Inter Press Service » Advancing Deserts http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 24 May 2016 10:13:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.11 Prickly Pears Drive Local Development in Northern Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 14:51:45 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145260 Marta Maldonado, secretary of the “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” association, standing next to a prickly pear, a cactus that is abundant in this municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Making use of the fruit and the leaves of the plant has changed the lives of a group of local families. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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

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

By Rafiqul Islam
DHAKA, May 23 2016 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Myanmar Seeks to Break Vicious Circle of Flood and Droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/myanmar-seeks-to-break-vicious-circle-of-flood-and-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=myanmar-seeks-to-break-vicious-circle-of-flood-and-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/myanmar-seeks-to-break-vicious-circle-of-flood-and-drought/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 15:56:49 +0000 Sara Perria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145228 People fetch water from the new well in the village of Htita, Myanmar. It is 600 feet deep and was built thanks to private donations. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

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

By Sara Perria
HTITA, May 22 2016 (IPS)

It has been two weeks now since the village of Htita, with its few bamboo houses hemmed in by parched, cracked earth and dried-out ponds, has enjoyed the novelty of its first ever water well.

Young housewife Lei Lei Win walks to the noise of breaking soil to fill two yellow containers previously used for cooking oil. With the weight of the 20-litre ‘buckets’ balanced on a pole on her shoulder, it now takes her only one minute to provide her family with the water that she will need to get washed, cook, and also drink. She usually makes two trips a day.

“I save a lot of time,” says Lei Lei, dressed in a traditional longyi skirt. “Before I had to walk much more to fetch water.”

The nearly 200-metre-deep well is not the result of government planning, but the combined 3,000-dollar donation by a Yangon businessman who hails from the village and a travel agency named Khiri, run by a Dutchman, which donates part of its income to build wells in the driest parts of the country.

Situated in the internal region of Bago, Htita is only a two-hour drive from Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon. Even closer is the village of Kawa. But even if residents are enjoying better living conditions, only a few here can afford to pay some 30 dollars a month – a considerable amount of money in Myanmar – to pump water from a nearby underground water source directly to the house tank.

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

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

According to a 2014 census, a third of households in the country of 51.5 million people uses water from “unimproved” water sources. A quarter of the population has no flush toilet. Only an average 32.4 percent of households use electricity for lighting.

The same census found that life expectancy in Myanmar is among the lowest in the ASEAN region. Much of this is due to lack of water and food security, with water scarcity and excess of rainfall playing an equal role.

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

“Water is abundant and plentiful in Myanmar, but there is little infrastructure and electricity, so the economics of accessing water are problematic. This is why the shortages continue year after year,” says Andrew Kirkwood, fund manager of the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT), a multi-donor fund that focuses on the rural poor in Myanmar.

About 90 percent of rain in Myanmar falls during the rainy season, from June to October. But geographical differences are enormous: rainfall ranges from 750 mm per year in the most arid region of the country to 1,500 mm in the eastern and western mountains and 4,000 to 5,000 mm in the coastal regions.

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

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

Shortages in the dry zone have been more acute this year because the scant rains of the year before resulted in limited water-storage, according to LIFT. On top of this, El Nino’s higher temperatures during the following 2016 hot season triggered higher evaporation rates.

However, in other areas of the country, failure in ensuring water security has historically been caused by the opposite: extreme rain and disastrous floods.

With the deadly 2008 cyclone Nargis still engraved in the country’s memory, during the rainy season of 2015 the country had to face another emergency. Vast areas, from states in the North-West to the Delta region, were hit by severe and prolonged rains. With no proper water control measures in place, the outcome of an otherwise-manageable natural phenomenon was disastrous: dozens of deaths and almost two million acres of rice fields either destroyed or damaged, according to UN’s humanitarian disaster agency OCHA.

In both cases – drought and floods – failures in managing water security bring precarious hygiene conditions and illnesses, while the effects on agriculture reflect in high malnutrition rates. In the Dry Zone, 18 percent of the population suffers from malnutrition, according to a 2013 LIFT survey, while a staggering quarter of children under the age of five are underweight.

What to do

The correct administration of water resources is the root of the problem in Myanmar, according to NGOs and institutional actors. UN data shows that only about five percent of the country’s potential water resources are being utilised, mostly by the agricultural sector. At the same time, growing urbanisation and the integration of Myanmar into the global economy after five decades of military dictatorship are enhancing demand.

The new government of the de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is therefore faced with the major challenge of delivering solutions to support the ongoing economic growth.

“Sixty percent of irrigation in South East Asia comes from groundwater,” says LIFT’s fund manager Kirkwood. “But it’s only six percent in Myanmar. Our knowledge of how much groundwater there is and where this groundwater is, is not good at all.”

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

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

Even against the odds of scant resources, farmers in the Dry Zone produce most of Myanmar’s sesame and pulses, making it one of the largest exporters in the world. The economic impact of better exploitation of resources is evident. However, says Kirkwood, investments have been so far misplaced – forcing farmers, for example, into rice cultivation – and policies inefficient, such as not collecting sufficient fees for water.

Terre des Hommes, an NGO, has successfully introduced into the Dry Zone a hydroponic farming system developed by the University of Bologna. The system requires 80-90 percent less water than soil-based farming, while recycling fluids enriched with fertilizers. It allows landless farmers in particular access to fresher and cheaper food.

“The project has involved 45 villages in townships across Mandalay and Magway,” says project manager Enrico Marulli. The latter region has the highest under-five mortality rate in the entire country, more than twice the rate of its biggest city, Yangon, reflecting the urgent need for life-improvement solutions.

But the long-term sustainability of these project finds its limits in the overall restructuring that the country has to endure. With a new greenhouse costing between 70 and 80 dollars, without external donors’ contribution only access to credit can support vital technological improvements.

However, farmers’ financial inclusion is virtually inexistent. In contrast to other developing countries, microfinance in Myanmar goes mainly to the agricultural sector, says LIFT, but only bigger financial institutions have the capacity to sustain longer-term, higher investments.

Al of these issues will come to the fore on May 24, when the Global Water Partnership High Level Roundtable on Water Security and the SDGs will be held in Yangon. The meeting aims to accelerate gains made by ongoing projects related to water and sanitation, under the guidance of the government of Myanmar and the World Bank.

Meanwhile, in the village of Htita, villagers continue to enjoy the revolution of the new well and fill their yellow containers.

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A Precarious Fate for Climate Migrants in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-precarious-fate-for-climate-migrants-in-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-precarious-fate-for-climate-migrants-in-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-precarious-fate-for-climate-migrants-in-india/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 12:18:15 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145182 Many Bangladeshi migrants and those from coastal Indian towns take up menial jobs in the construction industry and live in slums. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Many Bangladeshi migrants and those from coastal Indian towns take up menial jobs in the construction industry and live in slums. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, May 19 2016 (IPS)

After the sea swallowed up her home and family in the Bangladeshi coastal district of Bhola along the Bay of Bengal, farmer Sanjeela Sheikh was heartbroken. Stripped of all her belongings, her fields swamped and her loved ones dead, she contemplated suicide.

But good sense prevailed. The frail 36-year-old decided to till her neighbours’ fields in exchange for food. At the same time, she started saving and planning to migrate to India for better prospects like some of her neighbours. Finally, Sheikh packed her belongings and boarded a rickety bus to India’s eastern state of West Bengal. From there, a ticketless train journey brought her to New Delhi where she now lives and works.

“I’ve accepted my fate,” Sheikh told IPS, now employed as a domestic help and living with an Indian family. “There’s no future for me in Bangladesh.”

Along with India, China, Indonesia and the Philippines, Bangladesh is considered one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change in South Asia. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina acknowledged in a speech last year that roughly 30 million Bangladeshis will risk becoming climate migrants by 2050."We're petrified of the authorities probing our Bangladeshi antecedents. We can be packed off without any questions. But that's a risk we're willing to take."

The reasons for migration are familiar — climate change, loss of livelihood due to disasters like cyclones, drought, ingress of the sea, and lack of fresh water for agriculture. In its report Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has highlighted grave causes and ramifications of climate-induced displacement. As per ADB, roughly 37 million people from India, 22 million from China and 21 million from Indonesia will be at risk from sea levels rising by 2050.

Changing weather patterns will also impact agriculture, hampering millions of livelihoods around the world, especially of poor and marginalised populations, add experts. Cyclone Phailin, which lashed the coastal Indian state of Orissa in October 2013, has triggered large-scale migration of fishing communities. Ditto the floods of 2013 in the Himalayas, which have wrecked millions of livelihoods forcing people to move elsewhere.

However, among the most daunting effects of climate change is human displacement as it involves migration, protection of vulnerable people and liability for climate change damage. The U.S. Department of Defence has rightly called climate change “an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water.”

These words ring all the more true when viewed against the ominous backdrop of the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters. These catastrophes are exposing millions of vulnerable people like Sanjeela to largescale displacement and forced migration. According to the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, at least 19.3 million people worldwide were forced out of their homes by natural disasters in 2015 – 90 percent of which were related to weather-related events.

