation Oxfam and with aid from Belgium.

In addition to a self-assessment guide, the instrument included in the book “Resilience to drought based on agroecology” includes a perception survey of the phenomenon, possible solutions and a set of local agroecological capacities and services to which farmers can turn to in the face of drought.

The study, which covered the municipalities of Niceto Pérez and Manuel Tames in Guantánamo, establishes 10 features that farms must achieve to be resistant, proposes 64 agroecological practices for farm management and design, and listed more than 50 entities with innovations, services, or funds to be used.

Geologist Yusmira Savón, who also participated in the project, described the tool as “very flexible to achieve collective drought resilience, with a high level of organisation, agroecological bases and the use of local capacities.”

“Droughts are lasting longer and longer, and the duration of rainy and dry seasons is changing,” she told IPS. “It would be very interesting for the country to work harder on the concept of resilience, which allows for the elimination of deficiencies in a proactive way, that is, before disasters happen,” she said.

 A view of a sugar cane plantation after it was destroyed by a fire caused by high temperatures in the municipality of Palma Soriano, in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS


A view of a sugar cane plantation after it was destroyed by a fire caused by high temperatures in the municipality of Palma Soriano, in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Cuban authorities and scientific institutions are calling for more research and projects to prevent and adapt to drought.

“Living in a semi-arid zone greatly limits development, but it gives Guantánamo a potential that other provinces don’t have,” Ángel Almarales, director of the state-run Centre of Technology for Sustainable Development (Catedes), based in the provincial capital, 929 km east of Havana, told IPS by phone.

This province of 6,167 square km hosts a contrasting geography: in the north the climate is rainy and tropical, to the point that the municipality of Baracoa has the highest level of rainfall in Cuba; in the centre, the landscape is a tropical savannah; while the southern coastal strip is the only large semi-arid part of this Caribbean island nation.

Catedes is a scientific institution focused on finding development solutions for semi-desert area, which means it has know-how that is now needed by other Cuban regions.

Its formula, perfected over more than 10 years, includes the use of renewable energies in the fight against desertification and drought.

“Our big problem (as a province) is that we still don’t know how to manage water,” Almarales said of the key goal to be reached by the department of 511,093 people in its search for resilience to drought and improving quality of life.

Caimanera, a municipality known for adjoining the U.S. Guantánamo Naval Base, is in that semi-arid zone, where economic activities are basically limited to salt production, fishing and public services.
“Production of salt continues to be the main source of employment,” said Pedro Pupo, municipal director of labour and social security, during a June visit by international media to Caimanera, where the largest salt industry is located, which supplies just over 60 percent of national consumption.

Pupo cited as an example that in the municipal district of Hatibonico, “which is the most aridt area, mainly produces charcoal, because of the climatic conditions.” Also some opportunities were created in the local production of construction materials, he added in dialogue with IPS.

However, with the urban agriculture programme that promotes agroecological techniques in urban areas, and production adapted to the aridity of the climate and soil salinity, the local government reports that Caimanera produces 70 percent of the food it consumes.

With a rainy season that usually runs from May to November, Cuba has been implementing the National Water Policy since 2012, a programme that depends on rainfall and which uses 60 percent of the water for agriculture, 20 percent for human consumption, five percent for industrial use and the rest for other economic activities.

The post Four-Year Drought Forces Cuba to Find Ways to Build Resilience appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/four-year-drought-forces-cuba-find-ways-build-resilience/feed/ 0
Climate Change Becomes a Reality Check for the Northhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north/#comments Wed, 05 Sep 2018 15:53:42 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157468 “This season, the month of May was particularly hot and dry,” says Leo De Jong, a commercial farmer in Zeewolde, in Flevopolder, the Netherlands. Flevopolder is in the province of Flevoland, the largest site of land reclamation in the world. Here a hectare of land costs up to 100,000 Euros. “At the moment, we are spending […]

The post Climate Change Becomes a Reality Check for the North appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

A drought stressed maize crop on Leo De Jong's farm, in the Netherlands. De Jong says he spends between 20,000 and 25,000 Euros per week on irrigation. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
WAGENINGEN, The Netherlands, Sep 5 2018 (IPS)

“This season, the month of May was particularly hot and dry,” says Leo De Jong, a commercial farmer in Zeewolde, in Flevopolder, the Netherlands. Flevopolder is in the province of Flevoland, the largest site of land reclamation in the world. Here a hectare of land costs up to 100,000 Euros. “At the moment, we are spending between 20,000 and 25,000 Euros per week on irrigation.”

While most reports point to developing nations being the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, it is slowly emerging that farmers in the North who generally have more resources are feeling the heat too.

From incessant wild fires and powerful hurricanes in the United States and the Caribbean, to record-breaking high temperatures and droughts in Europe and Asia, the scientific community is unanimously in agreement that climate change is the more likely cause of these extremes in weather.

And it is causing severe disruptions to agricultural production systems, the environment and biodiversity.

This is troubling as, according to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a rise in temperature of more than 2°C could exacerbate the existing food deficit and prevent the majority of African countries from attaining their Sustainable Development Goals on poverty and hunger.

While De Jong can afford spending thousands of Euros on irrigation each week, he knows it is no longer sustainable for his farming business. He currently grows potatoes, onions and wheat, among other crops, on 170 hectares of reclaimed land.

Leo De Jong in his potato field, in the Netherlands. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Soil health emerges as key

With 18 million inhabitants, the Netherlands is densely populated. Half of the Netherlands is below sea level, but part of the sea was reclaimed for agricultural purposes.

After a flood in 1916, the Dutch government decided that the Zuiderzee, an inland sea within the Netherlands, would be enclosed and reclaimed. And later, the Afsluitdijk was completed—a 32 kilometre dyke which closed off the sea completely. Between 1940 and 1968, part of this enclosed inland sea was converted into land and in 1986 it became the newest province of the Netherlands—Flevoland.

Soil health in the Flevopolder, Flevoland, which sits about four meters below sea level, is of particular importance. De Jong sees it as a hallmark for every farmer in this era of climate change, regardless of their location.

He believes the answer to the climate challenge lies in farmers’ ability to “balance between ecology and economy.” This, he tells IPS, can be achieved through various ways such as improved and efficient irrigation technology, research and innovation, as well as farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchanges like the one to which he belongs—the Skylark Foundation. At the foundation he exchanges knowledge with a group of colleagues, mainly focusing on soil health.

“I have a feeling that the climate is getting extreme but consistent usage of manure, cover crops and other efficient sustainable practices guarantees good soil health, and soil health is the hallmark on which sustainable crop production is built.”

Similarly, Peter Appelman, who specialises in farming broccoli and cabbage, agrees with the soil health argument.

Appelman says that farmers should not be preoccupied with the various systems (conventional and organic farming) currently being propagated by researchers. He says that farmers should rather adopt systems that work for them depending on the type of soils on their farms.

“We have stopped feeding the crop but the soil,” he tells IPS, pointing at a pile of composite manure. “I am not an organic farmer but I try to be sustainable in whatever way because this comes back to you. You can’t grow a good product in bad soil.”

Market access for sustainability

In addressing the production cost side of the business, Appelman points to consumer satisfaction and predictable markets as key enablers to farmers’ sustainability in this era of climate stress.

As consumer preferences become more obvious, Appelman says farmers should not expend their energies complaining about market access and growing consumer demands but should rather work hard to satisfy them.

“I think my fellow farmers complain too much, which is not the best practice for the business,” he says. “As farmers, we should exert this energy in looking for customers, and work to satisfy them—I believe better farmer-to-customer relations should be the way forward.”

According to Appelman, production should be determined by consumer/market preferences. “I travel around the world looking for markets, and through these interactions, I learn and do my work according to the needs of my customers. Look for customers first and then proceed to produce for them, because it is tough in the production stage,” says Appelman, whose farm has an annual turn-over of about two million Euros.

The Appelman family grow broccoli on 170 hectares and red and white cabbage on 60 hectares.

Research and innovation

According to Professor Louise Fresco, president of the research executive board of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the answer to the global food challenge lies in ensuring that the contribution of agriculture to climate change is positive rather than negative.

This, she says, is only possible through investment in research and innovation in order to achieve maximum efficiency for food production and to minimise waste.

“The agriculture sector therefore needs to do more than produce food—but produce efficiently,” she said in her opening address to the 2018 International Federation of Agricultural Journalists congress held in the Netherlands in July. “Food has to be produced not as a chain, but in a circular way. Water and energy use are highlights.”

Under the theme: Dutch roots—small country, big solutions; the congress highlighted what lies at the centre of the Netherlands’ agricultural prowess.

“Productivity through innovation and efficiency is the answer to why the Netherlands,ca small country, is the second-largest agricultural exporter [in the world],” said Wiebe Draijer, chief executive officer and chairman of Rabobank.

Draijer said Rabobank, which was founded as a cooperative, was happy to be associated with the Dutch agricultural prowess, which is anchored in sustainable and innovative practices.

“In response to the global food challenge, we keep refining our lending modalities to support environmental sustainability. For example, we track farmers that we give loans to to monitor their environmental sustainability practices, and there is an incentive in the form of a discount on their loans.”

Sustainability is the buzz word globally. However, it seems there is much more to be done for farmers to achieve it, especially now that negative effects of climate change are similarly being felt in both the north and the global south.

The post Climate Change Becomes a Reality Check for the North appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north/feed/ 1
Poverty-Stricken Communities in Ghana are Restoring Once-Barren Landhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2018 13:53:53 +0000 Albert Oppong-Ansah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157270 In the scorching Upper East Region of Ghana, the dry seasons are long and for kilometres around there is nothing but barren, dry earth. Here, in some areas, it is not uncommon for half the female population to migrate to the country’s south in search of work, often taking their young children with them. “We […]

The post Poverty-Stricken Communities in Ghana are Restoring Once-Barren Land appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And rainfall patterns changed.

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

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

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

Women and children affected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple restoration methods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nkegbe is optimistic.

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

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

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

The post Poverty-Stricken Communities in Ghana are Restoring Once-Barren Land appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land/feed/ 0
Scientists Warn of the Imminent Depletion of Groundwater in Chile’s Atacama Deserthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert/#comments Tue, 14 Aug 2018 03:54:03 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157200 Eighteen national science prize-winners in Chile have called for a halt to the over-extraction of water in the four regions over which the Atacama Desert spreads in the north of the country, a problem that threatens the future of 1.5 million people. In their Tarapacá Manifest, which takes its name from one of the affected […]

The post Scientists Warn of the Imminent Depletion of Groundwater in Chile’s Atacama Desert appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

By Orlando Milesi
OVALLE, Chile, Aug 14 2018 (IPS)

Eighteen national science prize-winners in Chile have called for a halt to the over-extraction of water in the four regions over which the Atacama Desert spreads in the north of the country, a problem that threatens the future of 1.5 million people.

In their Tarapacá Manifest, which takes its name from one of the affected regions, the scientists call for water in the area to be treated as a non-renewable resource because mining companies, agriculture and large cities consume underground reservoirs of water that date back more than 10,000 years and are not replenished with equal speed.

According to the experts, the current rate of water extraction for mining, agriculture, industry and cities “is not sustainable.”

Chile is the world’s leading exporter of copper and of fruit and vegetables, two water-intensive sectors."In the manifest we have proposed the possibility of improving our technology in the use of water harvested from fog. We also propose implementing a water recovery policy. For example, increasing the greywater system. It is not an expensive solution, but it requires a State policy.” -- Claudio Latorre

In the small rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, 400 km north of Santiago, teacher Marleny Rodríguez and her only four students installed gutters to collect rainwater in a 320-litre pond to irrigate a vegetable garden.

“The children are happy. They tell me that we were losing a vital resource that we had at hand and were not using. They replicated what they learned at school at home,” Rodríguez told IPS.

The two girls and two boys, between the ages of six and 10, including three siblings, attend the tiny school in an area of ancestral lands of the Atacama indigenous people.

“We have a year-round cycle. What we harvest we cook in the cooking workshop where we make healthy recipes. Then we eat them at school,” said the teacher of the school in Punitaqui, near Ovalle, the capital of the Coquimbo region, on the southern border of the desert.