Unfortunately, even as the numbers of these “climate refugees” crossing international borders in search of a safe haven has seen a dramatic upward spiral, the issue of legal rights or guaranteed help remains elusive for them.

“Despite being forced to leave their home countries, these migrants cannot apply for refugee status. They are bereft of legal protection under the U.N. High Convention for Refugees and can be deported at any time without question,” a senior official at the Ministry of External Affairs told IPS.

Zahida Begum, 45, is one such refugee who lives in constant fear of being deported. The poor farmer migrated from Bangladesh in 2014 when her fields were wrecked by floods. She now lives in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh with her three young children and husband. “When we’d just shifted,” Begum told IPS, “we used to spend entire days hiding. Now, we just pretend we’re from the Indian state of West Bengal as we speak the same language and our cultures are also quite similar. However, we’re petrified of the authorities probing our Bangladeshi antecedents. We can be packed off without any questions. But that’s a risk we’re willing to take.”

Researchers in Assam in India and in Bangladesh have estimated that around a million people have been rendered homeless due to erosion in the Brahmaputra river basin over the last three decades. Particularly susceptible to climate change are the Sundarbans, a low-lying delta region in the Bay of Bengal where some 13 million impoverished Indians and Bangladeshis live.

The 200-odd islands here constitute the world’s largest mangrove estuary shared by India and Bangladesh which has experienced loss of forests, lands and habitats due to rising sea levels in recent years.

Climatologists say seas are rising in the Sundarbans more than twice as fast as the global average due to which much of the delta could be submerged in as early as two decades. “That catastrophe,” says Dr. Abhinav Mohapatra of the Indian Meteorological Department, “could trigger a massive exodus of climate refugees creating enormous challenges for India and Bangladesh.”

Sahana Bose of the Central University of Assam states in her essay “Climate resilience and the climate refugees” that the migrant tribes in the Indian Sunderbans, working as agricultural labourers or cultivating small farms, locally known as ‘Adivasis’ are the worst type of climate refugees.

“Their very frequent displacement from one island to another within a span of five years has created a wide range of ecological and socio-economic problems leading to humanitarian crisis. These climate refugees are also the world’s most poor people living on less than 10 US dollar per month,” writes Bose.

A Greenpeace study suggests that India will face major out-migrations from coastal regions. According to these estimates, around 120 million people will be rendered homeless by 2100 in Bangladesh and India.

“Everyone knows that climate change is displacing people but no government is willing to acknowledge this officially for fear of having to recognise these people as refugees and be held responsible for their welfare,” explains Dr. Jamuna Sheshadri, an associate professor of sociology at Delhi University.

The problem is aggravated, says Sheshadri, with the scientific community still struggling to define “climate refugees” even though displacement and migration due to climate are a global phenomenon.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels in India are expected to rise at the rate of 2.4 mm a year; in 2050, the total increase will be 38 cm, displacing tens of thousands of people. For nearly a quarter of India’s population living along the coast, global warming is a scary reality.

The issue of climate refugees is also creating simmering tensions at the local level. In West Bengal, the massive and continuous influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh has become a fraught political issue. Waves of Bangladeshi migrants have settled in the state and the Northeast over the decades. The resultant pressures on land and economic resources is triggering clashes between local residents and the migrant Bangladeshis.

The migrants’ influx is also creating social marginalisation among local Indian populations apart from disguised unemployment, scarcity of land for agriculture and food insecurity. In Delhi, the city slums are experiencing a severe strain on civic services and urban infrastructure including paucity of potable water. Meanwhile, unscrupulous politicians are busy milking both the constituencies — of migrants and locals — to fatten their vote banks.

Where does the solution lie to the complex problem of climate refugees lie? The Norwegian Refugee Council, a prominent humanitarian organisation in Norway that works on global refugee issues, had suggested setting up of an international environmental migration fund bankrolled by industrialised nations. The idea of a UN pact to compensate victims of climate change is another suggestion, and the issue will also be taken up at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on May 23-24.

But, as some experts have highlighted, the issue first needs to be mainstreamed. A solid plan can then be devised and incorporated in national policies of the affected nations for a lasting and sustainable solution.

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Climate Change Leaves Kashmir’s Economy High and Dryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/climate-change-leaves-kashmirs-economy-high-and-dry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-leaves-kashmirs-economy-high-and-dry http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/climate-change-leaves-kashmirs-economy-high-and-dry/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 11:28:15 +0000 Umar Shah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145043 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/climate-change-leaves-kashmirs-economy-high-and-dry/feed/ 0 WFO Calls for Farmer-Centred Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/wfo-calls-for-farmer-centred-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wfo-calls-for-farmer-centred-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/wfo-calls-for-farmer-centred-sustainable-development/#comments Mon, 09 May 2016 14:03:53 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145035 By Friday Phiri
LIVINGSTONE, Zambia, May 9 2016 (IPS)

Over 600 delegates representing at least 570 million farms scattered around the world gathered in Zambia from May 4-7 under the umbrella of the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) to discuss climate change, land tenure, innovations and capacity building as four pillars on which to build agricultural development.

Among the local delegates was Mary Nyirenda, a farmer from Livingstone, where the assembly was held.

“I have a 35-hectare farm but only use five hectares due to water stress. With one borehole, I am only able to irrigate limited fields. I gave up on rainfall in the 2013/14 season when I lost about five hectares of maize to drought,” Nyirenda told IPS.

Privileged to be part of the 2016 WFO General Assembly, Nyirenda hoped to learn innovative ways to improve productivity and market access for her garden and poultry produce. But did the conference meet her expectations?

Mary Nyirenda in her garden at her farm in Livingstone, Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Mary Nyirenda in her garden at her farm in Livingstone, Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

“Yes it has, especially on market access. I’ve learnt that working as groups gives us a strong voice and bargaining power. I’ve been struggling on my own but now I understand that two is better than one, and so my task from here is to strengthen our cooperative which is still disjointed in terms of producer partnerships,” said Nyirenda, emphasising the power of farmer organisations – for which WFO exists.

Convened under the theme ‘Partnerships for Growth’, the clarion call by delegates throughout the conference was to change the narrative that, while they are at the centre of a multi-billion-dollar food sector, responsible for feeding the whole world, farmers are the world’s poorest people.

And WFO President Evelyn Nguleka says the situation has to change. “It is true that farmers in almost all corners of the world constitute the majority poor, but the question is why?” asked Nguleka while responding to journalists during the closing WFO General Assembly Press briefing.

She said the meeting established that poor organisation and lack of information were the major reasons for farmers’ lack of progress, noting, “If farmers remain in isolation, they will continue to be poor.”

“It is for this reason that we developed a legal tool on contract farming, which will be mostly useful for smallholders whose knowledge on legal matters is low, and are easily taken advantage of,” said David Velde, president of the National Farmers Union in the U.S. and a board member of WFO.

Velde told IPS that various tools would be required to help smallholders be well equipped to fully benefit from their work, especially in a world with an unstable climate, a sub-theme that found space in all discussions at the conference due to its multifaceted nature.

With technology transfer being one of the key elements of the sustainable development agenda as enshrined in the Paris climate deal, delegates established that both innovation and capacity building for farmers to improve productivity cannot be discussed in a vacuum.

“Agriculture is indeed a global sector that needs serious attention. The fact that a world farmers’ organization exists is a sign that food production, food security, climate change are global issues that cannot be looked at in isolation. Farmers need information on best methods and technologies on how best to enhance productivity in a climate conscious manner,” said Zambian President Edgar Lungu in his address to the WFO General Assembly.

In the world’s quest to feed the hungry 793 million people by 2030, and and the projected population growth expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, more than half in Africa, WFO is alive to the huge task that its members have, which can only be fulfilled through increased productivity.

“WFO is in recognition that the world has two conflicting issues on face value—to feed the world and mitigate climate change. Both require huge resources but we believe that it is possible to tackle both, through increased productivity using latest technology,” said William Rolleston, president of the Federated Farmers of New Zealand.

Rolleston, who is also Vice President of WFO, told IPS that while WFO’s work does not involve funding farmers, it helps its members to innovate and forge partnerships for growth.

It has long been recognised globally that climate change, if not tackled, could be a barrier to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And this presented, perhaps, the hardest of choices that world leaders had to make—tackling climate change, with huge implications on the world’s productive capacity, which has over the years largely relied on a carbon intensive economy.

By approving the SDGs and the historic climate agreement last year, the world’s socio-economic agenda is set for a complete paradigm shift. However, WFO President Evelyn Nguleka wants farmers to remain the focus of the world’s policies.

“Whatever changes the world decides moving forward, it should not be at the expense of farmers to survive and be profitable,” she stressed.

For Nyirenda, access to markets holds the key to farmers’ productive capacity, especially women, who, according to FAO, constitute half of the global agricultural labour force, while in Africa, the figure is even higher—80 percent.

“My interactions with international organisations such as IFAD and others who are interested in women empowerment was a serious-eye opener moving forward,” she said.