“The children help to sow, clean the garden, harvest, and water the crops. We have a scientific workshop to harvest the greywater with which we irrigate a composter of organic waste and other materials such as leaves, branches and guano, used as fertiliser” she said.

Calogero Santoro, an archaeologist and promoter of the Tarapacá Manifest, which was delivered to the government of President Sebastián Piñera on Jun. 29, believes that citizens and large companies do not have the same awareness as these children about water scarcity.

“Private companies do not see this as a necessity, because they do not have any problem. On the contrary, the whole Chilean system is designed to make businesses operate as smoothly as possible, but the problem is just around the corner. It is the Chilean government that invests in scientific and technological research,” he told IPS.

The scientists’ manifest calls for raising awareness about the serious problem of the lack of water, in-depth research into the issue, and investment in technologies that offer new solutions rather than only aggravating the exploitation of groundwater.

“The first step is to generate cultural change. As awareness grows, other technological development processes are developed, new technologies are created and these are adapted to production processes,” explained Santoro, of the government’s Research Centre of Man in the Desert.

“Unfortunately, the private sector in this country does not invest in this kind of things,” he said.

The Atacama Desert is the driest desert on earth. It covers 105,000 sq km, distributed along six regions of northern Chile and covering the cities of Arica, Iquique (the capital of Tarapacá), Antofagasta and Calama.

 Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

The town of San Pedro de Atacama is the main tourist destination in Chile, in the northern region of Antofagasta. It receives more than one million tourists a year, generating an explosive demand for water in one of the regions where the resource is at risk of being depleted. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

It is home to 9.5 percent of the population of this long, narrow South American country of 17.5 million people.

In a normal year, only between 1.6 to 2.5 mm of water fall on the regions of the so-called Norte Grande, which covers the Atacama Desert, and so far in 2018 the deficit is 100 percent in some of the cities and 50 percent in others, according to Chile’s Meteorological Agency.

Hugo Romero, winner of the national geography prize, and a professor at the University of Chile and president of the Chilean Society of Geographic Sciences, told IPS that “groundwater is today the most important source of water for both mining and urban development in the northern regions.”

That means the problem is very complex, he said, because “there is some evidence that much of the groundwater is the product of recharge probably thousands of years ago, and therefore is fossil water, which is non-renewable.

As an example, Romero cited damage already caused in the desert area, “such as those that have occurred with the drying up of Lagunillas, and of the Huasco and the Coposa Salt Flats, adding up to an enormous amount of ecological effects.”

They also affect, he said, “the presence of communities in these places, given this close relationship between the availability of water resources and the ancestral occupation of the territories.”

“All of this is creating an extraordinarily complex system with respect to which there is a sensation that the country has not taken due note and decisions are often taken only with economic benefits in mind, which are otherwise concentrated in large companies,” he added.

Romero also warned that the level of research “has been minimal and, unfortunately, many of the academic resources that should be devoted to providing society and social actors with all the elements to reach decisions are committed to consulting firms that, in turn, are contracted by large companies.”

Claudio Latorre, an academic at the Catholic University of Chile and an associate researcher at the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, believes that “there is not just one single culprit” for the serious situation.

“It is simply the general economic activity of the country that is causing this problem. The more activity, the more the country grows and the more resources are required, and the more industrial activity, the more work. But urban needs are also increasing and that also puts pressure on water resources,” he said.

“In the manifest we have proposed the possibility of improving our technology in the use of water harvested from fog. We also propose implementing a water recovery policy. For example, increasing the greywater system. It is not an expensive solution, but it requires a State policy,” he explained.

According to Calogero, “in addition to cultural changes, there have to be technological changes to make better use of water. We cite the case of Israel where it is our understanding that water is recycled up to seven times before it is disposed of. Here, it is recycled once, if at all.”

Latorre stressed that “we are already experiencing the consequences of climate change and over-exploitation of water resources that lead to an unthinkable situation…but in the Norte Grande area we still have time to take concrete actions that can save cities in 20 or 30 years’ time.”

He called for improved access to scientific information “so that we can be on time to make important decisions that take a long time to implement.”

According to Romero, there is also “an atmosphere of uncertainty that has often led to decisions that have subsequently led to environmental damage” as in the case of many salt flats, bofedales (high Andean wetlands) and some lagoons and lakes.

“There is no transparent public knowledge available to society as needed, given the critical nature of the system,” he said.

In his opinion, “on the contrary, the greatest and best information is of a reserved nature or forms part of industrial secrecy, which gives rise to much speculation, ambiguity and different interpretations by users or communities affected by the extraction of water.”

Romero also warned that “there is not only very significant ecological damage, but also a steady rural exodus to the cities, as the people leave the area.”

There are Quechua, Aymara, Koyas and Atacama communities – the native peoples of northern Chile – in the cities of Arica, Iquique, Alto Hospicio and Antofagasta as a result of their migration from their Andes highlands territories, he said.

That’s why only four students are now attending the rural school in El Llanito de Punitaqui, the teacher said.

The post Scientists Warn of the Imminent Depletion of Groundwater in Chile’s Atacama Desert appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert/feed/ 1
Sousa, a Solar Power Capital in an Increasingly Arid Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:55:23 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157146 Sousa, a municipality of 70,000 people in the west of Paraíba, the state in Brazil most threatened by desertification, has become the country’s capital of solar energy, with a Catholic church, various businesses, households and even a cemetery generating solar power. “We were paying about 4,000 reais (1,070 dollars) a month for electricity and that […]

The post Sousa, a Solar Power Capital in an Increasingly Arid Brazil appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Catholic priest Paulo Diniz started the Solar Parish project in Sousa, with the support of the solar energy movement in the state of Paraiba, in northeastern Brazil. This saves the costs of conventional electricity and provides more resources for social projects, as well as being an example of the use of clean energy, as promoted by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si ‘On care for our common home’. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Catholic priest Paulo Diniz started the Solar Parish project in Sousa, with the support of the solar energy movement in the state of Paraiba, in northeastern Brazil. This saves the costs of conventional electricity and provides more resources for social projects, as well as being an example of the use of clean energy, as promoted by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si ‘On care for our common home’. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
SOUSA, Brazil, Aug 9 2018 (IPS)

Sousa, a municipality of 70,000 people in the west of Paraíba, the state in Brazil most threatened by desertification, has become the country’s capital of solar energy, with a Catholic church, various businesses, households and even a cemetery generating solar power.

“We were paying about 4,000 reais (1,070 dollars) a month for electricity and that cost fell to about 300 reais (80 dollars),” Catholic priest Paulo Diniz Ferreira, in charge of the Sant’Ana Parish of Sousa, now nicknamed “Solar Parish,” told IPS. The parish’s solar energy generating system was formally inaugurated on Jul. 6, but had been in operation since April.

The 142 photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of the Parish Centre, which includes offices, auditoriums and an indoor sports arena, also generate energy for the church, which is currently undergoing expansion work, for a chapel and for the living quarters.

The installed maximum capacity is 46.1 kW and its monthly generation is estimated at around 6,700 kWh.

“It is more than an energy issue, it is a question of being in tune with Laudato Si,” the priest explained, referring to Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, published in May 2015, and the church’s duty to be a “reference point and witness.”

With the new resources, the parish will be able to enhance evangelisation work and pastoral care for children, the elderly and prisoners, he said.

Their example is expected to inspire the other 60 parishes that make up the diocese based in the neighbouring city of Cajazeiras, says César Nóbrega, coordinator of the Semi-Arid Renewable Energy Committee (CERSA), which promotes the use of solar energy and other alternative sources in and around Sousa, a large municipality with an 80 percent urban population.

The first solar-powered school in Paraíba was inaugurated on the same day, Jul. 6.

Local farming couple Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos stand next to solar panels that are part of community-shared generation, which reduces their electricity bill and those of their urban partners, who live in the cities of Sousa and João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraiba, 400 km away, in Brazil's Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Local farming couple Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos stand next to solar panels that are part of community-shared generation, which reduces their electricity bill and those of their urban partners, who live in the cities of Sousa and João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraiba, 400 km away, in Brazil’s Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Twelve solar panels will save 350 to 400 kWh per month for the Dione Diniz primary and secondary school, in a rural district of Sousa, São Gonçalo, Brazil, which is the area with the highest level of solar radiation in Brazil and the second in the world, Nóbrega told IPS.

The aim is also to “disseminate information and promote discussions with teachers, students and the local community about the solar potential in mitigating climate change,” he said.

“We included it in the school’s Pedagogical Intervention Project, which chooses a theme for each two-month period, with renewable energy as its flagship,” said Clemilson Lacerda, the school’s science teacher.

“We don’t yet know how much we will save on the electricity bill, which reached 1,700 reais (450 dollars) in June, but we will invest the savings in improving the school, in teaching materials and in food for the students,” school vice principal Analucia Casimiro told IPS.

From the small rooftop terrace of the Vó Ita Hotel you can see the solar energy boom in Sousa. The rooftop of the hotel itself is covered with photovoltaic panels, as well as two large rooftops below, of a gas station and a steakhouse.

Nearby there are industrial warehouses, houses, stores, pharmacies, car dealerships and supermarkets which are also using the new source of energy, as well as companies that consume a lot of energy, such as cold storage warehouses and ice-cream parlours.

“I reduced my energy costs to zero,” young entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha, a partner in a company that has a poultry slaughterhouse, farm, dairy products factory and store, told IPS. It generates its own electricity with 60 solar panels placed over the truck parking lot at its slaughterhouse.

“In 2014, when we founded CERSA, there was not a single solar energy system in Sousa; today we have more than 100 installed,” said Nóbrega, the head of the organisation, which brings together public and private institutions, researchers and collaborators, with the mission of making “solar power the main source of energy” in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast.

School vice principal Analucia Casimiro (C) and science teacher Clemilson Lacerda (R) pose for a picture with solar power expert Cesar Nóbrega (left) in the yard of the Dione Diniz School, the first public elementary school to have solar energy in Paraíba, the Brazilian state most threatened by desertification. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

School vice principal Analucia Casimiro (C) and science teacher Clemilson Lacerda (R) pose for a picture with solar power expert Cesar Nóbrega (left) in the yard of the Dione Diniz School, the first public elementary school to have solar energy in Paraíba, the Brazilian state most threatened by desertification. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This activism, rooted in the fight against climate change that tends to aggravate local drought, succeeded in mobilising many stakeholders from universities, civil society and the public sector in seminars, forums and courses.

“CERSA was not born to install generation systems, but to debate,” raise awareness and encourage public policies, Nóbrega said.

But in practice it also acts as a disseminator of solar plants on two fronts: corporate and social.

It stimulated the creation in 2015 of Ative Energy, the largest installer of photovoltaic systems in Sousa and executor of the Solar Parish project, conceived by CERSA. Today there are five solar power companies in the city.

“By November 2017 we had installed 40 systems; now there are 196. We used to employ only five workers, now there are 30: we grew sixfold in six months,” said Frank Araujo, owner of Ative, whose operations spread over 26 cities in five states of the Brazilian Northeast.

In Brazil, solar generation represents only 0.8 percent of current installed capacity, but it is the fastest growing source of energy. According to the National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL), the sector’s regulatory body, it accounts for 8.26 percent of the energy in new construction projects.

Danilo Gadelha, one of the leading members of Sousa’s business community, is a co-owner of Ative and also its main client. He hired the company to install solar power plants in the companies of his conglomerate Vó Ita, comprising distributors of food and cooking gas, a vegetable oil factory, a hotel, a construction company, a gas station and a cemetery.

Entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha uses his cell-phone under the solar panel rooftop covering part of the truck park area at his poultry slaughterhouse. Thanks to solar energy, Gadelha reduced electricity costs to zero in the slaughterhouse, a dairy plant, a store and his family's home in the Brazilian municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of the country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Entrepreneur Paulo Gadelha uses his cell-phone under the solar panel rooftop covering part of the truck park area at his poultry slaughterhouse. Thanks to solar energy, Gadelha reduced electricity costs to zero in the slaughterhouse, a dairy plant, a store and his family’s home in the Brazilian municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of the country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“I started trying solar energy as a user,” before offering it as an installer and “going from a large-scale energy consumer to an entrepreneur,” he told IPS. The company’s energy costs are close to 23,500 dollars a month.