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Farmers Can Weather Climate Change – With Financinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-can-weather-climate-change-with-financing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmers-can-weather-climate-change-with-financing http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-can-weather-climate-change-with-financing/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 18:27:52 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145012 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-can-weather-climate-change-with-financing/feed/ 0 No Farmers, No Food — True But Not Enoughhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/no-farmers-no-food-true-but-not-enough/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-farmers-no-food-true-but-not-enough http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/no-farmers-no-food-true-but-not-enough/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 13:14:15 +0000 Evelyn Nguleka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145006 Evelyn Nguleka is president of the World Farmers Organisation, an international organisation of Farmers for Farmers, which aims to bring together all the national producer and farm cooperative organisations with the objective of developing policies which favour and support farmers' causes in developed and developing countries around the world. Nguleka introduces the key issues discussed at the May 4-7 2016 WFO conference in Lusaka.]]>

Evelyn Nguleka is president of the World Farmers Organisation, an international organisation of Farmers for Farmers, which aims to bring together all the national producer and farm cooperative organisations with the objective of developing policies which favour and support farmers' causes in developed and developing countries around the world. Nguleka introduces the key issues discussed at the May 4-7 2016 WFO conference in Lusaka.

By Evelyn Nguleka
LUSAKA, May 6 2016 (IPS)

Agriculture is the primary sector of all economies. It is the sector responsible for granting food and nutrition security to all human beings. Consequently it is responsible for social stability and health. And it provides work opportunities to families, men, women and youth, and largely contributes to the country Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Evelyn Nguleka

Evelyn Nguleka

However, this would never be possible without the support of our partners and friends from the public and private sectors, from local and international arena, who believe in our daily work and in our central role for the socio-economic well being of this planet.

It is to the above extent that the 2016 General Assembly of the World Farmers’ Organisation, WFO, has been held under the overarching theme of “Partnership for Growth”, with a view to promoting the importance of a holistic approach to the agricultural sector, where different actors stand together for the same goal:

Implementing sustainable food systems ensure that farmers of the world gain an effective position in the food chain look after the environment to implement together the Sustainable Development Goals and the overall agenda 2030.

Establishing effective partnership is and remains a great priority to the WFO.

For this reason, WFO has accepted the burden and the honour to act as the reference organisation representing the world farmers’ community at the most relevant policy processes in agriculture, including:

the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, and Agenda 2030
the Climate negotiations, COPs
the Committee on World Food Security, CFS

As farmers, we are on the front line of the climate change agenda, we are directly impacted by climate change and they are vital in implementing many of the solutions the world needs in order to adapt and mitigate it.

Most of the WFO’s success lies in its constituency; a farmer organisation, made by farmers, serving the interests of farmers of all scale, small, medium and large who are able to engage in dialogue and advocate for the conception of policies that create an enabling environment for farmers and their organisations, allowing them to develop and thrive.

Nowadays, the estimated population growth, the changing climate, the competitive markets are challenging farmers more than ever. In order to tackle these new challenges, introducing sustainable agricultural practices and increasing productivity are highly important to the farmers themselves as well as the entire society.

The slogan of the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) which I have the honour to chair is ‘No Farmers, No Food’.

But while this is an indisputable fact, farmers now a day need to develop the right skills and knowledge needed to effectively improve their capacity.

We need a secure access to the land, ownership and control over land, access to productive resources and inputs, including modern technology, markets, inputs and financial resources.

Moreover, farmers need to develop their agricultural management and marketing skills to efficiently strengthen their entrepreneurial skills. In this respect, agricultural extension and advisory services are increasingly seen as a key means to build farmers’ capacity.

These services help farmers deal with risk and change, by providing options and capabilities to make the right choices at the right time. The services assist rural actors to share technology and practices, and support farmers to acquire a better position in value chains and markets.

The global economy is based on the assets of efficiency and profitability. Farmers, likewise all other categories of entrepreneurs, deserve to see their work duly compensated by an appropriate income and their products effectively absorbed by the market.

Farmers are ready to invest their days in the field, while looking for new solutions to increase the profitability of their farm while taking care of the quality of food produced. In this context, there is only one path farmers can follow to achieve this goal, which is running the way of Innovation.

Innovation and new technologies stand at the basis of modern economy as agents of solutions for making economic systems more efficient. Farmers from all over the world, in their capacity of economic actors, need to access innovative techniques for making their business more profitable.

This view and this stand are not solely those of the WFO’s and the farmers. Leading international organisations specialised in agriculture and food share the WFO’s position.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) understands the enormity of the challenge ahead, and the importance of the producers of food – the farmers – to meet the set target.

In his message to the WFO conference, the FAO Director General, General José Graziano Da Silva, recalled in this respect that the international community has committed to end worldwide hunger and poverty in 15 years, with the endorsement of the 2030 Agenda.

Mr Graziano has also renewed FAO full engagement to help address this challenge. “But we know that this is only possible with solid partnerships, especially with non-state actors,” he said, while highlighting the strategic role of farmers not only in producing food but also in the preservation of the environment, considering the impact of climate change on agriculture – singled out by scientists as the most vulnerable sector.

In view of all the above, we all call for solid support for farmers, a support that should be placed at the core of any strategy for increased responsible investments in agriculture,” stressing the importance of the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems.

Developed by the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) composed of FAO, UNCTAD, IFAD and the World Bank, the guidelines draw attention to rights and livelihoods of rural populations and the need for socially and environmentally sustainable agricultural investments.

They cover all types of investment in agriculture, including between principal investors and contract farmers.

The Principles are based on detailed research on the nature, extent and impacts of private sector investment and best practices in law and policy.

They are intended to distil the lessons learned and provide a framework for national regulations, international investment agreements, global corporate social responsibility initiatives, and individual investor contracts.

This was on the realisation that land tenure still represents one of the major challenges that farmers face, especially in developing countries. In particular, many small-scale farmers, especially women, work on land that they don’t own, exacerbating their poverty and lack of political power.

The role played by agriculture and farmers in tackling many of the goals set by the new agenda is fundamental, as it encompasses several of the proposed targets.

We also fully share what Given Lubinda, Zambia’s minister of agriculture, has said– “Since Africa is the home of small-scale farmers who create wealth and feed the world,” access to land, ownership and control, and modern technology, markets and financial resources are essential elements to enable them improve agricultural efficiency and productivity.

For her part, while adding impetus to the land and food security nexus as a key element in the achievement of the SDGs, the chair of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS), Ambassador Amira Gornass of Sudan also agreed that, “Farmers are the backbone of any efforts for food and nutrition security.”

We have to move ahead and we willing to. We have to invest in our farmers, in our agriculture, in our land. What is at stake in nothing less than our food, our health, and our future, not only in Africa but also all over the world.

(End)

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Farmers Hold Keys to Ending Poverty, Hunger, FAO Sayshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-hold-keys-to-ending-poverty-hunger-fao-says/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmers-hold-keys-to-ending-poverty-hunger-fao-says http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/farmers-hold-keys-to-ending-poverty-hunger-fao-says/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 14:50:02 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144989 Dr. Evelyn Nguleka, WFO President, seated with Secretary General Marco Marzano de Marinis. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Dr. Evelyn Nguleka, WFO President, seated with Secretary General Marco Marzano de Marinis. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
LIVINGSTONE, Zambia, May 5 2016 (IPS)

With recent data showing that 793 million people still go to bed hungry, ending hunger and poverty in 15 years is the next development challenge that world leaders have set for themselves.

As part of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), these two have been made a special priority because of their impact on the world’s ability to achieve the rest.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) understands the enormity of the challenge ahead, and the importance of the producers of food – the farmers – to meet the set target.

“As you know, the international community has committed to end worldwide hunger and poverty in 15 years, with the endorsement of the 2030 Agenda. FAO is fully engaged to help address this challenge. But we know that this is only possible with solid partnerships, especially with non-state actors,” said FAO Director General José Graziano Da Silva during the World Farmers’ Organisation General Assembly, which opened here Wednesday, May 4.“Sustainable development for all is possible." -- Ambassador Amira Gornass of Sudan

In his video conference message to delegates, Da Silva highlighted the strategic role of farmers not only in producing food but also in the preservation of the environment, considering the impact of climate change on agriculture – singled out by scientists as the most vulnerable sector.

“Farmers are responsible for providing the food we all need but also helping preserve and sustain our natural resources,” he said.

The FAO chief called for solid support for farmers and said that they “should be placed at the core of any strategy for increased responsible investments in agriculture,” stressing the importance of the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems.

Developed by the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) composed of FAO, UNCTAD, IFAD and the World Bank, the guidelines draw attention to rights and livelihoods of rural populations and the need for socially and environmentally sustainable agricultural investments.

They cover all types of investment in agriculture, including between principal investors and contract farmers. The Principles are based on detailed research on the nature, extent and impacts of private sector investment and best practices in law and policy. They are intended to distil the lessons learned and provide a framework for national regulations, international investment agreements, global corporate social responsibility initiatives, and individual investor contracts.