Ative Energy has a major competitive advantage. As it has a great amount of capital, it finances the solar plants it installs at the lowest interest rates on the market.

This is what it did with the Parish of Sousa, which is paying off the financing in monthly installments lower than the amount saved in the electricity bill. “We will repay everything in three and a half years,” said the parish priest, because little more than a third of the project was paid for in cash with donations.

Since the equipment has a 25-year life span, the church will have free energy for more than 20 years.

The solar energy units in companies and large houses are important for the CERSA campaign as a demonstration of solar power’s viability and economic and environmental benefits, acknowledged Nóbrega.

But the campaign also succeeded in attracting the interest of funds and institutions that support social projects.

Thus, in 2016, the Solar Semi-Arid Project was born, made up of CERSA, Caritas Brazil – the social body of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference – and the Forum on Climate Change and Justice, with financial support from Misereor, the development aid body of the German Catholic Church.

This allowed the Dione Diniz School to obtain its solar plant, financed part of the Solar Parish system, and distributed water pumping devices and biodigesters in rural communities, as well as making it possible to offer training courses for “solar electricians” in Sousa and nearby municipalities.

In addition to providing cheap and clean energy, decentralised photovoltaic generation is an economic alternative for Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast which is at risk of becoming completely arid due to climate change, warned Nóbrega.

In the state of Paraíba – where Sousa is located – 93.7 percent of the territory is in the process of desertification, according to the Programme to Combat Desertification and Mitigate the Effects of Drought in that northeastern Brazilian state.

The post Sousa, a Solar Power Capital in an Increasingly Arid Brazil appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sousa-solar-power-capital-increasingly-arid-brazil/feed/ 0
Land Degradation: A Triple Threat in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-degradation-triple-threat-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=land-degradation-triple-threat-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-degradation-triple-threat-africa/#respond Fri, 03 Aug 2018 08:41:45 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157041 Sustainability, stability, and security—the three overlapping issues are an increasing concern among many especially in Africa where land degradation is displacing citizens and livelihoods. African ministers and United Nations officials convened at the U.N. as part of the Initiative on Sustainability, Stability, and Security (3S), which aims to address migration and instability caused by land […]

The post Land Degradation: A Triple Threat in Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

A rice farmer in Northern Ghana during better days. Croplands that were once fertile in northern Ghana are now unproductive, which has led to decreased incomes while water sources are drying up due to prolonged droughts. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 3 2018 (IPS)

Sustainability, stability, and security—the three overlapping issues are an increasing concern among many especially in Africa where land degradation is displacing citizens and livelihoods.

African ministers and United Nations officials convened at the U.N. as part of the Initiative on Sustainability, Stability, and Security (3S), which aims to address migration and instability caused by land degradation across the continent.

“We need to take ownership of our responsibility,” said minister of environment and sustainable development of Senegal Mame Thierno Dieng. The west African nation was one of the countries that helped launch the 3S initiative."We need to ensure people have jobs within their communities and environment. We want them to stay on their farms and farm." -- Ghana’s deputy-minister of environment, science, technology, and innovation Patricia Appiagyei.

Among its objectives, 3S hopes to stabilise “at risk” areas by creating new, green jobs for the most vulnerable communities through investments on land rehabilitation and sustainable land management.

Without any such action, the dangers for communities are undeniable.

Globally, 80 percent of land degradation is caused by agriculture. Since 1950, 65 percent of Africa’s cropland, which millions depend on, has been affected by land degradation by mining, poor farming practices, and illegal logging.

Meanwhile, an estimated 375 million young Africans are estimated to enter the job market within the next 15 years. Of this population, 200 million will live in rural areas.

As resource-based sectors such as agriculture account for 80 percent of employment, young people will be left without a healthy environment to survive on. According to 3S, this could lead to conflict over natural resources, instability caused by the lack of income-generating opportunities, and increased exposure to extremist groups.

Ghana, renowned for its tropical forests and cocoa farms, is already seeing this scenario play out.

Approximately 35 percent of the west African country’s land is under threat of desertification especially in the north where land degradation and climate change have exacerbated poverty.

Croplands that were once fertile in northern Ghana are now unproductive, which has led to decreased incomes while water sources are drying up due to prolonged droughts.

Such losses have forced northern residents to migrate to the southern region of the country where they live in “highly deplorable” conditions, Ghana’s deputy-minister of environment, science, technology, and innovation Patricia Appiagyei told IPS.

“It is about time that we find ways of ensuring we neutralise the high rate of degradation,” she said.

“[3S] is an initiative we are very passionate about and we believe that we need to join to address these issues because land degradation and desertification issues is not just affecting the land but it is also affecting water, energy, food baskets, and livelihoods of the people who live within those communities,” Appiagyei continued.

While Ghana has begun investing in agricultural development in the north, conflicts are beginning to escalate between farmers and herders who are losing grazing land for their cattle.

The Gambia is facing similar challenges, with almost 80 percent of its woodlands degraded in alongside a rapid decrease in the productivity of its cropland.

As 64 percent of its population are young people, Gambians have been forced to move to urban areas or abroad for greener pastures.

Many Gambians have also been returning which is proving to be an additional challenge, said minister of environment, climate change, and natural resources Lamin Dibba to IPS.

“There was a particular month that there were about 400 people returning from abroad. This is very worrying for the fact that when they stay long without any livelihood support system, this can bring a lot of social disorder,” he said.

In an effort to avoid such instability, the Gambia hopes to create 25,000 green jobs for youth in their communities as well as returning migrants in the fields of agriculture, tourism, and conservation.

To achieve this, education is a crucial component, both Appiagyei and Dibba said.

“[We need] to reach out to the communities to explain to them what is climate change, what are the causes, what are the likely impacts…this is why we call it integrated—we want to look at all aspects of people’s livelihoods,” Dibba said.

Supported by the Great Green Wall (GGW) initiative, the Gambia is implementing an education project targeting schools about GGW and land restoration methods.

Appiagyei noted the importance of including farmers, especially women, in such initiatives through education on agricultural practices and new technologies.

“They are currently suffering from the agricultural practices they are undertaking and the weather doesn’t really help…we need to ensure people have jobs within their communities and environment. We want them to stay on their farms and farm,” she said.

While Ghana is considering a lift on a ban on small-scale mining, which has impacted swathes of forests and water bodies, Appiagyei told IPS that sustainable land management comes first.

“We are thinking about lifting the ban, but not until we are able to improve on land management practices and apply the right legislation. Not until we are convinced that we have the right measures to curb the activities of small-scale illegal mining,” she said.

But no one of this will be possible without meetings and support from the international level.

“We want to ensure these projects become a reality,” said Dibba.

The post Land Degradation: A Triple Threat in Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-degradation-triple-threat-africa/feed/ 0
“The Sustainable Bioeconomy, a Path Towards Post-Extractivism”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 03:55:57 +0000 Ela Zambrano http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156798 Ela Zambrano interviews TARSICIO GRANIZO, Ecuador’s minister of Environment

The post “The Sustainable Bioeconomy, a Path Towards Post-Extractivism” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Ecuadorian Environment Minister Tarsicio Granizo speaks during an interview with IPS in his office in Quito. Credit: Nina Zambrano/IPS

Ecuadorian Environment Minister Tarsicio Granizo speaks during an interview with IPS in his office in Quito. Credit: Nina Zambrano/IPS

By Ela Zambrano
QUITO, Jul 20 2018 (IPS)

Ecuador has decided to move towards a bioeconomy-based development model, “which must be sustainable,” because otherwise “the remedy could be worse than the disease,” said the country’s Environment Minister Tarsicio Granizo, who is spearheading this innovative approach.

In this interview with IPS, Granizo explained that the proposal represents a response to an extractivist model which cannot be followed forever. His ministry is working hand in hand with other ministries, productive sectors and the governments of the 24 provinces of this South American country of 17.7 million people.

Ecuador is a megadiverse country, but it is also rich in minerals and fossil fuels. The current model of development is based on its underground riches, but now the aim is to move towards a post-extractivist model, focused on the sustainable use of the country’s biological resources.

As a first step, the government is drawing up an inter-ministerial environmental agenda with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to identify the administration’s current environmental actions, in order to design a new cross-cutting strategy.

The minister pointed out that it is not yet possible to talk about a “transition” or timeframes because “the new forms of economy are just being thought out.” But he stressed that “the concept of the bioeconomy at the state level is already in place.”

IPS: You’re leading what’s called a transition from extractivism and fossil fuels to the bioeconomy. Why?

TARSICIO GRANIZO: The bioeconomy is one of the many ways forward for this country which has an economy based on oil and minerals extraction. There may be other ways out, but let’s remember that we are a megadiverse country and that we have to make sustainable use of our megadiversity, with the highest technology.

IPS: What is the future for mining and oil in this model?

TG: We are talking about a long-term transition, whether we like it or not we have to continue exploiting oil and mining, we still have important resources in both sectors that support the country.

IPS: With a time limit for the exploitation of fossil fuels due to climate change…

TG: There is a deadline for oil exploitation; and, mining will always be there, but it must be organised. We cannot yet say that we are in a process of transition, we have just started thinking about these new forms of economy that will allow Ecuador to leave behind extractivism one day.Of course, not everything bio is necessarily sustainable, because I can replace oil with another product and run out of that product. The sustainable bioeconomy is based on that: the sustainable use of biological resources, and that includes a circular economy in waste management.

IPS: But can you put a timeframe on the goal of implementing the bioeconomy?

TG: We cannot… How long will fossil fuels last?

IPS: Experts say Ecuador’s fossil fuels could run out in 20 years, including officials from your ministry…

TG: Maybe 20 years, but in mining, we’ll have to see how things go for us. Mining revenues have to be greater than the environmental liabilities. In this respect, we cannot yet set timeframes.

IPS: What is the bioeconomy model you envision for Ecuador?

TG: We are thinking of sustainable bioeconomy as a model for which several elements are necessary: conservation, innovation, investment, and markets.

IPS: What comes first?

TG: Conservation. Ecuador’s soil is already conserved, through protected areas, protective forests that cover 30 percent of the national territory. Innovation is where we are most concerned, where we still have a long way to go.

IPS: How is the sustainable use of megadiversity included?

TG: Of course, not everything bio is necessarily sustainable, because I can replace oil with another product and run out of that product. The sustainable bioeconomy is based on that: the sustainable use of biological resources, and that includes a circular economy in waste management.

IPS: You stress the need to move towards a circular economy, one based on produce-consume-recycle rather than produce-consume-throw away…

TG: The circular economy is a part of the bioeconomy, for example waste can be a good business and an alternative for those already working as waste pickers. We see examples in many parts of the world where waste management is an option. What arrives at the treatment centres is minimal, everything stays in the factories. Little by little we have to make progress towards that.

IPS: They say the bioeconomy will favour the development of the most vulnerable segments of society. Is that true? Why and how?

TG: Of course, for example, it is the poor who rummage through and separate the garbage. We need to help them out of poverty and help them become small-scale entrepreneurs and have a better quality of life. We have identified about 500 bio-enterprises; the thing is that most of them are small-scale or pilot projects. We work mainly with the Popular and Solidarity Economy (an economic organisation institutionalised in 2011 in the country, whose members, individuals or groups, are based on cooperation and solidarity).

IPS: Is there an example that serves as a letter of introduction to what Ecuador already does in bio-economics?

TG: There are projects with guadua bamboo cane to make furniture and laminates. This is a fast-growing, abundant resource in the coastal and Amazon regions, which resprouts easily. It is also very interesting what is happening with vicuña wool in (the province of) Chimborazo. Vicuña wool fetches a very high price on the international market. In this country, Chimborazo is the only place where vicuñas (a South American camelid) are found, and that is why we are in the process of teaching local communities how to shear vicuñas, and to treat and use their wool so that it has added value.

IPS: How much does the bioeconomy currently represent in Ecuador, and what share of the country’s GDP is it expected to represent?

TG: Currently the bioeconomy represents about 10 percent of the industrial GDP, and we plan to double that in the coming years.

IPS: In how long?

TG: We are taking a series of measures, we have created the country’s Bioeconomy Network and the 2015-2030 Biodiversity Strategy, we have created an entity with the Private Technical University of Loja to promote bioeconomic initiatives. We are launching the brand BioEcuador.