Delegates at the WFO have been called upon to use the guidelines as important tools that can be applied as they push for farmer-centred ‘Partnerships for Growth’, the overarching theme for the 2016 General Assembly.

“I am proud to say that FAO and WFO have a concrete and strategic partnership to achieve food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture worldwide. With other partners, we have improved statistics to understand the economic and social role of farmers’ organisations in sustainable development,” said the FAO chief.

Closely related to responsible investment in agriculture is the role of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT), endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security in 2012, to serve as a reference to improve the governance of land tenure with the overarching goal of achieving food security for all and supporting the progressive realisation of the right to adequate food.

This was on the realisation that land tenure still represents one of the major challenges that farmers face, especially in developing countries. In particular, many small-scale farmers, especially women, work on land that they don’t own, exacerbating their poverty and lack of political power.

Given Lubinda, Zambia’s minister of agriculture, says that since “Africa is the home of small-scale farmers who create wealth and feed the world,” access to land, ownership and control, and modern technology, markets and financial resources are essential elements to enable them improve agricultural efficiency and productivity.

Adding impetus to the land and food security nexus as a key element in the achievement of the SDGs, the chair of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS), Ambassador Amira Gornass of Sudan, agreed that, “Farmers are the backbone of any efforts for food and nutrition security.”

“Sustainable development for all is possible,” she stressed, through partnerships with all actors of the food value chain to make sure that by 2030 “We end hunger and no one is left behind.”

And in keeping with the major theme of the meeting, WFO President Evelyn Nguleka says the role played by agriculture and farmers in tackling many of the goals set by the new agenda is fundamental, as it encompasses several of the proposed targets.

“The global economy is based on the assets of efficiency and profitability. Farmers, likewise all other categories of entrepreneurs, deserve to see their work duly compensated by an appropriate income and their products effectively absorbed by the market. Farmers are ready to invest their days in the field, while looking for new solutions to increase the profitability of their farms,” she said.

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Seeking a New Farming Revolutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/seeking-a-new-farming-revolution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=seeking-a-new-farming-revolution http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/seeking-a-new-farming-revolution/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 13:20:49 +0000 Kitty Stapp http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144975 Processing baby vegetables at Sidemane Farm in Swaziland. An EU grant helped local farmers to buy equipment and get training in business management and marketing. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS

Processing baby vegetables at Sidemane Farm in Swaziland. An EU grant helped local farmers to buy equipment and get training in business management and marketing. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS

By Kitty Stapp
May 5 2016 (IPS)

As the World Farmers’ Organization meets for its annual conference in Zambia to promote policies that strengthen this critical sector, IPS looks at how farmers across the globe are tackling the interconnected challenges of climate change, market fluctuations, water and land management, and energy access.

 

Women working in their vegetable gardens at the Capanda Agroindustrial Pole in Angola. Although almost half of the agricultural workers in sub-Saharan Africa are women, productivity on their farms is significantly lower per hectare compared to men because they tend to be locked out of land ownership, access to credit and productive farm inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and farming tools, support from extension services, and access to markets and other factors essential to their productivity. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Women working in their vegetable gardens at the Capanda Agroindustrial Pole in Angola. Although almost half of the agricultural workers in sub-Saharan Africa are women, productivity on their farms is significantly lower per hectare compared to men because they tend to be locked out of land ownership, access to credit and productive farm inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and farming tools, support from extension services, and access to markets and other factors essential to their productivity. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

 

Gadam sorghum was introduced to semi-arid regions of eastern Kenya as a way for farmers to improve their food security and earn some income from marginal land. The hardy, high-yielding sorghum variety has not only thrived in harsh conditions, it has won a place in the hearts - and plates - of local farmers. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

Gadam sorghum was introduced to semi-arid regions of eastern Kenya as a way for farmers to improve their food security and earn some income from marginal land. The hardy, high-yielding sorghum variety has not only thrived in harsh conditions, it has won a place in the hearts – and plates – of local farmers.
Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

 

Organically grown baby spinach, like this for sale in Johannesburg, South Africa, fetches a higher price for farmers in the market. Credit: Johan Eybers/IPS

Organically grown baby spinach, like this for sale in Johannesburg, South Africa, fetches a higher price for farmers in the market. Credit: Johan Eybers/IPS

 

Mbuya Erica Chirimanyemba in her maize field in Guruve, Zimbabwe. Conservation agriculture techniques have turned her fortunes around. Credit: Ephraim Nsingo/IPS

Mbuya Erica Chirimanyemba in her maize field in Guruve, Zimbabwe. Conservation agriculture techniques have turned her fortunes around. Credit: Ephraim Nsingo/IPS

 

For 12 years now, the women around Tsangano in Malawi’s southern district of Ntcheu have put together their tomato harvest, selling some 20 tons at the outdoor markets that abound in Lilongwe, the capital. Now they aim to diversify from selling to processing vegetables, since they could earn more if they canned the tomatoes and made jam and juice. Credit: Claire Ngozo/IPS

For 12 years now, the women of the Tsangano cooperative in Malawi’s southern district of Ntcheu have pooled their tomato harvest, selling some 20 tonnes at the outdoor markets that abound in Lilongwe, the capital. Now they aim to diversify from selling to processing vegetables, since they could earn more if they canned the tomatoes and made jam and juice. Credit: Claire Ngozo/IPS

 

Zero hunger is the goal, but this is all the production of corn and pulses for this household. Credit: TERI University

Zero hunger is the goal, but this is all the production of corn and pulses for this household. Credit: TERI University

 

Forests still support a major part of household income in rural communities, like this one in Odisha, India. Credit: TERI University

Forests still support a major part of household income in rural communities, like this one in Odisha, India. Credit: TERI University

 

Kenyan farmer Isaac Ochieng Okwanyi has had his most successful harvest ever after using lime to improve the quality of his soil. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

Kenyan farmer Isaac Ochieng Okwanyi has had his most successful harvest ever after using lime to improve the quality of his soil. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

 

Presenting a solution to both climate and energy needs, solar-based irrigation systems can transform fields in semi-arid areas. Credit: TERI University

Presenting a solution to both climate and energy needs, solar-based irrigation systems can transform fields in semi-arid areas. Credit: TERI University

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Indian Women Worst Hit by Water Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/indian-women-worst-hit-by-water-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indian-women-worst-hit-by-water-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/indian-women-worst-hit-by-water-crisis/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 10:30:48 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144938 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/indian-women-worst-hit-by-water-crisis/feed/ 0 No Turning Back in the Global Fight Against Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/no-turning-back-in-the-global-fight-against-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-turning-back-in-the-global-fight-against-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/no-turning-back-in-the-global-fight-against-climate-change/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 06:38:06 +0000 Marcia Bernicat http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144772 Photo: Ambreblends

Photo: Ambreblends

By Marcia Bernicat
Apr 22 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

As people around the globe observe Earth Day today, world leaders are making history at the United Nations in New York. Over 100 countries will sign the Paris Agreement on climate change, representing their commitment to join it formally. This marks a turning point in the story of our planet and may set a record for the largest number of signers to an international agreement in a single day. Moreover, last month, President Obama announced with President Xi Jinping that our two countries will sign the Paris Agreement today and formally join this year. We are confident other countries will do so too, with the intention of bringing this historic and ambitious agreement into force as quickly as possible.

A greener future is already in sight. Leaders of countries and cities are adapting and innovating away from fossil fuels and business owners are investing in a clean energy economy. The United States is moving forward in its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. We are doing this through the strongest fuel economy standards in our history, through our twenty-fold increase in solar generation since 2009, and through proposed rules on everything from energy conservation standards for appliances to reduction in emissions of methane-rich gas from municipal solid waste landfills.

My home state, New Jersey, has undertaken ambitious programmes tackling climate change and promoting renewable energy. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has introduced the Sustainable Jersey programme to aid cities and towns in going green, saving money, and taking the steps necessary to ensure long-term quality of life. Sustainable Jersey provides guidance and financial incentives in support of the programme. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ Clean Energy Programme encourages homeowners, businesses, and municipalities to incorporate clean energy into their lives. The Clean Energy Programme has received the 2016 Sustained Excellence Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for 15 years of success in promoting clean energy use.

While we are taking significant climate action domestically, the United States is also focused on international cooperation to address this global challenge. Our $500 million contribution last month to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – the first tranche of the $3 billion U.S. pledge to the GCF – will help developing countries reduce carbon emissions and prepare for climate impacts, while also advancing our commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – another major landmark agreement the world came together around last year.

One of the most successful environmental agreements of all time is the Montreal Protocol, which is phasing out ozone depleting substances globally. It set the ozone layer on a path to recovery and prevented tens of millions of cases of skin cancer among other health, environmental, and economic benefits. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – which replace many of the ozone-depleting substances – do not harm the ozone layer, but they are greenhouse gases that in some cases can be thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. The United States is working with partners to adopt an HFC phase-down amendment to the Montreal Protocol this year that could avoid half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of the century.