IPS: Have you encountered resistance in the economic and productive sectors?

TG: Fortunately, the ministries of production, mining and hydrocarbons, and foreign trade are very well aligned. We have managed to position the bioeconomy as a state commitment also in the productive sectors. We have also talked with the banks to establish soft credit lines with certain benefits to promote the bioeconomy in aspects such as nutraceuticals (‘nutrition’ and ‘pharmaceutical’ – natural foods that provide medical or health benefits). The concept of bioeconomy is already positioned at the state level.

IPS: What are the strategies?

TG: To use the rich biodiversity that we have in order to provide economic alternatives for the country. In the bioeconomy we do not rule out the improvement of monocultures, for example we have selected five sectors to work in: oil palm farming, shrimp, flowers, cattle and bananas. We want to reach an agreement with these producers so that they do not expand their agricultural frontier, but improve their productivity within their current range. That’s one aspect.

IPS: Since the bioeconomy is a long-term project, how can we ensure that future governments maintain this direction and do not change it?

TG: As soon as producers see that the bioeconomy is a real alternative, it will not matter which government is in power.

IPS: Is this being established at a legislative and policy level?

TG: It is included in the Organic Environmental Code and above all in the 2017-2021 National Development Plan. We are working on the development of public policies.

IPS: Environmentalists criticise aspects of the bioeconomy, such as the use of biofuels based on monocultures. What is your view on this?

TG: Biofuels have their pros and cons. The problem is that land that should be aimed at guaranteeing food sovereignty is allocated to meet transport needs.

IPS: So you don’t rule out biofuels?

TG: No. I always say that everything can be done in Ecuador as long as it is done where it should be done and is done properly.

IPS: Are there other countries in Latin America looking towards the bioeconomy?

TG: There was a bioeconomics summit in Germany (in Berlin in April), attended by some Latin American countries. Several are in our line of sustainable bioeconomy. Others see the bioeconomy as the improvement of their monocultures. We don’t rule out that possibility either.

IPS: So, Ecuador is betting on different formulas, not only on the bioeconomy?

TG: Of course, we can think about the sale of services; in providing banking services to other countries; and, the sustainable bioeconomy. We have to look for alternatives for post-extractivism.

IPS: So the bioeconomy is one path, although a privileged one…

TG: Yes, but sustainable, it must be sustainable, otherwise the remedy could be worse than the disease.

The post “The Sustainable Bioeconomy, a Path Towards Post-Extractivism” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Ela Zambrano interviews TARSICIO GRANIZO, Ecuador’s minister of Environment

The post “The Sustainable Bioeconomy, a Path Towards Post-Extractivism” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism/feed/ 0
Chile Has Medicine Against Desertification, But Does Not Take Ithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/chile-medicine-desertification-not-take/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chile-medicine-desertification-not-take http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/chile-medicine-desertification-not-take/#respond Tue, 17 Jul 2018 22:30:00 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156750 The retention of rainwater which otherwise is lost at sea could be an excellent medicine against the advance of the desert from northern to central Chile, but there is no political will to take the necessary actions, according to experts and representatives of affected communities. “One of the priority actions, especially in the Coquimbo region, […]

The post Chile Has Medicine Against Desertification, But Does Not Take It appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Hundreds of children, many from rural schools in the Coquimbo region, have visited the fog catchers in Cerro Grande as part of an educational programme to raise awareness among future generations about the importance of rational use of water in Chile. Credit: Foundation un Alto en el Desierto

Hundreds of children, many from rural schools in the Coquimbo region, have visited the fog catchers in Cerro Grande as part of an educational programme to raise awareness among future generations about the importance of rational use of water in Chile. Credit: Foundation un Alto en el Desierto

By Orlando Milesi
OVALLE, Chile, Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

The retention of rainwater which otherwise is lost at sea could be an excellent medicine against the advance of the desert from northern to central Chile, but there is no political will to take the necessary actions, according to experts and representatives of affected communities.

“One of the priority actions, especially in the Coquimbo region, is the retention of rainwater. That is key because since we have eroded and degraded soil and we have occasional rains in winter, the soil is not able to retain more than 10 percent of the water that falls,” Daniel Rojas, the head of the Peña Blanca farmers’ association, told IPS.

“The rest ends up in the sea,” added Rojas, the head of the association of 85 small-scale farmers, located 385 km north of Santiago, which has 6,587 hectares, 98 percent of them rainfed, irrigated exclusively by rainfall."If the amount of resources that the state puts into the distribution of water by tanker trucks were to be used to solve the problem, it would be invested only once and not every year, which just boosts a business. Because the distribution of water is a business." -- Daniel Rojas

Rojas considered that “if we had retention works we could use between 50 and 70 percent of that water and restore our groundwater.”

In the region of Coquimbo, where Peña Blanca is located, within the municipality of Ovalle, 90 percent of the land is eroded and degraded.

Between 2000 and 2016, the area planted with fruit trees in Chile grew 50 percent, but in Coquimbo it fell 22.9 percent, from 35,558 to 27,395 hectares.

Water is vital in Chile, an agrifood powerhouse that last year exported 15.751 billion dollars in food and is the world’s leading exporter of various kinds of fruit.

According to Rojas, there is academic, social and even political consensus on a solution that focuses on water retention, “but the necessary resources are not allocated and the necessary laws are not enacted.”

Pedro Castillo, mayor of the municipality of Combarbalá, agreed with Rojas.

“Because of the strong centralism that prevails in our country, desertification won’t be given importance until the desert is knocking on the doors of Santiago,” Castillo, the highest authority in this municipality of small-scale farmers and goat farmers told IPS.

Castillo believes that all the projects “will be only declarations of good intentions if there is no powerful and determined investment by the state of Chile to halt desertification.”

The mayor said that desertification can be combated by investing in water catchment systems, through “works that are not expensive,” such as the construction of infiltration ditches and dams in the gorges.

“With rainwater catchment systems with plastic sheeting, rainwater can be optimised, wells can be recharged and the need for additional water, which is now being delivered to the population with tanker trucks, can be reduced,” he said.