We also need international cooperation to change how we transport ourselves and goods. The aviation sector represents two percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The International Civil Aviation Organisation is aiming to achieve carbon neutral growth for international aviation by 2020. The United States is committed to reaching an agreement on a global market-based measure that will help move the airline sector toward this ambitious goal.

Bangladesh, located at the confluence of the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, and the Meghna rivers, is uniquely vulnerable to climate change. The 600 kilometre coastal zone faces considerable challenges: flooding, erosion, rising sea levels, and cyclonic storm surges. Bangladesh has risen to this challenge. From the establishment of the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan of 2009 and Climate Change Trust Fund to the continued dedication of over six percent of the annual budget to climate change adaptation, Bangladesh has been on the leading edge of environmental policy. For all of these reasons, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was awarded the United Nations’ Champion of the Earth award for Policy Leadership last September.

This Earth Day – with the signing of the Paris Agreement – is truly a cause for hope. It is also a reminder of our shared commitment to combat climate change. We must all seize upon the momentum from Paris to build a clean energy future for ourselves and our children and grandchildren.

The writer is the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Climate: Africa’s Human Existence Is at Severe Riskhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-africas-human-existence-is-at-severe-risk/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-africas-human-existence-is-at-severe-risk http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-africas-human-existence-is-at-severe-risk/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 14:53:52 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144755 Education vital for healthy, productive ecosystems. One of UNEP’s goals within an integrated ecosystem management framework is to foster the capacity of professionals and develop human capacity across all social strata and genders.  Credit: UNEP

Education vital for healthy, productive ecosystems. One of UNEP’s goals within an integrated ecosystem management framework is to foster the capacity of professionals and develop human capacity across all social strata and genders. Credit: UNEP

By Baher Kamal
CAIRO, Apr 21 2016 (IPS)

“Africa’s human existence and development is under threat from the adverse impacts of climate change – its population, ecosystems and unique biodiversity will all be the major victims of global climate change.”

This is how clear the Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is when it comes to assessing the negative impact of climate change on this continent of 54 countries with a combined population of over 1,200 billion inhabitants. “No continent will be struck as severely by the impacts of climate change as Africa.”

Other international organisations are similarly trenchant. For instance, the World Bank, basing on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, confirms that Africa is becoming the most exposed region in the world to the impacts of climate change.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, extreme weather will cause dry areas to become drier and wet areas wetter; agriculture yields will suffer from crop failures; and diseases will spread to new altitudes, say the World Bank experts, while alerting that by 2030 it is expected that 90 million more people in Africa will be exposed to malaria, “already the biggest killer in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

These and other dramatic conclusions are not new to the World Bank specialists. In fact, they alerted five years ago that the African continent has warmed about half a degree over the last century and the average annual temperature is likely to rise an average of 1.5-4°C by 2099, according to the most recent estimates from the IPCC.

Meanwhile, UNEP’s experts explain that, given its geographical position, the continent will be particularly vulnerable due to the “considerably limited adaptive capacity, exacerbated by widespread poverty and the existing low levels of development.”

What Is at Stake?

The facts are striking as mentioned in UNEP’ summary of the projected impacts of climate change in Africa. See UNEP’s fact sheet “Climate Change in Africa – What Is at Sake?”, which is based on excerpts from IPCC reports:

— By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people in Africa are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change.

— By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%.

— Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised. This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition.

— Towards the end of the 21st century, projected sea level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations.

— By 2080, an increase of 5 to 8 per cent of arid and semi-arid land in Africa is projected under a range of climate scenarios,

— The cost of adaptation could amount to at least 5 to 10% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Furthermore, the African chapter of IPCC Report on Regional Climate Projections provide some key factors:

Temperatures: By 2050, average temperatures in Africa are predicted to increase by 1.5 to 3°C, and will continue further upwards beyond this time. Warming is very likely to be larger than the global annual mean warming throughout the continent and in all seasons, with drier subtropical regions warming more than the moister tropics.

Ecosystems: It is estimated that, by the 2080s, the proportion of arid and semi-arid lands in Africa is likely to increase by 5-8 per cent. Ecosystems are critical in Africa, contributing significantly to biodiversity and human well-being.

Mozambique: Investing in Environment Pays off for the Poorest. Communities look to protect ecosystems for livelihoods, following a disease that devastated their coconut plantations. Credit: UNEP

Mozambique: Investing in Environment Pays off for the Poorest. Communities look to protect ecosystems for livelihoods, following a disease that devastated their coconut plantations. Credit: UNEP

Between 25 and 40 per cent of mammal species in national parks in sub-Saharan Africa will become endangered. There is evidence that climate is modifying natural mountain ecosystems via complex interactions and feedbacks.

Rainfall: There will also be major changes in rainfall in terms of annual and seasonal trends, and extreme events of flood and drought.

Annual rainfall is likely to decrease in much of Mediterranean Africa and the northern Sahara, with a greater likelihood of decreasing rainfall as the Mediterranean coast is approached.

Droughts: By 2080, an increase of 5 to 8 per cent of arid and semi-arid land in Africa is projected under a range of climate scenarios. Droughts have become more common, especially in the tropics and subtropics, since the 1970s.

Human health, already compromised by a range of factors, could be further negatively impacted by climate change and climate variability, e.g., malaria in southern Africa and the East African highlands.

Water: By 2020, a population of between 75 and 250 million and 350-600 million by 2050, are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change. Climate change and variability are likely to impose additional pressures on water availability, water accessibility and water demand in Africa.

In Ethiopia, owners bring their livestock to sell for destocking purposes. El Niño impacts have made it necessary to reduce herd sizes. Credit: FAO

In Ethiopia, owners bring their livestock to sell for destocking purposes. El Niño impacts have made it necessary to reduce herd sizes. Credit: FAO

Agriculture: By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 per cent.

Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised. Projected reductions in yield in some countries could be as much as 50 per cent by 2020, and crop net revenues could fall by as much as 90 per cent by 2100, with small-scale farmers being the most affected.

Sea-level rise: Africa has close to 320 coastal cities –with more than 10,000 people– and an estimated population of 56 million people (2005 estimate) living in low elevation (10-m) coastal zones. Toward the end of the 21st century, projected sea level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations.

Energy: Access to energy is severely constrained in sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated 51 per cent of urban populations and only about 8 per cent of rural populations having access to electricity. Extreme poverty and the lack of access to other fuels mean that 80 per cent of the overall African population relies primarily on biomass to meet its residential needs, with this fuel source supplying more than 80 per cent of the energy consumed in sub-Saharan Africa.

Further challenges from urbanisation, rising energy demands and volatile oil prices further compound energy issues in Africa.

Agriculture Pays the Price

Another concerned United Nations body–the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) focuses on the threat climate changes poses to agriculture. “Climate change is emerging as a major challenge to agriculture development in Africa,” FAO reports.

A Zimbabwean subsistence farmer holds a stunted maize cob in his field outside Harare. Credit: FAO

A Zimbabwean subsistence farmer holds a stunted maize cob in his field outside Harare. Credit: FAO

It explains that the increasingly unpredictable and erratic nature of weather systems on the continent have placed an extra burden on food security and rural livelihoods.

“Agriculture is expected to pay a significant cost of the damage caused by climate change.”

The agriculture sector is also likely to experience periods of prolonged droughts and /or floods during El- Nino events. And fisheries will be particularly affected due to changes in sea temperatures that could decrease trends in productivity by 50-60 per cent.

(End)

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Climate Change and the Middle East (II) No Water in the Kingdom of the Two Seas—Nor Elsewherehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-change-and-the-middle-east-ii-no-water-in-the-kingdom-of-the-two-seas-nor-elsewhere/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-and-the-middle-east-ii-no-water-in-the-kingdom-of-the-two-seas-nor-elsewhere http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-change-and-the-middle-east-ii-no-water-in-the-kingdom-of-the-two-seas-nor-elsewhere/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 16:24:23 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144674 In Somaliland and Puntland, close to two million people are affected by the drought amid the El Niño phenomenon. Somalia is a member of the League of Arab States. Photo credit: WFP/Petterik Wiggers

In Somaliland and Puntland, close to two million people are affected by the drought amid the El Niño phenomenon. Somalia is a member of the League of Arab States. Photo credit: WFP/Petterik Wiggers

By Baher Kamal
CAIRO, Apr 18 2016 (IPS)

There is an oil producing country situated in the Gulf region, made of a cluster of islands. It is small, surface and population wise. But it holds the dubious privilege of ranking top of the list out of the 33 countries most likely to be water-stressed in the year 2040.

This country is the “Mamlakat Al Bahrain” (the Kingdom of the Two Seas) or simply Bahrain.

Distant only 200 kilometres from Iran, Bahrain’s largest island is linked to Saudi Arabia by the 25 km-long King Fahd Causeway. The Kingdom extends over just 765 km2, and is home to 1,4 million people.

Considered as the “white gold” –as opposed to the “black gold”—oil, water scarcity has become one of the major concerns of Bahrain in spite of the fact that it has a high Human Development Index and was recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy.

It’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita amounts to 29,140 US Dollars. And it is home to the headquarters for the United States Naval Forces Central Command/United States Fifth Fleet.

All the above does not suffice to make Bahrainis happy. In fact, their country leads the list of 14 out of the 33 countries most likely to be water-stressed in 2040 –all of them situated in the Middle East– including nine considered extremely highly stressed according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).

After Bahrain comes Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Other Middle East Arab countries more or less share with Bahrain this front line position of water-stressed states. These are Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. All of them hold a very close second position in the region’ s water-stress ranking.

The total represents two thirds of the 22 Arab countries. Not that the remaining Arab states are water-safe. Not at all: Mauritania, in the far Maghreb West, and Egypt, at the opposite end, are already under heavy threat as well.

The whole region, already arguably the least water-secure in the world, draws heavily on groundwater and desalinated sea water, and faces exceptional water-related challenges for the foreseeable future, says the WRI’s report: Ranking the World’s Most Water-Stressed Countries in 2040.

Water scarcity is one of the most urgent food security issues facing Near East and North Africa countries: fresh water availability in the region is expected to drop by 50% by year 2050. Photo credit: FAO / Marco Longari

Water scarcity is one of the most urgent food security issues facing Near East and North Africa countries: fresh water availability in the region is expected to drop by 50% by year 2050. Photo credit: FAO / Marco Longari

The report’s authors Andrew Maddocks, Robert Samuel Young and Paul Reig foresee that world’s demand for water, including of course the Middle East, is likely to surge in the next few decades.

“Rapidly growing populations will drive increased consumption by people, farms and companies. More people will move to cities, further straining supplies. An emerging middle class could clamor for more water-intensive food production and electricity generation.”

But it’s not clear where all that water will come from, they say. “Climate change is expected to make some areas drier and others wetter. As precipitation extremes increase in some regions, affected communities face greater threats from droughts and floods.”

While changing water supply and demand is inevitable, exactly what that change will look like around the world is far from certain. A first-of-its-kind analysis by WRI sheds new light on the issue.

Using an ensemble of climate models and socioeconomic scenarios, WRI scored and ranked future water stress—a measure of competition and depletion of surface water—in 167 countries by 2020, 2030, and 2040.

“We found that 33 countries face extremely high water stress in 2040 (see the full list). We also found that Chile, Estonia, Namibia, and Botswana could face an especially significant increase in water stress by 2040. This means that businesses, farms, and communities in these countries in particular may be more vulnerable to scarcity than they are today,” say the authors.

Specialised studies coincide that water consumption in the Arab region has doubled five times in the past fifty years, with an estimated annual consumption of about 230 billion cubic meters, of which 43 billion cubic meters used for drinking and the industry, and 187 billion cubic meters for agriculture.

Poverty of the Arab region with regard to water resources is reflected in water insecurity for human beings and agriculture. While water consumption per capit is estimated in at least one 1,000 cubic meters a year according to the global rate, the average Arab citizen’s share comes down to nearly 500 cubic meters per year, this placing Arab countries below the water poverty line.

This comes at a time when the Arab region has not taken advantage of its water resources of about 340 billion cubic meters, using only 50 per cent. The rest is lost and wasted.

Regarding the North of Africa, the Egyptian Ministry for Environment has recently admitted that large extensions of the country’s Northern area of the Nile Delta, which represents the most important and extensive agricultural region in Egypt, is already heavily exposed to two dangerous effects: salinasation and flooding. This is due to the rise of the Mediterranean Sea water levels and the land depression.

The impact of global warming and growing heat waves is particularly worrying the Egyptian authorities as it might reduce the flow of the Nile water in up to 80 per cent according to latest estimates. All this adds to the loss of massive investments made to promote domestic and foreign tourism.

Meanwhile, Syria, Jordan and Iraq would be sentenced to a similar fate.

In some Middle East countries, water scarcity will increase conflictivity among Bedouin population who survive thanks to pasturage.

Dr. Moslem Shatout, the Cairo-based professor of Sun and Space Research and Deputy Chairman of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences, considers that the Arab North African countries are among the most affected, by large, by the climate change impact.

Satellites monitoring, in particular those carried out by the US-French satellite, have detected between 1991 and 2005, a global rise in the sea levels of 3 millimetres per year, “but given that the Mediterranean is a semi-closed sea this rise reaches 8 millimetres per year.”

In Morocco, the effect of global warming and water scarcity have already forced farmers to cultivate only one third of the lands they used to farm.

A similar situation is being witnessed in Algeria, with a much worse situation in Mauritania.

In the case of Morocco and Algeria, while expected rainfalls should be of at least 400 millimetres/year, the last five years this amount went down to just 200 millimetres, that’s half of the minimum needed.

Last but not least: while Morocco and Algeria have high rocky coasts, this protecting them from sea floods, Arab countries situated at the East of the Mediterranean sea, such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, are exposed to floods.

(End)

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Climate Change (I)Will the Middle East Become ‘Uninhabitable’?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-middle-east-become-uninhabitable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-the-middle-east-become-uninhabitable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-middle-east-become-uninhabitable/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 11:43:50 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144663 Middle East map of Köppen climate classification | 20 February 2016 | Derived from World Koppen Classification.svg.| Enhanced, modified, and vectorized by Ali Zifan.| Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.| en.wikipedia

Middle East map of Köppen climate classification | 20 February 2016 | Derived from World Koppen Classification.svg.| Enhanced, modified, and vectorized by Ali Zifan.| Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.| en.wikipedia

By Baher Kamal
CAIRO, Apr 18 2016 (IPS)

This is not about any alarming header—it is the dramatic conclusion of several scientific studies about the on-going climate change impact on the Middle East region, particularly in the Gulf area. The examples are stark.

“Within this century, parts of the Persian Gulf region could be hit with unprecedented events of deadly heat as a result of climate change, according to a study of high-resolution climate models,” a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research warned.

The research–titled “Persian Gulf could experience deadly heat”, reveals details of a business-as-usual scenario for greenhouse gas emissions, but also shows that curbing emissions could forestall these “deadly temperature extremes.”

The study, which was published in detail ahead of the Paris climate summit in the journal Nature Climate Change, was conducted by Elfatih Eltahir, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT, and Jeremy Pal PhD ’01 at Loyola Marymount University.

The authors conclude that conditions in the Persian Gulf region, including its shallow water and intense sun, make it “a specific regional hotspot where climate change, in absence of significant mitigation, is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future.”

Running high-resolution versions of standard climate models, Eltahir and Pal found that many major cities in the region could exceed a tipping point for human survival, even in shaded and well-ventilated spaces. Eltahir says this threshold “has, as far as we know … never been reported for any location on Earth.”

MIT, which was founded in 1861 with the stated mission to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century, alerts that “detailed climate simulation shows a threshold of survivability could be crossed without mitigation measures.”

The research, which was supported by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science, reveals that the tipping point involves a measurement called the “wet-bulb temperature” that combines temperature and humidity, reflecting conditions the human body could maintain without artificial cooling, the say.

That threshold for survival for more than six unprotected hours is 35 degrees Celsius, or about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the recently published research.

The severe danger to human health and life occurs when such temperatures are sustained for several hours, Eltahir says — which the models show would occur several times in a 30-year period toward the end of the century under the business-as-usual scenario used as a benchmark by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

An Even Hotter and Drier Middle East

For its part, the IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change latest assessment warns that the climate is predicted to become even hotter and drier in most of the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) region.

Higher temperatures and reduced precipitation will increase the occurrence of droughts, an effect that is already materializing in the Maghreb,” says the World Bank while citing the IPCC assessment.

A scene in the high desert right outside of Marrakech, Morocco. A shepherd is guiding his sheep through the landscape in search of vegetation. | Credit: Johntarantino1 | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

A scene in the high desert right outside of Marrakech, Morocco. A shepherd is guiding his sheep through the landscape in search of vegetation. | Credit: Johntarantino1 | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

“It is further estimated that an additional 80–100 million people will be exposed by 2025 to water stress, which is likely to result in increased pressure on groundwater resources, which are currently being extracted in most areas beyond the aquifers’ recharge potential.”

In addition, agriculture yields, especially in rain fed areas, are expected to fluctuate more widely, ultimately falling to a significantly lower long-term average.

“In urban areas in North Africa, a temperature increase of 1-3 degrees could expose 6–25 million people to coastal flooding. In addition, heat waves, an increased “heat island effect,” water scarcity, decreasing water quality, worsening air quality, and ground ozone formation are likely to affect public health, and more generally lead to challenging living conditions.”

The World Bank report “Adaptation to Climate Change in the Middle East and North Africa Region” warns that the Middle East and North Africa region is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

“It is one of the world’s most water-scarce and dry regions; with a high dependency on climate-sensitive agriculture and a large share of its population and economic activity in flood-prone urban coastal zones.”