“The cost of these systems does not exceed five million pesos (7,936 dollars) because the works use materials that exist on-site and do not require much engineering. A tanker truck that delivers water costs the state about 40 million pesos (63,492 dollars) each year,” Castillo said.

A tank holds rainwater collected at the Elías Sánchez school in the municipality of Champa, 40 km south of Santiago, which the students decided to use to irrigate a nursery where they grow vegetables next to it. Saving rainwater helps restore the groundwater used to supply the local population. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

A tank holds rainwater collected at the Elías Sánchez school in the municipality of Champa, 40 km south of Santiago, which the students decided to use to irrigate a nursery where they grow vegetables next to it. Saving rainwater helps restore the groundwater used to supply the local population. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

He also proposed curbing desertification through afforestation with native species of lands handed by agricultural communities to the government’s National Forestry Corporation (CONAF).

“Afforestation efforts involve the replanting of native trees tolerant of the scarce rainfall in semi-arid areas, and they generate fodder for local farmers,” he said.

The region of Coquimbo comprises the southern border of the Atacama Desert, the driest desert on earth which has the most intense solar radiation on the planet. Covering 105,000 sq km, it encompasses six northern regions in this long and narrow country that stretches between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

This year Peña Blanca, at the southern tip of the desert, received 150 mm of rainfall, a high figure compared to the average of the last few years.

Rojas said “there are many things to be done, not to halt the advance of desertification completely, but to slow it down.”

The social leader said that in meetings with both academics and politicians there is agreement on what to do, “but that is not reflected when it comes to creating a law or allocating resources to do these works.”

To illustrate, he mentioned a novel project for the retention of rainwater underground, saying the studies and development of the initiative were financed, “but not the works itself.”

“And this way, it’s no use. Ideas must be put into practice through works. This is what is urgently needed: fewer studies and more works,” he said.

Rojas also criticised the fact that the state spends “billions of pesos” on the distribution of water to rural areas through tanker trucks.

“If the amount of resources that the state puts into the distribution of water by tanker trucks were to be used to solve the problem, it would be invested only once and not every year, which just boosts a business. Because the distribution of water is a business,” Rojas said.

Geographer Nicolás Schneider, the driving force behind the non-governmental “Un Alto en el Desierto” (A Stop in the Desert) Foundation, told IPS that in Chile “there is no public policy in terms of tools, concrete policies and the provision of resources” to halt desertification in the country.

“Successful alternatives are isolated experiences that are the product of enthusiasm or group ventures, but not of a state policy to stop this scientifically accredited advance (of the desertification process),” he said.

He mentioned Chilean physicist Carlos Espinosa, who invented the fog catcher, a system whose patent he donated in the 1980s to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and which consists of harvesting water from the fog.

Fog catchers consist of fine mesh nets known as raschel set up on foggy slopes to catch suspended drops of water, which gather and merge, running from small gutters to collection tanks.

These systems, which are becoming more and more sophisticated, have been providing water for human consumption and for irrigation on land generally higher than 600 metres above sea level for decades.

In the Cerro Grande Ecological Reserve, owned by Peña Blanca, the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation installed 24 fog catchers and a fog study centre.

“The average daily water from fog there is six litres per cubic metre of raschel mesh and 35 percent shade. Since they are nine square metres in size, we have a catchment area of 216 metres, which gives us 1,296 litres of water per day,” Schneider said.

He explained that “this water is mainly used for reforestation and ecological restoration, beer making, water for animals and – when there is severe drought – for human consumption.”

“It is also an educational element because thousands of children have visited the fog catchers, so they have been turned into an open-air classroom against desertification,” he said.

He added that there is great potential for fog from Papudo, on the central Chilean coast, to Arica, in the far north of the country, which has not been exploited to the benefit of coastal communities that have problems of access and water quality.

Eduardo Rodríguez, regional director of Conaf in Coquimbo, told IPS that all of the corporation’s programmes are aimed at combating desertification, including one against forest fires, which now have better indicators.

“However, we have problems with afforestation because we do not yet have a policy for providing incentives to increase afforestation, reforestation and replanting in a region that has been degraded for practically a century and a half,” he acknowledged.

The post Chile Has Medicine Against Desertification, But Does Not Take It appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/chile-medicine-desertification-not-take/feed/ 0
Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time/#respond Fri, 13 Jul 2018 10:54:03 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156690 IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

The post Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Time appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

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

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

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

I am concerned that not enough is being done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Time appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

The post Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Time appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time/feed/ 0
Experts Decry Exclusion of Africa’s Local Farmers in Food Security Effortshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts/#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 10:36:49 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156574 Joshua Kiragu reminisces of years gone by when just one of his two hectares of land produced at least 40 bags of maize. But that was 10 years ago. Today, Kiragu can barely scrape up 20 bags from the little piece of land that he has left – it measures just under a hectare. Kiragu, […]

The post Experts Decry Exclusion of Africa’s Local Farmers in Food Security Efforts appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

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

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jul 6 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Experts Decry Exclusion of Africa’s Local Farmers in Food Security Efforts appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts/feed/ 0
Bamboo, A Sustainability Powerhousehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse/#respond Fri, 29 Jun 2018 11:30:32 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156466 A landmark conference bringing more than 1,200 people from across the world together to promote and explain the importance of bamboo and rattan to global sustainable development and tackling climate change has ended with a raft of agreements and project launches. The three-day Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress in Beijing this week, organised by multilateral […]

The post Bamboo, A Sustainability Powerhouse appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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

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

By Ed Holt
VIENNA, Jun 29 2018 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Bamboo, A Sustainability Powerhouse appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/bamboo-sustainability-powerhouse/feed/ 0
West Africa Moves Ahead with Renewable Energy Despite Unpredictable Challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 18:22:03 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156416 The West African nation of Guinea may be a signatory of the Paris Agreement, a global undertaking by countries around the world to reduce climate change, but as it tries to provide electricity to some three quarters of its 12 million people who are without, the commitment is proving a struggle. Mamadou Bangoura, head of […]

The post West Africa Moves Ahead with Renewable Energy Despite Unpredictable Challenges  appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rural electrification headache

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post West Africa Moves Ahead with Renewable Energy Despite Unpredictable Challenges  appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges/feed/ 0