On the other hand, the report adds, societies of this region have been under pressure to adapt to water scarcity and heat for thousands of years, and have developed various technical solutions and institutional mechanisms to deal with these environmental constraints.

While global models predict sea levels rising from about 0.1 to 0.3 meters by the year 2050, and from about 0.1 to 0.9 meters by 2100, the World Bank says, for MENA, the social, economic, and ecological impacts are expected to be relatively higher compared to the rest of the world. Low-lying coastal areas in Tunisia, Qatar, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and specially Egypt are at particular risk.

Climate change also poses many challenges to the region’s cities, which represent hubs for economic, social, cultural and political activities. Rising sea level could affect 43 port cities—24 in the Middle East and 19 in North Africa, according to the World Bank study.

“In the case of Alexandria, Egypt, a 0.5 meter rise would leave more than 2 million people displaced, with 35 billion dollars in losses in land, property, and infrastructure, as well as incalculable losses of historic and cultural assets.” (TO BE CONTINUED)

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Tree Regeneration Restoring Hopehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/tree-regeneration-restoring-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tree-regeneration-restoring-hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/tree-regeneration-restoring-hope/#comments Fri, 25 Mar 2016 07:25:01 +0000 Charles Karis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144353 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/tree-regeneration-restoring-hope/feed/ 0 Three International Days in a Week, But Is Anybody Listening?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/three-international-days-in-a-week-but-is-anybody-listening/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=three-international-days-in-a-week-but-is-anybody-listening http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/three-international-days-in-a-week-but-is-anybody-listening/#comments Tue, 22 Mar 2016 15:18:54 +0000 Monique Barbut http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144296 By Monique Barbut
BONN, Germany, Mar 22 2016 (IPS)

For three consecutive days this week, we gave thought to our future. On International Forests Day, Monday, 21 March, we were reminded that forests are vital for our future water needs. On Tuesday, 22 March, World Water Day, we learned that half the world’s workers are involved in the water sector and some 2 billion people, especially women and girls, still need access to improved sanitation. World Meteorological Day, on Wednesday, 23 March, concluded with the warning of a hotter, drier and wetter future. A reality that is already evident and frightening, as productive land turns to sand or dust.

Monique Barbut

Monique Barbut

Is anybody listening?

The overall message of this week is: we have developed a reckless appetite for resources and we are not doing enough to meet future demand. But nature is neither kind nor forgiving. When the resources are exhausted or destroyed humans will lose, and lose big.

Few of us can visualize a future without trees, fresh water or productive land while the resources are still flowing and politicians muddle the science. Denial and inaction have prevailed – except in countries like Rwanda and Ethiopia where land degradation has already led to economic ruin, poverty and political conflict.

Ethiopia’s history offers us a glimpse into what our own future might look like if we fail to act now. Its story of recovery should inspire us to act – while we still can.

In just one century, Ethiopia reduced its forest cover from 40% to below 3%. It is easy to see why. In a country where agriculture is the main source of livelihoods for 85 percent of the country’s 90 million people, and also makes up 90% of the exports, it seemed like there was little choice.

Following decades of deforesting and converting forests into farmland, the land’s vulnerability to recurrent and longer droughts grew. By the 1980s, food and water shortages were severe. The political situation worsened in tandem. But Ethiopia is rising, and her people are doing the unimaginable.

For the 2007 World Environment Day, Ethiopia signed up for a 60 million tree-planting campaign. Success led to a bolder target. In late 2014, Ethiopia announced to the world that it will recover 22 million hectares of degraded lands and forests. That is an area more than one-sixth of the entire country. Recently, Ethiopia took the bolder step of becoming land degradation neutral by 2036. Under this scheme, it plans to recover and rehabilitate, voluntarily, up to 33 million hectares of degraded land to ensure the country’s productive areas remain stable thereafter.

Ethiopia is re-covering the power to feed itself and replenishing its ground water sources, but has gained much more than it anticipated. It is creating new jobs every day, by paying its population to restore degraded lands. It is re-building the means to shield itself or recover from the future drought risks. And there is a global bonus. Ethiopia’s highlands are nourishing River Nile, a lifeline for the drier countries downstream. Ethiopia’s experience is rich, with lessons for everyone.

Restoring degraded land, is a revolutionary, yet counter-intuitive, way to create formal jobs, eradicate poverty, replenish ground water sources, revive dying lands, manage disaster and climate change risks, and channel resources to the neediest.

The Bonn Challenge, which aims to restore 350 million hectares of degraded forests, is also built on inspiring stories of land restoration. Costa Rica doubled its forest cover in 25 years, and boosted its tourism industry. In just 15 years, land users in the Shinyanga area of northern Tanzania restored 2 million hectares of land, and household incomes doubled. The Republic of Korea restored more than half its forest cover and now earns up to US$50 billion in ecosystem services every year.

We are treading a dangerous path with a bleak future, but that path is not fated. We can change the trajectory of our history by our choices as individuals, organizations and countries.

At the UNCCD, we have chosen to follow the example of countries like Ethiopia. We are working with countries, UN partners, civil society organizations and women and youth groups to recover 500 million of the 2 billion hectares of land we have degraded in the course of our development.

Since the adoption of the global Goals for sustainable development last September, 65 countries have expressed interest in our programme to set out voluntary targets to become land degradation neutral by 2030. This is a sea-change that few people could have visualized five years ago.

We may never know the true value of the International Days. But they offer unique moments to share inspiring stories that are too often lost in the clutter of political negotiations. If we listen to the stories and act on them, we can influence hearts and minds, and inspire action.

Monique Barbut is Assistant Secretary General of the UN and Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification

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Opinion: Risks? What Risks?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/opinion-risks-what-risks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-risks-what-risks http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/opinion-risks-what-risks/#comments Tue, 17 Nov 2015 16:30:37 +0000 Hazel Henderson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143028

Hazel Henderson, president of Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil) is economist and author of Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age and other books.

By Hazel Henderson
MIAMI, Florida, Nov 17 2015 (IPS)

We humans are acutely aware of risks. From our earliest times, the risks we faced were from hunger, predatory animals, extreme environmental conditions and, as our numbers grew, from other human tribes.

Hazel Henderson Credit:

Hazel Henderson

Fast forward to our growing mastery of nature, technological prowess and the Industrial Revolution. The risks humans faced changed beyond those always present in extreme environmental conditions. The technologies we developed against such risks – advancing our energy, shelter, food and health systems – also created new risks, often unforeseen for decades. Conflicts with other humans grew as the human family colonized every part of our planet, stressing ecosystems and driving other species to extinction.

Today, in the 21st century, new risks dominate our political and social issues from terrorism, barbarous attacks on civilians as in Paris, nuclear meltdowns and weapons, financial crises, desertification and famines, disappearing glaciers in the Himalayas, Greenland and Antarctica, water shortages, polluted air, rising sea levels, new pandemics and drug-resistant diseases.

Yet views about these risks and priorities in addressing them are all over the map. This disparity is largely due to different views on how these new risks arose, who is to blame (since they are mostly humanly self-inflicted). This underlying debate about causes of today’s risks still hampers agreement on how to address let alone solve them or mitigate their effects.

Take the view of risk prevalent in the global financial system and its millions of traders in London, Wall Street, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Shanghai. They focus on risks to corporate earnings and profitability, interest rate risk, weak GDP growth, volatile gasoline prices, grassroots opposition, government regulation, political demands for rising wages, democratic demands to reduce inequality.

I attended a conference on “Playing for the Long-term” in New York, November, 3, 2015, hosted by the New York Times convening some 500 Wall Streeters. Their views focused on these risks, as well as those disrupting finance posed by the incursions of Silicon Valley startups threatening to bypass Wall Street: crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending, cellphone banking, social media and electronic startups based on Internet platforms. Risks from cyber attacks also focused much attention. Risks from the wider world received little attention – even those now impinging on coal and oil stocks from activists divesting from fossil fuels. I asked Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman if he agreed with Bank of England head Mark Carney that many fossil fuel reserves could never be lifted or burned without further damage to the global climate and that these assets would be devalued. Mr. Gorman allowed that climate change was a problem, but that it was “not our business.”

Climate risk was hardly raised until one of the last speakers, former US Vice President Al Gore, explained how his London-based investment firm Generation Investment Management had produced healthy financial returns on $10 billion dollars of client assets by investing beyond fossil fuels in the more efficient, knowledge-rich technologies of renewable energy companies and the growing next economy: the Solar Age. Unfortunately for the rest of us, financial players like economists see risk in terms of money – forgetting that currencies are simply units of account which track and keep score of human transactions and interactions with nature’s resources.

So it still seems a question of “What risks?” – where and how they arise. How can we come together to share responsibility for our common future on this planet, powered daily by free energy from the Sun? As the beleaguered beautiful city of Paris prepares to host the UN Climate Summit from November 30 to December 11, 2015, even the world’s scientists of the Convention on Climate Change find their assessments of climate risk challenged not only by those denying that humans caused it, but that their models under-estimated these risks.

A UNEP Emissions Gap Report assessed the 119 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) October 2015, covering 88 per cent of global GHG emissions in 2012. This indicates these efforts could cut up to 11 gigatons of CO2 equivalents from projected emissions by 2030. But, this is only half of the total required if there is a chance of staying below the target of below 2 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100. UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said that these INDC levels are an increase in ambition levels but not sufficient to reach this 2C target.

Several scientists warn that sea level rises are now inevitable due to long feedback processes measured by Earth-observing satellites. These risks focus on melting glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, reported by scientists James Hanson, Erick Riguot, Richard Alley, Andrea Dutton, John Englander and others. David Wasdell, director of the London-based Meridian Programme, critiques the official IPCC report’s Summary for Policy Makers for downplaying the risks for political and economic expediency. Wasdell’s Climate Dynamics: Facing the Harsh Realities of Now (September 2015) concludes that human greenhouse gases already emitted, moving heat through Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, have already exceeded the 2C target and notional “available carbon budget.” Wasdell’s report concludes that any notional carbon budget allowing further emissions has already collapsed and we face a carbon debt instead.

Are these new climate risks insurmountable? Most experts say that there is time, but it is fast running out.

The good news is that more decision-makers and citizens in all sectors have ended their focus on fossil fuels and now recognize that our planet has always been amply powered by the Sun’s daily shower of free photons. Atmospheric CO2 can be returned to soils, deserts can be greened and ecosystems regenerated as finance is redirected by the 2° Investing Initiative. We humans have all the technology we need to scale up the next economy of efficient renewable resource technologies, as we track in our Green Transition Scoreboard® currently showing 6.22 trillion dollars of private investments in these Solar Age companies and technologies.

Risks also offer opportunities, and stress is evolution’s tool. Breakdowns drive breakthroughs!

(End)

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Urgently Needed: Studies Linking Land Degradation, Migration, Conflict and Political Instabilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/urgently-needed-studies-linking-land-degradation-migration-conflict-and-political-instability/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urgently-needed-studies-linking-land-degradation-migration-conflict-and-political-instability http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/urgently-needed-studies-linking-land-degradation-migration-conflict-and-political-instability/#comments Thu, 05 Nov 2015 09:14:22 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142912 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/urgently-needed-studies-linking-land-degradation-migration-conflict-and-political-instability/feed/ 1 Climate Change Threatens Flavour of Argentine Winehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/climate-change-threatens-flavours-of-argentine-wine/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-threatens-flavours-of-argentine-wine http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/climate-change-threatens-flavours-of-argentine-wine/#comments Thu, 05 Nov 2015 04:11:53 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142905 Storage tanks in a winery in the western Argentine province of Mendoza. The distinctive colour of the wine made from malbec grapes, the main kind produced by local winemakers, is starting to change due to the impact of climate change. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Storage tanks in a winery in the western Argentine province of Mendoza. The distinctive colour of the wine made from malbec grapes, the main kind produced by local winemakers, is starting to change due to the impact of climate change. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
MENDOZA, Argentina, Nov 5 2015 (IPS)

Purple garlic that is losing its color? More translucent wine? Climate change will also affect the flavours of our food in the absence of measures to mitigate the impacts of global warming, which are already being felt in crops that are basic to local economies, such as in the Argentine province of Mendoza.

An exposition by the National University of Cuyo (UNCuyo), during the Climate Change Forum held in October in Mendoza, the capital of the province of the same name, organised jointly with the United Nations Development Programme (UNCP), raised the subject.

“Will climate change affect the quality of malbec?” read one sign at the exposition, referring to Argentina’s most characteristic wine.

“The rise in temperature dulls the color of purple garlic,” says a study by horticulture expert Mónica Guiñazú at UNCuyo’s department of agrarian sciences.

Gastronomic considerations aside, a large part of the economy of this Andean province in west-central Argentina depends on crops like malbec grapes. Winemaking alone represents six percent of the province’s GDP.

“In our regional economy, malbec is the most important variety. That’s why we chose it as an object of study,” said Emiliano Malovini, one of the researchers who carried out a study on “the effect of rising temperatures on the physiology and quality of malbec grapes” by the university’s vegetable physiology section and the National Council on Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET).

In Argentina, “nearly 90 percent of the garlic is produced in Mendoza,” said Guiñazú.

It’s not a question of alarming wine tasters or lovers of garlic, which has proven nutritional and therapeutic properties.

But in the case of malbec, Malovini explained to IPS, “we expect the quality of grapes will decline as a result of the climate change that is projected, as well as what is already happening, the very warm years we have had.”

Malovini cited forecasts by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of a temperature rise of two to four degrees Celsius in this part of South America by the end of the century.

Climate Change Forum held in October in the city of Mendoza, the capital of the western Argentine province of that name, where rising temperatures threaten the flavours of the crops that are a pillar of the regional economy. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Climate Change Forum held in October in the city of Mendoza, the capital of the western Argentine province of that name, where rising temperatures threaten the flavours of the crops that are a pillar of the regional economy. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

“What has been observed in the preliminary results is a small decline (in quality), mainly in the colour,” he explained, referring to anthocyanins, phytochemicals that play a crucial role in the colour of red wine.

“This is very important because a high-quality, high-end wine for export requires a certain minimal level of colour in the grapes,” he said.

At the same time, “there is another component, the polyphenol content in wine, which gives it ageing potential, to produce wines laid down for two or three years,” he added.

Other changes seen were an increase in alcohol content and a reduction in acidity.

Malovini is studying techniques to counteract the effects of climate change, such as hormone therapy and agricultural practices like restricting irrigation water in vineyards.

Also worried are garlic growers in Mendoza, who make Argentina the world’s third-largest garlic exporter, after China and Spain, in a country where more than half of all exports are agricultural products.

The researchers found that the growing period was up to 10 days shorter, which would in principle be a positive thing, said Guiñazú, because it would make it possible to produce garlic earlier, to supply other markets.

The bad news was that a five degree Celsius rise in temperature – and a 1.5 degree increase in the soil – would spell significant decoloration in purple garlic.

“In Argentina, it doesn’t matter if the colour pales…but in the European Union they put a lot of importance on that. It is penalised,” he said.

According to industry estimates, garlic production generates 10,000 direct and 7,500 indirect jobs, and is a driver of the economy in the wine-producing, mountainous geographical region of Cuyo in west-central Argentina, especially Mendoza and the neighbouring province of San Juan.

Participants in the Climate Change Forum noted that global warming would reduce the water coming from mountain snow melt, fuelling the process of desertification in Mendoza, besides causing more frequent and severe climate events like hail or drought.

“In the last four years a significant water shortage has been seen,” said Daniel Tomasini, UNDP’s coordinator of environment and sustainable development. “Which could form part of the normal variations that have always been seen, or could be the result of climate change.”

“Rivers in Mendoza are expected to see water flows shrink by 15 to 20 percent in the next few years,” he told IPS.

A UNDP report points out that this would affect crop yields and the quality of life of small-scale rural producers.

“Not only regional food security faces a threat, but also the production of food that is distributed to the rest of the country, and is exported,” he said.

That prospect, said Elena Abraham of the Argentine Dryland Research Institute (IADIZA), would increase the social inequality between arid and productive parts of the country.

In Mendoza, 95 percent of the territory is desert and only 4.8 percent is made up of irrigated oases, where 95 percent of the province’s 1.8 million inhabitants are concentrated. Agriculture consumes 90 percent of the province’s water supply.

Outside of the productive areas people mainly depend on subsistence sheep herding and small-scale agriculture, and have historically been neglected by the state.

“We are going to have a desert in the strictest sense of the word,” Abraham told IPS. “The word desert comes, precisely, from ‘to desert’. And people will leave because they won’t have any other option for development – as they are already doing.”

It is the paradox of a region of the developing South that is preparing to mitigate the effects of climate change for which it has virtually no responsibility, but is a direct victim, since experts predict that Mendoza will be one of the provinces hit hardest by the rise in temperatures.

“Climate change is no longer an abstraction,” José Octavio Bordón, president of the UNCuyo Global Affairs Centre, which works on climate change adaptation, said during the forum. “It is the world that my children and their children will live in.”

Argentina is the third biggest Latin American emitter of greenhouse gases and ranks 22nd in the world, accounting for 0.88 percent of the global total, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).

In its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), Argentina pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2030, and said it could increase that goal to 30 percent with international support.

That commitment, considered insufficient by local and international environmentalists, forms part of the INDCs that will be included in the new treaty climate to be approved at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to be held in Paris in December.

Argentina’s position is that “we are not going to reduce emissions if that generates problems for our people, or for national development, but the goals we have set take this into consideration,” the government’s undersecretary of promotion of sustainable development, Juan Pablo Vismara, told IPS.

“We are worried that absolute obligations will be established (in Paris), such as a quota or an emissions ceiling for us. We must consider that we will have to continue to emit gases, to develop and to fight poverty, but also because we produce food for the rest of the world,” said the high-level official of the secretariat of the environment and sustainable development.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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